Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Hanging Out With Mama Bears On MelaRoad

A friend shared about her urgent need to tell others about her melanoma at the end of my blog post Hold Out Your Candle and ended her comment by writing, "Everyone and their dogs knows about breast cancer these days; society is oversaturated with pink this and pink that. I say it's high time we paint it black." (emphasis mine).

And the choir sings, "Hallelujah!" And the rest of us in the pews say, "Amen, sister, preach it!" And the melanoma community jumps up and down and cheers. We've got some rallying cries because this is what many of us are thinking, saying, preaching, and doing. There's a growing grassroots population chanting:

It's high time we paint society black.
We will not only be heard, we will be seen. The faces of melanoma.

Part of this grassroots population are mamas; women determined to make a difference in the fight against melanoma. Women who are driven to make sure their children's faces are seen and their stories are heard so that maybe, just maybe and prayerfully, other mamas won't ever hear the words, "Your child has melanoma." That's not to say that daddies aren't equally passionate about their children, but often, from what I've seen, the daddies are supportive while the mamas are the driving force.

And Mama Bears are a force to be reckoned with. Don't mess with her cubs. This is one Mama Bear's story about her 21 year old daughter's face plastering melanoma awareness billboards in Michigan.

We have a hard time imagining a young 20-something with stage 4 melanoma. We think of it as an older Caucasian man's disease. It sets our minds to swimming to fathom teenage boys getting it. But they do. Their mamas hear those words, "Your teenage son has melanoma." And even as difficult as that is to wrap our minds around, we really think we've landed on another planet when we consider children younger than ten getting it. A child born with it.

Pediatric melanoma is rare and not caused by sun or tanning exposure. But "numbers" and "statistics" don't matter when it's your child. Your four year old daughter.

Grace is the six year old child of another Mama Bear I travel MelaRoad with. She was four when she was diagnosed. Her mother shares her story in this new article. It's packed with Grace, grace, and more grace. It's also packed with helpful tips and facts of what to look for in your own children.

Just like Jillian's Mama Bear could have said, "There's no way my child's face is going up on billboards sharing our pain," Grace's Mama Bear could have refused to share her family's pain inflicted by this cancer.

But that's not how true Mama Bears behave. Mama Bears, because they know the pain, honor the children they are inspired by and demand their pain not be in vein. They refuse to let their children be ignored and their stories not be told. Melanoma has done enough and these Mamas will not let their stories be squelched. They want their children seen and their stories shared. They would give everything they own if melanoma were not part of their child's life and their family's story. But that's not how life has turned out for them.

Mama Bears don't just stick up for their own children, they stick up for other children, too. They know what a lot of other parents do not know about melanoma. About young-adult onset melanoma and about pediatric melanoma and they have a need to get the word out.

We all need to get the word out and be avenues to help them share their stories so their story doesn't become your child's story. We're going to paint society black.  We're coming at you and we mean business. We're deadly serious. We have to be. Melanoma is deadly serious.

Again, six year old Grace's story.

I'm grateful for our Mama Bears who share what many people keep private. There are many others, no way is MelaRoad only inhabited by these two. But these two put a Face On Melanoma the world usually doesn't get to see.