Melanoma Survivor

Pro Football Hall of Famer Educates and Inspires

Troy Aikman grew up in a generation that didn’t think about using sunscreen. The dangers of sun exposure and the related risk of melanoma simply weren’t on the radar. Nearly two decades after a Stage II melanoma diagnosis and full recovery, Troy learned more about the disease. Armed with this knowledge, he is now committed to educating and inspiring others in the fight against melanoma.

 

In 1998, Troy was 31 and in his tenth year as a successful quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys. After a shower, he noticed a spot on the back of his shoulder that he hadn’t seen before.

“I saw my dermatologist regularly for the typical reasons so, on my next visit, I asked him to take a look at it.” His dermatologist recommended a biopsy and performed surgery that left him with 11 stitches. A tissue sample was sent off to the lab and, about a week later, Troy got the call that it was melanoma.

The potential severity of the situation hadn’t yet hit him, but the experience did increase his awareness about sun exposure and the importance of performing regular skin checks. Coincidentally, at the time of his diagnosis, Troy played with a Cowboys teammate who had fought melanoma in high school.

“I believe his treatment was more complex with chemotherapy and radiation,” Troy said. “I remember how vigilant he was about wearing long sleeves and not being in the sun any more than he had to, which wasn’t easy in our line of work.”

Following his recovery, Troy was approached about speaking out for melanoma prevention, but he didn’t feel it was the right time to be public about this very private part of his life. Instead, life went on as planned. He continued to play pro football for the Cowboys, eventually retiring from his record-breaking career after the 2000 season. That same year he married and within two years, he and his wife had two daughters.

Today, Troy is still cancer-free and very much in the public eye as a lead NFL analyst for the FOX network. In January 2016, along with Novartis Oncology and patient advocacy organizations AIM at Melanoma, the Melanoma International Foundation and the Melanoma Research Foundation, Troy stepped onto a different stage to launch Melanoma Just Got Personal, an advanced melanoma education and community support campaign.

“I’m active and I’m healthy, and I am ready to help get the message out about what to do and where to find support if you are diagnosed with advanced melanoma.”

When he thinks back to his own diagnosis, he admits that he didn’t know a lot about the disease. Since his involvement with the campaign, his knowledge level and his enthusiasm about educating others have grown immensely.

“I understood the risk of sun overexposure, but that is not the only factor. There are young people who haven’t spent much time out in the sun getting melanoma.”

He has also discovered how personal the disease really is because of various genetic changes (mutations) that may be present in the tumor.

“There isn’t just one melanoma, and there are different treatment options depending on the mutation you have. Understanding your form of advanced melanoma will help you and your doctor determine the most effective course of treatment.”

Education and awareness aside, he knows the possibility of a recurrence is always there.

“The unnerving thing for me is that it could have been somewhere that wasn’t so easy for me to see. Had it been in the middle of my back, who knows when I might have noticed it? It’s still unnerving now, even though I get regular checkups twice a year.”

Still, Troy hasn’t let the fear of melanoma keep him from doing what he loves.

“We’re an active family. I’m outside all the time, golfing and running. I love going to the beach and the lake. I’m just more knowledgeable now about what to look for. We’ve put sunscreen on our daughters, Jordan (14) and Ally (13), since they were babies. They never head out to a soccer or lacrosse game without putting it on. It’s part of their routine. Hopefully, they’re the beginning of the generation that doesn’t think twice about sun protection. They’ll just do it.”

Throughout his football career, Troy felt preparing for and understanding his opponents was the most effective way to beat them. He believes the same applies in the formidable fight against advanced melanoma.

“If you are diagnosed, know that you’re not alone. There are resources to educate you about the type of melanoma you have. When you are educated about your condition, you can choose the treatment options that will be your best course of action to survive. That’s why I’m involved in this and why I’m a voice for melanoma education. I have to admit, it feels pretty good to be in the spotlight for this right now.”

 

About Troy’s markings:

The first line is reminiscent of athletes preparing for battle and keeping the sun out of their eyes while the second line underneath represents the critical role supporters play to help hold up those battling advanced melanoma. To learn more, visit www.melanomajustgotpersonal.com.

 

 

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