Hi, my name is Andrea. I am a Boston native who spent LOTS of time on the beaches of Massachusetts and Rhode Island during my teens and twenties. The goal was to be tan, but due to an Irish heritage, the end result was usually a burn, which sometimes would even blister and peel. Sunblock was generally not part of the equation, because getting “some good sun” was all a part of the summer experience, and I actually thought I looked better with a burn then just being my normal pale self. I can remember having some horrible sunburns where I couldn’t even walk the next day because my legs were so scorched, and my face would be swollen and red. Sexy, huh?
I smartened up a bit at age 29 when I moved to Cincinnati, Ohio. Mainly because there are no beaches in Cincinnati, but also because I was getting a bit smarter when it came to sun exposure. I started to wear sunblock and would cover up a bit more. Vacations still brought out my bad habits though, and I would usually overdo it and get burned.
Fast forward to age 37. I had a mole on my torso that looked a bit funky. Now, I had been thinking about going to the dermatologist for a while, but had been putting it off because it was not a priority. I am a “moley” person anyway, and have had freckles and moles all of my life, so this one was not too alarming, other than the fact that it was new. Of course I waited almost a year to have it looked at. Result – melanoma.
The diagnosis was stage three. I had two surgeries - first to remove the tumor and node biopsy, and the second to remove all of the nodes under my left arm. Cancer was found in the sentinel node, but the remaining nodes were negative. I just recently completed my year of interferon, and so far all of my scans have been clean. I am very optimistic and hopeful that it will not return.
I wanted to take this experience and turn it into something meaningful. This brings us to MelanomaGirl (www.melanomagirl.com). During the past year, it became very obvious to me that most people are not familiar with melanoma. I certainly wasn’t. Years ago, I had no idea about the danger I was putting myself in, and my impression is that the general public still does not realize how deadly this disease is.
My mission for MG is to bring melanoma into the local and national spotlight through fundraising, community, and imaginative advocacy (a.k.a. fun stuff!). I want to connect with as many people as possible, and encourage them to be smarter in the sun. My approach is not going to be clinical. The strategy that I am taking is combining a light-hearted perspective with a grass-roots execution. MG’s tagline is “Proud to Be Pale!” I am very excited about this initiative and have lots of ideas and plans for the future of MelanomaGirl.
I would love to hear from other melanoma patients and survivors! Please feel free to contact me through melanomagirl.com!
Thank you for allowing me to share my story. My thoughts and prayers are with you all!