VB Gives Back

#VBGIVESBACK: Melissa Breitbart

May 1, 2017

We are honored to support the Live4life Foundation as part of our ongoing #VBGIVESBACK program and will be donating $10 of every VeronicaBeard.com order in May to the cause. Learn more about founder and melanoma survivor Melissa Breitbart in the interview below.
When Melissa Breitbart was diagnosed with melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, it turned her life upside down. With a young son at home, she was heartbroken to learn that there was no treatment or cure for melanoma. She quickly turned her pain into action and started the Live4Life Foundation, an organization focused on helping those affected by melanoma through the funding of research.

With melanoma being the leading cause of cancer death in young women ages 25-30 and 160,000 Americans expected to be diagnosed with the disease this year*, her mission to spread awareness has become more important than ever.


Tell us about your diagnosis…

It felt like the end of the world. I had little hope that I would survive. There were so few treatment options at the time that I was constantly in fear that the melanoma would come back. The scariest part was realizing that if the melanoma did come back it would be stage IV. I was willing to do anything at the time to try and extend my life. My son was only 3.5 and I knew he was too young to lose his mother.

I had a major surgery, participated in an experimental trial and was on an oral bio chemotherapy for a year. Each week my mom and I would go to Philadelphia where the trial was held. Those days were very challenging. I would not have had the strength to persevere without the support of my family and friends. I put on a very brave face to the public but, I was suffering silently for years. I am truly grateful every day for the gift of life that I have been given.
 

What inspired you to start the Live4Life Foundation?

Shortly after I was diagnosed I learned that Melanoma does not discriminate by age, race or gender and incidence levels of melanoma are increasing faster than any other cancer. I made a commitment to myself that not only would I be victorious in my own fight with melanoma, I would also find a lasting and powerful way to help others facing the disease. I would turn tragedy into triumph. I wanted to get my story out there and give melanoma a voice, I was hopeful that my story could save other people’s lives.

What are the main goals of the Live4Life Foundation?

The Live4Life Foundation is a non-profit organization whose mission is to help those affected by melanoma. Live4Life is committed to funding research to find an effective treatment and cure for melanoma. The foundation also creates awareness about the dangers of melanoma. Through education we hope to achieve these goals and enable prevention.
Melissa Breitbart and her mother, Roberta Breitbart.

How has the work Live4Life is doing impacted other cancer treatments?

The Live4Life Foundation has supported research that led to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval of the immunotherapy combination nivolumab (Opdivo®) plus ipilimumab (Yervoy®) for use in patients with metastatic melanoma. This is the first-ever combination immunotherapy to receive approval by the FDA. Immunotherapy advances are helping even more patients, for example those with lung cancer and other cancer types. The new combination drug therapies have changed the way doctors are thinking about treating cancer.

What can others do to prevent melanoma?

Since nearly 90% of melanomas are thought to be caused by exposure to UV light and sunlight, it is so important to know how to live a life that is sun safe. It is essential to apply sunscreen with a high SPF and reapply multiple times a day and limit your sun exposure between the hours of 10AM and 4PM. Schedule regular body checks with your dermatologist and learn how to check yourself as well between appointments. It’s also important to know your family history. With new gene therapies being developed every minute, knowledge is power.

How did your battle with cancer change your daily life?

When I was first diagnosed the fear of relapse haunted me every day. It took me a long time to learn how to deal with that fear. I have realized that there are so many things I can’t control. I try to keep things in perspective and remain grateful every day for the gift of survival.

What is your best advice for someone going through cancer treatment?

Be your own best advocate. Listen to your body and keep pushing. Stay open to all your options. I believe that traditional and nontraditional therapies helped to save my life.
*Source: Melanoma.org


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