Suzanne was a committed volunteer, supporter and friend of the Melanoma Foundation of New England. She was passionate about sharing her story and joined our Your Skin Is In Speaker’s Bureau to warn high school and college students about the dangers of tanning and importance of sun safety. She was only 40 years old when she lost her battle with melanoma on May 21, 2012.
She journeyed long and hard but did so with grace, love of life and hope. Hope is inspiring. It can define the quality of life during very difficult times not only for those struggling but for those around them providing love and support. We will keep Suzanne’s memory alive with an annual Suzanne Donahue Keeper of the Hope Award, given to individuals who are inspirational, who teach us about the importance of giving back, and who define hope for us in the darkest days.
In December of 2011, Suzanne wrote the following letter to help raise funds for this cause that was very important to her.
“With the end of the year quickly approaching, we are all gearing up for the holidays and hopefully finding time to reflect on the past year. For me, personally, this has been a year of significant change. It began with the 3 year anniversary of my initial stage III melanoma diagnosis which was in remission and I was looking forward to getting more involved with the Melanoma Foundation of New England’s initiatives. The opportunity to use my story to help prevent someone else from having to go through what I’d been through was the proverbial silver lining to my experience.
In May; however, my annual scans showed that the disease had returned to my lungs and liver. Life was once again turned upside down with surgeries, hospitalizations and various treatments and the terrifying fact that I was now stage IV. With this shift, I found myself relying again on the Foundation’s resources. The patient and caregiver support groups have been a huge comfort to my family and me and their symposiums have provided us with the opportunity to learn about cutting edge treatments. On a personal level I have received a lot of encouragement from the people I’ve met through the Foundation.
The Foundation has been a key factor in helping my family and me get through the past three years. As an active patient, we have utilized the many services they provide to help cope with the disease and as a survivor they have provided me with a forum for doing something positive with such a terrible illness. With out the Foundation, a significant part of my arsenal in fighting melanoma would be missing.
Their reach of programs extends far beyond my situation, though. The new “The Skinny on Skin” is geared towards educating salon professionals about skin cancer, and “Your Skin is In” incents high school and college students not to tan for spring break and prom. I applaud the Foundation for their ongoing efforts to make sure the public is aware and educated about this disease.
Today, I am writing to ask you to support the Foundation so the resources they provide to patients, families, survivors and the public can continue to thrive. With out your generous contributions these programs wouldn’t exist. Join me in ensuring that the messages about awareness, education and early detection are widely and broadly communicated so no one has to endure a late stage diagnosis and those of us dealing with such a diagnosis have the means to get the help we need to cope with it. Together, I know we can do this!”