Survivor since 2006_
I was addicted to lying out in the sun. As a college student at the University of Denver in the late 1960s, I would organize my class schedule around the best times of the day to get a tan. I could tan so well people sometimes thought I was Native American.In July of 2005, while shooting a photo assignment at the top of Aspen Mountain in Colorado, a lot of mosquitoes and no insect repellent saved my life. The next day, as I was itching the host of bites around my left ankle I saw the mole and I knew immediately it was no good. It was only the size of a small pea, but it was raised and dark with a network of blood vessels surrounding it. An exam with a dermatologist and subsequent tests indicated the mole was cancerous. At the age of 58, I was diagnosed with stage three melanoma. A sentinel node biopsy found the cancer had progressed into my lymphatic tissue. I said silent goodbyes, cried a lot, felt really sorry for myself and generally wallowed in excruciating misery. Then one day I woke up and got to the business of survival. I underwent surgery and four chemotherapy sessions – each 24/7, for five days – with an IV drip running nonstop through my body. My chemo-cocktail consisted of Vinblastine (2.7 mg doses), Cisplatin, Dacarbazine, Aldesleukin and Interferon. Talk about drug warfare! They did everything under the sun to help me get the cancer under control. My body was resilient during the six-month treatment process and I was able to keep up with my photography and my life until the week following the last treatment, which I spent, exclusively, crawling between the couch and the bathroom. It has been over 2 years since my final treatment, and other than the large gaps created by the loss of millions of brain cells, I am back in fighting trim. I have been to the edge of the abyss and I have peered over its side. I have experienced the possibility of my life’s end, and I understand that when that time comes, it is too late to wish for the things I only dreamed about but never did. I want to make a difference in life, and I want to leave behind more than memories. I want to nurture a healthy environment for this wonderful body, and use it, my skills and my creativity to cultivate awareness and appreciation for being given a second chance. This project, Putting a Face on Cancer™, is a way for me, and for all of us survivors, to reach out to encourage and inspire. Cancer is most definitely a wake-up call and a journey of pain and mortal questioning, but these things are the very stuff of life, and survival for any period of time, can become life on a higher and richer level.