MG is a Boston native who spent LOTS of time on the beaches of Massachusetts and Rhode Island during my teens and twenties. The goal was to be tan, but due to an Irish heritage, the end result was usually a burn, which sometimes would even blister and peel. Sunblock was generally not part of the equation, because getting “some good sun” was all a part of the summer experience, and I actually thought I looked better with a burn then just being my normal pale self. I can remember having some horrible sunburns where I couldn’t even walk the next day because my legs were so scorched, and my face would be swollen and red. Sexy, huh?
I smartened up a bit at age 29 when I moved to Cincinnati, OH. Mainly because there are no beaches in Cincinnati, but also because I was getting a bit smarter when it came to sun exposure. I started to wear sunblock and would cover up a bit more. Vacations still brought out my bad habits though, and I would usually overdo it and get burned.
Fast forward to age 37. I had a mole on my torso that looked a bit funky. Now, I had been thinking about going to the dermatologist for a while, but had been putting it off because it was not a priority. I am a “moley” person anyway, and have had freckles and moles all of my life, so this one was not too alarming, other than the fact that it was new. I waited almost a year to have it looked at. Result – melanoma.
Because I had waited so long, the diagnosis was stage three. This means that the disease had spread to my lymph nodes. So, I had the tumor removed, and all of the lymph nodes under my left arm as well. I followed that up with a year of immunotherapy (a version of chemotherapy), which had quite a few miserable side effects. It was a tough year.
Now, at the age of 41, I am lucky and fortunate to say that I am a three-time cancer survivor. I love the word “survivor.” It makes me feel empowered and strong. Once you cross over into remission, it is like feeling reborn. No more meds, fewer doctor appointments, and a renewed sense of life. Everything just seems crisper and cleaner. Not sweating the small stuff becomes more than just a book title. Crazy to admit, but I feel that by having had cancer, I have a fresh start at life, and I don’t plan to waste a single minute of it.
I wanted to take this experience and turn it into something meaningful. This brings us to MelanomaGirl. It has become very obvious to me that most people are not familiar with melanoma. I certainly wasn’t. Years ago, I had no idea about the danger I was putting myself in, and my impression is that the general public still does not realize how deadly this disease is. It is a form of skin cancer that is highly curable if caught in the very early stages, but if not, it penetrates your skin, and can spread throughout your entire body. Once it reaches this point, unfortunately there is usually little chance of survival. Thus, Awareness is Imperative!
My mission for MG is to be melanoma’s #1 awareness advocate through fundraising, MG-branded apparel, and prevention education. I want to connect with as many people as possible, and encourage them to be smarter in the sun. My approach is not going to be clinical. There are plenty of excellent medical websites and organizations already out there, and they are successfully fulfilling that need.
Now, guys, please don’t feel excluded. The “Girl” designation does not prevent you from participating in any MelanomaGirl related events. MG can stand for MelanomaGuy! The message, T-shirts, sunblock, etc. are all for you too. Everyone is welcome!