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With You We Stand: May 23, 2011

Posted on August 3, 2011, 10:31 AM

Eric Shanteau

Eric Shanteau has a lot of titles: Olympic swimmer, world record holder, and motivational speaker. But, there is one more thing that defines him—cancer survivor. Two and a half years out from his diagnosis, Shanteau is in Charlotte, North Carolina swimming and hoping to inspire cancer patients. Mildred Swift is a cancer patient who was able to speak with Eric and take advantage of his inspiring attitude. “I remember reading his comment at the bottom [of his flyer] ‘I have cancer, but cancer doesn’t have me,’” Swift recalled. When asked what he meant Shanteau explained, “It basically means just because you have cancer, you’re not going to stop doing the things you want to do. You’re going to live the life you want to.” She told him he’d given her something even better than hope. “Courage more than hope. He’s given me a lot more courage,” she said. “You can have all the faith in the world that you can conquer this but you have to have courage.”

Brenda Scholl

Brenda Scholl did not plan to become a hairdresser, but after losing one grandmother to cancer and having another diagnosed, she decided to dedicate her talents to helping those battling the disease. While helping her grandmother hide the effects of cancer treatment, Scholl said she found a new calling. “Hair wasn’t the first thing that came to my mind in regard to assisting her, but for her it was the number one thing,” Scholl said. “She understood the treatment process but knew that the hair loss was going to make her look different. She lived in a small town and didn’t want to necessarily be everyday news.” Scholl received her cosmetology license in 1988 and eventually opened Brenda’s Hair To Wear, a salon exclusively for those who experience hair loss from cancer treatment or other diseases. “It doesn’t make it any easier to walk out that door the day you actually have to start wearing the wig,” Scholl said. “But to the outside, the customers still look like themselves and then they just have to wait to have the inside line up.”

Samantha Hessel

Samantha Hessel is just one of many young melanoma survivors speaking out about the dangers of frequenting the tanning salon. Since 1992, rates of melanoma—once considered an old person’s disease—have risen 3% a year in white women ages 15 to 39, according to the American Cancer Society. “I knew about the risk but I was in denial,” Hessel says. “I thought, ‘That’s not going to affect me.’” Then, when Hessel was 19, she learned that the mole above her elbow was melanoma. The link between tanning salons and skin cancer is clear. About 35% of 17-year-old girls use tanning machines, according to the Food and Drug Administration. People who have used tanning machines are 74% more likely than others to develop melanoma, according to a 2010 study. Hessel is hoping that by speaking out about her own cancer experience she will inspire others to take more precaution. “This is what my mission is now,” says Hessel, who says she feels lucky that her tumor was caught early enough to cure through surgery.

SU2C is inspired by stories like these and millions of others. Cancer takes one person every minute and to wait for someone else to save our lives and the lives of those we love is no longer an option. At SU2C, we believe that together, we can end this disease by becoming one unstoppable movement. The end of cancer begins with you.

Learn more about the groundbreaking research SU2C is funding and how you can get involved today.

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