In 2018, Morgan Mansell passed away from melanoma. She was just 25 years old.
Morgan was a gifted writer, a lover of travel, languages, and food, and was about to bring her passions together and start a Masters of Tourism when her life was cut short.
Looking at Morgan’s long list of achievements, it is hard to believe she had been battling a raft of complex health issues that left her continually physically and mentally exhausted.
Morgan was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis when was 18, after a healthy and happy childhood. Shortly after, she was diagnosed with Common Variable Immunodeficiency.
And so began a rollercoaster of medications, hospital visits, and everyday struggles that Morgan would go on to document in her blog dontmswithmorgs.com – and later book – Don’t Ms With Me: Multiple Sclerosis (When Nothing Goes To Plan).
Four years after her initial MS diagnosis, it was discovered that Morgan had a mutation with her CTLA4 gene. This rare disorder, called CTLA-4 protein deficiency, severely impaired Morgan’s immune system, resulting in her suffering from both autoimmunity and immunodeficiency.
Whilst Morgan was battling severe side effects from the various medications she was on to treat her MS, she noticed a mole on her ear. A biopsy confirmed her fears – it was a melanoma.
Morgan had the melanoma removed shortly after the diagnosis, however it was soon revealed that she did not have a clear margin of excision and would require additional surgery.
After having a quarter of ear removed, Morgan had two months of respite in which it seemed the surgery had done the trick. But upon finding another lump in her lymph nodes, Morgan and her family realised her cancer journey was far from over.
Morgan underwent surgery to remove her lymph node, which left her with a significant, long scar that ran down her neck. Morgan received more bad news when she was told that, once again, there was no clear margin of excision and she would need to commence a course of radiation.
Morgan’s lust for life and adventure led her to overcome the exhaustion and sickness that accompanied her radiotherapy, and in June of 2018 she set off on a backpacking adventure around America.
Unfortunately, after just two weeks Morgan’s lumps returned and she flew back to Australia immediately, where she received the crushing news that her cancer had spread and was now stage 4.
Morgan started more rounds of immunotherapy and radiotherapy, but on 22 October 2018, she tragically passed away in her parents’ loving arms.
While Morgan is no longer with us, her legacy lives on through the Morgan Mansell Fund and her writing. To this day, the raw insights and optimistic wit that Morgan shared through her blog posts continue to provide comfort to MS sufferers all around the world.
Clinical trial to determine optimal surgical excision margin
Our MelMarT-II clinical trial is investigating excision margins when removing melanomas, to better inform surgeries like those Morgan underwent and improve patient outcomes.
MelMarT-II is investigating whether reducing the amount of skin removed during surgery can reduce the risk of associated long-term pain and improve quality of life without increasing the risk of melanoma returning. Read more.