Guest Post from the Polka Dot Mama

This week, we’re featuring a guest post from Tracy Callahan, who founded and leads the Polka Dot Mama Melanoma Foundation

T CallahanMy name is Tracy Callahan and I am the Founder and CEO of the Polka Dot Mama Melanoma Foundation established in 2015.

I was first diagnosed with early stage melanoma at the age of 38, and by age 40, I had been diagnosed two more times. I am the Mom of two amazing boys ages 8 and 10 and they nicknamed me the “Polka Dot Mama” because of my many moles. I consider myself fortunate that my melanomas were caught early. I know that this is not the case for many.

As a former research nurse, I knew and understood the importance of supporting and funding research. After my third diagnosis I decided to start blogging. I knew that I wanted to use my voice to raise awareness for this often unspoken about cancer. Soon after starting my blog, I reached out to the Melanoma Research Alliance (MRA).  I knew right away that I wanted to align myself with them and work towards raising money for much needed melanoma research.

In March of 2015, I began planning a Gala. I knew that I wanted it to not only benefit melanoma research, but I also wanted to stay committed to keeping it locally sourced. In addition to being a melanoma advocate, I am also a foodie!

On May 1, 2016, we will host our first annual “Taste For a Cure: Chef’s Gala Benefiting Melanoma Research.” This unique farm-to-table gala will raise money to be donated to the MRA. We have been overwhelmed with the support of our local community. It has been incredible to see local chefs, businesses and sponsors donating their time, talent and services to help us raise as much money as possible.  As of February 4 (World Cancer Day) our event is officially SOLD OUT!

In addition to the Gala, the Polka Dot Mama Melanoma Foundation has been working with a local media company and has begun production on public service announcements as well as an awareness video that will debut at the Gala. We have been collaborating with multiple grass roots melanoma moundations across the country in hopes that together we can have a larger impact.

So many advancements have been made with the treatment options for melanoma in the last few years. It is my strong belief that we are on the cusp of not only finding more effective treatments, but also a cure.  The MRA is the largest private funder of melanoma research and I am truly honored to be a charitable ally of theirs.

A Daughter’s Take: My Mother’s Journey

This week, we’re pleased to welcome our youngest guest blogger, Sadie Kargman. Sadie’s sharing her family’s personal experience with melanoma and has committed to helping support MRA through fundraising. Read more.

Hi, my name is Sadie and when I was only in second grade my mom was diagnosed with melanoma. At first, considering, I was only 8 I didn’t quite know what was happening to my mom. As the weeks went by I noticed a pattern, she kept on going to the doctors or having them come over and getting what I called booboos (shots). Later when she finally sat down and explained what was happing to her it struck me. I could lose my mother.

kargmans

Sadie with her mom and dad

When she was getting the treatment she needed I wanted to do everything I could to help my mom. Because I was so young the only thing I could do was be extra nice and try to make my moms life a little bit easier, and trust that the doctors were doing everything they could.

Luckily for my family, my mom was able to beat cancer. Now that I am older I am thrilled to be able to help those afflicted with the same disease that my mom had.

When it came to picking a charity for my bat mitzvah the choice was easy. I wanted to work with the MRA because the cause was so near to my heart. Not only am I committed to raising money for the MRA but I am also passionate about spreading awareness about melanoma.During my time at sleep away camp I am always encouraging other girls to wear sunscreen and protect themselves from the sun.

Hopefully through my partnership with MRA I can learn even more about melanoma and help raise awareness so others can prevent getting the same disease as my mom had.

 

To learn more and help support Sadie’s efforts, visit her fundraising page.

Daughter Celebrates Her Mom’s Health This Holiday Season

By Hilary Rogers

In this guest post, Hilary Rogers, a member of the Leveraged Finance Fights Melanoma Steering Committee, shares her perspective on her mom’s battle with melanoma.

In the winter of 2012, my family and I found out that our mother’s stage 3 melanoma diagnosis had progressed to her lungs. Even though this was not that long ago, the treatments available at the time only promised to delay the inevitable by a few years at most. On the tails of a wonderful

Rogers family

Author Hilary Rogers, left, and her family.

Thanksgiving and Christmas, it was heartbreaking to imagine it being one of the last holiday seasons that my mother, father, brother, sister and I would all spend together as a family. While I am sure that our parents shared the same fears that my siblings and I did, they were determined to not let melanoma interrupt our family’s future holidays together. They remained positive and researched various clinical trials, and we were thrilled when our mother was admitted into a trial for the new and promising immunotherapy drug, nivolumab.

After only a few months of receiving the treatment, the tumors on our mother’s lungs began to shrink. We were ecstatic when her doctor reported that the tumors were no longer there in the fall of 2014. It has been over a year since we received the incredible news, and we are happy to report that our mom is as healthy as ever.

Through good times and bad over the last three years, our mom continues to be the first one up on Christmas morning as she always has been. Rather than eclipse our family holidays, her fight has brought our family and friends even closer together.

When the FDA approved several of the immunotherapy drugs last year, my family and I were thrilled for the thousands of melanoma patients whose lives were about to potentially change by having access to these groundbreaking drugs.  My family and I are extremely grateful for the work and dedication that go into the research, funding and development of these innovative drugs that have changed the medical landscape, and most importantly, the lives of those affected by melanoma.

What we’ve gone through has brought new awareness to my family and everyone we know. I can’t get into my brother’s car without seeing his SPF 70 sunscreen handy in the center console. My sister and I go to the dermatologist regularly for skin checks. This year we’re even taking a family trip for New Year’s to foggy London rather than some warm beach as we have done in the past.

Most importantly, we as a family understand the risks of this disease, but also the hope that lies in today’s new treatments. It has been our goal and pleasure to spread this awareness to people and families going through what we went through so that their holidays may continue to be happy too.

We would like to thank MRA as well as the researchers, doctors and –above all else – the patients who have enrolled in these groundbreaking trials. Your hard work, dedication and bravery have made it possible for our family as well as countless others to look forward to enjoying many more joyful holidays together in the years to come. For that, we are eternally grateful.

Melanoma News Round-Up, June 21

Hello everyone!  We hope you had a wonderful week and you’ve been staying sun safe.  Here are a few highlights to share with you:

High school students created melanoma awareness videos to warn their peers about the dangers of melanoma as part of the Jeff Dulude Melanoma Foundation & Edgemaker’s Defeat Melanoma PSA contest.  We think you’ll agree that the results are powerful and moving.

 

Top 30 Grant-Giving Disease Foundations via GEN (Spoiler: MRA is #1)

More Arrows in the Arsenal: dramatic advacenments in Immunotherapy offer news options for patients with melanoma via John Hopkins Medicine

What’s the Best Sunscreen For You via U.S. World News & Report

Balloons raise money for melanoma sufferer via The Examiner

Sunscreen alone not enough to protect against melanoma via Medical News Today

Checkpoint agents are shifting paradigms toward immunotherapy via OncLive

Cancer survivor continues to fight via Livingston Daily

Tales from ASCO: The future of cancer research via Philly.com

Best not to fool around with the sun gods via Dallas Morning News

 

Melanoma News Round-Up, May 31

Today is the last day of Melanoma Awareness Month and what a ride it’s been!  Thank you to all of our allies and everyone who dedicated their efforts to raising awareness of melanoma and offering support to fund melanoma research.

MRA is delighted to share our brand new video featuring our world-class research program. We’re incredibly proud of our impact on melanoma research, providing $120 million through grants and leveraged funding to accelerate scientific discovery and its translation. Watch the video and learn how we do it!

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9X9Q-uNWnQI]

 

From May 30 to June 3, MRA is attending the American Society of Clinical Oncology‘s (ASCO) 50th annual meeting in Chicago and ASCO is all abuzz about immunotherapies and melanoma treatment.  To learn more about immunotherapy treatments, check out these articles:

New drugs aid in the fight against melanoma, the deadliest skin cancer via Miami Herald

Immune Therapy’s Cancer Promise Creates Research Rush via Bloomberg

Advances in Melanoma Treatment Prolonging Lives via Boston Globe

This Thursday, the FDA announced it will now require warning labels on tanning beds.  This black-box warning will state that sunlamps in tanning salons should not be used by persons under 18.  This marks another incredible advancement in melanoma prevention policy, in addition to Minnesota and Louisiana announcing legislation banning minors from tanning bed use.

Nine states total have instituted under-18 bans for indoor tanning to address the alarming incidence of melanoma in young people.  Melanoma is the second most common form of cancer people aged 15-29.  A recent study shows that indoor tanning increases your risk of melanoma, even if you don’t burn, because “tanning is a biological response to damage to the DNA […] and you’re going to get that [ultraviolet light] damage in a tanning booth whether or not you burn.”

To address this health risk to young people, the Jeff Dulude Melanoma Foundation and Edgemakers are inviting teenagers to help create a PSA to warn their peers about the dangers of melanoma and how to prevent it.  Learn more about the contest here.

Finally, we would like to share this story about a melanoma survivor who has dedicated himself to supporting other melanoma patients.

 

 

Melanoma News Round-Up, May 24

The third week of Melanoma Awareness Month is coming to a close and we have so much news to share with you, but before we recap—check out what’s happening right now!

Today is Sunhat Saturday, a day devoted to the importance of wearing hats as sun protection.  Join us in celebrating Sunhat Saturday by sharing pictures of yourself, your family and friends wearing hats and you could be featured on our Twitter or Facebook! #SunhatSat

SunhatSat FB

Monday, MRA’s president and CEO, Wendy Selig, wrote It’s Time for the US to Catch Up on Melanoma Prevention for the Huffington Post.  Later that day, MRA announced the 2014 research grants, awarding a record-breaking $11 million to 19 institutions worldwide.  MRA also attended the GSK Summit where melanoma bloggers and thought leaders met to discuss new ways to engage with melanoma patients and how to make a difference.

Tuesday, MRA attended the BayBio briefing on Capitol Hill where Wendy Selig spoke about the importance of federal funding of medical research.  At 5:00 PM, the L’Oréal Paris It’s THAT Worth IT Thunderclap went live with over 2,500 supporters jointly broadcasting to over 7 million people about the importance of sunscreen and supporting MRA’s research program.  Later that evening, MRA’s Leveraged Finance Fights Melanoma event at Rockefeller Center in New York City raised an astounding $1.4 million for melanoma research.  We are thankful to L’Oréal Paris, Bergdorf Goodman, Eric Javits and Double Cross Vodka for their contributions to the event.

Wednesday, MRA attended the Shade Foundation poster contest where K-8 children created posters on sun safety.  The event drove home the importance of educating the young on the dangers of UV rays and how sun protection is essential for everyone’s well-being.  Here’s a picture of one of the winners!

Shade Foundation winner

Friday, Wendy Selig appeared on FOX News to discuss the Sunscreen Innovation Act and how the US needs the best sunscreen products to prevent melanoma.  We also celebrated national Don’t Fry Day, spreading the message of sun safety as a timely reminder on the Friday before Memorial Day weekend.  Sun protection is especially important during the summer when people will be spending more time outdoors, so please stay sun safe.

Finally, here are a few highlights from the melanoma news this week:

Minnesota becomes 8th state to ban indoor tanning for minors via NY Daily News

Don’t Fry Day: A Reminder to Protect Your Skin via Huffington Post

A powerful story from melanoma survivor Michelle LeBlanc via Close Up With Elizabeth Grady

Skin cancer increases risk of other cancers via Health Blog

 

Melanoma News Round-Up, May 17

So much exciting news as we pass the halfway point of Melanoma Awareness Month!

ICYMI we shared our new video highlighting MRA’s collaborative approach to melanoma research and raising awareness.

 

We also shared Jamie’s story as she expressed ‘the reality of “surviving” stage IV melanoma.’

Next Tuesday, May 20, two exciting events will take place:

Finally, here are a few highlights of the melanoma news coverage this week:

10 Things to Know About Melanoma via ABCNews

A bittersweet story about a young mother of two who lost her husband to melanoma when he was only 28 via Delaware State News

A melanoma survivor tells teens to “rock the skin you’re in,” use sunscreen & avoid indoor tanning via WOWT

Blood biomarkers may enhance melanoma detection potentially reducing the need for invasive skin biopsies via MedicalXpress

‘Michelle’s Melanoma Army’ educates teens on skin cancer via The Anniston Star

Encouraging results for nivolumab in hopes of raising survival expectations for advanced melanoma patients via BMS News