Melanoma sucks. Period. Doesn’t matter how old you are. But lately, and especially today, the young warriors are on my heart big time. Melanoma can strike at any age. The youngest warrior I know of was an adorable 2 year old toddler when she passed away. There are young boys and girls of all ages who are battling this ferocious cancer, and with a heck of a lot of courage and grace. I read yesterday about Ann Graham, a woman who was battling a childhood cancer (osteosarcoma) as an adult. Because she was being treated for a childhood cancer, she would receive her treatment in the pediatric ward of the hospital. She learned that the kids with whom she would spend much of her time were courageous far beyond their years; and they taught her how to be courageous. Clearly, it’s the kids…not the cancer they have that matters. You can read Ann’s story here.
Melanoma has quickly become one of the most common cancers among young people*. It is most definitely NOT an “old person’s” cancer. Not anymore. When I was diagnosed almost 3 years ago (and I’m one of the old ones), I dove head first into the internet. I had to learn all I could. In the process, I came across a PSA video called “Dear 16 Year Old Me” that was put together by the David Cornfield Melanoma Fund. Of all the videos I’ve seen since, it is still the most powerful, moving, and scary PSA out there. In my opinion, it’s the best there is.
One of the people in the video died today, of ocular melanoma. She was just 26 years old. We see her first at 1:09 in the video. Her name was Meredith Legg Stapleton, and she was diagnosed at the age of 22. She was a standout basketball player at UNC. She was a daughter, a friend, a wife…and she was a beautiful warrior. This is how Meredith chose to live her last days; and live them, she did!
Reading of Meredith’s battle, I’m reminded of Jillian Hayes Wagner’s battle. Another warrior with undeniable courage. She stared melanoma down and fought with all she had every single day, until it took her life on December 29, 2012. You can read about Jillian’s journey through her mother’s blog, here.
There are countless other young people battling this cruel cancer. Grant, and Bethany, and Kadnyce just to name a few. And not that I had forgotten, but I’m reminded in the last week just how fragile life is. A fellow warrior sort of disappeared from our Facebook support group. It’s because she’s dying of this awful cancer. I have never met her, but that doesn’t matter. She’s a fellow warrior. One fellow warrior just went through, I believe, her 7th brain surgery, and is fighting with all she has. Another “molemate” just posted a few days ago that her friend died, way too young, also of melanoma. So, I’m just gonna say it. I HATE melanoma. People just don’t realize how nasty this cancer is.
So, fight on young warriors. There are a lot of people cheering for you.
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