Thursday, December 29, 2011

2012: The Year In Preview

Not being one to make "resolutions," I'd rather count the blessings of the year that's giving way to the New Year and look ahead to the blessings I hope come to pass.

The blessings have been huge, but none more so than in the melanoma community. To quote from the Melanoma Research Alliance: "2011 is a year in which landmark advances in melanoma research and treatment have been made. Two new drugs for the treatment of metastatic melanoma have been approved. These breakthroughs underscore remarkable progress that has been unfolding in the four years since the founding of the Melanoma Research Alliance (MRA)," Read the two page report.

There has been a mixed blessing within the growing community of those of us with melanoma at any stage. The blessing is not that the community is growing. Frankly, those of us already staying at Hotel Melanoma really don't want more people crowding the place up; and trust me, though the hotel proprietor does a good job, he doesn't want to keep enlarging his establishment either. Plus, you'd really rather be booking accommodations at a true luxury resort that you can leave when you want. Unfortunately, way too many people don't seem to be willing to take our word for it and just insist on checking the place out for themselves. Folks, "truth in advertizing" does exist and it exists at HM where the proprietor means it when he warns, "We can check out any time we like, but we can never leave."

But that brings me to the blessing that is found at HM and that is that as our numbers grow, there are names and faces and stories that are behind the numbers. We are real people with a very real vested interest in you knowing what we have to tell you. We're really very open and honest about how we came to find ourselves living, and way too often, dying, with melanoma. We want to kick the Beast (what melanoma is often referred to as) in the butt and to the curb. We see real hope and promise in that happening. While it's too late for us, it may not be too late for you or for our children. But you've got to pay attention! We're throwing out a lifeline that too many are ignoring. That's dangerous and deadly, people. Let us be a blessing to you instead of looking at us as an annoyance. 

More and more stories are getting told! Blogs are being written, pictures shared, videos made, Facebook pages established for support and education. People are coming forward and sharing, in record numbers, to make a difference and make this journey count for something positive.

As we move into 2012 that's a blessing that will continue and grow. But I want to ask for more. One, if you already are sharing your story in some way, please, please make sure your name and face are attached! All blogs and Fb pages are set up where you can add "about" info. Putting a real name and face with your story makes it more powerful and real. It forces those who know you to sit up and take notice. Two, if you are not sharing your story at all, please do it! This really isn't the time to care about privacy or modesty. Even if you only cause one person to start taking their skin seriously and only one person is spared melanoma because you dared and cared, then wouldn't it be worth it to tell what this is all about and maybe even share a picture or two? In 2008, it never occurred to me to have pictures taken to document my surgeries and drainage tubes. I'm grateful and blessed by those who do it today though. Those who have made "no holes barred" videos are my heroes. We are talking "life and death" here people, so please, please share your story.

I see 2012 as another year for even greater progress in research and treatment options. Please read this one page Strategic Research Plan 2011-2015 from the MRA. This won't be cheap! Look in the mirror. YOU benefit from this work. Look at your family. THEY benefit from this work. Look at the people you cross paths with every day that have skin. THEY benefit from this work, though they probably don't know it. It's going to be largely up to those of us already in the melanoma community to do what we can to fund this. 

So, in 2012, what can you do? We're all at different places and stages with different means, resources, abilities, situations, stories, the list goes on. The one thing we have in common, besides a common enemy, is a common (or should I say "Uncommon"?) God. God has given each of us a means to diminish the beast that seeks to diminish us. We won't each have the same way and means. But that's how it should be. It takes each of us bringing to the table what we can each bring and putting it all together.

Many of the strides being made are borne out of how melanoma has touched and/or devastated a life and family. AIM at Melanoma and the David Cornfield Melanoma Fund are but two organizations working on behalf of us for those who need to know what we know. (DCMF is the producer of "Dear 16 Year Old Me").

Not all of us will be working on such a large scale. I lift up Kspin Designs, as another example of how God uses our talents along with our melanoma to make a difference (read Kerry's "About Us" page). Read about how she networks to raise funds for research.

Do an online search for melanoma blogs and sites. Look at your home town. What do you see, who do you see, where do you see God calling YOU to step forward and educate, tell your story, make a difference? How can you turn 2012 around for someone before the year even begins?

As people of faith, we look back at the year passing and we look forward to the year that is coming. It's going to come and it will bring joy, it will bring sorrow. It will bring blessing and it will bring challenges. It will bring life and it will bring death. We each choose rather to ride its coattails or put that coat on and model it down life's runway.

Make 2012 a year of blessing as only you can. Not only for your family and friends, but for people you may not even know. You have a story to tell and your story will make an impact on someone whether you ever learn of it or not. Your coat has melanoma stitched in the seams. Put that coat on and model it down your life's runway. If you ride its coattails, that's your choice, but you'll ride it into obscurity.

As for me, I'm a Southern Mama Preacher and we hate to waste a good story.

And I am grateful.

(Link to last year's post around this time of year:  Resolutions Schmesolutions)