The Advocacy for Cancer Patients seminar and team roping scheduled Oct. 19 - 21 is the second annual event organized by Jeff and Evy Diamond in memory of their son, Shannon J. Shaw, who died of malignant melanoma in 2009.
Shaw, a 1979 Carlsbad High School graduate, was a BLM supervising petroleum engineer in Santa Fe at the time of his death. His family and friends created a fund in his memory at the University of New Mexico Cancer Center to establish educational programs and clinics in medically underserved communities in the state.
The fund was originally set up at the Carlsbad Community Foundation but later moved to the University of New Mexico Foundation in Albuquerque to be used exclusively by UNM Cancer Center where Shaw chose to be treated.
The purpose of the fund is to aid research and activities for the prevention, early detection and treatment of malignant melanoma. The creation of the Web site, www.listentoyourmom.org, was designed to make aware the urgency to prevent melanoma and to educate the public about over exposure to the sun and ultraviolet radiation.
"We miss our son so much," said Evy Diamond. "We're proud to be able to do this."
She remembers only too well the times she and his wife, Christine, nagged and begged him to get a mole on his hip checked out by a doctor. She first saw it while he was working in the yard. He had a stubborn streak and made all kinds of excuses. When he finally went to the doctor, the melanoma had already invaded his lymph system, his mother said.
Melanoma is a type of cancer originating from the cells that give color to the skin. These cells are call melanocytes. Some melanomas arise in normal skin and others arise in pigmented skin (moles). If melanoma is not detected early, it can be fatal. Most patients can be cured with minor surgery if found early.
By the time he saw a dermatologist, the diagnosis was stage IV melanoma. He fought the fight of his life for the next year with surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. When he made the decision that he couldn't go through anymore treatment, he told both of his children, Jacob and Marlena, to listen to their mom.
"On his last trip to the family cabin in Ruidoso he said he couldn't do this anymore," said his mother.
Shaw's wife was going through breast cancer at the very time she was taking care of Shannon. Since his death, she changed careers. She was a certified Montessori teacher and administrator but will be graduating with a registered nursing degree in February.
Shannon's wife and both his children have since had moles removed and Evy has had surgery for squamous cell melanoma and basal cell carcinoma.
Prior to his death, Shannon asked his wife and mother to launch a campaign to help others avoid the pain suffered by his loved ones because of his stubbornness.
"It is not suppose to be this way -- a child is not supposed to die before the parent," she said.