Tuesday, August 14, 2007
Melanoma - Not a Respector of Persons
Last night, while updating this blog, I was surprised to receive an anonymous comment that made the claim that "melanoma is a white person's only disease" followed by a statement that read "melanoma is white person's curse [...] to call your organization 'Cancer Crusaders' is to be a hypocrite because you only care about cancers that affect white people."
First, please allow me to ease this person's concerns about whether or not I care about all cancers; I care, very deeply, about ALL cancers. My mother - my only parent - was taken from me as a teenager by breast cancer. Additionally, I have had several other family members suffer cancer - prostate cancer, lung cancer, uterine cancer, and melanoma, as well. My dear friend (and co-founder) lost her brother to complications associated with malignant melanoma. He was just 21-years-old. My best friend lost her grandmother to cancer. Nearly every one I know has been touched by cancer, including melanoma, in some form.
Secondly, and most importantly, please allow me to me plainly state that MELANOMA IS NOT A RESPECTOR OF PERSONS. Everyone is at risk for melanoma -- the deadliest form of skin cancer. While it is true that individuals with fair or lighter skin are at the highest risk, ultraviolet radiation is a known carcinogen that affects all biological forms of life, according to NASA and the World Health Organization. In other words, melanoma can touch anyone's life regardless of skin color, national origin, race, creed, or gender.
Take, for instance, popular Reggae singer Bob Marley (the idol of my 11th grade history teacher, Mr. Ettle) --
Contrary to popular belief Bob Marley did not die of a drug overdose; rather succumbed to malignant melanoma which spread into his lungs and brain. This factoid might surprise a few readers; however, this piece of information should actually bring the seriousness of this disease into a sharper, more stark perspective. Bob Marley’s battle with melanoma is a noteworthy case-and-point.
Initially, Marley mistook the unrelenting - and growing - sore on his right big toe for an old soccer injury. The supposed wound, which was originally found in July 1977, posed problematic after months of lingering ulceration. It was only when the sore began to grow, aggressively, under his toenail and thus interfered with Marley's dancing, that he sought medical advice. It was then that the correct diagnosis of malignant melanoma was made. Marley was advised to get his toe amputated, but he refused because of deeply held religious beliefs (he was Rastafarian). He also was concerned about the impact such an operation would have on his performing. He felt that amputation “would profoundly affect his career at a time when greater success was close at hand” according to biographers. Sadly, Bob Marley’s melanoma spread to his brain, his lungs and his stomach. While on tour in the summer of 1980, while trying to break into the U.S. market, Marley collapsed jogging in Central Park. Marley did seek other alternative advice regarding his melanoma diagnosis, but it was to no avail. He died a year later on May 11, 1981 at the age of 36 while at the peak of his music career. If we learn anything from Bob Marley’s story, it is that no one is exempt from a melanoma diagnosis.
Moreover, we learn that taking action on anything of concern is imperative. Do not be afraid to listen to your body nor be afraid to open your mouth; ask questions and seek help from your dermatologist.
After all, you are your own best advocate. Bob Marley dismissed an unrelenting sore on his toe as a stubborn soccer injury, for which he paid the ultimate price—his life.
That said, I implore each of you - especially the young adults in their 20s - to take proper precautions against a future melanoma diagnosis. Perform your monthly self-skin exams; visit your dermatologist for a full-body skin exam once-a-year; properly apply an effective broad-spectrum SPF 30 sunscreen every day; avoid tanning beds, and spread the message on to your friends and peers.
Wishing you abundant health,
Danielle M. White
The Cancer Crusaders Organization
PO Box 2076 Provo, Utah 84603
* Note: More about this can be found in ONLY SKIN DEEP? An Essential Guide to Effective Skin Cancer Programs and Resources. Pick up a copy today and support the cause. In this book, you will find a listing of melanoma foundations throughout the U.S., and read about others touched by melanoma.
PS: May I also suggest my friend Chris' Website devoted to malignant melanoma for more information about this deadly, but preventable disease.
PPS: If you have any questions about skin cancer, The Cancer Crusaders Organization, my book (or upcoming book), about the Skin Cancer Awareness ribbon, or would simply like to share your story please feel free to email me.
Posted by Danielle at 2:38 PM