By Timna Understein – It’s here! Today, May 6th! It’s Melanoma Monday! “What is that?”, you ask. Well, that’s a great question. It sounds extremely simple and intuitive… the first Monday of May (Melanoma Awareness Month), which is focused on educating people about the disease of melanoma. Right? One would think. But, here’s the thing… it’s not so plain to see, or follow, for that matter.
Let me back up, give you some backstory, some facts, get you up to speed with what is going on in relation to this day, Melanoma Monday.
Here we go…
The word melanoma comes from the Greek words melas (black) and oma (tumor). Its first use dates back to somewhere between 1825-1838. There’s history there, and meaning. The melanoma cancer awareness color has always been black… black ribbons, black logos, BLACK, BLACK, BLACK.
Is black a “pretty and happy” color? No. Is melanoma a “pretty and happy” disease? NO! It’s a cancer, with its history and roots coming from the color black.
Somewhat recently, on the heals of Melanoma Awareness Month, the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) decided to kick off a large campaign to raise awareness of melanoma and other skin cancers. Mind you, the AAD is, “the largest, most influential and most representative dermatology group in the United States. With a membership of more than 17,000, it represents virtually all participating dermatologists in the United States, as well as a growing number of international dermatologists.” There’s a lot of voice here, to say the least.
Their new campaign is called SPOT Skin Cancer and it is centered on something called SPOT Orange on Melanoma Monday. So, who coined the term “Melanoma Monday”? The AAD did. It’s a great phrase, for sure… rolls right off the tongue. So, if a huge organization is going to organize a huge campaign, with a whole day focused on melanoma, why not use the color that actually represents the cancer they are hoping to educate about????
Orange? What’s that? Here is the mission of their orange day: “…help the AAD paint the nation orange for skin cancer awareness by wearing orange on Monday, May 6-Melanoma Monday.” Hmm. Well, that’s confusing!
This has caused a large commotion in the melanoma community. Emotions are running high. There’s a color war being fought. I have to say, I don’t know one person who is aligning themselves with the AAD campaign, and wearing orange.
When I think of orange, things that come to mind are: Cheetos, Doritos with extra cheese, squeeze cheese in a can, Tang drink mix, sun bed colored skin, the palms of the hands of someone who has taken to a bottle of fake tanning cream, etc…. mostly, fake and toxic things.
When looking at the psychology of the color orange, it is typically thought of as a joyous, playful color, a color that radiates warmth and happiness. It’s often associated with amusement and flamboyancy.
None of the above has anything to do with melanoma. NOTHING! I mean, well… actually, the sun bed skin and the fake tanning cream do, but other than that, nothing.
To me, I can only find two good melanoma related uses for the color orange. The first is, if creating curriculum for the early childhood setting, such as an introduction into sun safety for preschoolers. Orange would be good for that. The second would be, if a campaign were developed focusing on the genetic link between red heads (orange, really) and melanoma. Orange would be great for that!
And so, emails were written, calls were made, responses were received… but no change was made. Frustration, sadness, anger are just some of the emotions “being seen” across Facebook in the melanoma community.
But guess what? We are good at coming up against challenges, at doing what we can with what we have. And that’s exactly what the melanoma community is doing. We are wearing black. We are wearing the color of the disease of melanoma… BLACK.
About The Author: Timna Understein is a melanoma warrior, who has bravely battled this disease twice since 2008 along with a Primary Acquired Melanosis of her left eye in 2012. She is also the WYSK behind Respect The Rays, a REAL TALK based melanoma education and awareness movement that targets young people. Read her inspiring story here.