‘Melanoma warriors’ billboard in Kent County

COMSTOCK PARK, Mich. (WOOD) – Many people are getting ready to pack up and leave West Michigan’s cold weather for a beach during spring break. Many teenagers are preparing for a prom night they will never forget. As these plans are underway, a local woman is hoping you’re also making plans to stay safe.

Susan Hayes’ daughter and Hudsonville native, Jillian Hayes, was 23 years old when her battle with melanoma came to an end in December 2012. Jillian spent years using tanning booths.

Jillian Hayes (file courtesy photo)
Jillian Hayes (file courtesy photo)

Ever since then, Susan has been working with the Jillian Hayes Foundation, Inc. to make sure young people know the dangers of indoor tanning. One way she does that is by pushing for awareness billboards being posted along highways in Michigan. They first started appearing in May 2013.

Beginning Monday, a new billboard will feature “melanoma warriors” and be posted along U.S. 131, about a half mile from W. River Drive near Comstock Park in Kent County facing south. The billboard will be up until April 20.

In July 2009, tests on a mole on Jillian’s back resulted in a melanoma diagnosis. A large portion of the surrounding area was excised, and two lymph nodes were removed. Results from the surgery showed the surrounding tissue and lymph nodes were clean, and free from cancer, according to the Jilly’s Jems Facebook page. One year later, during a routine visit, her surgeon suggested a PET scan. From that scan it was discovered that Jillian had a tumor on her liver, and two more small tumors, one on each lung. Jillian then had surgery to remove half her liver and several tumors that were found on her brain.

In April 2010, Jillian began a BRAF clinical trial at the University of Michigan. For several months, she responded to the trial drug. On Sept. 23, 2010, one day before her 21st birthday, Jillian was diagnosed with stage IV melanoma.

In October 2010, Jillian’s scans revealed two of her brain tumors had grown, along with several new ones. After consulting with several doctors, Jillian completed 10 days of full brain radiation in preparation for a new FDA-approved drug.

Jillian lost her battle to cancer on Dec. 29, 2012, two months after her wedding.

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