Kathy Barnard Urges You to ‘Save Your Skin’ from Melanoma

Kathy Barnard turned her devastating prognosis into a message of hope for melanoma patients.

Credit: Save Your Skin Foundation

Melanoma survivor Kathy Barnard and the Save Your Skin Foundation want you to protect yourself from the sun


In 2003, Kathy Barnard’s life was forever changed when she discovered that the lump on her arm she thought was merely fatty tissue was in fact stage IV malignant melanoma.


Barnard, a mother, avid golfer and water-skier, was stunned again two years later when she learned the cancer had spread to her liver, kidney, adrenal gland and lung. She was given only six to nine months to live.


The next few years would be an exhausting regimen of chemotherapy, injections, trial drug treatments, relapses and above all, a growing sense of fear and uncertainty.

Save Your Skin Foundation Free Information Symposium


June 25

10:30 a.m.


Vancouver Art Gallery
750 Hornby Street

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Few truly believe they’ll ever be affected by cancer, but Barnard says for melanoma patients, the news is particularly unsettling.


“When they are diagnosed, [melanoma patients] are scared to death because the doctor has nothing else to tell them,” says Barnard. “There is no defined treatment or pathway. It’s just ‘you have stage IV malignant melanoma.’ That’s it.”

Turning a diagnosis of despair into a foundation for others

Barnard was motivated by the lack of direction and support she faced, and so she founded the Save Your Skin Foundation in 2006.

The small, not-for-profit organization aims to raise awareness about melanoma and the importance of early detection, as well as provide comfort to those struggling with the disease.

The Foundation provides financial and emotional support to melanoma patients

“We knew how horrible it had been for us as a family, both emotionally and financially,” says Barnard. “We wanted to be able to take any burden off of that [melanoma] cancer patient, so that they could just focus on dealing with the cancer.”

Melanoma is not just skin cancer

Barnard says one common misconception is that melanoma, like other skin cancers, can be burnt off, removed and forgotten about.

Unfortunately, as a deadly cancer, the cure for melanoma is not so simple. Early detection is essential in order to ensure a higher survival rate, says Barnard.

And though melanoma treatments have improved significantly in survival rates over the past years, melanoma remains the second most common cancer among Canadians aged 15 to 34.

900 Canadians will die from melanoma this year

About 5000 Canadians will be diagnosed with melanoma this year alone, and 900 will die from the disease.

And while Vancouver may be known for its rainy days and unpredictable weather patterns, that doesn’t diminish the risk of developing melanoma, says Barnard.


“People will say to me ‘we don’t live in Australia,’ and I understand that,” says Barnard. “But the thing is, I didn’t live in Australia, and neither do those 900 others. I’m Canadian, but it still happened to me.”

You never know when the sun will peek out on a cloudy day (Image: Flickr/gr33n3gg)

Check your skin, check your skin, check your skin

Today, Barnard still struggles with her battle against melanoma, though she has outlived her doctor’s bleak prognosis. She remains hopeful she can make a difference in the lives of other Canadians fighting this deadly disease.

She stresses the message: “check your skin, check your skin, check your skin,” and tells people they should report any changes noticed in moles, freckles or lumps immediately to their doctor.

The Save Your Skin Foundation will be raising awareness and funds to support melanoma patients and skin cancer research at the Save Your Skin Celebrity Breakfast Fundraiser June 7 which also coincides with National Sun Awareness Week, June 6 – 12, 2011.

Tips on how to be sun smart and lower your risk of developing melanoma

  1. Always wear sunscreen
    Even when it looks like a cloudy day, the sun is still beaming down and could put you at risk for developing skin cancer. And don’t forget to lather up those tricky spots, such as the back of your neck and behind your ears.
  2. Avoid peak hours
    The sun is at its brightest and hottest between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., so try to limit your exposure during those times.
  3. Invest in UV clothing
    Long gone are the days that UV clothing meant boring and unattractive. Today, there is a wide variety of fashionable clothing on the market that will also provide UV protection.
  4. Protect your eyes
    Ocular melanoma
    is becoming increasingly common, so be sure to wear sunglasses to protect your eyes from those harmful rays.
  5. Find shade off the field
    If you’re an outdoor athlete, try to seek some shade whenever there is a break in the play to give your skin some refuge from the sun.
  6. Use those 500 Facebook photos to your advantage
    These days, many of us seem to document our every move and put the evidence online. Barnard advises you should flick through some older photos to see if you notice any difference in size or colour of any moles, freckles or lumps. If you do, insist to your doctor that you need to get it checked.