Susan Steel, 1958-2016
On January 8, 2008, the world’s largest and best-funded melanoma clinic released Susan from care. After almost three years of treatment at the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Maryland, including three clinical trials, 40 platelet units and 60 blood units, hundreds of thousands of tax dollars, and the collective intelligence of some of the best and the brightest, melanoma was defiantly consuming her liver and spleen. A chemotherapy drug called Temodar was prescribed. It is given when all hope of survival is relinquished. Susan traveled home with an expectation of 6 to 12 months to live and the hope of making it to her daughter’s 8th grade graduation.
On January 8, 2015, Susan became a Stage 4 melanoma patient who had miraculously survived 10 years, after seven clinical trials and seven brain surgeries. By this time she had traveled outside of Chicago 50 times for care. Few, if any of us, thought back in 2005 when Susan was first diagnosed and told she had a 15% chance of surviving five years that she would survive for eleven more years.
Susan’s hope during her long and arduous journey was that melanoma research could be fast-tracked through a national bank of melanoma tissue from primary tumors.
That is why on March 12, 2010, Susan launched Skin of Steel to provoke change in how we approach melanoma awareness and research. The development of a tissue bank would lead to collaborative work on new or competing lines of research that defy prior obstacles, which often must favor securing research budgets over advancing science. Some top researchers have claimed that finding cures for half the melanomas is possible in five years and and new drugs released in the past few years are starting to bear that out.
Susan persisted in her efforts to make the national melanoma tissue bank a reality until the end. On January 13, 2016, Susan Steel passed away due to complications from acute leukemia. Skin of Steel continues to pursue her dream of a national melanoma tissue bank.