As an avid motorbike rider and high-performance sailor for most of his 82 years, Gold Coast local Colin Metcher has always focused on living life to the fullest. Despite a few setbacks along the way, Colin never thought that just a few years into his retirement his health would take a turn for the worst.
Colin had his first round of skin cancer removed from the corner of his eyes in 1973, followed by a skin graft from the back of his ears. With the knowledge that this was the best way to manage the early-stage cancer, Colin’s light-hearted spirt helped him see the humour of the situation.
“I would tell my young children not to act up as I could now hear and see them from all directions. It worked for a while!”
This was just the start of many skin cancer excisions to come over the years. Although he was never focused on tanning or sunbaking, Colin had spent his early years working on farms, surfing and sailing in the harsh Australian sun, not realising the impact this could have.
“It was an absolute disaster for my health. By the time I was aware about the dangers of the sun, the damage had already been done. My initials cancers were caused by the reflection of the nose pads on my spectacles which acted like a magnifying glass on my skin. We’ve all gotten much smarter about that sort of thing now and fortunately my children have grown up knowing the importance of slip, slop, slap.”
Two years ago, a lump in front of his right ear sparked a warning that his cancer had become more severe. After further tests and scans, Colin was told a squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) had spread from his forehead to form a tumour and that he would require surgery to remove the cancer and lymph nodes from his ear to Adam’s apple, followed by six weeks of daily radiation therapy treatment at Icon Cancer Centre within the Gold Coast Private Hospital.
“I can’t compliment staff enough from my time at Icon Gold Coast Private. They helped me cope with the treatment, especially in terms of the radiation therapy mask which was very confining.”
“I would give some advice to other patients who struggled with the mask and tell them to think about something else, such as what you would do if you won the lottery or a big yacht race. Taking myself into another mindset really helped.”
Unfortunately, during a CT scan 12 months later, secondary tumours (or metastases) were found in Colin’s lungs. He says the confronting news led to a big decision.
“I try not to let things get to me too much, but I wasn’t thrilled to bits when I was told. My prognosis was pretty grim. They told me I had two options, chemotherapy to manage the advanced cancer or the potential to participate in a phase I clinical trial at Icon Cancer Centre South Brisbane. With chemo, there’s no way I would have been able to maintain my active lifestyle. The trial was such a good option that I had no second thoughts.”
Colin soon began a two-year phase 1 clinical trial of an innovative new therapy at Icon and now attends the centre every three weeks for that treatment, supported by the team at Icon South Brisbane every step of the way. Phase 1 clinical trials offer patients new and promising treatments in a safe and controlled setting so as to judge their safety and early effectiveness. They are particularly important for people for whom there are no approved effective treatments. For Colin, who recently marked his one year anniversary on the trial, the opportunity has been life-changing.
“I feel relieved and optimistic to be on this trial and have a lot of faith in the team. They made the experience a lot less scary. The staff have become friends, it’s quite nice to see them when I go in for treatment. We do more laughing than we do serious conversations!”
“Getting on this trial, I feel like I’ve dodged a bullet. The outcome has been pretty much miraculous for me, with my tumours significantly decreasing in size. There haven’t been any unpleasant surprises or side effects other than some fatigue and coughing.”
By participating in a clinical trial, patients such as Colin have the opportunity to access a potentially lifesaving treatment and help advance cancer treatment for all Australians and across the world. He’s thankful that participating in the trial means he can contribute to these treatments for future patients.
“I don’t see myself as a great philanthropist or martyr, but if the trial can not only help me out but is also a path to getting this treatment accepted to help other people, that makes me feel really good.”