Cancer Superhero Susan Steel Leads the Fight Against Melanoma

Susan Steel

In January 2008, Susan Steel’s doctors at the National Cancer Institute sent her home with a dire prognosis: Stage IV melanoma and six months to live.

“After almost three years of treatment, three clinical trials, 40 platelet units and 60 blood units, hundreds of thousands of tax dollars, and the collective intelligence of some of the best and the brightest, melanoma was defiantly consuming me,” Steel says.

For Steel, her diagnosis only fueled her determination. She made it her mission to not merely live, but to drastically improve the future for melanoma patients.

More than six years later, living well and creating the most significant resource needed to expedite research toward a cure, a tissue bank in Chicago, still fuels her days.

Help Skin of Steel build their tissue bank and fight melanoma by donating here!

Along the way, Steel also helped found the New Trier Masters woman’s rowing program and the nonprofit Skin Of Steel.

“I call it leveraging cancer,” Steel says with a grin.

Melanoma, the deadliest and most aggressive kind of skin cancer, can develop anywhere on the body and can rapidly spread to the vital organs in later stages. It is one of the fastest growing cancers in the world, with an estimated 77,000 diagnoses annually.

Since 2010, Skin of Steel has been advocating for the melanoma patient community, working to change the melanoma conversation among individuals and institutions. Steel and her nonprofit strive to improve patient outcomes by establishing Chicago as an epicenter for thoughtful, groundbreaking melanoma treatment and research. By working jointly to secure top-tier melanoma specialists and research fellows, including those from the renowned Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center, Skin of Steel is expanding treatment options and improving research. Ultimately, Steel and her philanthropy hope to stay one step ahead of melanoma.


On Saturday, March 8, a whole new audience of supporters will join Steel’s cause through “Rock Out Melanoma,” a Battle Of The Bands competition at Fields Volvo in Northfield. The event reflects Steel’s can-do, life-loving spirit. Leading local bands, Who’s Your Daddy?, Loose Change and PopRocks are scheduled to participate.

For Skin of Steel, Rock Out Melanoma serves a threefold purpose:

1. Raise awareness of the importance of launching a national Melanoma Tissue Bank to advance melanoma research.

2. Highlight the partnership with Northwestern’s Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center and the significance of having Lurie as a branch of this national tissue bank.

3. Raise funds for the national Melanoma Tissue Bank.

Make It Better is particularly proud to be a media sponsor for a fourth reason: Susan Steel proves that determination and spirit can work miracles. One woman can make a phenomenal difference to the world.

The fight against melanoma starts at home, with women at the forefront of change. The majority of melanoma cases are caused by exposure to UV light and sunlight, and the best way to prevent melanoma is to protect skin.

AIM at Melanoma recommends a variety of ways to decrease chances of melanoma:

  • Seek shade whenever possible.
  • Cover up with clothing, sunglasses or hats.
  • Avoid the sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
  • Use and regularly reapply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF at least 30.
  • Examine your skin often for any changes or new moles.

Upcoming Events:

Skin of Steel is hosting its Rock Out Melanoma Battle of the Bands event, Saturday, March 8, 7:30 p.m., at Fields Volvo in Northfield. Feature bands include local favorites Who’s Your Daddy, PopRocks and Loose Change, as well as food, drinks and a silent auction. Tickets cost $75 and available online.