This blog kicks off the month of May because May is Melanoma Awareness month.
Today’s blog is a special surprise for everyone! We’ve been learning about how the company started as well as all of the heart and soul that has been built throughout the company since we started a few years ago. Today we would like to introduce someone very special to you. In May of 2018, we released our very first mission book; Elise Keeps Smiling. This book featured an amazing lady and her mission regarding Melanoma. Elise was in our CEO’s business class with her. This is how Jessica met Elise. Jessica was there the day Elise took the most devastating call, to find out she had cancer. It was a long hard road, but Elise stayed above it to turn her pain into purpose in our world. Elise started spreading awareness about Melanoma, and the reasons it is so important to love yourself enough to take care of your body, and this includes your skin. Today we welcome Elise’s sister into our blog to hear from her in her own words. We are thankful for you, Erin!
“I was 29 years old when Elise passed away at the age of 24, and my son was 10 months old. I was just learning how to be a new mother while also trying to spend the last days I had with my sister. It was rough, to say the least. But she had it worse. I can’t imagine having to say goodbye to my family and knowing that I was dying. She managed to do it so eloquently, always worrying about us, and how we were doing; making sure that we would be okay.
Elise found out she had Melanoma at age 20. Elise was involved in cancer treatments primarily at Roswell Park in Buffalo, NY. We tried clinical trials through the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) as well as treatments at the National Institute of Health near Washington D.C. From her diagnosis until her passing there were a lot of hospital trips, stays, and traveling, but we did everything as a family to help him. She did everything as a fighter to fight for her life.
Elise was born in Sept 1991 and passed away in Sept 2015.
Elise was special in many ways! Elise loved her family, especially her young nephews, she loved traveling and exploring new things, she had a lot she was looking forward to in life and had a lot of goals she wanted to accomplish. Elise was a very open person, she often shared the good, the bad, and the ugly. She never held back and that is why she chose to share her cancer journey so openly. She shared her moments of joy, her happiness but also her lowest moments too. She was very authentic. Even though her growing cancers on her skin made her self-conscious, she wanted to make the most of her life. She wanted to use the rest of her life to help others. Elise was adventurous. She was always on the move. She packed a lot into a day, and it was hard for me to keep up with her!
Most of all Elise was special because she gave life everything that she had. Despite being diagnosed with cancer at a young age she still accomplished a lot, she went to school for as long as she could, and she worked up until soon before she passed away. She loved snowboarding and would have a treatment in the morning and go snowboarding that evening. She didn’t want to miss out on doing the things she loved with the people she loved.
Melanoma is very common and can be very fatal if not caught early. It is on the rise. Prior to Elise’s diagnosis, we knew of it, but never about how fatal it was. It is cancer that can spread to other parts of the body. Elise’s Melanoma started as a small mole (she said it looked like a pimple) on her scalp under her hairline. She didn’t pay much attention to it until it started to rapidly grow. By the time she got into a dermatologist, she was sent right away to Roswell Cancer Institute.
After that, we learned it was Melanoma, and it had already spread to her lymph nodes surrounding her shoulders and neck. Years of treatments and surgeries kept it managed, but it never went away. When we ran out of all treatments there was nothing else Elise could do. She fought really hard and gave it her everything. Eventually, just prior to her passing away, it spread to her brain. Elise was young when she noticed the spot on her scalp. I think the last thing she thought about at the age of 19, was that she had cancer. I think if she knew then that not only can Melanoma happen at any age, but that it can spread so quickly, and be completely fatal, Elise would have seen a doctor immediately. She always shared her story to try and prevent others from making potentially fatal mistakes. Melanoma prevention is key. What does that look like? People don’t often know. It looks like using sunscreen when you go outside. It looks like avoiding direct sunlight when possible, and never under any circumstance using a tanning bed. It looks like eye protection. It is important because Melanoma can occur in the eyes, and is called Ocular Melanoma.
It is so important to know these things because they can save your life and prevent you from having to go through painful, and difficult cancer treatments, surgeries, and so much more.
If there was something I would want readers to know about this cause and mission, it’s that I raise awareness because it’s Elise’s mission. It is very difficult for me to talk about and share sometimes, but I feel like I have to carry on with what she started and help others understand the seriousness of Melanoma. I want everyone to remember Elise and let it help them to motivate themselves to live the best and healthiest, most fulfilled life that they can live.
I lost my sister, and I lost a piece of myself with her. I have watched this affect my family, and change us in so many ways. I often think about all of the things in life that my sister is missing out on. It is important to practice good skin care, to care about your health, and to protect your skin. It is so important to have annual skin checks and to stay aware of your body. If you do all of this, you will never have all of the “what ifs” that my family has been faced with, and this story may have been different.
Here is my call to action for you…Take care of your body and take care of your skin. See a dermatologist, and this means even if you do not have any skin concerns now, still see one annually. This will mean then that if something ever “pops up,” you can get an appointment with your dermatologist quicker. They will also already be familiar with your skin, and this could SAVE YOUR LIFE.
If you would like to support Elise’s mission, you can buy Elise’s children’s book, Elise Keeps Smiling to help carry on her legacy with your family, and friends. I know that she would love the book and the message. Do not forget to live your life. Tomorrow you may never know if your life, as you know it, can change. Be well, and be healthy. Spend as much time with the people you love, as you can manage. Do the things you love as much as possible. ” – Erin
Thank you for reading today’s blog written by Elise’s sister Erin! We hope you enjoyed learning more about Elise from one of the most precious people in her world! You can check out the links below to watch some of the news articles that Erin recommended, and ImagineWe’s interview about the book.
Links to learn more about Elise’s Mission:
Roswell Park: “Sisters Love Forever”
WKBW: “Woman uses skin cancer battle to help others”
WKBW: “Elise’s Story Later”
WKBW: “She’s Making Children’s Books with a Mission”
Social Media pages to support and follow this mission: https://www.facebook.com/EliseBeatsCancer