Stories that center on turning a scary experience into strength and advocacy are among our favorites to share.
In this case, melanoma survivor, Natalie Thomas, transformed her diagnosis into a dedication to educate the public on cancer prevention.
Check out Natalie’s inspiring progression from patient to philanthropist…
The initial impact
Natalie was diagnosed with Stage 3A melanoma in 2019.
“It started from an existing mole in the middle of my back that evolved. I noticed that it became scaly and itchy, which prompted me to get an appointment with a dermatologist. I had a wide local excision surgery and sentinel node biopsy to remove the cancerous lymph nodes from my left armpit.”
On July 10, 2019, the day after she turned 36, Natalie embarked on a one-year combination immunotherapy course of Tafinlar and Mekinist.
“I also had a breast cancer scare which resulted in a surgery, but no cancer, thankfully!”
Natalie knows firsthand that there really is no such thing as “just” skin cancer, admitting that “I, too, was once naive.”
Spreading the word about sun safety and cancer prevention
Now, knowing more about melanoma than she probably ever wanted to, Natalie is enthusiastic about education and empowerment.
“I tell everyone I can about safe sun practices, and am adamantly against tanning, whether indoor or outdoors. Sunscreen is my BFF! I also love explaining melanoma to folks who think it’s “just” skin cancer.”
An invaluable supporter of IMPACT Melanoma, Natalie has facilitated Practice Safe Skin in West Virginia through West Virginia Health Right, resulting in the installation of 26 free automatic sunscreen dispensers to the Charleston area.
In addition, Natalie collaborated with Charleston-based dermatologist, Dr. H. Richard Reynolds, to provide a sunscreen dispenser to the week-long 2022 Charleston Regatta and festival. Natalie was also instrumental in connecting IMPACT Melanoma with the City of Nitro, West Virginia, leading to the installation of two dispensers, along with prevention education to the city’s local 4H Club.
Her advocacy doesn’t stop there.
In fact, Natalie has launched her own non-profit, Give Comfort, Inc., created to bring comfort, support, and encouragement to people undergoing cancer treatment.
Get to know Give Comfort, Inc.
Anyone who has battled, or witnessed someone battling cancer, understands that the little things can make all the difference.
That’s why Natalie’s non-profit, Give Comfort, Inc., fulfills wish list items that insurance does not cover, such as plush blankets, lip balm, ginger candies, comfortable clothing, and head scarves.
Of course, the list doesn’t end there and Natalie’s organization is motivated to make more wishes come true for those battling melanoma and other cancers.
As Natalie explains, after receiving her 501c3 determination letter last February, she has been nonstop ever since. “Our vision is that no local cancer patient goes without the items they need to improve the quality of their life as affected by cancer treatment.”
At the start, Natalie says she intended to purchase all the requested items through Give Comfort, Inc.; however, the organization now offers the option for others, dubbed Comforters, to purchase items off public wish lists, which Give Comfort, Inc., then sends directly to the Giftee.
“We quickly realized that our Giftees (understandably) prefer a doorstep delivery! Last week, we had our first Giftees, and within a few days, all wish list items were purchased for our first two Giftees, thanks to our amazing Comforters. We added a 3rd Giftee on Monday, and hope to have all items purchased and delivered by the end of next week.”
Natalie anticipates even more momentum, following Give Comfort, Inc.’s official kickoff at this year’s Regatta.
She’s already expecting a lot of new applicants and says, “We are so happy to once again work with IMPACT Melanoma, my dermatologist who purchased a sunscreen dispenser, and La Roche Posay! We will have pamphlets on most commonly diagnosed cancers, swag, free sunscreen (of course!), along with donated food and raffle prizes for those who donate to Give Comfort, Inc.”
Another IMPACT-ful advance
Right before this post was scheduled to publish, Natalie reached out with an exciting update. Governor Jim Justice signed a Don’t Fry Day proclamation for the state of West Virginia and Mayor Amy Goodwin signed a proclamation for the City of Charleston.
Congratulations to Natalie for facilitating not one, but two separate Don’t Fry Day Proclamations!
Natalie was in attendance and accepted the signatures, celebrating another advance when it comes to awareness and education about melanoma.
In collaboration with West Virginia Health Right, West Virginia will install additional sunscreen dispensers this year, extending the impact of this important initiative.
To learn more about Practice Safe Skin, please visit: https://impactmelanoma.org/practice-safe-skin/