Patient, survivor warn of the dangers of skin cancer

May is Melanoma Awareness Month. About 120,000 people in the United States will be diagnosed with melanoma this year.

For Marcus Reimel, it started innocently enough with nose bleeds in the shower.

“But after about a month or two, I noticed an obstruction growing in my nasal cavity and I couldn’t breath well,” Reimel said.

Those nose bleeds turned out to be early signs of a rare form of melanoma.

Dr. Shane Morita of Queen’s Cancer Center explained, “This is a type called mucosal melanoma. This is the lining of the mouth,” or even in the nose, which is what happened to Reimel.

He underwent extensive treatment last summer in Los Angeles.

“I was kind of surprised, but just knew it was a cancer that we had to fight,” Reimel said. “It didn’t dampen my spirits, but I just knew it was something me and my family would have to take on, a new challenge in our life.”

It’s a united front. Marcus, his wife and son are all in this battle against this cancer.

Melanoma is about much more than just sun exposure.

“When you think about melanoma, you think about the face, the back, the shoulders,” said Dr. Morita.

But Asinate Vaivela survived another rare type of melanoma that isn’t associated with the sun — acral melanoma, which was found on the bottom of her foot.

“I found it in 2011, my senior year in high school, but I felt fine,” she said. “When I went to my doctor, he took out the cyst, and then maybe a few weeks later he called me in and told me.”

And you don’t have to be light-skinned to get the disease.

“You never know. Look at me, I’m Tongan, dark-skinned. I never thought I would have skin cancer,” Vaivela said.

“Melanoma not always relates to sun exposure and not always affects the skin,” Dr. Morita said. “In Marcus’ case, it was the lining of his nose.”

Asinate is now cancer-free, but it’s come back for Marcus and he’s set to undergo another round of treatment in the coming weeks.

The two of them hope their stories will make more people aware.

“Now I want to spread awareness so other people that don’t know about this type of melanoma will just know that it is out there,” Reimel said.

“If in doubt, look for any changes in your body,” Dr. Morita said. “You know, anything that is growing. Anything that is out of character.”

Reimel and his family have set up a website to help with the costs associated with battling the disease. Click here if you’d like to donate.

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