By Will Fitzgerald, Staff Writer
It's one of the most dangerous forms of cancer. It often develops with little warning and poses a similar threat to a 20-year-old as it does to an 80-year-old.
The culprit in this cancerous riddle is melanoma, a disease that claimed 68,720 lives in 2009, according to the American Cancer Society.
Walk, fun run May 15
To raise awareness and funds, MD Anderson is taking the message to the streets, hosting the third annual AIM for a Cure Melanoma Walk and Fun Run on Saturday, May 15, at 8 a.m. Runners and walkers will wind their way through the Texas Medical Center with other supporters, survivors and family members.
To provide participants with an up-close and personal view of the disease, Jason Connelly, a stage IV melanoma survivor, will share his courageous journey and the importance of prevention.
"Ironically, a lot of cancer survivors say their diagnosis was the best thing that happened to them," Connelly says. "It brought me closer to my son and wife and also put me on a quest to give back."
The first step in his diagnosis was a visit to a dermatologist, who discovered and removed a mole with melanoma. Years later, after suddenly feeling sick, Connelly underwent exploratory surgery at MD Anderson. The news was grim; the mole from years earlier had developed into stage IV melanoma, a serious disease with a 10% survival rate.
"The first time I heard that I had melanoma removed, I didn't know what to think," he says. "The second time I went back in, I was scared."
Taking a positive approach
Still, the will and determination to overcome his disease was enormous. Connelly made a conscious decision to one day see his young son's wedding and knew that hope would carry him through.
"I think cancer treatment is a lot harder emotionally than physically," he says. "The doctors can manage your pain, but the most important thing is to keep your mind in the right place."
And that's exactly what he did. Now, Connelly is a healthy dad and proud husband. He has a new outlook on life and is dedicated to raising melanoma awareness.
It shouldn't come as a surprise that Connelly is the guest of honor at Saturday's event, where he's looking forward to participating with his wife and son.
To register for the run, visit www.aimatmelanoma.org.
Jason Connelly Takes AIM Against Melanoma
By Will Fitzgerald, Staff Writer
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