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Melanoma Awareness Month: Patient Support Resources

 

Everyone has different support needs, especially in the context of a melanoma, ocular melanoma, or non-melanoma skin cancer diagnosis. Whether you are looking for community, information, or strategies for self-care, we have resources available for you. We encourage you to take a look through our website to find what works for you, but for now, here is an overview of what we have to offer. If you are particularly looking for information and support related to the COVID-19 pandemic, you should check out our COVID-19 information hub.

In our 2017 survey report, “The Affects of Melanoma on the Mental Wellness of Patients, and the Landscape of Mental Health Support in the Canadian Melanoma Community,” Save Your Skin found that the effects of a melanoma diagnosis on the mental wellness of a patient is a real and urgent concern. Survey participants reported needing support with fear, grief, end-of-life planning, their diagnosis, next steps, living with cancer, family support, survivorship, and hope. The most ideal forms of support for participants, according to the survey, are group therapy, one-on-one therapy, and family support. The majority of participants (66% in our English survey and 84.21% in our French survey) reported wanting mental wellness support after their cancer diagnosis. Therefore, if you are fighting cancer or know someone who is, it might be helpful to participate in or share the resources below!

 

Webinars

Save Your Skin has been running webinars on medical and patient support topics since 2015, the video and audio recordings of which are archived on our website. These webinars are not only an excellent educational resource, but are great for connecting with the oncology community and meeting other patients and survivors. In terms of mental health support and community, the “Mental Wellness & Support After a Cancer Diagnosis,” “Living Beyond Cancer,” and “Surviving Melanoma: A Discussion on Survivorship” might be especially interesting to you– however, it is definitely worth looking through the entire list!

 

Patient Support Group Chats

On the first Thursday of every month, we host our informal Patient Support Group Chats. These meetings are free, can be joined by phone or online, and are open to melanoma, ocular melanoma, and non-melanoma skin cancer patients and survivors. These group discussions include patients and survivors from across Canada, and members of the Save Your Skin team, including Founder Kathy Barnard.

In addition to our support group, you can find a list of other support group options on our Additional Resources & Support Groups page, which may include something that is more local for you.

 

Emotional and Mental Wellness Resources Page

Our Emotional and Mental Wellness Resources page features many resources related to mental wellness. These include guides for coping with overwhelm, catastrophic thinking, and grief, for improving your quality of life, and for maintaining support networks and hope. This page also includes a link to Psychology Today’s chronic illness therapist search engine, which will help you find options for therapy in your area. On this page, you can also view our guide to self care after a cancer diagnosis

 

Community and Hope

If you are looking to make connections with people who have gone through a melanoma, ocular melanoma, or non-melanoma skin cancer diagnosis, or to read stories of hope, you might also be interested in our survivorship initiatives, such as Melanoma Through my Lens, which features the stories of six Canadian melanoma survivors, or I’m Living Proof, a global map that showcases the stories of many melanoma, ocular melanoma, and non-melanoma skin cancer survivors. If you are interested in speaking to someone you see on I’m Living Proof, you can request to connect with them to be put in touch.

We hope that Save Your Skin has something to support your mental wellness, wherever you are in your journey. This Melanoma Awareness Month, consider taking the time to investigate what resources may help you, or share the graphic below to your community, as you never know who might need help. Remember: hand in hand, we fight skin cancer together.

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To Protect Yourself from Melanoma, Look UP

Our friends at Euromelanoma, in collaboration with the Global Coalition for Melanoma Patient Advocacy (an initiative of the Melanoma Research Foundation, of which SYSF is a member) have launched a new campaign to encourage people to do monthly skin checks. The campaign encourages people to “Look Up”.

If they see the sun, people should take action to protect their skin. If they see the full moon, they should perform a monthly skin check.

Help protect your loved ones and spread awareness of the importance of skin checks by downloading and sharing this poster:

To read the full report on global skin cancer statistics which inspired this campaign, please CLICK HERE.

Save Your Skin Foundation is proud to support and share this campaign to increase awareness of melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancers.  We thank Euro Melanoma for their hard work and collaboration, and we appreciate the sponsors and partners of the project.  Watch our social media channels for more on this initiative, and as always, feel free to contact us if you would like more information! natalie@saveyourskin.ca

About the Global Coalition for Melanoma Patient Advocacy: Click here to go to their introductory web page.  Save Your Skin is proud to be working with US-based Melanoma Research Foundation and the many other groups in the Coalition.  More on this is developing as we work together from our locations around the world to improve the lives of melanoma patients and their families.

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COVID-19 Cancer Patient Support Hub

To respond to the immediate, practical needs of Canadian cancer patients during COVID-19, Save Your Skin Foundation and 11 other Canadian oncology patient support groups have created the COVID-19 Cancer Patient Support Hub.

Initiatives include an online information hub, mental health and wellness resources, and practical support with volunteer assistance.

Click here to visit the COVID-19 Cancer Patient Support Hub

Read the press release here:

Canadian Cancer Patient Groups Rally to Help Cancer Patients Facing COVID-19 Challenges

May 5, Toronto: Responding to the unprecedented challenges posed by COVID-19, leading oncology patient groups are launching today a national patient-led initiative to support the immediate, practical needs of people living with cancer.

The COVID-19 Oncology Support Task Force has launched the COVID-19 Cancer Patient Support Hub under the umbrella of All.Can Canada, a multi-stakeholder group working in oncology. Initiatives will include an online information hub, mental wellness and practical supports, with volunteer assistance. It includes a public campaign to raise awareness about the unique challenges faced by an estimated 2.1 million Canadians currently living with cancer.

“I was in desperate need of help when I learned that I could no longer get from BC to Ontario for my cancer treatment. I turned to Save Your Skin Foundation, a national skin cancer patient organization, to help me cope with this news and to organize alternatives. Patients need the services this Task Force is providing,” explains Tanya, a melanoma patient.

“Kathy Barnard, the President of Save Your Skin Foundation, called me and told me this story. Other stories started to surface from cancer patients about the practical and emotional issues they were experiencing as a result of COVID-19. We knew we had to act,” said Louise Binder, the lead health policy consultant on the Task Force.

“Cancer patients across Canada are anxious and trying to cope during social isolation orders. They are telling us they need support as medical appointments and treatments are cancelled or postponed,” says Christina Sit, Program Manager, Lung Cancer Canada. “We knew this was bigger than any one organization could handle.”

Dr. Michael Smiley, Medical Oncologist and Clinical Researcher at the Cross Cancer Clinic in Edmonton, lauds the community initiative. “This pandemic has added to the stressful situation for cancer patients. Mental wellness supports and practical help is sorely needed and much welcomed,” he said.

“The Quebec Cancer Coalition is glad to participate in this initiative in solidarity with other patient organizations from the rest of Canada, says Eva Villalba, Executive Director, Quebec Cancer Coalition. “Our Coalition will happily contribute the Quebec perspective to the All.Can Task Force on COVID-19 and cancer, and share the work and resources we have developed locally with organisations in other jurisdictions. Together we can make a greater impact!”

A cancer diagnosis is devastating. COVID-19 exacerbates mental health issues, social and physical isolation and difficulty accessing treatments and essential services. Canadians are asked to share information about the site, www.COVID19OncologyResources.ca, with anyone they know living with cancer, caregivers, their families, and anyone else affected by cancer.

Patient groups participating in the Task Force include:

All.Can Canada
Canadian Neuroendocrine Tumour Society
Canadian Psoriasis Network
Canadian Skin Patient Alliance
CML Canada
CONECTed
GIST Sarcoma Life Raft Group
The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society of Canada
Life Saving Therapies Network
Lymphoma Canada
Lung Cancer Canada
Myeloma Canada
Quebec Cancer Coalition
Save Your Skin Foundation

 

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This Melanoma Awareness Month, Don’t Forget Sun Safety!

Every May is not only Melanoma Awareness Month, but also the beginning of sunny weather and summer plans. This year, while we are sheltering in place, going to the park or for a walk can be a great way to improve your mood; however, it is important to make sure that you are not only socially distancing, but also taking sun safety measures. 

In 2019, the Canadian Cancer Society estimated that of the 220,400 new cancer cases in 2019, 7,800 were melanoma (p. 25). Melanoma counts for 7% of cancer diagnoses for both the youth/young adult (15-29) and adult (30-49) demographics, as per a distribution of new cancer cases (for selected cancers) by age group in Canada (excluding Quebec), in 2011-2015 (p. 14). While the incidence rates for melanoma are not as high as other types of cancer, the mortality rates are substantial: of the 82,100 projected cancer deaths in 2019, 1,300 are expected to be due to melanoma (p. 47). Therefore, it is important to be vigilant in protecting yourself when you are outside in the sun, even if it is a quick trip.

It is true that certain populations are more at risk of developing skin cancer, such as those who have skin cancer in their family, are fair-skinned, or are taking any medication that may suppress their immune system; however, anyone who had frequent or extreme sunburns in adolescence, or continues to spend prolonged, unprotected time in the sun, is dramatically increasing their risk of developing skin cancer, as every sunburn is indicative of skin damage. While some of these circumstances are unavoidable, it is possible to reduce your risk of skin cancer by taking the following precautionary measures while enjoying your time in the sun. We encourage you to share these tips with your friends and family by sharing our Sun Safety Awareness Resources page, which has links to several helpful online and print guides to sun safety and skin cancer awareness.

Prevention

The most important sun safety tip is to limit your exposure to it. Enjoy the outdoors, but take these precautions:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sunscreen is also your ally. Here are some tips:

  • Carry a travel-sized sunscreen and an SPF lip balm with you at all times, so you are always prepared
  • Get a sunscreen that is at least SPF 30 and offers UVA and UVB protection
  • Apply your sunscreen 20 minutes before going out in the sun
  • Reapply your sunscreen every two hours
  • Cream or lotion-based sunscreens provide better coverage than sprays
  • Make a list of the places you often forget, and cover them first– often-forgotten spots include the tops of feet, backs of hands, neck and ears

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Before going out, don’t forget to consult the UV Index rating in your area. You can also download UV Index apps such as the UV Index Widget or the Wolfram Sun Exposure Reference App. Use guide above to help you interpret UV ratings.

Detection

Throughout the year, it is important to give yourself a self skin-check once a month. If you have a partner, perform them for each other. Take photos of, or write down, any existing moles, so you have a reference in case of any changes. To ensure that you do not miss a spot, visit the Skin Cancer Foundation guide to self-exams. If you see any changes in a mole, any new growths or moles, or you develop a sore that does not heal, get in touch with your health practitioner as soon as possible– it never hurts to be cautious, and earlier detection means earlier treatment. 

When checking your own skin or that of your loved ones, keep in mind the “ABCDEFG’s” of skin checks:

  • A – Asymmetry. The shape of one half does not match the other half.
  • B – Border that is irregular. The edges are often ragged, notched, or blurred in outline. The pigment may spread into the surrounding skin.
  • C – Colour that is uneven. Shades of black, brown, and tan may be present. Areas of white, grey, red, pink, or blue may also be seen.
  • D – Diameter. There is a change in size, usually an increase. Melanomas can be tiny, but most are larger than 6 millimeters wide (about 1/4 inch wide).
  • E – Evolving. The mole has changed over the past few weeks or months.
  • F – Firm. Is the mole harder than the surrounding skin?
  • G – Growing. Is the mole gradually getting larger?

While checking your skin for moles, you should also be keeping an eye out for actinic keratosis, also known as solar keratosis. Actinic keratosis generally develops in older people on sun-exposed areas of the skin. Actinic keratosis feels like a rough patch on the skin, and may become visible as red scaly patches; it is often confused with eczema. It may feel tender to the touch. If left untreated, actinic keratosis may develop into squamous cell carcinoma.

 

 

 

 

 

(“Actinic Keratosis.” Scars Center.)

When you are spending time outside this summer, do not forget to take sun safety precautions. Stay safe out there!

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Drawing Contest 2020

The drawing contest is now closed. Click here to find out which three drawings have been selected as finalists and to vote for your favourite one. 

Need something fun to do with the kids? We’ve got just the thing for you!

May is Melanoma Awareness Month and to start the month with a bang, we are launching today our Melanoma Awareness Month Drawing Contest! Drawings must illustrate the following theme: This is what sun safety looks like! The contest winner will receive a $100 Amazon gift card and will see their design on the next edition of the SYSF t-shirt!

1. How to participate?
✓ Make sure your drawing is drawn on white paper with markers
✓ Fill out our release form and upload a picture of your drawing here before the end of the day on May 15th.

2. Who can participate?
✓ Participants must be 16 years old or younger
✓ Participants must live in Canada

3. Criteria to win:
✓ SYSF will select three drawings and will ask the general public to vote for their favourite one. The participant whose drawing gets the most votes will win the contest.
✓ The winner will be announced on May 31st.

 

We look forward to seeing all your amazing drawings. Let the drawing begin!

Vote here!

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17 BC Municipalities Proclaim May Melanoma Awareness Month

As May marks both Melanoma Awareness Month and the beginning of summer weather, it is imperative that communities across Canada be reminded of the importance of sun safety at this time of year. The COVID-19 pandemic has forced many Canadians to stay home, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t spending time outside. In fact, many have more time than usual to enjoy the outdoors, making sun safety education as relevant as ever.

“COVID-19 has highlighted everyone’s willingness to take drastic measures to preserve our health,” says Kathy Barnard, stage 4 melanoma survivor and Founder of Save Your Skin Foundation (SYSF). “Increased preventative efforts and methods of early detection, particularly in the form of public education, public policy and built environments are also needed to reduce skin cancer rates.”

Skin Cancer in Canada is still on the rise

COVID-19 isn’t the only disease whose rates can be drastically reduced through education and preventative measures. Skin cancer rates in Canada continue to rise, including melanoma, and non-melanoma skin cancers, despite being 90% preventable.

Skin cancer is the most common of all cancers. There are more new cases of skin cancer each year than the number of breast, prostate, lung and colon cancers COMBINED[1]. While most forms of non-melanoma skin cancer can be surgically removed, melanoma is an aggressive form of cancer. The five-year relative survival rate of melanoma that has metastasized is just 18%.[2]

Despite these figures, many people seek sun without taking the recommended precautionary measures, or believe that only severe burns contribute to one’s risk of skin cancer. In fact, any darkening of the skin, including a tan, is indicative of UV damage.

 

Municipal Proclamations

To increase the reach of SYSF’s awareness campaign this year, a new proclamation initiative invited BC municipalities to take a stance against skin cancer and educate their communities on sun safety through mayoral proclamations.  SYSF is pleased to announce that seventeen BC municipalities, listed below, have accepted SYSF’s invitation to proclaim the month of May 2020 ‘Melanoma Awareness Month’.  Click here to read our full press release.

City of Vancouver

City of Kelowna

City of Victoria

Town of Comox

City of Burnaby 

District of Saanich

City of Richmond

District of Central Saanich

City of New Westminster

City of Prince George

City of Surrey

City of Williams Lake

City of Whistler

District of Mission

City of Nanaimo

City of Langford

City of Campbell River 

 

Mayor of New Westminster, Jonathan Coté, was first to commit to proclaiming May 2020 as Melanoma Awareness Month, and decided to challenge other BC municipalities to follow his example. “Skin cancer is largely preventable, and yet there are more cases now than ever,” said Coté.  “This is why as Mayor of New Westminster, I’m happy to support this important initiative and challenge all BC municipalities to do the same.”

“This is an important initiative, especially for hot, sunny communities like ours,” said Mayor of Kelowna, Colin Basran. “Skin cancer is a serious public health concern, and incidences of the disease are only increasing.”

 

During Melanoma Awareness Month, we invite you to take action by publicly announcing your support of the fight against melanoma.

 

Throughout the month of May, SYSF will be engaged in several initiatives to bring awareness to melanoma, non-melanoma skin cancers, and ocular melanoma. The month will be starting out with a bang thanks to a new drawing contest aimed at youth. The contest’s theme “This is what sun safety looks like”, will encourage participants to submit drawings depicting actions or environments which help prevent skin cancer. The winning entry will be determined through open voting once the May 15th deadline for submission has passed, with a $100 gift card going to the artist with the most votes.

 

Download our custom banner photo for your Facebook cover photo below, or upload a selfie below to participate in our #WeWillDefeatMelanoma campaign! We will apply our campaign frame to your selfie and post it on our social media channels.

 

 

 

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New COVID-19 Information Hub

Many cancer patients across Canada have experienced changes, delays and cancellations to their regular appointments and treatments as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In order to provide Canadians living with melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancers with the most up-to-date information and resources related to COVID-19, we have created the COVID-19 Information Hub.

This Hub is designed with resources specifically for melanoma and skin cancer patients, caregivers and their families, as well as general  information, and province-specific resources. The Hub will be continually updated as new information becomes available.

Check out the COVID-19 Information Hub here.

We want to thank all of our patients, caregivers and families for letting us know how the situation with COVID-19 has been affecting their care, and we encourage them to continue doing so.

As the situation progresses, we want you to know that we are connecting with our community of physicians to get as much information as we can. We will continue to update you on any new information as it develops.

We also moderate a Facebook group called Melanoma Connect, where melanoma patients can exchange important information.

If you are a patient with melanoma or non-melanoma skin cancer, please do not hesitate to reach out to us for support at info@saveyourskin.ca.

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Connecting Ocular Melanoma Patients across Canada

Ocumel Canada has opened up a private Facebook group, Ocular Melanoma Connect, to connect Canadian OM patients and caregivers. We are few in number, very spread out and often feel very alone. Together we will have a stronger voice. This group gives us an opportunity to connect with others, share experiences, imagine and advocate for better care and more services. Please consider joining us.

There is no intent to replace the many other international groups that we all belong to. The group also provides an opportunity to learn about what is happening in Canada to improve OM care. We look forward to meeting you! Welcome to this new meeting place!

We have also developed a contact card in electronic and printed form, intended for distribution at Ophthalmologist and Ocular Oncologist offices and clinics for patients and caregivers to see how to reach us.  Please click on the image below to download the pdf or email us to order the print version – ocumelcanada@saveyourskin.ca

You can also visit the pages we have created the following pages to provide up-to-date links and resources:

Ocumel Canada – About Ocular Melanoma

Ocumel Canada – Helpful Links

Ocumel Canada – Resources and Support

View our February 2019 Webinar: Ocular Melanoma – Innovative Treatments and Beyond. Click here to view the recording, or watch it on our YouTube channel HERE

We hope that information and support will flow in two directions. If you find what you were looking for, or even if you don’t, please engage with us so we know how to constantly improve our efforts. Feel completely free to be in contact by email at ocumelcanada@saveyourskin.ca or by phone at 1-800-460-5832.

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‘A Viking’s Challenge’ Completed

Hip hip hooray! Chris Isfeld and Shawn Bjornsson successfully completed their race: ‘A Viking’s Challenge’! The 30km race across frozen Lake Winnipeg took place on Saturday March 7, 2020.

Chris and Shawn’s adventure began when Chris was still in treatment for melanoma. He had started running again to overcome both the physical and emotional challenges he was experiencing and, one day, saw a photo of his childhood friend Shawn Bjornsson. Shawn had just finished a race in -40°C weather. His cheeks were red and his moustache covered with frost. Chris had a sudden inspiration! He decided to challenge Shawn to race across Lake Winnipeg, Canada’s sixth-largest lake. True to their viking roots, they did not back down from the challenge. They began planning, training and fundraising.

The race, which began in Grand Beach and ended in Gimli, took place during the Gimli Ice Festival and attracted a large crowd of people who welcomed the pair at the finish line with cheers of encouragement.

“The weather was ideal, but the running conditions weren’t,” said Chris, recounting how he felt during the race. “There were large drifts of snow across the trail which made the running very hard going. It felt like we were running on sand.”

“But as soon as I saw the crowd gathered at the finish line, I forgot how hard the race had been. I felt an amazing new surge of energy.”

Chris’ story is an exceptional example of human resilience and courage. And like in many stories of melanoma survivorship, Chris had an ally by his side to support him along the way. Shawn Bjornsson has been an outstanding supporter, literally running beside Chris each step of the way on this recent challenge.

“There were times during the run when I thought we wouldn’t make it. Shawn’s encouragement was crucial,” recounted Chris.

Having completed this heroic challenge, Chris Isfeld plans to take some time to rest and spend time with his family.

“To be honest, it hasn’t really sunk in yet that it’s over. I feel so exhilarated! This was the hardest run I’ve ever done, and to be hearing stories of how it’s inspiring others to give back too is just an amazing feeling,” he said.

As of this writing, Chris has raised almost $20,000! The funds raised will go to Save Your Skin Foundation and the patients we help. You can still donate to Chris’ fundraising page here.

        

 

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Viking’s Challenge 2020

HIP HIP HOORAY! CHRIS ISFELD AND SHAWN BJORNSSON SUCCESSFULLY COMPLETED THEIR RACE: ‘A VIKING’S CHALLENGE’! THE 30KM RACE ACROSS FROZEN LAKE WINNIPEG TOOK PLACE ON SATURDAY MARCH 7, 2020.

March 7 ,   2020

Chris and Shawn’s adventure began when Chris was still in treatment for melanoma. He had started running again to overcome both the physical and emotional challenges he was experiencing and, one day, saw a photo of his childhood friend Shawn Bjornsson. Shawn had just finished a race in -40°C weather. His cheeks were red and his moustache covered with frost. Chris had a sudden inspiration! He decided to challenge Shawn to race across Lake Winnipeg, Canada’s sixth-largest lake. True to their viking roots, they did not back down from the challenge. They began planning, training and fundraising.

The race, which began in Grand Beach and ended in Gimli, took place during the Gimli Ice Festival and attracted a large crowd of people who welcomed the pair at the finish line with cheers of encouragement.

“The weather was ideal, but the running conditions weren’t,” said Chris, recounting how he felt during the race. “There were large drifts of snow across the trail which made the running very hard going. It felt like we were running on sand.”

“But as soon as I saw the crowd gathered at the finish line, I forgot how hard the race had been. I felt an amazing new surge of energy.”

Chris’ story is an exceptional example of human resilience and courage. And like in many stories of melanoma survivorship, Chris had an ally by his side to support him along the way. Shawn Bjornsson has been an outstanding supporter, literally running beside Chris each step of the way on this recent challenge.

“There were times during the run when I thought we wouldn’t make it. Shawn’s encouragement was crucial,” recounted Chris.

Having completed this heroic challenge, Chris Isfeld plans to take some time to rest and spend time with his family.

“To be honest, it hasn’t really sunk in yet that it’s over. I feel so exhilarated! This was the hardest run I’ve ever done, and to be hearing stories of how it’s inspiring others to give back too is just an amazing feeling,” he said.

As of this writing, Chris has raised almost $20,000! The funds raised will go to Save Your Skin Foundation and the patients we help. You can still donate to Chris’ fundraising page here.

Some pictures of the event

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