In honor of Nate Bloom (Commenced in 2008)
2013 Warrior Award Recipient
Our Warrior of the Year is Sarah Bruck.
In February of 2000, I had a bad flu with some shortness of breath. A precautionary chest X-ray showed a mass. In a few days, the flu was gone, but I had Stage IV amelanotic malignant melanoma, and an 8% chance of surviving as long as nine months. Amelanotic? No color, very rare and almost impossible to detect. Stage IV? There was a met in my brain as well. This after faithfully seeing a dermatologist every quarter since before I was thirty! Melanoma was supposed to be an old person cancer!
Our daughter was 3 1/2 years old. Before she turned 4 on May 5th that year, I'd had high dose bio-immunotherapy, two brain tumors, and I lost the lower left lobe of my left lung. My battle was just beginning. Some treatments were devastating. Later radiation for another tumor left me in a wheelchair on morphine, with any improvement seemingly improbable. Over 40 blood transfusions, 16 brain tumors, skin lesions popping up with frightening regularity, the litany goes on. - but so do I. Once I was shopping and I bought a beautiful cocktail dress, silk chiffon, spaghetti strap, perfect hues of blue print. I loved it. When I took it out to wear it, I realized that the dress didn't show my eyes and figure as much as it detailed, in keloid fashion, a story of skin cancer on fair freckled skin.
I am a gardener, and through all the therapies, my mantra was to eradicate the "weeds and seeds of cancer" from my body. After a five year cancer free period, I thought I could start concentrating on growing flowers, but again, a bump on my butt turned into a pain in the posterior - cancer again. In the years since then, the dynamic duo of Drs Smith & Zachary have helped keep me going. However, I've had to revise my mantra to be the "weeds and seeds, roots and shoots" of cancer.
Melanoma studies speak in terms of "success rates" which mean that a patient survives to or past nine months. That's the life span of a person with melanoma, nine months.Clearly, that is not enough time; but every day for a cancer patient is a whole new world. That is the source of my hope, and what has fueled my determination to beat those odds.
Our now 16 year old daughter recently told me that there is a big difference between surviving and living. Well, I have survived those nine months several times, and with the grace of G-d and the unwavering, all encompassing, invaluable steadfast support of my husband, I'm still living!
2012 Warrior Award Recipient
Our Warrior of the Year is Cindi Raissen.
After just turning 22 years old in 2005 just like any other young adult in their prime I thought I was invincible. Hanging out with friends, focusing on a career and never thinking I would be faced with any life threatening illness. Shortly after celebrating my birthday I physically found an abnormal growth in my left thigh. After many scans and having the growth surgically removed I had one of the scariest weeks of my life while waiting for the results.
All my euphoria came crashing down when I heard the words "Stage 3B Melanoma Cancer". In my mind, my young adult literal heaven was slowly morphing into a figurative "heaven" or even "hell". I was lucky enough to be in the care of an outstanding Oncology team at UC Irvine Cancer Center.
My roller coaster ride over the following couple of years was filled with surgery, Chemotherapy sessions and the debilitating effects of cancer fighting chemicals. All the lymph nodes in my left thigh were removed and that has saved my life, but also left me with a life long battle of lymphedema (swelling in my left leg).
I have learnt how to control the swelling and I am now studying the art and science of lymphedema treatment techniques enabling me to treat cancer survivors with special in home treatments. I have found my passion and canÕt wait to start treating people who have the same medical problem that I have managed to live with. And in so doing I believe I have turned my adversity into a strength to help others.
With strong will and determination I managed to graduate school while undergoing chemo sessions. Unfortunately over a two year period I also had 3 emergency surgeries and hospitalization for a condition that I was told I could lead to possible leg amputation or death. I remember telling the surgical team in the Emergency room "Are you kidding me, I'm 23 years old?". I was lucky to not have had what they thought was a flesh eating bacteria and I did not loose a leg or my life from those Strep B and Cellulitis infections. I was required to stay in the hospital after every surgery over a two year span I spent a total of 23 days in the hospital and had to stop and start Chemotherapy because of these infections. I was sent home two of three times from the hospital with a permanent IV attached to me for 6 continuous weeks at a time.
Would you feel sexy walking around and going out in public with IV lines and a medical machine attached to your body for 120 days total?
I have learnt that you cannot say "why me", you can only take it head on and fight to beat it with a positive attitude! Over the past 7 years I have gone from bi yearly to yearly PET scans and a few biopsies and have been officially MELANOMA FREE and loving life ever since!
2011 Warrior Award Recipient
Our Warrior of the Year is Elena Starkey.
You would think that an olive-skinned person, not prone to sunburns, would be an unlikely candidate for melanoma. Well, mucosal melanoma is not triggered by sun exposure; it develops internally, and is much more aggressive than regular melanomas arising on the skin. So when I developed this lump inside my nose, the thought of a mucosal melanoma never entered my head, so to speak! Indeed, I put up with it for several months, not having the slightest concern that a small growth in the nose, of all places, could be anything serious. When eventually it obstructed air flow, became painful, and bled, I had it checked out. I clearly remember sitting there stunned when my doctor told me I had a tumor, and that it was a very rare malignant mucosal melanoma.
To this day, I am reluctant to talk about the treatment I have undergone, because I appreciate so much the wonderful care I have had, and I'm constantly mindful that many others are bravely undergoing much greater challenges. But it would be unfair to minimize the fact that some people with melanoma need to go through extensive surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy to hope for a cure. In my case, the surgery to remove the tumor revealed a very large and invasive affected area, resulting in 20 biopsies. The excision went all the way from the base of my skull to the roof of my mouth.
I also underwent high dose radiation (RT) inside a mask tailor-made for my face and bolted to the table for immobilization. This resulted in a host of side effects, including a painful bone infection and 'osteo-radionecrosis' (bone death) in my mid-face, partial loss of hearing and taste, and total loss of smell. Six months into a yearlong course of antibiotics, we are patiently waiting for complete healing of the remaining bone before my nose can be reconstructed. While elimination of the melanoma was wonderful, so much bone and cartilage was removed that the end of my nose had nothing to support it, causing it to collapse. And all along, there is the specter of recurrence of the melanoma, requiring PET scans every three months.
I recall how difficult it was adjusting to the strange face in the mirror. It was as though I had lost a part of myself. People stared at my face, and whispered wherever I went, a completely foreign experience. Disfigurement was a real challenge, though I've never felt that outward appearance was meant to define us. Etched in my heart I have always believed that the character we develop on the inside is who we are and what makes us truly beautiful. Though life may have taken an unexpected and severe turn, my heart continually overflows with gratitude for all that I have. Cancer doesn't change any of the things that really matter. My faith has made it possible to find genuine hope, purpose and joy in the midst of this cancer journey. I have come to see that good comes from all things, and that each new day is a real blessing, providing an opportunity to build into the lives of those around me.
2010 Warrior Award Recipient
Our Warrior of the Year is Allie Mac Kay.
Allie Mac Kay is thrilled to be back home in southern California. She started her broadcast career atop a billboard as part of a radio stunt for XTRA Sports 1150. She was the "sports update girl" for the morning show when she was dared to live on a billboard until the Clippers won their first game. She then moved to morning t.v. doing features in Salt Lake City, Sacramento, Good Morning America weekends and Fox and Friends weekends.
"It would seem clear to any sane person that spending afternoons playing with friends on the beaches in Malibu and spending Summers baking on a lake in Maine, that a freckly, blonde haired, blue eyed girl from Scottish and Irish ancestry should not be tan... let alone anything other than pink. But I was not sane... I was a teenager. Couple that with being the "California Girl" at Boston college... I had an image to uphold - so tanning salons became my comfort during those snowy Winters. It didn't take long for all of that insanity to take it's toll. In October of 2005 I was diagnosed with Malignant Melanoma. I thought it would be just like the previous squamous and basal cells that I had spliced off, and I would be on my way. I was wrong - and beyond lucky. That little pink mole on my hip that looked nothing like anything I had googled turned out to be something that would change the way I looked at each day.
Since my surgeries I have had 14 more basal and squamous cell carcinomas removed - and have not been in the sun since. I have also had 2 friends pass away from melanoma. Both under the age of 35. I has opened my eyes, and more importantly the eyes of others around me that had no idea how fast this cancer spreads. I have now become "that" girl. That girl that will kindly point out moles on friends (and oh yes, strangers). That girl that wants each and every tanning salon shut down. That girl that buys up Loreal Sunless Tanning Towels like they are the only thing to save us in a nuclear war. I have yet to master the spray tan - but I will take splotchy fingers and kneecaps over the alternative any day."
2009 Warrior Award Recipient
Our Warrior of the Year is award-winning journalist Harold Greene, well known for his long, distinguished television news career in Southern California.
Harold's honors include 10 Golden Mike awards, seven Emmy awards; the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism Award, three Edward R. Murrow Awards, 12 L.A. Press Club Awards, and a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Harold is also a melanoma survivor.
"I've been an outdoors person my whole life; training for and running marathons, surfing, golfing and all the other great things we can do under the sun just about all year long. As a TV News Anchor I covered plenty of stories about skin cancer and showed my viewers plenty of pictures of what to look for. As a red head I knew I was at risk but for the most part didn't pay too much attention to the little moles that would pop up and in most cases go away. But about five years ago sitting on my long board in Del Mar I saw a nasty looking mole on my right thigh. It looked just like the bad ones in the pictures I had shown on the news. The next day I went to my dermatologist. He took a biopsy and a few days later the shocking news was relayed to me that it was Melanoma. Man, I freaked. But because I caught it early the cancer didn't get into my blood stream and I didn't need Chemo or radiation. If I hadn't been monitoring myself on a more regular basis as I grew older the outcome would have been much different. Please, check yourself and your loved ones, because early detection will save your life."
About Nate Bloom, Warrior Award Honoree
Below is the statement by Nate Bloom as our 2008 Warrior of the Year, prior to his passing shortly thereafter. Below that you will find Nate's obituary just 2 1/2 months after the 2008 event. This award will always carry Nate's name and spirit so long as we exist.
Nate's statement to Hack n' Smack in 2008 prior to his passing:
"Rewind the clock 2 years, and I was on top of the world. I really could not ask for more. I had a job I loved, I was living in Maui, about to build my own home, and thinking seriously about getting engaged to my girlfriend of 6 years on an upcoming trip to Italy. Then, in an instant, it was all gone. A diagnosis of Stage IV melanoma. Before, cancer was the farthest thing from my mind. Now, there is cancer physically in my brain, among many other places. I've had bio-chemotherapy, high dose immunotherapy, many surgeries, experimental drugs and treatments, and enough radiation to microwave a burrito by putting it in my pocket . Each day I reflect on the words of patriot Terence MacSwiney. He said ‘ It is not he who inflicts the most, but he who suffers the most who will conquer.' and while I await a resolution, your charity, prayers and efforts raise our spirits and ease our sufferings . I did end up getting engaged to my girlfriend, a little later and not the exact way I would have perferred, and she has since become my home care nurse. We recently got a puppy ( Zola ), and we are all looking forward to purchasing our first house together. I don't know what will happen from this point forward, but I assure you we will never give up if you don't give up on us."
Thanks you all, Nate Bloom, Libby Khiev! The Bloom Family, and Zola
From Rob, Cindy and Libby (July 2008)
I wanted to let you guys know that Nate lost his battle with Melanoma on July 4th after over 2 1/2 years of fighting everyway he knew how. Nate stayed with us as long as he could and when most of his goals had been reached he had to let go. I want you to know that Nathan named the Melanoma Research Foundation and Operation Smile as the the source for memorial contributions to be sent. I will make sure we continue to support the cause and keep the faith that a cure is close at hand. I will forever remember your gift of having Nate as your 'Warrior of the Year'. It meant a lot to him, as shy as he was and never wanting attention I know it made him feel better. He wanted to show people to never give up and never surrender hope.
Nathan Sheldon Bloom, age 30, passed away at California Pacific Medical Hospital, July 4, 2008, following a courageous battle with cancer. He was born on July 31, 1977 in San Francisco California to Robert and Cindy Bloom. Although Nate grew up in Novato for most of his life, he was destined to leave and began his journey elsewhere. Through his travels from Marin to Illinois, he finally made his home in Maui, Hawaii. Nate continued to work in the field of construction with his father Rob and his uncle Shel, building beautiful homes in both Marin and Maui. He was a skilled craftsman, and enjoyed making the most of what was given.
Nate was an artist, a writer, a builder and an amazing human being with a great sense of humor. He had talents beyond most, whether he knew it or not. His favorite past time was writing what his thoughts would pour out or grabbing a book and listening to his favorite Irish music, The Pogues or The Dubliners could drift him into a place where one day he had hoped to visit; Ireland. Nate loved, among many things, to enjoy a pint of Guinness with friends and family at his favorite pub in Maui, Mulligans on the Blue or watch a futbol game with his favorite opposing teams. It wouldn't hurt if Man U scored one over Arsenal.
Nate lived life as calmly as it came. He took the good with the bad and somehow made sense of it all. His family and friends will never forget his caring nature, good humor, and his charm which showered all with unconditional love. Nate is forever remembered by his parents, Rob and Cindy, fiancé Libby Khiev, pet and friend Zola; grandparents, Dave and Ele, Charles and Rosemary Boissonade; uncle and aunts, Shel and Shelly Bloom, Bob and Linda Johnson, Kathy Lowe, Darrellyn Kelso; cousins Jake and Trevor Bloom, Erika and Jason Lowe, and Richard Johnson as well as many other family and friends.
Those who so desire may make Memorial Donations in memory of Nate to the Melanoma Research Foundation or Operation Smile.
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