No one wants to think about cancer. It’s a nasty, ugly and cruel disease that, most likely, has affected someone you know. No matter the type of cancer encountered, survival is a struggle and the prospect of death is very scary. But thank goodness there is progress in the fight against cancer every day. Still, cancer not something we want to think about often. But I’m asking you to do so for just a minute.
When you think about cancer, what color do you think about? Some of you may say “yellow” as you recall the successful Livestrong campaign inspired by Lance Armstrong. But I would bet that many of you thought of the color pink. Pink has become synonymous with breast cancer awareness and it’s been an extremely successful campaign.
In the past, I believe many people (mostly men) figured breast cancer was handled through a mastectomy. “Geesh, so you lost a boob…but you’re all better now.” Obviously, there was little awareness and perhaps little sympathy by the general public. But over time, people have become wiser…and thanks to the successful pink awareness campaign, most people are highly aware of the seriousness of breast cancer. Thank goodness for that.
So why am I promoting the color black? Well, black is the associated color with skin cancer. “Ah yes…the cancer that can simply be removed by cutting off a bad mole, right?” In many cases, that could very well be the treatment. But there’s a far more serious version of skin cancer…a true killer and one of the fastest growing cancers out there: Melanoma.
My brother Jeff was diagnosed with Melanoma in 2004. He had an ugly spot on his back and a biopsy confirmed the disease. A few weeks later, he had it cut out. That was simple…it was gone. No more cancer. Later in life, he would claim he was a cancer survivor and we’d all giggle a little. After all, cancer survivors are people who go through horrendous radiation and chemotherapy. They lose their hair. That’s a cancer survivor…not someone who had a 10 minute mole extraction. Right?
In the spring of 2010, my brother found a dry patch on his right cheek. The Melanoma was back after six years. Again, he had it removed through a chemo cream and minor surgery. But a month later, another patch appeared. Same treatment and this time it looked like he was a survivor once again (giggle).
In August of 2010, Jeff went to the doctor for a general visit following a stress test. The doctor reported that his test results were great and asked if he had any questions or concerns. My brother mentioned recent memory lapses and difficulty reading. The doctor took notice and ordered him to have some tests run immediately. The Melanoma was back…only this time it had metastasized to his brain and lungs.
In November of 2010, after three months of horrendous radiation and chemotherapy, Jeff died. The Melanoma had the last giggle.
When we were kids, neither one of us were aware of skin cancer of any type. Sunburns were common as we used a baby oil and iodine mixture to help establish a glistening tan. We swam in the pool for hours and we played in the yard under the sun all day long. We were blissfully and wonderfully unaware of the affects the sun could be having on our skin.
My brother was aware later in life. Despite the teasing of his cancer survival, he took it quite seriously and became actively involved in the Relay For Life program in the Cleveland, Ohio area. And towards the end of his life, he wore a black wrist band signifying Melanoma awareness.
In a similar way that breast cancer awareness had to overcome ignorance to be noticed, I can foresee Melanoma awareness undergoing the same issues. So in an effort to coat-tail off the success of the fashionable pink color, I am launching an awareness campaign (as a promise to my brother) making Black the new Pink! My hope is that people will become more aware of the dangers of skin cancer before scheduling a tanning appointment or venturing outdoors. Awareness is the first step to eradicating this awful disease.
I hope to add to this blog on a regular basis, sharing Melanoma related links, hints and local events in the Raleigh, NC area and perhaps nationwide. And in May, which is Melanoma Awareness Month, I hope to share a daily factoid to help others become more aware.
Wear your black, because Black is the New Pink!