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When she an 18-year-old college freshman, Kristen Beard DeLaney had what she believed was a routine procedure. Plastic surgeon Dr. James Green removed a mole from her chest. The situation was far from routine, however, for the fair-skinned DeLaney, who had regularly seen a dermatologist.
The diagnosis was melanoma, the deadliest of skin cancers.
“I will never forget answering the phone in my parents’ room one afternoon and detecting the alarm in Dr. Green’s voice,” said DeLaney.
About two decades later, DeLaney is a two-time melanoma survivor and the honoree for the 4th Annual USA Mitchell Cancer Institute Hope Cup, a golf tournament to be held May 12. The event, held during Skin Cancer Awareness Month, will raise money to establish a Melanoma and Skin Cancer Endowment at MCI.
Sponsored by Springhill Toyota, the Hope Cup is organized as a four-person scramble in which participants have the opportunity to win a brand-new Toyota. The tournament, held at The Country Club of Mobile, begins at 10:30 a.m. with lunch at 11 a.m. In addition, MCI experts will present a Lunch & Learn on skin cancer research, detection, and prevention at 12:30 p.m. in the Country Club ballroom (registration required).
Skin cancer is one of the most common cancers nationwide, with melanoma accounting for 75 percent of skin cancer fatalities, says Casey Daniel, Ph.D., assistant professor of Oncologic Sciences at MCI and a melanoma survivor. Disturbingly, melanoma rates have increased 200 percent since 1973. Baldwin County’s incident rate is 116.8 per 100,000 people versus the national rate of 78 per 100,000.
Despite these harrowing statistics, most people adopt an “it won’t happen to me” stance when it comes to skin cancer; DeLaney was admittedly of such a mindset before her diagnosis.
“It brought awareness to me and my family; no one is invincible to cancer, and it can strike at any age,” she said.
Because of her diagnosis and because early detection is critical, DeLaney became increasingly vigilant about getting regular skin checks and biopsies of questionable spots. DeLaney attributes her first melanoma diagnosis with finding her second one. DeLaney explained, “I had a light pink bump on my calf that just didn’t feel right. It was not the typical melanoma that I looked for (dark, irregular borders), but it was unlike any other spot on my skin, that raised a red flag.” DeLaney’s instincts were right. Only this time, the melanoma was much deeper and more serious than the one she’d had 15 years prior.
“I will never forget that night, the feeling of complete disbelief and fear. As an 18-year-old with cancer, you feel a bit invincible. As a 35-year-old mother, you feel out of control and fear the worst.”
Recently, DeLaney surpassed the critical two-year mark following diagnosis and treatment, which merited a wide excision on her leg and two skin grafts.
DeLaney said her experience has led her family to support the Mitchell Cancer Institute’s academic cancer research closer to home. “Cancer is a very personal experience. I do not particularly like to discuss the details, but I feel it is my duty to share my story,” DeLaney said.
“On average, a person’s risk of melanoma doubles if he or she has more than five sunburns.” Living on the coast, “most of us had several sunburns before our teen years.” In college, DeLaney and her friends frequented tanning beds, which research indicates increases the risk. Through her involvement with the Hope Cup, DeLaney said she hopes that people will self-advocate and will learn more about how serious, yet preventable, melanoma is.
For more information and to register for the Hope Cup or Lunch & Learn session, visit the MCI website at www.usamci.com/hopecup or call Kori Saucier at 251-460-7032.
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