The Walk of His Life
LUKE THOMAS has finally reached Tenby, the last stage of his 876-mile walk over 49 days covering the whole coast of Wales. He has undertaken this for the charity Melanoma Focus to raise awareness and funds. Read his story here…
Hi, I’m Luke Thomas…
I’m 36 years old and have stage 4 incurable skin cancer. This year I planned to walk the Welsh Coastal Path for Melanoma Focus Charity… Gulp!
My journey started in 2014 when I noticed an unusual mole on my back and I went to my GP to get it checked out. It was confirmed as melanoma skin cancer. Being ignorant, at the time I thought: “it’s just skin, it can be cut out.” Luckily for me it was localised melanoma and could simply be surgically removed. Fast forward five years later and I’m living a fulfilling life like any 30-plus-year-old. I’d developed a successful career in architecture and met my lovely partner, Yuri… life was great.
Another unusual mole. This time on my arm and again it was localised and removed…. phew. However, something wasn’t right. I occasionally started to feel weak, nauseous and on the same side of my body where the mole was removed my armpit started to swell. Was this a lymph node reaction?! Time for a hospital biopsy….
As soon as I walked into the consultant’s room for the results I saw the nurse holding a pack of leaflets and my gut sunk. I knew. It was confirmed stage 4 metastatic melanoma. It had spread across my skin and in my lymphatic system. It felt like a death sentence.
But there is hope. I’m currently being fantastically cared for at Guys and St Thomas’ Hospital, London. Treatment to prolong life has developed immensely in the past 10 years. In January 2020 I started my first course of immunotherapy but responded with a mixed reaction. The therapy had reduced major tumour burdens, however my health deteriorated over the next three months and on one occasion I spent 18 consecutive days in hospital. I had lost over a stone in weight and had severe tumour growth in my left axillary and chest. I can remember one particular occasion when I was in so much pain that I couldn’t lift my arms over my head to go into the scanner. Then the next plan of action: a change to targeted treatment. Within three days I could see tumours reducing and continued with a good response thereafter.
I can now do star jumps… Remarkable!
I continue to take targeted treatment daily and although I do suffer from side effects, I now have a good quality of life again. However, this treatment has a shelf life with an average response of 12 to 14 months…. I am now on my 15th month. I will continue to fight this disease and live in hope that I have many years ahead of me, especially with continuing advances in medicine.
With this, I planned to Walk the Welsh Coastal Path – a self-funded two- to three-month walk along 870 miles of beautiful Welsh coast with a backpack (allowing myself to sample the local beer and chip shops along the way). The money I raise will go to Melanoma Focus, an amazing charity that funds research and also offers support and guidance to consultants and patients alike. I am doing this not only to raise money but also to raise awareness, as skin cancer is on the rise, especially among young people.
Luke has now finished his walk but you can look back at his journey on Instagram.
He says: “We all have been caught out by the sun, just remember to protect your skin and wear SPF 50 sunscreen every two hours, my cancer journey started with melanoma that was no bigger than a pencil tip and now I’m stage 4. Get any peculiar moles checked by your GP or dermatologist. If you have questions relating to any aspect of melanoma, you can call the Melanoma Focus helpline which can be found on its website. Life has been great to me and continues to be great. Cancer won’t rule me. Thanks for reading. Love and protect your skin. Luke x.”