Janine Holston, diagnosed at 24

Janine Holston’s family wants people to learn from her experience. She was a much-loved family member and friend to many. Her family enjoys remembering her musical talents. When she played her favorite instrument, the French horn, her talent was obvious. She had a beautiful soprano voice and also played the trumpet and string instruments.

After graduating from college with a degree in music education, she accepted her first job as a music education teacher at a local high school and continued to provide lessons to young musicians. When playing instruments she often wore a strap to help hold the instrument. The strap rubbed on a mole she had on her back, and eventually the mole began to cause her pain so she went to the doctor to have it checked. It was September 1979 and there was little awareness about skin cancer and in particular, melanoma. Her doctor removed the mole and she was told that the mole did not go deep enough into her skin to require further treatment. But that Christmas season she found lumps under her arm pit and learned the cancer had spread into her lymph nodes.

She died in July of 1980 at the age of 25. It all happened so fast. When looking back, her family wonders if anything could have been done to make a difference for Janine.

While we cannot prevent most cancers, we do know that cancer is most treatable and more likely to be cured when it is caught at its earliest stages.

While we cannot prevent most cancers, we do know that cancer is most treatable and more likely to be cured when it is caught at its earliest stages. Once cancer has spread beyond its original site it is difficult to treat and cure. Janine did not go to the doctor regularly during her late teens and early twenties. She felt great and did not have any health issues that concerned her.

If she had a relationship with a health care provider and had regularly scheduled physical exams, her mole might have been identified as suspicious and removed at an earlier stage.

Awareness, knowledge and self-advocacy could have made a difference to Janine. The message to you from her family is to check yourself. See your health care provider, perform self exams. Tell your friends to do the same. You could save a life.

Symptom

  • painful mole