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Debra Conner Story about Melanoma

June 10, 2022

Our Stories
Debra Conner

Meet Debra Conner, Riverside employee for over 27 years, single mom of two adult-age children and widow to Kevin Conner, a victim of melanoma. Kevin was diagnosed in 2003 at only 33 years old. Debra found a mole on Kevin’s back that looked different. She asked him to get it checked. That mole was removed, biopsied and so began a tumultuous 3-year battle with melanoma.

“Kevin was a parts manager for Cycle City Corp. His passion was motorcycles especially drag racing them. While he spent time in the sun, drag racing requires a full leather suit, gloves and helmet. I was always more afraid of him getting injured racing than being diagnosed with skin cancer,” explains Debra. “I hope his story will provide more awareness about how fatal skin cancer can be.”

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, over one million Americans are living with melanoma. It is estimated that 197,700 new cases of melanoma will be diagnosed in the U.S. in 2022.1

“We had young children when Kevin was diagnosed. It became a full-time job for me to help manage his medical plan, scans, treatments, take care of our children plus continuing my own career at Riverside,” says Debra.

Debra elaborates, “My work family at Riverside was amazingly supportive. I fully believe this was why I was in this job. The company put me in touch with top-of-the-line physicians and helped us navigate this disease and get the best treatment available.”

Debra was also able to take advantage of Riverside’s PTO employee donation program, which allows team members to donate PTO to co-workers who have to be out of work for their own non-medical reasons, or to care for a family member.  As a result, Debra never had a day without pay.

As Kevin progressed in his treatment, by November 2006, his scans revealed some unfortunate news. The cancer was everywhere in his brain, liver and lungs. Within months, Kevin was placed into Hospice care and passed away on March 14, 2007 with his family by his side.

Because Debra is diligent about getting her skin checked, she caught some basal cell carcinoma on her upper lip and had it removed immediately. She is grateful to be able to share this story to help others be more aware about skin cancer.

“Our family still enjoys beach vacations and our time outdoors, but Kevin’s cancer changed us. We are extremely careful. We wear sunscreen (SPF 50 or above), sit under beach umbrellas, wear hats and get our skin checked every year at the dermatologist. Melanoma is hereditary, and I just never want to hear the ‘C’ word in our household again nor do I want others to experience this journey.”

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