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Melanoma of the Eye: What Might Surprise You

Melanoma of the Eye: What Might Surprise You
In Memory of Elizabeth (Beth) Meyer Ambri

It’s Saturday morning April 11, 2015, and I am driving to Fairbury, NE to say goodbye to a dear friend and colleague, Elizabeth Meyer Ambri. She passed away suddenly on Monday, March 30, 2015 from melanoma of the eye that spread to her liver and spleen. Elizabeth (as she was called at work, but friends and family called her Beth) worked for Celebrity Staff in our Lincoln office for seven years, in her latest role as our Branch Manager.

Elizabeth (left) and Patty.

Elizabeth (left) and Patty.

I still remember interviewing her. I was hesitant to hire a former social worker. My concern was that she would have a hard time determining candidate recommendations for our clients and have a hard time telling someone, “we can’t help you,” as often is the case in staffing. On the contrary, as I got to know her I found her to be someone who wanted to help others find their way while holding them personally accountable. Her personality was vibrant and her energy was magnetic. People were drawn to her. She made a lasting impact on businesses throughout the Lincoln community and touched thousands of lives by changing the course of their employment. She left behind a lasting legacy and she will be missed dearly.

Although more than a week has passed, I still can’t understand how you get this diagnosis on March 19th and the fight against the disease lasts only 11 days. I have never heard of melanoma of the eye. I thought that was skin cancer. She wasn’t feeling “good” for a couple of months, but had no skin lesions or anything to lead her to this conclusion. It led me to the internet to find out more. That is what she would have done. She also would have made it a point to tell everyone what she learned saying, “you gotta hear this,” and would share with great detail her discovery and encourage you to be informed. I want to do my part in sharing on her behalf.

When I hear the word “melanoma” I think of skin cancer. How do you get that in your eye? What I found is malignant melanoma of the eye develops when pigment cells in the eye begin to grow uncontrollably. Pigment cells create your eye color. In most instances, the cause of this uncontrollable growth is not known; however, ultraviolet radiation has been identified as a potential cause. Malignant melanoma may also result if cancer that starts elsewhere metastasizes, or spreads to another organ, most commonly liver cancer. Which of these cancers started first and caused the other for Elizabeth is unknown at this point.

Malignant melanoma of the eye is diagnosed through an ophthalmoscope to see if there is a tumor, then additional tests will be requested. Bottom line…get an annual eye exam by an ophthalmologist who will examine your eye beyond your ability to determine if you can read at certain distances. The second thing to do is wear sunglasses with UV protection. The skin on your eyelid is very thin and offers little protection to this vital organ. That’s it. There are two things that you can do to protect your eyes.

It is important to note that the Affordable Care Act does not include adult vision coverage; however, all Qualified Health Plans (QPHs) include pediatric vision coverage for children. You can buy a stand-alone plan; however, those plans are not available through the Marketplace. I looked into my husband’s policy and we do have coverage for annual exams under the preventative care. C&A Industries’ health policy does not cover eye exams; however, they offer vision care as a supplemental policy. To determine if your health insurance policy covers an annual eye exam, refer to your insurance card which will list their website and your card should also give you information on how to access your plan benefits and participating doctors. I did and I found it simple to send doctor information to my cell phone as a text message so I had it ready to call.

Wear sunglasses for protection and prevention, check your insurance for coverage, and schedule an annual eye exam. I will be scheduling mine today. Elizabeth would strongly encourage me to do so.

I am thinking of her as I pull into her home town of Fairbury, NE. It is always hard to lose someone who is a close friend. She and I had much in common. We were about a month apart in birthdays, did some of the same dumb stuff when we were younger, and we both enjoyed music from the 80’s and 90’s. Give us a karaoke microphone and we would most certainly pick a song from those eras. It makes me smile. The radio has been playing for my two hour drive, but I haven’t really been listening…until now. “Say Hello 2 Heaven” by Temple of the Dog began to play. I’d like to think it was her way of telling me she is in a better place.

Patty North Headshot_LinkedInPatty North, CPC, SPHR, Celebrity Staff Regional Manager
As the general manager of Celebrity Staff, a leading staffing and recruitment firm, Patty North has assisted organizations across a four-state region with the development and implementation of best practice strategies in the areas of talent acquisition and talent management. Her collective insight and expertise on workforce planning, garnered from her 19 years in the staffing industry, has enabled clients ranging from small businesses to Fortune 500 corporations to improve performance and gain a competitive advantage in their respective markets. Patty has served as an Advisory Board member of ICAN (Institute for Career Advancement Needs), is a past-president of the NE Association of Family and Consumer Sciences (NAFCS), and has been a guest speaker at the University of Nebraska – Omaha on topics ranging from resume writing to interviewing. Patty has also been a guest presenter at Women’s Leadership Conference and break-out session presenter at the Nebraska State Human Resources Association annual conference.


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