Jamie's story

Pre-skin cancer

Patient Voice spoke with Canadian sports broadcaster Jamie Campbell about his experience with pre-skin cancer and why he’s passionate about increasing conversation around sun safety.

Toronto, ON

I wish I could pinpoint the genesis of my love of sports. I do remember being 10 years old, on April 7, 1977, watching the very first Blue Jays game on TV. I was immediately enchanted. When I got to see the Jays play live at the ballpark, Major League Baseball (MLB) completely captured my soul.

I think the one specific incident that shaped me was the game I went to in May of that same year. I remember it so clearly. It was a beautiful day, and Exhibition Stadium wasn't covered the way the Rogers Centre is. Being in the sunshine was a joy.

That moment planted the seed of thought in me that one day I could be a part of the MLB myself. In 2002, after 25 years committed to this dream, I finally had the opportunity to call the play-by-play of a Blue Jays game on Sportsnet for the first time. And, since 2010, I’ve been the permanent on-air host of the Blue Jays Central pre-game show. As a member of the Blue Jays broadcast team, I get to be around baseball all the time. I’ve been going to spring training every year for two decades. That’s a whole lot of time in the sun.

Honestly, the pre-skin cancer diagnosis — when it came last year — didn’t surprise me. So many of my cherished early memories feature sunny days on the baseball diamond, back in a time when nobody talked about sunscreen. My own mother used to sit with a reflector to help her get a tan. Nobody knew any better.

But we know better now. I don't walk out of the house anymore, winter, summer, spring, or fall, without applying sunscreen. At spring training these days, I can be seen in a wide-brimmed bucket hat. And the beautiful part is that I’m hearing from fans all the time about how they're re-evaluating their own relationship with the sun, because of my story.

As a member of the Blue Jays broadcast team, fans around the country invite me into their homes every summer, and I’ve heard time and again from those who think of me as a member of the family. It’s a huge privilege and also a huge responsibility. When I was diagnosed first with blood cancer and then with pre-cancerous lesions on my face, I didn’t think twice about sharing the details publicly. It would've felt as strange to hide the diagnosis from the fans as it would've to hide it from my own mother.

When I underwent photodynamic red-light therapy for the pre-cancerous lesions on my face, leaving me looking scarred and barbecued, I didn’t hesitate to share photos on social media. I missed a World Series assignment because of that treatment. People notice when I miss games, and they worry. And so I figured, if I was going through it, the people who watch Blue Jays baseball deserved to know about it. I wanted to share the experience of the treatment and show that, even if it looks difficult, it’s nothing to be afraid of. I also wanted to share that it could’ve been avoided altogether. 

The best part of this whole journey has been hearing from fans who are going through similar diagnoses themselves. I always tell them that, even though it’s not yet cancerous, it absolutely needs to be treated. And everything I’ve been through feels worth it when someone tells me that my story has made them feel a little less alone or a little less anxious about that path or that it’s encouraged them to think twice before going out in the sun unprotected.

What binds the whole Blue Jays community together is our love of this beautiful summer sport. We grew up thinking of being out in the sunshine on game day as a joy and a privilege. And it is. But it’s important for people, especially fair-skinned people like me, to also be aware of the potential danger that sun exposure presents and to know what they can do to keep themselves and their loved ones safe. I’m not necessarily comfortable telling anyone how to live their lives, but I hope to encourage Canadians to think about sun safety this summer. Just as I would my own family.”

Save Your Skin Foundation (SYSF) is a patient-led not-for-profit organization dedicated to the fight against non-melanoma skin cancers, melanoma, and ocular melanoma through education, advocacy, and awareness initiatives across Canada. SYSF works to improve equal, timely access to treatment.

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