300 Days of Sunshine

August 10, 2009

I live, in my opinion, in the most wonderful state in the nation. I know that sounds arrogant, but it’s true.

Allow me to explain. The state I live in has four gorgeous, distinct seasons. It is rarely blisteringly hot or teeth-chatteringly cold. It is home to active, slender, educated, friendly people. And (if the official Colorado web page is accurate) those people are lucky enough to enjoy 300 days of sunshine a year, on average.

(Miss D. and her Grandpa, my daddy-o, Ron)

300 days of sunshine a year is pretty freaking awesome, don’t you think?

I think a girl who wears a team jersey with a hot pink tutu ROCKS…don’t you?

On most days, I feel so lucky to live here. Sunshine is a mood-lifter, a flower-grower, an activity-enticer. It’s the thing that makes you smile in the morning, tilt your face upward, shuck off that sweater.

It can also kill you. Very quickly.

I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to crush your groove. It’s just that today, a year ago, a beautiful, active, spunky woman named Mary Beth Discoll died. She was a wife, a nurse, a dog lover, a foodie, an optimist, a fun-seeking missile. She was also my friend, and she died way too soon, at the age of 46.

The American Cancer Society estimates that 8,420 people died of melanoma in 2008. Mary Beth Driscoll was one of them. The ACA estimates that this year, the mortality rate will rise to 8,650. I don’t want anybody reading this blog to be one of those casualties.

The good news: melanoma is easily detectable and, when caught early, quite treatable.

The bad news: in its “distant” stages, when the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes and other organs, survival rate is a dismal 15.3%.

Mary Beth was a nurse; she understood exactly what she faced when diagnosed with Stage IV Melanoma in the winter of 2007. A little voice in the back of her head, the practical one, the scientific one, told her: prepare to die. The other voice in her head, the feisty one, the hopeful one, disagreed. It told her to fight, and that’s what she did.

9 months after her diagnosis, Mary Beth lost–but she went down swinging. She left in her wake an amazing and loving husband, a doting mother, a beautiful sister, and legions of friends.

It is in her honor that I ask you to visit http://www.melanoma.com/quiz_risk.html and take the time to asses your risk for contracting melanoma.

It is in her honor that I ask you, if you are even the tiniest bit at risk, to make an appointment with a licensed dermatologist and undergo a full body mole-check. Every year.

And it is in her honor, and I hope you’ll join me, that I raise a glass and toast the life of a magnificent broad. I miss you, Bubbles. You taught me so much about courage, and the way to spend my remaining days on this planet. Cheers.

P.S.: David, you made it through. You finished the worst year of your life, although the year before it sucked pretty fucking hard, too. I know you don’t want to hear it, but I am proud of you. You woke up every morning, put one foot in front of the other, and kept on keepin’ on. Remember: there’s always a cold beer, a kind ear, and something yummy waiting for you at my door. Knock whenever you need.

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