You may recall a few months back, we featured an incredible “My Story” on Jim Schlipmann as told by his wife, Jean Schlipmann. The devastating loss of Jim to melanoma inspired Jean to create the James A. Schlipmann Melanoma Cancer Foundation to keep his memory alive, and also to provide hope and assistance to individuals and their families affected by this horrible form of cancer. Similarly, Charlie Guild was an amazing individual who was loved by her family dearly, and whom was also taken much too early by melanoma. Charlie was diagnosed at the age of 25, and passed away from the disease just 9 short months later. In honor of Charlie’s memory, and the memory of others whose future had been taken away by melanoma, the Charlie Guild Melanoma Foundation was founded. Eventually, The James A. Schlipmann Melanoma Cancer Foundation would merge with the Charlie Guild Melanoma Foundation to form AIM at Melanoma, the largest international melanoma organization focused on melanoma research, education, awareness, and legislation.
Here is Charlie’s story, as told by her sister, Samantha.
How did your sister, Charlie, discover she had Melanoma? What type or stage did she have?
Charlie was experiencing pain in her chest. She eventually had a cat scan and was diagnosed Stage IV melanoma in February of 2003. She had melanoma with no primary, meaning that she never had a lesion on her skin.
What was the primary cancer treatment facility involved in her care? What were her treatments like?
Charlie was treated at CPMC (California Pacific Medical Center) with IL-2, which is a very severe form of chemotherapy where you do up to six cycles of a week in the hospital receiving chemo and then two weeks at home
What would you say has been the most impactful experience from your sister’s melanoma diagnosis and treatment?
Life is short. One day you, or someone you love, can be absolutely fine, and the next day, life is totally different.
Tell us about your role in AIM at Melanoma. How can people support this organization?
Like many individuals who work for a foundation, I wear many hats. AIM has many country specific websites; U.S., Great Britain, Germany, Spain, Italy, France and Australia. I oversee the websites which includes, keeping them up to date with the most recent standard of care, posting breaking news, and providing the names and contact information of melanoma specialists in each of these countries. I also over AIM’s public policy efforts which include leading the effort in the U.S. to ban minors from indoor tanning devices and supporting oral parity legislation on the state and federal level. In addition, I organize the Patient and Caregiver Symposiums at major cancer centers throughout the country. I also am responsible for reviewing new developments in melanoma research and treatment and making that information available to melanoma patients and caregivers, as well as the general public.
We are also building an international tissue bank so that researchers can determine who is at risk of getting melanoma, who will progress once they have been diagnosed, and which treatments will work on which patients. For anyone who like to support our tissue bank please to www.aimatmelanoma.org
What has been your family’s biggest challenge since Charlie’s diagnosis?
Not to dwell on Charlie’s loss, the biggest challenge for our family has been to live as positively as possible and try to do something meaningful so that Charlie’s death was not in vain. I know that’s a very often used statement, but it truly is how a family feels when they lose a loved one that is so young.
What do you believe was your sister’s greatest source of strength through her battle with melanoma?
Charlie had an indomitable spirit and thought that she was going to beat this.
What would you most like people to know about Charlie?
Charlie cared tremendously about helping other people. If she had lived, educating melanoma patients and their families about the disease, as well as the general public, would have been her mission. Instead it has become our family’s mission.
Is there an inspirational quote, song, or book that inspired your sister that you feel she may like to share?
Charlie loved “The Giving Tree” by Shel Silverstein. I really think that the spirit of that book embodies Charlie perfectly.
What advice would you give someone who thinks melanoma won’t happen to them or someone they love?
Melanoma knows no age, or sex, or racial barriers. Charlie’s case was unusual in that early prevention was not possible, but for most people it is. And those couple of burns that she got as a teenager may very well have been the cause of her melanoma. Use protection, and if you see something new, or growing or changing, make an appointment with your dermatologist as quickly as possible.
For more information about AIM at Melanoma and to learn how you can get involved, visit www.aimatmelanoma.org.