Neil Evans’ dream for others
Neil was a young 44-year-old man at the prime of his life doing well in his career when he was diagnosed with Stage III melanoma. It had not spread beyond a nearby lymph node from the primary skin site, but there were features of the melanoma that, as have his medical oncologist great cause for concern. It was aggressive under the microscope.
The goal was to eradicate the melanoma early with a state-of-the-art clinical trial at the Melanoma Institute – combined immunotherapy. This drug therapy had been a penicillin moment in the history of cancer and has cured so many with melanoma. But for all the success had with eradicating Melanoma, in approximately 30% of people, it has very little or no impact.
Neil spent the next three and a half years being treated at Melanoma Institute Australia, battling melanoma in some shape or form with Sonia his partner by his side. Neil explored every possible option. He was resilient. He was persistent. He quite rightly and appropriately approached this as a problem that would be solved. Our whole team worked with Neil and Sonia tirelessly towards that very same goal. Neil’s attitude inspired us all. It continues to inspire us now.
There were times during his journey where in exploring all options possible Neil paid thousands of dollars to access a drug that had not been approved for melanoma but had some clinical trial data in humans to show it had a chance of working. Unfortunately, this is not an option for every Australian and Neil was aware of this.
In the ultimate act of strength and resilience Neil spoke in his final days about his wish to set up a foundation. On several occasions he had remarked how fortunate he felt that he was able to access novel drug treatments because he had the resources. It was incredibly inspiring and most appropriate when Neil said he wanted to raise money to give patients who cannot afford it – access to expensive novel drug treatments – so that they too can have a chance.
Both Sonia and Neil were gracious, and although the drugs may not have worked in him, he was hopeful that someone down the track in his position may benefit. At Melanoma Institute Australia, our goal is a simple one – zero deaths from melanoma. We are clearly not there yet given what is being celebrated today – the life of a man taken away too early by this dreadful disease called melanoma, Australia’s cancer. Melanoma Institute Australia is continuing to work hard to solve this problem so that in our generation and the generation below us we do achieve zero deaths from melanoma. Neil’s foundation will be an important part of this journey.