An open letter to all young Australians
25 February 2020
An open letter to all 26-year-olds
From Leon and Tamra Betts
We are the parents of a beautiful young woman who passed away in April 2017 from melanoma, at the age of 25. Our Emma never made it to her 26th birthday. But you have, and this is why we are writing to you.
As you enjoy your 27th year, and plan excitedly for your future career, your world travels, the family you dream of building with your loved ones and the memories you can’t wait to create – please take a minute to read about Our Emma.
We tell Our Emma’s story with pride and love, but most of all we tell it to potentially save your life. We don’t want your parents, your siblings, or your husband, wife or partner to go through what we have.
Our Emma’s melanoma story began in 2012 whilst enjoying life working as a volunteer in East Timor. A dive instructor told Our Emma that he thought a mole on her shoulder looked unusual, so she returned home to have it removed. It was early stage melanoma. With youthful positivity in abundance, Our Emma returned to East Timor, travelling back to Brisbane three monthly for skin checks. Less then 12 months later Our Emma found a lump under her arm. Her melanoma had spread and her life was about to change dramatically. By January 2014 melanoma had spread around her body and her diagnosis was terminal. Our Emma was going to die.
We were very fortunate to have Our Emma (our much loved daughter, sister, wife, granddaughter and aunty) with us for another three years. Our Emma had a partial response to clinical trial drugs which gave her precious extra time – extra time to marry her sweetheart, Serge, make memories with her nieces and nephews, travel, and do all she could to educate on sun safe behaviour and raise funds for Melanoma Institute Australia for melanoma research.
Our Emma didn’t have a choice. Melanoma was not something she put herself at risk of.
She didn’t ‘worship the sun’. She wore a hat, sunscreen and did all she could to protect her skin.
Our Emma had pale skin, red hair and blue eyes and we would learn from her diagnosis that she also carried the BRAF gene, which made her prognosis more dire. But she also had grit and determination in spades, and she used that to do all she could to raise awareness to save other lives, right up until her body was no longer able.
But Dear 26-year-old, you do have a choice, and that is not to put yourself at greater risk of melanoma by using solariums. Commercial solariums have been banned in Australia for a very good reason. They kill.
Please think of your loved ones. Our hearts are broken and we are learning to live our life around our grief. I’m sure you don’t wish to see your family go through this trauma.
Just as she will always be Our Emma, you too are someone’s Dear 26-year-old.
We implore you to love the skin you’re in, and not use solariums, for your family’s sake.
If our pleading isn’t enough, then please learn from Our Emma herself. She wrote a blog, Dear Melanoma, through which she candidly detailed her life with melanoma. Please read it, so you know what you are saving yourself from. www.dearmelanoma.com
Leon and Tamra Betts
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