CAÑON CITY — One day when doing some school work, Karrie Burford's daughter said, "Mom, how did you get black on your head?"
"I was like, I have two-year-old twins, who knows!” said Burford.
However, that evening when she took a picture of the top of her head in the bathroom, Burford said she "immediately knew" something was not right. She booked in with two doctors to ensure she had enough opinions, and her fears were confirmed.
“I said, aren’t I too young to worry about melanoma? And (the doctor) goes - I don’t think Melanoma has an age."
After discovering a total of 17 lesions throughout her entire body, Burford was told she had a 50% chance of surviving the next 12 months if she pursued immunotherapy. She was just 39 years old at the time. Burford says her children are one of the biggest factors that kept her going.
“My daughter, she’s big into theater... I’m watching her and I’m like - What if this is the last time I get to watch her perform?!”
In a Facebook post honoring May as Melanoma Awareness Month, Burford said one of her biggest dreams after being diagnosed was to see her two twin boys attend Kindergarten. Over three years have passed since Burford's original diagnosis, and her dream is coming true.
“I’m so thankful. Every day I wake up and I’m like, my lungs are filling with air and my eyes are open!"
Alicia Rowell, Vice President of AIM at Melanoma, dove into understanding the illness after her husband was diagnosed with Stage 3 Melanoma in 2013.
“The sun’s warmth feels good! And we’ve always associated fun things with the sun," said Rowell, noting that while enjoying the sun, we should also protect ourselves.
According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, wearing sunscreen is proven to cut your chances of getting Melanoma in half.
“We need sunscreen. We need sunscreen wherever the sun is hitting us, and we can also protect our skin simply by being in the shade, or putting clothing on that long-sleeve for example. A hat, sunglasses, all of the above!" said Rowell.
When asked what her message is to anyone dismissive of protecting their skin, Burford says:
“Is your life something that you want to be here for… Or is this all something that you’re willing to just give up, because I wasn’t!“
She compared wearing sunscreen daily to the concept of wearing a mask everywhere during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, Colorado summers have some of the highest levels on the UV index in the entire country.
Some local resources for checking in on your skin in Southern Colorado include: