Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Still Standing...

May. Skin Cancer Awareness month is upon us again. Last year I was busy getting donations for several Billboards in the Grand Rapids area in an effort to spread awareness to Melanoma. When the first Billboard was up and running, it was so exciting. Jillian’s own words were, “Chancy Pants is Famous”!

One year later so much has changed. We have five billboards up again this year. I have been receiving texts and emails from individuals who have passed them on the highway. I , myself, was driving home last night and there she was. All lit up, once again sharing her light and her story in the hopes that another young person, another family, doesn’t have to travel the same road our family is currently on.

I’m happy with these efforts, and the progress we’ve made this past year. I promised Jillian that I would continue to try and educate others about the dangers of tanning beds and the sun. And we really are making steps in that direction.


When I’m alone and I see all the posts and photos on face book showing her face, I am slapped with the reality that Jillian isn’t here. Each photo pierces my heart, and the wound begins leaking all over again. It has been 4 months since she took her last breath here on earth. Seems like yesterday. It isn’t easy being out there. Perhaps it would be easier if we weren’t sharing our story . We wouldn’t be dealing with the constant reminder that our beloved Jillian is not here with us today. As if we needed that reminder.

But we aren’t alone. There are hundreds of people who are currently engaged in their own battle with melanoma, in a battle for their life. There are just as many caregivers who are standing by their side. And those who have lost their loved one to this disease. They are all out there sharing their story, sharing their scars, all in the hopes that someone else will learn that melanoma is way more than a word. So much more than "just" skin cancer.

So we unite. As tough as it is, despite the hurt when the reality of melanoma slaps us square in the face, we are an army with a mission. We Stand.

Please Stand with us against melanoma by joining the event, Melanoma Black Monday, May 6.



  1. The cause you are fighting for is beautiful. I want you to know that YOU are making a difference. YOU made an impact on ME today. Your blog was touching and hit very close to home. I love hearing about your efforts in putting up billboards! You have encouraged me to do the same! I live in the Dallas/Fort Worth area and my sweet momma, Kim Potts, passed away from stage IV melanoma on 12-31-12. For me, it has been painful to put it into words and formulate a “story”. I still break down daily just thinking about it and sometimes sharing that battle can be exhausting. I also believe sharing the struggles and the fight can be therapeutic. It is always difficult, but talking about it is a release. The constant reminder that Jillian is not here with you today is painful, but be encouraged and comforted by the lives you are changing from telling her story! I am so proud of you, and I don't even know you! I cannot imagine how proud your friends, family and Jillian are. Grief is a powerful and raw emotion that can be crippling, but you are fighting through it for others. For that, I am thankful. For you, I am thankful! Keep sharing your story and saving lives! We need more people like you.
    Keep up the beautiful work,
    Jess Ellison

    1. Jessica,

      I'm so sorry to hear about your mother's passing. She lives in your heart, but it's not where you want her to be. And you are right, the grief can be crippling.

      Thank you too,for the encouraging message! It makes me so happy to hear when someone has been touched by Jillian's story. :)

  2. You took the path of MOST resistance;you and your family,including Jillian. I think most of us would have taken the ""easier" road,the private and quiet road for whatever reason.
    Tucking Jillian away in your collective hearts would have spared you the pain that you described when you unexpectedly see her face in a public space, and I cannot begin to know the depths of that pain.. My mind only allows me to imagine it, and sometimes I feel crushed by that.
    Thank you for making the choice you made Sue. It is clear that Jillian's story is growing stronger. You will grow with it. It is taking hold.

    1. Valerie,
      You are so special to me. You always have the right words to say. Thank you for being you.

  3. Susan, I found your story while researching Melanoma, as I had a scare of my own. Although mine turned out to be nothing I feel that everything happens for a reason and there is a reason I found your story. I have already convinced 2 people to quit tanning in those horrible beds by telling them Jillian's story. Jillian's story has touched me so deeply that I am forever changed. God Bless you and your family and know that even though I and many others did not have the chance to meet your beautiful daughter her light has reached many people. I will forever be grateful.

  4. Misty,
    Thank you for letting me know that Jillian has touched you in some way. I'm very happy that you had a chance to tell her story, and to have saved those lives by convincing them to say away from tanning beds. And thank you for sharing Jillian's light with others. This gives me great comfort.