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COAST, CENTRAL, AND NORTHWEST CITIES : TUSTIN

Worley Takes Aim at Melanoma

May 02, 2000|MARISSA ESPINO | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

City Councilwoman Tracy Wills Worley watched her husband suffer and die from melanoma six months after he was diagnosed in 1992. The experience was a traumatic one, and once she read in The Times that the mayor of Seal Beach had proclaimed May as Melanoma Month, she wanted the city of Tustin to help raise awareness of the dangers of melanoma, too.

Melanoma is a skin cancer resulting from severe sun exposure, especially in childhood.

"It's such an insidious disease," she said. "I don't think there is a better word for melanoma."

Worley was expected to proclaim May as Melanoma Month during a City Council meeting Monday night.

About a month after Worley and her husband, Geoff, were married in 1984, Geoff had a mole that he'd had all his life removed, and discovered he had melanoma. He had the lymph nodes in his groin removed as a precaution, because the cancer typically spreads to the lymphatic system. He was told there were no signs of cancer, Worley said.

For the next nine years, Geoff was examined regularly. Then, one month after he had a physical and was told he was the picture of health, the 35-year-old father began having pain in his hip.

Several tumors were found in his brain, spine, pelvis and along his aorta. After brain surgery, chemotherapy and radiation, Geoff succumbed to the cancer, leaving behind Worley and the couple's 5-year-old daughter, Jamie, and 2-year-old son, Dane.

"I just never dreamed that nine years later we would find out and he would be dead [in] six months," Worley said. "It's a hideous disease. Tumors would appear daily all over his body."

Worley introduced the proclamation after reading that Seal Beach Mayor Paul Yost, who was given a scare last summer when a lesion on his chest was misdiagnosed as melanoma, was declaring May as Melanoma Month.

Yost, who lost a family friend to melanoma, is pleased Worley joined the campaign to create awareness.

"People need to . . . slap on [a T-shirt] and slop [on sunscreen]," he said. "Hopefully, that will be the mantra that people will go by these days."

Worley's painful experience has made her aware of the importance of sunscreen.

Although she said she gets a little paranoid about sun damage at times, Worley doesn't believe people should stay out of the sun, but rather be smart about protecting their skin.

"My kids know they could never get in our pool without covering themselves with sunscreen," she said. "Sunscreens are the No. 1 line of defense."

Marissa Espino can be reached at (714) 966-5879

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