Contact UsCareersMediaScienceContact UsHomeOur Voice Pfizer announces recipients of research grants focused on transthyretin amyloid cardiomyopathy in

Tuesday, May 7, 2024

Meet Shannon, a melanoma survivor and proud mother, whose heart wrenching journey serves as a powerful reminder of the risks posed by sun exposure and the devastating impact of skin cancer. When Shannon was six months pregnant, her battle with melanoma nearly claimed not only her own life, but also that of her unborn daughter, Madeleine. Today, Shannon is an advocate and board director for Save Your Skin Foundation; and has made it her mission to share her story and raise awareness about skin cancer.

Shannon, who loved the outdoors, never thought much about sun protection growing up. She started riding horses around the age of 10 and then got into hiking and kayaking. In her early 20s, she travelled to Africa for three months. "I never thought of wearing sun protection. Ever." Shannon admits. “My arms would often turn brown in the sun. I believed tanning was safe as long as I didn't burn, but I was wrong.” 

‘Growing up, I believed tanning was safe as long as I didn’t burn’

In 2005, shortly after marrying her husband Brad, Shannon's life took an unexpected turn, when Brad noticed a mole on her upper right arm that had started to change. “It grew larger, had become asymmetrical, and developed different colors,” said Shannon. Concerned, she sought medical attention and received the devastating diagnosis of melanoma. The “low risk” mole was removed, and for a while, life returned to normal. Shannon and her husband Brad decided to start a family, but their joy was short-lived. 

In 2010, Shannon's worst fears became a reality when her cancer returned, this time spreading to the lymph nodes in her right armpit. After an emergency lymph node dissection and 3 weeks of radiation, the couple faced the heart-wrenching decision to halt their plans for having a baby. However, fate had other plans. “Despite taking precautions, I became pregnant at the end of 2010,” said Shannon. For the first six months, she enjoyed a healthy pregnancy, but then her condition deteriorated rapidly. 

Shannon’s melanoma spread to her brain, liver and lungs

An emergency MRI revealed Shannon’s melanoma had spread to her brain. The two large masses quickly became life threatening to Shannon and her unborn daughter. “Doctors initially told Brad that nothing could be done except to put me on life support long enough to deliver our baby,” recalled Shannon.  

But a glimmer of hope emerged, and Shannon was transferred to Royal Columbian Hospital in New Westminster, British Columbia. There, while still pregnant, she underwent a six-hour brain surgery that successfully removed the tumours. After the surgery, Shannon had to relearn how to walk and use her arms again and initially struggled with speech. Shortly after her brain surgery, she learned that the melanoma was also in her lung and her liver. 

On August 5, 2011, Madeleine was born eight weeks early and healthy.  “I am so grateful to all the doctors and nurses who fought for me and Madeleine,” says Shannon. Her last treatment was in 2019. She is currently tumour-free, and her daughter will be 13 in August. Shannon has since made it her mission to share her story and educate others about the risks and dangers of skin cancer.

‘My skin behaviours were horrendous’

Kathleen, a North Vancouver resident, founded Save Your Skin Foundation in 2006 after her own battle with melanoma. In her younger years, Kathleen was heavily involved in outdoor sports, such as softball, and took great care to stay hydrated in the heat. However, she neglected to protect her skin from the sun's harmful rays.

Kathleen indulged in sunbathing with baby oil and aluminum foil, seeking that perfect tan. “My skin behaviours were horrendous. I would burn until the skin on my chest would bubble and peel off," she admits. A little later in life, she started using a tanning bed. "It was in my recreation centre, so I figured it couldn’t be that bad for me,” she says.

Years later, Kathleen noticed a small spot on her arm and nose, prompting her to visit her family doctor. Kathleen's fears were confirmed when she was diagnosed with stage IV malignant melanoma in 2003. By 2006, the cancer had spread to her vital organs, leaving her with limited treatment options. It was her son who discovered a clinical trial for an experimental treatment taking place in Alberta, which ultimately saved her life.

‘You get your eyes checked. Why not get your skin checked?’

Kathleen and Shannon are reminding Canadians to practice sun safety. “I always say to people your skin is the biggest organ in your body,” says Shannon. “You regularly get your eyes checked; you get your teeth checked. Why not get your skin checked?” Beginning in May, the two suggest that everyone keep sunscreen in their bag or car. “It may start out cool in the morning, but the sun can heat up fast,” says Shannon. Kathleen says it’s also important to reapply sunscreen and reapply often. “Don’t wait until your skin is pink or golden to lather up.”

The majority of melanomas are attributed to sun exposure

According to the government of Canada, skin cancer is the most common of all cancer types in Canada and the rate continues to rise. It is estimated that 1 in 73 Canadian women – and 1 in 59 Canadian men - are expected to develop melanoma during their lifetime. The majority of these cases are caused by overexposure to ultraviolet radiation, which is produced by, among other things, the sun and tanning equipment.[i]

Early detection is key to improving outcomes, as melanoma is more likely to invade nearby tissues and spread to other parts of the body if left untreated.[ii] Regular skin checks and adopting safe sun protection practices are vital to reducing the incidence of melanoma and saving lives.

For more information and resources on melanoma, please visit Save Your Skin at

Pfizer’s Commitment to Oncology

Pfizer's Commitment to Oncology: At Pfizer, we believe that time is life. And for patients waiting for innovative treatments, each day matters. Over our 20-year history in Oncology, we have pioneered several innovations across multiple types of cancer. Now, more than ever, we are poised to reimagine the future of cancer care and bring new hope to patients everywhere. We won't rest until we change the trajectory of cancer as we know it.

[i] Skin cancer -
[ii] Finding skin cancer early | Canadian Cancer Society

Young Leader Inspires and Engages Pfizer Canada Colleagues 

Drug Shortage Lessons Learned: How do we build a more resilient injectable medicines market in Canada?

Our Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) Performance

Advancing Diversity at Pfizer Canada

The importance of supporting a resilient life sciences eco-system in Canada

Pfizer Highlights Commitment to All Patients During Patients in Focus Week

“My Voice, Our Equal Future”

In My Words: Effie’s Life with Ulcerative Colitis

Unleashing the power of its people makes Pfizer a top employer

Hope and Optimism While Living With Ulcerative Colitis

Marking Rare Disease Day 2022: Why Every Minute Matters 

In Conversation with Barry Stein

In Conversation with Filomena Servidio-Italiano

A commitment to creating a culture of inclusivity at Pfizer Canada

Pfizer announces recipients of research grants focused on transthyretin amyloid cardiomyopathy in Canada 

Canada’s Research-Based Pharmaceutical Industry is a Significant Contributor to the Economy

World Hemophilia Day: Robbie’s journey highlights the importance of raising awareness and finding community

Listening and Learning from Patients Living with Bladder Cancer

Pfizer Canada’s recommendations regarding the development of a National Strategy for Drugs for Rare Diseases

A Conversation with Najah Sampson

Living Well with Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA): Getting to the Heart of the Matter

Vaccine And Immunization Facts

Understanding Biosimilars

Girls Belong Here at Pfizer Canada

Giving Back – Pfizer Canada’s Month of Giving 

Pfizer Colleagues Get Healthy with the VIVA Health & Wellness program

Carpe Diem: Rise in Remote Connecting a Boon for those Living with RA

Imagine RA Network: Chronic Illness in a Pandemic Life

CDHF and Pfizer: The power of collaboration in the ulcerative colitis space

Reflecting on Rare Disease Day 2021

A Day in the Life with Atopic Dermatitis by Pfizer Colleague Kerri
About UsOur ProductsHelping Communities Our Voice Suppliers Distribution ChannelPfizer WorldwideMedia CentreTerms Of Use Careers Healthcare ProfessionalsContact UsPrivacy PolicyCopyright © Pfizer Canada 2022 All rights reserved. The information is intended only for residents of Canada. ® Pfizer Inc, used under license