Reminder Assistant Editor
WILBRAHAM With the color pink everywhere in October, it can be easy to forget that breast cancer isn't the only form of cancer affecting women today.
Meghan Rothschild was diagnosed with melanoma, a form of skin cancer, when she was 20 years old. Hours upon hours spent in tanning booths eventually led to a surgery resulting in 70 stitches, a disfigurement on her stomach and scars under both arms where eight lymph nodes had to be removed.
"As a result [of the surgeries], I want to change how people view scarring and increase awareness about skin cancer," Rothschild said in a statement on the SHADE Foundation Web site (www.shadefoundation.org).
Through her efforts, the organization released a calendar earlier this month featuring 13 women who have survived their battles with skin cancer and embrace their scars and want to educate others about the disease.
Sold for $12 each, 90 percent of the proceeds will go to the SHADE Foundation to educate women and men about proper skin care and the dangers of sun exposure. The other 10 percent will will be used for Rothschild's public speaking engagements which further raise awareness of skin cancer prevention. She said she will be visiting the students of Minnechaug Regional High School at the end of November.
Rothschild estimates that approximately $2,500 have been raised since the calendar's release on Oct. 5. "I would love to raise at least $15,000," she said, "and I think we can do it in the next two months."
The women featured in the calendar include other local skin cancer survivors Rothschild has encountered, women she found through her dermatologist, Miss Maryland Brittany Lietz and Shonda Schilling, wife of Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling and founder of the SHADE Foundation.
"There's a good variety of scar locations as well," Rothschild said. "Mine is on my stomach, another is on a heel, another on a knee. Skin cancer can affect you anywhere."
The calendars are available at the Village Store & Cafe on Main Street in Wilbraham and online on the SHADE Foundation's Web site.
In January, Rothschild will have been cancer free for four years. "I turned a horrible situation into a positive one," she said. "Due to the fact that skin cancer is the most preventable form of cancer I feel that most people don't consider it an 'epidemic.' With tanning salons popping up around every corner, I must disagree.
"My opinion on tanning beds is kind of like sex education high school," she added. "It's not about telling people not to do it. It's about educating people and letting them make their own decisions."
According to the Shade Foundation, skin cancer accounts for more than half of all cancers in the United States. It is estimated that more than one million new cases will be diagnosed in 2007.
Rothschild sees her dermatologist for regular check-ups and stresses the importance of getting checked frequently. "Early detection is key," she stated.
"Getting the word out there is so important," Rothschild said. "I really think this calendar is helping us do that."