Lyell’s legacy: Wife shares nine week melanoma journey
"IF I asked you where your life would be in nine weeks from now … what would you say?"
These are Yeppoon woman Fay Duffy's opening words to a small gathering at Melanoma Institute Australia Speaker's Hub training in Sydney.
Fay's life changed forever in 2014 when she lost her adored husband, Lyell, and father of their three children - Marc, Shania and Jakob - to melanoma.
"It was in just nine weeks that our new life journey started when we lost to Lyell to melanoma," Fay continues.
Yes, Lyell's battle lasted a very short nine weeks and three days.
"Our melanoma journey began on the Monday after Mother's Day," Fay says.
"Lyell thought he had pulled a muscle in his back so he went to the doctor and after several X-rays and scans, four days later he was diagnosed on May 16, 2014 with stage four metastatic cancer.
"It had encapsulated part of the liver and surrounding arteries so surgery was not an option and it had spread further in his body including his lungs."
Soon after the Duffys celebrated Lyell's 46th birthday at home with him, watching the Maroons in State of Origin - little did the family know it would be his last birthday with them.
"Lyell had a biopsy of the tumour on his liver to determine the type of cancer and course of treatment," Fay says.
"In early June we were told it was melanoma, the primary was unknown.
"After a week in hospital trying to sort out how to manage his pain, finally with his pain under control, Lyell was able to come home."
As Lyell did not have the BRAF V-600 genetic mutation in his melanoma, he was not eligible for the more successful targeted therapy Tafinlar treatment.
The family decided to try the Yervoy immunotherapy treatment, which offered Lyell and his loved ones a little bit of hope.
"For a little while with his pain managed and perhaps from the first treatment we noticed a great improvement. He was eating and his mobility was much better," Fay says.
Unfortunately Lyell only received one treatment.
"When we arrived for his second treatment our physician said Lyell was not well enough to have the treatment and had to be admitted to hospital," Fay says.
"This was when I was told that time was very short and family needed to be called to the hospital."
Lyell was given 24 hours but true to his nature he fought for a further five days.
After being transferred to Yeppoon Mater Hospital, Lyell got to see one last Cowboys game and it was a win.
Three days later, Lyell lost his battle with all of his family by his side.
"We had 27 years together with many adventures, the best being our three children," Fay says.
"Lyell loved fishing, pigging, camping, the North Queensland Cowboys, but mostly being with his family.
"He adored his three children and his granddaughter. He would be at all the kids dance concerts, cheerleading competitions and soccer games.
"It's surreal how quickly we went from everyday life to living with melanoma and tragically now living without Lyell.
"Lyell's story continues in each of his family and friends and we are honouring his legacy in everything we do every day."
This includes for the third year a Lyell's Legacy team joining hundreds of locals aiming to make a difference at the Rockhampton Melanoma March on Sunday, March 1.
Funds raised from the nationwide march will be donated to melanoma research in hopes of discovering a cure and more lifesaving treatments.
"Even though Lyell's battle was so very short we had the access to treatments that would not be possible without research," Fay says.
"We joined the march to help raise awareness and to maybe one day prevent other families from travelling the same journey we have had.
"Hopefully our melanoma journey inspires people to join the Rockhampton March, make a donation to support research and support Melanoma Institute Australia's goal of zero deaths from melanoma."