People living with melanoma often benefit from practical help and advice from others who have lived through similar situations. Support groups bring people together and provide a safe forum for exchanging perspectives, sharing concerns, and gaining confidence to face the future. Of course, each of us has to find a way of dealing with a melanoma cancer diagnosis. None will take us back to where we were before, but the key is finding the one that lets you live the best, most positive life today and tomorrow. In this episode, two melanoma survivors who serve as volunteer mentors in AIM’s Peer Connect program talk about finding meaning and empowerment while helping others.
About our Guests:
Carrie was diagnosed with Stage IA melanoma in 2020 and again in 2021. Over the past couple of years, she has had four early-stage tumors removed and says she has more skin biopsy scars than she can count. Carrie has joined a mole mapping study at Stanford University and is treated at CPMC in San Francisco.
Carrie lives with her husband, Tim, and six children in Sonoma, California, where she works part-time as a pediatric nurse. Carrie and Tim’s children are aged 8 – 20. She tries to be transparent with them about her treatment and uses this journey as an opportunity to teach sun safety.
Carrie’s Peer Connect experience began in early March 2022 when she requested a mentor. She indicated that she felt a lot of guilt from her many years in the sun and was looking for ways to cope and feel comfortable in her skin. Carrie was looking for someone who could genuinely be empathetic and would understand how she felt.
Carrie is a strong believer that by helping others, you will always help yourself!
Bob was diagnosed with Stage III melanoma in 2016 and has been treated by Dr. Adil Daud at the University of California, San Francisco. He had all his lymph nodes removed from under one arm and was in a clinical trial testing Keytruda vs. placebo for five years, including one year of infusions.
Bob lives with his wife, Kathy and dog, Lady, in Winters, CA. They are both retired from the University of California and the public school system. Bob and Kathy have five adult children and 17 grandchildren, including two great-grandchildren. Their large family keeps them happy and on the move!
Bob is actively involved in AIM at Melanoma and other support systems for melanoma patients and caregivers. He co-coordinated the 2022 Northern CA Bay Area “Walk Against Melanoma” and plans to do so again in 2023. He is also one of AIM’s peer support “mentors” for newly diagnosed melanoma patients. For the past couple years, Bob has served as a “Consumer Reviewer” for the US Department of Defense’s “Melanoma Research Program” reviewing cutting-edge grants from scientists nationwide.
Bob is a road cyclist, swimmer, hiker, and meditator. He has been a hospice volunteer for six years at the state prison. He considers it one of his life’s most engaging, healing experiences. Bob is also an IRS-certified tax preparer who volunteers as part of a county team to provide free income tax preparation and e-filing to low-income families. Bob also serves as a member of his church’s social justice and outreach team that provides a range of support to local families in need.
Bob says melanoma had a profound life-changing experience in the most positive sense. He would never wish melanoma on anyone – ever! But everything he has experienced and everyone he’s met has made his life so much better and more meaningful. He feels blessed.