A Team Effort to Fight Melanoma

Diagnosed with desmoplastic melanoma, sportscaster Holly Rowe is working with the Melanoma Research Foundation to teach about the disease.
While covering softball these past months, it was hard for Holly Rowe, ESPN sports reporter, to keep quiet. “I just want to run through the stands and shake everyone by the shoulders,” she said in an interview with CURE®. “They're out there just baking their skin.” This urge is personal for Rowe, who was diagnosed with desmoplastic melanoma, a rare, invasive form of the disease. It all started with what Rowe called “an ugly-looking mole” she hoped to get removed. When the doctor called to tell her it was cancer, Rowe wasn’t devastated. “You hear the ‘C-word’ and you freak. But I just thought it was something they'll cut off my skin,” she explains. “I didn't think it was that big of a deal.” Her opinion has since changed.

Since the initial surgery in 2016, Rowe has had two separate recurrences. “Melanoma is a traveler,” she says. “Once it goes inside your body, it’s not just something on your skin.” Rowe considers this a big misconception about the disease she has found it difficult to come to terms with.

“It's very frightening and very upsetting, because you really feel powerless, like you have no control over where it goes,” Rowe says. “I try to be positive. I try to do all these healthy things, and this pesky cancer does not obey you. And that's what I'm learning and why I’m wanting to get the word out.”


Rowe knows that some people need to be told about the risks, because she herself didn’t know them. “If somebody had told me 20 years ago, ‘Holly, if you cover up now, you won’t have to go through this,’ I would have listened,” she says. Now, Rowe tries to be that voice for others. “I’ve become that crazy lady,” she says, “that is going to go up to strangers to say, 'Please cover your skin.'” Being considered “crazy” doesn’t bother her, though. “If there's one person that won't get cancer because they listened to me and learned from this experience, that's worth everything to me,” she says.

Rowe doesn’t limit herself to just pleading with strangers to protect their skin. On April 26, she was mistress of ceremonies for the Melanoma Research Foundation’s (MRF) Sixth Annual Wings of Hope for Melanoma Gala, in Denver, Colorado. Upon learning about the MRF, she reached out and asked what she could do to help. “It was one volunteer opportunity I could do to give back,” Rowe says. “I want to feel helpful in this battle, because you feel very helpless as a patient. Things are happening to you that you have no control over. Giving back, and helping to spread the word and fundraise, empowers me and makes me feel I’m doing something in this fight.”  

For Rowe, fundraising for research is a vital issue. “The immunotherapy that I’m currently on,” she says, “didn’t exist four or five years ago. The research and the development for melanoma treatment is on the cutting edge right now. Organizations like MRF are crucial.”

Talk about this article with other patients, caregivers, and advocates in the Skin Cancer CURE discussion group.
Special Feature
Share Your Art
Related Articles
Immunotherapy Offers New Optimism for Patients With Merkel Cell Carcinoma
Although chemotherapy has been used to treat patients with Merkel cell carcinoma, immunotherapy agents show great promise, according to findings presented at the 2017 World Congress of Melanoma.
Associating Genes With Melanoma Risk
Maria T. Landi, M.D., Ph.D., principal investigator at the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and National Institutes of Health (NIH) discusses a recent study that identified genetic variations that may be linked with increased melanoma risk. 
Intralesional Combinations Are Promising in Melanoma
Intralesional therapies – those delivered directly to the tumor site – used in conjunction with checkpoint inhibitors have shown improvements to the treatment of people with melanoma, says Robert Andtbacka, M.D., in a presentation at the 2017 World Congress of Melanoma.
Related Videos
When to Stop Immunotherapy Treatment for Melanoma
Yania Jansen, surgical trainee at Vrije Universiteit Brussel, in Brussels, Belgium, discusses the possibility of stopping treatment with Keytruda (pembrolizumab) for patients with melanoma.
Expert Urges Patients to Speak Up About Treatment Side Effects
Jeffrey Weber, M.D., Ph.D., Deputy Director of the Laura and Isaac Perlmutter Cancer Center at NYU Langone Medical Center, discusses how important it is that patients speak up when they experience side effects from their cancer treatments. 
Changing Melanoma Treatment in 2017
Omid A. Hamid, M.D., of The Angeles Clinic and Research Institute and Jason J. Luke, M.D., of University of Chicago Medicine, share treatment approaches on the horizon for patients with melanoma.
//For side ad protocol