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Dear Melanoma: A Tribute to Redhead Emma Betts

Redhead cancer campaigner, Emma Betts, has passed away. A celebration of her work:

Redhead cancer campaigner and Australian, Emma Betts, passed away after losing her fight to melanoma this past weekend. Emma, 25, founded after she was diagnosed with Stage 4 Metastatic Melanoma when she was 22 years old, and given just three months to live.

Her father, Leon, announced to her Facebook fans that his daughter had peacefully passed away at Brisbane’s Greenslopes hospital.

In a beautiful tribute, her father tells his Facebook audience that will live on.

“All good things must come to an end,” he wrote. “At around 11:40 last night Emma peacefully passed away with Serge, Tamra and I at her side.

“I think my Mum summed things up rather succinctly … Emma achieved so much in 25 years, just imagine what she would have achieved if she lived to a ripe old age!”

As you scroll through, you’re immediately touched by Emma’s story. She herself details how she discovered she had melanoma while working at a rehabilitation centre for people with physical disabilities in East Timor.

Every redhead can relate:

“It was in East Timor [a Southeast Asian nation] that I had my first encounter with melanoma. While scuba diving, a complete stranger pointed out a mole on my shoulder as I took my wetsuit off. I hadn’t really noticed any change, but I wasn’t exactly living in luxury and did not have a mirror to see the spot, let alone notice changes. I was heading home for a holiday a few weeks later, so made an appointment with my General Practitioner (GP) to have the mole removed.

Imagine my surprise when I was asked to go back to the GP for my results; something so out of character for my GP who would normally feel comfortable sharing news over the phone. I was told that the pathology had shown melanoma.

Was I stressed? No, not really, because I honestly didn’t really know what it meant. So off I went to the dermatologist to have a wider excision of the lesion to make sure they had clearance, and to measure the stage of my melanoma. The pathology for this excision was the best we could hope for – the melanoma was only 0.6mm, which is very thin, and they had made clearance.

My lovely dermatologist put her serious hat on and told me the reality of melanoma. The chances this mole would cause any problem in the future was a mere five percent and I was told to continue being sun smart, definitely on my return to East Timor, and to return every three months to make sure that we had time to catch anymore any pesky little melanomas early.

Back to East Timor I went. Problem solved, or so I thought.

Almost a year later, August 2013, I found a lump under my arm. My dermatologist had prepared me for what to look out for. I knew a lump, definitely so close to my primary melanoma, was reason for concern. I packed up my bags a month early and returned home to Brisbane [Australia].

Within a week a biopsy was taken. Although all the signs were there this was again melanoma, nothing prepared me for what the doctor told me – I had Stage 3 Melanoma. Surgery was booked to remove the lymph nodes from under my arm and we started the process of applying for a clinical trial for Stage 3 patients.”

During Emma’s three year battle, she got married, started her own business and raised over $100,000 for the Melanoma Institute. She started her blog, Dear Melanoma, in June 2014 saying, “Dear Melanoma has given me strength, confidence and courage to face terminal illness head on. You can almost be guaranteed every time I sit at my computer to write a new blog post I will have tears streaming down my face, but the feeling that I get once that post is published and people start interacting with the post is simply amazing. I feel that I am making a difference and I feel that I am now alone.”

The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) estimates that one in five Americans will develop skin cancer.

If there is one thing we can all learn from Emma’s life it is: it’s extremely important to protect your fair, freckled skin. Get yearly skin screenings, wear sunscreen daily, reapply after two hours, wear a hat and sunglasses and seek shade when possible. It is life changing advice, and we all need to take it, especially as we move into the warmer months.

READ: 5 Important Skin Tips Every Redhead Must Follow 

Rock it like a Redhead.