DCMF and The Country Day School partner to honour beloved teacher Steph Collins

In the fall of 2019, we received a heartbreaking call from The Country Day School (CDS) in King City. Ms. Steph Collins, beloved long-time teacher, had tragically passed away from melanoma at the age of 41. Steph had requested that CDS partner with DCMF to bring sunscreen dispensers to the school.

Steph had taught in the Junior School since 2003. Located on a 100-acre property, CDS gave Steph an opportunity to champion outdoor education. She was the driving force behind the launch of the Junior School Outdoor Education program in 2011, which expanded to the Middle School in 2016. Her leadership, generous spirit and love for the environment helped bring this program to life.

Steph saw an opportunity to leave a legacy of awareness, prevention and hope. As a melanoma patient and a teacher, she understood the critical importance of sun protection, especially for children, to reduce the risk of melanoma.

Devastated by the loss of their teacher, colleague and friend, the school was determined to fulfill Steph’s wish. After she passed, the CDS community made donations to DCMF in Steph’s memory. Thanks to their generosity, CDS has set up six sunscreen stations around campus.

In 1995, Steph wrote Life’s Little Instructions according to Steph. The last instruction was ”Become someone’s hero”. The outpouring of grief and support for Steph and the important legacy she has left her students shows us she has done just that.

Dr. D. Paola Arteaga – 2020 Recipient of the David Cornfield Melanoma Fund Award For Research

The David Cornfield Melanoma Fund is proud to celebrate Dr. D. Paola Arteaga as the recipient of the 2020 David Cornfield Melanoma Fund Award for research.

The DCMF Award was jointly established by the David Cornfield Melanoma Fund and the University of Toronto to support and advance melanoma research. The DCMF Award is available to residents and fellows in the Department of Medicine and students at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health who have demonstrated special interest and research achievements in the field of melanoma. 

Dr. Arteaga’s research focuses on the variability of response rate and its association with clinical outcomes in patients treated with immunotherapy in advanced uveal melanoma. 

Melanoma can affect the skin, mucous membranes, ocular region and rarely from unknown primary sites. In the eye, tumours arise from the pigment cells (melanocytes) that reside with the uvea and give colour to the eye. 

Uveal melanoma is the most common primary intraocular malignancy in adults, with a 40% risk of developing metastatic disease at 10 years. Despite high rates of local tumour control in patients who are treated for uveal melanoma, most patients will eventually die from metastasis. 

In spite of the fact that immunotherapy is approved for patients with metastatic uveal melanoma, the patterns of response to the current available treatments are discouraging. The rates of response to checkpoint inhibitors with single agent anti PD-1 and combination of anti PD-1 + anti CTLA-4 are 5 and 15% respectively. In addition, the median overall survival is 14 months for anti PD-1 and 16 months for anti PD-1 + anti CTLA -4. 

As per these patterns of response showing that the majority of patients have stable disease and/or progressive disease, Dr. Arteaga hypothesized that the subgroup of patients on checkpoint inhibitors that per Response Evaluation Criteria in Solid Tumors (RECIST) v1.1 showed progressive disease (PD) or stable disease (SD) have a variability in overall outcomes that need to elucidated. 

With the MONITR study, Dr. Arteaga is analyzing a retrospective cohort of patients with uveal melanoma treated with immune therapy and categorizing them according to the response rate in PD, DS and partial response (PR ) to determine the association with overall survival (OS) and progression free survival (PFS). In addition to exploratory correlations with immune biomarkers and circulating tumour DNA analysis. 



We are thrilled to announce Gareth Wheeler as the recipient of the 2020 DCMF Recognition Award for excellence in melanoma prevention, awareness and support.

Gareth is a long-time, well-respected soccer broadcaster and journalist, having covered Toronto FC since the club’s first season in 2007. He has covered every World Cup and EURO competition since 2008, and has hosted various English Premier League, Major League Soccer and international competition in-match coverage. Gareth is also the Play-by-Play voice of the Raptors 905, the NBA G-League affiliate of the 2019 NBA Champion Toronto Raptors.

Gareth’s successful broadcasting career has coincided with a long-standing battle with melanoma. After multiple surgeries and spread of the disease to his lymphatic system, Gareth is waging a successful fight against melanoma.

A passionate champion of melanoma prevention and early detection, Gareth has raised significant awareness among sports fans and Canadians alike. By actively sharing his personal journey with melanoma as a motivational speaker and wellness advocate, Gareth has empowered Canadians to reduce their risk of melanoma.

We thank Gareth for his important contributions to the melanoma cause and congratulate him on this well deserved award.



Melanoma Nano-Vaccine Campaign

We are proud to launch the Melanoma Nano-Vaccine Campaign in partnership with Canadian Friends of Tel Aviv University.  The purpose of the Melanoma Nano-Vaccine Campaign is to support the acceleration of groundbreaking melanoma nano-vaccine research.

In 2019, Professor Satchi-Fainaro and her team developed a nano-vaccine that successfully prevented and treated melanoma in mice. Holding immense promise, the nano-vaccine approach could not only revolutionize the prevention and treatment of melanoma, but also serve as a foundation for the development of nano-vaccines for other cancers.

Starting now and through the end of February, all funds raised through the Melanoma Nano-Vaccine Campaign will be matched by DCMF (up to maximum of $25,000).

Donate now to double your impact:

DCMF partners with Cabana Life


We are proud to partner with Cabana Life to raise awareness of the importance of sun protection and UPF clothing throughout Melanoma Awareness Month!


Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer affecting people of all ages. While the incidence of most cancers is decreasing, it is increasing for melanoma. This can change! Melanoma is both preventable and treatable when detected early.


Protecting your skin 

Since the majority of melanoma cases are caused by exposure to Ultraviolet (UV) radiation, protecting your skin from UV light is the most effective way to reduce your risk. Here’s how:

  1. Reduce your time outdoors between 11am and 3pm or when the UV Index is 3 or more
  2. Seek shade
  3. Cover up with long clothing, UPF clothing and hats
  4. Wear sunglasses
  5. Wear sunscreen
  6. Do not use indoor tanning equipment

UPF clothing 

If you want extra protection when you cover up, we recommend wearing UPF clothing. What is UPF clothing? UPF clothing is clothing that has sun protection built into the fabric.  UPF stands for ‘ultraviolet protection factor’. UPF is the numerical rating given to clothing to show how effectively it blocks UV radiation. The highest UPF rating clothing can receive is 50+. Clothing with a UPF 50+ rating offers excellent sun protection blocking 97.5% of UV radiation.

Partnering with Cabana Life

We are thrilled to join forces with Cabana Life to raise awareness and funds for melanoma prevention. We need your help!

For every share of our award-winning and life-saving video Dear 16 Year Old Me on Facebook or Instagram from May 6-12 that @cabanalife is tagged in, Cabana Life will donate $5 to the David Cornfield Melanoma Fund. Please share and tag to help us save lives from melanoma!

Are you looking for stylish sun protective clothing? Cabana Life is offering a 20% discount for David Cornfield Melanoma Fund supporters. Use code ‘DCMF19’ at checkout on

Wishing you a sun safe Melanoma Awareness Month!





Announcing Adam Perzow and Michelle Abbott as co-chairs of Magic for Melanoma

The David Cornfield Melanoma Fund is delighted to welcome Adam Perzow and Michelle Abbott as co-chairs of Magic for Melanoma sponsored by Deloitte.

When we were looking for melanoma survivors to participate in a melanoma prevention and awareness video in 2010, Adam enthusiastically agreed to help us out. Along with other melanoma survivors and family members, Adam generously shared his story in our 2011 video Dear 16 Year Old Me. Adam’s honesty, charm and unique voice played a central role in the video.

We were surprised and thrilled by the reception and impact of Dear 16 Year Old Me. With over 10 million views, multiple awards and translations, celebrity and organizational shares and life-saving credits, Dear 16 Year Me far surpassed our expectations. Dear 16 Year Old Me was also a game-changer for DCMF kick-starting a new era of action on melanoma awareness, prevention and research.

Adam and Michelle have been loyal supporters of DCMF since our formation in 2007. In addition to participating in Dear 16 Year Old Me, Adam has acted as our sponsorship volunteer since 2014.

Outside of DCMF, Adam is a prominent lawyer at BLG and Michelle is a caring and compassionate teacher. They are also busy parents of two teenage boys.

This year, Adam and Michelle are stepping up to co-chair our fundraising event Magic For Melanoma sponsored by Deloitte. “The DCMF and melanoma awareness and prevention is a cause near and dear to our hearts and we are thrilled to take on this role,” Adam and Michelle.

We thank Adam and Michelle for their leadership and look forward to making melanoma disappear on May 2nd, 2019.

Join us – Magic for Melanoma tickets are now on sale HERE.



Kids take action to save lives from melanoma

By Meaghan Greene, Grade 4 Teacher, Davidson Elementary

Ordinary tasks can lead to extraordinary things, if given the room to grow. The experience of my Grade 4 class this past year shows how something truly exciting can come out of the most unexpected circumstances.

One day last year, I had carefully planned for my students to read from the Canadian Reader titled “Sunscreen by the Squirt“. The goal of the assignment was for my students to practice such skills as tricky word work, decoding, comprehension and making connections. However, my students quickly began to question why the opportunity for free sunscreen was not available to their community. As a result of this inquiry, our reading assignment quickly turned into a persuasive writing exercise to convince our town council that we needed sunscreen dispensers at our local swimming pool. In the view of my students, they should have the same access to protection from skin cancer in Davidson as the community of Toronto, which they had read about in their assignment.

Despite the persuasive writing of our class, the local town council did not agree. The request was denied.

About a month later, a local news reporter was at our classroom door, asking how our class felt about the town council denying our request. The class was surprised by the interest from the reporter, and quickly that excitement shifted to wondering what steps the class could take to make their plans work. We soon learned that town council had denied the request, based upon the understanding that sunscreen contains active medicinal ingredients and that the free sampling of sunscreen is strictly regulated. With a lot of questions and encouragement from the newspaper reporter, our class decided to start researching.

Based upon our research, our class learned about the ingredients in sunscreen, the importance of wearing sunscreen to prevent melanoma, and that groups were already working on these initiatives. Through our work, our class learned about Danielle Paterson of the David Cornfield Melanoma Fund, who helped us enormously withher experience from the Toronto project. We also obtained the assistance of Nicole Braun from Sun Smart Saskatchewan, who supported us with a directed letter to town council on our behalf. Next steps included government approval, which involved a letter to our local MLA and an email to Health Canada. Before long, we had obtained the necessary government approval for the project.

Full of information, government approvals, and support, my students and I attended our local town council as a delegation. My students spoke about the reasons why it was important to provide public access to sunscreen. The students described situations where sunscreen at the pool would be important, such as where children were at the pool without parents, when families forgot their own sunscreen, and where people did not understand the importance of sunscreen. My students’ dedication was hard to deny and our town council decided that this proposal made good sense. The proposal for free sunscreen at the swimming pool was approved. Just a couple of months after our introduction to the text, Davidson had become the first community in Western Canada to have a free sunscreen dispenser and the third community nationally!

My students are motivated by their success, and are now working on approaching our school division for access to free sunscreen on the playground. Our initial Grade 4 group is now named the Davidson Kids Action Club. I have no doubt that the Davidson Kids Action Club will continue to be unpredictable in our community in all the best ways.










Dr. Anthony Mak – 2018 Winner David Cornfield Melanoma Fund Award

The David Cornfield Melanoma Fund is proud to celebrate Anthony Mak, MD, PhD, as the recipient of the 2018 David Cornfield Melanoma Fund Award.

The DCMF Award was jointly established by the David Cornfield Melanoma Fund and the University of Toronto to support and advance melanoma research. The DCMF Award is available to residents and fellows in the Department of Medicine and students at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health who have demonstrated special interest and research achievements in the field of melanoma.

Anthony’s doctoral studies focused on the functional characterization of the C133 protein, a marker of cancer stem cells. His interest in melanoma began when he learned that CD133 expressing melanoma stem cells behave very differently than stem cells from other cancer types. He, and others, proposed a new model that presented CD133 as an important protein in maintaining melanoma stem cells near tumour blood vessels.

Now, as a dermatology resident, Anthony and his collaborators are using the latest high-throughput screening technology to comprehensively identify essential genes in melanoma. The outcome of this project will mark a significant advancement in the field, as it will provide melanoma researchers with a validated database of candidate therapeutic targets to begin developing new melanoma treatments.


By Presley Caldwell, Miss America’s Miss Mississippi Outstanding Teen

In 2015, after having a suspicious mole checked, my grandmother received her first melanoma diagnosis. She underwent surgery to remove all cancerous tissue and was considered cancer free; however, 2 years later, while visiting the emergency room for severe back pain, the doctors discovered she had numerous nodules on both lungs. She was diagnosed with stage 4 invasive melanoma skin cancer that had spread to her lungs. She died nine months later at 70 years old. After my grandmother passed away, I decided to have a mole on my neck checked by a dermatologist. Thankfully, it tested negative for melanoma, but because of my family history, I will remain vigilant in checking for changes to my skin while educating others to do the same.

When I decided to compete for the Miss Mississippi’s Outstanding Teen title, one of the first aspects that drew me to the competition was the contestant’s platform. The platform is a way for contestants to impact the lives of others through becoming a champion for an issue. I knew immediately that my platform would deal with skin cancer awareness and prevention. Through my platform, Save Our Skin: Raising Awareness for Skin Cancer Prevention, I am working to educate others on sun safety so they can prevent melanoma and to make sure people understand that skin checks can save their lives.

I have spoken to more than 500 children and teens about the importance of sun safety. I have also worked with civic organizations to raise money for sunscreen dispensers, sunscreen samples, and to provide information about skin cancer checks. I raised over $700 through a pasta party to donate five sunscreen dispensers with enough refills for the entire summer to swimming pools in my hometown and the Grenada Lake beach. I am working with skin cancer survivors to provide sunscreen dispensers at two youth ballfields, one in Magee, Mississippi, and the other in Tupelo, Mississippi. Additionally, I am reaching out to the City of Southaven and Snowden Grove Park which will serve as the host site for the 2018 U.S. Dizzy Dean Baseball World Series. My goal is to provide 3 sunscreen dispensers for use during the tournament. I have partnered with a weekly newspaper to publish sun safety tips where I am able to share the importance of skin cancer prevention with more than 100,000 homes in Mississippi. I have used social media to bring awareness to skin cancer prevention by using comments, likes, and shares to give away two baskets of sun protectant items. I have distributed 300 sunscreen samples to children and teens. I worked with a local hair salon to create a video on how hair stylists can give clients a #HeadsUp by looking for suspicious spots on scalps. I was successful in working with the Governor of the State of Mississippi to declare May as Mississippi’s Melanoma Skin Cancer Detection and Prevention Month.

In July 2018, I will compete for the title of Miss America’s Outstanding Teen where I will be able to share Save Our Skin nationally. Regardless of the outcome of the Miss America’s Outstanding Teen Pageant, I will spend the next year promoting skin cancer awareness and prevention and working to make a difference in the lives of others. My ultimate goal is to work with the American Academy of Dermatology to ensure that there is at least one free SPOTme® Skin Cancer Screening in every state by July 31st, 2019. I also think it is necessary for pediatricians to provide parents with “Prevent. Detect. Live®” handouts on sun protection tips for children. Schools can make a difference in the fight against skin cancer by developing sun safety policies such as allowing students to apply sunscreen, avoiding outdoor activities during the hottest times of the day, or permitting students to wear hats, visors, or sunglasses when in the sun. I am committed to using my family’s experience to help others have a better understanding of sun safety and skin cancer. Let’s shine a #SPOTlight on early detection and work together to save lives.

Dr. Tan Rajakulendran – 2017 DCMF Award Winner

Tan Rajakulendran is a no ordinary dermatology medical resident – he is also a scientist whose groundbreaking work in melanoma is already benefiting melanoma patients worldwide.

The David Cornfield Melanoma Fund is proud to celebrate Tan, MD, PhD, as the 2017 co-recipient of the inaugural DCMF Award. The DCMF Award was jointly established by the David Cornfield Melanoma Fund and the University of Toronto to support and advance melanoma research. The DCMF Award is available to residents and fellows in the Department of Medicine, or a student in the Dalla Lana School of Public Health, who has demonstrated a special interest and research achievements in the field of melanoma.

Tan’s impact on our understanding of melanoma began during his PhD where his team made significant breakthroughs. Intrigued by the 2002 UK discovery that 2/3 of common melanomas have a BRAF gene mutation, Tan’s team began to study the behaviour of the BRAF protein. They were particularly interested in understanding how the mutation in melanoma causes BRAF to always stay on. In 2009, their research led to the discovery of BRAF’s main ‘on/off switch’, which laid the groundwork for a new class of anti-cancer therapies. It also garnered Tan recognition for making inroads into understanding the role of other genes that work in concert with BRAF in melanoma.

After completing his PhD, Tan entered medical school. As a clinician-scientist, Tan’s research has continued throughout his medical training. In 2017, in collaboration with several groups in Canada and the US, he was involved in uncovering an important molecular basis for how another gene called RAS plays a role in melanoma. This discovery has opened an exciting avenue for future drug designs in melanoma as well as other cancers.

Once his medical residency is complete, Tan plans to make melanoma the focus of both his research and clinical work – which will make him the only melanoma-focused dermatologist-scientist in Canada.



Dr. April Rose – 2017 DCMF Award winner

The David Cornfield Melanoma Fund is proud to celebrate Dr. April Rose, Medical Oncology Resident, MD, PhD, as the 2017 co-recipient of the inaugural DCMF Award.

The DCMF Award was jointly established by the David Cornfield Melanoma Fund and the University of Toronto to support and advance melanoma research. The DCMF Award is available to residents and fellows in the Department of Medicine, or students in the Dalla Lana School of Public Health, who have demonstrated a special interest and research achievements in the field of melanoma.

Inspired by the important advances in melanoma treatments, April shifted her focus of oncology research from breast cancer to melanoma during her postgraduate work. Since that shift, April’s research has lead to first author peer-reviewed publications, international collaborations and prestigious national and international awards.

April’s research focuses on the investigation of the molecular mechanisms of cancer progression. In the past five years, April has worked on several projects aimed at optimizing targeted therapies for melanoma.

By using molecular techniques to determine how melanoma tumors adapt in response to targeted therapies, April and her team have developed combination therapy strategies that more effectively shrink and eradicate melanoma tumors in mice. They are currently working towards translating their lab-based findings into clinical trials so patients can have access to the treatments.

As a clinician scientist, April’s research findings have directly informed the care of her patients. In turn, caring for melanoma patients further motivates April’s research to significantly improve melanoma treatments.

Dear 16 Year Old Me saved my life

By Rebecca Maskevich

rebecca maskevichWhen “Dear 16 year old me” started making the rounds, it was two days before I would receive the results for an abnormal mole I had removed on my side.

To give you a little bit of a back story, I’m a fair skinned girl who has tons of moles…just tons. I had my first weird looking mole removed when I was a kid. My doctor explained to me why I needed it to be taken off and tested and what I should look for. He told me how important it was to talk to my doctor if I noticed anything on my skin that looked strange. Since then, I’ve always kept an eye on my skin and brought any weird looking or changing moles to my doctor (nine to be exact) and had them removed. They always came back clean. I honestly didn’t really worry too much about them. It never really occurred to me to be overly concerned because I’ve always paid close attention to my skin.

About 3.5 years ago, I changed cities and family doctors. On my first visit with my new doc I showed him two moles on my stomach. They caught my attention because they were new moles and they had been slowly getting bigger. He took a look, said they were fine.

I kept an eye on them and made sure to bring them up to him every single time I had a doctor’s appointment. I would tell him that they are changing shape, getting bigger, that there was a change in colour… all textbook signs of melanoma. Every time he said it was fine and I left feeling like I was overreacting.

In December of 2016 I went in for my yearly checkup and, lucky for me, there was a resident who was doing training and would be the one to take point on my exam. I showed her the moles on my stomach yet again as well as a weird looking one that was on my side. My doctor agreed to let the resident take the mole off my side but not the ones on my stomach because, as I’m sure you’ve figured out by now, they were “fine”.

The mole on my side was removed and I received a call a week later that it came back abnormal and that I needed to come back in. The doctor couldn’t see me for a month so I used that timeline to keep calm. I felt if it was something serious, they would need to see me right away. I was also under the false impression that if it did come back as skin cancer, it wouldn’t be a big deal (boy, was I misinformed!). I was a little bit of a basket case (but only a little) waiting for the results but I was holding it together and trying to not think about it.

I was checking Facebook two days before I was scheduled to go in to get my results when I came across “Dear 16 year old me”. Cue tears, panic, a sense of dread, and googling photos of all three kinds of skin cancers to see if the mole I had removed matched any of the photos. If it was anything, it was a melanoma.

At my appointment I found out it was something called a Clarks Nevus, which isn’t really something to worry about. I’ve never been so relieved in my life. I still couldn’t shake the feeling that the moles on my stomach were an issue and keeping “Dear 16 year old me” in mind, I insisted this time that my doctor remove them. Even as he was cutting them out, he kept telling me they were fine. He was humouring me.

I bounced out of that appointment feeling great and not actually worried that my results would come back as anything. A week later, I received a phone call saying the doctor needed to see me that day. My heart sank. I knew what the news was going to be. Both were melanomas.

I was referred to a wonderful surgeon who informed me that luckily, one of them was what is called a melanoma in-situ. They needed to take out a little bit of extra skin around it to make sure that they removed all of it but no further treatment was needed.

The other one, unfortunately, was not in-situ and had started to gain the wonderful ability to spread to my lymph nodes and from there wreak havoc on all my internal organs. My surgeon was pretty confident that it had not spread but because my family doctor let it go as long as he did, it was recommended that I get a sentinel node biopsy.

If you don’t know what that is, let me tell you about the world of fun that goes along with it. Because my mole was smack dab in the middle of my stomach, there were four different lymph node sites that (if the cancer had spread) it could have gone to. To identify which area(s) the melanoma would most likely visit, I was injected with this dye that feels like 100 bees are stinging you at the same time. Not fun.

Turns out that my body is a bit of an over achiever and I had two sites (one in each armpit) where they would need to go in and remove some lymph nodes to confirm that the melanoma had not spread. Do you have any idea how many nerves are in your armpits and how much it hurts if someone were to slice into them?!? Thank goodness for post-op pain killers.

Lots of post-surgery checkups and some killer scars later, I received my clean bill of health. I now have a life of slathering on sunscreen with reckless abandon, stylish hats, and constantly being way over dressed for the heat. Basically, I’m a greasy, sweaty mess who rocks hat hair.

Had I not known what I was looking for and actually listened to my family doctor, I most likely would have caught it too late. The key to fighting this cancer is timing and awareness. Your family doctor is not the be all and end all for medical knowledge. Inform yourself. Advocate for your health and the health of your loved ones.

I want to thank the David Cornfield Melanoma Foundation and those involved in making “Dear 16 year old me” for giving me the resources I needed to advocate for my own health and for making me realize that it’s more than “just skin cancer”.

I will now live a long, pale, and very greasy life that I couldn’t be more thankful for.

Thank you for putting that video together and all the amazing work that you do.

Melanoma Awareness Month 2017

By Danielle Paterson, Executive Director, David Cornfield Melanoma Fund

This year’s Melanoma Awareness Month was a great one for DCMF. Our awareness, prevention and research efforts were in full swing. Our 2017 Sun Smart Kids Program starting rolling out across Ontario, our melanoma awareness videos Dear 16 Year Old Me and #newfamilyrule continued to empower people to protect and check their skin, and the DCMF Award at the University of Toronto began to take shape.

cupcakes 10 yearsWe also had the great pleasure to celebrate DCMF’s 10th Anniversary with our most loyal supporters at Deloitte Thursday Night Lights on May 11th. That night we spent some time reflecting on where we started and what we have achieved.

We have also taken the time to reflect on the significant melanoma awareness, prevention and research progress worldwide – much has changed since DCMF began in 2007. In particular, we admire Australia’s efforts to tackle melanoma head on. In 2014, Australia became the first country in the world to see a decrease in melanoma rates. This decrease was no fluke. It was as a result of a concerted multi-year, multi-sectoral strategy to curb melanoma in Australia – the country that had the highest melanoma rates in the world. Using prominent public health campaigns, school-based sun safety programs, the development of sun protective clothing and the use of shade, Australia enabled its citizens to significantly reduce their risk of melanoma. In 2016, Australia even banned indoor tanning nationally. Australia’s leadership is commendable.

On the research front, the past 10 years have been remarkable. New diagnostic technologies have emerged making early detection more effective. And groundbreaking treatment options, such as targeted treatment and immunotherapy, have been introduced and are helping to save lives that certainly would have been lost a decade ago.

These awareness, prevention and research advances are impressive. But much work remains to be done.

Skin cancer (melanoma and non-melanoma) is the most common cancer in North America accounting for more cases than the four major cancers combined (breast, colorectal, lung and prostate). Thankfully, melanoma is preventable and treatable if detected early.

During DCMF’s first decade, a strong foundation has been built to help curb the incidence of melanoma. This Melanoma Awareness Month, we did our small part. Moving forward, every month, we all need to do more.

We Love Our Volunteers

By Elyse Sunshine, Board Member, David Cornfield Melanoma Fund

Volunteers don’t get paid, not because they’re worthless, but because they’re priceless ~Sherry Anderson 

volunteer photo


DCMF Board 2012
Every organization, especially a small grassroots charity like ours, knows it would be impossible to function without volunteers. In fact, the David Cornfield Melanoma Fund (the “DCMF”) started because a group of dedicated volunteers got together to ensure that David’s wish to take steps to ensure that no other family had to lose a loved one from melanoma was attained.  Now 10 years later, this exact same group of volunteers still sits at the helm of the DCMF.  In the world of charities and not-for-profits, that is quite an accomplishment (if we do say so ourselves)!  This is attributable not only to the love and respect we had for David and our desire to honour his legacy, but also because of the countless other volunteers who have helped us along our journey to save lives from melanoma.

While it is impossible for us to acknowledge all of those incredible people by name (and some of them don’t like the limelight), in this National Volunteer Week, we want to celebrate the people who have supported us by generously giving their time over our first 10 years. image019

First, we have all the dynamic and dedicated committee members, both past and present, who have organized and run our events and fundraising activities such as David Batori, Ronit Schiff, Jeff Michaels, Andrea Siegel and Adam Perzow.  All our committee members have gone above and beyond for DCMF. Using his redheaded charm, Adam also acts as our lead volunteer fundraiser, securing significant corporate sponsorships and donations. We are extremely grateful for Adam’s commitment and dedication.

volThe DCMF would also not be complete without the numerous wonderful folks who step up to help us execute our events. * We have those in the “melanoma community” who have appeared in our videos and slideshows and shard their words and powerful images.  Your assistance set us on our journey and continues to motivate us day after day.  And then there are those remarkable people who work so hard, often physically hard, to assist us with all of our activities.  From setting up silent auction tables, to delivering pies, to handing out SPF lip balm by an icy ski image010mountain – we have been amazed at the unsung heroes who step up year after year after year to ensure that our events and awareness activities run smoothly and professionally.  Whatever their connection may be to the DCMF – be it David’s family or friends or colleagues, family or friends of a Board member, someone impacted by melanoma or just a kind “stranger,” these selfless souls are the light of our events. Their eagerness to help where needed and warm smiles are appreciated more than words can express.

image008We are also fortunate to have had the benefit of what I will call “professional” volunteers.  These are people who, by their profession or trade, have a skill that we need but cannot afford (or are fortunate not to have to pay for).  Over the years, we have had many such professionals, like Dana Fields and Andrea Goldstein, whose communications and PR expertise helped to ensure that our awareness campaigns and efforts received the outreach we were seeking. Then there are the people like Jason Mednick, Wade Makarus and his team and Jon Stancer/Parade Creative who made us look good through the development of our website, creating melanoma awareness pamphlets brochures, program logos and event invitations. And people like Elliott Sylman whose photos make us all look good and Cheryl Kaplan, who created beautiful artwork for our Sun Smart Kids program that reaches thousands upon thousands of pre-kindergarten kids and their parents. We have also had the benefit of volunteer medical advisors like Dr. Paul Cohen whose charm and charisma has helped us relay our messages on television and Dr. Ghazarian whose devotion to David started when he was his pathologist and who has been a guiding light in helping us determine goals and priorities for the melanoma community. We have people who have volunteered their time by providing advice, guidance and opportunities, like Ryan Brain and Marisa Caple.   We have also been privileged to receive volunteer legal advice, accounting advice and pretty much, every kind of advice that a charitable organization needs in order to function.

And then there is our behind the scenes volunteer administrative assistance. There is Gwen Razieli who diligently sends out our donation appreciation cards.  And we cannot forget those volunteers who come to the DCMF through the Board members’ “day jobs.” As busy professionals, our Board members have called again and again on our workplace assistants to also facilitate DCMF tasks.  They do so willingly, spending their lunch hours and breaks volunteering their time to make the DCMF happen. Michelle Bilboe, Laura Skotanis, Krysten Walker, Susan Coffin and Gray Picco, we adore your enthusiasm and the efforts you make to keep us on task!

While not technically a volunteer, we would be completely remiss if we didn’t acknowledge our phenomenal Executive Director, Danielle Paterson. We all know that in addition to her duties, she actually volunteers countless hours of her time and efforts (and her family’s as well) to keep the DCMF running as smoothly as it does and enable us to grow and execute our vision and dreams.  Danielle’s selflessness and devotion to the DCMF and our cause has been absolutely tremendous and we feel so lucky to have her on our team.

sydney-race-day-2016And finally, we have a different type of volunteer, but one whose importance cannot be underestimated. We thank all the people who lend their time, enthusiasm and energy by helping us get our awareness messages out to the public.  These are the people who run on the DCMF Team in the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon, encourage their kids to do school projects about the DCMF, watch our videos, share our social media posts, and show up when we ask them to. As has been said, “It’s the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen”. Thanks to our volunteers, DCMF can continue to make BIG things happen.

So, here’s to all of the DCMF’s volunteers.  We thank you all for your commitment, enthusiasm and dedication over these past 10 years.  We look forward to your continued support as we move into this next era for the DCMF.  Without you, there truly would be no DCMF and we can honestly say that thanks to you, we are realizing David’s dream and we are saving lives from melanoma.

Happy National Volunteer Week!


*Just a few of our recent event volunteers include: Aimee, Alan, Bernadette, Carly, Cindy, Deborah, Ellen, Erin, Joe, Lisa, Marilyn, Julie, David, Lillian, Joel, Marc, Naomi, Mike, Michelle, Natalia, Rochelle, Shoshana, Tamara, Olga.

The story behind Dear 16 Year Old Me

By Kim Davis, Board Member, David Cornfield Melanoma Fund

David and Sari Cornfield were two of our closest friends. Mark and I met David at Deloitte where we worked. David was the one who, much to his amusement and delight, first discovered our blooming interoffice romance a few years before.

Dear 16 Year Old MeI remember the evening that David and Sari told us about his melanoma diagnosis.  David always exuded positivity and optimism, but he had a rare moment of seriousness and concern that night.  Despite his tone and the look on Sari’s face as they gave us the news, I barely reacted.  I was a little bit embarrassed that I had never heard of melanoma before, but as David explained that it was a form a skin cancer, I assumed that it wasn’t serious.  After all, as I recall saying to Mark later that evening, he was lucky because skin cancer could surely just be cut out.

Even as the cancer progressed, Mark and I had no idea how serious David’s situation was, despite regular updates.  David fought with courage and grace.  He loved life and his glass was always overflowing, as he would say.  There have been many times following David’s passing that I have reflected back and wished that I had understood the gravity of his situation and been more sensitive and supportive to our dear friend.

Eventually it became obvious that David wasn’t going to beat melanoma.  His case, we assumed, was a tragically rare situation. It wasn’t until after David passed and we helped to form the David Cornfield Melanoma Fund that I began to do more research.  I was shocked at what I learned.  David’s situation wasn’t rare at all. In fact, it was all too common.

Melanoma is one of the most preventable and detectable forms of cancer, yet its incidence continues to grow significantly, particularly among young people.  Most alarming to me was that if people could catch it early, they would almost certainly survive, but if not, they would likely only survive less than five years.

With the advancement of social media, I was able to read all sorts of stories about young people who discovered suspicious moles years before being diagnosed, but didn’t do anything about it. And stories about people who unwittingly engaged in risky behaviour such as allowing themselves or their children to get sunburned or use tanning beds, only to develop melanoma a few years later.  Fathers, sons, mothers, daughters, sisters, friends – all real people with names and faces. My heart was broken.

I was a 29 year-old, well-educated professional at the time of David’s diagnosis. I was pretty sure that if I wasn’t aware of melanoma, many others weren’t either.  Surely if we could educate people, we could save lives. That realization weighed heavily on me and fuelled my commitment to fulfill David’s dream of spreading awareness.

marisa on set

In 2011, the DCMF Board decided to create an awareness video. None of us really knew what it should look like or how we would promote it. At that time, we had no employees and we were all young parents with full-time demanding jobs. Then, divine intevenation. The communications firm that we hired to create the video had a very special member.

Marisa Caple was young, passionate, creative, and extremely talented. She was in our target demographic and she understood how to most effectively reach our target audience.  She had a vision that the DCMF board, mostly comprised of accountants and lawyers (not the most creative people), couldn’t fully appreciate.   We were contemplating a video to show in schools and camps; Marisa persuaded us to launch the video on YouTube instead. We provided Marisa with the key messages that we wanted to convey and she wrote two alternative scripts for our consideration.  We chose one, but Marisa knew that the other entitled ‘Dear 16 Year Old Me’, was the video that would engage and empower its viewers the most.

dear 16 groupWe wanted our video to be authentic, so we decided to recruit real, young melanoma survivors or families of melanoma patients. Easier said than done! We needed twelve to fifteen participants, but due to privacy laws, we were unable to ask doctors or hospitals for names. We asked our friends and families, but were only able to identify five or so participants.  Time was tight as we wanted to get the video released in time for our upcoming fundraising event. So my late evenings were spent scouring the internet for melanoma blogs and websites and reaching out to patients, friends, and families to see if they would be willing to take a chance on DCMF, a completely new and unknown charity, and fly to Toronto to be in our video.  We finally found our participants, and they were perfect.

The morning of filming, I was an emotional wreck. This had become an important and personal project.  As I got into my car to go to the studio, I turned on my radio and the first song to come on was “Beautiful Day” by U2. This was David’s favourite song and the line ‘It’s a beautiful day, don’t let it slip away’ was his personal motto. I immediately knew everything would be ok.

dear 16 on set

We met many of the participants for the first time on the day of filming and we felt an instant connection with each of them, a connection we continue to treasure immensely. It was a wonderful, fun, exciting, happy day.

The DCMF board members were not allowed into the filming area, so we really didn’t know what to expect.  But when we viewed the first cut of the video for the first time a few weeks later, we knew that it was special. Of course we had no idea how special.

Dear 16 Year Old Me was released on YouTube on May 3rd, 2011. By May 4th, it had over 25,000 views. By May 5th, it had over one million views, including various channels outside of YouTube, in over 15 countries. By the end of 2011, Dear 16 Year Old Me was the 7th most shared ad in the world – an incredible achievement for a small non-profit organization. To say that we were amazed is an understatement.

dear 16 year old me cast at launchToday, Dear 16 Year Old Me has been viewed by close to 10 million people in 215 countries, shared by organizations and celebrities, featured in the media (including on NBC’s Today Show), and won a number of awards. The video clearly resonated with people, and through it we have made huge strides in achieving our goals of educating people and saving lives.

Here is just one of the countless emails that we received:

“Thank you, thank you very much! If it wasn’t for your video, that I saw by chance on YouTube a few months ago, I would have never thought to have my skin checked… I actually didn’t know what melanoma was! Now everything seems to be fine, you, your commitment your work actually saved my life. Thank you with all myself, I hope I will have the opportunity to support your precious job in the years to come. I really owe you so much. Thank you. Cesare from Italy”.

Dear 16 Year Old Me propelled the David Cornfield Melanoma Fund onto the global stage and earned us the credibility needed to become the organization we are today. It also validated the fact that our message of awareness was compelling – our viewers heard it, understood it, and shared it.

So with that knowledge, the David Cornfield Melanoma Fund will continue to work tirelessly to promote melanoma prevention and early detection.  We are incredibly thankful to everyone who made Dear 16 Year Old succeed and all the donors and supporters that took a chance on us. We hope that we have made each of them proud. And of course, we hope that we have made David proud too.


The inspiration behind the David Cornfield Melanoma Fund

By Sari Cornfield, David Cornfield Melanoma Fund Board Member

My name is Sari Cornfield and I was blessed to be David Cornfield’s wife. Our love story began as do most – boy meets girl, girl and boy fall in love, get married and so on. We were young and in love, we were best friends who spent every free moment together. We were starting our life together, having adventures, working hard at our respective careers and planning to start a family. Unfortunately, that’s where our love story took a turn.

One night David complained of an itchy bump under a mole on his back. David had a family history of melanoma so I made him an appointment with his dermatologist. The biopsy results were not what we expected and in an instant the floor dropped out from under our perfect world.

David was 29, a rising star at his accounting firm with his whole life ahead of him. A cancer diagnosis was not in our plans. And so together as a team we tackled the cancer as we did any other challenge. I followed David, my fearless leader, as he directed the course of the next year. And he did so with his usual determination, confidence and humour. Cancer was no match for David! We spent hours researching and discussing the best treatment options. David suffered through a year of treatment with brutal side effects that challenged both of us to our core.

david sari noahWith a clean bill of health, a new sense of appreciation for every single day and my strong vibrant David feeling more like his pre-cancer self, we were delighted to find out we were expecting our first child. April 2, 2004 was filled with excitement, joy and so much love and gratitude as we welcomed our shining star Noah into our family. Our first year as a family of three was the usual sleepless nights, magical firsts and continued thankfulness for our beautiful life together.

One week after Noah’s first birthday, David went for a routine scan where a spot on his lung was found. And a few days later, despite prayers and hope, our worst fears were confirmed. The cancer was back and this time the beast would not be tamed.

For the second time, our happy, blessed life was turned upside down and we were faced with surgeries, travelling to the US for treatment and scary statistics. David reassured me that we would beat the odds. Again he smiled through treatments that tested his endurance convinced the more terrible the side effects, the better chance of it defeating the cancer in his body. But the beast raged on and the cancer quickly spread to his brain, intestine and finally his spinal column, paralyzing him and confining him to bed. I will never forget the terrible day the doctors took away our last shred of hope telling us there was nothing more they could do.

During the last few weeks we had together, David and I continued the long talks we had always shared. David believed there was a reason behind his illness and knew that his story would somehow be used to make a difference in the fight against melanoma. December 18, 2005, of all the awful days we had experienced, was the very worst. This was the day David told me quietly he had to go.

The days, weeks and months that followed David’s death were some of my darkest moments. The only things propelling me forwards were my beautiful son and David’s wish and belief that something good would come of this tragedy.

Because of the amazing person that David was and all of the lives he had touched, soon the people around me stepped forward wondering how to honour their friend, their brother, their colleague. Collectively we were all looking to channel our grief in a way that would honour David. And thus, the David Cornfield Melanoma Fund was born. And with it a sense of pride as we knew we were encompassing David’s spirit and values and a legacy that would help others and hopefully make an impact on the melanoma community.

During those early months and years, we struggled to find DCMF’s purpose. We wondered how we as a small charity could make the most impact. As we met and began to talk, to explore and to share ideas, it felt as if David, our leader, was once again guiding us. I remembered a conversation with David where I was convinced that we needed to start a charity to raise funds for research because I was so frustrated with our own experience of having such limited treatment options. David said: “A million dollars buys a test tube. It is impossible to make a difference that way. We need to raise awareness.”

It is hard to believe it has been 11 years since David left us and 10 years since DCMF began the journey to aid in the awareness and prevention of melanoma. We have come a long way thanks to the incredible support of so many. With each life lost and each life touched and saved, our determination grows. I know that David is so proud of all we have accomplished and all that we will continue to do.



My Melanoma Story


By Parker Smith

July 7, 2011 – My best friend, mentor and business partner passes away unexpectedly at 40 years old. At that time I was 10 years and 2 days younger than him. This is my first true experience of such a brutal loss. It scares the shit out of me, enough to go to the doctor for a complete physical. Just to be sure everything is ok…

At this point, I think I am in the best physical condition and the healthiest in my life. I have a strong daily yoga practice. I run my first Tough Mudder with some friends (and carry my cross fit partner down the last portion of the race). I learn to surf. I travel. I love. I feel a deep gratitude for all the blessings in my life.

Aug 19, 2011 – Around my birthday, I go to the doctor for a full physical and everything proceeds normally. I feel healthy, happy and strong. As the appointment ends I remember, “My mom has been bugging me to get this tiny mole on my back looked at”. The doctor cuts the tiny black dot off the middle of my back. A bandaid and a lollipop later and I am back home to my healthy, happy life.

A week later I get a call from the doctor about my blood work and the biopsied mole.

When the doctor says the words “Malignant Melanoma”, all I hear is skin-cancer. I have known lots of family and friends talk about dealing with skin cancer. They get it burned off, or it is neatly removed one affected cell at a time. The doctor can tell by the tone of my voice that I do not understand the gravity of my situation. She starts saying words like: “Stage 4”, “Currently 3mm”, “Extremely Aggressive”, “Surgery Immediately”.

I work from home as a software geek and already have 3 monitors full of windows open to every piece of information, research, treatment and risks I can find.

As the doctor is talking, I am reading facts like:

  • Melanoma is the most dangerous type of skin cancer.
  • When there is distant metastasis, the cancer is generally considered incurable.
  • The five-year survival rate is less than 10%. The median survival is 6–12 months.
  • Stage 4: (2-4mm) Distant metastasis: 7% survival.

A calm comes over me. Faced with what appears to be a death sentence, and knowing that there is nothing I can do in this moment to fix anything, I go a little numb, finish the day’s work and go take a few back-to-back yoga classes. If I’m going to die, I am going to die enlightened and flexible like Gumby.

Sept 5, 2011 – The week of my surgery. I ask the surgeon about all the different kinds of treatment. Does he know about advanced Mohs surgery? He delicately chuckles and says yes he helped pioneer that technique and he has been doing surgery longer than I have been alive, and MY only option is taking 3-inch margins and down to the muscle. Basically cut out as much as possible around the area in hopes of catching any possible cancer cell.


He makes a comment that I am not the youngest patient he has treated, but I am close.

After some exciting complications during the procedure, it ends well and I take some pictures of the large piece of “me” that now is floating in a small jar.

Inside that little jar are “hopefully” ALL the little cells that were about to kill me.

Inside that little jar are ALL my hopes to give good news to my family. (At this point I have told no one what has been happening).

At that moment, my entire future, every hope and dream was trapped in that jar.

Sept 17, 2011 – I receive a very calm and factual report that “the margins were clear” and that it appears I was extremely fortunate to have caught it when I did.

In that very clinical phone call, I was alive again.

I had to be careful: wear sunscreen; check my skin; don’t get a sunburn.

Now the numbness dramatically changed to every emotion I had refused to feel.

I felt like laughing till it hurt, curling into the fetal position sobbing, hugging everyone, all at the same time. Instead of doing any of that, I called my mom. “Mom. Don’t worry. Everything is ok now. I am ok. I just got the news that the surgery to remove the deadly cancer I had (and didn’t tell you about for 3 weeks) was a complete success and I am going to be completely fine. Oh, and you were SOOOO right, I should have had that mole checked out a long time ago.” *Note: Everyone listen to your mother.

Every Day After –

Today I try to use my experience as a constant reminder to be grateful and thankful for every little thing. I say “yes” to a lot more things. I am less afraid of taking risks and truly living.


I have a deep connection to the practices I have studied about Mindfulness and Being Present. But, I often feel like I am cheating because it is easy to live in the moment when you know what it feels like to think each moment is likely your last.

So many people have had their lives destroyed by this disease. Most people don’t catch it in time. They are forced to: suffer with chemo; multiple surgeries; the fear and pain of leaving a spouse and children.

To all the people who have lost someone to melanoma: I can’t imagine the pain of losing your parent; a sibling; the love of your life; your child; Your pain continues and I am very sorry for your loss. I join you everyday in yelling “F*** Cancer!”

One of the many new passions I have explored in “Life 2.0” has been running. After starting running in Dec 2015, I completed the Denver Colfax Marathon. My first marathon, and also my first ever race. I have continued training and on Oct 16, 2016 I will be racing the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon on the David Cornfield Melanoma Fund’s team.

During all my training I have learned lots about running technique, training plans, nutrition, race day rituals, and setting and believing in goals. But all of those details pale in importance to running for a Purpose. My Purpose for running is to continually raise awareness for this easily preventable, exceptionally deadly disease.

To all my inspiring running mates, it has been a great summer – now check your skin! Go to for lots of resources and tools about checking your skin, and about melanoma. If you are somewhere you don’t mind shedding a tear, check out DCMF’s video “Dear 16 Year Old Me”.

I’m proud to support the David Cornfield Melanoma Fund’s work in melanoma awareness, prevention and research.













Here’s my ‘5 years cancer free’ cup!









Awareness is beautiful

Kate twitter (1) (1)

By Kate Trimarki

My journey begins the week of my 26th birthday. Birthdays are such a happy, memorable time, aren’t they? At least that had always been true for myself, and this was one I would truly remember for the rest of my life. This birthday week would be the point of impact for my story, because it is indeed when the bomb was dropped that would change the rest of my life. Up to this point in my life I was free-spirited, outgoing and driven but after this, things would be different forever.

Let’s rewind to my teenage years and my early twenties. Back then I loved tanning and being tan. It didn’t matter if I was laying on the beach, in a tanning bed or in the standup machine, I just wanted my skin to have some color. I have milky white skin, which I undoubtedly inherited from my Irish father, and call it a blessing, call it a curse or maybe even one of those cases where you want something you don’t have, but all I longed for was that sun kissed skin tone. In order for myself to obtain this, I had to follow a process which consisted of getting a real good sunburn and letting it fade until I ended up with just the right color. The sad truth is, what I was actually doing was arming all of these little land mines, “moles”, under my skin, and it would just be a matter of time before they decided to detonate.

Let’s jump to me being 24 and at an annual physical, still 2 years before impact. Physicals were never an issue for me because I always knew I’d get a clean bill of health. Somehow however, this physical was a bit different. During this visit, while my physician was listening to my lungs from my back, his focus turned to a mole sitting just below where had placed his stethoscope. Now, he had mentioned before that it may not be a bad idea to see a dermatologist due to all my freckles and moles, precautionary of course, but today his tone was different. He became insistent that I have this mole checked out immediately. I explained that mole had been there forever and my pediatrician always kept an eye on it. He then explained regardless of the past, it was irregular in shape and quite dark and needed to be checked. So in the interest of maintaining my clean bill of health, I appeased him by assuring him I would make an appointment with someone in his group ASAP. The truth is, I did nothing of the sort.

So we’re at the week of my 26th birthday and it’s been two years since my last physical, so I may as well get one out of the way. I’m not even thinking about the fib I told my physician last time, that I would have that mole checked out, but he was thinking about it. He had not forgotten and was in shock to learn I had done nothing about this mole. The physical quickly turned to “cancel whatever you have going on for the rest of the day” and he would make sure I was seen by a dermatologist in his group today. In my head, I couldn’t understand why he was overreacting like this. I just didn’t see why the sense of urgency, but decided to just go along with it knowing it would be a minute to have this thing removed and I would be on my way, and indeed that was the case. About 48 hours later, when I was asked to return to the dermatologist’s office due to the biopsy results, the reality of the matter still hadn’t kicked in. I went to the appointment alone, figuring this would be a quick visit, and after showing up, “you have malignant Melanoma Kate”, “you’re going to have to meet with an Oncologist and have surgery as soon as possible”. I simply replied, “Why can’t you just laser it off?” which I was then greeted with the response “obviously, you do not understand the severity of this.” He was right, I did not.

To say I was naive when it came to skin cancer was an understatement. I always associated it with the elderly or someone that looked like Magda from the movie There’s something about Mary. Regardless, this was happening to me, and my entire birthday week turned into one big blur to me. The only way to describe it was like if I was a famous actor on the press tour from hell. I was being rushed off from one place to the next, answering the same questions and giving the same answers. I was poked, prodded and studied from every angle. Everything felt so invasive however the surgery and partial lymph node biopsy did prove to be a success. Of course this was at the cost of a whole lot of pain and a huge reminder on my lower back of what I went through. The remainder of that year proved to be one of the most challenging I would ever live.

Adjusting to this new lifestyle of being constantly biopsied and having surgeries, all I really wanted was my life to go back to the way it was before my diagnosis. Until now, the focus of my biopsies and surgeries were all on my back, so I began having the mentality that I would treat my body like a paper doll. Focus on the front and just ignore the back, ultimately pretending that nothing ever happened. Then I had to have surgery due to squamous cell carcinoma on my breast and stomach. I received many stitches during that surgery and when I could finally shower, I remember catching a glimpse of my front in the mirror and it hit me like a ton of bricks. That was the first time I had felt an emotion, anger, and I was overcome by it. My body was no longer the paper doll, instead I saw a body that was quite broken and I did not like it. I began punching things and yelling, yet surprisingly, not a tear would fall. And with that anger, my life just took a downward spiral. My boyfriend and I had ended our relationship, I decided to just up and quit my corporate job, and I could not concentrate or focus on anything. I was separating from the person I once was, and people were noticing. It was my Oncologist that finally requested I see a cancer therapist. His recommendation and a dash of my parents telling me that they hadn’t seen me smile in so long was just the right mixture for me to agree to see someone.

The first few times going to therapy I let the therapist do most of the talking because I still really had nothing to say. It wasn’t until our fourth session that she pulled out my chart and read the notes that my Oncologist had written about me. He described me as the following:” Kate has made a decision to avoid in engaging emotional connections. She runs from situations and I am concerned that as a survivor of trauma that she has developed into PTSD”. The therapist then pulled out a book and said that she was going to read me a poem. The poem was about a day at the beach with friends. One of the friends decides to swim out by themselves in the ocean. The undertow and waves prove to be too much for him or her. He or she can see their friends on land. There is no lifeguard on duty, so in order to be saved, they would have to ask for the help of their friends. The person tries to swim and fights to get closer to the shore but ends up letting the ocean take them instead of calling out for help. The therapist looked up at me and says to me, “that person in the ocean, that person drowning, is you. You would rather drown then be saved by asking for help.” She said to me that I am running away from something that will eventually catch up to me. Through everything I had been through, I finally cracked and broke down crying. I actually began to weep and the sadness overwhelmed me. I did not realize how much I was alienating and distancing myself from my family and friends.

Halloween Party with Shonda, G and Curt-2Months had passed and I continued therapy. I felt like my therapist was the mirror that was showing me the destructive path I had been taking. She explained that my impulsiveness, like quitting my job, was all about control. I could not control my skin cancer, but I did have control over the decisions that I made. I had so much regret, but I was trying to become a healthier person. I began to educate myself on Melanoma and all types of skin cancer. I was like a sponge and I just wanted to read everything and anything about this disease. I wanted to embrace it instead of running As better of a mental state I was in now, the one thing I was still missing was having someone I could relate with. It was great talking with my therapist but I needed someone who had been through what I had, someone who dealt with the same cancer I had. Enter Shonda Schilling. It was at this point I had found my Melanoma Survivor Soulmate.

Ironically, prior to my therapy, my mother had made mention of Shonda and her story, which had made headlines because of her exposure being married to Boston Red Sox Pitcher Curt Schilling. She was a Melanoma survivor but when my mother first mentioned her, I was in denial and not ready to hear anything about her. But one night out of curiosity, I went on the Shade Foundation website, which was founded by Shonda and her husband Curt, and I read Shonda’s story. I immediately felt compelled to reach out to her via the website. Within 24 hours, I received a response from her. It was surreal, like hearing from a long lost friend. After several email exchanges, she invited me and some of my family to be her guests at one of Curt’s baseball games at Fenway Park. Being from Massachusetts and from a family of diehard Sox fans, I was overjoyed by the invitation.

Meeting Shonda in person for the first time was like a revelation. I saw that you can truly be happy again even after a nightmare like Melanoma. I could see that Shonda was genuinely comfortable in her skin, whereas I wasn’t quite there yet. She was proof that you can love again and be loved, scars and all, and that you can have a career, a family, friends, laughter, smiles, and a beautiful life. For so long I thought I was being punished with this diagnosis that I deprived myself of all the good things life has to offer. Not only has Shonda inspired me in so many ways, she has become a role model and a friend whom I will always hold close to my heart.

In 2007, 6 years after my initial diagnosis, I have my happy ending. I found the love of my life and 9 years later, we have 3 beautiful girls, a five year old and twin 2 year olds. My journey still continues. I will always have dermatology appointments and biopsies once in a while but I have accepted that. I have also made it a personal mission to raise awareness for Melanoma. Yes, even I am still learning new things about Melanoma every day, I do try to put myself out there as much as possible and I was even honored to be part of OLAY’s Best Beautiful Campaign to help promote skin cancer awareness. Social media has also proven to be a huge part of raising awareness and serves as a vehicle for victim and survivor personal stories. I commend these people because it takes a strong person to share something so raw and private and that was always something I had great difficulty with.

Today, though, I too am like Shonda, happy and comfortable in my skin. My priorities in life may have changed and the meaning of what is “beautiful” has changed. I have grown in so many ways. As I conclude, I want to share two things that I have learned:

Everyone has scars, I just wear mine on the outside and AWARENESS IS BEAUTIFUL.

Iphone 1951362245

Spotlight on melanoma


Dave and Marlins

By Dave Aizer  – television host, writer and producer

January 2nd 2015 was the day that changed my life. It was the day my dermatologist called to tell me the mole he biopsied from my face tested positive for melanoma. As a guy who grew up in South Florida, I certainly knew of melanoma; but I had no idea what it really was. I just thought it was “skin cancer.” I didn’t know it could penetrate your lymph nodes, spread throughout your body and potentially kill you.

As you can imagine, I was beyond terrified. Nightmarish scenarios raced through my head constantly. To become acutely aware of your own mortality, and how quickly everything can be taken from you, is a feeling I would never wish on anyone.

A few weeks later, I had surgery to remove the melanoma and some surrounding lymph nodes from my face and neck. Because we caught it early and the melanoma was small, the odds were very much in my favor that it hadn’t spread to any nodes. As it would turn out, I was the exception rather than the rule.

Dave SlimeTimeThey diagnosed me as stage 3a. What followed was a PET scan, a brain MRI, meetings with oncologists, survival rates and a massive second surgery. That surgery took over fourteen hours and involved the removal of all the nodes from the left side of my neck, the removal of my left parotid gland and a massive plastic surgery reconstruction of my face and neck.

All because of a stupid little mole.

The two weeks after that surgery were the hardest of my life. Not only was I healing physically but I was on pins and needles, waiting for the pathology results. So when the doctor called and told me the most incredible news — everything they took out of me came back clean — I wept, prayed, hugged my family and made a promise that I’d spend the rest of my life (which I intend to be very long) being an advocate against this terrible disease.

So that’s what I’m doing. I’m a television host for the CW here in South Florida and I’m blessed with a platform to educate our community on melanoma detection and prevention. I’ve shared my story on TV and have interviewed my surgeon and oncologist.

Regarding my treatment, I’m on a clinical trial and will have MRI’s, CAT scans, blood tests and oncology appointments for the next few years. I try to live every day like it’s my birthday and I’m grateful for every moment I’m alive.

I’m proud to say I’ve been cancer-free for a year. I’m even more proud to say I’m doing my part to help others avoid what I’ve been through.

10 year anniversary of David Cornfield’s passing



December 18th is DCMF’s toughest day. It’s the day that David Cornfield passed away in 2005. This year is especially difficult as it marks the 10 year anniversary of David’s death.

The loss of David changed us forever. David was, simply put, the very best. Words cannot express how much he is missed.

It was David’s personal wish that DCMF be created to 1) spread awareness of melanoma prevention and 2) support melanoma research.

Amidst their deep grief, our founding board members, comprised of David’s family, friends and colleagues formed DCMF in 2007. These dedicated board members continue to lead DCMF today.

10 years after David’s death, thanks to the generosity of our loyal donors and sponsors, we are very proud of what we have accomplished on David’s behalf:

  • Dear 16 Year Old Me, 2011: awareness video
  • Melanoma Base Camp, 2012: winter sun protection event
  • Blue Jays, 2013, 2014, 2015: DCMF is hosted by the Blue Jays Play Sun Smart program
  • David Cornfield Melanoma Fund Award, 2015: $100,000 endowed award at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto, awarded annually to a PhD student excelling in melanoma research
  • #newfamilyrule, 2015: melanoma prevention video for families
  • Sun Smart Kids, 2015:  melanoma prevention program distributing thousands of hats, magnets and information to kindergarten children and their families in the Toronto District School Board

As we remember David this month, we take stock of what we have achieved and strengthen our resolve to help everyone protect and check their skin to reduce their risk of melanoma. We have great momentum and are driven to achieve more in David’s name. We are extremely excited about what lays ahead for DCMF in 2016 and beyond.



Canada’s 10 provinces ban youth from indoor tanning

By Danielle Paterson, Executive Director, David Cornfield Melanoma Fund
Indoor tanning ban final

Today is a momentous day for Canada’s youth. As of November 1, 2015, Canada’s 10 provinces will have regulations banning youth from indoor tanning.

Congratulations to each provincial government for their leadership and to all the health organizations and committed citizens who worked so hard to encourage the adoption of youth tanning bans. This is a remarkable and important achievement.

Skin cancer is Canada’s most common cancer and melanoma, the deadliest skin cancer, is increasing. There is no doubt that indoor tanning (a class 1 carcinogen) has contributed to these grave statistics.

Indoor tanning is dangerous for people of all ages but is particularly dangerous for youth. Banning indoor tanning for youth is an important step to reduce the risk of all skin cancers in Canada.

We are proud that Canada’s provinces (as well as the Northwest Territories) have committed to protect their youth from the dangers of indoor tanning.

We look forward to the day that, along with Brazil and Australia, we can celebrate the banning of indoor tanning for Canadians of all ages.

Introducing Sun Smart Kids


By Danielle Paterson, Executive Director, David Cornfield Melanoma Fund

Throughout May and June, pre-school children are visiting their new schools for the first time in preparation for Kindergarten in September 2015. For 8,000 Toronto families, these visits include the chance to learn about sun protection through the David Cornfield Melanoma Fund’s (DCMF) latest initiative, Sun Smart Kids.

Since sun exposure and sunburn in childhood increases the risk of developing melanoma later in life, DCMF wants to empower families to protect themselves in the sun. IMG_3269-3Sun Smart Kids is DCMF’s sun protection awareness program for children and families. Sun Smart Kids is comprised of sun hats and magnets for children, and for parents, information about melanoma, the importance of sun protection and what steps families can take to remain protected in the sun.

We are delighted to partner with The Learning Partnership’s Welcome to Kindergarten Program to deliver Sun Smart Kids in the Toronto District School Board. The Welcome to Kindergarten program is a unique engagement strategy that brings parents, children, schools and community service agencies together to prepare children for a fun and successful first year in school.

IMG_3340Welcome to Kindergarten events are happy and momentous occasions where families are greeted by the Principal and staff and enjoy a series of hands-on activities in the classroom. At the end of the event, the children receive their own Welcome to Kindergarten bag. This bag includes our Sun Smart Kids hats, magnets and information sheets, and Welcome to Kindergarten books and learning tools to help children prepare for school over the summer months.

We have had the opportunity to see Sun Smart Kids in action. Principals and Learning Partnership staff have enthusiastically celebrated the DCMF/Learning Partnership collaboration, underlined the importance of sun protection directly to the children and parents, prominently displayed Sun Smart Kids materials and encouraged the children to become Sun Smart Kids. We’ll never forget the joy on the children’s faces when they reached into their ‘special bag’ to grab their Sun Smart Kids hat.

Thank you to our fantastic partners, The Learning Partnership and the Toronto District School Board, and to our generous suppliers KapGun Art, Karbon and Parade Creative.

We are looking forward to seeing our Sun Smart Kids across Toronto!

Driving melanoma awareness

DSC_7828Written by: Kristi Donahue

My name is Kristi and 3 years ago I was diagnosed with stage 1a melanoma. I knew nothing about this disease at the time. I had a pretty big surgery on my neck to remove the tumor (mole), and have since healed physically. In the past three years, I have learned SO much about this sneaky, ruthless, and deadly disease.

However, I have come to the startling conclusion that there are very few people out there that know anything about melanoma, or in many cases are not even willing to learn. The lack of education and awareness out there, as well as our own personal vanity, is the number one reason that melanoma has taken over the driver’s seat as being the fastest growing cancer in the United States.  The rate of melanoma in people under 30 is increasing faster than any other demographic group.  Pediatric cases are also rapidly rising. While the incidence of many other cancers is on the decline, melanoma is increasing.

DSC_4664I am a barber in Ladera Ranch Ca. and since my diagnosis, I have made it my mission to make my station become a “platform ” for education. It’s covered with melanoma awareness and educational materials. I hand out sunscreen samples and business cards for local dermatologists. I also hand out books that I order regularly from the National Cancer Foundation. I have also ordered a lot of information and material from the Melanoma Research Foundation to hand out as well, using their cards as my business card ;). In my barber chair, I have helped to spot melanoma on two different customers. Through my Facebook page posts, I have had another person get checked and diagnosed with melanoma. My Facebook page is also 100% filled with awareness and education as I share stories of real people daily, both Angels and Warriors. I am dedicated to using Facebook as a vessel to reach as far as I can.

This brings me to my exciting new project that I just completed. It is so important to me to educate and make people aware EVERYWHERE I go and help them to learn about this horrific disease.  Facebook and the barber shop are just not enough for me, and so I wanted to transform my car into a rolling Public Service Announcement.  I wanted to make sure that EVERY inch of useable space on my car shares facts, helpful slogans, photos, and places where we are exposed to UV rays. For example, the baseball field (all outdoor sports), tanning bed, beach/pool, kids playing outside, and even driving. I have added the link to the AMAZING short PSA “Dear 16 year old me” as well as my FB link. I DSC_4642wanted it to be LOUD, impactful, and educational! I wanted people, no matter where I go, or park to see the word melanoma, a word that they probably have a grave misconception of, and want to know more. I want everyone that I pass by, or that passes me by, to take in any little bit of info, that they would NOT have known before. I want this disease to STOP.

We DESPERATELY need to SPREAD AWARENESS, so that this vicious beast gets a cure, and we stop losing these YOUNG beautiful people. I want to OPEN eyes that would not have even given the word melanoma a second thought. I am determined to use every single part of my life in raising awareness, and open eyes in every way that I can.

The feedback since I received my car back has left me speechless.  Many friends want to do something similar to their cars. I have made connections just out and about with people who have lost loved ones to melanoma.  I was on the freeway and   had this woman look at me in shock (a look like “Holy Cow “) and then give me a huge thumbs-up. I also just recently went to a local recreational park and before I knew it, had a crowd of people standing around asking questions/taking pictures. It was truly an incredible 45 minutes.  Just the kind of thing I hoped would happen.

This month, I will be joining a group of amazing families in Washington DC to speak on Capitol Hill at the Melanoma Research Foundation’s Advocacy Summit & Legislative Hill Day. I am so excited and cannot wait to go. I truly just cannot seem to get loud enough.

With each beautiful warrior that earns their Angel wings, my heartbreak fuels my fire and only makes me want to find new ways, or new people to educate. I believe in my heart that together we can “Drive” this beast into the ground!!

Meredith Legg Stapleton – 1 Year

Written by: Elyse Sunshine, Board Member, DCMF

February 24, 2014: Your mom calls with the terrible news. There are tears. There are no words.
March 2014: We read and re-read the beautiful articles written about you and all of your accomplishments. We honour what would have been your 27th birthday.

April 2014: We obsessively read your old emails and Facebook messages and smile at your enthusiasm and zest for life. We think of all of the people you inspired with your bravery and willingness to share your melanoma journey.

10848019_10203784545110132_580936414258305905_nMay 2014: We honour you in a slideshow at our fundraiser event for melanoma awareness month. We all fall silent as your smiling face fills the screen knowing that no pictures can ever capture how beautiful you truly were.

June 2014: We re-watch your episode of Say Yes to the Dress. We smile listening to your Southern accent and seeing the sparkle in your eyes as you find your gown.

July 2014: We work on a website for you, trying to include all of the amazing tributes written about you – there are so many.
August 2014: We take the ALS ice bucket challenge and in addition to donating to
ALS, we give money to the DCMF and other melanoma charities in your name.

September 2014: We create business cards to inform others about you and your website and to keep your legacy going. When they arrive, seeing your beaming smile when we open the package is like a gift.

554296_10101228965784637_1376565242_nOctober 2014: We think of you and Christopher on what should have been your anniversary. We remember your fantastic wedding and what a gorgeous bride you were.

November 2014: We are thrilled that your parents come to Toronto but know you should be here too – laughing as we peer down the depths of the glass floor of the CN tower. We brave the cold in Niagara Falls and think of you as we take in the magnificence of this world wonder.
62349_10153753004335475_317979480_n (1)
December 2014 – We turn our thoughts to your family at Christmas and are thankful for your wonderful nieces and nephew that make your parents and siblings smile.

January 2015 – We see in the new year. We whisper a toast to you and to the others who are no longer with us.

February 24, 2015 – We cannot believe the year has passed. We think of you with love. We think of your parents, siblings, family and friends and many admirers. The world remains a sadder place without you but your legacy is strong. You will never be forgotten.

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