Melanoma Awareness: "Help Me Live As I Die"
DULUTH - "Kelly would want to lie out in the sun three, four, five hours. More if he could," Joe Peterson said.
Kelly’s partner Joe of 13 years stood by his side since day one. And as Kelly Boedigheimer got older, the tanning habits didn’t stop. And Kelly’s mom Joanie was very concerned.
“I swear he could sit in that sun ten hours a day if he was capable,” Joanie Boedigheimer said.
But in the fall of 2010, Kelly had troubles with an ingrown hair on his chin.
"He’s had issues with them before, but this one was persistent. So we made a doctor appointment. He removed it, and it was a couple weeks later that lump started to grow back," Peterson explained.
The area was cauterized and was good for a month and a half until the lump grew back again.
"After having the surgical procedure it was probably two or three days after that removal that the lump had grown back to an even bigger size than what was removed," Perterson said.
The results came back and kelly was diagnosed with garden variety melanoma.
“We just couldn’t understand what they meant by “Garden Variety”. We found out and we tried to read on all of this. The more involved I got with it, the worse I felt. I just didn’t know if he was going to make it,” Boedigheimer said.
The difference between garden variety and other forms of melanoma is that g.v. isn’t just one strain. It’s many strains together making it very difficult to treat.
"That’s what I think makes melanoma so scary because they’re coming up with these clinical studies but they’re directed at one strain or another," Joe explained.
On February 10 of that year, Kelly entured his first surgery, including the face and skingrafts on his arm and leg. But that wasn’t going to stop any positive vibes being sent out.
“He really insisted on optimism from everyone. Don’t talk to Kelly as if he’s dying. Talk to him, as if it’s another big joke today, so we all did. But we cried on our own. We all did. The entire family,” Boedigheimer said.
Visits to the doctors were constant. March of 2011included many rounds of radiation. By april the melanoma had spread and the chemo treatments began. But on september 29, scans showed the tumors had grown and they decided to stop treatments.
"During that month he was in and out of hospice three times. I knew when he was going in for that third time… we knew he wasn’t coming home. That was it," Peterson said.
"How do you change the mind of someone who wants to look good right now?," Peterson asked.
To spread the word of Melanoma Awareness Month.
"For right now it’s just trying to tell them the facts and trying to be as compassionate as I can," Peterson continued.
Melanoma and skin cancer are on the rise, despite the increased use of sunblock.
"There has to be awareness. When there’s no cure and more people are being diagnosed there has to be more awareness and more cold hard facts and images that are going to scare people into making some smart changes," Peterson said.
Kelly’s death lead Joe to write a book about their journey to help increase Melanoma knowledge.
"That was my way of honoring him so that he knew I didn’t blame him. He gave me way more than I could’ve ever, ever imagined. I had to. And hopefully he’s proud," Peterson said.