Briana Bilbray is only 25, yet she is undergoing the fight of her life—against melanoma. In addition to waging a battle against the disease, Briana is also working to raise awareness of the risks of melanoma, particularly among young people.
“I didn’t even know that much about this disease,” recalls Briana. “But it is very easy to get; to put light on the situation and get my voice heard is important. I don’t want anyone to go through what I have gone through.”
To help build awareness for the need for prevention and early detection of melanoma, Briana and her father, US Congressman Brian Bilbray, will attend and speak at the University of California, San Diego’s annual Bruce Gorder 5K Walk for Melanoma on Oct. 6. The Gorder Walk raises funding for cutting-edge melanoma research at UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center, the region’s only Comprehensive Cancer Center designated by the National Cancer Center Institute. Since the event was founded, the Gorder Walk has raised $1.2 million to support doctors’ efforts to develop better treatments and ultimately, a cure for melanoma.
Briana Bilbray, a melanoma patient, and her father, Congressman Brian Bilbray, discuss the need for awareness and prevention to combat the deadly disease.
Last year, Briana noticed that a mole on her leg was changing in color and size, but she thought it was normal. By the time she had the mole checked, she learned not only that she had melanoma, but that it was quite advanced. The doctors removed the mole right away, and one week later, she was going in for further surgery.
Briana’s father is proud of his daughter’s strength and motivation to help others avoid her diagnosis. “Briana is speaking from the young person’s point of view,” said Congressman Bilbray. “She is waking up young people, saying, ‘You need to be aware of this.’ It is not just an old person’s problem. This is a young person’s challenge.”
Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the United States and the best way to protect oneself from its dangers is prevention and early detection. According to the National Cancer Institute, an estimated 76,250 new cases of melanoma will arise in the United States in 2012. Doctors at the UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center encourage individuals to remember the warning signs through the “ABCDE’s” of melanoma and meet with a dermatologist when a mole begins to take on one or more of the following characteristics:
- Asymmetry – One half doesn’t match the other half.
- Border – The edges are ragged, blotched or blurred.
- Color – The pigmentation is not uniform. Shades of tan, brown and black are present. Dashes of red, white and blue add to the mottled appearance.
- Diameter – The width is greater than six millimeters (about the size of a pencil eraser). Any growth of a mole should be of concern.
- Elevation/Evolution – A mole that has different elevations/contours or any mole that has changed (evolution) should be checked by a qualified dermatologist as soon as the change is detected.
The annual Gorder Walk honors the late Bruce Brunner Gorder, who lost his battle with melanoma in 1992 at 37. Bruce’s father, Charles “Chuck” Gorder, and his family founded the Bruce Gorder 5K Walk for Melanoma, with the goal of supporting research to find a cure for melanoma. The family hopes that one day, the Bruce Gorder 5K Walk for melanoma will become unnecessary.
As part of the Oct. 6 walk, dermatologists will offer free professional skin cancer screenings to registered participants. The event will also feature interactive stations that allow participants to test their knowledge of melanoma and the Gorder Walk. Bill Griffith, Channel 10News anchor and cancer survivor, will return as master of ceremonies. Event sponsors include Environmental Development LLC; The Preuss Foundation, Inc.; Grossmont Shopping Center/Grossmont Land Company; Drew Auto Center; Dr. Seuss Foundation; The Fish Market; Kactis 4 Kancer; and Grossmont Trolley.
Registration begins at 8:00 a.m. at UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center on the UC San Diego east campus. The walk will begin immediately following Griffith’s welcome at 9 a.m. Participants will receive a free event t-shirt while supplies last, and a prize drawing entry for giveaways. The registration fee is $20 for those with a valid student ID and $30 for all others.