“Hi all! This is Claire … Just wanted to let you know about a very exciting and wonderful development in the melanoma world.”
That morning in March, Claire Richards of Minneapolis was bubbling over with anticipation. Her doctor had called to say she could get a promising though still experimental new drug.
Claire knew — too well — that good news can be fleeting when living with melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer.
But she wasn’t about to pass up a reason to celebrate.
“This is such fantastic, wonderful, amazing news,” she wrote on her CaringBridge site. “We are acutely aware of how lucky we are.”
Ever the budding scientist, Claire wanted her friends and family to understand the true nature of her disease. She wrote about it, and spoke about it, with unusual candor.
“In case there is still any ambiguity out there, let me make this very clear: melanoma kills people,” she wrote. Young people, she noted, “think of themselves as invincible and untouchable.” She was proof that wasn’t so. “Know your body — check your skin,” she urged friends.
Before dropping out of medical school to fight her illness, Claire gave her classmates a tutorial on melanoma. “This,” she told them, “is why I’m leaving.”
She wanted others to learn from her ordeal, not drown in sadness, said her mother, Gail Manning.
Months before her death, Claire wrote: “It’s hard to see beyond tomorrow or beyond cancer. Luckily, the small joys and big joys of life are for the most part unchanged, and we’re doing our best to enjoy them all.”
Said one professor: “She would have been a phenomenal doctor.”