For those who do not know, Dawn, a friend of Tommy & I, passed away this week. She was diagnosed in 2009 with Melanoma (stupid tanning beds!) at the age of 35 (the age I am now). The doctors did their things and she was given the all clear until 2012 when she learned that it had spread to her lymph nodes. On Valentine’s Day 2013, she started Chemo. She was in pain and it sucked knowing how hurt she was and being far away and feeling so helpless where all I could do was pray over and over again for her & her family. They did exploratory surgery in mid-March and with the way the tumors were attached, the doctor felt that the risk or removal was too much and they closed her back up. She finally got to go home after being in the hospital for way too long away from her 2 boys & husband where he took the most amazing care of her. They hoped to talk about options and where to go from there, but instead, their conversations turned to more somber ones about last wishes/wants. She was at home with her family and a full-time hospice nurse. She managed to get out one last blog post on March 27th about how she felt and Dawn was still herself – perky & optimistic while being real. A few days later on April 2nd, Dawn passed away with the people she loved & who loved her the most by her side.
Why do I tell you this?
- Dawn always said, “Check your skin, people. Check your skin.” Its true. You should have a full body check by a dermatologist yearly. Being the daughter of a dermatological nurse, you’d think I myself would do this more. I have had many checks, and a few benign removals, over the years but I also know what to look for and I do check my moles regularly as well as Tommy’s. Moles should be symmetrical .. you should be able to draw a line down the middle somewhere and have the same shape on both sides. If your mole is asymmetrical, get it looked at. A mole with jagged or blurry edges should get looked at. A mole that changes color or has patchy shades should get checked. If your mole is bigger than 6mm (the diameter of a pencil eraser or if your mole gets bigger, get it checked! If your mole itches, reddens crusts, or bleeds, please get it checked! Just because you have any of these, doesn’t mean cancer. Only a doctor will know the difference, the may do a quick virtually painless biopsy right there in the office to make sure. I have had 4 of these done personally. Better to be safe than sorry.
Melanoma is one of those cancers that you have the power to help prevent! Don’t do tanning beds, they really do cause cancer! Try and stay out of the sun and/or seek shade! I know that’s tough but best advise I can give is this: Use high index sunscreen – don’t forget the parts that stick out… people remember the face but many melanomas are found on the ears a much looked over area! Use those bathing suit shirts and shorts (and swimsuits) that have SPF factors built in – regular clothes do not and you can still burn right through them! Use a hat! Use sunglasses with SPF too – you can get melanoma of the eye and that’s not as easy to scoop the bad chunk out of! Try and be in the sun after 4pm in the summer – i know y’all wanna get out there and do your stuff, but really, it’s not worth it. Mainly, don’t intentionally tan! Seriously! I know so many people who swear by “I burn once and then I’m okay and tan after that” That ONE burn a year.. That just ONE BURN along increases your chance of cancer so many times over! I think if people knew that 1 simple sunburn could literally kill them, they’d hopefully stop! You may forget what you did 10 summers ago, or 20 summers ago but your skin doesn’t! It remembers it all, and it might catch up to you! “Healthy” is not being tanned. Oh, did you know:
– you have a 1 in 50 chance of getting Melanoma if you are white? The American Cancer Society estimates that the risk of developing invasive melanoma in the United States is 1 in 41 and 1 in 61 for men and women, respectfully. This averages out to approximately a 1 in 50 chance of developing melanoma throughout your lifetime.
– Your risk of melanoma is greater if 1 or more first-degree relatives (parent, brother, sister, or child) has had melanoma. Around 10% of all people with melanoma have a family history of the disease.
– Every eight minutes, someone in the United States will be given a melanoma diagnosis and that every hour someone will die from the disease.
– Melanoma primarily affects individuals in the prime years of life, is the most common form of cancer for young adults 25-29 years old and the second most common cancer in adolescents and young adults 15-29 years old.
Please print out this 1 page PDF with Melanoma facts. It could save a life! Dawn would want you to remember those things for you, and for your kids.
- Plan. I know you may think you’re young and that you dont have the money but plan for a future without you. Get life insurance! I always thought it was silly for ME to have life insurance since I didnt work. I stay home and care for our kids and cook and stuff. Why would Tom need money when I die? Let’s eliminate me from the picture. Tom leaves the house daily by 6am and get’s home at 6:30pm. OK… what should he do with the kids? Currently we have 2 in school from 8:45 – 3:45 and 1 in preschool from 9-12. He leaves before “before school care” even starts so he’d need a “nanny” type person. Not free. What about dinner? By the time he comes home at 6:30, he doesn’t have time to make dinner before the kids go to bed at 8. He’d need to compensate for that. I don’t even know when he’d find time to take them to their activities, parties, or even shop for food. Clean the house? Yeah, he’d need a maid. Lawn service would definitely be required. Get the picture? It’s obvious I’d be “up the creek without a paddle” if I lost him. He’s the only source of income we have. While our cars are paid off, they are getting old. We have a mortgage. Kids need stuff.
I’d say I dont even like to think about a time where one of us isn’t around but the fact is, we NEED to think about it. Call a broker. Get life insurance. Make sure you have a will. Make sure things that you want or don’t want are known. You never know what tomorrow might bring.
Please, visit Dawn’s blog, whose name alone makes me want to cry each time I mention it these days – Defying Melanoma. Read her words – her inspiration. Think about donating to the Melanoma Research Foundation in her name or donating to the boys’ college fund (they are currently 7 & 9). And finally, think about doing 1 gesture in Dawn’s honor: On Sunday (April 7th), at sunset, please join us in releasing purple and blue balloons in Dawn’s memory. Feel free to do this wherever you are, just take a video or picture or it and I’ll make sure they get it. Mike, Dawn’s husband, is a good friend of my husband and I want him to know how much her fight meant to the world. I will be posting on FB about my release and would love to get a group together to release them together (I’ll buy the balloons).
Dawn’s twitter: @pgoodness
Mike’s twitter: @phenom1984
Defying Melanoma FB page: http://www.facebook.com/DefyingMelanoma
Mike’s FB page: https://www.facebook.com/mgentz
Read one of her friend’s “The thing about Dawn” post – so sweet and so true. Dawn was a great person who was always there when you needed her no matter what was going on in her own life! Dawn is and will continue to be greatly missed.