"It was almost a rite of passage into summer, getting that first sunburn. Matter-of-fact, it really continued into adulthood, of course that is… until I got my diagnosis." Those words from Ken Lowery Monday at the Melanoma Awareness golf tourney "Save Your Skin" at Carmel Country Club.
Ken was there as a survivor. He really wasn't expected to be here in 2015, doctors didn't expect him to survive even a year after doctors found a malignant melanoma in 1997.
Ken was on a business trip in Atlanta when the results came in and he got the phone call that rocked his world. "They said, 'Your results don't look good. We're going to have operate soon'," Ken told me. After a serious surgery that took the melanoma and a deep portion of tissue below the skin cancer, Ken wanted another opinion from 'a big cancer center up north'.
It wasn't the news he hoped for. "They told me, 'Go home and get your things in order, you have about a year to live'," Ken remembered as he spoke before the tournament crowd Monday. I could hear a slight crack in his voice as he went on, "I came home and thought, if I've got just one year to live, I'm going to make it a good year." He canceled his follow up appointment at Blumenthal Cancer Center, (now known as Levine Cancer Institute).
Then Ken got something he hadn't had in weeks…he got hope over the phone in a call from Dr. Richard White. He recalls phrases from Dr. White like, 'I think you can beat this,' 'We don't need to give up on this,'…all translated into dreams of a future…a chance to believe there might be more time...more than just a year.
Now nearly 18 years later, at 77 years-old, Ken has a lot to be grateful for. He's fallen in love with his grandkids, had precious time with them….and time to share his story. Ken has also learned heroes don't always wear a cape, sometimes it's a white coat and lots of sunscreen!
Dr. Richard White is a surgical oncologist and director of immunotherapy at Levine Cancer Institute. He was at yesterday's golf tournament put on by Carolinas HealthCare Foundation. Dr White is there every year. Always sporting his hat,
sun protection, and a smile to see his patients who've survived. Dr. White wants more stories like Ken's but he's also wants to erase melanoma altogether. That takes education. That takes research dollars and dedication.
The "Save Your Skin" golf tournament has been ongoing for 10 years and yesterday was another big success. They raised $71,000 bringing the total raised for research over the last ten years to HALF A MILLION DOLLARS! That money will help future patients, future research projects, educational programs, and maybe help find a cure for all skin cancers.
Ken is much different now when it comes to the sun. He learned long ago, the sun's power is no joke. He wants you to look at your kids, those you love, remember the short amount of time it takes to apply sunscreen could mean many more years looking into your loved ones' eyes. So for Ken, don't get that 'annual sunburn', nothing good comes from it, nothing!
Thank you Dr. White for being Ken's hero and mine too! June is Melanoma Awareness Month, please share this story with friends. We need to educate ourselves and our kids the dangerous power of the sun.