In Melissa's Words: Why I Support the MRF
There are four words that no one can prepare you for in life.
When I was 31 years old I found a small lump on the left side of my neck. Two doctors and many friends and family told me it was nothing. My body and my mind were telling me otherwise. Unfortunately, I was right.
Determined to find answers, I kept going back to different specialists until one sent me for a scan and then a needle biopsy. Following these tests, I waited almost 10 days before receiving the call that would forever change my life. I remember the conversation like it was yesterday. I will never forget hearing those life-altering four words: “You have a malignancy.” I fell to my knees and began weeping and screaming. From that first moment, I knew that I would face this ordeal not only as a patient, but as a mother. At the time, my son was only three and a half years old. If I was given this news just a few years earlier, my first thoughts may have been for my own future. On that day, all I could think about was that he was too young to lose his mom.
Things were a blur over the next few weeks as I prepared for surgery. I was told that I had a head and neck cancer that was treatable and could be cured. I was assured that this was the best of the worst kinds of cancers.
After my surgery I scheduled a visit with my doctor to discuss my follow up treatment plan.
Instead of planning my recovery and beginning the process of moving past this, I was given another shocking surprise: I was told the cancer I had was melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. My doctor also told me that, unfortunately, there were very few effective treatments for the disease and that recurrence rates were very high. Even if my treatment was successful, I was forced to confront the reality that if it returned it would likely be a death sentence.
Facing any cancer is never easy. Preparing to fight an aggressive cancer like melanoma, knowing that at the time there were limited weapons in your arsenal, might seem almost impossible. With so much to fight for, I immediately resolved that melanoma would not win. I made a commitment to myself that not only would I be victorious in my own fight with melanoma, I would find a lasting and powerful way to help others facing the disease. I would turn tragedy into triumph.
While undergoing treatment, I created the Live4Life Foundation as a way to share my story and give melanoma a voice. I was hopeful that my experience could save lives by encouraging others to protect themselves from the sun, to protect their children, and to understand the importance of skin checks for melanoma prevention. In addition to increasing awareness, I also was determined to help fund research for this deadly disease which had no cure.
I wanted to use my experience as designer and business owner to raise much-needed funds for melanoma research. My jewelry company has always had a charitable component, so creating a special collection called “Gifts That Give Back” and donating the proceeds to melanoma research seemed like a natural evolution. With each passing year, every cancer-free anniversary became more meaningful. I was able to share with my son my story of survival and teach him about the importance of giving back.
Many years later my life would be forever changed again. This time, however, it was in the most unexpected and positive way. About two months before I celebrated 11 years cancer free, I was introduced to Chris Del Gatto, the CEO and Co-Founder of DELGATTO, the leading brand for the resale of fine jewelry, diamonds and watches.
It was an encounter I will never forget. We discussed business, art, culture and our shared passion for philanthropy. I had never met someone that I felt had the same kind of commitment to giving back as I did. I was delighted to learn more about his past philanthropic efforts and his excitement about continuing to make a difference. Within weeks of our meeting, DELGATTO’s Charitable Division was born and I was appointed as director of this new initiative.
We created DELGATTO’s Charitable Division to help non-profit organizations raise funds through outreach and events surrounding the resale of fine jewelry that an individual no longer wants or wears. As I feel strongly about supporting the MRF and its work for the melanoma community, DELGATTO has committed to the MRF and we are excited to offer a new way to support the organization. Through October of 2017, DELGATTO will donate an additional 5% of the purchase price to the Melanoma Research Foundation – just mention the code “MRF17” when selling your jewelry. For those who want to increase their support, sellers can also choose to direct all or part of the purchase price as a donation to the MRF in lieu of payment.
I feel so blessed every day that I am here to have the opportunity to share my story and hopefully play a small role in advancing melanoma awareness and the pace of research. I am also grateful to have a job that I love and a CEO that supports and cares about my efforts to support incredible organizations like the MRF. I celebrate life every day and this May I will celebrate 12 years free from melanoma!
Blog post written by Melissa B., melanoma survivor, advocate and dedicated supporter of the MRF.