A thank you for a life saved in 1990

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel - - MILWAUKEE WISCONSIN - JIM STINGL Con­tact Jim Stingl at (414) 224-2017 or jst­ingl@jrn.com. Con­nect with my pub­lic page at Face­book.com/ Jour­nal­ist.Jim.Stingl

Mark Al­brecht says it doesn’t mat­ter if this ar­ti­cle is about him or not, though he did com­mit the news­wor­thy act of thank­ing my news­pa­per re­cently for sav­ing his life 27 years ago.

What he wants most is for us to pub­lish a photo of what skin cancer looks like. Maybe that could save other lives.

Cancer.org says this: “Me­lanomas are usu­ally brown or black, but some can ap­pear pink, tan, or even white. Some me­lanomas have ar­eas with dif­fer­ent colors, and they might not be round like nor­mal moles.”

In the spring of 1990, The Mil­wau­kee Jour­nal ran an ar­ti­cle about skin cancer and in­cluded color im­ages of skin ma­lig­nan­cies. Mark saw it.

“One in par­tic­u­lar caught my at­ten­tion — the deadly melanoma. I had a spot on my fore­arm that was sus­pi­ciously two-tone in pink and brown, which matched the melanoma in the pic­ture,” he wrote in an email to Jour­nal Sen­tinel Edi­tor Ge­orge Stan­ley that found its way to me.

The small growth didn’t hurt or itch, but Mark soon went to a der­ma­tol­o­gist, who re­moved and biop­sied it. The doc­tor said if Mark had let it go, it would have metas­ta­sized through his lymph sys­tem to the liver, lungs and brain, prob­a­bly killing him within a year.

“Had I not read that ar­ti­cle, my tomb­stone would have read: Mark Al­brecht, 1947-1991,” he wrote.

I called Mark to ask why he had waited so long to share his story. He ad­mit­ted to pro­cras­ti­na­tion, but said there was some­thing about turn­ing 70 this year that put life and eter­nity into sharper fo­cus.

“I’d just be a dis­tant mem­ory in the minds of my friends. It’s so ironic to think about life that way. But here I am, and I’ve had a very full life since then. I have a de­gree in the­ol­ogy, so I re­ally think about th­ese things on a spir­i­tual level,” he told me.

That de­gree is from Gor­don-Conwell The­o­log­i­cal Sem­i­nary in Mas­sachusetts. Mark went on to a ca­reer re­search­ing and writ­ing on hu­man rights is­sues, es­pe­cially re­li­gious lib­erty. He be­came in­ter­na­tional ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of Lutheran Mideast De­vel­op­ment and has trav­eled to more than 50 coun­tries.

He was born in Mil­wau­kee, adopted as a baby and raised in Elm Grove. Liv­ing now on Mil­wau­kee’s east side and sin­gle, Mark is en­joy­ing retirement.

And he’s feel­ing thank­ful for the ex­tra 26 years he got. News­pa­pers th­ese days could use a lit­tle life-sav­ing of their own, but he be­lieves the Jour­nal lit­er­ally saved his. This was his only brush with cancer.

What he’s hop­ing is that you won’t de­lay if any moles on your body match th­ese scary pho­tos.


Melanoma, a deadly skin cancer, can be­gin as a new small, pig­mented skin growth on nor­mal skin.


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