Hero: Samantha Channels of Got Sunblock?
I first met my hero Samantha Channels in 2010 through social media. This extraordinarily beautiful woman, a lifelong Hawaiian, was much younger than me. And at the time we first became friends, she was taking care of her four children while having fought her way through years’ worth of struggles and clashes with Melanoma. Samantha was a five-time Stage 4 Melanoma Skin Cancer survivor. She was a fighter engaged in a continuous battle for her very life; yet who nevertheless still put others before herself. She was, and will always be, a hero.
The painfully invasive treatment she received did nothing at all to deter her positive attitude. Samantha was a social media pioneer; the first to publically put her battle with Melanoma out there for all to see, and to learn from. Publicity-wise she was the Kim Kardashian of Melanoma Awareness. Regardless of how sick she was or felt, every day ended in another triumph; as each was dedicated to the greater good of the cause and the support of others. Imagine the courage it took to constantly fight through agony, and try to summon up energy enough to help others win or avoid the war she knew that she herself would eventually lose.
In addition to countless international followers, Samantha had a variety of major sponsors that helped spread her message of sun protection and sun safety worldwide. Her organization “GOT SUNBLOCK” had a Rastafarian tone in memory of another Melanoma victim, singer Bob Marley, in order to champion the cause for every-body; not just the pale ones. I loved that about her. I loved her attitude. And I loved her for the courageous manner in which she accepted her fate.
I felt weak by comparison. During my own illness I was too fragile, both physically and emotionally, to even think about anyone but myself and what was happening to ME; what I was going through. I couldn’t muster the energy or the words to help anyone, let alone myself. It took me years to be “me” again, whatever that means. Samantha was my opposite. She’d found it within herself to take every ounce of inner fortitude she had and use it to speak out for others. She was a personal cheerleader for thousands. She was kind-hearted, and always followed through. Numerous Melanoma patients looked up to her, relied on her, and used her health and prognosis as their own personal guide. She gave no consideration whatsoever to the pressures involved in the role she took on in helping others; she just pushed forward and did it.
As Samantha’s conditioned worsened she was sent to Texas for clinical trials that, ultimately, proved to be unsuccessful in helping her. As the end of her 30+ years drew near, she still continued to love, accept, and welcome new patients until she finally had no choice but to make her own health her priority.
Although it’s been a few years now, I still feel as if her life ended only yesterday. Anytime an Eva Cassidy song plays on my iPad, I cry in celebration of her. Not for her lost life, but for her life that should be honored because of the remarkable, inspiring way she lived it. Samantha was the person I want to be. And in following her footsteps I’ll always strive to be the kind of selfless person she was; one who fights when she could’ve easily and understandably thrown in the towel. I, too, want to be the type of person who shows you there’s always a reason to live, and to love. Just as Samantha did all the way though her final days.
It’s funny how even the smaller memories still remain. Me and Samantha were both fixated on Hello Kitty. I have an interchangeable Hello Kitty desk calendar that, in remembrance of her, has since and will forever remain open to the day she passed: January 15, 2012. With her continual encouragement, PrettyPale.org and Sundicators wristbands were born shortly thereafter. They were her parting shot to help thwart the disease that took her life. She was selfless to the very end.
Samantha had a love for fashion and beauty that helped carry her through each round of treatment. Beauty made her forget, temporarily at least, that something bigger than she could control was happening to her body. Prettiness made Samantha feel whole, and I loved how its impact resonated through her. She didn’t look sick until the end, and in my opinion if you’re still living, just be yourself as long as you can. It’s your life to live in your own skin; regardless of on which path it takes you.
I’ve attached a photo of Samantha looking her usual gorgeous self, wearing one of our donated natural hair wigs. She also has on a custom necklace from Kspin Designs that was created to signify her journey. I miss her. I, and my family, miss her every day. I’ve never known anyone who’s had a greater impact on my life, and with such a passion to keep people sun safe.
Samantha I hope you’re proud of the torch you’ve passed, and which we now carry, in your honor. I’ll love you always, and I’ll continue to do for others what I know you would have.
Blessings in heaven.
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