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Out of the Shadows and “In the Sun”: Reflections from a Melanoma Survivor

Guest blog post by Monique Mack, “In the Sun” documentary participant, melanoma survivor and MRF advocate:  

My name is Monique Mack, and I am honored to be an advocate for the Melanoma Research Foundation (MRF). I was recently in a documentary called “In the Sun” that highlights people who have suffered with melanoma, a form of skin cancer, and the importance of sun safety and prevention.  

It is important for me to be an advocate and to help bring awareness to a diverse group of people on how melanoma can affect everyone. I was diagnosed with a melanoma tumor in my left thumbnail when I was eleven years old. My story is somewhat unique in that I went undiagnosed with melanoma for approximately a year by my own pediatrician, although my mother had readily addressed her concerns about a mysterious dark line in my thumbnail. By chance I went to the dermatologist for another ailment – a minor rash on my wrist, and when the doctor saw the black line in my thumbnail, she asked what happened to my thumb. I replied that we thought it perhaps may be a blood clot, but I was unsure. My confusion was further compounded by my pediatrician who asserted there was no issue. 

The dermatologist looked concerned and said she would have to call my mother to ask to perform further testing because I was only there with my eighteen-year-old sister and she needed to get permission for the biopsy. Eventually the test confirmed that I had melanoma and my dermatologist recommended I see a hand surgeon who specialized in my particular case. As a result, I had to have two surgeries within a year but am fortunate to not have had any new growths or complications since then.  

One of the reasons I wanted to tell my story is because despite melanoma being one of the most dangerous forms of skin cancer, there are so many misperceptions amongst African Americans and people of color about its presence in our communities. While I’m trying to spread awareness and educate other people of color, it is also imperative to inform the medical community of the presence of this cancer in African Americans. Continuously, I have been asked by other doctors if I was sure I had melanoma, which I often reply, “Well if I didn’t then someone owes me a thumbnail!” That just goes to show how rare this form of melanoma is and how unknowledgeable most people seem to be. My hope is that by telling my story I could potentially help save someone’s life and have people really take the dangers of melanoma seriously.  

Melanoma affects men, women and children of all skin types, and can occur anywhere on the body. The MRF is committed to increasing awareness of all forms of melanoma and the importance of a proactive approach to skin health for everyone. Your support makes this work possible; please consider a tax-deductible gift today: