Thursday, August 23, 2007

But it cannot kill our Spirit

Since I have posted Scarlet's and MaryAnn's story to this Blog I have received an outpouring of emails from young women everywhere who either knew and loved them, or were touched by their story. One such email, from Lisa, was particularly eye-opening and touching. She has had melanoma touch her life, every year since she was 16 (and she's now in her 30s).

Learning about Scarlett and MaryAnn this week has caused me to take forced to take greater pleasure in the simple pleasures and tender mercies of life. As such, the love and appreciation I have for my friends (especially my two dearest friends - Melissa and Natalie) has deepened even further. And my faith in and devotion toward my Higher Power has increased immeasurably.

These melanoma warriors remind me that the greatest blessing in life is the love we give others, and that the love we receive, in return, is the greatest gift of all. After all, love is a choice; therefore, it is a priceless and precious gift. Truly, our relationships with people are what matter most and they make life worth living. Each person we associate with presents an opportunity to learn, grow, serve, and love. I would give anything to let the people in my life have a glimpse into my heart so as to see just how much I love them, care for them, and pray for them. I trust that, despite my limitations, that I will (some day) have an opportunity to love them purely and perfectly.

Additionally, these brave and beautiful melanoma warriors also remind me why I feel so compelled to crusade on behalf of skin cancer prevention education. You see, while I choose to volunteer my time toward this cause, the truth really is that thus is an honor (and responsibility) that these melanoma warriors have given me to help save lives from a deadly, yet largely preventable disease.

With that, I wanted to share Scarlet's obituary with you. Her mother, Cheryl, just sent me a heartfelt email in which she shared wonderful stories about her daughter (who would be the same age as me). As such, I feel a special connection to Scarlet. I want to thank the Moore Family for the work they are doing to raise awareness about melanoma skin cancer and sun safety in Tennessee. More than 300 people from Tennessee, Florida, Mississippi, and Alabama got together this month to host a "Run from the Sun" 5k for melanoma. I was particularly touched by the young women wearing shirts that said "Scarlet's Sisters". These ladies went to college with Scarlet at the University of Mississippi; they were her sorority sisters.

This picture of Scarlet's Sisters shows is an example for each of us in the skin cancer community. Truly, by coming together and collaborating therein creating a strong and unified front, we can save lives from melanoma skin cancer and even conquer it - once and for all.

For those of you looking for a worthy cause to support , for a rewarding activity to do during your spare time, or even ways to get your teenagers off of the couch and into the community, read the stories of melanoma warriors on this Blog and let them inspire you to become a Skin Cancer Crusader!

Yours in the fight,

PS: Thank you, again, to the Moore family for sharing your daughter with us, and allowing her to touch our lives. And THANK YOU to MaryAnn, as well, for your strength and resolve. We are so honored to have you apart of our team!

Graduated to Heaven, Scarlet Lawrence Akins

On August 4, 2006, one day before her 28th birthday, Scarlet Lawrence Akins lost her brave battle against malignant melanoma, a cancer that may have taken her body, but never touched her spirit. Scarlet's courage, generosity, humor and passion for life will continue to impress upon the lives of countless friends, family members and students.

As a wife and mother, Scarlet's motivation was found in her family. With her husband and soul mate, Jody C. Akins, Scarlet gave life to Madison Grace Akins, a daughter who, like her mother, is blessed with beauty, strength and undeniable resolve.

As a daughter, granddaughter, and niece, Scarlet found comfort, friendship and unconditional love and support from her parents, Cheryl and Vann Moore and Steve and Vicki Lawrence, her grandparents, Mr. and Mrs. Jack Lawrence and Dr. and Mrs. Steve Bledsoe, her aunts, Renee Hust and Leigh Pleasant, and her many cousins.

As a sister, Scarlet would beam with pride (and often roll her eyes) when bragging on her brothers, Reese Taylor Lawrence and V. Davis Moore, II, whom she loved both dearly as siblings – and as best friends.

As a friend, Scarlet's caring demeanor was omnipresent, her personality contagious and her determined loyalty never wavering. She would lend you her ear, her guidance and her time without hesitation. A true friend, she will be missed.

A graduate of Collierville High School in 1997, Scarlet received a Bachelor of Arts degree in English in 2001 from the University of Mississippi. While at Ole Miss, she pledged Kappa Alpha Theta, holding numerous positions within the sorority, both as a student and as alumna. She furthered her education at Ole Miss, earning a Masters of Arts in Journalism and Mass Communication in 2003. Moving to Atlanta, she served as an assistant editor for Atlanta Homes & Lifestyles Magazine and later as the editor of European Homes & Gardens magazine. Returning to her true calling, education, she reciprocated her love of learning by offering the gift of teaching. Accepting a position first in Memphis City Schools, Scarlet moved on to mentor and teach as a journalism instructor and publications specialist at Northwest Mississippi Community College in 2005.

Please join in celebrating the life of Scarlet Lawrence Akins on Saturday, August 12th at 2 p.m. at St. George's Episcopal Church on Poplar Avenue in Germantown, TN.

In lieu of flowers, Scarlet requested donations be made to the Scarlet Lawrence Akins Foundation. Checks can be sent to the following address: 1328 Broadstone Lane, Cordova, TN 38016. Please specifically earmark your donation to one of Scarlet's three preferred charities: the Scarlet Lawrence Akins Journalism Scholarship at Northwest Mississippi Community College Foundation, the Kappa Alpha Theta Scholarship Fund, or the Church Health Center.

"Pale is the new tan!" - SLA"

To share your story, for a special edition of ONLY SKIN DEEP? An Essential Guide to Effective Skin Cancer Programs and Resources, please send an email to:

* Note: The official symbol for Skin Cancer Awareness is now represented by an orange loop ribbon with a sunburst in the center. For more information, check out


Anonymous said...

I am Scarlet's aunt.
I hate tanning beds. I hate that people are exposed to the sun with no sunscreen. I hate that it has taken the accelaration of Melanoma to raise awareness. I hate that my niece is now an angel. I hate that my great niece has no mother. I hate that my beloved niece is not here to continue mentoring my daughter.
Every sentence that I posted started with *I hate*. But, what I LOVE, is that Scarlet and others' stories will teach a valuable lesson that can save thousands.
Watching Scarlet live everyday for 27 years, I worship, but to watch her slowly die in 4 short months........I wish on noone.
Put a stop to it.
Leigh Lawrence Pleasant

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