One of the greatest traumas imaginable in life is when a parent loses a child. Regardless of age, this is an incredibly difficult reality to accept that can seem to go against the order of nature, only making it more confusing and painful. One of the reasons we share real people’s experiences with melanoma, is to spread awareness of it’s preventable nature as it relates to UV exposure. Jay was a lively, and loving young man, who was taken long before his time from a cancer that possibly could have been prevented. His mother Brenda is an incredibly strong woman, and since Jay’s loss she and her husband have created the Jason Farley All In For A Cure Foundation in his honor, and have worked tirelessly to raise funds and get the message out about the importance of sun protection and the dangers of tanning.
Here is Brenda’s Story.
In Nov. 2009 at the age of 26, Jay discovered a mole on his scalp just above his left ear. The next morning, we made an appointment with his doctor to have it looked at. His doctor referred Jay to a skin cancer/plastic surgeon to have the mole removed and biopsied. The week before Christmas we received a call from the surgeon saying it was a superficial A Typical Mole. Wanting to make sure, we had requested a Melanoma Specialist in Boston take a look at the slides and examine Jay. Both doctors agreed on doing a PET Scan, CT scan and a wider excision. All came back clear!
On March 4, 2013 Jay had a massive seizure and was rushed to a local hospital where a CT Scan revealed 12 tumors on his brain. At this time, he was immediately sent to Mass. General Hospital in Boston. Several more tests and scans were done and a tumor was also found on his lung. The tumors on his brain were inoperable so a biopsy was performed on the tumor on his lung to determine what this cancer was. Pathology results revealed Stage IV Metastatic Melanoma and he was given just 4 months to live. Our world fell apart!
Family picture of Jay and his family taken in 2013 | From left to right: Gary (Jay’s Dad), Brenda, Jay, and Matt (Jay’s Brother)
The doctors at MGH received Jay’s original pathology report with slides and went over all the details with us. Never did we believe that this mole that was removed came back as Melanoma!
The doctors believe that Jay’s tanning bed use at the age of 16 played a role in his Melanoma diagnosis. Back then, we knew nothing about the dangers of tanning beds…my concern was “Your going to get wrinkly skin Jay! Don’t tan!” Since then, we have learned so much more…
Jay immediately began whole brain radiation, seizure meds, high doses of steroids and Zelboraf to treat the Melanoma. After a few months, scans revealed that the Zelboraf was not working and was causing bad side affects. He then started the Tafinlar/Mek Combo. Jay spent a good portion of his 10 month battle with Melanoma in MGH and under the loving care of Dr. Helen Shih. In September and December Jay received more whole brain radiation as the tumors grew in size and numbers. It was his wish to at least get through the holiday’s. The hardest thing to do was to watch my handsome Jay dwindle away, have several seizures and hear him say “I did this to myself. I just wanted to look good.” It was then that Jay asked us to please help others know, help them learn that tanning beds are bad!
Jay’s battle ended peacefully and he earned his Angel Wings on 1/28/2014 surrounded by so much love from his family and several friends. To honor Jay’s wishes, we have started a non profit 501(c)3 Jason Farley All In For A Cure Foundation Inc. Funds raised are directed to Dr. Shih for Melanoma Research, Awareness Programs and to help those with Melanoma that are in need of financial support. Jay was so full of love and was so kind to everyone he crossed paths with. Always had a smile on his face. Jay’s quote was “Live, Love and Laugh” and he did that up until his last breath. He reminded us all to do just that.
Jay’s team presenting a check to Dr. Helen Shih towards The Jason Farley All in for a Cure Research Fund
My advice to all parents would be to educate yourself and your children about the dangers of tanning bed use. There are so many facts and great information out there. I wish it was there for me when Jay started tanning. I also urge all lawmakers to ban tanning bed use for anyone under the age of 18! By us sharing Jay’s story with our lawmakers in New Hampshire,we were successful and there is now a ban for anyone under 18. It is my hope and goal that one day there will be a total ban!
My biggest challenge has been living each day without Jay and knowing that I as a mom didn’t try hard enough to stop him and didn’t know the dangers of tanning beds. Jay knew he did this to himself and now I’m left knowing that I let him! It’s so painful…so painful!
I will live for you.
I will make you proud….