Meet the "Polka Dot Mama," Tracy Callahan – a vibrant, freckled, fierce advocate who’s using her melanoma cancer diagnosis to change the world, one screening at a time.
Almost six years ago, at the age of 38, Tracy Callahan received a phone call that would change her life.
I will never forget the words on the other end of the line…’I have good news – you have melanoma, but we caught it early.’
Time stood still. Did she say good news? How is this good news?
Over the next three years, Tracy would receive that same phone call five separate times. She will tell you that it never got easier, but in time, she did come to realize that “catching it early” was indeed good news. When caught early, the survival rate for melanoma is 92%. She was one of the lucky ones.
After her third diagnosis, she couldn’t sit still any longer. Inspired by the nickname “Polka Dot Mama,” given to her by her two boys, Tracy started a blog and began to network with survivors and skin cancer organizations across the country.
The more educated I became; the more I wanted to educate others. Unlike so many other cancers, scientists have actually figured out the secret to avoiding most types of melanomas: protect yourself from the sun and avoid tanning beds. But as simple as it sounds, I discovered that people have so many misconceptions about melanoma.
A few months later, Tracy’s simple blog quickly morphed into an idea for a non-profit organization that could fund research, raise awareness and provide education to fight melanoma. In September of 2015, she officially founded the Polka Dot Mama Melanoma Foundation, was federally granted 501(c)(3) non-profit status and named a board of directors.
In its inaugural year, with the help of many incredible supporters and volunteers, the organization was able to fund-raise over $70,000. More than half of that money was donated specifically towards melanoma research. In 2018, the foundation increased that amount raised to over $500,000, and began focusing on education and awareness efforts. In the last five years, we have screened over 1500 patients and have identified some form of skin cancer in about 20% of those patients.
We’ve made great progress, but there is much more to do. The end of cancer begins with you.
Be part of the solution.
There are volunteer opportunities waiting for you – no matter the skill set.