DOING IT FOR DAD: 'His cancer kept coming back'
HELLO, my name is Joel Ashby and I am 14 years old. I want to share my Reason to Relay.
In 2011 my dad, John Ashby, felt a lump in his lip.
Unconcerned, he went to the doctor for a biopsy and was shocked to hear it was melanoma. For him it started a long and painful journey that continues today. For us it started with hushed tones and a steady stream of phone calls taken out of the room.
The first time I saw my dad after extensive surgery to his lip was a huge shock.
He looked nothing like my dad, who was always invincible to me. The radiation that followed turned dad into a skeleton.
It was a tough battle. Eating, which we take for granted, was impossible.
I know why at Relay for Life you have to walk all night. It's because it is hard, and you rely on others to get you through.
The cancer just kept coming back. In his neck many times and then in his leg. Every lump was concerning. Every freckle looked sinister.
The cancer could grow wherever and whenever it wanted. As a family we tried weird diets and exercise regimes. But the options got fewer, and the uncertainty was terrible.
You don't realise how much what you talk about is planning for the future until you stop doing it. My dad had a terminal illness.
In February 2015 Dad sat in the surgeon's office once again and was told the next surgery he needed was on his voicebox, meaning he could no longer talk normally.
He wasn't going to do it, and it was my mum, desperate, that got him the appointment and made the decision to sign up for an immunotherapy trial.
Dad very luckily got the last place after an excruciating wait to make sure he qualified.
The cancer in his neck was the size of a baby's fist when he started, and was growing before our eyes.
It was a miracle watching the tumours disappear. While he had some complications along the way, his response to immunotherapy has been amazing.
This has removed the cancer and means that my brothers and I have had many more special times with our Dad that were just not going to be possible.
He has taught my brothers some driving and he will even get to teach me.
After two years, Dad's treatment on the trial will finish on March 14 and that weekend, March 18, 2017, I will be shaving and razoring my hair for my dad. Bald. I will be at the Lower Clarence Relay for Life at the Yamba Public School.
Thanks to all the people who have raised awareness and much-needed money for cancer research and support.