Kelsie’s melanoma diagnosis leaves doctors unsure of the best medical treatment

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Kelsie Dummètt is only 20 years old but she has already made a will.

She has spent the last decade dealing with a debilitating autoimmune disease, ulcerative colitis, resulting in the “traumatic” removal of her intestine, then last year was hit with another devastating diagnosis – melanoma.

The 26-year-old, who holds a graduate degree in digital communication, has been unable to work this year as she faces her dual health condition.

“It was just crazy,” she said.

“I’ve had seven surgeries in the last nine months alone for melanoma.

“I’ve organized my will. Just in case.”

Kelsie Dummètt, 26, hospitalized for treatment for a debilitating autoimmune disease.(Provided)

Melanoma ‘link’ to autoimmune disease unclear

Doctors first diagnosed and removed early-stage melanoma in the middle of last year, forcing them to cut 7.5cm from one of her breasts.

During check-ups and skin scans every three months, 21 more early-stage melanomas and abnormal moles were identified and later surgically removed.

“My body is full of scars,” Ms Dummètt said.

Because the melanomas were in areas of her body protected from the sun and she was vigilant about sun safety, medical specialists are unsure if there is a link to her autoimmune disease.

This uncertainty has created a dilemma for doctors over the best treatment options for melanoma, a potentially deadly form of skin cancer.

Kelsie Dummett skydiving
Kelsie Dummett, 26, describes herself as an adrenaline junkie before she was diagnosed with melanoma last year.(Provided)

Ms Dummètt was still a teenager when her intestine was removed to treat severe ulcerative colitis and replaced with a surgically created internal pouch.

“I had a few good years after that,” she said wistfully.

“I went traveling…all over the world. I loved horse riding and doing adrenaline sports.

“I thought I had crawled out of hell, and I was like, ‘Oh good. That’s great. I fought that.’

“I have now found myself directly there.”

His life of hospital visits, medical tests, surgeries, illnesses and medications is markedly different from that of other people in their twenties.

But she desperately tries to avoid comparing herself to others.

“What I would give to enter the body of someone else who is fully capable of it,” she said. “It’s just such a different world.”

“Every time I go to the hospital, I’m surrounded by 80-year-olds. It’s been really difficult. The more I compare myself to others, the sadder I get. I try not to.

“I don’t plan more than a day in advance. »

A woman with a black dress standing in front of her horse.
Kelsie Dummètt was still a teenager when her bowel was removed.(Provided: Annette Dew)

Given Ms Dummètt’s melanoma, her long-time gastroenterologist Jakob Begun, from Mater Hospital in Brisbane, changed the main medication she receives to treat her ulcerative colitis.

She receives infusions every four weeks of an immunosuppressive drug, designed to prevent her immune system from attacking the internal pouch that surgeons created to replace her bowel.

“I am currently using a very selective drug for the gut, which should not affect its immune response anywhere else in the body,” Dr. Begun said.

The big hope is that by switching to a more targeted drug, Ms Dummètt’s own immune system will be better able to destroy cancer cells.

But with more questions than answers about the underlying cause of her melanomas, the uncertainty is a challenge for her, as well as her doctors.

“I’m trying to reassure her,” said Dr Begun, praising Ms Dummètt’s resilience in the face of two serious health issues at such a young age.

“She religiously does skin exams, being very careful to monitor all her freckles and moles to make sure nothing looks sinister.

“We know if you catch it early you do better, which luckily it did for her. They caught them all early before they got deep into her.”

As she tries to live in the moment as much as possible, Ms. Dummètt is grateful for the good Samaritans in her life – people like her neighbor who bought her groceries and wouldn’t accept payment for them.

During a particularly difficult time in her trip, her friend’s stepfather, who cooked her meals and drove from the Gold Coast once a week to drop them off, expecting nothing in return.

“I couldn’t get up to cook anything,” she said. “Even breaking an egg into a pan and standing there to flip it, I couldn’t do that.”

The fiercely independent young woman, whose father died in 2016, is learning to ask for help while coping as best she can with medical unknowns.

“I worked so hard after recovering from being so sick as a teenager, to create a better life for myself,” she said.

“No matter how good my career was or what financial freedoms I had given myself – all that was destroyed by the cancer diagnosis.

“I find myself where I never wanted to be.

“It’s just nature to get sick. There’s nothing you can do. You just have to deal with everything that happens as it happens.”

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