A Man and His Daughter: A Chance to Make a Great Catch
He was not what you would expect to see at an NFL game. It wasn’t the way he was dressed. After all, people put on the wackiest clothes for a game. He had on the team shirt, was dressed in the team colors. It was more the expression on his face—a look of deep concern, of worry.
Last weekend, the MRF held a Melanoma Awareness Day in partnership with the Jacksonville Jaguars in their match-up against the Cincinnati Bengals. We put out 50,000 stadium cups with the phrase, “Make a Great Catch! Spotting melanoma early can save a life!” We handed out sunscreen and gave out literature. With print ads in the game-day book, electronic ads on all the videos in the stadium, and promotions on radio, we blanketed the stadium with information on the importance of paying attention to your skin.
But it wasn’t his own skin this man was worried about. The morning of the game, he had read an article in the Jacksonville paper about a young woman, Paula Heacox, who had volunteered with MRF. It was Paula’s energy and inspiration that helped bring about the partnership with the Jaguars. She died at age 38, just a month before the big game.
This fan had read the article and came to the stadium looking for us. When he found us, he told us his story.
A couple of years ago this man’s daughter decided to go to a tanning salon. It was her first trip and she didn’t quite know what to expect. She set the timer, went into the booth and waited. Nothing happened. Oh, the lights came on and the timer ultimately shut the device off, but she didn’t feel like she had been in the sun. She decided she hadn’t done it right. So she did it again - another full round of radiation. A few hours later she discovered her mistake.
She was purple for days, in so much pain she couldn’t walk, sit or lie down. Nothing was comfortable. To this day she cannot go into the sun without getting a skin reaction.
What motivated this father to seek us out, though, was something else. His daughter recently had a black spot show up on her thigh. It is dark, black, and growing. He told me, “She is covered by my insurance, but I can’t get her to go to the doctor. What should I do?”
Was this spot caused by the tanning bed incident? No-one will ever know for sure. This man certainly believes that this is the case. Is his daughter’s spot melanoma? Odds are it isn’t. But it might be.
I told him that melanoma caught early is often cured by surgery, but if it is caught later the fight is much more difficult. In truth, his daughter’s delay in getting care might prove deadly. I shared with him stories of others who have lost their battle at an early age - not to frighten, but to motivate. I told him to do whatever it takes to get his daughter to the doctor, to get the spot checked out.
I hope he will be successful. I hope his daughter is OK. I may never know how his and his daughter’s story ends up. I gave him my contact information, but he didn’t share his. Though he was one man in a crowd of 50,000 I will think about him for a long time and wonder. I will think about his daughter, about her tanning experience and the spot on her leg. She is 20 years old.