He’s just 38 and in a fight for his life. He is family, is passionate about his work as a cancer research scientist, has an enormous intellect, he loves the planet and everything on it, is kind and compassionate, committed to making the most of every day, and he loves his family and friends. And we love him.
Until the middle of last year Marty was working in cancer research and living in Northern France, enjoying some of the best wine, cheese, and beer in the world. It was a life to be admired a lot and envied even more.
Next thing you know he’s staring down a diagnosis of aggressive Stage 4 colon cancer which has spread throughout his body. It sucks that the Big C is now staking a claim against his on-going work to find a cure for cancer for future generations and it sucks that he might be taken from us so young when he has so much more planned for himself and others.
UP UNTIL MAY 2020…
…Marty spent the majority of his career as a scientist performing fundamental research to help what causes diseases such as ovarian cancer and medulloblastoma, a pediatric brain cancer with heartbreaking outcomes. After receiving his PhD at the University of Wollongong his love for science took him all over the globe, allowing him to work with some of the world’s leading researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta and the M4i Institute in Maastricht, The Netherlands and most recently, working and living in Northern France.
AND THEN IN MAY 2020…
…he started having symptoms indicating a stomach ulcer. Other than that he was as fit as he’d ever been. X-rays on his lungs and liver and blood tests showed no signs of anything untoward. By June though the symptoms were still there and, this time round, CT Scans revealed large tumours in his liver, lungs and lymph nodes. A follow up colonoscopy identified the primary tumour present in his colon had arisen from the most aggressive form of colon cancer caused by a BRAF DNA mutation. BRAF is essentially the brakes of the car that are our cells. Without it, the cancer grows and spreads uncontrollably. BRAF mutations are the most rare, accounting for only 10% of all colon cancer. His liver was getting so large from the tumours it was pushing on his stomach, and the pain that caused was the only way he knew something was wrong.
It was his research work that allowed Marty to interpret the results of the tests he’d had for this persistent stomach pain before his meeting with his doctor. The report was in French, but he didn’t need to speak French to understand just how dire the numbers were.
Without treatment he had just 6 months to live.
As soon as he got the colonoscopy results he packed up his life in France and planned his move home to Australia but, because of Covid, his flight back was being cancelled time and time and time again. Finally it looked like he had clearance to fly but even at the point of being at the checkin there was no guarantee. But it did happen on the last attempt, and after a terribly uncomfortable trip home he landed in Sydney to undertake two weeks in compulsory Covid quarantine. It further delayed the start of his treatment and also prevented him from seeing his family who had no idea he was back in the country let alone that he’d returned with an aggressive colon cancer diagnosis. He desperately wanted to share the shocking news with them in person. That two weeks of quarantine was pure emotional hell for Marty.
Once out of quarantine Marty’s oncology team put together a plan to hopefully stop the progress of the cancer, reduce the size of his tumours and the lesions on his liver. The chemotherapy treatment was brutal. He received the strongest dose of 3 drugs – 5-fluoruracil, oxaliplatin, and irinotecan – every 2 weeks for 6 months, battled nausea, vomiting, diahorrea and massive fatigue and has been left with nerve damage in his hands and feet. The chemo was buying him time though and as a scientist he knows only too well that with time comes the possibility of someone, somewhere, finding the silver bullet.
The bad news is that initial chemotherapy treatment has stopped working and his only hope now rests with a second line of treatment. The new treatment is based on a recent clinical trial, the BEACON trial, which uses 3 drugs – encorafenib, binimetinib, and cetuximab – that are already on the PBS scheme for melanoma. Unfortunately though the treatment is not on the PBS scheme for his cancer because it’s still considered experimental. It is however treatment that has shown to be very effective for his specific cancer, and more especially so because of his age and state of fitness. He started treatment on January 20. It is his BEST option. In truth, it is his ONLY option.
The treatment will cost $50,000 + as a starter, and without a steady income, is a massive financial burden Marty is struggling to carry on his own.
It’s why we’re asking for generosity from those who can spare it, with even the smallest contribution a help in easing his worry about funding the treatment. Quite literally, every dollar counts. It’s the ‘from little things, big things grow’ truism.
As Marty says: “I have faith in my body and in science that, even though the odds are stacked against me, I am young enough and strong enough to beat this.”
His medical support team has no idea what the prognosis is with this new treatment but knows emphatically that it is his only option. As with everything he does, Marty will give it his very best shot.
We want to give raising some much-needed funds for him our very best shot too and fingers crossed you’ll be able to help us in that endeavour.
We love him and want him around. Family is everything. It’s as simple as that.
We’ll add updates to this page to keep you in touch with Marty’s progress, and in the interim, want to thank you from the bottom of our hearts for reading this and hopefully donating.