Lessons of a grand marshal

When a member of our local Lions Club asked me to be grand marshal of the Father’s Day parade, I was a bit stunned, yet honored to fulfil that request. Wherever this melanoma journey takes me, through a parade or wherever, why not make the best of the ride? And I did.

First lesson learned, $40 of candy doesn’t go far in a fairly popular parade. And to the American Legion rifle squad member who I narrowly missed lofting the last piece of candy to someone at the end of the parade route, I’m glad it didn’t hit you. The wind made accurate tosses a challenge.

While driving along the route, tossing candy was fun (and let’s be honest, most people along the route are only waiting to catch your attention so they can get candy), there were several standout moments during the afternoon.

The first – coming to the spot of the parade where my family sat, my parents waving and beaming. My sister drove them an hour for that brief moment when I drove past on that car. Thankfully the access to their spots on the route allowed this to happen, but seeing them smiling, meant more than I can describe.

Secondly, the number of people taking sun safety precautions, wearing hats, finding shade, using sunscreen. It had more to do with the heat than anything, but it’s something skin cancer patients like to see.

Finally, the lady who stopped me as I walked back along the parade route to thank me for everything I have written in the column ofour local paper. You are the reason I continue to do this, to share my story, to try to make a difference.

As a breast cancer survivor she’s read every word and taken it to heart she told me. I don’t kmow that I said anything more than any other cancer patient might have, but knowing we are not alone in this war makes a gigantic difference.

These are the moments you hold onto, savoring every nuance.

Next year there will be a new grand marshal for the parade and all this will be a dim memory to most.

However, I’ve shared this moment with my family. I saw people paying attention to something and using precautions – at least some of the time when they are in the sun.

Mostly, next year that breast cancer survivor and I will still be fighting and I hope she stops me again on the street as I walk past taking photos of the parade. I want to hug her again and wish her luck, because every year is a priceless treasure, once you bear the diagnosis of cancer.

Lions cub members, thank you for this opportunity. I will treasure it always.

Nervous opportunity

Tomorrow I will spend more than half the day talking to seventh graders about skin cancer, melanoma and sun protection. I’m a bit nervous.

I’ve spoken in front of many crowds, enough to not be swallowed in fear like I was with my first forensics speech in high school where I nearly passed out. No, I’m a bit nervous for a different reason.

For two years, I’ve wanted this opportunity, to talk to youth, make them aware, tell them what I wish I had heard when I was younger. Not that I would have listened. That’s what makes me nervous.

I want to get it right. I want to reach them so they want to listen, so they walk away with at least one piece of knowledge that perhaps they will share with one or two other people, multiplying the impact.

I’m nervous because middle school is a fickle time when hormones are stronger than reason, and who wants to listen to an old lady nag on about something that will never touch invincible youth. Except it will. Except it has.

In a way, I’m lucky. I got melanoma when I was “old” in the eyes of a seventh grader. Not so old from the eyes of a 57-year-old with grand babies needing loving and hugs and long talks over popcorn and a movie.

I’m lucky because remarkable strides are being made in melanoma research, giving me a better chance of beating the odds. I’m lucky, because I have lived the 30 some years that some younger melanoma patients will never experience. I’m lucky because I’m strong, because I’m fit.

I’m lucky because I get this chance to maybe make a difference. That’s what makes me nervous.

I’ve researched. I’ve been researching since I was diagnosed. Now it’s just a matter of putting it in order, getting the facts out there that will make seventh graders take notice.

I’m a bit nervous. It might take me til the last hour to get it the way I really want it, but even in that imperfection, I hope speaking from my heart touches theirs.