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Coronavirus (COVID-19) latest: Visiting The Royal Marsden is still suspended, but we want to reassure our patients, their families and anyone worried about cancer during this difficult time that we are still delivering treatment - the hospital is open. Please see more information here about how we are keeping everyone safe.

‘Now I’m able to live life to the fullest’

In June 2016 at 45 years old, healthy, active and enjoying the prime of her life, Shiona Ramage went to get a mole on her back checked out and was diagnosed with melanoma.

“My life changed forever,” Shiona says. “I had no idea back then what the journey ahead of me would be like.”

Shiona underwent a wide local excision (WLE) to remove more tissue around the original mole site, and after scans showed the cancer had spread to some lymph nodes, she had a full axillary dissection to remove 20 lymph nodes and was referred to The Royal Marsden to be under the care of Professor James Larkin.

“I was confused why I was being referred to a specialist cancer hospital when I was effectively clear of cancer, but it turned out to be the best decision.”

Just weeks later, a scan showed a small tumour on Shiona’s brain. 

Professor Larkin, whose research into immunotherapy drugs for advanced melanoma led to the treatment being the standard of care throughout the country, recommended Shiona start a combination of two immunotherapy drugs ipilimumab and nivolumab. 

Unfortunately Shiona experienced autoimmune hepatitis as a side-effect of the treatment and was admitted to The Royal Marsden to get it under control.

“On the plus side, when I was well enough I could pop out to the Kings Road in Chelsea - a bit of retail therapy worked wonders, and my husband David and I managed to go out for lunch sometimes. I ended up staying in hospital for three weeks and when Professor Larkin discharged me he joked it was for the health of my bank account!”

Although the immunotherapy treatment had to be stopped, Shiona derived some benefit from it and was clear for six months until, in December 2017, when a small tumour was detected and she started on a new targeted drug treatment of Debrafenib and Trametinib.

“This combination has reduced the size of the tumour on my brain and kept the rest of my body clear. It’s been two years now and my latest scan showed good results. I feel very fortunate to be treated by the fantastic melanoma team at The Royal Marsden team led by Professor Larkin. The care I receive at the hospital is outstanding and the research undertaken to continue developing new treatments is at the forefront of medical science and developments globally.

“Thanks to their expertise and the incredible advances in research I am living life to the absolute fullest, having lots of laughs, travelling the world, and fundraising for The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity.” 

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