The other day while checking in with the melanoma community on our UV Skinz Facebook feed, in between uplifting quotes and links to sun safety tips and skin cancer awareness articles, I came across a share from a well known melanoma advocate. This share consisted of a Facebook Page titled “Million 4 Melanoma.” The advocate sharing the page stated the humble mission of Million 4 Melanoma, and I had to know more. Upon reading the story behind the page, I knew I had to share this touching experience with our readers.
Below is the story of the melanoma angel who inspired the mission behind Million 4 Melanoma: Karen’s mother, Rhonda.
How did your mother, Rhonda, discover she had Melanoma? What type or stage did she have?
Mum was diagnosed with Stage 1 melanoma when she was 32. She had a wide excision. She got regular check ups. When it returned, after a bout of flu and a wasp sting, it was stage 4 metastatic melanoma that was first detected as a small lump under her arm and on her chest. It was hard. like a grain of rice, but doubled in size each week. She survived for the maximum of 18 months.
What was the primary cancer treatment facility involved in her care? What were her treatments like?
Melanoma Institute Australia was the primary carer. She tried 2 trial treatments. One slowed the growth down, but the other, unfortunately, did nothing except make her sick.
What would you say has been the most impactful experience from your mother’s melanoma diagnosis and treatment?
Live each day as if it’s the last. Mum was always a cautious, sensible saver. She saved her money so that she could travel when she was older. Sadly, she only got one trip in that she wanted to do. When she was really ill, a few friends brought the world to her in a night. A slide show, music, dancing and traditional food from each of the countries she wanted to visit. She said to me “Don’t waste money, but live your life. See what you want while you are healthy”.
When she was really ill, a few friends brought the world to her in a night. A slide show, music, dancing, and traditional food from each of the countries she wanted to visit.
Since your mother’s passing, you’ve started a campaign titled Million 4 Melanoma. Tell us about this! How can people help?
Million 4 Melanoma came about because I didn’t want to feel depressed and helpless anymore. I started Million 4 Melanoma because mum had said, on her last day, “I don’t want anyone else to die from this”. I’ve made it my mission to get 1 million likes on Facebook which means 1 million people aware of melanoma. I also raise money for the Melanoma Institute Australia. 1 million dollars is my aim. I don’t collect money, but direct people to deposit straight to the Melanoma Institute Australia. I run fundraisers biannually – we have a huge line up this year. Several celebrities will be attending. I have had great support from them. My ultimate goal would be to travel around Australia, in a caravan with my family, informing people along the way. I’d get them to like my page, give them info about melanoma and encourage them to get their skin checked.”
Don’t waste money, but live your life. See what you want while you are healthy.
What has been your biggest challenge?
My biggest challenge is getting people to realise that it’s not just skin cancer, in fact, not many people have even heard of it [melanoma]! It’s so deadly and there is currently no cure. In Australia it’s the 4th leading cause of death, yet not spoken about nearly enough. People still sunbake – not realising that years later – that could cause their death!
What has been your greatest source of strength?
Definitely my mum. During her treatments and journey with melanoma, she always smiled. Listened to her friend’s problems, always saying “I’m ok”. She only worried about my sister and I. My sister has an intellectual disability.
What would you most like people to know about Rhonda?
My mum always thought of others. She rescued countless animals, she counseled her friends, she always helped where she could and she never complained. She was a true angel on Earth. She referred to herself as “the glue that kept people together’ and she was certainly right.
Is there an inspirational quote, song, or book that inspires you or helped your mother that you would like to share with our readers?
My motto is “If in doubt, CHECK IT OUT! Listen to your body and don’t let Drs tell you it’s nothing. Insist on getting moles or lumps checked out. Celine Dion was my mum’s favorite singer. She would lay in bed listening to her all day long. She always wanted to fly to Vegas to see her perform, but sadly, she didn’t make it.
What advice would you give someone who thinks skin cancer won’t happen to them or someone they love?
Melanoma doesn’t fit any pattern. Old, young, pale or dark-skinned, sunburnt or not. Melanoma is a silent killer and can often look different for each person. A lump, a white mole, a new mole, a scab that doesn’t heal. Always get a yearly check-up, ESPECIALLY if you too, baked in the 50s and 60s. Check your family’s skin. Try mole mapping if you have many moles to track changes. There are some great apps out there and info can be found at www.melanoma.org,au.
Melanoma doesn’t fit any pattern. Old, young, pale or dark skinned, sun burnt or not.
PLEASE like our page and help us reach our goal. Invite your friends. Sharing mum’s story has already saved 2 lives. I hope to save many, many more.
For more information on Million 4 Melanoma check out their website here, and be sure to like their Facebook Page to help Karen reach her goal of informing 1 million people about melanoma!