Support a strong little girl

Of all the troubles life can hand someone, cancer has to be among the worst.

The word itself has an unsettling sound anyway, but couple it with a medical diagnosis and it is absolutely terrifying.

I know how it feels to hear the word “cancer” in the same sentence as my name.

I was diagnosed with skin cancer on Aug. 2, 2010, when I was 21 years old.

After a routine skin exam in July, my dermatologist found one of the moles she had removed from my leg to be stage 1A malignant melanoma.

Melanoma is the most serious type of skin cancer that develops in the cells, or melanocytes, that produce melanin, the pigment that gives skin its color.

As with different forms of cancer, melanoma can spread to other parts of the body and is fatal if not caught and treated early enough.

My diagnosis came as a shock to me since I don’t have extremely fair skin, I use sunscreen religiously and I have never once set foot in a tanning bed.

I had surgery to remove the melanoma and surrounding tissue the day after I was diagnosed, and that was all it took for me to join the cancer-free group.

I was fortunate that mine was caught at such an early stage that I didn’t need chemotherapy, radiation or multiple surgeries to eliminate all of the cancer cells.

As we all know, not everyone can escape cancer so seamlessly as I did.

I look at 3-year-old Lilianna Thompson, Clanton’s well-known leukemia patient, and I see a true hero.

Lilianna has seen almost every shade of treatment a hospital can offer in one year, all before she has even started preschool.

It has been my honor to talk with her mother, Anna, about her experiences with cancer for several newspaper stories, and I know I wasn’t the only person in Chilton County delighted to see Lilianna chosen as the honorary chairwoman of this year’s Relay For Life in April.

Behind her sweet smile you’ll see in most of her pictures is a toughness that has carried her through surgeries, radiation treatments and medical procedures so invasive they would scare many adults.

It is my hope that Peoples Southern Bank will be flooded with supporters of Lilianna and her cancer-fighting comrades on Thursday, Dec. 13, for a bone marrow drive that could produce a transplant match for her or for another leukemia patient (see story on front page of today’s newspaper).

Those who qualify and are willing to donate can visit the bank in downtown Clanton between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Dec. 13 and join the Be The Match registry with a painless cheek swab.

You don’t have to be a donor to help, though. Monetary donations will allow able donors to join the registry without a fee.

Words of encouragement and prayers for recovery are great and priceless ways to support Lilianna and other cancer patients too.

You can also help fund cancer research through organizations like the American Cancer Society, the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and the Melanoma Research Foundation, just to name a few.

Regardless of how you support the cause for finding a cure for cancer, I urge you to support it somehow – for Lilianna, for yourself if you are a patient or a survivor, and for every person in this world who knows what the word cancer means.

–Emily Beckett is a staff writer for The Clanton Advertiser. She can be reached at emily.beckett@clantonadvertiser.com.

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