Category Archives: Guest Blogs

The Battle to Win the Race against Melanoma Cancer is on!

by Mack Shults

The battle against metastatic melanoma cancer has been tremendously inspired by Rebeca Shults Campos who was only 26 years old when she died from this horrific disease. Hearing the diagnosis “you are dying” was tragic news, mind-boggling and unbelievable to Rebeca and her family. After this tremendous shock, Beca with barely 24 years behind her, with a college education and standing on the rainbow of a brilliant future and even hearing the joyous sound of wedding bells, was determined to fight her cancer. Her fight would not be centered on herself but on all who struggle with the illness. With faith in her Lord Jesus Christ, her vision of a world without melanoma began to grow into a relentless marathon.

The Blackout Melanoma Foundation was born to fulfill Beca’s dream. The battle pains of the movement got off to a great start to raise funds for the education of prevention, detection and treatment of the illness, through the following:

-A silent auction in St. Louis, Mo. (Beca’s home city)

-A banquet sponsored by the First Baptist Church of Henderson, Ky.

-The establishment of Beca’s 5K races

-The 1st   Beca’s   5K Run/Walk was in St. Louis in June of 2010.

What about Beca’s vision to give hope and courage that the possibility of a cure can become a reality? What real progress has been made in this great battle? Consider the very positive steps which have been taken to ‘Blackout Melanoma.”

– Beca started out by learning everything known about the disease.

– Beca courageously gave her own body to the doctors and scientists for a study at the National Institute of Health where her own “miracle” T-cells were used to explore the methods of treatment. Her “break-through” experiments have given hope for means to fight this deadly form of cancer. Her progress even received the attention of a national TV broadcast.

– Aneta Campos, Beca’s mother, showed through Caring Bridge how God can take the worst nightmares of life, the hardest blows that life can throw, and teach us the truth that real character shines through adversity and suffering. Through her witness to the strength of faith in Christ, Aneta was an example of selfless devotion and love to a child in unthinkable circumstances. Even though life is often unfair, difficult, and disappointing, it still pays to serve Jesus through our earthly journey. One day life’s trials will be swallowed up by eternity and all God’s family will rejoice together forever.

– The Annual Races have grown tremendously and have drawn people from Japan, Brazil, Africa and from several states in the USA.

– Thousands of dollars have been raised for cancer research and to provide aid to families battling the illness.   Two families in Missouri are presently being helped.

In May, 2014—“Melanoma and Skin Cancer Awareness Month”– Aneta Shults Campos, Founder and President of the Blackout Melanoma Foundation, entered into a partnership with Washington University School of Medicine, Chesterfield, Mo. With their first $50,000 research grant for clinical research projects that explore innovative approaches to understanding melanoma and its treatment in order to move closer to a cure. Those closely involved in the research project are Dr. Lynn A. Cornelius is a Professor in the Chief Division of Dermatology; Dr. Shivani Tripathi, a Research Physician, and Dr. Gerald P. Linette, Associate Professor of Medicine in Medical Oncology. Dr. Linette also cared for Beca during her personal battle with melanoma. Dr. Cornelius and Dr. Linette also run Beca’s 5Ks.

The research grant, along side of other grants, is already showing positive results. In a report published April 2, 2015 in “Science Express,” Dr. Linette stated, “Our team has developed a new strategy for personalized cancer immunotherapy.” This strategy involves personalized melanoma vaccines used to marshal a powerful immune response against unique mutations in a patient’s tumors. This new approach has great possibilities as an important first step to personalized immune-based cancer treatments.

In the Henderson race of 2013, Sharon Cates, a highly recognized citizen of Henderson, was present and was honored by a team of runners from the Cates Farm and by the Blackout Melanoma Foundation. Sharon was a victim of melanoma. Other families of the Tri-State area who had lost loved ones to the disease or who were fighting the battle were also honored.

The St. Louis Cardinals baseball team from the diagnosis of Beca’s illness has given      great appeals for their fans to join the fight to win against melanoma. On one occasion over 44,000 fans and some 300 supporters of Beca’s 5K saw Beca’s mom throw out the first pitch of the game. The team will make another promotion on June 13 in St. Louis.

Beca passed away on May 19, 2011 in the Barnes-Jewish Hospital of St. Louis.

Her courageous and painful journey to blaze a path to ‘blackout” melanoma was not in vain. Her doctors, her nurses, and the hospital’s personnel were so moved by her faith that they have become great supporters of Beca’s 5K. Other doctors, nurses, hospitals, businesses, banks, industries, Dermatology Associations, churches, and a host of individuals in the St. Louis and Tri-State areas have gladly joined the battle.

A special plaque on a city park bench in St. Louis commemorates Beca’s fight that scarred her body but could never blemish her soul. Faithful to her Lord and Savior even when times were critical and her suffering was far beyond description, Beca always said, “I’m fine.” Then on the day she looked on the face of Jesus, He wiped away every tear and said “Beca, Welcome Home! Now you are Really Fine!”

Today Beca’s 5K challenges us to fight to win the marathon to ‘Blackout Melanoma.” The war against melanoma goes on. Almost every hour melanoma takes another life. Almost 10,000 people die each year in the USA alone and more that 65,000 new cases will be diagnosed. Melanoma is the most common form of cancer for young adults 25-29 years old, and the second most common cancer in adolescents. Melanoma is on the rise. However melanoma can be stopped! Prevention and early detection are the keys to healthy skin. When tumors are detected very early and have not penetrated deep into the skin, the survival rate from melanoma is as high as 99 percent. Deep tumors, known as metastatic melanoma, are usually diagnosed with the shocking news, like Beca heard, “you know that you are dying, don’t you?” No one should ever have to hear these words!

Thus knowledge of the causes of melanoma, the risk factors, the methods of prevention, the importance of an early diagnosis, and the present methods of treatment are factors of life or death. Risk factors are highest among people with pale skin color, facial freckling, red hair, blue eyes and a great number of pigmented spots on the skin, such as moles. Everyone should be discouraged from using tanning beds and encouraged to stay out of the mid-day sun and to use protective clothing and proper sunscreen. These are very small factors compared to the enormous cost of treating metastatic melanoma. In the last few years, the Food and Drug Administration has approved two revolutionary drugs to treat metastatic melanoma for people whose life expectancy is measured in months. One of the drugs is called Yervoy and may extend life for a while. However, this drug works for less than 20 percent of patients and cost $120,000 for a course of treatment of three months. The other drug is Zelboraf and has been effective in 50 percent of patients who had a specific genetic mutation called BRAF V600 E. Even this drug has no certainty to provide help forever and cost $56,000 for a standard six-month course of treatment. The best treatments for melanoma are the preventative steps one takes every day. Get educated with the facts!   Visit your dermatologist often! Examine every mole, freckle, and spot on your body and be alert to any change.

We are in the Race of Life or Death! Get in the Race for Life! Join Beca’s vision of a world without melanoma!

 

Information

Rebeca Shults Campos was the granddaughter of Henderson residents, Mack and Audrey.

Shults. They are retired missionaries of the Southern Baptist Convention to Brazil.

Rebeca was born in Brazil and came to Brazil at 12 years of age along with her brother Romeu who was 10 years old.   Rebeca’s mother is Aneta Shults Campos who lives in St. Louis.

The Blackout Melanoma Foundation was established as a 501(c)(3) charity organization in an effort to fulfill Beca’s vision of a world without melanoma by bringing awareness and education about melanoma, to support families suffering with the disease as well as fund research for a cure. The public is invited and strongly encouraged to participate in Beca’s 5K on May 9, 2015, at the Central Park of Henderson.

Registration can be made online at blackoutmelanoma.org until May 1, 2015 for $25 per runner. Also registration will be at 8 a.m. on the day of the race for $30 per runner.   T-shirts are included in the fee and teams of eight or more who are preregistered, are $20 per runner. Registration forms and checks can be mailed to Blackout Melanoma, c/o Lauren Shults Simpson- Race Director, 6290 E. Doubletree Dr. Henderson, Ky. 42420. Lauren is a radiation therapist who serves patients in the Tri-State area and a cousin of Rebeca Shults Campos.

The annual Beca’s 5K for St. Louis is scheduled for September 19, 2015 at Creve Coeur Lake.

Dawn Hayworth – The Bottom Line

My name is Dawn Hayworth I was born in 1954 with Ichthyosis, a congenital skin disorder characterized by dryness and scaling (interesting but a topic for another story).  While my skin disorder is not particularly relevant to skin cancer, exfoliating lotions and fair color makes my skin more vulnerable to sun damage and sun damage is relevant the development of skin cancer.  Since I have been under the care of dermatologists all my life, I know about avoiding the sun, wearing sunscreen, and monitoring my skin for changes that need to be brought to doctor’s attention.  I didn’t always avoid over-exposure to the sun, but I did have early detection and treatment.   Not everyone knows the seriousness of prevention, detection, and early treatment of skin cancers.  I observed from the beginning when Beca Campos along with her mother and Rita Julien (close family friend) established the first  Beca’s Five Fun Run/Walk in 2010, and following that the Blackout Melanoma Foundation during her own battle with Melanoma. She bravely shared her faith, her story, and her dream that Melanoma would someday be eliminated.  She showed us what we were fighting against and challenged us to continue the work for prevention awareness.  Early prevention, detection, and treatment of skin cancer saves lives. That is THE BOTTOM LINE.

Beca was a determined young woman.  She was a hard worker and set goals that would make your head spin.  Then she would deliver; Bam!  She had a faith in God and His promises that never faltered and was eager to share with others.  She was a lot like her mother, Aneta, my BFF. But Beca was strong willed, would keep it simple, set her ideas out clearly and say, “That’s the bottom line”.  She made me laugh.  I loved to tease with her and her heart would dance all over me like the sparkles from her eyes.  Then she would be off to get something done.  What a beautiful crew. Aneta and I had two children each about the same ages who were just stepping into adult shoes.  Our dogs even enjoyed each other.  Doors were always open.

I remember wondering how I ever came to live next door to them in the first place.  I had a whim and sold my house just short of that dreaded “empty-nesting” thing happened.  I wondered what I was doing buying a condo and cried a little as the furniture was being squeezed into its small but handsome rooms.  Aneta caught me in that moment as she knocked on the door and introduced herself offering friendship and encouragement.  She is still my ‘Rock’.  It wasn’t long before I understood better that I surely landed next door because we needed each other.  In fact, I needed her whole family and the richness of their love and faith which spilled over into the lives of all fortunate enough to know them.

I remember when the dizzying diagnosis came and monsters entered the story.  They came in the form of poorly organized and rapidly growing tissue cells in Beautiful Beca’s perfect body…well, almost perfect.  There was that one sore lump behind her knee which puzzled and pained her until she couldn’t wear the Barbie shoes or enjoy dressing-up as much anymore.  There was that lump and too many questions that went unresolved.  The news came to me softly and gently from Aneta’s father, Mack Shults (known as Beca’s grandpa Shults), as he looked into my eyes holding back a well of tears.

The news was folding my knees; but I straightened to be there for Mack, a real man of God and he knew from where his strength would come and I knew too.  It was fear.  Aneta and Beca were not home yet, so we talked for a moment.  I wanted to run and scream, try to think of the right words, manage to give them their privacy, stop barging in all the time.  Of course, Aneta and her family would let me because they were not the kind to say, “This is not a good time for your barging in; maybe we could call you later”.  Nope, they would always bless me.

As time went by and Beca weakened, but she was Aneta’s Rock,  Beca was hers. They were always like best friends.  I knew they were both shattered and I surely wished there was something I could do.  I did what I could, you know the things, but Beca had to carry this illness and Aneta had to watch with every impression of bravery and strength she could master for the sake of her children.  She delivered.  Our bedrooms were against the same wall and our beds were butted up against it head to head.  I felt her tears over there and I lay sobbing for her pain, a mother’s pain.  Like no other, is a mother’s pain.  Beca began sleeping upstairs too and it was good having them so close there in the next condo just through the wall.  It was easier to pray for them somehow.  I found ways to not barge in so much by pressing my palm against the bedroom wall above my headboard.

There are so many stories I could tell.  Aneta gave permission to share them.  For now, I would tell you this much…Beca and her family came to terms with circumstances of their physical lives and they lived in the Spirit of Holiness, never giving in to the poor prognosis and always believing in a cure.  They still do.

Beca’s mother and family know she is alive in their work, the work issued by determined Beca.  Continue the work of teaching and spreading awareness until melanoma is no more.

I wouldn’t trade Beca for awareness, I am ashamed to say.  I want Beca back.  I want her mother to never have lost a child.  I want those memories erased and replaced with memories of fancy jobs for Beca because she worked her way through college holding three jobs. I want Beca’s body and smile still dropping jaws.  I want babies for Beca and a family with her children chasing butterflies and rainbows.  I want Romeu’s and Aneta innocent again of the things they saw; except for Beca’s strength and faith, of course.  They were so proud.

Yes, I have written much less on the Caring Bridge than anyone might have expected given my proximity to the situation and closeness to Aneta.  I have pulled the covers over my head and hidden from the pain associated with reliving the Campos tragedy by writing about it for the foundation…and I want her back.  I remember Aneta’s fragility about medical things.  Beca took over and her mother assisted.  I remember the mountains of bandages and how Aneta grew stronger about such things.  Aneta asks me to write from my experience and heart as a friend and neighbor in hopes that it will make someone put on that stinking sunscreen.  She has her daughter’s determination and is devoted to the bigger picture.

Details are Aneta’s story to tell.  However, I will tell you that it was Hell and on top of it all, people had to work, clean house, buy groceries, pay the bills and manage daily lives that never stop.  There were the loved ones across several continents …good, loving  people…phones and computers which never rested.  Everyone kept in contact, visiting and loving them.  So many prayers needed prayed.  Aneta and her family stretched return comfort offered them.  There were so many people to love back.  It was beautiful and amazing.  The doors were always open and God gave them willingness to give up many of the quiet moments I wanted for them.  Aneta’s gift of hospitality was at its peak.  Just thinking about the outpouring of love makes me smile.

The Campos and our God are so much bigger than my small part next door.  I am amazed they want me to write about it at all.  Let me tell you that it was not all bad.  There are blessings to spite those monsters.  I want you to know about lives touched for the better, too.

I will tell you again that Beca worked hard in her darkest hours to research her disease, came to terms with her new reality, and helped her family find some worth in it all.   What a noble young woman, what a Christ like vision.   She was totally immersed in finalizing all paper work for the Blackout Melanoma organization.  She wanted to save lives through education and awareness. She never blamed anyone, least not her Lord God.  She is being Jesus for others by her example to encourage others to help end ignorance about Melanoma and work until it is no more.

Tell everyone you know that early detection and treatment saves lives; but that prevention is the cure for melanoma…and that’s the bottom line.

Dawn Hayworth

Dear Friend, neighbor, volunteer at Beca’s 5K events, and proud sponsor for Blackout Melanoma. 

Lisa Sola Blog

So proud that I know her beautiful momma and I get to feel her spirit by knowing you!!!  You are so amazing by everything you do in her honor!  A true inspiration!  

Truly blessed to know you Aneta, as my new neighbor and also as a sweet friend.

It’s wonderful to see all the tremendous work accomplished by Blackout Melanoma, and so proud to be a sponsor.

Lisa Sola

Mickie Kohlschreiber Blog

It was 1986, I was a senior in college, when a news story caught my attention. The picture that was displaying on the TV was something I could identify with, but what was it? As my full attention turned to what the reporter was saying, I couldn’t believe what I was hearing…Skin Cancer. That was the beginning of my 27 years of skin cancer and counting. I have had two out of the three different types of skin cancer, Basal Cell Carcinoma as well as Squamous Cell Carcinoma. Both are successfully treatable with early detection. If left undetected it can cause permanent disfiguring. I have undergone approximately 25 Mole surgeries to remove these cancers, and have had numerous Actinic keratosis (precancerous) spots treated. From the time I received my first confirmed diagnosis I was adamant about wearing sunscreen and limiting myself to sun exposure. I was never one who used a tanning bed or lived by the pool, but with a light complexion, anytime spent in the sun was allowing the time necessary for the sun damage to occur. I have been told it can take 10 years or more for the damage to develop into cancer, and even though I continue to use sunscreen daily, I will unfortunately be dealing with the results of my youthful years for the rest of my life. I do consider myself lucky and blessed. Lucky and happy that when it was brought to my attention, I chose to become aware and take the preventative steps needed to not allow my cancers to go undetected. I go to my dermatologist every three months for a head to toe screening. I encourage everyone to become familiar with your moles, freckles, and any spot on your body. Become knowledgeable of the signs and take notice of any changes…your life just may depend on it.  Prevention and detection is key to a healthy skin.

As our loving Beca would say: Be aware, Take time to share, Show that you care.

I am not only a good and close friend to Aneta and her family, but a proud sponsor for Blackout Melanoma, and will do everything I can to spread the melanoma awareness.

Mickie Kohlschreiber

Sheri Shapiro: Thoughts on Beca

I have been thinking about writing something since Rick mentioned it to me a week or so ago, and my only conclusion is there is no way to narrow this down to a single story or tale about my Becs. So I guess I just need to say how she impacted my life from the first time I met her (which was long before she and Kyle dated).

I was drawn to her exotic flare. I loved to listen to her voice and giggled with her about some of her translations. She was never offended because she knew how much we enjoyed her figuring out the language and that we admired how she had conquered something so difficult at a difficult time in her life. I should have known right then and there what Becs was all about. She had a fight in her and a determination that I have yet to see in another person I have ever known. Whether it was to learn English after a rough move from her native home, or the determination to get into a college she wanted and to make it affordable. And until the unfathomed fight of her life to fight for her life, she did it with such grace and strength that I lean upon that every day of my life still. Whenever I feel frustrated, or scared, or crabby, or exhausted, my eyes are drawn to the sky and we talk. I feel her presence every day. When something scary is prevented, I know she has held my hand through it…she guides me still and will guide me always to keep my priorities straight, appreciate each and every day and loved one. Her impact on me is like no other I have experienced and I am so grateful for the opportunity to love on this amazing girl. I knew this would be tough to put in just a few words, but I can say that my sweet angel lived every single day with the ‘cup half full’!

 

Sheri Shapiro is the wife of Board Vice President Rick Shapiro, and the mother of Board members Ryan and Caitlin Shapiro. Her continued passion, support, and commitment to Blackout Melanoma is unparalleled.  We couldn’t continue our mission without her.