Education, prevention and support for the most serious form of skin cancer.

Qualifying for Social Security Benefits with Melanoma

June 16th, 2017

If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with melanoma, you may be worried about keeping your job while you go through treatment. Fortunately, if you’ll be out of work for 12 months, you may be eligible for Social Security disability benefits. The Social Security Administration (SSA) offers monthly financial resources for people with serious injuries or illnesses that prevent them from working.

Medical Qualifications

The SSA uses its own medical guide known as the Blue Book to evaluate disability applicants and determine if they have an illness that is severe enough to keep them from working. Malignant melanoma is listed as a qualifying condition in the Blue Book.

Under Section 13.29 of the Blue Book, there are five ways to qualify for Social Security disability benefits with malignant melanoma. You will only need to meet one of the following criteria to qualify:

1. You have recurrent malignant melanoma of the skin or the eye. Keep in mind that listing specifically asks for the same melanoma to return. If you have two separate diagnoses of unrelated cancer that do not meet a following listing, you will not qualify for disability benefits.

2. Your cancer has spread to one or more “clinically apparent” nodes, which is a node that’s detected by imaging studies or by clinical evaluation.

3. If the melanoma has not spread to clinically apparent nodes, you can still qualify if it has spread to four or more nodes.

4. Your cancer has spread to adjacent skin or another region of the body, such as your liver, lungs, or brain.

5. You have mucosal melanoma.

The entire Blue Book is available online, so be sure to review the listings for malignant melanoma with your oncologist to see if you qualify.

Starting Your Application

Most applicants can complete the entire process entirely online on the SSA’s website. This is the easiest way to apply, as you can save your progress to be completed later.

If you’d prefer, you can also apply for disability benefits at your closest Social Security office. There are over 1,000 offices across the US, so it’s likely there is an

office nearby. Be sure not to just drop by at your local office! You should always make an appointment to apply first. You can do so by calling the SSA toll-free at 1-800-772-1213.

The denial rates for disability benefits are very high: Nearly 70% of initial applicants are denied. It’s important to keep in mind that this includes all applicants. Some conditions like mood disorders have exceptionally low approval rates, so this data is somewhat skewed. If you meet any of the above Blue Book listings for melanoma and are not working, you will have a high chance of approval. Even so, be sure to fill out your application as carefully as possible. If the SSA cannot gather your medical records on your behalf due to an error in your application, you will not be approved.

It usually takes around five months to be approved for disability benefits, but people who have melanoma that has spread to distant organs or has returned despite treatment could actually be approved in as little as ten days. Once on disability benefits, you can focus on what’s important: Your treatments and health.

This article was provided by Disability Benefits Help (www.disabilitybenefitscenter.org). If you have any questions on qualifying with melanoma, feel free to reach out to our team at help@ssd-help.org

NYC Parks Launches Free Sunscreen Pilot at City Beaches

June 7th, 2017

IMPACT Melanoma and Bright Guard Donate 1,000 Liters of Sunscreen and 100 Dispensers to Promote Sun Safety

Summertime is upon us and along with promoting water safety, NYC Parks is ramping up its sun safety efforts, with partners IMPACT Melanoma and Bright Guard, with the launch of a free sunscreen pilot. This summer, for the first time ever, NYC Parks is installing sunscreen dispensers, 100 donated by its partners, to dispense 1,000 liters of free sunscreen at beaches in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island. With dispensers installed at locations along the city¹s 14 mile beachfront, New Yorkers can protect themselves from long hours in the sun by easily applying the provided SPF 30 sunscreen.

³Millions flock to our beaches each summer; spending hours under the sun, recharging on our city¹s glorious shoreline,² said NYC Parks Commissioner Mitchell J. Silver, FAICP. ³While being watersafe, enjoying the recreational activities and righting their minds, Parks also wants New Yorkers to be sun safe. We are excited to partner with IMPACT Melanoma and Bright Guard on this pilot program to provide free sunscreen to beach goers this summer, furthering their ability to protect their skin while on the go.²

³We are thrilled to expand on our highly successful program across the country and continue to offer sunscreen units for public and private distribution throughout the country, NYC is an exciting place for us to bring sunscreen,² said Deb Girard, Executive Director, IMPACT Melanoma.  ³We hope sunscreen dispensers will become as commonplace as hand sanitizers over the next few years.²

Bright Guard CEO Ryan Warren said: ³We¹re dedicated to making it easier for people to prioritize their skincare in the sun. We¹ve all at one point forgotten to pack sunscreen, or the bottle ran out, or we simply couldn¹t afford to buy it. With these dispensers, we are increasing access to sunscreen and, by offering it at no cost, are encouraging people to take advantage of this amenity. Sun safety should be a right and not a privilege.²

In June 2016, New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer advocated for free sunscreen distribution in City parks and beaches to aid in combatting the national average of one in five who are diagnosed with some form of skin cancer. Through the research highlighted in the Comptroller¹s proposal, the report described successful programs in Miami and Boston, and included recommendations that the City work to implement similar efforts that would benefit sun-loving New Yorkers.

Comptroller Stringer said: ³When we first unveiled this proposal last June, we considered this a commonsense, cost-effective way to protect the health of New Yorkers. When we did the research, we looked at cities around the country that had developed cutting edge programs and saw opportunity to help residents across the five boroughs protect themselves. And when we compiled our analysis, we deemed this a straightforward proposal to enhance our world-class beaches and facilities. Today, we¹re thrilled that this pilot will become reality. This isn¹t just smart public policy designed to improve public health and boost quality of life. It¹s the right thing to do for New Yorkers. When you go to the beach, the souvenir you bring home should never be a sunburn.²

³Wearing broad spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 — and reapplying it every two hours or after swimming — is crucial to protect against skin cancer,² said Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett. ³NYC Parks¹ free sunscreen effort will make it easier for all of us to apply, and reapply, sunscreen. Wearing a wide-brimmed hat, UV-blocking sunglasses and clothing that covers your arms and legs are also good ways to protect yourself from the sun¹s harmful rays.²

“The small decisions we make every day have an enormous impact on our long-term health.” Said Council Member Corey Johnson, Chair of the Health Committee. “Making sunscreen readily available in places where it is needed most ensures that New Yorkers are able to make the best choice for themselves and their children. I want to commend NYC Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver and New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer for pushing for and implementing such a fantastic program.”

 

Sunscreen dispensers will be located at the following city beach locations:

The Bronx

Orchard Beach

 

Brooklyn

Manhattan Beach

Brighton Beach

Coney Island

–       W. 2nd St.

–       W. 8th St.

–       16th St.

–       W. 27th St.

–       W. 32nd St.

–       Stillwell Ave.

 

Queens

Rockaway

–       Beach 9

–       Beach 17

–       Beach 30

–       Beach 59

–       Beach 67

–       Beach 86

–       Beach 97

–       Beach 106

–       Beach 115

 

Staten Island

South Beach

Ocean Breeze Fishing Pier

Midland Beach

Cedar Grove Beach

Wolfe¹s Pond Beach

 

Randall¹s Island Park Alliance successfully piloted free sunscreen dispensing on Randall¹s Island during summer 2016. Utilizing 24 dispensers, free sunscreen was available at ball fields, the playground, Icahn Stadium and at comfort stations.

New York City beaches open this Memorial Day Weekend, Saturday, May 27. They are open daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. through Labor Day Weekend.

Summer 2017 marks the full completion of the three-year project to rebuild the Rockaway Boardwalk after the original was destroyed in Hurricane Sandy. The new boardwalk sets a global standard for resilient shoreline design, while providing the Rockaway community with a beautiful, functional beachfront. In addition to being NYC¹s largest swimming beach and home to the city¹s only designated surfing areas, Rockaway is also known for its varied food concessions along the boardwalk.

For NYC Parks¹ beach schedule, water safety tips and more, please visit www.nyc.gov/parks or call 311.

 

About IMPACT Melanoma
IMPACT is a national non-profit organization dedicated to working to reduce the incidence of melanoma. Committed to skin cancer prevention and early detection, we provide a variety of award-winning programs which aim to raise awareness and educate the public about skin cancer, as well as support services for those struggling with the disease.

About Bright Guard
Bright Guard was created to provide convenient access to sunscreen in all of the places we live, work and play in an effort to reduce the risks and effects of sun exposure. Bright Guard works with foundations, governments, parks & recreation departments, and other organizations like its nonprofit partner Impact Melanoma, to provide water resistant, hands-free sunscreen dispensers in places from public pools and beaches, to parks and sports stadiums, to municipal buildings, hospitals, schools, and beyond, so that people can have free, safe and effective sunscreen every time they are outside. In summer 2017, Bright Guard is greatly expanding its reach, including launching eighty dispensers in New York City, including at all public beaches. For more information, or to connect directly with the Bright Guard team, visit www.brightguard.com.

Press Contact:
Crystal Howard
pressoffice@parks.nyc.gov
212-360-1311

 

Erin Alyce Shannon

March 19th, 2017

As a 19 year old in the summer of 2012 before my sophomore year of college, my biggest concern was if I had saved up enough money working as a camp counselor during the summer to survive the first semester. My four years of working as a camp counselor up to that point meant I had some serious quality time basking in the summer sun. Guiltily I hate to admit that I also indulged in tanning beds for school dances and events. Because I am 100% Irish with a fair complexion this was a recipe for disaster, but I never would have anticipated that I would be told that I had melanoma as a teenager.

I have always had a variety of skin conditions, so I made sure that I had annual trips to my Dermatologist. During my visit that summer, my Dermatologist noticed a freckle that had ever so slightly started to change. I was told not to worry, it probably wasn’t anything and was sent on my way. A little less than a week later I was called and told that I had to come to the office immediately. My parents left work early and we all sat staring at old magazines in the waiting room dreading the news that seemed inevitable. My doctor very calmly told me that I had malignant melanoma and that she was sending me to Mass General to see a surgical Oncologist. To this day, those were the worst few minutes of my life.

A few weeks later after many tests and consultations I arrived at Mass General to have a large chunk of my arm removed and 7 lymph nodes tested to determine if the cancer had spread. The two longest weeks of my life went by until I finally got the call that my margins were clear and my lymph nodes came back clean.

I decided to stay in school throughout this two month process, I wanted to prove to myself that no matter what the outcome of my surgery was, my cancer could not stand in the way of living my life. However, the worst part about being in school wasn’t the surgeries and waiting, it was the sheer lack of awareness from my classmates and teachers about the seriousness of Melanoma. Everyone around me seemed to share the same belief that Melanoma was a skin cancer and skin cancer cannot kill you. I was told on multiple occasions by friends and teachers that “I just had skin cancer”. This drove my mission to raise awareness for Melanoma.

While I was in college, with the help of IMPACT Melanoma I was able to host events for my sorority and at a local beauty salon where I was able to share my story and educate others about the serious threat that Melanoma presents. Since college I have tried to help out whenever I can, and raise awareness through friends and family.

If I could look back and see my 16 year old self I would be horrified by the way I treated my skin, but I was fortunate to come out of my diagnoses with just a nasty scar and a few less lymph nodes. I believe that I survived that experience because now I can raise awareness about sun safety, and hopefully help save lives.

DAF Direct

February 15th, 2017

Joseph Joyce

January 18th, 2017

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I was diagnosed in December, 2005, with Lymphoscintigraphy. I had 4 surgeries, vaccine trial and a donation of 100 gallons of blood (seems that way anyway!).

I am so fortunate that I grew up and live in Houston and had MD Anderson a few miles away. Best cancer hospital on Earth.

Happy to be alive.

Hannah Ross

January 18th, 2017

In 2004, on my upper left shoulder on my back, I had stage 1 superficial melanoma removed. The anxiety of it coming back is always lurking. But with God’s help and Faith, I will face tomorrow.

Candice Powell

January 18th, 2017

So this is the first time I’ve ever wrote about my melanoma. I was diagnosed 3 & 1/2 years ago. I was diagnosed with the nodular type and middle of the middle thickness (God knows what that means). It took me a whole year to persuade my doctor that my mole wasn’t right, I had to pay to have it removed and that’s when they found it was melanoma. I was VERY lucky it didn’t spread, I just had a lot of tissue cut out of my shoulder and that got rid of it all. Waiting for the results was the most terrifying experience of my life, I didn’t know if I was going to live or die at that point. I had 2 young babies and was a single mum, my life just stopped still. I started having the worst panic attacks ever, begging my mum to take me to hospital for them to sedate me. It was that bad, I just don’t know how I got through it. When I finally went for my results they told me I was cured, I felt like the luckiest person alive. So it’s been 3 & 1/2 years since and it’s not come back. My check ups have gone from 3 months to 6 months and it’s slowly going to the back of my mind. I know it’s 5 years until full remission but I’m going the right way and I’m very vigilant with checking myself too. It’s a really awful thing to go through and I won’t lie it has changed me as a person but I just think how lucky I’ve been.

Brandy Coxson

January 18th, 2017

My name is Brandy I was diagnosed with stage 3b at the age of 19, scared I was to death. Without treatment, my survival rate was 6 to 10 months and with treatment 5 to 10 years. My only hope was to do a clinical trial, which I did in 2001 interveron alpha 2b, and that is what saved my life. I did a year straight of it, now here I am 15 years later. Put your faith in the Lord and he will save you.

Hilary Dillon

January 18th, 2017

I had just turned 25 when I was diagnosed with melanoma, although I probably had it a few years prior. I was always one to indulge in the sun, but never more than ordinary. When I was in high school I used tanning beds sporadically, for proms and dances. I was always in Cape Cod in the summers, constantly in the sun at the beaches. I usually wore sunscreen but typically after I was in the sun for an hour or so. Being in the sun was something I took for granted.

I first discovered the mole when I was 21. It was on the inside of my right knee, and it was pretty small, but abnormal in color. I saw a local dermatologist who wasn’t worried about it, told me to keep my eye on it. If it changed shape or color, to go back and get it re-checked. Well, two years later I started to notice it turned from a red to a brown color, and it was spider webbing out, just a little bit. I mentioned it to my primary care doctor, who recommended me to another dermatologist. This time, the dermatologist confirmed that I should get it removed, calling it “a little funky looking”. Next I saw a plastic surgeon who would do the procedure in order to reduce the scarring, since the mole was in an inconvenient spot, where I bend my knee. The surgery was scheduled for mid-September and it was pretty quick and painless, I was back at work the next day. The doctors told me they would run the standard biopsy and contact me in 7-10 days if the results were positive. I had no anticipation that they were going to contact me.

I was in Florida on a business trip when I got the call. My mother was the one to deliver the news actually because they called her first. She told me that the biopsy for my mole tested positive for melanoma. They asked me to fly home early so I could meet with an oncologist at Dana Farber in Boston. I was told that they would have to go back in and remove more of the melanoma, as it was very deep. I was scared at this point, but I really didn’t have much information so I of course tried to stay positive until I learned more.

Both my parents came with me that day. We met with the surgeon who would be doing my second surgery, and the oncologist and her team to explain next steps. They were very hopeful with my diagnosis, reiterating that they believed they found it at an early stage and it was very treatable. To hear those words in such an intense environment, was honestly a blessing. It’s scary not to think of the worst possible scenario, but I had to stay positive in knowing that I was lucky to find it at this stage. They were unsure whether or not it spread to my lymph nodes, but informed me they would test the nodes in my groin in order to know more.

The surgery was two weeks later in Boston at Brigham & Women’s Hospital. It was scheduled for the afternoon but I had to arrive early in the morning for them to test my lymph nodes with blue dye. It was a very long day, but I was excited to put it in the past. The weeks following were a struggle, recovery is the worst part. I couldn’t bend my knee for 6 weeks. I was on crutches in an immobilizer, followed by braces and physical therapy. The results came back about a week later, my plastic surgeon called me first saying the lymph node biopsy came back negative. The melanoma hadn’t spread to my lymph nodes. This was amazing news, everyone was very relieved.

Now, I look forward to a healthy future, with lots of sun protection. I hope to spread my story as much as I can in order to promote melanoma awareness, the risks involved, and the precautions people can take to avoid it.

Krysta Mochi

January 10th, 2017

I was diagnosed with melanoma when I was 14 years old. My parents received a phone call with my diagnosis on September 30, 2008, just a few days after my first visit to the dermatologist. There was nothing prompting my visit. I hadn’t noticed any peculiar moles I thought I should get checked out, nor was I advised to visit a dermatologist by my primary care physician. The reason for my visit was that the dentist had noticed a dark freckle on my brother’s lip during his checkup, and they recommended that my mother take him to the dermatologist and get it checked out to be safe. His freckle turned out to be fine, but my mother figured she might as well take me to get checked too, just in case.
My first visit was in September 2008, just after I had started eighth grade. I had one biopsy to remove a dark mole on my upper left arm. The dermatologist thought it was nothing to worry about, but wanted to be sure. A few days later, we got a call saying the results came back: it was melanoma. At the time, I didn’t understand very well what melanoma was. I had never even heard of it until I was told I had it. I never went tanning, was always extremely cautious of the sun, and made sure to reapply sunscreen. Although I have red hair and fair skin, I never even thought about skin cancer because of how diligent I was with sunscreen. After my diagnosis, I was more concerned with the surgeries, doctor’s appointments, and especially the scars that were to come, so I never fully understood just how serious melanoma was.
My parents took me to Mass General Hospital a few weeks later, where the doctors there performed another full skin check to make sure they didn’t see any other concerning moles. They then explained what the surgery on my arm would be like, and we scheduled an appointment to remove the melanoma. Just about two weeks later, on October 17, I returned to Mass General to have my melanoma removed. This would be the first surgery I had ever had, my first time being treated in a hospital, and my first time getting stitches. Even though I had just been diagnosed with the deadliest form of skin cancer, everything was happening so fast that I couldn’t seem to wrap my head around it.
I went home after the surgery and despite having a very sore arm, everything went pretty smoothly and we were expecting a quick recovery. The doctor put in dissolvable stitches and said the scar should heal quickly. A few days after the surgery, I noticed that the wound didn’t seem to be healing properly. My parents and I went to my pediatrician, who said everything looked normal and not to worry about it. However, a few days later, something looked really wrong and my arm wasn’t healing properly at all. My parents took me back to the pediatrician, who said we should go to the ER right away. At the ER, they informed me that my arm was infected and they needed to remove the stitches to treat the infection. I had to stay overnight in the hospital for the first time in my life and remember waking up the next morning surrounded by doctors discussing my arm. I returned to Mass General a few days later for my surgeon to put new stitches in. After this, he said we needed to have visiting nurses come to my house every day to monitor the stitches and clean my arm. I missed about two weeks of eighth grade because I needed to stay home for the visiting nurses. I fell way behind in my classes and got a tutor to catch myself up.
Due to the infection and the new stitches, my scar ended up being a lot bigger than it was expected to be. I wore large bandages over it every time I went to the beach or was out in the sun for a long period of time because it was so susceptible to sun damage. I returned to the dermatologist every three months to get my skin checked, and still do to this day. Around December of 2011, when I was in my junior year of high school, I noticed a dark brown spot in my scar. I went to my dermatologist in January of 2012 to get the area biopsied. The results showed atypical melanocytes. After much discussion with multiple dermatologists and surgeons, it was decided it would be best to fully remove the scar. This would eliminate the risk of leaving behind any atypical melanocytes in the scar, since it was the site of a previous melanoma and at great risk.
I went in for surgery to remove my scar on February 28, 2012, at Children’s Hospital, during my junior year of high school. I missed about 4 or 5 days of school for this surgery. Since the scar they removed was so large, my new scar would be about 6 inches long. I had to wear my arm in a sling for 6 weeks after surgery, which meant I also couldn’t write for about 6 weeks.
My surgery to remove my melanoma was 8 years ago and my scar revision surgery was 4 years ago. Since my first dermatologist visit, I have had 22 biopsies and a minor surgery to remove a mole on my chest that was noncancerous, but atypical. I have been melanoma free for 8 years now. Now, I’m 22 years old and a senior in college. I visit the dermatologist every 3 months and wear sunscreen daily. I volunteer with IMPACT Melanoma on the Speaker’s Bureau and with the Your Skin Is In program, encouraging high school and college students to protect the skin they’re in. I hope that my story can show people that melanoma can happen to anyone, at any age. That’s just all the more reason to take care of your skin and protect it from the sun. After my surgeries and complications with melanoma at a young age, I never talked about it much; I just wanted to be done with it and move on. I’m glad now that I have the chance to speak out about my experience, and I hope I can educate others on how to take care of their skin and prevent melanoma.

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