Writing this piece has been without a doubt one of the hardest things I have ever had to do.

That Day, April 10th 2003, my Doctor told me I had this horrible disease, it was exactly like the Cancercommercial. I could see her lips moving but there was no sound. The room was getting smaller and I remember thinking “Who is she talking to?” I left her office thanking her, yet asking no questions, and then sat in my vehicle remembering only three words. METASTIZIED, MALIGNANT, MELANOMA.

How could this be, I had a small lump on my left elbow for over a year, and had it checked multiple times being told is was only fatty tissue. Could this just be a mistake?

I will never forget that day, as it was and will always be a life changing experience for myself and my family. From the moment I was told, I knew that knowledge would be power, so I wanted to know everything I could about the disease and the treatment, but I never wanted any statistics or time period. Every cancer is different and every patient is different.

That Day, I took all my feelings of anger, fear, disappointment, denial, and filed them somewhere in a vault in the back of my head and vowed there they would stay FOREVER. I had a battle to fight now for the rest of my life and needed all my energy and strength for that. Like most cancer patients I will leave the doors to that vault locked as there is always the possibility that this battle will need to be fought again.

When people ask me how I stayed so strong and positive, I explain it like this:
The past few years have been like a roller coaster ride. I am the lead car and can see all the ups and downs, twists and turns on the track, so I can get prepared. But, the cars following (my family) don’t have it as easy. They are hanging on to me, (the lead car), with everything they have, unaware of the ups and downs twists and turns, determined not to let me fall off the tracks. For them, I will stay strong and will try to protect them as much as I can, as we ride it out together.

Making awareness and education available is crucial. Since 2006, the Foundation has worked to raise awareness of melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancers focusing on education, prevention and the need for improved patient care.