Brisbane dad fighting acral melanoma after gym accident leads to devastating diagnosis

A Brisbane father is in a race against the clock to afford cutting-edge treatment overseas to fight a rare cancer before it becomes terminal.

Clinton Parker was a fit and healthy 49-year-old when a chance gym accident led to the discovery of a rare cancer.

A sub acral melanoma was found hiding under his toenail when he dropped a weight on it at the gym in 2021.

“I eventually went to surgery and that’s when they found that I had cancer and it spread across my body,” Parker told 7NEWS.

Experts say the cause of the cancer is not fully understood, but it is not believed to be linked to sun exposure, unlike other subtypes of melanoma.

Instead, it is believed to be genetic and generally has a poorer prognosis as it often goes undetected until it has reached an advanced stage.

For two years, Parker tried everything, from immunotherapy to a strict diet and exercise regime but he has now run out of treatment options in Australia and has been classified as “untreatable”.

“I’m the one that you’re meant to call for help, I’m the one who’s meant to be stoic,” he said.

The 49-year-old said he has been “driven to live” since the moment he was diagnosed.

“I’ve been assured that I’ll get through this Christmas,” he said. “I’m 49, I’m determined to make 50.”

His family hopes a revolutionary treatment recommended by his oncological team is the answer. However, it is only available in the United States.

Tumour-infiltrating Lymphocyte (TIL) therapy uses the patient’s own “good” immune cells from the tumour, multiplies them in a lab and then puts them back into the body to kill tumour cells.

It has a 60 per cent success rate in patients in the US, but it is expensive and will set the family back a minimum of $A550,000.

Clinton Parker was diagnosed with sub acral melanoma after the cancer was found hiding under his toenail.

Parker’s wife Caprice Sobels said they need to pay for everything up front, and the family has already been stung by the cost of fighting cancer for two years.

Parker said there is great hope for success with the treatment, but it needs to happen over the next 12 weeks.

“The race against time is that at any moment this melanoma’s moving around his body and he could get tumours in his brain,” Sobels added.

The couple have started a GoFundMe to help cover the cost of treatment and say the support they have received so far has been “absolutely overwhelming and amazing”.

“I know it’s a lot. And some may ask, ‘Am I worth it?’ I can’t answer that. But I know my daughter, my wife, and my parents all deserve the chance,” Parker wrote in the fundraiser.

“My friends, former colleagues and community, I believe, benefit from me being around.

“Most of all, I love life. I live joyfully. And still have much to contribute.”

Parker is desperate to buy more time with his wife Caprice Sobels and their daughter.

Parker said he wants to spare his wife the grief that would come from his premature death and the unimaginable task of having to manage that while helping their daughter through the grieving process.

“I also want to spare my parents the horrendous situation of losing another son before their time. I lost my brother, and best mate, a few years ago in tragic circumstances and I now witness the fear, disbelief and sorrow writ large on my parents’ faces,” he said.

“Regardless of the outcome, I want to show my daughter that I lived with a sense of optimism about the world. And when cancer came I fought hard. For her.”

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