Ever since he was young, Macklin Swinney of Indianapolis knew he could overcome anything.
“Once it hit summertime, I never had my shirt on. Sunscreen wasn’t a big deal for me,” said Swinney. “Early 20s, you’re invincible.”
He felt invincible even after friends found a mole the size of a thumbnail on his back during a trip to the lake. Macklin ignored their concerns until years later. His back began bleeding at work.
“By that time, I already got on the internet and looked up bleeding moles. It was itching,” he said. “It was right there – melanoma.”
Doctors first thought it was just an overgrown blood vessel. Tests later showed much worse–stage IV melanoma.
Twenty-four years old at the time, Macklin immediately went through two major surgeries and multiple treatments to get rid of the cancer.
Three years later, it had already spread. Mack first found a lump on his chest. Doctors also found tumors on his pancreas, kidneys and hip.
“It showed up not only in my chest, but it was in my bone of my shoulder and the bone in my scapula. One of the biggest ones was in my liver,” Swinney said.
With little options left, doctors told Macklin he had one year left to live.
“I hit a wall. It wasn’t an obstacle in my way. I just didn’t see light at the end of the tunnel,” he said.
Family and friends have been standing by Macklin by making MACK-STRONG T-shirts and wristbands. During his fourth round of yet another aggressive treatment, Macklin had an epiphany. He calls it the moment he found God.
“This is my choice. I’m not a statistic. I just changed my entire outlook on everything,” said Macklin.
Soon enough, there was a miracle. Macklin was one of 10,000 patients in the country to be part of an experimental study at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md. Doctors tell Swinney the success rate is around 50 to 65 percent.
“He hasn’t broken down or anything,” said Maryn Swinner, Macklin’s sister. “He’s been strong. He is an inspiration to all of us.”
Macklin said he’s not stopping any time soon.
“Whichever way this sways, everything happens for a reason,” he said. “I’m in this for the long haul.”
Macklin wants to become a spokesperson for melanoma patients to raise awareness about the disease.
If you’d like to help out Macklin, his friends have set up a fund.