PRACTICING SAFE SKIN: Spotlight on Kim McLaughlin of Old Orchard Beach

Sep 16, 2020

As part of our recent award of the Maine Cancer Foundation’s grant, we’re expanding our service offerings and support throughout the state, which will include a focus on Old Orchard Beach thanks in large part to the work we’ve done with our friend and fellow advocate, Kim McLaughlin, OOB’s Town Clerk.

Maine Cancer Foundation’s grant is offered as part of their ongoing Challenge Cancer 2020 initiative, aimed at reducing cancer incidence and mortality in Maine. They have awarded over $11 million since 2015 in support of this initiative, focused on prevention, early detection and screening, and access to care for all Mainers.

In this, our third year of being named a recipient of the grant, we’re excited to keep things moving, and are thrilled to be working alongside Kim. Read a quick conversation with her here to learn more about the initiative, and her own personal battle as a melanoma survivor. She’s an honest to goodness, real life inspiration and we’re glad to be fighting the fight of awareness and prevention alongside her! 

How’d you learn about IMPACT Melanoma? How’d you initially engage with them? What makes the organization stick out to you?

I learned about IMPACT Melanoma through the Maine Municipal Association. It was in their publication telling municipalities about grants available.

What do you appreciate about their quest to raise awareness and help combat against skin cancer through the placement of sunscreen dispensers throughout Maine, and specifically in the Old Orchard Beach area (with thanks to you!)?

As someone who had Melanoma, who had thought it could not happen to me, I appreciate IMPACT Melanoma more than you would ever know. I don’t want anyone going through what I went through. The scariest part was the doctor telling me there is a possibility I wouldn’t make it. As for Old Orchard Beach, I’ve lived here my whole life. This is where I have been out in the sun in the summer, and Old Orchard Beach is a tourist community, mostly known for our beautiful beach. If we can get sunscreen out to the workers in OOB, and then eventually also the hotels and daily users of our beach, we can let people know of this deadly cancer, through the use of sunscreen and promoting the use of.

What’s the importance of this initiative for the state and the spots who have, or will have access to this sunscreen throughout your community? What value does it add?

The value it adds is the saving of someone from melanoma because offering them sunscreen. When they see the dispenser, it will remind them to use it. If it’s free, the more apt they are to use it, as well.

What sort of IMPACT does this project leave on your community and what are next steps in ensuring that they are properly utilized and taken advantage of?

The IMPACT is the ability to save a life. Many of our workers are out in the sun all day long (Public Works, Police, Lifeguards, Recreation Department). We want to encourage them to use sunscreen. By having a sunscreen dispenser at the front door of their departments, it will remind them to put it on before they leave the building. We would also like to work with local businesses, especially hotels, to see if they are willing to host a sunscreen dispenser at their place of business, and eventually offer these dispensers to daily beach goers by placing in parking lots, etc.

You have a personal story of your own as it pertains to sun safety awareness and combating against the suns UV rays, etc. Tell us about your journey. What’s your battle cry sound like with regard to getting surrounding communities in your area, and across the globe, to adopt a similar proactive approach to helping combat skin cancer with these dispensing devices?

In May of 2017, I went to my dermatologist for a routine check-up. I had a small dark bump on my lower leg that I mentioned to the dermatologist. She thought it was a normal mole, but I was still concerned, so she said that she would remove it and have it tested. A week later she calls me and asks if I’m driving, which I wasn’t. She said I was right to have it removed, that it was Melanoma. Then she told me that people diagnosed with Melanoma do live longer now a days. How scary is that? She was scheduling me for surgery in two weeks, and it was removed. I have a permanent deep scar, and scars where they removed lymph nodes and had to use a skin patch. I never thought this could happen to me. I’ve never been in a tanning bed. I mostly stay in the State of Maine. I also don’t go outside in the winter doing winter sports. After that difficult surgery and the complications I had following the surgery, I am now very cautious about being in the sun. I’m the one you will see in jeans and a long sleeve shirt and possibly a hat when I’m outside, or loaded with sunscreen. My surgeon and dermatologist told me once I have melanoma, it can always occur, again, in any part of my body, even an area that doesn’t see the sun. I tell my story to my friends and family because I want to warn them of the potential for melanoma, even though they may think it can’t happen to them.

Wouldn’t it be nice if no one ever got Melanoma? If we promote the use of sunscreen and people tell their stories, more people may sit back and think of the possibility and wanting to protect themselves.

How many dispensers do /will you have in total?

I am working with Laurie (Seavey) on the amount of dispensers we can obtain.

How has the national pandemic we’re all experiencing right now put a damper on things (if at all)? What are the challenges associated with that?

Laurie and I were planning a big kick off event in May. We were going to have a big gathering and I would tell my story and we could give free giveaways to staff and give them the sunscreen dispensers and promote their use on a daily basis (and also several times during the day). When the COVID-19 hit, and we couldn’t do any gatherings, it put a complete damper on all events. We did place a sunscreen dispenser at the entrance to Town Hall towards the end of August. Hopefully 2021 will be better and we can do the big promotion in May that we started to plan for this year.

Is there anything further you’d like to add?

I just want to thank IMPACT Melanoma for all the organization does to promote the use of sunscreen.

Get involved! Contact us today and let’s make an IMPACT in your community together!

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