Fighting for life

17. 11ARTS‘I’m not going to be here much longer, unless there is a miracle, but if I have the treatment it might give me two or more years’ Jo Irwin, mother-of-two

MELANOMA sufferer Jo Irwin jokes—bleakly—she’s taken so many pills her body rattles when she walks.

The Fremantle mother of two was diagnosed with stage four melanoma in April last year, giving her a life expectancy of anywhere from six to 22 months.

“I have days when I eat pain killers like there is no tomorrow, because of the aches and pains,” she told the Herald.

“I have lumps and bumps popping up all over the place and I have days when I can’t breathe properly.

“From the outside you can look almost normal, but on the inside you are a mess.

“They have wonderful drugs these days to combat side-effects, but I feel like if I jump and down I would sound like a rattle, I was taking so many things.”

The 45-year-old was devastated when her doctor told her a year ago the cancer was so advanced. It’s turned out to be a rare variety that doesn’t respond to chemotherapy.

“I was in shock, it’s not real,” she says. “I’m not a sun-baker, I can’t stand it when it’s too hot and burning.

“It’s not like I have cancer, they told me stage four and stage four is pretty much it with cancer. Basically, you are never going to be cured, unless they come up with some miraculous cure.”

Doctors have all but given up, saying there’s nothing more the medical world can do for her.

But she’s done her own research and come across a new drug called Yervoy, which helps late-stage melanoma patients live longer, although it does not cure the disease.

As it’s not covered by Australia’s Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, treatment would cost around $120,000.

She is acutely aware of the irony the drug is all-but unaffordable in a country with the world’s highest rate of skin cancer whereas in England, her former home, it is free.

“My first reaction is I’m British so right, I’ll go to England,” she told the Herald.

“But because I hadn’t lived there in so long, there was no way on earth they were going to let me do it, unless I lived there for a while. But I can’t wait.

“So I thought I would just raise the money.”


Close friends are staging a fundraising event at Fremantle’s Clancy’s Pub on April 4.

She has already managed to rustle up Tom Fisher and the Layabouts and The Lost Pilot Effect and is hoping a few more musos will jump on board.

There is a fundraising website set up where people can donate “I’m not going to be here much longer, unless there is a miracle, but if I have the treatment it might give me two or more years,” Ms Irwin says.

“People ask ‘do you have a bucket list?’ It’s not like that. That’s a fantasy.”


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