Latest World News

A ‘fit and healthy’ student was given pain killers for his sore knee. Now he’s fighting for his life


Queenslander Nathan Mead was a typical third-year university student – enjoying time with his friends and girlfriend while studying hard in his chosen field, environmental science.

The teenager, who was also playing representative hockey for Toowoomba, seemed to have it all.

WATCH THE VIDEO ABOVE: Nathan’s fight with cancer.

For more Health & Wellbeing related news and videos check out Health & Wellbeing >>

But in June 2022, just after he turned 20, Nathan began to experience acute pain in his knee.

“A couple of days after my birthday was the first time I noticed it,” Nathan tells 7Life.

“The best way to describe it would probably be like someone scraping a spoon along the inside of the bone.

“I put up with it for about a month – then it started getting worse and worse.”

Nathan Mead with his mum Tracey and dad Stuart. Credit: Supplied

Nathan, who’s one of four children, called his mum Tracey, an oncology massage therapist who lives near Toowoomba.

“He was playing professional hockey again at the time, and he hadn’t played professional hockey for a while,” Tracey, 56, says.

“All of a sudden his knee was hurting and I sent him to a physio, which is what you do.

“University student, playing sport, can’t afford anything, so mum pays for a physio.”

Nathan, who lives and studies in Brisbane, also visited a GP, hoping for some pain relief.

“There’s not much they can do about knee pain, especially without having any images,” Nathan says, adding that he was given Nurofen.

Symptoms worsen

By the end of July, Nathan’s knee pain still hadn’t subsided, and he was starting to have other severe symptoms.

“It started to kick in that something was really wrong,” he says.

“I was vomiting three times a day and I couldn’t eat anything.”

Nathan also had extreme fatigue, unable to get through a four-hour shift at his part-time job “without feeling exhausted”.

Nathan loves sport. Credit: Supplied

Because he couldn’t hold down his food, he lost a staggering 20kg in three weeks.

“I had gone to the doctors again for vomiting but I never really drew the link, putting (all the symptoms) together,” Nathan explains.

“So I told them my stomach was sore and that I was vomiting all the time and I got some anti-nausea medicine.”

The student was now struggling to keep up with his workload.

“I made it about five weeks into uni pretty well and then after that I kind of dropped it and couldn’t keep up,” Nathan says.

“I wouldn’t go in anymore because I’d have to sleep or I’d be vomiting.”


An x-ray showed nothing, so mother and son went back to the doctor, and Nathan had blood tests and an MRI.

The results were life-altering.

Nathan had just gone to Darwin for a holiday when they were told there was a mass in his leg.

Nathan with his girlfriend. Credit: Supplied

“The day we landed we got the news,” Nathan says.

“It was a pretty severe start to the holiday.”

Straight away, Nathan had the other leg scanned, followed by a full-body MRI.

“At that stage, the blood work had come in and it wasn’t good,” Tracey says.

If you’d like to view this content, please adjust your .

To find out more about how we use cookies, please see our Cookie Guide.

He was also sent to hospital to have three biopsies, including a knee biopsy – where they drill into the bone, effectively breaking it.

Nathan was left on crutches and eventually forced to use a wheelchair.

Three weeks later, the biopsy results came back – Nathan had melanoma.

A subsequent liver biopsy confirmed he had stage four metastatic melanoma.

Rare case

Melanoma typically presents on the skin first, as a mole, which Nathan says occurs in 98 per cent of cases.

But in Nathan’s rare case, the melanoma went straight into his knee.

“I didn’t get any warning with mine – it sort of popped up and there was no chance to stop it early,” Nathan says.

Nathan was diagnosed with a rare form of melanoma. Credit: Supplied

Tracey adds: “To me, a melanoma is something that you have on your skin and you have cut off and sometimes it travels and gets in your system.

“There’s no evidence of it ever being on the skin, so we have no idea really of how it got into the knee and how it grew so quickly.”


Immediately after Nathan’s diagnosis, he began immunotherapy.

Tracey says from there “all hell broke out”.

“I did that for about six to eight weeks and then I started losing my eyesight,” Nathan recalls.

“It was definitely quite terrifying.”

Nathan began losing his eyesight from immunotherapy. Credit: Supplied

Not only was he now losing his sight due to the immunotherapy, but a PET scan revealed his condition hadn’t improved.

“It was really frustrating – there were no good results,” Nathan recalls.

“It just sucked that I was doing all these treatments that weren’t helping me, and were making me worse.”

Slowing the spread

Nathan stopped immunotherapy and is now undergoing treatments that aim to slow the spread of the cancer.

“We haven’t been given a prognosis, and we haven’t really asked,” Nathan says.

“I know the standard one would be, for someone in my position, generally around nine to 24 months.

“But anything can change at any time.

“The treatment I’m on now is specially designed to give me more time.”

Nathan’s mum is not giving up on finding alternative treatments. Credit: Supplied

Tracey isn’t giving up on finding treatments and is ready to fly anywhere if it might help her son.

Most recently, she travelled with him to Adelaide to seek alternative treatment.

“I was researching melanoma stuff and getting things from all over the world,” Tracey says.

“Hopefully soon we get some good results and I can tell the world!”

Nathan’s family

After Nathan’s diagnosis, his big family started looking at life differently.

“As awful as what we’re going through is, I’m grateful it didn’t happen in a split second and we’ve got that family time,” Tracey says.

Christmas involved just the six family members, with Nathan and his siblings, Jordan, 22, Cassandra, 18 and Cameron, 16 all simply wanting to order pizza.

“We’re just peeling back and we’re just having a bit more quality time without others around,” Tracey says.

“There’s some really beautiful moments in all this crap.”

Nathan with his family. Credit: Melissa Mielekamp | Meloo Studio/Supplied

Nathan adores his family and has become even closer to his elder brother, Tracey says.

“His brother has even said, ‘I love you mate’.”

Nathan adds: “(They’re) amazing, they haven’t left my side, but still give me all the freedom I need.

“There’s been a couple of times where I’ve had some problems and have had to go to hospital, and they’ll drop everything and come straight to me.”

Staying positive

Despite this time being extremely difficult on Nathan and his family, the 20-year-old is finding a way to stay positive.

“I count myself quite fortunate, but yeah I can’t say it’s not too bad because it’s pretty bad,” Nathan says.

“I think in the whole grand scheme of things, I’ve done a lot better than what I could have.”

Nathan’s main goal is to finish uni. Credit: Supplied

He is now working towards accomplishing some goals.

“I’m trying to do as much as I can, to spend as much time as I can with anybody at the moment,” he says.

“I’m trying to get my oncologist to allow me to skydive.

“She’s not happy with the idea but I’m sure I’ll be able to convince her.

“Other than that, I’d like to travel a little bit more. I’d like to go to Japan or Sweden but only if it works.”

But Nathan says his greatest aim is to finish uni.

Nathan’s parents are helping him achieve his goals. Credit: Supplied

“I really just want to live a normal life still, so my biggest goal is, funnily enough, to complete my uni degree,” he says.

“(I’m) hoping to start back this semester, talking to the uni and making plans for it.”


To assist with medical and treatment costs, as well as helping to fund Nathan and his family’s travel costs as they pursue different treatment avenues, a GoFundMe has been set up.

“Nothing is covered, so GoFundMe is going to completely cover it,” Tracey says.

“I’m just extremely grateful. We were going to have to go to the bank to try to get some more money, or sell the house.

“But the fact the community wanted to do this for us is great. It’s just lovely.”

Nathan’s family is overwhelmed by the community’s support. Credit: MIRAPOSA IMAGES/Supplied

Tracey believes Nathan’s incredibly caring personality has impacted the community, which is now giving back.

“The whole community up here thinks he is just beautiful,” she says.

“He’s just likeable. He’s got a really beautiful smile.

“If someone’s walking along the street, he’ll just smile and go, ‘Oh what a beautiful necklace’ to some old lady, just making their day.

“I’m extremely grateful and we’re going to give him everything we can give him, because he’s gorgeous.”

Nathan also wants to raise awareness of melanoma, which he describes as a “very big issue” that “every Australian knows about”.

“Cancer didn’t start with me and it’s not going to stop with me,” he says.

For more engaging lifestyle content, visit 7Life on Facebook.

If you’d like to view this content, please adjust your .

To find out more about how we use cookies, please see our Cookie Guide.

Source: 7News