BENEFITING: MELANOMA RESEARCH ALLIANCE FOUNDATION
EVENT DATE: Sep 05, 2015
Ever since I can remember, I have had many different spots in various shapes and sizes and unusual patterns all over my body. There was one spot that I was especially proud of: a larger mark on my forehead which seemed to grow with me through time. Each year it would get a little bit bigger and a little bit darker. I took it to be my own special beauty mark.
My naïveté to think of my mark as part of my natural look astounds me to this day. My mother and my sister approached me to say that they had seen on TV how a mole, like mine, looked wrong, terribly dark, and inappropriate. They asked me to get it checked out. Of course, I waited a while because I didn't see any need to be so urgent about my own special mark.
The doctor took one look at that mole and insisted that we remove it immediately. At first, I thought that was a little bit dramatic, considering I had a very busy schedule ahead. He was adamant and very serious that it would come off through surgery as soon as possible. Thank goodness for this doctor’s resolute and caring nature.
After the first surgery I got the call: yes, in fact, it was malignant. We would need to do an additional surgery and possibly begin chemo. Chemo??? I took the call as I was entering my daughter's basketball game. In one breath we were talking about basketball in high school and then suddenly the word chemo came up as I spoke with my husband. A surreal moment.
Two surgeries later and one black eye with Frankenstein-like stitches across my forehead, I had battled on. I was most fortunate not to have to pursue chemo since the doctors were quite sure that they had gotten every bit of it and caught it early.
Mole mapping, which I do regularly now, is really quite funny. Of course, I am naked and the doctor takes all sorts of pictures of every mark on my body. As a public figure, I find this quite humorous since we are in a very competitive arena here. I would hate for those photos to get in the wrong hands!
I know of two very special mothers who have since passed of melanoma. One mother is from the McCallie family. The other mother is the mother of one of my current student athletes. Both mothers left beautiful children behind. Their husbands and family miss them so dearly every day. I wonder since I'm a mother too with beautiful children, and a loving family, why things turned out the way it did for me. Rather than trying to figure out life's mysteries, it seems that taking action and making people aware might be the very best thing to do in their honor.
More education, more dialogue, more stories, and of course more research money is so important. The doctors at Duke were absolutely fabulous. They were professional, smart, adamant, and extremely urgent in a situation that could've been far worse for me personally. It is my hope that others can get the same kind of treatment and awareness to this very deadly disease.
I'm extremely proud and thrilled to turn 50! I am so fortunate. This is my story and the story that I am so eternally grateful for. It is time to celebrate –to move forward and to do all that we can to better the lives of folks dealing with that melanoma. It feels great to be 50.