Courtney’s Story

Winnipeg, Manitoba

My story began May 25, 2020, when I was diagnosed with choroidal melanoma. The only symptom I was experiencing was some blurry vision, so I thought “well ,maybe it’s time for glasses!” So, off to the optometrist I went. He couldn’t figure it out so I went to a specialist and that’s where my journey began. It was seven days after I had gotten engaged, so at what was supposed to be an exciting time of my life I was obviously devastated.

At the initial diagnosis, I don’t think I even heard what the doctor was saying as I was in my own zone thinking “is this really happening?” Thank goodness my now-husband was there to get all the details, as he was more attentive than I was at that moment. I was so scared and the only thing I could say was “am I going to die?” with tears streaming down my face. I don’t think my doctor knew what to say nor do I remember what he said either. At that time my son was 13 years old (he is now turning 16), and that I had to break this news to my parents plus having to explain to my son that I was sick was quite possibly the worst thing ever, as I wasn’t sure how he would react or what his thoughts would be. But he took the news like a champ. I’m not sure if at the time he really understood what was going to happen because of course I surely didn’t. I was terrified, but I kept my head up and did what I had to do.

Once I went back for further testing and whatnot I was more stable in my thinking process and able to grasp everything that was being said to me. I was told it was caught early, which was great to hear. The only crummy part was that treatment was not available in my home Province of Manitoba and my only options were to travel to British Columbia, Ontario, or Alberta. I chose Alberta, as I have family there and just felt more comfortable going there.

Before I knew it I was off to Alberta. Everything happened so fast. So there I was in Dr. Weis’s office in Calgary, Alberta, not really knowing what to expect or what kind of person he would turn out to be.

Dr. Weis turned out to be the best! He is always compassionate and takes time to answer all of my questions. He sure has a way to put a person’s mind at ease and is always forthcoming and helpful. After my first initial visit I was to go home and wait until my surgery date, which was surprisingly booked very quickly, and then back to Alberta I went. The initial plaque insertion for the brachytherapy went great. The aftermath of the removal not so much. I was in so much pain it was unbearable. But with the swift action of nurses and Dr. Weis, my pain went away and I was able to begin healing.

After some bumps in the road, I went for my follow-up back home in Winnipeg and to my surprise the radiation was working and the tumor was beginning to shrink! I wasn’t sure what to think going in for my follow-up, but I sure breathed a sigh of relief coming out of there. I go for yearly scans now and blood work, etc., which always causes an abundance of anxiety but right now everything seems to be going well. It will be three years in May, 2023 since my cancer journey began. I can’t believe how fast time flies. I have my off days but other than that I think I’m doing well. I’ve been told by many that the strength that I have shown throughout is inspiring, which is so wonderful to hear. I guess I have always thought that strong is the only thing I can be (besides a few off days). I’m not ready to leave this world yet. I’m only 36 years old and I have so much life left in me, I don’t plan on going nowhere for a very long time.


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Sue’s Story

North Vancouver, British Columbia

My journey began in 2012, when my esthetician found a black spot on my heel during a pedicure and insisted that I see an MD. I could not see the spot without contortions and when I did look at it, using a mirror, it just looked like a dark rough area of skin on the edge of my heel. It was Christmas, and with all of the busy-ness I delayed seeing a doctor until 2013 when the spot bled. I was diagnosed with a BRAF positive pT4a melanoma on my right heel that had spread to one lymph node in my groin.

I was devastated, frightened, and resigned to an early death. My oncologist told me I would likely succumb to the disease within 5 years. My treatment plan involved excision of the lesion and surrounding tissue, removal of the superficial lymph nodes in my groin and “wait and see”. I did not meet the criteria for any of the drug trials available at the time.

After my initial diagnosis and treatment, my original oncologist, who was a melanoma specialist, retired, and I was moved to another BCCA oncologist whose specialty was hematology. I was followed every 3 months by him for 2 years but did not feel comfortable with the depth of his assessment. In 2015, after my own research, I requested to be moved to a female oncologist at BCCA whose specialty was melanoma. I feel this move saved my life. As a part of my original appointment the new MD did a CT scan and PET scan which revealed my melanoma had metastasized to the lymph nodes in my pelvis and around both kidneys as well as into the bone of my humerus. I was crushed and terrified. My daughter had just announced the arrival of my first grandchild; I wasn’t finished living.

At the time of my original diagnosis in 2013, the immunotherapy medications now available were in the experimental testing stage. However, in 2015 they were being made available by the drug companies for final testing. After discussions of treatment options, my oncologist contacted a company and requested that I be put on Pembrolizumab (Keytruda) on a compassionate basis. Over the next 2 ½ years I received 42 doses of the drug free of charge as a part of the company’s clinical trials. At that time Keytruda was only available in the US at the cost of approximately `$100,000/year. Within a year of taking the drug, the lesions on my kidneys and bone shrunk and disappeared. However, after the initial shrinking, the one in my groin began to grow again. The decision was made to surgically remove the groin lesion in 2017.  I did have minor side effects from the drug, such as vitiligo (loss of pigmentation in patches on my skin, eyelashes, and eyebrows), skin lesions, and flare-ups of my arthritis during this period. Eventually, development of swallowing difficulty for both liquids and solids (dysphagia) required I stop taking the drug. The oncologist was concerned it may also be a drug side effect, as one of the causes of dysphagia is autoimmune disease. I had lost 25lb as I was unable to eat. At that point I was told I was in remission – now referred to as no evidence of disease (NED). Throughout this period, I was supported by my loving family, cherished friends, and a counsellor trained in dealing with cancer patients.

Since 2019, when I stopped taking the drug, I have been followed regularly with CT scans and blood work and have remained NED. My grandson is 6 now and I have cherished every day.

To someone who is facing a new melanoma diagnosis I would say: 1. There is always hope. Treatment options are expanding every year resulting in successful cancer management and life extension. 2. Do your research to understand the disease and current modes of treatment using trusted internet sites. 3. Take advantage of groups such as SYS to provide support and information. 4. Be your own advocate and express concerns if you are not comfortable with your treatment plan. 5. Seek help to deal with the overwhelming emotional toll this disease brings to you and your family.

It has been 10 years since my initial diagnosis. I am still here. Yes, I continue to struggle with dysphagia, but it is being managed. I have watched my grandson grow, hugged and visited my family often, learned how to make pottery, and appreciated the simplicity and joy of day-to-day life. There is always hope.


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Ani’s Story

Chilliwack, British Columbia

I was diagnosed with stage 4 metastatic melanoma when I was 32 years old. When the first tumor was found, my cancer had already metastasized and the primary location was unknown. I had surgery in 2016 to remove the mass, and unfortunately was left with close margins that required radiation.

Soon after, I had scans which showed that the cancer had spread to my liver and lymph nodes and I was treated with Pembrolizumab. Over the next two years I received 25 cycles of Pembrolizumab, had multiple surgeries and more targeted radiation to treat a number of new lesions which presented in my lungs and subcutaneous tissue throughout my body. I suffered mainly from the side effects of the treatments, however was able to resume a relatively normal quality of life through most of this period. I responded to this treatment and eventually had a full response, resulting in a period with no evidence of disease!

Although it was short lived, it was so encouraging to have responded to immunotherapy and I have been optimistic about the advances in melanoma treatment and my chances of survival. My cancer returned months later in 2019 and I was treated with four doses of combination treatment Ipilimumab plus Nivolumab, followed by Nivolumab alone. I had a number of surgeries over the next year and showed some signs of response to treatment. Eventually, my disease progressed and I started my search for alternatives to the approved standard of care. I am currently one year into a clinical trial at Princess Margaret Cancer Center.

I was connected to Save Your Skin Foundation when I was looking into clinical trial options. I had no idea at that time that Kathy and her team at SYSF would become such an important part of my story. Not only has SYSF made the travel to receive treatment possible, but they have become part of my support system. I cannot be more grateful for this organization and the people behind the scenes who make it possible.


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Martin’s Story

West Vancouver, British Columbia

Signs of a brain tumour are easy to ignore. I hate to admit it, but I said that all I needed was a neck massage and new glasses to deal with three weeks of left sided foot drop and numbness and a week or so of stumbling. It was the stumbling that made my wife insist I call my family doctor. My doctor listened to my symptoms on a phone appointment and I had a brain CT three days later. She is so smart; of course, when I described the symptoms to my doctor, it clicked that the ”having to lift one’s foot” is actually “foot drop,” and the odd sensation in the foot is “numbness.” There is a definite progression from an “odd feeling” to a “symptom.”
At the CT, I had an inkling something was wrong by the way the radiologist did not come to say hello after the procedure. Usually, we do a doctor-to-doctor debrief to let colleagues know it is all OK, unless it isn’t. My family doctor came to my home the next day to break the bad news in person. Sitting there in the sunshine with the grandkids playing in the yard listening to her tell me I had a brain tumour was quite the moment.  She left me with some Dexamethasone and Ativan as the mass in the brain was big. It took just four days to get an organic diagnosis. Four days later, I had a CT of my chest and abdomen which found eight other masses. That told us that I was riddled with cancer. Not a good day. Later, we would find another metastasis in my eye when the immunotherapy caused a rare papillitis.
I had a chest biopsy 14 days after the Brain CT and stage 4 melanoma diagnosed within days. There was another instance of that doctor-to-doctor thing: the one who stabbed me (very skillfully) said, as I was recovering from the day surgery, that the tumour looked black and he thought it was melanoma, which was confirmed a day or so later. So, within three weeks of calling my family doctor, I had a pathological diagnosis. I saw my oncologist two weeks later; this was the first glimmer of hope in a bleak month.
There was some back and forth about the brain tumour and I had a distressing visit with a neurosurgeon who showed me the MRI. It looked like a lot of the right side of my brain was swollen and the tumour looked big and deep. Surgery would leave me in a wheelchair. The alternative was provided by the neuro-radio-oncologist: she said I could be treated with the “gamma-knife” which is accurate down to one millimetre, though it would not necessarily cure the brain tumour as it might not get all of it. I realised that talking about cure was overly optimistic and I should go for being able to walk for as long as I can.
Next, the tumour board met, and I got my therapeutic diagnosis seven weeks after presenting to the family doctor. I was going to be treated with gamma knife for the brain tumour and then receive dual immunotherapy. I did also get a liquid biopsy, as my research is in genetics, and I have a friend who does this (though it was done by a different group to keep things straight). Interestingly, a BRAF mutation was seen that was not in the lung biopsy. I had my gamma knife stereotactic radiotherapy 9 weeks after diagnosis, then began to receive the dual immunotherapy just 12 weeks after my first appointment, with a further 25 medical appointments/scans/biopsy/bloods etc. during that time. Three months after starting immunotherapy, the tumours were shrinking and the glimmers of hope became a lot brighter.
Of all of these procedures, the chest biopsy was the most dangerous – the largest of the chest lesions was really deep, so seven inches of steel was put into my chest. This would have been fine, as I was totally numb with local anesthetic, but because I am a doc they kindly let me watch it on the screen. Oh look, there is a huge sword deep in my chest right next to some major blood vessels! I better not move. Definitely a birthday to forget!


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Harvey’s Story

Surrey, British Columbia

My name is Harvey; I am a husband, father, and grandfather from British Columbia. Before my diagnosis with melanoma, my wife and I loved to travel and were active in various sports. In November 2016, my wife noticed a pimple on my back. My GP performed a biopsy and determined the mark was melanoma and within a month I had surgery to remove it. The surgery left an 8-inch scar on my back, but I was happy the spot was gone. Five years later I had a cough; I returned to the doctor and received a PET scan that determined the melanoma had metastasized to my right lung. I underwent major surgery in December 2021 and also started immunotherapy at the cancer clinic in Surrey, BC once a month for a series of 13 treatments. I completed these treatments on December 13, 2022. At this point, a subsequent PET scan has also determined that, although the melanoma has not returned in my lungs, there’s evidence that it may have moved into my adrenal glands. I have another PET scan scheduled in March 2023.

Since my lung surgery in December 2021, melanoma has basically become the complete focus of our lives. The mental health aspect of my journey has been overwhelming on both of us, especially the unknown of this terrible disease. Melanoma is a very serious and sneaky cancer, and it’s important for anyone dealing with it to stay very proactive with your oncologist in order to make them aware of any changes while you are fighting it. I share my story only to help anyone dealing with this tricky cancer.


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Violetta’s Story

Edmonton, Alberta

In my late teens to early twenties, I was healthy. I was in nursing school, I ate well, and I worked out several times a week. I also tanned between two and five times a week: the tanning salon was next to the gym and I had an unlimited pass. I thought I was invincible, so for at least five years I tanned at this frequency without considering the risks of melanoma or any other skin cancer.

The mole that was identified as melanoma in 2009 was one of many that had been on my body for as long as I could remember, but it was on my upper back so I couldn’t see it easily. It was my mom who noticed that it was growing and changing colour. I was so busy with school that the mole wasn’t a priority, though that changed when a lymph node appeared near by right clavicle. I went to the university clinic, where the doctor thought the lymph node was a cyst and and that the mole was normal. I insisted on a referral to a dermatologist, which I am so glad I did, because I was diagnosed with stage III melanoma. The dermatologist told me that my chances of five-year survival were 50%, which was devastating news at 25 years old.

I started ipilimumab on a clinical trial in 2009 as the alternate standard of care, interferon only extended survival by 1 year.  Between 2010 and 2012, I had a sentinel node biopsy that revealed two positive lymph nodes, a radical neck dissection and removal of lymph nodes.  In 2012, I began having migraines. which were due to a golf-ball sized tumour in my right temporal lobe. I  had brain surgery and 5 months later a round of stereotactic radiation. At this point, my diagnosis was stage iv malignant, metastatic melanoma and I developed epilepsy as a side effect of radiation.I had a delayed response to ipilimumab but even before brain surgery my brain tumor was shrinking.— I  celebrated my 10 year “cancerversary” in June 2022!

In several ways, my story highlights the importance of preventative measures. My melanoma likely developed in direct correlation with my use of tanning beds; I might have caught the mole earlier if I had been doing skin checks. After I was diagnosed, I went back to the tanning salon and told the owner I had been diagnosed with melanoma. His response to me was: “my mom had skin cancer. It’s no big deal. It’s like getting over the flu.” It’s clear that individuals who might be using tanning beds are not being looked after by people in the tanning industry, so I encourage people now to be proud of their natural skin.


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Gord’s Story

Edmonton, Alberta

In October 2020, my wife and I were driving home from a Thanksgiving and wedding anniversary trip to Jasper National Park when I felt a pain in my right side.  A week later, the pain persisted, and I saw my doctor for blood work and an ultrasound. This was followed up with a CT scan, which prompted an appointment with my dermatologist and an oncologist in November.  I had already been seeing the dermatologist; in 2014, I had melanoma removed from my shoulder, which had likely developed due to sun burns in my teens and early twenties.

At this appointment, I was told I had stage 4 metastatic melanoma, which had spread to my liver and lungs.  The oncologists discussed immunotherapy treatment with me and it was decided that I would receive ipilimumab + nivolumab. The journey ahead reminded me of the story of David and Goliath— but I knew that with faith, I would stay strong and fight this cancer.

Overall, my first three infusions of the treatment were successful— while I did react to the second dose of treatment, I did not experience other side effects during this period.  However, in December I began to have some facial and swallowing issues, and an MRI discovered that the cancer had also impacted my brain.  I underwent gamma knife surgery which was successful.  However, soon after I began to notice that my near-sighted vision was diminishing, and eventually so did my far-sighted vision, causing me to wear multiple pairs of glasses at a time.  It turns out I was experiencing a rare side effect of immunotherapy, so we paused those treatments.  Into March and April of 2021 my vision wavered and at certain points I was considered legally blind.

In April, I also experienced another pain in my side, much like the first one in October 2020. A CT scan revealed that the tumour in my liver had grown back even larger. At this point they started immunotherapy again, alongside five doses of radiation.  After these five doses, the tumour had thankfully reduced in size again!  My next procedure was in July, when I underwent another gamma knife surgery for a new lesion on the brain.  I then had two eye surgeries in August and September 2021; a consultation with my ophthalmologist had determined that inflammation in my eyes from the immunotherapy had caused my irises to bind to my lenses and also impact my retinas.  These surgeries were successful and I have gained back a large portion of my vision, though unfortunately I am still unable to drive.

At this time (October 2022), I am still continuing immunotherapy treatments. I have stayed positive throughout my cancer journey with no complaints, and I know that with continued faith in God and the love and support of my wife I will continue to fight and win this battle.


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Karen’s Story

Guelph, Ontario

Here is a little bit about my Melanoma journey.

In 2018, things changed for me, as I was diagnosed with BRAF stage 3 melanoma skin cancer. At the end of February 2018 I spotted a mole on my right chest, it was black with dry flaking around it.

I went to see the family doctor right away and she referred me to a dermatologist.  When I received the appointment from the dermatologist it was not for six months.  I called immediately to see if I could get in sooner, I got in for early March 2018.

The dermatologist said “I do not think it is cancer but let’s do a biopsy.”  A week later, on March 15, I was in a meeting and my phone rang.  It was the Dr he said, “Karen, sorry, you have melanoma.”  He then proceeded to tell me he made appointments with the surgeon already.  It was a week later.  I do not remember anything at all he was telling me.  My husband asked me questions I could not remember a thing.  I dropped the phone and went into panic mode.  My emotions were running very high and I was pushing my husband away as I wanted to look after everything myself.  The word cancer scares anyone beyond words.

I had two major surgeries, one in March 18 on 2mm mole and 5 lymph nodes, the second at the end of April 2018, which removed 15 more lymph nodes. In the second week of May I saw my oncologist, Dr Rajagopal, who is the only melanoma specialist in Halton and Peel Area. I was shocked to learn that the medication I required was not covered by OHIP (Ontario health insurance plan); it had just been approved by Health Canada in 2017. The drugs were very expensive, at $20,000 per month. I also applied to the Trillium Health Fund, but my employer insurance provider that I had been paying into for 15 years covered 100% of the cost. Otherwise, I would have had to spend my retirement savings on the medication. I was told that without accepting treatment, I would die in 2-3 years. While there were some side effects, such as high fevers and migraines, I knew the benefits would outweigh the costs.

I wanted to prove to myself and to other cancer patients that you can do anything.  Since being diagnosed and throughout my treatment, I did my first 5km run with my husband running beside all the way. Even if you are in treatment, you can still take care of yourself and your body.

I came in contact with Save Your Skin when my company was bought out. I had no benefits with the new company, so the Dr. referred me to them.  This group has been very supportive, a great group and I am glad I am volunteering my time for a great cause.  Kathy and Natalie are very close friends to me outside of the business also. Save Your Skin is a family and we watch out for everyone and help each other.  I have been very involved in Save Your Skin awareness initiatives and am on the board.

If it was not for my support team, my hubby Brad Buckler, and the great team at Save Your Skin, I would have thrown the towel in long time ago.

In December 2020, I had a reoccurrence of the melanoma in my lymphatic track and side of my lung.  They could not do surgery where all the little tumors were.   My doctor and I decided to do immunotherapy. I did my first one January 12, 2021, felt great for up to two weeks.  After that it attacked my muscles and vocal cords etc. I could not walk without a cane; I could not talk. The oncologist referred me to a rheumatoid doctor and I was on steroids for 6 months. I was scheduled to do more treatments, but I said no more. The Oncologist agreed with me. I found a physio therapist that would work with me to get my muscles back after no walking, or talking. In a month I was walking with no cane and lifting my arms, etc.

In November 2021, the Dr said there is no signs of cancer or tumors. We did another CT scan in August and we got the all-clear NED. I am living life to the fullest going to the cottage, hiking, doing things I want to do. I tell other people exercise, eat clean, and drink lots and lots of water to help stay healthy.


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Rob’s Story

Whitecourt, Alberta

Hello.  My name is Rob Stauffer.

My melanoma journey began in May 2015 with a skin check of my right ear by my wife and follow up visit to my general physician. The Stage 1B positive test from the shave biopsy resulted in the surgical resection of my right ear, negative sentinel lymph node biopsy and plastic surgery of my ear and cartilage. I felt blessed in that the prognosis looked great and I had no significant cauliflower ear. After my surgery I had my skin checked by a dermatologist quarterly, annually by my general physician, and monthly by myself and my partner. I immediately returned to work and continued to enjoy my passions of being in the mountains hiking and fishing, and travelling in the outdoors with adjustments in sun prevention measures, such as living the five sun safety rules.  Life continued as it had in the past – normal.

In the summer of 2018, I started to experience some minor vision and speech issues which were monitored by my general physician for a few months.  These issues continued and in November I was diagnosed with metastatic melanoma of the brain and lung. I was treated surgically, with a craniotomy and gamma knife, at the University of Alberta Hospital. I then had immunotherapy treatment at the Cross Cancer Institute with Opdivo (nivo) and Yervoy (ipi). The decision to be treated with nivo and ipi saved my life. However, I did have some bad side effects and the treatment was briefly shut down. My immune system was full throttle, and I  was afflicted with hepatitis, pneumonitis, and edema. On the bright side, this meant that my immune system was working. I was able to recover with some steroid treatment which reduced the impact, but still allowed the immunotherapy to address the cancer. I was still working at this point. The immunotherapy program started up again and after a month, I continued with just nivo.  However, a few months later I had some further side effects and my treatment needed to be paused again. I was also ill, so working was impossible.  Since then, I have had no further immunotherapy treatment, but no increase in my tumours. I have since started on another journey of my “re-invention.”  I feel fortunate to have been treated by such wonderful doctors and to be alive. When I reflect back now, I really did not understand the many possibilities available for treating my cancer. I have learned that each person is unique and not everyone takes the same route.

My journey to address some of the secondary effects of my medical treatments continues. As a rural Alberta resident continuing my medical, health, and healing journey, I am interested in participating in support groups to learn other people’s experiences, to assist where possible in improving others’ health outcomes and experiences and to focus on my health, healing and enjoying life.

I am glad to share with you my experience in any way that I can, and to assist you in your journey.


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Laurence’s Story

Vancouver, BC

It was around 1pm and my partner and I were playing with monkeys on a beach in Thailand. That’s the moment my life changed forever.

Out of nowhere, as if someone had just pulled a curtain down over my right eye, this “black line” fell about a quarter of the way down over top of my vision. It was super strange and I immediately asked my partner if there was something she could see in there, but she said no. Apparently it looked fine. I had an instant thought that, maybe because we had been doing a lot of scuba diving this trip, perhaps a blood vessel or muscle became damaged due to the pressure under water.

A week later, once finally arriving back home, and this black line still very present, I went to a walk-in clinic. And from that first doctor’s visit, it took another 6 or 7 days and 4 more doctor’s appointments before I finally heard the end result. That’s also when I heard the scariest 3 words ever said to me in my life: You Have Cancer.  Ocular Melanoma.

Since I can remember, I’ve always had such an appreciation for the pure natural beauty that this world is, and what it means to be able to reflect on that miracle alone. To be able to see one’s place in this universe, on this planet, in this life… to simply be aware of what it is to be alive.

I could never get enough of it!

Growing up on Vancouver Island surrounded by endless natural beauty, and having the freedom to grow and learn in that space, was a priceless experience in shaping this view and appreciation I had developed early on. It inspired me as an artist, a musician, and kept me curious about expanding my world infinitely. It gave me the inspiration to pursue those dreams and passions and to let Experiences be my guide. When I graduated from high school, I moved to Vancouver with my band to become rock stars and follow the path of the arts.

Since that move 18 years ago, I have witnessed and experienced my dreams manifest and become reality so many times over, in so many different ways.

It was the reason I met the love of my life.

It was also the reason I found martial arts.

Bujinkan Budo Taijutsu, to be precise. The art of the Ninja. It’s an ancient Japanese art, comprised of 9 different martial art schools of the past and refined into one discipline. This art has been studied and passed down through centuries and, through the time of feudal Japan, the Ninja became known as assassins used to take out leaders of war to alter or prevent battles from ever taking place. But once I began to study the true art as passed down through the ages, and separated myself from what I thought I knew from TV and movies, a whole new appreciation and way of experiencing the world was opened to me.

Ninja were in reality farmers, peasants, and simple people not wanting to live under the harsh rule demanded of the time. Their outlook on life was that of Peace, Love, and Compassion for all things. For Life. But, as well, they had a very different view to fighting and conflict.

What mattered was Life and Death, not Winning and Losing. Fighting to win serves only the ego. Fighting to survive something that is intent on taking your life, is necessity. Whatever it takes to wake up in your own bed, or to protect those that are worth your own life, are the only reasons to engage in conflict or battle. Fighting, or preventing a fight to literally survive, is the only reason to ever engage.

I’ve studied this concept for 16+ years, traveled multiple times to Japan to study with my sensei and the Grand Master of the art. I’ve passed the one and only test given in the art, which is for the 5th degree black belt.

The test goes like this: you kneel on the floor in seiza (feet crossed under your butt, back straight, hands on your thighs, relaxed). The Grand Master stands behind you, holding a sword, and whenever he feels ready (meaning 1 second or 10 minutes, any length of time he wants), he will project at you for a split second the most intense feeling of “Death”, and then proceed to strike straight down on top of your head with the sword. Your test is to sense this intense feeling of “Death”, and to roll out of the way avoiding the sword. That is it. You need to know when your life is truly in danger, and then make the right decision. In modern times, a Boken (wooden katana) is used for this test, but originally, it was done using a real katana. Failure to survive was not an option. And yes, I passed my test the first time 😉!

So what do I do now? There is a very clear opponent trying to kill me, its intention is very clear. And I can’t roll out of the way. No matter which way I seem to move, I can’t escape. And I can’t even see my foe to face it eye to eye. In the past 3.5 years fighting, I’ve had 2 major surgeries, 3 separate rounds of radiation, changed my diet and tried immunotherapy, but nothing has worked thus far. Ocular melanoma, once inside the body, is very rare and can be extremely difficult to treat.

But just this April 2021, my life was changed again! I was introduced to Kathy Barnard of Save Your Skin Foundation. I was made aware of the foundation through my doctors at BC Cancer, who said it couldn’t hurt to give her a call.

It was one of the most important phone calls I’ve ever had the pleasure to make. A brand new treatment for ocular melanoma had just become available this year, but was going to require travel once a week from Vancouver to Edmonton. And not just once but for 12 treatments.

That would mean 12 plane tickets, 12 hotel nights, taxi’s to and from the hospital and airports… and unfortunately, I was responsible for all the expenses related to getting to my appointments. That is until I spoke to Kathy.

Save Your Skin Foundation has become my “secret weapon”. Now I have the ability and support to be able to fight back. Not to win this fight, but to ultimately have the best chance to survive.

Kathleen Barnard is a cancer survivor from 2003. In fact she’s a miracle. Not only for having beaten her cancer, but for creating this amazing foundation for people suffering from all forms of melanoma. She and her foundation have been taking care of All of the expenses I mentioned in order to get me where I need to be, and to eliminate the extra stress and pressure from the financial burden this would put on anyone.

It’s one of those scenarios you find yourself giving yourself a pinch every once in a while, just to make sure it’s not a dream. Well, I can tell you from the bottom of my heart that it’s no dream. Just a dream turned into reality!

To everyone at Save Your Skin Foundation, to all the donators and supporters, to anyone helping in the fight against All cancers, I thank you!



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