‘I couldn’t die yet’: Man’s incredible story of survival
LIVING was almost the death of Chris Murphy.
The Sunshine Coast man whose life was on the line proved just how wrong statistics can be.
His battle that consumed the better part of a decade began with a darkened spot on Mr Murphy's right shoulder.
The man he was in 2009 could never have predicted what was to come.
"We were at the beach and my wife noticed it in the surf," he said.
"I didn't think too much about it, but my wife told me I should go see the skin specialist."
After Mr Murphy's doctor visit, a phone call confirmed what many fear to be true.
"I think it was within a matter of three or four days that they told me it was a melanoma and they needed to do a margin removal," he said.
"They took a lump of meat out of my shoulder about the size of your fist, and sowed me back up.
"It wasn't modular, it didn't show any of the normal signs of being aggressive.
"Being uninformed as I was back then about melanoma, I didn't think much about it. It didn't really concern me."
With a stage one diagnosis and regular skin checks, Mr Murphy was confident his cancer prognosis didn't come with a life sentence.
His confidence lasted eight years.
"I was on monthly check ups for three months and then I was on six-monthly check ups, and I did that for five years," he said.
"My doctor never said I was cured, but he told me I could go up to yearly skin checks, which is what I did.
"They were to no avail because that's not where it reappeared."
Mr Murphy knew something was wrong when he started to lose direction while driving and noticed a loss of function in his arm.
He said June 13, 2017 was the day his life changed for good.
"I went and had the MRI and about two hours later, out comes the emergency doctor," he said.
"He said 'I'm not going to candy coat this. You've got two nasty tumours in the brain, and if we don't attend to them straight away, you've probably only got seven to 12 weeks to live'.
"That was a bit of a jaw dropper."
Although he was initially diagnosed with glioblastoma, a gruelling brain surgery ultimately revealed Mr Murphy was living with a prognosis no person would willingly face.
Stage four metastatic melanoma.
"I started off exploring the options," he said.
"I was asking if I could avoid treatment, because I didn't want to be a vegetable. All of that goes through your mind. What does my future hold?"
Yet Mr Murphy's journey with cancer had only just begun.
A body scan revealed tumours in his lungs, suspicious spots on top of the adrenal glands and in the lymph nodes on the left side of his neck.
It was then his brutal treatment began.
"Every four weeks I used to go to the cancer clinic, with all the other poor buggers," he said.
Mr Murphy was given four weeks to recover from brain surgery before he undertook five sessions of stereotactic brain radiotherapy, followed by 30 immunotherapy treatments every three weeks.
Within the blur of hospital visits, Mr Murphy shared a moment with his family he would never forget.
"I do remember, it was my second or third night in hospital," he said.
"My wife and two daughters visited and they just started balling.
"I started getting emotional, thinking 'I caused these people that I love all this pain'."
Despite the daunting battle Mr Murphy then faced, he said he never once lost hope for his survival.
"My first concern was for my wife. I wanted to make sure she was looked after no matter what happened," he said.
"What I felt was that I couldn't die yet. I needed to see my wife in a situation where she was looked after.
"I just thought 'I'm going to be one of the survivor statistics'."
Mr Murphy then searched for an inspiration to guide him through the most difficult period of his life.
"At that stage, I was looking for someone who had had a similar condition, and had survived," he said.
"At that time, there just happened to be a program on 60 Minutes about a woman in Sydney named Julie Randall. She had the exact same condition as me … she survived.
"I thought if she can do it, I can do it too."
And that is exactly what Mr Murphy did.
"I got my scans in October 2017 saying the tumours had reduced in volume by 50 per cent, so that was pretty encouraging," he said.
"I then got scan results on my birthday in January saying there was no visible sign of disease.
"In six months, I was cancer-free."
Mr Murphy's most recent scan last month revealed there continued to be no indication of his disease returning.
Now reflecting on his years battling cancer, Mr Murphy said he was grateful to be able to share his story.
"I can remember one time after I was released from hospital, I just sank down on the beach and said 'I never, ever thought I'd see this again', and we've had a few of those moments," he said.
"There's milestones that you meet along the way that you think without some incredibly talented people, I wouldn't be here.
"Those sort of things motivated me to stop feeling sorry for myself, and get on with it.
"I had to live the life I had been handed."
Now speaking from experience, Mr Murphy wants to use his voice to promote the importance of sun safety.
"I quite often walk on the beach and see these young lasses sunbaking without protection, and I feel like going up to them and saying 'please put some protection on'," he said.
"Skin checks are vital. My kids do it religiously now."
Mr Murphy will join others from the local arm of the Melanoma Patients Support Group to participate in the Sunshine Coast's second Melanoma March next month.
The annual event will be held on March 1 from 2.30pm. To register your spot, head here.