1 March 2024

From a blood blister to a fatal diagnosis: Illawarra family raises awareness about deadly melanoma

| Keeli Royle
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Clint Shumack, Dr Danielle Camer and their daughter Sophie.

An aggressive melanoma claimed the life of Illawarra dad Clint Shumack late last year. Photo: Supplied.

A blood blister on a heel of a healthy 37-year-old man which was revealed to be a fatal melanoma has torn an Illawarra family apart as they grapple with the devastating loss of their loved one after only a short battle. But Dr Danielle Camer and her daughter Sophie have turned their grief into action in hope of raising awareness and funds to fight the deadly cancer and stop others from experiencing the same heartbreak.

Danielle’s husband Clint Shumack first noticed something odd about a mark on his foot in May 2022 and decided to seek medical advice.

“He had been running on the treadmill and kept getting blood blisters and this particular one wasn’t clearing up so after a couple of weeks he went to the GP because he thought it might have been infected or something,” Danielle said.

“The GP initially thought it was some sort of inflammatory or skin condition or maybe a little bit infected so she gave him some antibiotics and some creams but nothing was helping.”

READ ALSO Sun safety tips and skin checks that could save your life

It took months to receive any answers, after his GP referred him to a dermatologist and insisted on extensive biopsies. Finally, in September Clint was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive stage three melanoma that had spread to a lymph node.

“He was always wearing long sleeves in the sun; he would never go out in the hottest part of the day; he would always wear a hat; he would always lather up with sunscreen – he was incredibly sun safe.”

“He would always be the one in our group of friends that would be completely covered up and it was a shock for everyone in our family and all of our friends because we just couldn’t believe that someone as sun safe as Clint could get a melanoma, we just thought there was no way that could happen.”

Clint, Danielle and Sophie at the Melanoma March.

The family participated in the Melanoma March together last year; now Danielle and Sophie are fundraising in Clint’s honour. Photo: Supplied.

He underwent surgery and then immunotherapy to prevent recurrence and had some clear PET scans in early 2023, but only months later they found out the cancer had returned.

After a more intense therapy option returned no improvement, Clint was forced to return to the operating table to remove the cancer around another lymph node in his groin.

“The surgery was great; the surgeon said they’d got all the cancer they could see, and the next PET scan wasn’t supposed to be until January this year,” Danielle said.

“But just six weeks later, he was deteriorating rapidly from the surgery and had a scan of the chest and abdomen and they found that his cancer had come back and completely taken over his whole body – it was all over his liver, his spleen, his heart, his lungs and it was just rapid spread.”

The incredibly deadly cancer left doctors without options, and just 14 months after initial diagnosis, Clint passed away.

“It was heartbreaking because it just felt like there was never any hope,” Danielle said. “It was almost like we were getting somewhere and then it would be smashed right down.

“Even right at the end we thought we had some hope with the surgery … I knew at the back of my mind that it would probably come back, but I thought we could at least just enjoy our Christmas period and forget about it for a bit.

“It’s just all those little things that were just constant disappointment.”

Danielle holds onto to those final days in palliative care where she said they were fortunate enough to discuss his wishes for the future and Sophie.

Sophie and Clint.

Seven-year-old Sophie wants to become a scientist and help cure melanoma when she grows up. Photo: Supplied.

And in those conversations, they discussed the Melanoma March which the family had participated in together in the previous year, and that’s when Danielle decided to continue to pursue it despite how painful it might be.

“I just thought to keep his legacy going it would be great to use that as a way to fundraise for the Melanoma Institute,” she said.

“Because even just being able to get the treatment and surgery that he was able to access that would have been as a result of research into melanoma and hopefully with more funding we can help the Melanoma Institute achieve their goal of zero deaths from melanoma.”

Seven-year-old Sophie has started a fundraiser at her school, selling bracelets to raise money for the cause.

“She came up with that initiative herself and she’s really inspired to help make a difference,” Danielle said.

“She keeps saying that she really wants to be a scientist and cure cancer when she grows up so she’s got that drive and she knows this fundraising for the Melanoma Institute will continue to fund scientists so they can find cures for melanoma.

“I think it’s just part of her empathetic personality that she just wants to help make a difference and she doesn’t want anyone else to go through what we’ve gone through.”

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They hope the Melanoma March will help raise vital funds to help future treatment options, but also want to raise awareness that skin cancer isn’t always so clear.

“I think one really important message to put out there is to get your skin checked; if something looks dodgy, if there’s a blemish, it doesn’t have to be a mole, it can be anything,” Danielle said.

“If something doesn’t look right to get it checked out straight away and be persistent in getting a biopsy if your gut is telling you that something is wrong.”

The Wollongong Melanoma March is on Sunday 10 March at Lang Park.

To find out more or register visit the Melanoma March website or to donate to Team Clint visit Danielle’s fundraising page.

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