Saturday, July 30, 2011

Why Embracing My Own Glow?

It occurred to me last night that I had not shared the story of how my blog title came about.  I really have talked more about experience, not about our own natural glow, which is what the title implies.  I had been knocking around the idea of a blog, I talked to a couple of friends about it and they loved the idea.  Days passed, I had several posts written, but no title for the blog.  Everything I came up with involving Melanoma had already been used in some way.  I couldn't create a blog with no title.  After a few days, I decided I may be trying to hard, and I prayed about it.  I knew in my heart that God wanted me to get the word out about melanoma and skin cancer, so I knew that if a blog was what I should be doing, He would make sure the title came along.

A few days later, I shared a picture of my scar, 1 year after surgery, on my personal Facebook page.  I didn’t get too many comments, but one really did stand out.   She said that she had just gotten home from the dermatologist, that they had used nitrogen to freeze off some precancerous spots on her face, and that they had sent two spots on her abdomen off for biopsy.  Then she said she owns a tanning bed, and finished the comment saying “To ALL....Stay out of the tanning bed, and you have to get in the sun 30+ protection”   

You could tell she was very upset about this, and she shared her news and message on her own personal status as well.  As I read through her comments, it became very clear that she was done tanning, and was very interested in sunless tanners.  She even asked what I recommend.  

I had to type and delete my response several times, I didn't want to offend her or her friends, but finally answered by telling her what products I had used before to enhance what I “struggled to get from the sun”, but that since my diagnosis, I really had no interest in tanning or looking tan, that I had learned to embrace my own glow.  

Embracing my own glow!  It stuck in my head.  About an hour later I emailed two of the friends I had talked to before with the title, they both came back saying they liked it. It was available on both blogger and Facebook (I haven't done anything other than create the Facebook page yet).  It was clear that this was the title I had been looking for.

Monday, July 25, 2011


He will have no fear of bad news; his heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord. His heart is secure, he will have no fear; in the end he will look in triumph on his foes. Psalm 112:7-8

I have wanted to talk about fear for a while, but I wasn’t sure how to approach it.  You cant have fear and faith in the Lord at the same time.  Satan uses fear as a tool to make you question your faith.  It is humbling to admit that fear is still a factor.  That we are only human, tempted, but through prayer we can come to peace with whatever may come, because we know that it is in God’s hands, God’s plan, God’s time.

I saw a PSA yesterday (if I knew how to link it, I would), that showed how even when melanoma was cut out, it could still spread easily and come back elsewhere.  Then this morning my devotional email had the verse above in it.  I knew today was the day to tackle this dirty little topic.  Just hope it comes out right.

One of the truths of melanoma, that even doctors will be vague about, is that there is a high probability that it will come back.  You get a hint at it when you are told that you will have to undergo skin screenings every 3 months for 2 ½ years and then every 6 months for 2 ½ years, and then if you have no reoccurrence for 5 years you can go back to yearly screenings.  It may come back months later, it may come back years later.  Usually when it comes back, it has spread, and melanoma treatment options once it reaches the higher stages is still very limited.

Yes, I know that this is worst case scenario.  I hope and pray that it never comes back for myself or anyone else.  However, if it does, I’m prepared.  I’ll fight whatever fight is in store, and I wont give up.   Taking it even further, absolute worst case scenario, I’m ready if the Lord says it is my time.  I’m a believer and I know that it is not the end, but only the beginning.

So why am I talking about fear?  I don’t even know if fear is the right word. Maybe it is more of a selfish concern based on experience.  Fear is the best way to categorize that, I guess.  Concern, worry, fear, they aren't really all that different are they?  So I will call it fear.

My fear is about my husband and children.  I know they will be taken care of, so I’m not worried about that.  I lost my mother at an early age.  I was 16, my parents were in their early 40’s.  I have seen my dad struggle with being a widowed parent.  Not in the love or caring for me department, but just certain situations.  There are certain conversations that should only be mother-daughter conversations.  For me as a teenager and as I got older, other than those conversations, I didn’t have my mother there for my graduations, wedding, birth of my children, at my side during my divorce.  Right before I walked down the isle the second time, my dad said my mom would have been so proud of me, I cried as I walked down the isle.  It was a happy cry, because I knew this was it, but also sad because she wasn’t there.  When I lost a baby, she was the only person I knew who had been through that.  Finding out I was having the granddaughter she always dreamed of was really difficult in a bitter sweet sort of way. I kept imagining her excitement.

Now by no means am I parent of the year.  I think that at times the flaws outweigh the good.  I do the best I can, my teenager still talks to me, sometimes. I’d like to think that I have some affect on their lives though. Even before melanoma, I always said that I wouldn’t wish losing a parent when you are still a child on anyone.  Even if parents remarry, there is always a void that cannot be filled.  So for me, personally, my fear is not of melanoma coming back, although I hope and pray it doesn’t, it isn’t of dying, it is because I know what it is like go through some very important years, without a parent.  I know it will happen eventually, melanoma or not, I just hope that it is when they are much, much older.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Approaching Others

This past weekend, I took my 4 year old to a birthday party.  It was outdoors, with a rented inflatable slip and slide, water guns, etc for the kids to play with.  The parents had set up a canopy cover on their driveway with chairs underneath, and there was also a tree near the driveway for anyone to stand under. Only a couple of the parents dropped their kids off, and the rest stayed.  The parents I knew all stayed near the tree and canopy, but the parents of his school friends moved their chairs out to sit in the sun.

After about an hour, one of the mothers asked the host if she had any sunscreen.  I offered what I had brought, it had been sitting in plain sight since we got there.  She called her son out and sprayed only his shoulders, and another mom then took the can and sprayed her child as he was in line.  I told my friend that I was so happy to have found a spray that works on my daughter.  She has eczema tendencies, according to the doctors, and the reaction is only brought on by sunscreen or insect bites.  This one is a generic store brand, and had to use it on her in a pinch when we were out of the other kind.  Thankfully she didn't break out in her usual full body rash. The bonus, it is only $3.99 a can!

It wasn't long after this that one of the parents returned.  She was super skinny, sickly so, wearing short cut off denim shorts and a tank top.  She had short brown hair, wore big reflective aviator sunglasses.  What really caught my eye, though, was that she was so tan.  Her skin and her hair matched.  It was pure leather looking stretched over her skin and bones.  I found that if I looked in that direction, I would stare.  I did my rounds in the tanning bed world, mostly just to get a base tan before the season.  I had family members that would get extremely dark, unnaturally so, but I had never seen anything like this before.  It is so unattractive.  I noticed all the other parents were pleasant towards her, but were looking at her with curiosity too.  As she left, I noticed her son was also very tan, probably had not used sunscreen all season.  I didn't know what to do. I wished that she had been there when the other parents were re-spraying their kids.  When we talked about how my daughter was "glowing white" next to all the other kids, I could have used that as an opening. I wanted to approach her, but I knew it would probably do no good and only make things uncomfortable for my friend. As she walked up the driveway, I wanted to run after to her.  All I could do was look.  I felt sad for her.

Once all the school friends had left, and it was just the personal friends, the topic of her tan came up. It was brought up by someone who has personal experience with skin cancer also.  She was talking about how unattractive it was and why anyone would want to do that to themselves. I said I just wanted to go up to her and show her my scar and tell her about the dangers of it.

I have done that before.  I was in line and a very tan lady was talking about maybe joining a tanning bed because she felt pale since she was back from vacation.  I turned around and said "I'm sorry, I wasn't trying to eaves drop, but being this close I couldn't help it.  I know that joining a tanning bed is your decision, but I would like to ask you to do some research first.  It isn't safer than the sun, as a matter of fact, you will be 74% more likely to get melanoma if you use a tanning bed"  She looked at me like I had lost my mind.  She was in her 50's, at least, and here I am looking half her age saying this to her.  I just turned my arm so she could see my scar, which was still fresh and ugly at the time and said, "I was diagnosed with melanoma a few months ago, and I just had to say something because I wouldn't wish that experience on anyone else"  She looked like she was having trouble with a response, so I turned back to my items so she wouldn't have to.  A few minutes later in the parking lot, she came up to me and said "I don't know what I'll do, but thank you for saying that to me."  

I don't know why I was able to approach one person and not the other.  Maybe it was mannerisms.  Maybe it was location.  Maybe it was that one was talking about it, but I would have been "coming from nowhere" with the other. I don't know that I would ever want to approach everyone I see, I think there is a time and a place for everything.  I do wish there was a good non-confrontational way to share the message with those you aren't comfortable approaching.  Those are the ones that you cant stop thinking about.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Am I THAT person?

On Sunday, I was standing at the information desk at church when someone came in.  As she entered a foyer area, a group turned around and welcomed her back from her vacation and started gushing about her bronzed skin.  I was about 6 feet from her, but watching this scene.  I know I was smiling as I watched this unfold.  She said she had a great week at the beach, then looked past everyone at me, and said "I used so much sunscreen, and an umbrella, my olive skin just turns brown so quick"  I want to believe her.  I am fair skinned and using a ton of sunscreen this year, but I even have a little color.  I just laughed and said "I'm sure you did, sometimes you just cant help it"  I am sure my response bent the truth as much as she had.  She looked relieved and went on with her conversation.

She was obviously aware of my presence and I know she knows my need to get the word out about being safe in the sun.  She has commented on links I have posted, and she talked to me once about my scar after my surgery.  It was like she needed me to know that she had tried, I hope, or that she was hoping I wasn't being judgmental because she was so tan.  

I have noticed other people doing that lately too.  Whether it be talking about sunscreens they use, making a big scene of applying it around me, talking about their lack of tan this year, how their children now ask for sunscreen, or how much better their trip was since nobody was sunburned.  

It has made me feel good that maybe the information I have shared has put that little voice in the back of their heads to make them more aware.  Even those who do not put it into practice, have said they appreciate what I share.  Hopefully soon, that will change for them.

I really do hope though that people dont think I am judging them or criticizing them. There are people in my life who have felt attacked because I simply said "I cant tan anymore" or because I was putting sunscreen on my children, without comment, as they were saying it was okay for her kids to get pink because it would fade to tan the next day.  I like to say that a guilty conscience is the one that overreacts the most.  I know that if someone feels attacked or judged, they will be more resistant to hear the truth.

I guess it is all about balance.  To the people who are listening objectively, I want to be that person who shares information.  To the people who are taking it personally, I really am not that person that you see coming down on you at all.