The "Hotel Melanoma" moniker is a metaphor for living with my particular brand of cancer. Except for those lucky few of us deemed "cured", all we cancer survivors are guests of one of the many, many branded hotels in the "Hotel Carcinoma" chain. We can check out any time we like, but we can never leave. Meanwhile, let's be livin' it up; and please support cancer education, prevention, and treatment research.

Tutu Brothers

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Awareness Disparateness

My melanoma doc told me last fall that this cancer has been one of the forgotten stepchildren in the cancer world when it comes to the development of new and more effective treatment drugs. But I’m very hopeful that things are beginning to change for the better. The FDA recently approved a new Stage IV treatment drug (Yervoy) and that hadn’t happened since back in the 90’s when I’d have guessed “SPF” meant something in a singles ad that I’d rather not know about. And every day, thanks to melanoma warriors sharing their stories and organizations like the Aim at Melanoma Foundation and the Melanoma Research Foundation, more people learn that melanoma isn’t just some harmless “skin cancer” that can always and forever be cured by a simple surgical procedure.

Still, I’m betting that I won’t hear Melanoma Awareness Month mentioned in any featured stories about “our” cancer on the “NBC Nightly News With Brian Williams” or the like, because we haven’t yet arrived at the day when “Black is the New Pink”. But then again, what does it say about the cancer world when any particular brand of cancer has its very own awareness month? There are a lot of cancer brands in The Hotel Carcinoma chain and only twelve months to divvy up, so who decides which brands get their very own month and which get left out or have to share a month? Does cancer fundraising and awareness campaigning really need to be a fragmented, zero-sum game of competition among various cancer brands and cancer nonprofits—a game in which one nonprofit threatens to sue another for trademark infringement?

But I guess I’d rather rock than continue to rant, so here’s some fractured new lyrics to Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers’ “Refugee”…

We got somethin', we all know it,
They don't talk too much about it.
Ain't no real big secret anymore,
But still, it’s not pink cancer.

It does really matter to you, people,
You releave if you start to believe,
You don’t want to have cancer refugees
(Don’t want to have cancer refugees)

Somewhere, somehow,
’black cancer’ might come kick you around some.
Tell me why you wanna sit there and hold on to your delusions.

It does make a difference to you, people,
Everybody wants to be cancer free,
You don’t want to have cancer refugees.
(Don’t want to have cancer refugees)

People, we ain't the first.
We’re sure a lot of other tanners have been burned.
Right now this seems fake to you,
And it's one of those things you gotta have to be true

Somewhere, somehow,
Our cancer may come kick you around some.
Who knows? Maybe you were kidnapped,
Tied up, taken away, and made to tan some.

It does really matter to you, people,
Everybody wants to be cancer free,
You don’t want to have cancer refugees.

Maybe it’s time for all of us at The Hotel Carcinoma to think and work beyond our own favorite cancer causes and try to collaborate for the common benefit of everyone fighting every cancer.


  1. Great post. You are absolutely right.

  2. Another excellent and entertaining post! I blogged about this very subject about 5 years ago after my mother passed away from Lung Cancer, my brother has his first bout of Melanoma (and yes, I thought it was "just skin cancer" back then) and after I under went two biopsies for suspicious spots in my prostate that thank goodness wasn't cancer. It's important to be aware of ALL cancers..not just one brand. I guess I see Melanoma as the underdog as I continue my current compaign, but I couldn't agree with you more. Cancer sucks, no matter the flavor.