Timna, creator of Respect the Rays Facebook and Twitter pages, is a two-time Melanoma survivor. She definitely approaches melanoma awareness in a non-sugar-coated kind of way. Her updates are always fresh and she even asks people with influence how they ‘respect the rays.’ Timna recently asked Australian pro surfer Owen Wright how he respects the rays, he responded with this: “A lot of my day is spent outdoors and in the ocean. I don’t go anywhere without my sunscreen. I rarely surf without a 30+ SPF.”
If this inspires you to respect the rays please leave a comment and let Timna know. I want to thank Timna for her time and for being open to share her story with us.
Here is how Timna came to Respect the Rays.
What type or stage of cancer do you have?
I have had melanoma twice. The first (2008) was on the bottom of my right foot. It was “un-stageble”, but it was ruled as a melanoma. I had a wide excision and a sentinel node biopsy. Pathology reports came back clean. My incision was left open because of the location (impossible to close on the bottom of foot), and it took 3 months for the area to fill in and heal. My second melanoma (2011) was on my right forearm. It was melanoma in situ which means it has not spread and has been caught early enough to be considered stage zero. (In this stage, intervention causes an almost 95 percent cure rate.) Just this past week, I was diagnosed with Primary Acquired Melanosis of the eye, which is a possible pre-cancerous lesion. I will be having surgery to remove this in August.
What was the primary cancer treatment facility involved in your care and what was your experience there?
I am followed by many doctors at this point. My surgical oncologist is at UNC in Chapel Hill. My dermatologist is at Duke in Durham, as well as my eye specialist. I have found everyone I have worked with at both facilities to be amazing, patient, open to my questions, empathetic in regards to my anxiety, and more! I love my doctors, their staff, and everyone I have met in this process. I feel very fortunate to be having such a positive experience. It’s truly amazing to feel cared for and understood!
What would you say is the most impactful experience from your treatment?
I will never forget my first appointment with my surgical oncologist, when I told him I just wanted him to cut the skin off, and let’s be done, and he raised his voice to me and said, “THIS IS SERIOUS!” with a face I will never forget! I had no idea that melanoma was cancer beyond the skin, that it could spread to your liver, lungs, brain, that is fatal. I knew at that moment my life was about to change forever. And it did.
What would you most like people to know about yourself?
As hard as it may be for people (teens in particular), please learn from the experience of US, melanoma survivors, rather than ignoring the facts and having to go through this extremely scary life-long experience. LEARN FROM ME! It is now my mission to educate teens about the dangers and truth about tanning. Respect the Rays was “born” out of a horrible situation, but I have decided to turn it into something positive in hopes of elevating awareness, educating minds, and in turn saving lives.
What is your greatest source of strength and/or inspiration?
My children! I want to be here for a long time, to see them grow up and watch them blossom!
Was tanning or sunbathing a significant factor in your developing melanoma?
I think so, yes. But I do think there is a genetic component involved. I did run around in the sun my whole childhood, unprotected. I grew up in southern California, on the beach. I continued to worship the sun into adulthood and definitely had many burns in my lifetime.
How did your diagnosis change your life?
WOW! Where to begin??? It has changed EVERYTHING…from my behavior in regards to the sun and sun safety to my appreciation for life and how important EACH day is! What I find very ironic is that in the face of fear, and I mean SERIOUS FEAR, I have actually lost many fears…watched them melt away. I have become much of a go-getter, seize the day, see-the-world kind of person. I always say, even in the worst situations like cancer, there are blessings.