Maria Childs was diagnosed with Stage IV Metastatic Melanoma in March, 2012. Despite this devastating diagnosis and its grim outlook, Maria has chosen not to let cancer stop her from living her life and fulfilling her dreams, one of which was achieved when her children’s book “Firefighters Don’t!” was published in 2013. Maria is an inspiration to so many, and we were honored when she agreed to share her story with us.
What type or stage of cancer did you have?
Stage 4 Metastatic Melanoma (liver and lung mets)
What was the primary cancer treatment facility involved in your care and what was your experience there?
Cincinnati Hematology-Oncology (Christ Hospital Cincinnati) The entire staff is amazing! The oncology floor at Christ Hospital is filled with wonderful, caring, and compassionate nurses and PCAs.
What organizations were the most helpful to you?
I have a very strong support group filled with fabulous family, friends, and coworkers. I belong to a Facebook Support Group-Melanoma Warriors and Cancer Club Friends. They have great encouragement and advice…always an open ear and heart.
What would you say was the most impactful experience from your treatment?
Having cancer and going through treatment is a very humbling experience. Meeting people and sharing stories has been very enlightening. I have learned the importance of faith, hope and love!
What would you most like people to know about yourself?
I am a very energetic person full of life! I love my family, friends and life!
What is your greatest source of strength and/or inspiration?
My faith is my greatest source of strength. I firmly believe that everything happens for a reason and that there is a bigger plan. I may not always know what the results will be, but I trust that God is at my side, carrying me on those difficult days.
Was tanning or sunbathing a significant factor in your developing melanoma?
My doctor has said that they cannot say with certainty that tanning was a factor. I do have fair skin and burned very easily. I don’t believe it helped at all. I enjoyed having a tan and thought I looked better with a tan.
How did your diagnosis change your life?
I have learned that cancer is not a death sentence; that you must live every day to the fullest. Each new morning is a blessing, a gift. There is no time to focus on negatives. Surround yourself with positives! It is never too late to live happily ever after! Little things no longer bother me. I see the important things in life -people. Family, friends, LOVE…that is truly what matters. I am blessed with amazing people surrounding me and supporting me!
When did you start using tanning beds?
I first used a tanning bed to “get a little color” for a dance in high school. I used them periodically before events or to “get a base” before vacation. In total, I used a tanning bed a few dozen times.
Is there an inspirational quote or song that keeps you moving forward and gives you strength in your life?
“For I know the plans O have for you” says the Lord, “Plans for a good and not evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11 Shortly before I went into the hospital for my first treatment I was frantically “spring” cleaning my house since I didn’t know when I would be able to do it again. We had lived in our house for about 2 years at this point. We have built-in cabinets in our family room. I have cleaned them many times. While reaching back and dusting one of the shelves I felt something in the corner. I pulled it out and found a very unattractive wooden plaque. I knew it wasn’t mine and had never seen it before. That quote is written on the plaque. I know it sounds strange, but I knew everything would be okay…no matter what that meant. It is now proudly displayed on the shelf.
What is the best advice you can give to someone who thinks that skin cancer won’t happen to them?
I believed that I was young and there was no way this could happen to me. I have never smoked; I take care of myself. How could the sun…something that helps keep us alive harm you? It is so important to be proactive. You must protect yourself and be safe in the sun!
Any final thoughts?
I think it’s important to follow your dreams, never give up and never stop living. I have entirely too many things left to do in this life! I plan to fight until the very end! I also think that it’s hard for people to understand how serious Melanoma is…I hear all the time how I don’t look like I have cancer because I have my hair. People don’t realize how deadly it is because I don’t look “sick” to them. Many people have no idea that Melanoma (skin cancer) can attack your organs. It is so important to get the word out and to educate people that Melanoma kills. There is no tan worth your life!
I really wish that Major League Baseball would get on board with Melanoma Awareness Month the way the NFL has with Breast Cancer Awareness and the Crucial Catch Program.