ENCINITAS, Calif. — On Saturday, October 8, the Melanoma Research Foundation hopes you'll participate in the Miles for Melanoma San Diego 5K. In this Zevely Zone I'm proud to announce I am hosting the event and sharing a personal message to anyone who enjoys the sun. In 2019, when doctors discovered melanoma on my back, I was hoping my story might save a life. This story is about two fathers; one who received a skin cancer screening and another who waited too long.
"I spend a lot of time in the sun," said Jim Appel. The 57-year-old Encinitas father is like a lot of Southern Californians, he spent a lot of time soaking up the sun and it left a toll. "I've had 11 skin cancer surgeries," said Jim. After seeing my story, Jim told me he thought, "Oh that's a reminder, I better go in and get my skin checked," said Jim. Doctors found skin cancer on several spots on his body that lead to four major surgeries. He thinks my story could have saved his life. "Absolutely, a reminder when you get so busy you need to take time and listen to your body and go and see the doctor and get the checkups," said Jim.
Along with Jim, Sue Brown saw my story in 2019 and couldn't help but think about the husband she lost to the same disease. "It is a grief that never fully goes away," said the Olivenhain resident. Sue watched my story when Melanoma was cut out of my back and wishes her husband could have been saved too. "Very fun loving. Great sense of humor. Just enjoyed playing with the kids," said Sue speaking about her late husband Gordon Brown.
Sue told me the similarities between our stories are striking. Gordon was 45. I was 48. We both had two kids. We both had Melanoma on our backs. I got lucky and he didn't.
"You listened to your wife. He waited," said Sue. My wife, Heather, who is a Registered Nurse at Kaiser Permanente, spotted a blemish on my neck that turned out to be nothing, but during a skin screening the dermatologist found the Melanoma which was removed. Sue spotted a similar growth on Gordon's back in the early 1980's and urged him to see a specialist too. "I told him to get it checked out but unfortunately he had been told by a primary care physician that there was nothing wrong with it," said Sue. "By the time he did go, and have it checked he was in Stage 4."
In 1989, Channel 8 did a story with Gordon, and he was in high spirits. A clinical trial using the drug Interlukin II put Gordon's cancer in remission. "But then unfortunately 10 years later it showed up in his brain," said Sue. Gordon died in 1999. He would have turned 66 years old this November. "It makes me more sad than mad," said Sue. She can't help but feel Gordon and her family got cheated. His two boys grew up without him and there are grandchildren Gordon will never meet. "It's not fair to him and it's not fair to them," said Sue.
Which is why Sue supports the Miles for Melanoma 5k Run/Walk which strives to get this message out. "Please include a dermatologist in your annual screening process. It is so critical to see a dermatologist. Melanoma is absolutely fatal." Sue is hoping other families like hers won't miss out on the memories. We flipped through pictures of Gordon with his boys and old friends. He was smiling in every picture. "He was a really fun dad," said Sue. "It is unbelievable how fast the times goes."
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As for Jim Appel, he avoids the sun these days as much as possible. "That's why you don't see me down here playing volleyball anymore," said Jim. "Definitely know that skin cancer can pop up any part of your body." Jim has made a full recovery and plans to live a long life for his wife Andrea, along with his two kids in college and a bunch of golf buddies. "Just go get checked out," said Jim.
The Melanoma Research Foundation is looking forward to seeing the San Diego community in this year's Miles for Melanoma San Diego 5K. This year, walkers and runners have the option to participate in-person at De Anza Cove Park or register as a virtual participant and join us from anywhere. The Foundation will be following all state and local protocols to ensure a safe and healthy Miles for Melanoma. For information on how to register for the Miles for Melanoma San Diego 5K this Saturday click here. Even if you don't want to walk or run in the event, dermatology experts will be on hand to answer your questions.