'Write letters to your kids': Cancer mum’s grim outlook
A mother of young twin daughters is warning others to constantly check for change in their skin after battling a stage four melanoma which eventually spread to her brain.
Deborah Butler of Golden Beach was not quite 51 when she received her diagnosis after having a "scaly" mole removed.
"I was always told it was fine there was nothing that I need to get done about it," Ms Butler said.
At that stage the chance of her cancer spreading was less than 2 per cent, but the melanoma eventually advanced to the stage where she was given just an 11 per cent chance of survival.
In August last year the investment analyst had persistent back ache that was keeping her awake at night and CT scans detected melanoma in one rib and both lungs.
By February this year the cancer had spread to Ms Butler's brain.
"It's quite shocking to find out you've got cancer in the brain, I found it really confronting, really frightening," she said.
Ms Butler put complete faith in her Sunshine Coast University Hospital oncologist Dr Peter Manders.
"I had to trust the science, be calm and not be stressed," she said.
Ms Butler immediately ceased driving, and in Brisbane's Prince Alfred Hospital in April underwent gamma knife radio surgery using precision beam radiation to attack six of the tumours in her brain.
"If I had waited another month I'd be dead now," Ms Butler said.
At the start of her fight her twin daughters Hannah and Gemma were just six.
The loving support of partner Adrian Crennin helped her and her daughters cope with the distress of her medical situation.
"The children were upset by it and life was changed, they had to give up ballet because I couldn't drive them anywhere," Ms Butler said.
After surgery she went on immunotherapy which has impacted her thyroid and adrenal glands and given her rheumatoid arthritis.
"Because my brain had so much radiation it reacted pretty poorly, but we continued with the therapy," Ms Butler said.
"I lost a lot of my cognitive ability, I was told to write letters to my children to make memories, I couldn't read, I couldn't complete a sentence."
Just when her illness seemed at a point of no return, her swelling started to ease.
It's been six months since cancer was found in her body and in October Ms Butler was allowed to drive again.
Last Monday she returned to work two days a week.
"It's such an important part of your recovery to feel you're back to normal, that you're in control.
"I still have 18 months of treatment and I still might break more bits," she said.
Dr Manders believes the chance of a relapse is about 5 per cent.
"The support from Melanoma Patients Association, to my daughters' school and the community has been amazing," Ms Butler said.
"You're much better after you've meditated and had a walk, than if you've sat at home on Google looking up life expectancy," she said.