Andrea Hetker, AKA Melanoma Girl, blogs for the cause of preventing skin cancer.
Before my life became crazy with the release of From Incurable to Incredible, I had the opportunity to connect with Andrea Hetker. Andrea has started her own blog called MelanomaGirl and is working to build a community to spread awareness of and raise funds for melanoma prevention.
A Boston native, Andrea spent LOTS of time on the beaches of Massachusetts and Rhode Island during her teens and twenties. She was fair-skinned due to her Irish heritage. She usually avoided sunscreen, so her quest to be tan led to sunburns that would often blister and peel.
Andrea says she “smartened up” at age 29 when she moved to Cincinnati, where there were no beaches to tempt her. She began to use sunscreen, but went back to her old ways on vacation.
When she was 37. she noticed a mole on her torso that looked “a bit funky.”
“I had been thinking about going to the dermatologist for a while, but had been putting it off because it was not a priority, ” she remembers. “I am a moley person anyway, and have had freckles and moles all of my life, so this one was not too alarming, other than the fact that it was new. I waited almost a year to have it looked at. Result – melanoma.”
The diagnosis was stage III, which means disease had spread to her lymph nodes. Andrea had surgery to remove the tumor and all of the lymph nodes under her left arm. She followed up with a year of immunotherapy (a version of chemotherapy), which she recently completed.
“My energy level is slowly returning, and I am looking forward to going back to the gym, planting flowers on my patio, and especially not needing a nap every afternoon!
“The end result is obviously no more sun, ” she continues. “It is not as though I have to live in a cave, but I need to be incredibly careful of how much time I spend in the sun, and to always cover myself in the highest SPF sunblock available. I envy those who are still carefree about wearing tank tops and shorts (don’t even mention bathing suits!). However, I am happy to comply if it keeps me cancer-free.”
Andrea says she started MelanomaGirl because she noticed that most people are not familiar with melanoma and that is highly curable if caught in its early stages.
“My mission for MG is to bring melanoma into the local and national spotlight through fundraising, community, and imaginative advocacy (a.k.a. fun stuff!). I want to connect with as many people as possible, and encourage them to be smarter in the sun.”
She recently held her first fundraiser in Cincinnati , Margaritas for Melanoma, which was a huge success. The next fundraiser is Mix-n-Mingle for Melanoma, in Boston on July 9 (details can be found on the Happenings page on her blog). All profits from the fundraisers are donated to the Melanoma Research Foundation (www.melanoma.org).
Andrea is also distributing freebies, such as koozies and sunblock around Cincinnati this summer at pools, golf courses, parks, and outdoor bars. In addition, she’s created an inspired line of T-shirts that support her tag-line, “Proud to be Pale” and other fun sayings. There’s stuff for guys, too. Check it out at www.melanomagirl.com .
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