Tag Archives: Skin Cancer

Melanoma Monday: Please Read

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St. Simon’s Island, Georgia, one of the most beautiful places I’ve seen, and one of many beautiful reasons to live as long as you can.

Today is a day dubbed “Melanoma Monday,” by a group seeking to raise awareness about sun safety, not just for anglers, but for everyone.

Here’s the thing about melanoma, and all skin cancers for that matter: When you get diagnosed, it hits your life, and the lives of your family, like a ton of bricks.

This isn’t the type of illness where you’ve smoked for years and part of you saw it coming. We’re not talking about people who aren’t… we’ll say… “nutrition conscious” and know that sooner or later it’s going to catch up with them. Those types of cancers or illnesses, while devastating and unfortunate, are like car accidents that occur when someone’s speeding and running red lights: You hope like hell they don’t happen, but at the same time you’re aware to some degree that they might.

Melanoma is not like that. And I’ll stipulate here, that yes, there are people out there tanning on a regular basis to achieve that perfect glow. They’re not the people I’m talking about here. I’m talking about anglers and outdoorsmen who just consider sunscreen as something to “maybe put on if they happen to remember.”

I’ll share my family’s story, not for sympathy, but because I believe it’s one that many families probably share, and one that we need to prevent at all costs.

My father, a hapless driver, was in a minor car accident at the age of 74. It was nothing serious, a fender bender, but they asked him to allow some X-rays just to make sure nothing was broken.

Nothing was broken. There was, however, melanoma spread throughout his body: Stage IV. As many of you know, there’s no Stage V, unless it’s Heaven.

That is how you get told you have six months to live. You’re in a fender bender, doctors run some tests, and then you’re having the most grave, terrifying conversation of your life with a doctor. You’re consoling your wife and calling your son with the news. I’ll remember that phone call forever, just sitting on the stairs of my Red Bank apartment, holding my phone in my hand, wondering how to phrase the news to my then girlfriend, wondering if I should drive home immediately, wondering if it were a dream, wondering if I could just go back to sleep and wake up and have it not be real.

But this is not a story of sadness, the human condition is not despair, the default emotion, for all of us, if we can maintain it, is hope. My father’s hope turned a six-month death sentence into two-plus more years of life.

My tattoos tell a story I am too shy to share, and my first one was four Gaelic words surrounding a cross and a shamrock (our family’s maternal side are Gillorens from Kilorglin, Ire.). One of those words is Dochas, which means, and I’ll quote directly here: “Hope: bringing faith to the future.”

Until we are broken, that is our default emotion that, despite whatever hardship, we return to again and again: Dochas… hope… faith in the future. And that’s what I’ll summon today, Melanoma Monday… faith that we are ever closer to the cure.

Catch a Cure’s Final Four

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Marilyn Jones leads the charge for the #1 Seed.

Alright, I might try to feign being some sophisticated academic at times here, quoting Hemingway and Harrison, but in all honesty, I’m a tattooed, country-music-loving, college basketball fan like most of the rest of you.

In that spirit, I’m creating the “Final Four,” of “Teams,” who have helped this effort more than most. This is in part inspired by the fact my Syracuse Orange are in the Final Four, so I’m paying more attention to the bracket than usual, but also because… well… it sounded fun. Without further ado…

#4: Emerson College: (Key Player: Gian Lombardo): When I executed the first Catch a Cure, I did it during the summer, between semesters at Emerson, where I’m pursuing my graduate degree in Publishing and Writing. In part I was hoping it would serve as a platform for a repeat, with greater sponsorship, but I knew working toward my degree had to come first. Prof. Lombardo, a fisherman himself, helped me build an academic project that would function with, and around, the fundraising project, and the school got behind my effort. Professor Bill Buettler, the Department Chair, and Emerson’s Dean of Graduate Studies, Jan Roberts-Breslin, were key players in getting behind this project, the function of which, in case you forgot, is to build you a magazine by asking what you want to read.

#3: Sponsors (Key Player: Get Vicious Fishing): When I decided to attempt a Catch a Cure repeat, after Buff so generously supported the first installment, I e-mailed everyone in the iCast directory (every company even remotely related to fishing) to solicit support. I sent out more than 100 e-mails detailing my project and my ambition to beat melanoma. Get Vicious, Native Eyewear,Sunology Sunscreen and Hanes and Rick Roth at Mirror Image all responded and got on board. It’s not fair to compare these companies, because some have more resources than others, and they all gave what they could, but Get Vicious agreed to donate up to $500 and contributed prizes for readers to win as well. So, although it’s close, they’re leading the charge from this group.

#2: BassOnline/BassMaster (Key Player: Tyler Wade and Steve Niemoeller): These are the people in the fishing community who came out of the WaterWork to help this project. The guys at Bassonline, almost every one of them, gave this project an essential element that it’d be nothing without: The Fish. It’s a nice idea to “Go try to catch bass on your own from shore,” as some suggested, but when pounds of fish are dollars, put plainly: you need guides. And I had some of the best on this effort. Tyler Wade and the people at B.A.S.S. gave the project a home, a place to live online, and for that I’m forever grateful. Steve Niemoeller, Todd Kersey, and all the guides at BassOnline made sure I had the means to put fish in this project, time and again.

#1: The Joneses (Key Player: Marilyn Jones): No, this isn’t a cliched phrase. My Grandmother, Marilyn Jones, getting back on her feet (literally, in a rehab center) is the old…er… wisest of the Jones family of which I’m the oldest grandson, but she embodies the spirit that exists through my large, Irish-Catholic, loving family. My cousins, Joe and Chris Critelli and Everett Lockwood are some of my best and oldest fishing friends. And my Mom, the oldest Jones daughter, is (and it’s true I’m biased) one of the kindest, most giving and outgoing people you’ll ever want to meet. Throughout this project, my family and extended family have come out of the woodwork to share my project on social media, support my effort and give me hope and faith in my attempt even when things looked bleak. This makes them the far-and-away favorite of the final four.

On The Irish…

1421028_10102905685639536_4753140964686029423_oThe Irish, as is evidenced by this blog, are first and foremost… procrastinators. I was thinking about my heritage yesterday. My mother’s side of the family are Gillorens, tracing back to Killorglin, Ireland and my father’s mother was a McCabe… and of course it doesn’t get much more Irish than that.

I was thinking about our, my heritage, and trying to piece together the puzzle that we all grapple with each day. It occurred to me that the Irish, especially, are at an elevated risk for skin cancer because we’re such a fair-skinned people. That’s not to say anyone can ignore the inherent risks, but when you’re Irish, you can get a sunburn getting the mail in the morning… or at night if there’s a full moon.

And I’ve seen in Irish friends and family, that we’re more easily affected emotionally too. We can be tough as nails (I have one Irish uncle who is a prison guard and another who drives an 18-wheeler back and forth to Harlem every day) but we care more, and are more easily impacted by events in our lives that others might let pass them by without a thought. We think more, sometimes more than is necessary, and tend to overanalyze, sometimes to our own detriment.

I think we are more deeply moved by both life’s great joys and difficult periods. This isn’t bragging, if anything there are times when I wish I cared less, but as an Irish friend once put it, in a wise phrase that seems more fitting with each day I survive: “It is what it is.”

But I don’t think the essential question for us, as human beings, is “What are we like — what is our nature?” I think the essential question is: “How can we use that, once we understand it, to contribute toward a greater good for those we have the capability of impacting?”

If, being Irish, I’ve taken melanoma coming into my life more personally than someone else might, if I’ve held onto it, wrestled with it, hated it… that is and will be my nature. But that is not the question that needs answering.

The question that needs answering, of all of us, always, is a simple one: “What are you going to do about it?” Hopefully, thanks in large part to all of our sponsors, I’m answering that every day.

Hope Makes Us Human: A Florida Story

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The Sun Sets Near Boca Grande, Florida

“Simple exchange of values. You give them money, they give you a stuffed dog.” – Ernest Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises

Reading The Sun Also Rises during my first year at Syracuse University changed my life, and I became a devoted Hemingway disciple. It was this line, more than any other, that endeared me to the story. Jake Barnes, Hemingway’s main character, has suffered a traumatic injury in the war, and he’s come to hold one simple truth in life: You get what you pay for. In typical Hemingway fashion, the concept is illustrated with a blunt and simple metaphor when Barnes considers buying a stuffed dog.

I left a full-time job at 24 to live in a Jeep and fish as much of the country as I could for Outdoor Life Magazine.

I sacrificed a great many of the things we are taught to work for throughout much of our youth: a full-time job, a steady income, security…

I gained… well, I saw almost everything in lower 48. I spent 200 nights, exactly, sleeping in that Jeep and fished my way from remote northern Maine down to the Keys, out to San Diego and up to Seattle. That was my “stuffed dog.” A simple exchange of values.

This morning I met a woman near Palatka, Florida named Jackie Bliss. Jackie’s husband lost his father to melanoma, and Jackie keeps the bait shop she works in, Bob’s Bait and Tackle in St. Augustine, stocked with strong sunscreen. I gave Ms. Bliss a Catch a Cure shirt, and a few surveys to hand out for the magazine I’m hoping to build.

I’m hoping to create a beautiful publication, showcasing a side of the sport that all of us appreciate but perhaps we find hard to articulate. I’m hoping I can find writers and photographers to wrap words and images around the beauty that draws us all back to the water. But most importantly, I’m hoping to build a magazine that you’re looking for, that you want to read, and you can help me do that here.

I spoke with Jackie for a moment, and we smiled and exchanged stories. I told her about my father, and she shared some stories about her father in law. She said the T-shirt was her favorite color, and with that I was back on the road.

We’d both lost something essential in our lives, a loved one. But now we shared this appreciation for the time that we do have, and a fight for a better future. A simple exchange of values. What was never traded, sacrificed or given up, is the one thing that I believe, above all else, defines us as a species: Hope.

 

How to Win Gear: And What you Can Win

Catch a Cure Sponsors
We have a ton of great prizes we need to get in SOMEBODY’s hands.

Alright, we’re all for beating melanoma, and thanks to some great sponsors we are making a serious inroads toward that end, but on a lighter note… we need to have fun. That’s why I’ve gathered some great gear for you guys to have a chance at winning on Catch a Cure.

You ready for the rules? Okay. First, go online and fill out this survey:

http://www.surveygizmo.com/s3/2572053/Fisherman-s-Reader-Assessment

Now here’s some added incentive: this survey is designed so that I can build you the EXACT fishing magazine that you’re looking for, the one you want to read. It’s short, it’s easy, and ultimately… if you’re honest, it just might result in you getting a fishing magazine you love.

The next part is a suggested donation to the Melanoma Research Foundation. Now… we are not all Donald-Trump rich, and I get that, believe me. So I’m not going to ask you for a “minimum donation,” to be entered. I trust you’ll give what you have. Maybe that’s $1, maybe it’s $10, and maybe it’s $100. I’ll leave that up to you. Here’s where you can do that:

https://www.kintera.org/AutoGen/Simple/Donor.asp?ievent=1075684&en=bkLLK0PHKaLUIaPKI9KRK6NULlIOL8OUJlJ1JdOWIuIbE

Honestly, even if you just donated a dollar, that’s not going to affect your ability to win these prizes. And hey, if you don’t want to, or can’t afford to donate… I’ll still use your input and feedback to build the magazine, so don’t let that deter you from filling out the survey. And by that same token, if you donate to the MRF and send me a confirmation of that contribution at rickbach@ymail.com, you’ll be entered to win the prizes anyway. But if you do BOTH, you could win big and have a say in the next great fishing magazine.

So… what do you stand a chance to win? Ready?

  1. A pair of Native Eyewear polarized lenses (Value: $100+ — and we have multiple pairs to give away, so your chances are great).
  2. A Get Vicious Hooded Sweatshirt (Value: $50)
  3. A Catch a Cure T-shirt/Sunscreen Package (value: $35)

So, right now you’ve got a little downtime, you’re fooling around online, and what’s that going to get you? At best a laugh, or a “poke,” on Facebook, whatever the hell that is. But what if you took five minutes to fill out this survey? That… THAT might get you a fishing magazine you helped design, and a chance to win a pair of polarized lenses that quite honestly are some of the best that money could buy (and they will only cost you as much as you want to give to a skin-cancer free future)! I’m not asking for a “purchase,” to be eligible, what I’m looking for is something you’ll feel great about doing anyway. And believe me… I can’t wear four pairs of sunglasses and thanks to Rick Roth at Mirror Image T-Shirts in Rhode Island, I have more shirts than I could wear if I changed into a new one every day for the rest of my life. So these prizes are going to someone, and it might as well be you.

And I’ll be building this fishing magazine either way, so you might as well help me make it one you love. Thanks for reading and keep an eye out for more fish, prizes and chances to win.

 

Catch a Cure II Gets its First Sponsor: Sunology

Good people, making a better product.
Good people, making a better product.

On Sunology’s website, their mission statement reads: “We’re committed to supporting causes that are reflective of our brand values and progressive nature.” That’s an easy sentence to write on a webpage, and one only need to look at Facebook or any social media forum to see that writing about yourself in a positive fashion isn’t all that hard. The other day a UPS truck arrived at my apartment, and I was delivered a box full of Sunology sunscreen and gear.

Why? Sunology is donating a dollar per pound of largemouth bass caught on Catch a Cure II to the Melanoma Research Foundation this coming winter. Opening your wallet for a good cause… That’s decidedly much harder to do than writing or talking, and these people are doing it.

Their sponsorship, during a time when I’m trying to put together partners for this second venture, means more to me than I can express here in words. It’s not the expensive Christmas presents you received at 19 or 20 that you remember, it’s those first ones that lay mysteriously beneath the tree throughout all of Christmas eve, and probably cost less than anything you’d be given in years to follow.

It’s still October here on the North Shore of Massachusetts, but the other day felt decidedly more like Christmas, for me and the cause I’ve come to care so much about, too.

I have every hope, like a kid on Christmas at 5, that there will be years to follow in which Catch a Cure becomes something bigger than it is now, something more than I can make it during this period of my life. But I know, without a doubt, that I’ll remember opening that box on that October day like it was Christmas, no matter how many times I repeat Catch a Cure for the rest of my life.

If you’re in a store and looking to grab sunscreen anytime soon, remember that many are made by large corporations who know you need their product to stay safe and that they don’t need to make any effort whatsoever to encourage you to purchase it. But there’s one sunscreen, at least, that does care… about you, about our health as a species and about their customers. And if you see me on the road this winter, and want a free bottle (or want to give to the Melanoma Research Foundation in exchange for one), flag me down and ask. Unless I live to be a thousand or put on a lot of weight, I won’t be able to use the sunscreen they’ve so generously sent me, and I’d like nothing more than to share it with you.