Vinnie Bellanti

07/21/1935 — 02/08/2009
As summer approaches, thoughts of tanning and sun events will be filling our minds. Before you begin these sun related activities, please remember to be safe. Dig out your hat, sunglasses and buy a new bottle of sunscreen. These little protection steps may save your life or the life of a loved one.

I know all too well how too much of a good thing can affect you and your loved ones. In 1999 I lost my husband to melanoma and my stepfather in 2009. I had to witness their personal journeys with this terrible disease. I was there to watch as two people I loved dearly melted away into nothingness.

My husband, Ron’s journey began with a mole in his mustache. Ron lasted 18 months from diagnosis to death. I wondered how a small mole could change the man I loved for 32 years. He was always so strong, but with the cancer he grew weak in structure but not in character. He fought hard with every new battle until he had no flight left. I learned so much about melanoma. What a beast it really is and how easy it is to tame it with early detection.

I thought I had put melanoma behind me until May 2008 when my stepfather was told he had melanoma. My jaw dropped and I was in shock when I heard that news. My first thought was why were we going through this a second time? Dad had been dealing with a boil like sore under his eye and not being able to breath easily. I thought he might have lung cancer since no one seemed concerned about his eye problem. He insisted that he should have the boil under his eye removed. A biopsy revealed melanoma. His cancer had already spread throughout his body. My Dad lasted only 9 months.

I cared for both my husband and my father at home with help from family and Hospice staff. Those days were very hard for both of them and for our family. We have many memories of how we treated each day with hope and love.

I can look back at those times and know I must tell others about melanoma. I think the general population must be made aware of how deadly this disease can be. I want people to be safe and learn the warning signs of melanoma. We need to know what to do to prevent it and then tell others.

Here are the points to remember:
Melanoma is the most serious form of skin cancer. However, if it is recognized and treated early, it is nearly 100 percent curable. But if it is not, the cancer can advance and spread to other parts of the body, where it becomes hard to treat and can be fatal.
Melanoma is a malignant tumor that originates in melanocytes, the cells which produce the pigment melanin that colors our skin, hair, and eyes. The majority of melanomas are black or brown. However, some melanomas are skin-colored, pink, red, purple, blue or white
Get your skin checked for melamona every year, wear sunscreen, a hat and sun glasses when you go outside. Try to avoid the sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
Melanoma can be stopped if we are aware and protect ourselves.

Enjoy your summertime events but please be safe when doing so.
Susan Tafini

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