By Matt Wastradowski
Shon Ramey began his seven-year fight against skin cancer in 2007, when he was first diagnosed with melanoma. Growing up in Washington State, he never used sunscreen and admitted that his goal was to get tan as fast as possible. But after four surgeries in seven years, he understands more than ever the importance of proper skin care and remaining vigilant about the dangers of melanoma.
Ramey will be one of three featured panelists at the Melanoma Care Update and Patient Dialogue on Nov. 15, 2014. He discussed his experience with 96,000 Square Miles and stressed the importance of raising awareness about the deadly disease.
What have you learned about melanoma that has surprised you?
I’ve lived in Texas and in the Middle East, so I was surprised by the prevalence of melanoma in Oregon when I moved here in 2013. Oregon has the fifth highest rate of new melanoma cases in the nation, and scientists are unsure why.
I learned the importance of wearing appropriate clothing and applying sunscreen of 30-50 SPF regularly year-round. Even when the sun comes out on wintry days, it can do serious damage if we’re not careful.
You joined the Melanoma Community Registry, which formed earlier this year to bring together patients, friends and family to help researchers take on melanoma. What made you decide to join?
The medical establishment is getting better at keeping us alive, but there’s not always a focus on how to live—and rightly so. The registry creates this pool of meaningful resources for others dealing with melanoma, and we can help each other out. Every survivor’s story is unique, but there’s also a commonality; we can share those experiences and help others.
I don’t want to be defined as a survivor, but I have a cache of experience that I think will help other people in the same or similar situations. It’s not the highest and best use for people with medical degrees, but we all have a bachelor’s degree in cancer survivorship; how can we become a resource?
What do you hope attendees learn from your panel discussion?
Registration is now open for the Melanoma Care Update and Patient Dialogue. The free event is from 8 a.m. to noon Nov. 15 at the Vey Auditorium in OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital.
It’s important to learn about the latest melanoma research from the experts, but it helps to hear stories from patients who have gone through it themselves. I’m excited by the research happening and the enthusiasm generated by the registry so far, and I want to share that.
Shon Ramey, 53, is a father of two working for NAVEX Global, a software company in Lake Oswego.