08/02/1975 — 01/15/2012
My beautiful younger sister, Samantha Channels, age 36, lived in Hilo, Hawaii, with her husband James and four beautiful children Embre’sha, 16, Josyah, 9, Isaac, 6, and Hayzen, 4. Samantha was a warrior who fought melanoma skin cancer and an advocate and creator of GotSunBlock.com, dedicated to raising awareness of melanoma skin cancer and the fight to find a cure.
In 2003, she decided to see a dermatologist to have her moles checked. Some were removed, but she didn’t think too much of it. The birth of GotSunBlock happened by a simple domain email address. ” I needed to get information sent by email to me,” Samantha said.
It wasn’t until 2004, when she discovered a tumor on her arm adjacent to where she previously had a mole, that she became concerned. At this point, Samantha was diagnosed with Stage III melanoma.
Samantha didn’t know until after she was diagnosed that she was genetically predisposed to melanoma. It runs in her father’s side of the family. She grew up on the beaches of Keaukaha in Hilo, Hawaii, and at that time, wearing sunscreen wasn’t something we thought about.
Samantha did a year of Interferon adjuvant immunotherapy. It wasn’t easy but gave her 3 years of no evidence of disease (NED). Then, in November 2008, 7 days after Samantha gave birth to Hayzen, doctors discovered and removed a 3″ tumor from her intestines. Nine months later, after doing a repeat PET scan, doctors found a mass in her liver.
In November 2008, James and Samantha launched a fundraising t-shirt that had the GotSunBlock logo. It sold well. A total of 300+ shirts were sold out of the trunk of her car. With the support of co-workers, family, and friends, her family packed up and sold much of everything they had to move to Arizona where she started treatments at the Mayo Hospital.
By March 2009 Samantha completed three different types of chemotherapy, an immunotherapy called Interleukin 2b, which consisted of two rounds of 14 doses, administered in the ICU. This treatment made Samantha very sick-dangerously so-with her blood pressure dropping extremely low. Still, Samantha forged ahead. After this treatment, scans showed that the tumor in her liver had only shrunk 10%. She ultimately chose to have a liver ablation. This was really rough, and it took about a month for Samantha to recover.
While on treatments in the ICU, she had dreams of launching her very own clothing line that promotes melanoma awareness, GotSunBlock® and GotSunBLOCK parties, with awesome support of talented musicians and artists to raise awareness and funds for melanoma research and to celebrate life!
Samantha felt so blessed to have a supportive and loving family. With their help and encouragement, along with the support of the community, Samantha was able to return home to Hawaii in June 2009. In September 2009 Samantha completed her first liver ablation in Arizona’s Mayo Hospital. Samantha then returned back home to Hawaii to recover and continued on with her hopes and dreams and her passion to raise awareness.
On Jan. 21, 2010, Samantha once again completed all sorts of scans back on Oahu, Hawaii. The results showed that Samantha’s liver was still active with metastasis of melanoma, a ring around the old tumor. Doctors planned a resection of the mass in Samantha’s liver at St. Francis Hospital East, in Honolulu, Hawaii. On March 18, 2010, Samantha endured (30% removal) liver surgery and removal of her gall bladder that was damaged from all the treatments.
On Sept. 23, 2010, Samantha completed new scans (PET); results showed a new mass between her stomach and liver.
On Nov. 6, 2010, the GotSunBlock party was hosted at KBXtreme in Kona, Hawaii. We celebrated GotSunBlockTM clothing’s first birthday while we raised awareness of melanoma skin cancer. It was sponsored and supported by a melanoma foundation, KBXtreme aka Kona Bowl, Banana Boat/Hawaiian Tropic, Native FM, Big Island Harley Davidson, 808fifty, Sleek to Chic Day Spa, cerjousa Sun Glasses, & MalamaMusic.com. Music was provided and generously donated by IRAY, along with Jayden “TheShow” Loungmiller, Out of No Where, Pure Talent, Kimie, Positive Motion, “Uncle” Bruddah Waltah, RJ Kaneao, with a special appearance by Anuhea. This concert was an amazing experience! She planned to pursue island-wide through more events and into our schools. “As a mom of four young children who have my heart, a 4x survivor, and a ongoing fighter for 7 years, I want nothing more than to help educate people of this terrible disease, thrive in GotSunBlock clothing / GotSunBlock.com / GotSunBlock parties, and of course, to eventually find a cure,” said Samantha.
On April 15, 2011, Samantha completed CT/PET combo plus a brain MRI on the Island of Oahu. Results showed three melanoma (skin cancer) tumor masses, one in Samantha’s lower pelvis and two again in her liver.
Treatment, Yervoy, also known as ipilimumab (IPI), was planned to start in 3 weeks on Oahu at $30K a pop. “Praise God my health insurance will cover!” said Samantha. Still praying, her flights and transportation were also covered! No one ever in (Queens Hospital) Hawaii had ever done this melanoma treatment before, so Samantha would be the first!
On May 3, Samantha completed her first of four doses of Yervoy on the island of Oahu. The treatment had just started showing side effects. She was exhausted and emotional, to say the least. On Tuesday she did the second infusion and every 3 weeks after that. It didn’t work; it actually made the tumors worse.
On August 27, Samantha left behind her husband, children, family, and friends and left for MD Anderson, Houston, Texas, for clinical trials. On Sept. 18, 2011, Samantha began losing her hair and had to wear a wig due to the intense chemo treatments she was receiving in Texas. She spent over 6 weeks away from her husband and her four children, by herself in Texas trying to fight to live for her children.
On Sept. 26, 2011, she decided to come home to Hawaii to be home in time for her daughter’s 16th birthday and to spend the holidays with her children. On Oct. 4, 2011, back at MD Anderson in Houston, Texas, Samantha continued with two more rounds of chemo every 3 weeks.
On Oct. 12, 2011, she got her full brain and body scans at MD Anderson Cancer Hospital. The smallest tumors shrunk a bit, and the larger tumors in her liver grew more. Her scans had gone from just two tumors to “uncountable tumors” in her liver and several lymph nodes affected in her chest and liver and a “spillage” of melanoma from her lymph nodes in her lower pelvis and brain. It was spreading to all parts of her body.
She continued to try to get as much treatment she could handle, but it wasn’t helping; it was making her weaker and not strong enough to fight any more. Her spirit became broken, and the beast she had fought for almost 10 years of her life was winning.
She was admitted to Hilo Hospital in October 2011. She stayed in there for some time; she was getting weaker and having a hard time doing anything, but she managed to walk out of the hospital to be with her four children. At this point she had decided to stop chemo; she didn’t want to be away from her children any more. She wanted to take every moment she could to spend with her children. She began trying more natural ways to fight and help her heal. She remained positive up until the end.
Samantha was inspiring; she touched people from all over the world, raising awareness and educating people about this beast; she brought people together who were all fighting the same thing; she was a huge supporter and an amazing woman. Through her years with cancer, she still managed to have a smile on her face, look beautiful, and raise her four beautiful children.
She is my hero, and the hero of many. I love my sister, and she will be remembered, always and forever
Aimee Addison, sister