In 2001, I noticed a "mole" on my upper arm. Being a busy professional, I ignored it. However, as it started to grow, vanity got the best of me, so I went to see a local dermatologist to have it removed. After removing the "mole" (and the dermatologist conscientiously having it biopsied), he informed me that it was an early first stage melanoma. Like other adults my age, I wasn't alarmed (I was in my mid-20s). I even considered it an inconvenience that a surgeon was going to perform a wide local excision. Although I continued to go for regular six-month check-ups, I was not concerned about the seriousness of the situation.
About three years later, my younger sister, Charlie, was diagnosed with Stage IV melanoma. She was 25 at the time. Charlie, having known I had melanoma without any "incident," also was not alarmed. In fact, though she had been a pre-med student in college, she told her friends not to worry, "no one dies of skin cancer." Nine months later at the age of 26, she died.
My mother decided something had to be done, if for no other reason than to educate young people of the dangers of sun exposure and to make patient access to melanoma information more readily accessible. She began to give a series of presentations to small student groups. However, she knew that she had to bring this issue to a larger audience. This led her to make strong contacts in government, academia, and pharma. She formed an organization called the Aim at Melanoma Foundation.
Seeing and experiencing the trauma and devastation that melanoma, and indeed any cancer diagnosis, can bring to the patient and caregivers, I left my prior career and joined forces with my mother at the Foundation.
As a result of working for Aim at Melanoma, I have discovered how difficult it is to disseminate correct information about a disease to the public as well as the need for cooperation among government, the consumer, and industry if any headway is ever to be made against cancer. My participation with the Peer Reviewed Cancer Research Program has shown itself to be a decidedly positive factor in achieving that goal.