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Coolibar Athlete Kristie Cranford

I love running. I have overcome so many obstacles in my life, one being cancer, and running is one of the few things I have semi “control” over. I feel alive and at peace when I run. I am alone with my thoughts and it gives me time to think deeply about many things.

My first half marathon was a huge accomplishment—the Rock n’ Roll Las Vegas Half Marathon (RNRLV) 2009. Many said I would never run a race that distance. During the race a friend surprised me on the course. I cannot tell you how big my heart swelled knowing someone supported me. When I crossed the finish, I put my hands over my face and cried. A volunteer had to move my hands to put the medal around my neck. I had conquered another obstacle. My husband and son met me at the finish. It was FREEZING, but I didn’t care. I did it!

That race was the bug that bit me. I started devouring books and magazines on running, hired a trainer and changed my eating habits. I lost weight and started sleeping better.

Along the way I also found a passion for fitness and became a Certified Personal Trainer. I am now studying to be a Certified Coach. As an athlete, I am attempting to transform from a runner who “runs” races to a runner who “races” races. It’s a huge step for me fine tuning my diet and nutrition and training a whole different way. I may never be an elite athlete, but it sure is fun training like one!

I was born and raised in North Carolina (brief moments of childhood in Ohio, and adulthood in Atlanta, GA) now living in the land of Sin City, Las Vegas. People who know me describe me as a friend to everyone I meet.

My life is busy. I find myself training at midnight sometimes just to fit it in. My goals include becoming a USA Track & Field Masters All American in 2012, finishing an Ultra Marathon, bringing an Outrun the Sun Race to Las Vegas and reaching as many people as possible with the message of sun protection.

As a multiple melanoma survivor since age 27, I am passionate about sun safety, especially since becoming a Mom. I have fought and beat cancer multiple times. I fear the day when I will get it again, not if, but when. I want to be as strong and healthy as I can be, in the event I need to fight again. My son’s bright eyes and smile are the reason I train so hard, eat right and protect my skin every day. I want to be the best Mom I can be for him, for as long as I possibly can.

Kristie’s favorite quote: “It’s about you. It’s personal. You’re not racing against anyone else. You only get one first time, so just enjoy the experience.”

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Success Stories Wellness Warriors

Melanoma Survivor Stan

During Skin Cancer Awareness Month, Coolibar invites skin cancer survivors to share their stories with us in their own words. The ins and outs of treatment can be intense and not necessarily a fun thing to read; however hope, determination and drive to educate others play a major role in these individuals’ lives. Skin cancer doesn’t discriminate, it can happen to anyone. Prevention and early detection can be life saving! We hope you share these stories with your friends, family and colleagues. Be SunAWARE this month the all year round.

“My name is Stan Hankins, age 76, and I live in Albert Lea, Minnesota. I discovered a lump under my jaw in the fall of 2010. The tumor was surgically removed by a Mayo surgeon in Rochester, Minnesota, in December 2010. The pathology report showed metastatic melanoma that had spread from an unknown skin mole that was never found. I had never noticed a mole that looked suspicious nor had a doctor check any moles. In March of 2011 a new tumor was discovered in the same general area as the first one. It was removed along with 110 lymph nodes in my neck and cheek. The tumor and two of the lymph nodes in the tumor were again diagnosed as metastatic melanoma.

After healing of the surgical site, I underwent five radiation treatments. Each of the five treatments was equivalent to six regular radiation treatments, because melanoma is a beast. In June of 2011 a PET scan revealed tumors on the left lung. In July my doctor started me on Leukine where I self-injected the drug that has shown some success in melanoma patients. I did this until October when I had a CT scan that showed multiple tumors had developed in both lungs as well as on my liver and peritoneum. I had another surgery in October to obtain a biopsy of the lungs to determine that it was indeed metastatic melanoma. With melanoma in my vital organs, my prognosis was rather dire. I would probably live less than a year.

In November 2011 my doctor at Mayo suggested that I join a clinical trial that was just beginning. There are eleven patients on this clinical trial. The doctor had done a similar clinical trial six years ago, and two of the ten patients are alive and show no signs of melanoma. The trial is a 28-day cycle. I take a nausea pill and chemo pills before bedtime for 5 nights and then nothing for the next 23 days. The chemo drug boosts the immune system and does not destroy good body cells, and it does not make me sick at all.

After the second cycle in January 2012, I had a CT scan that showed many of the smaller tumors had disappeared, and the larger ones were reduced by 50 percent! After the fourth cycle in March, I had another CT scan that showed further reduction of the tumors, and my liver was clear of tumors. I have just completed six cycles, and I will have my next CT scan in May. My hope is that all of the tumors have disappeared. Six people of the eleven on this clinical trial have had positive results. My doctor is excited and I am. Our hope is that this is a breakthrough for melanoma treatment. I consider this a miracle. Throughout this journey, I have had prayer covering around the world. I have no symptoms, and I am feeling great.

I used to have no worries about the sun, and for many years I wore no shirt outside during the summer. Now I wear a hat and a long-sleeved shirt when I am outside. My advice would be to have moles checked out by a doctor on a regular basis, because I obviously had a mole that was the culprit and I never noticed it.”

Photo: The picture was taken in May 2011 when I finished radiation at Mayo.  They have patients ring the bell to celebrate the completion of treatment. I had five treatments that were equivalent to 30 treatments.

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Success Stories Wellness Warriors

Melanoma Survivor Sam

During Skin Cancer Awareness Month, Coolibar invites skin cancer survivors to share their stories with us in their own words. The ins and outs of treatment can be intense and not necessarily a fun thing to read; however hope, determination and drive to educate others play a major role in these individuals’ lives. Skin cancer doesn’t discriminate, it can happen to anyone. Prevention and early detection can be life saving! We hope you share these stories with your friends, family and colleagues. Be SunAWARE this month the all year round.

From Samantha Hessel

Cancer- just a six letter word when looked at purely by letters means nothing. When looked at medically means a diagnosis, hope for a cure, and a battle. When looked at physically is an organism that invades your body and life. When looked at emotionally it breaks you down, tears you apart, and instills fear, sadness, anger, and betrayal in you and your loved ones. Cancer unwelcomingly entered my life two and a half years ago when I was 19 years old. The day before my diagnosis, my family and I enjoyed a nice day together touring quaint, local shops and having a delicious lunch. Little did we know at 8 am the next morning our lives would change forever. On July 24, 2009 I was diagnosed with melanoma skin cancer at 19 years old. On August 13, 2009 I had a minor surgery to remove the rest of the mole and 1cm of surrounding skin.

I never thought at 19 I would have heard “you have cancer”. If it wasn’t for my mom pushing me to have skin checks every year I have no idea what my life would be like right now. From this experience I have learned how truly important it is to protect yourself from the sun, especially tanning beds. I am guilty as charged for using tanning beds from 15-18 years old and truly regret it. If I would have listened to those around me I may not being writing about this experience. Now I protect myself from the sun every day by applying sunscreen regularly and wearing sun protective clothing when I know I will be outside for long periods. Hats have become my new best friend. Yes, is it hard when everyone else is at the beach and not only do I feel I can’t go because of the sun, but when I do go I am all covered in clothing, sticking out like a sore thumb or hearing comments about “how pale you are”. Does it hurt? OF COURSE! I take the looks and the comments because I know in my heart it is better than hearing “you have melanoma” again and enduring a fight for my life. I use that hurt to educate in my local community and I hope through awareness people will come to understand that getting a tan and being a bronze goddess is not worth losing your life.

My challenge to all Coolibar Blog readers is educate your kids, yourself, friends, family, community, workplace, etc. about the dangers of the sun. I beg you because it breaks my heart when people lose their life to this horrible disease. Educate and create awareness so no one has to hear the words “you have cancer” especially at a young age.

Me dressed in all Coolibar in this past summer
In my homecoming dress (when I used to tan)
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Avoid UV & Seek Shade Success Stories Wellness Warriors

Doc Learns the Hard Way to Avoid Tanning

Some stories are so powerful they need to be retold.  This blog was written by Dr. Jessica Sparks Lilley, a pediatrician who learned the hard way that the risks of getting melanoma from using a tanning bed are real! Please do not use tanning beds.  Please do not allow your children to use tanning beds.  Help pass legislation to ban the use of tanning beds by minors.

“As a pediatrician, I have dedicated much of my life to improving the health of children—thirteen years of formal training after high school, to be exact.  I’ve worked thirty hour shifts every other day, delayed my dream of having children of my own, and moved across the country for the best learning opportunities.  Amid this grueling schedule, during my second year of residency I noticed in a bleary-eyed post-call shower that a mole on my chest had changed a little.  I recounted the “ABCDs” of skin cancer—asymmetry, borders, color, diameter—and my mole was only a little larger than a pencil eraser with more heterogeneity than I remembered (meaning that it was a mix of brown and black rather than just all brown).  When I finally made an appointment with my internist (again, post-call—can’t be choosy when you work eighty hours a week), he brushed my concerns aside and refused to even look at it, instead writing out a referral to dermatology.  Six months later, the opportunity to see a dermatologist finally arose, and I found myself standing in the specialist’s office that February morning to find that the referral had never made it.  My medical training had kicked in and caused a bad feeling in my gut about the mole, so I called my internist’s office from the waiting room and even cried on the phone to get them to help me.  After much wailing and gnashing of teeth, the referral was processed and the physician’s assistant worked me into her schedule—the suspicious mole was off to pathology within fifteen minutes, and I received the call two days later that I was right to be worried—that mole represented an early-stage melanoma.

I was in my parents’ living room when I got the call.  I had traveled from Philadelphia to Mississippi for vacation.  I will never forget the way my mother cried when she overheard me asking questions about whether sentinel node mapping would need to be part of the diagnostic work-up.  I only required a wider excision, which was done that very week and (praise God!) showed no signs of metastasis.  As I sat in doctors’ waiting rooms and even as I was walking back to the operating room, I mulled over the same regrets—why did I ever step foot into a tanning salon?

The first time I went to a tanning bed, I was fifteen years old and trying to get a little “color” to look good in a dress I found to wear in a beauty pageant.  I bought eight visits, heard nothing of the risks (which were largely unknown at the time), never burned, and actually thought it was fun to have the fifteen minutes of quiet rest.  I had to beg my parents to let me go, and the owner of the tanning salon was quick to tell my mother that indoor tanning was much safer than tanning outside.  The strongest argument against the behavior in high school I heard was a bad urban legend about a girl who “fried her ovaries” by tanning.  You’d think that I would have been hesitant to step inside a device that looked like a coffin, had a dial like an oven, and was cleaned with only a dilute cleaning solution by other tanners.  Alas, I went about ten times a year after that for various reasons—prom, pageants, and even my wedding—despite being able to draw a picture of the pyrimadine dimers I was forming in my DNA as a result of UV radiation!  Strangely, I wore sunscreen and rarely went outside, especially as my training intensified.  The first time I thought seriously about never going back was after my first pathology lecture dealing with melanoma and the strong emphasis on UV radiation as a cause of skin cancer; I considered it again when a friend was caring for a patient with metastatic melanoma during our third year of medical school and lovingly warned me that I was putting my health in danger; but because I started tanning at a young age, the behavior seemed safe to me.  I rationalized tanning in every way imaginable.  After I graduated medical school, I vowed to never return lest I set a bad example as a physician.  My last tanning visit was April 24, 2007, about a week before my wedding…and two years before the cancer diagnosis that changed my life.

I am continuing to devote my life to the health of children now as an advocate to ban tanning in minors, just as we regulate other known carcinogens like tobacco.  We know that younger DNA is more vulnerable to dangerous mutations and that teens don’t yet have the cognitive skills to judge long-term ramifications of their actions.  We also understand now that any indoor tanning before the age of 35 increases the risk of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, by 75%!  I am appalled that I have friends who continue to go, reasoning that tanning “isn’t that bad” and is their “only vice” and “something they do for themselves.”  I’m infuriated that some idiot doctors perpetuate the myth that sun exposure is healthy and the lie that tanning beds are a good source of vitamin D.  That’s absolute hogwash.  I’m a fellow in pediatric endocrinology and know that much better sources of vitamin D are available without the side effect of deadly cancer!

I shudder to think of what would have happened to me if I hadn’t detected my melanoma early.  Late-stage melanoma is almost always fatal.  Treatments like interferon have horrible side effects and don’t save everyone.  I no longer feel safe in my own skin and feel that the quality of my life has been impacted by the fear that my cancer will recur.  The fact that melanoma is the most common form of cancer death in my demographic (25-29 year old women) is astounding, and it is unfortunately on the rise in association with more young women with a history of indoor tanning.  It’s humiliating to recount my story—I should have known better—but I hope to teach everyone who will listen three important take-home points:

1. Never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever indoor (or outdoor) tan!  A tan is evidence of skin damage and potential DNA mutation that can lead to cancer.  There is no such thing as a safe tan!

2. If you are worried about something with your health, there may be a reason.  Talk to your physician, and if he or she doesn’t listen, find someone who will.

3. Finally, take time to take care of your health.  We have all made an idol/status symbol out of “busyness” to the detriment of our well-being.  If you don’t take care of yourself, no one else will.

As part of my crusade, at least one later stage melanoma has been diagnosed and countless friends and acquaintances have stopped tanning.  I will keep telling my story to anyone who will listen to defeat this often preventable cancer.”

Jessica Sparks Lilley, MD

A post shared by our friends at SunAWARE.

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Wellness Warriors

“More Than Skin Deep” – This Film Can Save Lives

If you had the resources to tell hundreds of thousands of people around the world about skin cancer and prevention would you? Director and Cinematographer Stan Kozma has worked in the film business his entire adult life. He also knows all too well how skin cancer can affect people’s lives, so he decided to take action. All is revealed about skin cancer and melanoma in his film “More Than Skin Deep: Skin Cancer in America”. The hour long film examines the cultural, historical and social facets of the disease, including how the tanning craze was accidentally popularized by Coco Chanel, as well as its medical, scientific and treatment aspects.  Since 2009, the film has been broadcast over 500 times on 200 stations to approximately 500,000 viewers in addition to audiences attending film festivals across the U.S. and currently in Norway. This landmark film has so many elements that we decided to speak with Stan and get the reasoning behind his creation of the film.

Here’s a brief clip from the film “More Than Skin Deep: Skin Cancer in America.” 

                          

Why did you decide to create a film about skin cancer?
As the saying goes, “You choose some projects. Some projects choose you.” My fiancé, Kristi, a professional make-up artist was diagnosed with melanoma. After four tough years of operations and protocols, she was taken by the disease at age 35. During a brief period of remission, she and I vowed that upon her return to full health, we would do what we could to spread awareness about skin cancer. Prior to “Skin Deep”, I had produced a successful PSA campaign about sun awareness directed at kids, teens and parents. The documentary was planned as the next step.

Stan Kozma Shooting "More Than Skin Deep"

Who do you think your audience is for this film?
The audience is anyone who is exposed to the sun – which is all of us. The film is directed at mid-teen to adult. Classroom versions have been created for middle school, high school and nursing academies.

What is your hope for every person who watches “More Than Skin Deep”?
One hope is that people who watch “Skin Deep” will want a friend or family member to watch it as well. We’ve received many requests to send copies of the film to a granddaughter or younger family member who might not realize the possible consequences of their sun habits.

What was the number one point you wanted to get across?
If there is one overarching message it is that skin cancer is REAL cancer. While the film addresses basal and squamous cancers, the primary focus is on melanoma. There are two main points we emphasized. One is that melanoma is an unpredictable and very treacherous cancer that although when caught early has a 99% cure rate, once it spreads it is very difficult to control. The second is that sun exposure or early sunburns can have long term serious consequences. Your body doesn’t really ‘get over’ a sunburn. It’s not like getting over a cold. Your skin stores that information for your entire life – and we get 80% of our lifetime sun exposure before we are 18.

How did you choose people to interview?
During Kristi’s treatments we traveled from Florida to California, New York and Bethesda for consultation and treatment. We met many brilliant and caring physicians and nurses during that time. I remained in contact with most of them after her passing. When it came time to make the documentary, not one turned down the opportunity to be on camera. In fact, several made important introductions that resulted in interviews that otherwise would not have been possible.

Sun protective clothing is now being recommended as the first line of defense by many leading organizations. The movie doesn’t really address the use of sun clothing as a protection method, was this intentional?
Several of our interviewees did mention sun protective clothing. Our limiting issue was time. The film had to be a specific length to adhere to broadcast standards. We had more footage than time. Since “Skin Deep’s” initial release in 2009, there have been significant developments in melanoma treatment and in skin cancer news. Currently we are looking to revise the film for a new broadcast version and a longer non broadcast version without time constraints. The importance and advantages of sun protective clothing will certainly be included in the update.

In your eyes, has the film been a success?
The film has been successful. But its full potential is far from being reached. “More Than Skin Deep” is the most engaging, emotional and entertaining film to examine skin cancer produced to date. It can be updated and advanced as new information and treatments become available. Custom versions of the film can be created for certain geographical regions and for ages and occupations.

Do you have any future plans as a skin cancer crusader?
In addition to continuing the outreach of “Skin Deep”, I am developing a feature film which Kristi and I started writing together and which chronicles the odyssey of her melanoma journey. It is not a standard approach to the subject and the intent is to create a narrative film that will do for skin cancer awareness what the film ‘Philadelphia’ did for HIV/AIDS understanding.

To view clips or purchase the DVD, visit www.morethanskindeep.org.

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Success Stories Wellness Warriors

Thankful for the Chance to Spread an Important Message

Duane Braswell is a recent skin cancer survivor whom is thankful for many things this holiday season. After being diagnosed with both basal cell carcinoma and melanoma in August 2011 and having his cancer cells successfully excised, he came to the conclusion that there is not enough awareness around the dangers of skin cancer. With the support of his family, friends and outside donors, Duane has arranged to complete a 2,500 mile bike circuit starting in Phoenix, AZ and ending in Washington, DC to raise awareness and money for skin cancer research.

Duane’s story:

I was diagnosed in August 2011 with several basal cell carcinoma cancers and melanoma. What a shock to hear the word “cancer” and your name in the same sentence! This is something everyone knows can happen, but we never expect it will happen to us.

Prior to the cancer I only wore a hat and sunscreen if I remembered or thought I would be outside for an extended period of time. When we were  kids, we just dealt with sunburns and didn’t think twice about it. After all of the cancerous cells were cut out in mid-October, I now wear my hat almost everywhere I go – plus it looks good anyway!

The biggest hit was realizing that even though I made my family a priority over my career, I still did not realize how fragile life is and how precious my time with my family is. The hardest thing was looking at my kids and thinking I might not be there for their children or even my youngest child’s graduation. I had never considered these things before my diagnosis, when I was ignoring my mole and ‘spots.’

Now, I am looking forward to spending five weeks with my son going cross country and showing him how great people are to visit and talk with. We leave May 13, 2012 from Phoenix and will arrive in Washington DC at the Melanoma Research Foundation (MRF) center by the end of June. We will be traveling 2,500 miles; enjoying our time together and sharing with others the importance of covering up in the sun and wearing a hat. We hope to raise $10,000 for the MRF through exposure on TV, radio as well as the internet. Both my son and I want to hear someone went and got checked for skin cancer because we talked to them.

After the ‘cancer’ scare, my oldest daughter had two moles removed when visiting the dermatologist. She told me it would be foolish to miss out on life because of something so small. Hers moles were VERY early and required no stitches. Mine were nearly too late and required over 60 stitches that we could count. It is so easy to prevent skin cancer, and so costly if we do not.

– Duane Braswell

P.S. My doctor recommended your products to me and I really love them.

Check back in May for a trip update!

Duane posing in his Coolibar gear with the bike that will be accompanying him on a 2,500 mile ride to raise funds for melanoma research
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SunAWARE Wellness Warriors

Stay Out of the Sun Run 2011

On May 20, 2011, the Stay Out of the Sun Run (SOSR) Foundation held their 6th annual walk/race in Rochester, MN to promote awareness of the dangers of sun exposure and support melanoma research and education.  All proceeds from the SOSR are donated to the Mayo Clinic Cancer Center for melanoma research and education. Coolibar was there to contribute to the run for the 5th consecutive year.

The founder of the SOSR, Tim Burriss, a Melanoma survivor, started the run to benefit melanoma research and education. He states that this year’s run had a record number of registered participants, 934! The most they’ve ever had. Not even the dreary, rainy weather before the event kept people away.

So far, not counting this year’s totals, the run has raised over $120,000 to help Mayo Clinic fight melanoma. Tim says, “Melanoma has had such an impact on so many individuals and families and we realize we cannot be content but must continue our fight!”

Skin cancer education and prevention is so important, especially with summer almost being here. So this Don’t Fry Day, May 27, Coolibar wishes to remind everyone to be SunAWARE and protect yourself from the sun.

Avoid unprotected sun exposure; Wear sun-protective clothing, wide brim hat (3” brim or greater), and UV sunglasses; Apply broad-spectrum sunscreen of SPF 30 or higher every two hours while in sun; Routinely check your whole body for changes in your skin; Educate your family and community about sun protection.

Perhaps even join a fundraising or educational effort like the SOSR in your area and help support the need for sun protection!


Video footage of the Stay Out of the Sun Run and melanoma survivor feature from NBC Rochester local news

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Congrats to our Coolibar team members who walked and participated in the 5K at the SOSR! You all looked spectacular in your Coolibar sun protection clothing!

Learn more about Skin Cancer and Melanoma from the American Academy of Dermatology

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Success Stories SunAWARE Wellness Warriors

Cindy Combats Basal Cell Carcinoma

One day, out of the blue, Cindy found a suspicious spot of skin on her nose. This spot ended up being Basal Cell Carcinoma, the most common form of skin cancer, which affects almost two million Americans each year according to the Skin Cancer Foundation. Cindy shares her story to remind us of the importance of being SunAWARE.

Cindy’s Story

I was a 48-year-old sun worshipper when I discovered a flake of skin on my nose that would not heal. It appeared to be just a piece of dry skin until I washed my face one day and the spot began to bleed.

I made an appointment with my dermatologist and she took a biopsy. I returned a week later to have the stitches taken out and told her that the spot that flaked was not exactly on the spot that she biopsied. The biopsy came back negative and she assured me that if there was cancer it would have shown up on the test results.

I returned to her a year later complaining the spot was bigger and continued to flake. This time she froze the area. I waited 6 months and returned insisting on another biopsy – in the correct spot. This time it came back positive for basal cell. She apologized admitting she had taken a biopsy the first time from a wrong area. I was scheduled for a Mohs procedure and flap repair with a plastic surgeon. I realized then I had to be my own best advocate!

I stopped sitting in the sun without sunscreen and a hat. However; five years later I was diagnosed with a second basal cell carcinoma. Again, the only indication I had was a flaky spot on the side of my nose that just would not completely heal up. And again, I was scheduled for Mohs procedure and flap repair.

My Doctor states that once diagnosed with basal cell skin cancer you are more likely to have a reoccurrence.  Now I won’t leave the house without a hat. I also wear a sunscreen of SPF 46 and make-up with sunscreen.

My younger brother was diagnosed and treated for melanoma when he was only 38-years-old. He had a mole on his back that surgeons stated were sure had been there all his life. He is now 16 years cancer free! He is very cautious about being in the sun and always wears long sleeves and sunscreen!

My advice to you is to be safe while you are in the sun, protect yourself.  Check your skin for changes and be your own best advocate.  Skin cancer is very treatable when caught early.  Save yourself from having to going through what I have. 

Cindy After Mohs Surgery
Cindy after Mohs surgery
Cindy After Stitches Were Removed
Cindy after stitches removed
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Success Stories Wellness Warriors

Melanoma Survivor Tim

Tim Ward and Family

In 2007, Tim went to a Mayo Clinic dermatologist to have a mole on his left arm looked at. The doctor removed it right away so it could be tested. A few years prior, Tim had this same mole tested, and it was fine. But this time, the biopsy showed that the mole had turned into Melanoma.

Tim’s Story

My name is Tim Ward.  I am 39 years old and had malignant melanoma.  I was diagnosed in the summer of 2007.

I am Australian born and lived in Melbourne Australia for 25 years.  In 1996 I came to America to study at the University of Minnesota in horticulture.  I have worked in the horticulture industry my whole life, outdoors most of the time. 

Five years prior to my diagnosis I had a mole biopsied on my left arm.  The doctors took only a part of the mole and left the rest.  The biopsy came back fine and nothing more was mentioned to me at the time.  Five years later my wife Amy noticed a change of color to that particular mole.  I went to Mayo Clinic to see dermatology.  The physician who examined my body wanted a biopsy of that mole immediately.  Three to four days later I received a call back from Mayo with the diagnosis of malignant melanoma.  They scheduled me that week to remove the rest of the mole and its margins.  They took the margins around the mole and 35 stitches later sewed me up.  Five to ten days later the clinic called again to tell me that they had removed all of the cancer.  I have since had a few other moles removed which have all been cancer free. 

Since the diagnosis I have paid close attention to my entire body. My family has been very sensitive during this experience.  I have 8-year-old twin boys, one with very fair skin like myself.  My wife and I are very conscientious of sun protection for our family.  I have always worn sunscreen year round prior to cancer and since.  Unfortunately, my profession leaves me exposed all of the time.  I try to wear a hat and long sleeves when possible.  I am very careful to apply sunscreen to my children and to make sure they wear UV protection clothing especially when swimming. 

My advice to you would be to use sun protection year round and to try and limit your sun exposure if possible.  Regularly see your doctor and watch for any changes to your skin.

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Sun Protection Clothing Wellness Warriors

I’m Only 21, I Can’t Get Cancer

In 2009, Jessi went to a dermatologist to have a freckle removed. A week later, she received a call from her doctor and was told she had Melanoma (the most serious form of skin cancer). She was only 21-years-old at the time. Before her diagnoses, Jessi was unaware of the dangers of UV exposure. In high school, she tanned during the short Minnesota summers and visited tanning salons before formal dances. Since then, she has been proactive about sun protection and tracking changes on her skin throughout the year.

Jessi’s Story

I never thought I would be diagnosed with skin cancer. I had a freckle on my forearm with all the characteristics of a questionable spot. After a couple friends said I should get that spot checked out, I finally decided to go to the clinic and have the freckle removed. The next week, I received a call from the clinic and was told I had Melanoma and needed to have more skin removed. Before I had a larger excision, I scheduled an appointment with a dermatologist for an entire body check. During that appointment, two more spots were removed. The spot on my back came back positive with Melanoma. Especially after the second spot came back positive, my mentality about sun protection has completely changed. I am now always prepared with sunscreen or sun protective clothing when I know I will be spending time in the sun. 

Jessi Staying Covered Hiking Grand Canyon
Jessi Staying Covered Hiking Grand Canyon, 2010

Since I was diagnosed, a few things have changed. First of all, I will never use tanning beds again. Although I never used them regularly or frequently, I did use tanning beds in order to be tan for formal dances. Secondly, I am now always aware of when I am in the sun and plan ahead for protection.

Sun protection played a minor role in my life before my diagnosis. After diagnosis, I now make sure I have a stock of sun screen, sun protective clothing and a nice hat. Even if you haven’t been diagnosed with skin cancer, sun protection is important. Not only does it reduce your chance for skin cancer, it keeps your skin looking younger longer. It is never too early to start using skin protection. 

Melanoma Removal Scar on Back
Melanoma Removal Scar on Back
A-Typical Mole Removed on Leg
A-Typical Mole Removed on Leg

 

Jessi also has a scar on her arm where Melanoma was removed. She visits the dermatologist twice a year to have a full-skin exam. After her melanoma was excised two years ago, her doctor has not found any more traces of Melanoma, although Jessi continues to have a-typical (suspicious) moles removed almost every visit.

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