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Brandi Corbello Shares Her Story During Melanoma Awareness Month: “Cancer Didn’t Stop Me, It Empowered Me”

Guest blog post by Brandi Corbello; melanoma thriver, advocate, MRF supporter and founder of Melan:

Brandi Press Release

In 2019, I received a stage IIIC melanoma diagnosis. Seemingly invincible, I had been thriving after landing my dream job in Chicago. Adversity had often knocked at my door throughout my life, and I believed I had already conquered my fair share of challenges. When I got the diagnosis, I thought it was all over, my rocket ship career was over, my body and mental wellness would never be the same and would suffer for the rest of my life. Little did I know that this would be the ultimate and best test. As I embarked on the daunting journey of immunotherapy, the realization dawned upon me that it was time to take control of my life. 

I was offered my dream job, the one that would skyrocket my entire career and made the move to the big city of Chicago in January of 2019 while I was still completing my MBA at Wake Forest. Two months later, I turned 30 and was on top of the world. I spent that summer on Lake Michigan, soaking it all in every weekend. In June, I noticed a mole that I didn’t think was very “cute” on my back and started to obsess over it so in July, I called a random dermatologist who gave me an appointment the following April. A week went by, and I couldn’t stop staring at it (not even thinking it could be problematic as I had no knowledge of melanoma) and called back to beg them, knowing I wouldn’t take no, to remove it early in the morning one day that week and they folded! Off topic – as you read along, imagine if I didn’t press on this and kept that April 2020 appointment, it wouldn’t have happened due to COVID. A week later, while I was on a business trip in Wichita, I received a phone call from the dermatologist in which they informed me that the pathology report came back with advanced melanoma, so I needed to go into surgery ASAP. I had no idea what they were talking about and brushed them off the phone after one minute and let them know I would call back when I had time. That night, I googled melanoma, wow! I called back the next day, came home early and met with the surgeon that Friday who informed me that there was only a 10% chance that it had spread so basically, I would have surgery and then move on with my life. With this in mind and knowing I needed to show up to work, I scheduled my surgery for the following Friday and returned to work Monday.  

Less than a week later, I received a call informing me that the cancer had spread unfortunately, and my next steps would be to meet with a medical oncologist and get further scans to identify if it had spread to other vital organs. My world turned upside down, uncertain of what my life would be like in the short term or long term. My immediate reaction was that this would be career ending. I met with the medical oncologist, got second opinions and the biggest surprise of all was when they recommended I freeze my eggs before starting an immunotherapy treatment plan. I didn’t want kids, but they encouraged me to do it just in case, so I folded and did it! A month later, I went through 13 months of treatment (during COVID) while spending a lot of time on taking better care of my body which meant a better diet, workout routine, learned a little about empathy and spent a lot of time understanding skincare. Prior to this diagnosis, I was loose with my self-care including my daily SPF application and really didn’t completely understand it all. 

Four years later, I am in the best shape I’ve been in, and I was a collegiate athlete so that says a lot! My career never suffered and instead propelled more than I ever imagined as I had a new outlook on life and how to approach every day and my team as an empathetic leader. Most importantly, I continue to apply SPF daily, ensuring my protection while enjoying outdoor activities and maintaining a “normal” life. My interest in sunscreen and skincare ingredients deepened, and I realized that many products available in stores were full of additives and synthetic materials that are not healthy for the skin, and I didn’t see a lot of melanoma advocacy off the shelves. Fortunately, I found a few brands that I could rely on for the time being regarding ingredients, though they weren’t really empowering other consumers on what was under the label, how to make the right decisions for themselves and push hard on melanoma advocacy given these products protect against something that deeply impacted me. 

When I relocated to Nashville, I ran out of my beloved daily SPF 30 so off I went to restock, but after three attempts at three different stores, I couldn’t find a single brand that met my standards for skin-friendly products. It was a wake-up call – there just weren’t enough “clean” sunscreens and skincare options readily available. 

My mission became clear: to push the boundaries of skincare by creating a product line that is not only more accessible but also prioritizes the use of healthier ingredients for consumers while empowering others to learn as much as I have and continue to learn about these daily products we use. I am also unwaveringly committed to advancing the prevention and treatment of melanoma, a journey that saved my life and the lives of countless others. To further this cause, I plan to commit 5% of proceeds to the Melanoma Research Foundation (MRF) – an organization who shares this critical mission with me. 

I invite you to join me on this journey towards healthier skin. My wish is for you to embrace the gift of radiant skin without compromising on quality. The mission of Melan is that you’re not only protecting and pampering your skin but also contributing to the fight against melanoma and better standards for suncare.