I’m Courtney. I’m writing on behalf of my friend Kelle as well. I’m 27 and live in Canton, MA. I work at NSTAR Gas & Electric.
My Experience with Melanoma
I first became aware of melanoma in the summer of 2005 when my best friend Glenna Kohl was diagnosed with it. I thought it was no big deal & it would just be “scraped” off, never realizing how serious & deadly melanoma is. Being younger, carefree, & feeling invincible, it was eye-opening & scary. I now wear sunscreen constantly, always covering up when at the beach with a shirt, sunglasses & hat. I understand completely now the dangers of the sun & tanning, & how I should’ve listened to my mom when I was younger when she’d tell me the sun was dangerous & to wear sunscreen & not lie out in it all day, or that a tan was cool. I also try to “take it one day at a time.”You don’t know what life is going to throw at you, so after seeing Glenna go through what she went through, I appreciate life more & try to live each day to the fullest the way Glenna did.
Since the Diagnosis
Glenna lost her battle to melanoma on November 20, 2008. Glenna and I met at college, Salve Regina University, in 2001. The first time we met we instantly clicked. She was just so laid back, kind, funny, caring, genuine, big hearted, and easy to get along with. Anyone who met Glenna instantly loved her. Watching her battle this deadly disease showed me how strong, courageous, determined, positive and amazing she really was. She had so much fight in her. Even on her worst days she would ask “How was your day?” or “What’s new with you?” I remeber when she was doing a treatment on the brain & she had a contraption literally screwed in her head, but she had her parents take a picture of her & she was smiling. Always cared so much about everyone. Her smile lit up a room & her laugh was contagious. Being around Glenna you would always have a smile on your face.
I had no idea how serious melanoma is & that it should not be taken lightly, ie: tanning or being in the sun. Always check your moles & your body, be aware, if something doesn’t look right have it checked right away. Also, I now know there is not much awareness about this disease. I think kids should be taught at a young age about the dangers of tanning salons & the sun. We are responsible for teaching kids right from wrong & what’s dangerous. A lot of teenagers believe they are invincible & “that won’t/can’t happen to me” but it can. Glenna was only 26 when she passed away & was so beautiful inside & out, she had a lot more life to live but her one indulgence, tanning, cut that short.
I admire how strong & positive she was throughout her whole experience with melanoma. From the moment she was diagnosed she was determined to try anything/do anything to beat this disease & always had a positive attitude no matter how grueling the treatment was.
Advice I’d Give
Stay positive, try any treatments available, use your friends & family as support. The sun & tanning really are dangerous, you might think having a tan makes you look good or is cool, but it’s not worth it in the long run. What you do when you’re younger will affect you when you’re older. Listen to your parents & stories like Glenna’s as an example. Just be cautious; you can still go in the sun, but be sure to wear sunscreen. Glenna said she wished when she was younger she had someone like her to tell & teach her about the dangers of tanning & melanoma, so hopefully people can learn from her story.
I know that Glenna would want her story to be used to help spread awareness & warn people about how dangerous melanoma is, especially kids & young adults. It can happen to you if you’re not careful, you are not invincible. Glenna was a very health conscious person but her one bad indulgence, tanning, ended up being deadly. I miss her everyday, but I realize Glenna is still around & doing her job of spreading awareness through her story.
Kelle and I are part of an organization set up in Glenna’s memory. If you’d like to hear more of her story, visit us here.