Sunscreen dispensers raise cancer awareness

 Nick Flowers, former Stevenson University football player, passed away from sun-related melanoma in November, 2016 at the age of 24. On Nov. 11, 2017, Stevenson University honored Flowers by installing five sunscreen dispensers in Mustang Stadium. His mother, Vicki Flowers, partnered with a nonprofit organization, Kelly’s Dream, to fund four of the five sunscreen dispensers. The dispenser’s manufacturer, Bright Guard, donated the fifth dispenser for placement in the football locker room.

Flowers was a kid with big dreams, goals, and plans. “Nick had passion for the game. You could see it in his eyes, day in and day out, on the football field,”said Ed Hottle, head football coach at Stevenson University.

Growing up, Flowers was faced with obstacles at a very young age. “Nick had experienced at least two blistering sunburns when he was young. He had a small mole above his ear on the right side of his head. On July 30, 2012, the mole was removed, and he was diagnosed with melanoma,” said Kelly O’Donnell Ware, a metastatic melanoma survivor and founder of Kelly’s Dream, a nonprofit foundation that focuses on raising melanoma awareness. Melanoma is the most dangerous form of skin cancer.

After Flowers had surgery on his head, he was told he could no longer wear a helmet, and without a helmet, he would not be allowed to play football. His sophomore year at Stevenson was the last time he wore a Mustang uniform.

“After a visit to the surgical oncologist in Aug. 2015, it was revealed that the melanoma had returned. Unfortunately, this time it was much different. He was told he had 19 tumors in his liver and several tiny tumors in his lung, rib cage, pelvis and right femur,” said Ware. Yet, Flowers fought for his life each day and every time it looked like the sun was getting brighter, clouds would start to shade the light.

Flowers underwent immunotherapy for 10 months before the melanoma spread to his brain. “He endured 20 rounds of whole brain radiation along with a new combination of immunotherapy in an attempt to combat and dissolve the tumors,” said Ware.

When used properly, sunscreen can help prevent skin diseases and cancer from developing. The five sunscreen dispensers in Mustang Stadium are a reminder of Flowers’ courageous fight, and serve as a warning of the dangers of overexposure to sunlight.

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