Schilling, wife of Boston Red Sox pitching ace Curt Schilling, solidified that promise in August 2002 by starting the SHADE Foundation of America, an organization devoted to expanding education, prevention, and treatment of melanoma and other skin cancers, especially among children. In addition to highlighting the dangers of this disease—the most common form of cancer in the United States, although a highly preventable and treatable one—the foundation offers information on sun-safe products and clothing that can protect skin from harmful ultraviolet rays.
For her advocacy work on behalf of melanoma and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (a fatal motor neuron disorder known as Lou Gehrig's disease and one championed by husband Curt), Shonda has earned local and national accolades, including an honorary degree from Framingham State College last May and recognition as a 2005 "Exceptional Woman" by Boston radio station Magic 106.7/WMJX. She downplays these honors, however, noting the inspiration the couple receives "from people who get up every day and look at life with joy and excitement."
"The tanning industry does not like me," says Schilling, who once was a frequent user of tanning salons herself.
As a continuation of the longstanding relationship between the Red Sox and Dana-Farber, Schilling has teamed up with the Institute's Center for Community-Based Research to promote the development of sun-protection policies and interventions in Massachusetts schools. The effort, called the SHADE Skin Cancer Prevention Initiative, brings together leaders from Dana-Farber, the American Cancer Society, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, and others. One of the initiatives goals is to evaluate prevention-related media coverage and develop better methods for communicating with parents and children about the risks of skin cancer.
"Education is the first step to healing inside and out," Schilling states on the SHADE website (http://www.shadefoundation.org/). "If just one family, one person, were spared this series of events because they heard me speak, then it would be worth every scar, every tear, and every hour of not knowing [what would happen to me]."
What follows is Shonda Schilling's story, in her own words.