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Melanoma/Skin Cancer Health Center

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Would You Bare Your Body To Fight Skin Cancer?

WebMD Feature from "Marie Claire" Magazine

Marie Claire magazine logo

WOULD YOU BARE YOUR BODY TO FIGHT SKIN CANCER? We did! That's us-the staff of Marie Claire-in Times Square, wearing next to nothing to raise awareness for a cause that!

Skin cancer is the second-most common cancer in women ages 20 to 29. One in five Americans will develop it in their lifetime. That means you're more likely to get this deadly disease than to get hit by a car, marry a millionaire, write a best seller-or have sex this week. That's why we paired up with the Skin Cancer Foundation for our "Wipe Out Skin Cancer" campaign. The deal? We'd donate $100 in the name of every Marie Claire staffer who arrived at the photo shoot in a swimsuit-and $200 for those who braved it in a bikini! We passed out 1000 packs of Shady Day wipe-on sunscreen to passersby, then we asked three women whose lives were touched by skin cancer to share their stories. Here, what you should know.

"MY FRIEND'S DEATH SAVED MY LIFE!" Michelle, 36, dancer in the Broadway musical Chicago, New York City

TO THIS DAY, I ALWAYS TELL PEOPLE that Cathy is my angel. I really believe she is. If it weren't for her, I wouldn't be alive. We were both musical-theater performers and met when we toured Europe together doing Crazy for You. Two years after we came back, she was living in L.A. with her husband, and she got pregnant for the very first time. Cathy had a spot on her face that she'd had for as long as I'd known her, but it had started to get a little itchy, so she went to get it checked out. What started as a routine checkup went terribly awry: That day, Cathy found out she had skin cancer so advanced, her doctor recommended she begin chemo and radiation treatment immediately. But she faced a harrowing choice: Begin treatment to save her life-which would mean terminating her pregnancy- or forgo chemo long enough to give birth to her son. Cathy chose to have her child. A few months later, she gave birth to a beautiful baby boy. She started chemo and radiation almost immediately after, but it was too late. In December 2004, I got a call from a mutual friend: "Cathy passed away," he told me. Right there, at that moment, I thought: I know I need to get screened. My mother has told me my entire life to stay out of the sun. Of course we hear that we should all be getting checkups once a year, but I always let the year slip by without one. Then my dermatologist did a scan, and she saw two moles she didn't like- one on my ankle the size of a pencil eraser, which was two different colors. She took that off, as well as one on my thigh. "I'm going to send these out for biopsies. Don't worry," she said. I didn't. A week later, I got a message asking me to call her back. When I heard it, my heart sunk; I just knew something was wrong-so I didn't call her back. But then she called back again the next morning. That's when I found out I had melanoma. I kind of went numb. "What do I do?" I asked. "Call your family," she said kindly. My mom took it three times worse than I did. When I told my family I had to have surgery, they all wanted to get on a plane immediately. Meanwhile, I was terrified. I'd never been under anesthetic in my life! The surgery-well, I don't think I heal well. Afterward, my foot looked like Fred Flintstone's. They had to pull the skin so tightly it compromised my Achilles tendon. It took me 20 minutes to walk one city block. After that, I had to go to physical therapy for four weeks. I couldn't go up on my toes to dance for another month. And, of course, being able to dance again was my biggest concern. I was so lucky. I recovered. I returned to dancing. The biopsy on my ankle came back as stage-II melanoma, but the disease hadn't spread to my lymph nodes. Now, I am the poster child on Broadway for skin cancer screening-and I still think about Cathy every day.

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