Please support my fundraising efforts for the Melanoma Research Foundation!
2024 marks 5 years since Melanoma took the life of my dad, Robert Wychulis.
2024 marks 5 years since my husband, Steve Vallance, has been Melanoma free.
2019, a year that I will never forget. My father was diagnosed in April 2018 with Melanoma. It took a number of tests and a final biopsy that confirmed this terrible news. After all, my dad was healthy; he exercised, wasn’t on any medications, was compliant with preventative tests, screenings, and physicals. The medical team finally confirmed it was Stage IV Melanoma, from an unknown source.
In May he had a port placed and underwent immunotherapy treatments. Follow up scans were not hopeful. In December immunotherapy was discontinued, he was put on steroids, which helped his energy, but this gave us a false sense of hope. 2018, we had our last Christmas together- we will always cherish it. January 31, 2019 he took his last breath holding my moms hand, with my sister Karla at his side. I will never understand how he was walking and talking on the last day of his life. I’m forever grateful that his decline did not drag on and he did not suffer a long painful goodbye. Afterall, he was a superhero; always strong with a positive attitude. I was in the middle of nursing school and when my dad passed, it was the hardest thing I have ever gone through. He was my world. So much of who I am and how I push myself to be better is because of him. I HAD to do something to honor him. I HAD to do something for all the incredible things he did for so many. This is when I looked into a foundation that focused on melanoma. I found the Melanoma Research Foundation’s Miles for Melanoma program and I thought this was perfect. He was an avid runner who promoted a healthy lifestyle. A 5K would be great, so I created the team. Coincidentally, he spent his career in Washington, DC and joined the Navy after high school. The fact that the race was at the Navy Yard in DC ON THE WATER – it was perfect. He was an avid outdoorsman who loved fishing and Bob’s Bobbers was born.
2019 didn’t stop giving. A month after my dad passed, I noticed a suspicious mole on my husband’s head, behind his left temple. He told me his dermatologist said it was okay. I knew better. I made him switch dermatologists and the new doctor biopsied it and we found out that it was melanoma! They did a surgery in which they discovered the mole was much deeper than they originally thought; Stage II. We obtained an oncologist. Shortly after, he underwent an invasive second surgery, at Johns Hopkins, in which they went in around his ear, down his neck, removed part of his parotid gland and lymph nodes in his neck. Luckily, we caught this early! He has been monitored closely by his dermatologist and oncologist with lab work and x-rays. It is now 5 years that my husband is melanoma free.
My dad regularly wrote letters to everyone in the family. We love to look back at them, read them and laugh. After all, he was incredibly funny. In the last letter he wrote me, while I was in nursing school, a week before he passed, I keep a portion of what he wrote close to my heart. It reads, “It’s not always about the money. Your profession is number one for honesty, integrity and respect! So monitor the course. We all admire your endeavor. You will be an excellent nurse.” Becoming a nurse at the bedside has been incredible; it’s been the hardest, most rewarding job. I carry on the character my father has instilled in me with each of my patients. I have become very active in committees at the hospital. In 2023 I was awarded “Nurse of the Year” for Frederick Health Hospital. I wish my dad could have been there to celebrate this amazing achievement with me. Dad, I try every day to be an excellent nurse. He is with me in my heart and though he is gone, I put effort towards today and tomorrow- the Melanoma Research Fund allows me to do this.
Miles for Melanoma has become a staple for my family and me each year since my dad’s passing and my husband’s diagnosis. I do it for my dad. I do it for my husband. I do it for me. I do it for you. I do it for the ones to come and the ones currently battling. I have participated in many runs in the Washington, DC area. Miles for Melanoma is by far one of the best events. My goal is to continue raising funds each year and help grow this great event.
Each year after the race we have a luncheon at my house to gather, relax, celebrate, and remember my superhero. Each year I write a letter, not an email, or a text, but a letter, just as my dad did, to thank each person that supported our fundraising efforts. I want to ensure those who support this cause are immensely appreciated. For those that support, and continue to support, this important cause, thank you so so much.
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