“From an awareness standpoint…I feel many people are not adequately informed and don’t take skin cancer seriously.”
-Steve Leckrone, Melanoma Survivor
Break out your wide brimmed hats and sunscreen folks, because May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month! As the rate of newly diagnosed lung cancer patients finally starts to level off, skin cancer cases continue to rise yearly. “An estimated one in five Americans will be diagnosed with skin cancer in their lifetime, and one person dies from melanoma – the deadliest form of skin cancer – every hour.” (ABC news) Of the three types of skin cancer – basal cell carcinoma (BCC), squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) and melanoma – melanoma is by far the most deadly. According to The Skin Cancer Foundation there will be an estimated 120,000 new cases of melanoma diagnosed in 2014, and 8,000 of these cases will be fatal. However, melanoma is not only preventable, but it also has a very high survival rate when caught early.
We reached out to Baltimore BOYAA member, and Melanoma survivor, Steve Leckrone (SL) and asked him to share some of his story and help spread awareness this month.
SL “I had a mole on my right forearm, which took a turn for the worse into melanoma. Over the summer of 2012, my wife and mom started noticing the mole changing and continued to ride me until I eventually went to the dermatologist in April 2013. Prior to being diagnosed, I had very little knowledge about skin cancer, specifically melanoma. I was ignorant in thinking that it would be just a simple fix by cutting it off and stitching it up.”
No skin cancer treatment is as simple as “slice and remove”. Like other cancer treatments, the procedures are long, exhausting, and put your whole life on hold.
Photo of Leckrone’s right arm before treatment.
SL “When the results of my initial biopsy came back and the melanoma diagnosis was confirmed, I tried my hardest to block it out and not accept or think about the changes that lay ahead. With many things circling around in my head and the information overload I was experiencing from the doctors and the internet, the reality of the situation was very overwhelming. Initially, I knew my life as I knew it was going to change, but I had no clue how much. It all set in quickly the day of my surgery sitting in the recovery room when the doctor said, ‘You cannot use your right hand for anything and no driving for 6 weeks’.”
When asked what difficulties skin cancer survivors face when undergoing treatment, Leckrone first responded that…
SL “Initially the biggest difficulty I faced was being able to retain all the information being thrown my way. Information overload is an understatement. I learned to limit the amount of research I did on the internet by limiting myself to only specific websites to research treatments and what lay ahead.”
but followed with…
SL ” I would say the most difficult aspect of being a melanoma Survivor is living with the fear of reoccurrence.”
Skin cancers are quickly becoming the most diagnosed cancer type in America, as “more than one out of every three new cancers are (diagnosed) skin cancers…” (Skin Cancer Foundation). However as stated above, survival rates are very high if caught early. A good rule of thumb for self detection are the “ABCDE”s of Melanoma.
Photo of Leckrone’s right arm during treatment.
A – Asymmetry. If you draw a line through the middle of the mole, the halves of a melanoma won’t match in size.
B – Border. The edges of an early melanoma tend to be uneven, crusty or notched.
C – Color. Healthy moles are uniform in color. A variety of colors, especially white and/or blue, is bad.
D – Diameter. Melanomas are usually larger in diameter than a pencil eraser, although they can be smaller.
E – Evolving. When a mole changes in size, shape or color, or begins to bleed or scab, this points to danger.
SL “From an awareness standpoint, like myself prior to my April 2013, I feel many people are not adequately informed and don’t take skin cancer seriously. I heard a great comment recently which sums this simple and scary fact up nicely: In short: Every high school student graduates high school knowing the causes and effects of HIV/AIDS, yet someone diagnosed with HIV/AIDS can live on for 30+ years. Can we say the same for melanoma, which can take someone’s life in weeks?”
The Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults prides ourselves in the network of support we’ve created over the past 16 years. We help young adults impacted by all cancers, not just melanoma, find the information and assistance they need to complete their cancer journeys. Leckrone connected with UCF for that very reason. Now a member of the Baltimore BOYAA, he plans to give aid to those who, like him, need an advocate to point them in the right direction.
SL “As noted above, the internet can be an overwhelming and frankly a horrible place to research any form of cancer. I found the UCF website early in the process and it quickly became a go to resource for my wife and myself throughout my treatment. After watching the 3 minute video on the homepage I knew UCF was going to be a great resource. Additionally, Doug Ulman was not only a Baltimore guy like myself, he was also a 3 time Melanoma survivor. Connection was made. Now as a BOYAA member, I am looking forward to doing so many things with UCF, from continuing to utilize the amazing resources available to young adult cancer survivors, to helping other young adults throughout their battles, and most importantly spreading awareness throughout our local communities and beyond. “
So take a moment this Melanoma Monday to familiarize yourself with skin cancer and how you can prevent it. And if you think you may have a suspicious mole on your body, don’t hesitate to contact your dermatologist. Cancer changes lives…SO DO WE!