Legendary Jamaican singer, songwriter and guitarist Bob Marley passed away of melanoma on May 11, 1981, at the age of 36. A sore on Marley’s toe, initially thought to be a sports injury, was later diagnosed as metastatic melanoma.
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Melanoma has affected the Botica family intimately, and when mom Christine was diagnosed with stager IV disease in August of 2011, she sought treatment at the Dana-Farber Cancer Center with Dr. Stephen Hodi, the same doctor who had cared for her sister. “A melanoma diagnosis is frightening at any stage,” says Christine. “But I knew I would receive extraordinary care from Dr. Hodi, who is not only a devoted physician, but one of the world’s leading melanoma researchers.”
I am not a religious person, but the best equation I can make to waiting for scan results is sitting in purgatory, waiting for someone to decree if you’ll be going to heaven or hell. It is like that every single time. It’s not a routine medical exam. It’s not a necessary hassle. It is a time when you are waiting to find out if you get to keep living or if you may be one step closer to death. Even if you aren’t in active treatment, even if every previous scan has showed favorable results, each time you wait you are reminded that at any point your life could drastically change. And that is the reality of “surviving” stage IV melanoma.
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As a pediatric hematologist/oncologist at Children’s Hospital in Boston, Leonard Zon says, “I certainly never expected I would end up working with fish.” Dr. Zon studies a unique organism: the zebrafish. This one and a half inch fish happens to have a gene set that is very similar to the human gene set. Zon is a pioneer in the zebrafish field and chose to model human diseases using this fish because, “the zebrafish embryo is completely clear, providing a ‘real time’ view of all organs and systems as they develop.” With 3,000 tanks in his lab, he has one of the largest aquaria in the world.
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"In 2007, I was diagnosed with Stage II melanoma despite being under the care of a top dermatologist. For several years I had been told the bleeding spot on the bottom of my foot was a wart. After several skin grafts and a difficult physical and emotional recovery, I was horrified to discover the prognosis for advanced stage melanoma had not improved over the past 40 years.
"Cancer touches each of our lives in a very different and personal ways."