Cancer advocate and campaigner, Leisa Renwick has been unveiled as Skin Cancer College Australasia’s New Zealand ambassador.
Diagnosed with stage-four melanoma on Mother’s Day in 2015, doctors told the mother of three she had weeks to live.
Fortunately, her husband Wayne refused to accept the prognosis and discovered a private oncology specialist who administered Leisa with gene therapy treatment and immunotherapy drugs, which, against the odds, saved her life.
“The support and love of my family and friends kept me alive just long enough for the treatment and drugs to start working. I was days away from death,” Leisa said.
Appalled by the have, have not divide in health care, Leisa, while in the midst of her own cancer battle started a petition to Parliament requesting the New Zealand Government fund lifesaving treatment for late-stage melanoma patients, regardless of their socio-economic status.
“In partnership with hundreds of other melanoma patients and their families, we collected more than 11,000 signatures and pressured the Government to take action,” Leisa said.
“They did, giving an extra $39 million in funding to help patients battling advanced melanoma.
“I might have been the public face of the campaign, but I wasn’t standing alone. There were hundreds of brave people who stood beside me and spoke out, including my family and friends, nurses, medical experts and other cancer patients.”
In long-term remission and off treatment since May last year, Leisa is also a vocal advocate for regular skin checks by an Accredited Skin Cancer Doctor.
“They have the expertise and have undergone additional training so they can identify suspicious spots and lesions and accurately diagnose and treat skin cancer,” Leisa said.
“Skin Cancer College Australasia is also using education, research, advocacy and standards to ensure accessible and accurate skin cancer diagnosis and management is available to all New Zealanders.
“It’s an honour to be Skin Cancer College Australasia’s New Zealand ambassador. Together I’m confident we can educate New Zealanders about the critical benefits of the early detection of skin cancers and the need to visit an Accredited Skin Cancer Doctor for regular skin checks.
“Naturally I practice what I preach, but so does my family. I have three children, all in their early 20’s and as part of their birthday gift they receive a skin cancer check from an Accredited Skin Cancer Doctor.”
Skin Cancer College Australasia CEO Lynette Hunt said it was a coup to secure Leisa as the College’s foundation New Zealand ambassador.
“Given Leisa’s relationship with New Zealand and her own skin cancer experiences, there is no one better equipped to help educate the community about the need to be familiar with their own skin, the importance of self-monitoring for any changes and professional skin checks,” Ms Hunt said.
“If you have any concerns you should make a booking with an Accredited Skin Cancer Doctor, a doctor who has completed extra education and training and has proven their ability to accurately diagnose and treat skin cancer.”
New Zealand and Australia have the highest Melanoma rates in the world. Melanoma is also the fourth most common cancer diagnosed in New Zealand1.
1New Zealand Ministry of Health
• There are currently more than 550 Skin Cancer College Accredited Skin Cancer Doctors across New Zealand and Australia To find your nearest doctor visit www.skincancercollege.org.
The Skin Cancer College Australasia is the non-profit peak body for primary care skin cancer health professionals. Its goal is to use education, research, advocacy and standards to improve the availability of high-quality skin cancer diagnosis and management for all New Zealanders and Australians. Its not-for-profit status means College earnings are directed back to skin cancer education and research. College membership is open to registered doctors, nurses, specialists, researchers and students.