16 July 2008 by Published in: General musings No comments yet

Yesterday, I wrote about the A House Divided project at my alma mater, Dickinson College. As part of that discussion, I mentioned that my friend Brian Pohanka died of melanoma at the too-young age of 50.

I have a first cousin named David. David was married to a pretty red head with very fair skin and lots of freckles. They had a swimming pool in their back yard, and his wife was very fond of laying by the pool, soaking up the sun. A freckle on her forehead turned cancerous and by the time they found it, it had metastasized to her brain. She died of melanoma very young, leaving three young sons (the youngest was six when she died).

My parents’ next door neighbor also died of melanoma. She wasn’t smart about it. She knew she’d had skin cancers removed, but she categorically refused to stop laying out in the sun for hours at a time, and she ultimately paid for it with her life.

As you can see, this horrible disease has touched me personally. This spring, it touched me in a different way.

Those of you who regularly read this blog know what a huge, long-time fan I am of Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. My love for Bruce and his band dates back more than 30 years. On March 24, Susan and I attended his concert here, and his long-time bandmate and keyboard player, Danny Federici, was missing. Although his replacement, Charles Giordano, is a fine player, Danny’s unique sound and presence were definitely missing that night. Four weeks later, Danny was dead of melanoma. Like my cousin David’s wife, he had red hair, fair skin, and light eyes, and having grown up on the Jersey shore, he spent too much unprotected time in the sun. And it cost him his life.

Danny’s son Jason has started the Danny Federici Melanoma Fund to honor his father. On the web site, which Jason designed himself, he has a particularly moving quote from his dad: “What people take for granted on a daily basis, among so many other things, is their skin. I spent my life, like many others, catching some rays, surfing, hanging out in the sun and it never bothered me until now. Who knew that something as simple as a proper sunscreen or keeping yourself covered up on a sunny day could one day save your life? Our culture looks at a nice tan as a sign of luxury. We spend time in tanning booths when we can’t go to the beach or lay by the pool. It’s time to think again. Especially if you’re fair skined, have freckles, or light eyes. Be aware of the dangers, take precaution, and have yourself checked out regularly by a dermatologist from head to toe. It could absolutely make the difference in your life.”

Yesterday, the E Street Band released a four-song EP of highlights from the Magic Tour, which is still going on in Europe. One of those songs is “Sandy”, which features a lengthy accordion solo by Danny that was his trademark. The version included in the EP was from Danny’s final performance with the E Street Band, less than a week before we saw them in March. 34 days later, Danny was dead at 58. Watching the video is a very moving thing; it’s painfully obvious that he was very, very ill, but it was also very obvious how happy his bandmates, and especially Bruce, were just to have him there on stage with them. All of the proceeds of the sale of this EP are being donated to the Danny Federici Melanoma Fund with no royalties being paid to anyone, including by Apple. I bought all four songs plus the video of “Sandy” yesterday. The whole thing cost me $6.00.

Even Sen. John McCain, who could be the next President of the United States, has been treated for melanoma on several occasions. Nobody is exempt.

This is a very worthy cause, and I want to encourage you to open your hearts and your wallets. We’ve already lost too many good people to this disease. Let’s do what we can to try to find a cure. Thank you.

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