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Second Chances

Life doesn't afford many second chances. But when the opportunity presents itself, you'd be foolish not to seize it with a Rocky Balboa mentality. In early 2005, one such opportunity profoundly changed my life. I was blindsided by the news that my Dad had been diagnosed with stage-four malignant melanoma - the deadliest form of skin cancer. It was the ultimate gut check; the kind of stomach-turning surrealism that wakes you breathless and beading with sweat from a dead sleep. Only this nightmare was reality.

Standing virtually helpless on the daunting and untraveled road of uncertainty, the focus of my family immediately shifted to embracing every moment as the ultimate second chance. A second chance to show Dad how much we loved and appreciated him. Take one more family vacation. Enjoy one more round of golf. Relish a quiet dinner together. Hold his first grandchild. For six years, we welcomed every new day as one more serendipitous opportunity to embrace the gift of another. On August 12, 2011, those second chances ceased abruptly with one final shallow breath, and one last chance to say goodbye.

In only the way true mortality can, my Dad's death instantly presented a new perspective on life, and another reminder of second chances. Now every day without him is a platform to honor his memory through the continued tireless work of the nonprofit organization I co-founded shortly after his diagnosis. Since 2007, Come Out Swinging has raised nearly $300,000 for melanoma research funding and educational awareness initiatives. In fact, just this month we were proud to support three groundbreaking research efforts at the Washington University School of Medicine Department of Dermatology, with a gift of more than $43,000.

Tomorrow, and every Friday before Memorial Day, is National Don't Fry Day, a nationwide plea to protect your skin from the sun, as we unofficially welcome the summer season. So wherever this holiday weekend takes you, think about yourself, the ones you love, and slap on the sunscreen. Without it, you could one day find yourself wishing you had a second chance.