Raising awareness: Kennedy junior Hannah Kloft takes on skin cancer

March 2014 Posted in People, Your Health
Hannah Kloft, right, volunteered at a race day at Silverton Fitness to raise money and awareness of melanoma.

Hannah Kloft, right, volunteered at a race day at Silverton Fitness to raise money and awareness of melanoma.

By Kristine Thomas

Kennedy High School junior Hannah Kloft cannot count all the times Reagan Purdy has made a difference in her life.

“Ever since I was a freshman, Reagan has always helped me so much. She is always compassionate and she never wants anything back in return,” Kloft said of Purdy, who is the school secretary. “She does so much more than her job title says. She looks out for the students and really cares about them.”

When Kloft heard Purdy wanted to have a fundraiser along with her brother, Mike Thompson, to raise money to fight melanoma, Kloft didn’t hesitate to help. Mike and Reagan lost their mom, Nansi Thompson, to melanoma last October. Mike’s wife, Elizabeth, was diagnosed with melanoma eight years ago and underwent chemotherapy and surgery.

Cancer has invaded her family, Kloft said.

“My family has also been affected by cancer – my grandma, aunt and uncle. My mom had spots taken out and she always wears sunscreen,” she said.

According to Knight Cancer Institute at Oregon Health Science University, melanoma is a disease in which cancer forms in the cells that color the skin. If it is not treated, melanoma can spread to other parts of the body in a process called metastasis. Melanoma’s ability to spread makes it the most serious form of skin cancer.  The American Cancer Society estimates about 120,000 new cases of melanoma in the US are diagnosed each year.

If melanoma is recognized and treated early, it is almost always curable, but if it is not, the cancer can spread to other parts of the body, where it becomes hard to treat and can be fatal.

Assisting Thompson and Purdy with the fundraiser as her senior project, Kloft said, was a way for her to pay it forward.

“You don’t have to know someone to help someone,” Kloft said. “I never met Mrs. Thompson but I know Reagan and I wanted to do something to help her. I think giving back is such a big part of life. I believe we all need to be appreciative and help as much as possible. I think it’s important to put yourself in someone’s shoes.”

During the second week of March, events were held at Silverton Fitness to raise money and awareness of melanoma. As of mid-March, Kloft raised more than $4,000 in cash and prizes. The money will be given to Knight Cancer Institute for melanoma research at Oregon Health Science University.

A volleyball, basketball and softball player at Kennedy, Kloft said visiting businesses and asking for donations was “out of my comfort zone.”

But she found the task much easier than she thought it would be.

“I learned how supportive the community is and how much they are willing to lend their support for a good cause,” Kloft said. “Even though people didn’t know who I am, they know who Reagan and Mike and Mrs. Thompson are and are willing to help.”

The outpour of support from the community and businesses in Mount Angel and Silverton also showed Kloft what can be accomplished when people work together.

“It is awesome to see all the people who are helping raise money and their excitement,” Kloft said. “The events at Silverton Fitness have been a fun way to raise awareness about something that isn’t fun to talk about.”

With thoughts of pursuing a medical career, Kloft also learned about melanoma. Mike Thompson said neither his wife nor his mom were chronic sunbathers.

“They had two totally different types of melanoma,” Thompson said.

His wife’s cancer was a mole on her arm. Purdy explained their mom’s cancer was a bump on her back. There wasn’t a mole to act as a warning sign.

“My mom was diagnosed three years ago,” Purdy said. “Melanoma is the most awful cancer.”

As the gray winter days bloom into spring and sunshine, people will be spending more time outdoors. Kloft said her senior project has made her more aware of what steps can be taken to prevent melanoma.

Purdy and Thompson appreciate how much Kloft has done to help raise awareness and funds.

“The support we have received for the fundraiser has been incredible,” Purdy said. “It is so neat people want to help other people get through grief processes.”

The ABCDE of skin cancer

Examine your skin monthly. Look for:

Asymmetry: If you draw a line through the mole, the two halves will not match.

Border: The borders of an early melanoma tend to be uneven. The edges may be scalloped or notched.

Color: Having a variety of colors is another warning signal. A number of different shades of brown, tan or black could appear. A melanoma may also become red, blue or some other color.

Diameter: Melanomas usually are larger in diameter than the size of the eraser on your pencil.

Evolving: Any change — in size, shape, color,or any new symptom such as bleeding, itching or crusting — points to danger.

Have your doctor check skin annually.

Prevention tips

Not all melanomas can be prevented, but there are ways to lower your risk.

Seek the shade, especially between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.

Do not burn and avoid tanning booths.

Keep covered. Wear hats, sunglasses and long-sleeve shirts.

Use a sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher every day. For outdoor activity, use a water-resistant, broad spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher.

Apply sunscreen 30 minutes before going outside. Reapply every two hours or immediately after swimming or excessive sweating.

Keep newborns out of the sun. Sunscreens should be used on babies over the age of six months.

skincancer.org

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