It was a rare overcast Monday morning in Scottsdale, but Sue Gorham talked exclusively about the sun.
It’s a subject that became close to her heart in 2001 when Shonda Schilling, one of her friends and wife of former Diamondbacks pitcher Curt Schilling, was diagnosed with Stage 2 malignant melanoma — skin cancer.
“We couldn’t find anything at all to help her,” said Gorham of her friend, who was diagnosed shortly after her husband came to the DBacks.Gorham, a survivor of throat cancer and founding executive director of the Make-A-Wish Foundation International and executive director of the ALS Foundation, joined Shonda Schilling to form the SHADE Foundation of America in August 2002. Five years later, the nonprofit has touched countless lives with shade covers for schools and local organizations. It has also educated the public about the sometimes deadly disease and just how dangerous the sun’s rays can be.
“Shonda knew she was privileged but couldn’t stop (cancer),” said Gorham, the group’s executive director. “She wanted to educate people about this. ... We want to keep sun safety at the front of people’s minds. A lot of people move here for the sun. People are very good at understanding what’s needed here, but our (skin cancer) rates are high.”
According to the Arizona Department of Health Services, Arizona is No. 2 in the world in skin cancer incidence rates behind Australia. The site notes that about 80 percent of a person’s lifetime exposure to the sun occurs within the first 18 years.
SHADE’s mission is to eradicate melanoma through the education of children and the community in the prevention of skin cancer and the promotion of sun safety.
Skin cancer tips
• Pick the right sunscreen, one with at least sun protection factor (SPF) 15.
• Reapply sunscreen every 90 minutes; don’t forget to apply products to ears, neck, scalp, hands and feet.
• Stay out of the sun during peak hours, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
• Avoid harsh sunburns.
• Beware of reflected sunlight.
• Seek the shade.
• Cover up.
• Avoid artificial tans.
• Examine your skin.
Source: SHADE Foundation of America