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Cancer Survivors Gather to Raise Awareness, Celebrate

Prevention takes center stage at the Lurie Cancer Center walk

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June 8, 2010 | by Erin White

CHICAGO, Ill. --- Sunscreen is now always on Lindsay Walsh's mind and on her skin. That's because last year the 22-year-old college student was diagnosed with skin cancer, after a mole on her thigh changed shape, size and color and started to bleed.

"I went to the doctor, got it removed and biopsied, and I got diagnosed," Walsh said. "It was considered a tumor because it was so deep."

The cancer, melanoma, had also spread to her lymph nodes. After two major surgeries and nearly a year of chemotherapy later, Walsh joined other cancer survivors at the 17th Annual Cancer Survivors' Celebration and Walk sponsored by the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University, June 6, 2010.

"This is the first thing I've done to celebrate the fact that I have gotten this far," she said.

Cancer survivors wear purple tee-shirts and walk alongside friends and family as well as researchers and physicians from the Lurie Cancer Center, on their four-mile walk along Lake Michigan.

"Seeing the purple shirts is absolutely breathtaking, because it shows how far we have come with cancer," said Laura Bruni, who lost her father to cancer. "The more purple shirts, the better!"

After the walk, many stop to write a message on a dedication wall. Scott Hamilton, a 20-year survivor of lymphoma said he signs the wall every year and writes a message of thanks to the doctors at the Lurie Cancer Center.

"It is almost an annual diary for long-term survivors to come back and remember how many years we have survived," he said.

Cancer prevention was the theme of this year's walk, and as participants spent time under the bright sun, Walsh lathered up her loved ones with SPF 85 sunscreen. Walsh said tanning without sunscreen and in tanning beds contributed to her skin cancer diagnosis. Now, she wants to raise awareness about skin cancer prevention every day for the rest of her life. Walsh's dedication and spirit makes her surgeon at the Lurie Cancer Center proud.

"She has not only served as a beacon of light and hope for those who know her, but she has decided to make it her life's goal to raise melanoma awareness," said Dr. Jeffrey Wayne, associate professor of surgery at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, chief of the melanoma and soft tissue surgical oncology program at Northwestern Memorial Hospital and at the Lurie Cancer Center.

Next year, when survivors and supporters gather to celebrate and walk once again, Walsh said she will be in attendance -- sunscreen in hand.