Thursday, January 2, 2014

When Warriors Walk Among Us

Today would have been my friend Jennifer's 41st birthday. I try these days very hard not to "celebrate" or remember milestones of those that I love that have's too many people now with too many days at this point.  

But back in May I wrote this article for and some friends were sharing it tonight on Facebook so I wanted to capture it here.  

Looking back at this photo session of her I miss her so much...she was SO full of life!

There are people that come into our lives, that leave such an impermeable mark, that after they are gone from this world, we realize they couldn't have been human. There are people that walk among us that are super-human, they are warriors and you know it when you meet them.
That was my friend Jennifer.
She had a personality that was larger than life. She was hilariously funny, a fiercely loyal friend and could drink most guys I knew under the table. We grew up together in the shadow of the Space Shuttle in a small beach community in Florida where our school days were book-ended with weekends in the sun, on the beach and in the pool.
It's been almost two years since she died. She was 38. She had battled melanoma for 8 years before her passing but make no mistake about it, she LIVED her life. Yes, all in CAPS. She is one of the faceless numbers in the statistics of melanoma cancer. But I want you to see her face, I want to you see her spirit and her light and her LIFE. She wasn't faceless. She was a warrior.
Don't think I don't realize how easily it could have been me. Don't think it can't be you.
We grew up on the beach, in the sun, with sunburned noses and tan legs. I loved the sun like all the other teenagers who you could find rubbing baby oil on our skin and putting lemon juice in our hair any Saturday afternoon on Cocoa Beach.
We didn't use SPF or know about it and we didn't know that one day, we would all gather at a funeral for one of our own.
Skin cancer affects one in five Americans, and more than 1 million new cases are diagnosed each year. Of these cases, more than 65,000 are melanoma, a cancer that claims nearly 11,000 lives each year.
Those are the statistics, those are the numbers. Those faceless numbers, they represent our loved ones. They represent amazingly strong warriors out there right now who are mothers and brothers, sisters and uncles. People. My people. Your people. Our people.
I didn't want to write a story about SPF and statistics, I just wanted to remind you that May is Melanoma Awareness Month. I wanted you to know it's real.
When teenagers sit in tanning beds for prom and when we perpetuate a culture where we teach little girls that to be thin and tan is cool, 1 in 5 will die from it.
From something that could have been prevented.

Studies have confirmed that sun exposure is responsible for the development of at least two-thirds of all melanomas. It is estimated that 80 percent of a person's lifetime sun damage occurs before the age of 18, a significant portion of which occurs during peak sun hours and in the summer.
I urge you to think about your sun exposure and how much your children are getting. Please use sunscreen daily, carry a hat and be mindful of the sun's rays. Visit your dermatologist yearly for an exam and screening.
Mostly I'd like you to take away from Melanoma Awareness that these months aren't created for any other reason than to remind us. To reminds us of people like Jennifer and their warrior spirit. To remember that these statistics aren't faceless, they are warriors.
They live on.

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