Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Breaking the Cycle

I read through other blogs and pages of skin cancer and melanoma warriors.   Some have fought. Some are fighting. Some are fighting for, or in memory of, someone they love.  They are great blogs, and it is amazing how you can end up feeling as if you know someone, just because they are sharing their journey and thoughts.  

Yesterday I read something on one of the blogs that I have just recently discovered,  and I wanted to share my thoughts.  For The Sake of Beauty hit a nerve with me for several reasons.  I know that even a few short years ago, I thought a light tan was beautiful.  So I can still understand the ignorance, but now it just makes me sad to see people abusing their bodies through tanning.  Do they not care? Or do they just not know?

I didn't have the traditional college experience, so the only thing I really know about sorority life is what I have seen on TV.  I was sure that was exaggerated, but now I wonder about some aspects. I had hoped that the appearances were the exaggerated part, and that it was more about sisterhood and that partying was what would develop into networking post-college.  So as I talk about ignorance in this post, my own ignorance about sororities will show.  

If you think about the generation that raised these college students now, they were probably in high school or college themselves when life made the transition from wearing accelerators or SPF 2 oils to get a darker tan to the excessive use of tanning beds.  I was early high school when my mother was a tanning bed worshiper.  She was a red head, but her skin was as brown as could be. Beginning in 9th grade, I would also go to the tanning bed to get a base tan, that sometimes became darker than that.  Now one of my children is in high school.  My point is this, the baby boomers and even the older generation Xers, worshiped the dark tan. For this reason, they never learned and passed on sun safety tips to their children.  Instead they taught them that bronze is better.  Their children grew up in a society that thinks you need to tan before spring break, before prom and before summer break.  The darker are better.  Now these same children are going to college, they have a sorority demanding that they tan almost daily, which would make anyone unattractively dark, and they don't know that it is wrong.  Sure they have heard that there is danger, but just as in my case, it wasn't real until it happened to my uncle's face, and then to me a couple of months later.  

In this specific case, I think the sorority president and every person on the chain of command above them should receive letters and a full educational packet.  You know that this isn't happening only with these two sororities, these are just the two that have been shared at this time.  It should start with them, any bans on such requirements will apply to more than just these two, correct (my own ignorance again)?  If nothing happens, and you want to take it further, then the sororities and the school should be called out publicly for requiring the members to expose themselves to cancer.  I have seen links to the blog above in several places, just since yesterday.  I'm sure that this issue could easily go viral online.  If common sense and the facts do not prevail, maybe the pressure of public opinion will.  

Beyond this case, how do we break this ignorant cycle?  Ignorance is bliss, and we all know that kids and teens are invincible.  All we can do is continue the fight and get the word out there. we need to raise the next generation on better information. Knowledge is power. We need to make sure our children know the dangers of tanning, both indoor and outdoor.  We need to make sure our children know about sun safety.  We need to make sure our children apply sunscreen daily as a part of their routine.  We need to teach our children that when they are confronted with situations where they are told that they have to be tan to be beautiful, they know that they are already beautiful just the way that they were created.  We need to make sure our children are confident in that and will say "I am Embracing My Own Glow"

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Results are in

The great news is, my mole was clear!  She said she would see me Monday to get my stitches out, and then for my next skin check the week before Christmas.  So happy, so thankful, this one had me worried.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Quarterly Skin Screening, 15 months....

Yesterday was my quarterly skin screening.  It is so hard to believe it has been 15 months since my melanoma diagnosis.  My anxiety went down over the course of the past week, thank goodness, so I was able to talk to the dermatologist about more this time.

Last summer, I had some "freckles" appear on my face that concerned me because they were more of a grey color than the freckles that cover the rest of my body.  I never mentioned them to my doctor because, I was sure that she saw them and wasn't concerned.  Well, this summer I have developed one single large grey freckle just above my left eyebrow, in the forehead crease that apparently decided to show up with my 35th birthday last month.  Well, the single one bothered me enough to ask, and she went right to it without me pointing it out.  Luckily it is nothing to be concerned about, just an age spot.. Lovely.  She said if it bothered me we could explore bleaching creams, but I said no, that with make up it looks like a normal freckle.  Age spots and mistaken for a teenager at my sons high school just a few weeks ago..  Now that makes me giggle.

Anyway, so she reminded me how good my moles always look and said that they all looked good.  I told her about the evolution of the one on the bottom of my foot.  She said if it is getting lighter that is good, that it is darker or pearl white (I think) changes that we need to worry about.  So we will keep watching that one.

She checked out the spot between my toes again closely.  It was biopsied in 2007, but the color has completely returned, minus a white streak of scar tissue going through the middle.  It was a twin with the one on my arm that turned out to be melanoma.  They developed about the same time and looked about the same too, which is why I called them twins.

She did decide to biopsy one on my upper thigh.  I had called once and went in for a spot check on that one, it was small, but seemed to be getting bigger.  It was from another set of twins, so I was able to show her the one on my abdomen in comparison because they both used to look the same in size and coloration.  They had one side that was darker than the other originally. The one on my abdomen still looks the same, but this one on my thigh had gotten a little bigger and dark all the way across. She said she wasn't too concerned, but that darker was definitely something she didn't like to see.

In the past the results have been within 1-2 days, but she did tell me, that it could be 7-14 days.  I will update when I hear.

Monday, September 12, 2011

I did it!

This morning I went to the MOPS meeting and presented my meeting topic idea.   In hindsight, I don't know why I was so nervous about how it would be received.  Maybe it was because one of the leaders obviously doesn't use sunscreen.  The rest of the leaders all have fair complexions, and look like they do, why would I be afraid that it would be rejected due to the one?

As I drove in, it hit me.  Yes, I can say that May is Skin Cancer Awareness month as a reason for selecting when the topic should take place, but it doesn't have to be a Skin Cancer Awareness topic to be effective.  Sun safety and developing good habits is the main goal.  They go hand in hand, right?  This is a moms group, putting the fear of cancer may be a topic that they don't quite want to cover, when the goal is to be positive and supportive of other mothers.

So when the ideas were being presented, I said "May is Skin Cancer Awareness month, what if we had someone come in to explain the new FDA labeling guidelines for sunscreen and give us some sun safety tips for our kids before summer"  Without hesitation, the blonde fair skinned leader said "That's a great idea" and the dark complexioned too tan leader who was standing slightly behind her was nodding in agreement.

Now there were a lot of ideas presented that day, so only time will tell, but I definitely feel good about it.  My first time attempt to present the topic to a group was well received.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Make it part of your routine!

We all say it.  We all hear it.  We all know it.  We all do it.  Don't we?

I'm talking about sunscreen.  Make applying sunscreen part of  your daily routine.  It sounds so simple.  Shower, dry off, put on deodorant, sunscreen, get dressed, put on make up, brush your hair and teeth, etc..  

Okay, I'll admit it.  I sometimes skip that sunscreen step.  Sometimes, being a stay at home mom, that shower doesn't happen until bedtime.  You aren't going to put on sunscreen at bedtime, are you?  Still, it should be right there, in the drawer or on the counter with your deodorant, or your make up, or hair brush, or whatever so you have no excuse to forget.

Since school has started back, my routine is all out of whack.  Some mornings I get up way too early with my son, sometimes I get to sleep an extra hour to get up with my daughter.  Some times I am up and dressed before I wake her, some times I get dressed as she is.

So this morning I was up with my son, laid back down for the 30 minutes before my daughter needed to get up, got dressed as she did, and left.  I'm in my husbands truck because my clutch went out.  Something that should have happened 20k miles ago, but happened last Monday.  The repair has been a nightmare in itself.  First they sent the wrong clutch, then they sent the right one ground instead of second day air, then it got lost.  Supposedly, it is coming today.  Anyway, I had two errands to run after dropping her off. So I go to the bank, it isn't open yet, so I go to Walmart to pick up a prescription from the pharmacy that opens 30 minutes after the bank would.  Wasted driving.  I need to pick up a couple of things, and with no kids, I can try to find those cute pants my cousin had.  So I get out and shut the door.  Immediately I reach for my pocket to hit the lock button as I would in my car.  No keys, so I look back and sure enough I hit the lock getting out.  The keys are in the ignition.  Just great.

So I call my husband, and he doesn't answer.  I text him.  He replies that he is sending one of his employees with a spare ("We are fortunate that I took the spare out of the truck last night"  Whew! Thank you, God!).  So I do my shopping in a hurry, thinking it would be about 30 minutes.  I get back out to the truck to wait, and ask who I'm looking for.  Well, they put the key down and couldn't find it.  WHAT??  Remaining calm while wanting to stomp my feet and whine that I want my car back.  Trying to get perspective, but cant stop thinking that I need to be home by 9 because the TV repairman can come any time after that. Deep cleansing breaths.   

Sun is getting higher, clouds are getting more scarce, I go from chilly feeling to warm.  I'm trying to focus on how nice it feels outside in the breeze since it is 20 degrees cooler than it was last week. Wishing I was in a different location for that though.  Then I feel it.  It's only been a few minutes, but I realize fast that I had on no sunscreen. One benefit of my scar is that it is my own built in UV sensor.  It has faded to a nice silver freckle covered line, but if I get in the sun without protection it turns red almost immediately.  It is red at this point.   

So I move around the truck and sit on the curb in front of it in the shade.  I cant fully block the sun though, so I move and lean on the passenger door.  Hunkered down hiding from the sun.  It's about another 15 minutes of what I am sure looks like I'm standing there pouting with my arms crossed, before I hear "you don't look so happy".  I turn around to see one of the guys in that familiar blue uniform and say "I am now" as he unlocks my door.  

So the bottom line.. Always wear sunscreen, even if you are just running in and out of stores.  You never know when you might be sitting outside for over an hour waiting for a spare key.  Make it part of  your routine.  

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

An opening?

I shared my thoughts the other day about proposing that our MOPS group have skin cancer awareness as a theme in May.  I had been looking at the group leaders, trying to decide who to approach about the idea.  Well, yesterday I got the invite for the next meeting and they said to bring our meeting ideas for the year.  

So now I need to get a better idea of what I want to do, how I want to present it, etc.  They like to do a craft each meeting too.  One of my gifts from the survivor tent at the event this summer was a black and white beaded bracelet.  Maybe we could make those. Any suggestions?  

Friday, September 2, 2011

Catching Up, Anxiety, Thoughts & Ideas

August was such a busy month around here.  Not that it is a bad thing, but it really surprised me because schedule-wise there wasn't much on the calendar.  The beginning of the month my son started high school.  I am so excited for him and this new adventure.  High school wasn't a great time for me, I see myself as a socially awkward person, and I really only connected with a few people.  I lost my mom in high school, and after that, my views on life changed, and high school attitudes, cliques, etc., really didn't appeal to me anymore. Middle school was very rough for him.  High school can only be better and I am very hopeful. Mid month our ladies bible study started back up, and I also celebrated my 35th birthday.  Then we got a phone call that my daughter had a spot at the Pre-K program that we had her on a wait list for.  So we rushed to change schools and plans and she started a week sooner than originally planned.  So in the chaos of the month, I neglected the blog.  I have had a lot of ideas to write about though.

I am in the last weeks before my quarterly skin screening.  I have noticed a strange pattern over the past 15 months.  After a screening, and the all clear if there was any biopsies, I am confident and comfortable and feel good.  Then about a month before the next screening, with no prompting from anything or anybody, I suddenly become very self aware. Is that the right term?  I notice every spot, freckle, mole, etc.  It almost consumes me. Those who know me in real life, probably get a chuckle out of me saying I notice every freckle.  I have a ton of them, back in the time that I believed a tan was okay, I would joke that I didn't tan, that my freckles would just connect.  So in noticing the freckles, I am referring to the large ones that sometimes you aren't sure if you should call it a freckle or a mole.

During those last weeks, I drive myself crazy.  Not really, but I could see how one could.  I look at my scar and what my doctor says is a large freckle on top of it, exactly where the melanoma was, that one really plays with  your head.  I have two on the bottom of my foot that are on the "watch list", I really think they are going to go this trip, one was a solid color my entire life, now it is lighter but with a few dark spots inside. I still even wonder about one I had biopsied in 2007, it was identical to the one that had melanoma and appeared at the same time. The shave biopsy did not remove the mole, so it still looks almost the same. One I have had spot checked and deemed okay before on my upper abdomen, does it have a shadow now?  What about the one on the top of my thigh, does it look darker and bigger now?  I never noticed that spot before..  Oh and on my profile picture on facebook, you can see 3 moles that are about the same, but now one is lighter than the other two..  I'm sure I'm not the only one that does this, but I sure do hope that I am.  

My husband still hasn't seen this blog.  I remember telling him that I wanted his help in the beginning with a graphic, and another time he asked if I had a second email address, and I told him it was for the blog. I think he is just so wrapped up with his busy season at work, that he hasn't had time to care.  I dont want that to sound like I think he doesn't care, he is always supportive of whatever I do.  I do think he also thinks I make a bigger deal out of melanoma than it is, but I don't know.  It just isn't something we really talk about.  I did give my dad some awareness ribbons I got at the awareness event.  They were attached to a bookmark with the ABCDE's and facts on it.  He seemed more receptive than usual.  But then we decided last minute to stay for a barbecue after church and I was searching my car for sunscreen, he let me know he thought I didn't have to worry about a few minutes.  Sigh.  He even rolled his eyes at me when I pulled the "is it dark?" line on him. Times like that make this feel very misunderstood.

So, on a positive note.  I went to a MOPS meeting on Monday.  One of the moms was so tan.  She has a dark complexion anyway, but you could tell her entire summer had been spent outdoors.  Man, I would have been jealous of that tan a few years ago.  I'm not going to say anything to her, but it definitely had me thinking. Sometimes we have to accept that we can inform an adult, but they will make their own decisions.  But since the damage that causes skin cancers happens early in life, maybe we can at least inform the parents enough that they will make more sun safe decisions for their children.  May is the end of the MOPs calendar year.  It is also skin cancer awareness month.  I think I want to either see if I can have someone come in, or get handouts and tell my story.  I would lean towards having someone come in, though, since I am no expert.  I just kept thinking that even if we cant get to the parents, for themselves, maybe we can promote some awareness so that their children can develop good  life-long habits while they are still young.  I have to think this through still, and see if they will even go for it.  It is probably a touchy subject for a group of moms who are looking for fellowship and a break.  We will see, I definitely wont drop this idea before it gets started.

Note:  I did edit this blog since posting.  My ADD was on overdrive that day, so I hope I added a little clarity.