Don't Fry Day
May 24th, 2013
Window to the World for Skin Cancer
Revealed June 3rd
Below are the amazing survivor stories of just
a few of SHADE's friends. Are you a survivor or have
you been affected by skin cancer? Send us your stories
John’s Story · Read
Meghan’s Story · Read
Rachel’s Story -
Read Martha's blog - Read Shirley's story
My story starts with an adventurous,
blonde, boy next door, who grew up in the Midwest
but spent all his summers in South Florida. He
was drawn to the beach, loved the water, and
praised the sun. As a result, he spent
many nights suffering from excessive UV radiation. Yeah,
that's right -- a sunburn! Little
did he know, he was damaging my DNA and setting
the stage for future drama.
I was just a kid in the 1970s and
most people were in the dark when it came to
realizing the dangers of prolonged sun exposure.
I now pay the price with regular biopsies, surgeries,
and cancer diagnoses. I am a malignant Melanoma survivor.
Fast forward to the present. About
one million Americans now develop skin cancer
each year and every hour one will die from melanoma.
What sounds like an insidious epidemic from a
science fiction movie is, indeed, a jaw-dropping
reality in modern America. Bottom line,
when kids blister or burn from being in the sun,
trouble may loom in their future.
If I could send a message in a
bottle through time to that blonde kid on the
beach it would say: "Respect the Sun's power. Get
healthy doses, but don't get burned. Protect
yourself and your children! Wear sunscreen
and protective clothing! Get real and spread
Your natural skin color is beautiful,
so only tan from a can if you must. Examine your
skin regularly and see a dermatologist if you
notice anything suspicious. Examine your
kids. Examine your friends! Heed
this advice and control you own destiny. Don't
quote me on this, but I believe the Surgeon General
determined that sunburn is the direct result
of stupidity. Live smart, live strong and live
- Age: 23
- Diagnosis: Stage 2 Melanoma
- Date of Diagnosis: January 2004
|In January of 2004 my life was turned
upside down when I was diagnosed with Melanoma at
the age of 20. Since I was 18 I had been visiting
tanning booths in an effort to hide my pale complexion
and erase all indication of my Irish heritage,
so I could "look like everyone else." Three
years later I have come to realize that looking
and acting like everyone else is far from what
I want to do.
My name is Rachel D. In
March 2008, I was diagnosed with Melanoma,
the deadliest form of skin cancer. I am
only 11. This is my story.
I live in a beach community in
Narragansett, Rhode Island. I have always
grown up on the water. My parents have
a boat and all summer we water ski, kneeboard
and tube. We also have a pool where I swim
all day, even at night too. I always wear sunscreen
30+ because I have light skin and red hair, putting
me at risk for skin cancer. I was always told
that the sun could cause skin cancer because
of harmful ultraviolet rays of the sun. But,
until now, I never truly understood exactly what
I remember my Mom always checking
my skin for freckles or spots called moles. My
Mom has blonde hair, blue eyes and very light
skin. She has been having spots removed
from her body for a long time, all due to the
sun. So I guess that's why she always checks
me even though it is very annoying.
My mom noticed this spot on my
back that she said seemed to be "changing". She
told my Dad when I went to the doctors to have
them measure it. The doctor said it appeared
to be fine but gave us the name of a Pediatric
Dermatologist. A Dermatologist is a doctor
of the skin. An appointment was made and
off we went.
I have to tell you, I was very
nervous going to the Dermatologist. I
didn't want someone to check my skin from head
to toe the way my Mother does. It was kind
of embarrassing. The doctor began at my
scalp. Did you know you could get skin
cancer up there too? She looked at my face,
neck, ears, body, arms, legs even fingers and
toes. When she checked my spot on my back,
she said, "my gut feeling says it's fine,
I am 99.9% sure it is nothing to worry about." "We
can monitor it." But, my Mom wanted
it gone and I am glad she did. Although,
at the time, I was not happy with her.
They brought in a tray of all sorts
of things including needles, which I hate the
most! The needles were used to numb the
skin so they could cut out the spot and stitch
the skin back together. Once they give
you the needle, you really don't feel a thing. They
send the skin to another doctor who looks at
the tissue under a microscope. They are
looking for typical (normal) cells, atypical
(changing cells) or cancer.
My Dad got the phone call on a
Wednesday night a week and a half later. The
doctor said I was diagnosed with Melanoma In-situ,
which means the cancer was on the epidermis,
the upper layer of my skin. She also said
I had to go in for surgery to remove more tissue
to make sure they got all the cancer.
My surgery was scheduled for Good
Friday at 8:30 in the morning. The surgery
was done by a Plastic Surgeon because of the
large cuts and amount of tissue they have to
take. These doctors are trained in making
the best scars. Although, my Mom, Dad and
I told him we didn't care about how big or large
the scar was because all we cared about was that
the cancer was gone.
This surgery was different because
now I had five needles poking me in the back
to numb the area. And it took longer. But,
it wasn't too bad. My Mom and Dad told
me they cut a lot and deep. They also said
there were so many stitches they couldn't count
and that they would eventually dissolve. They
sent this tissue back to Boston where they could
biopsy it. A few days later, we got the
phone call again. This time the tissue
was cancer free!
Now I'm just waiting for the stitches
to dissolve. I also have to go to the doctors
every three months, but that is OK compared to
how it could have been. If my Melanoma
was not caught in time it could have spread to
the rest of my body. I might have had to
get chemotherapy or radiation; instead I am cancer
free. My Mom pretty much saved my life! My
new saying is, "Make a positive out of a
negative by teaching others."
Rachel also creates and sells her own jewelry. A portion
of her sales are donated to the SHADE Foundation. Support
Rachel and SHADE by visiting Rachel's
Sun Safety Website.
Taking a Journey Together
By Martha Carr
This is the start of a new weekly blog, a conversation between a melanoma survivor, which would be me and everyone out there looking for answers and a little hope.
There are a few labels in life that I was hoping would never apply to me. Cancer was definitely one of them. But in October 2009, I was diagnosed with Melanoma Clark Level IV and told that I had a one percent chance of lasting longer than a year. The surgeon didn’t use the words likely or maybe and he spoke with a certainty.
However, my 21 year old son, Louie waited until we were alone and then looked at me and said with just as much conviction, “You weren’t listening. He said there was hope.” In that moment, I knew Louie would be alright no matter what came next. He was believing for that one percent chance that everything would work out alright.
The surgeon removed all of the soft tissue on the left side of my left knee, right down to the bone and a few lymph node glands and then we waited. When the call finally came two weeks later, the nurse was so convinced of the same prognosis as the surgeon that she started the call with, “Are you sitting down?” I was sure it had spread and my first thought was, one day at a time. We’ll define this last part of the journey. Take a deep breath. But her next words were, “there was nothing. You’re doing okay.”
That wasn’t the end of this part of the story. Thirty days later during the first checkup the dermatologist oncologist found melanoma on my chin, just under my lip. The question hung in the air between us about how much of my face would have to be removed.
I wasn’t even sure how to tell Louie that we were going on this ride again and so soon. This time, my life wasn’t threatened but my sense of self. I was wondering if I could take it all in with grace. After the operation a young and pretty nurse took one look at me and volunteered, “You will never look the same way again.” Her eyes were wide and she looked worried but I suspect it was more for her own sense of self and not for me.
Fortunately, though, I disagree with her. I have a crooked smile and lost most of the feeling in my chin but besides that I look like everyone else. It’s on the inside where everything has changed.
I can see that every day I have a choice about where I put my focus and it makes a difference.
Sometimes all we have when faced with uncertainty and a challenging diagnosis is the belief we choose to have instead of what someone else tries to place upon us. Here I am three and a half years later, after learning how to walk again and finally, even run again.
Louie was right, there’s always hope.
Martha Carr is a national columnist and author and her newest thriller, The List, the first in the Wallis Simpson series is out this month and available at www.MarthaCarr.com. You can write to Martha with questions about her journey at Martha@marthacarr.com or tweet with her at MarthaRandolph.
Shirley Fisher currently holds the title of Miss Washington Crossing. She is a huge advocate for skin cancer awareness and an active volunteer with the American Cancer Society. In June she will be heading to Pittsburg to compete for the title of Miss Pennsylvania with the aspirations of becoming Miss America. While at Miss Pennsylvania she will be promoting her personal platform of “Love Your Skin: Protecting Yourself From Skin Cancer.” She chose her platform because she once abused her skin by frequenting tanning salons everyday of the week. Her tanning soon became an addiction. The addiction grew so largely that she would not feel confident unless her skin was tanned.
Unfortunately, her eyes were opened to a harsh reality the day her mother was diagnosed with Melanoma. From that day forward she knew she had to change her ways and to begin to love her skin and herself. With the title of Miss Washington Crossing her goal is to share her story and to share the message of loving your skin with as many people as she can.
Shirley is a recent graduate of Temple University, with a degree in Business Administration. She is currently working for Pepsi as a Sales Representative out of Reading, Pennsylvania.