Skin Diaries

College Basketball Coach Opens Up About Off-Court Battles

Joanne P. McCallie is known by most for the 28 years she spent as a head woman’s college basketball coach. In that time, she celebrated 646 wins, 22 seasons with over 20 wins, 21 NCAA Tournament appearances, and eight conference championships. Most recently, she was the head coach at Duke University and helped the Blue Devils to a 330-107 overall record and earned ACC Coach of the Year in 2010, 2012 and 2013.

While her achievements as ‘Coach P’ will live on the walls of Universities for decades to come, her legacy will also be that of a Melanoma Warrior. She was first diagnosed with Melanoma in 2007 when a spot was removed from her forehead. With this diagnosis she began to further understand and respect the need for a sun-safe lifestyle and started advocating for this amongst her friends, family, colleagues, and her athletes.

Then in 2016 she had a second, more serious diagnosis which resulted in 26 surgical stitches on her back where doctors had removed malignant cells with melanoma. That same year more cells were removed from the right side of her neck. As her early scars had finally started to fade, new ones emerged.

Like many people who share their stories in the hopes of saving lives, Joanne crossed paths with numerous other warriors over the years. Including her athletes, some of whom had experienced skin cancer in their families, and even lost immediate family. As a coach, she had always understood the power and importance of a player’s ‘mental game’. But the mental health of patients, survivors, family was an entirely different mental battle.

She recently released her latest book “Secret Warrior: A Coach and Fighter On and Off the Court”. It’s a memoir of the mental health journey she’s taken through all parts of her life. From the realities and challenges of the sports world, to navigating her personal health and battles with cancer and bipolar disorder. Her recurring theme is this:


Her aim with this book is to reduce the stigma associated with impaired mental health and encourage those suffering from mental health issues to reach out for help. Mental health is a vital part of everyone’s success, but it’s not something that is easy to navigate and manage along. In the book, she offers real direction, experiences and personal stories to teach and reassure those working through the dynamics of their mental and physical health.

“The only way we can be our best selves is to prioritize the health and strength of our minds,” says Joanne.

Joanne’s faith and authenticity have led to many meaningful connections along her journey. One of the most impactful is her friendship with Tracy Callahan of Polka Dot Mama Melanoma Foundation. Together they created Melanoma Awareness Games with Duke University as a way to increase awareness and conduct as many free skin cancer screenings as possible. Protection and early detection make all the difference, and Coach P and Tracy Callahan continue to work together to promote sun-safe habits and get people to the dermatologist! Most recently she volunteered her time for a Coolibar Warrior Photoshoot. All proceeds went to the Polka Dot Mama Foundation!

As she moves away from her coaching career Joanne plans to devote more time to mental health awareness, through her book and directly. As someone who dedicates a lot of their energy to helping and supporting others, we’re grateful for all she does.

To purchase Joanne’s book please visit:

To help her support Polka Dot Mama Foundation, please visit:

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Experts Say

Protecting My Family and Community From Skin Cancer

By: Dr. Chris G. Adigun, MD, FAAD

Educating people about skin cancer and skin cancer prevention is something I’m extremely passionate about. More people are diagnosed with skin cancer each year in the U.S. than all other cancers combined. This is a frightening statistic, but the good news is that 99 percent of all cases are curable if they are diagnosed and treated early enough. This is where education and screening can really make a difference.

Increasing public awareness of these life-altering statistics and providing education about skin cancer prevention through lifestyle changes can positively impact people’s skin health and overall well-being. Partnering with organizations like the Polka Dot Mama Melanoma Foundation and the American Academy of Dermatology’s SPOT me® Skin Cancer Screenings to offer free skin checks is one way for me to make a positive impact on public health.

Another way I try to make a difference in lowering future statistics is by encouraging people to instill sun safety habits in their children. Sun damage in childhood is one of the most significant causes of skin cancer in adults.  Having five or more sunburns doubles your risk for melanoma, the deadliest type of skin cancer.

Here are some sun safety tips I use with my own children:

  • Keep the sunscreen right next to the toothpaste. Make it part of their daily routine!
  • Utilize a mineral powder sunscreen for easy-to-use application
  • Wear shirts, hats, and other clothing with a UPF (ultraviolet protection factor) 50+ label for built-in sun protection during outside activities
  • Incorporate fun UPF 50+ umbrellas or tents during sporting events

As a busy dermatologist and working mother of four young children, I realize how challenging it can be to make sure your children are protected, especially when you are not with them. This is why I feel so strongly about developing sun safety behaviors in children. A sunburn does not have to be a rite of childhood! Building healthy habits early when children are more receptive can lead to increased sun protection into adulthood.

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Skin Diaries

The Warrior Behind Polka Dot Mama

At the age of 38, Tracy Callahan received a phone call that would change her life. It was her dermatologist calling with good news. She had melanoma, but they caught it early. Her obvious first question, ‘How is this good news?’.  As a nurse, and a mother of two young boys, Tracy’s life as she knew it had changed.

Over the next three years, Tracy would receive that same phone call another three times. It never got easier, but she eventually came to realize that ‘catching it early’ was indeed good news. When caught early, the survival rate for melanoma is 92%*. She is reminded daily that she continues to be one of the lucky ones.

After Tracy received her third diagnosis, she decided to do something. Inspired by the name ‘Polka Dot Mama’, given to her by her two boys after numerous wide excision surgeries and biopsies, Tracy started a blog and began to network with survivors and skin cancer organizations across the country.

“The more educated I became, the more I wanted to educate others. Unlike so many other cancers, scientists have actually figured out the secret to avoiding most types of melanomas—protect yourself from the sun and avoid tanning beds. But as simple as it sounds, I discovered that people have so many misconceptions about melanoma.”

A few months later, Tracy’s simple blog quickly morphed into an idea for a non-profit organization that could fund research, raise awareness and promote the early detection of melanoma. In September of 2015, she officially founded the Polka Dot Mama Melanoma Foundation, a federally granted 501(C)(3) non-profit, and appointed a board of directors.

In its inaugural year, with the help of many incredible supporters and volunteers, the organization was able to fund-raise over $70,000. More than half of that money was donated specifically towards melanoma research. In 2018, the foundation increased that amount and raised over $500,000. It began focusing on education and awareness efforts with projects like the Shade Shuttle and free skin cancer screenings.

In 2019, Polka Dot Mama set a new Guinness Book of World Record for the most skin cancer screenings—32 dermatologists and over 150 volunteers worked together to screen 963 patients over the course of 7 hours! The team of volunteers reached people of all ages, races and socioeconomic status. They even had a dedicated team for Spanish speaking patients. In the last two years, Polka Dot Mama has helped screen over 1,500 patients and identified some form of skin cancer in about 15-20% of those patients. Although this statistic is scary, it has reinforced the need to keep providing as many free skin screenings as possible.

“You never want to identify melanoma in the patients you see; but knowing that our efforts are saving lives is what keeps me motivated”.

For those who have connected with the amazing team at the Polka Dot Mama Melanoma Foundation, they know that their community is at the heart of what they do. They take pride in being a grassroots organization with a national reach—including an appearance on the Today Show with Al Roker! The organization is passionate about coming together for one common goal—the prevention and detection of melanoma. And Tracy and her story are at the center of this. Everything Tracy has experienced helps her live each day with a grateful heart. She often says, “If I can make a difference in someone’s life by sharing my journey, then these scars will be given purpose”.  

To learn more about Tracy Callahan and Polka Dot Mama, please visit You can also register for the 6th annual Taste For a Cure Gala at Coolibar will be there!

Source: *American Cancer Society

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