Let me admit something: I am not a fan of ESPN. Shocking, I know. I was on the Melanoma Research Foundation's Forum today when I was linked to a great article on Dr. Jack Ramsay. Those in the NBA world know Dr. Ramsay. What they did not know until now is that he has battled cancer for 12 years. After winning his war against prostate cancer, Dr. Ramsay was diagnosed with melanoma in 2004. In his new book Dr. Jack on Winning Basketball, he calls melanoma "the toughest opponent I had yet to face anywhere at any time in my life."
The article itself is very inspirational. Here is this strong man, the man you have listened to during NBA broadcasts on ESPN, admitting that melanoma--the cancer that people claim is just skin cancer--admitting that melanoma gave him the hardest fight of his life. People, men especially, need to hear about this experience. We are all lecturing about the dangers of tanning, but melanoma can happen to all of us at any age. Dr. Ramsay's melanoma originated on his foot! From my personal experience with men, I know how hard headed they can be. How many of you manly men avoid the doctors at all cost? If Dr. Ramsay had ignored those suspicious areas, chances are, he would not be here to release his basketball memories.
Like all of us, once we became a little more informed about the seriousness of melanoma, Dr. Ramsay assumed that his diagnosis was a death sentence. He writes, "This is like a death sentence, isn't it, Doc?" He responded quickly, completing an exchange that I remember as if it had taken place yesterday: "No, no, Jack. Some people live with this three years."
This reminds me how important it is to tell newly diagnosed melanoma patients to find a melanoma specialist. I can speak first hand that my local doctors were not up on the latest melanoma news. I don't fault them for it, it it just a fact. You have to go where the research is.
Dr. Ramsay unintentionally gave me a great piece of advice. He shares, "I approached cancer as if I were preparing for a game against a tough opponent. I "scouted" it, learning as much about melanoma as I could. I took on a medical staff of "coaches" who were experts at dealing with this particular version of the disease. I followed the game plan they laid out but made adjustments when the "game" took different directions." That is how we should all approach this black beast. Knowledge is power.
Our medical staff needs to be experts as well. Most importantly, we need to have faith in our medical team. Dr. Ramsay explains, "The best players I have seen and known have confidence in their teammates. They know that basketball's not a one-man game. That confidence brings out the best in everybody, because it's contagious. I had complete confidence in my medical team. They were not only superbly skilled, but they cared for me -- and every other patient they treated -- as if we were the most important people in their lives. That gave me confidence that I could win my battle with cancer." Without full confidence in those who are medically responsible for saving your life, how can you begin to believe you will get through this? I am so grateful
Dr. Ramsay says something in this great article that hit so close to home. I get a bit uncomfortable when people call me a melanoma survivor. I don't see myself that way. Melanoma is something I will battle for the rest of my life. Hopefully I will always remain NED, but the fact that I have melanoma will never disappear. Look at it from Dr. Ramsay's perspective. "But understand this: my commitment to living in the now means I'll never ever say that I've beaten cancer. To do so would be living in the "tomorrow," if you will, and melanoma is far too erratic an opponent to go around making predictions. But I can tell you for sure that I'll never give in to it. Life is too precious to give it up without giving everything you've got -- now."
Shouldn't we all follow his advice?