Saturday, December 1, 2012

They hear, even if they aren't listening..

I feel like I refer to a lot that has to do with the melanoma journey as a roller coaster.  There are so many ups and downs.  Today as I "celebrate" 2 1/2 years since my surgery, I am feeling very reflective.  

Just this past month, I have really experienced the extremes of the roller coaster. 

I started out the month at a ladies retreat with my church.  Now I'm the awkward girl who doesn't really connect with people.  I try to treat people as I would like to be treated, but after 5 years at this church, I can say I haven't connected with more than a couple of people that I didn't already know before I began there.  So why do I attend a church where you never get past acquaintance stage with anyone there?  It is sound and Bible based teaching, and I have learned more and come closer to God in the past 5 years than the 31 before.  Anyway, as I found myself sitting at the edge of the crowd looking in, my insecurities kicked in.  If I am like this with people I "know", then why am I about to go to another state for two nights to meet people I only know online.  Instantly I was reminded of two things, I am going to raise melanoma awareness, and my experience at the last walk I attended.

That night my pastors wife said she wanted to pray over us individually.  She wanted the prayers to be from God.  As I anxiously walked up for my turn, I didn't know what to expect.  She prayed two things for me, one of which was that melanoma would never return to my life and that I would stay motivated to keep spreading the word and educating others.  Afterwords she told me she loves my posts and that I should not stop posting. I knew then that I would not let any nervousness stop me from going.

I wish that kept the doubt away, but it didnt.  Then the following Sunday at church, I think a group of people could have gotten whiplash turning to look at me for my reaction when the pastor mentioned that he planned to work on a great tan next summer.  You could hear the movement.  Okay, I'm an outsider, but they are aware of what I have to say..  I'm going to Charlotte next week!!!

So I arrived in Charlotte.  To say I was nervous, would be an understatement, but I was also excited.  I was so overwhelmed by the welcoming, caring, loving, supportive atmosphere of the entire weekend.  I felt like it was someone else's life.  I get eye rolls and "here she goes again" looks at home.  There, everyone understood.  Everyone wanted to know your experience, regardless of how your relationship with melanoma began.  Everyone wanted to know you. What was important to you, was important to them. It was really something I was not used to.  

My quiet, shy husband left Charlotte talking about next year, what we could do to raise more money next year, and going back and seeing everyone again.  He was really touched by the stories he heard this weekend.  Although he was quiet with those he met, he was interested as I told him everyone's stories.  He was really touched by the testimonials before the walk.  I think he transitioned from supporting me so he supported melanoma awareness, to understanding.

Coming home, and back to reality, I don't know how to describe it.  When I first got home, I couldn't even explain it to my friend who asked.  She said it sounded like I was still on a high from the weekend.  I was.  I was very overwhelmed.  Then reality set in.  I was back to work, back to homeschooling the high school son, back to struggling with housework. I had 2 days to plan a birthday party for my 6 year old, 2 days before Thanksgiving.  It almost seemed that the weekend was like a dream.  A very good dream.  

So as I got long winded there... I am motivated.  I am wearing my new "Fight The Beast - Melanoma" bracelet.  I have ordered a new black ribbon watch (thank you BITNP for the link!)  I am using the bracelet as a conversation starter. The watch will be one too.   In my nutritional support side hobby business, we always hear "Wear the colors" so that people will ask. I'm going to wear the black ribbon, I'm going to keep on sharing, because as the potential whiplash statement proved, people are hearing, even if it seems they aren't listening.  Planting the seed is only the beginning, it will grow, you just have to have faith.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Not hiding inside anymore!

Well, once again, it has been a while.   So much has been going on, and so much has changed in the past several months.  I have at least 8 posts saved as a draft, where I have tried to post here, but my life as wife and mother did not allow me to finish them or edit them.

Some of my held posts are about my observations at Stone Mountain regarding neon 80's clothing and tan, a trip to my neighborhood pool, our first kid free trip (to the beach!) for our 10 year anniversary, the list goes on.  I know I have done less through this blog, a tiny bit more through my facebook page, but I have shared more on my personal facebook page than before regarding skin cancer awareness.  I have also talked face to face with more people, and been more confident when they challenge what I know as fact.

I have been spending more time outdoors.  I have gone to the pool and sat under the umbrella and reapplied sunscreen every time that they announce adult swim.  I have gone to the beach, spent the day touring a fort, wearing a tank top.  I know I should have covered, but it was 100 degrees and humid, couldn't do it.  I returned from the weekend at the beach with my husband, we both have a lot of Irish in us, and before my son (15) said hello he asked how we were at the beach for 3 days and didn't get any sun.  I felt a little sense of accomplishment there.  Last weekend we went to the lake, with the top and doors off our new vehicle, and did not get sunburned, but did get windburned on the trip on the way there and back (Ouch!)

The past few years, we spent more time indoors and outdoors we were obsessively panicked about sun exposure. When I went for my 2 year skin screen in June, I mentioned to Dr. K. that I was really hard on myself for even being exposed enough that my freckles multiply.  She told me (as she removed a mole from my neck and another from where the bra under wire sits), that I need to cut myself some slack and that as long as I am following the sun safety guidelines of protection, seeking shade, covering up when possible, and not being out in peak hours, then I need to relax and enjoy myself. Life this year has definitely allowed for that, so I am given many opportunities to practice and be an example of sun safety.

With those opportunities have come learning experiences for myself and what I can do too.     I also learned firsthand that sunscreen spray versus sunscreen lotion is a very different concept.  I used lotion on my and my daughters face, but then I used spray on our bodies.  Snow white and I  both showed that we need to be using lotion instead of spray, even though spray is so much more convenient.  So now I need to find one that works well, but doesn't look funky as we sweat, which unfortunately in our 90 degree high humidity climate is inevitable.. 

I really want to go to Charlotte in November for the AIM for a Cure Melanoma Walk. They canceled the Scan Foundation walk this summer for Atlanta, so Charlotte is the closest campaign to us.   I know I am a blip on the radar when it comes to bloggers, but I mention everyone's blogs so much as I talk to others about awareness, I think it would be great to meet everyone and graduate from saying "this blogger I follow" to "my friend".  So it looked like my friend was going to go with me, but circumstances changed a little, I'm not sure but I hope she still can.  The great news though is that my husband is saying he will come with me!  I told him that I know it isn't important to him, but it is to me, and he said that it really is important to him too!  He has brought it up several times since then too, so I am really excited.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Still around..

One of the things about being a stay at home mom is the dreaded "so what do you do all day?" question.  You know you spend your whole day doing stuff, whether it be taking care of the kids, providing shuttle service, grocery shopping, cleaning house, accounting, etc., etc., but when that question comes along... crickets.  I wont get into the whole debate of home/working moms.  I just am using that to say that is how my past couple of months have been, absolutely crazy building my AdvoCare business, going to the gym, Bible Study, keeping house, fighting off ovarian cysts, Robotics Club mom, ballet mom, sick little one who is most likely going to become tonsil free in the next month.  You know, just the same ol' same ol'.  Don't understand why I need to catch my breath after just typing that.

So the gym and the AdvoCare are paying off.  Personally I am wearing loose jeans that I haven't even been able to wear in 6 years.  Today I am trying on my jeans I wanted to be wearing by summer. If that is successful, I will be down 4 sizes since Christmas.

I went to my 21 month check and passed with flying colors.  I was concerned about 3 spots, one was nothing, one we are continuing to watch, and another was a seborrheic keratosis, which they froze off.   I go back in 3 months and that will be 2 years!

I have had 2 neighbors ask me about suspicious spots that they have.  I always get nervous with that, but I feel confident in telling them that too, that regardless of what I say, they should get checked out.  Since then, both have asked me about free screenings.  Kaiser Permanente usually does them in May, even for non-members, but those dates haven't been released yet.  I did find out that the Skin Cancer Foundation tour will be here in April.  So I posted the dates and locations on facebook, then I added it to our neighborhood yahoo group wall.  They sent the post out by email to the entire neighborhood.  It isn't big, but I'm glad I do get to share it.

Here in Atlanta, we are in our second week of 80 degree temps.  It is beautiful outside. Of course, we have record setting pollen counts too, I think today is 9369!  Luckily all that bothers me is grass and ragweed, and the grass numbers are nothing compared to the trees, so I have been able to get outside some.  Although covered with yellow dust in the process. I vowed not to hide from the sun this summer like I have done the past two.  I am going to enjoy the outdoors.  I was talking to someone after church on Sunday, I told her I wasn't going to be a hermit this year, that my sun-safe message is lost if I am stuck inside.  I have been pricing pop-up canopies, they aren't bad, but definitely more than I thought they would be.  I will find one though.  I also talked my husband into letting me have another year of the pool membership.  Promised him that we would use it this year.  In return, I have to play tennis with him.  The courts are shaded by trees, so an easy agreement.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Toxic Release?

I just received an online invitation to one of those weight loss body wrap parties.  This is so odd to me. (a party? at least 5 people?)  I somewhat understand the concept.  You wrap your body up like a mummy in cloth dipped in some kind of minerals.  You move around to sweat some, and an hour later you remove the wrap along with the toxins in your system.  As a result you have lost inches.  Sounds like a quick fix to me, I really wonder how long it would last, because getting fit is more of a lifestyle change than it is the quick fix.  I hope the quick results do motivate some to change their habits to maintain it.

So what caught my eye...  Someone asked how long it lasts.  Here's part of that answer "If you drink a lot of diet soda, smoke or do a lot of tanning, you will have more toxins in your body.  The wrap will still work, but it may take more applications due to the toxins in  your body"  It goes on to talk about results varying, lifestyle, etc..

I was glad to see that it mentioned tanning.  In the melanoma and skin cancer community we all know all about the damage that tanning causes our skin. I know the answer says that it is due to more toxins, but I have heard of a tan being related to a scab as your body heals itself.  I wonder if the toughened, damaged skin also makes it more difficult for the skin to release the extra toxins gained by tanning.  Could be quite the cycle there..

Reclaiming My Health

I am reclaiming my health.  One step at a time.

This is long, but bear with me.

Growing up I was very athletic.  I was in amazing physical condition and my weight was never truly an issue for me.  Sure I let my weight conscious friends get to me from time to time, but it never really stuck.  Once I became a mother, then divorced at 21, depression and hormones kicked in.  Fast forward to age 35, I am obese.

Back in 2004 and 2005, I worked in a gym.  I was overweight, but I worked out with the members, and we all shared in our results together.  It really was a win-win situation.   The owner was an AdvoCare distributor.  She started out by telling me about all the products, so that I could sell them. I was immediately in love with the Spark.  It is an energy drink, composed of all vitamins, but the reason I was hooked, was the mental focus it provides.  I also began using Catalyst.  It aids in protecting the muscles, post workout so that the fat is attacked and the muscle is able to recover faster.  Just using those two products, I lost the most weight I had lost since having my son.  Eventually the gym closed up, the owner moved to Florida, and I took as much Spark and Catalyst with me as I could.  After my daughter was born, I could not find the owner/distributor, so I was at a loss.  I would see a car with a AdvoCare logo on it, but never could get the number off of it.

So from 2006-2010, I tried diet after diet.  None stuck. Add to that frustration that as I was starting to feel results in the gym, toning wise.  I was diagnosed with melanoma.  I had incisions in my right arm, left calf, then later my left arm, right thigh, abdomen.... Working out at the gym has become almost nonexistent.  I would do yoga, Zumba, belly dancing, walking.  Nothing worked like strength training.  Just having muscle burns fat.  I needed muscle, but couldn't work out to get it.

In September, I was at a festival, and there was an AdvoCare booth.  As I got closer, it was a friend of my aunt and uncle.  I ran up and said "You sell AdvoCare, I need Spark!"  As soon as I got that first canister, clarity began to return.  I felt better, I got things done that my husband was always frustrated with me for not doing.  I was happy, not tired all the time.  I even finally managed the transition from night owl to early bird that my children's schools required.  I don't nap during the day anymore. It is great.

So how does melanoma tie into all this?  In December, I had a biopsy done from the top of my original melanoma scar.  It came back as lentigo maligna.  It was described to me as an age spot, but as I did my own research, I found that it is actually a precursor to melanoma in situ.  In the exact spot my melanoma was removed from!  Whether they were concerned or not, it freaked me out.  Over the course of the past 2 years, by changing eating habits (paying attention to how each food made me feel and adjusting accordingly), I had lost from a size 24 to 18, but had drifted back up to a 20 through the holidays.  I decided that if the beast was trying to worm its way back into my life, I needed to be as healthy as possible to fight it.  Maybe I was being alarmist and exaggerating, but it was definitely motivation.

So in January, I did AdvoCare's 24 Day Challenge.  I was in a very tight size 20 when I started.  By day 9 I had lost 6".  At the end of the challenge I had lost 6 lbs and 10.25".  I was comfortable in a size 18.  I had a head cold the entire time, so I did not exercise.  I just took the supplements, which are not diet pills, to balance out my nutrition and ate smart.  I can say one thing, even had I not lost inches or pounds, I felt so amazing.  Let me repeat that, even sick, I have felt AMAZING.  As a result, my husband is now drinking Spark and taking the supplements. One of my friends is doing the challenge now, not to lose, just to become more healthy.  My cousin is about to do it too.  I noticed something yesterday.  My newest spot on top of my scar was itching.  As I rubbed it, I realized that my arm underneath was feeling firmer than it had in a while.  I looked closer, and the scar is not as puckered up on the ends as it was, my skin isn't as stretched.  It's the little differences that will add up into one big difference...

I know this has been long.  I wanted to share what is going on with me, what I am excited about, and why I have neglected this blog and my facebook page the past few weeks. I'm getting healthy again. I can share about melanoma being a motivating factor for me.  I am really happy.  Don't worry, I wont be pushing product or anything like that.  I do want you to know that this opportunity is out there.  I will have a link to my AdvoCare store on my blog.  I may occasionally update on my personal progress but I'm not going to keep bringing it up.

So if you are curious about the Challenge, you can learn more here.  If you want to learn about Spark or Catalyst you can click them, or contact me. 

Friday, February 3, 2012

Campaigns and Our Stories

Yesterday my friend posted this picture of a poster she saw in the dermatologist on her Facebook page. I cant find a link online (if anyone can, send it to me and I will trade it out), and this is a picture of the poster, so it is a little blurry.  It says "80 PERCENT OF SUN DAMAGE BEGINS BEFORE AGE 18"  and below "PROTECT YOUR KIDS WHILE THEY'RE STILL KIDS. SUNSCREEN, PROTECTIVE CLOTHING, AND COMMON SENSE CAN PREVENT PREMATURE AGING AND EVEN SKIN CANCER"  Since my personal feeling is that kids need to be taught about sun protection early, because it just needs to be a part of their lifestyle, I liked it.  

Well, one of her friends commented that she didn't feel the poster was effective and that it didn't make her want to apply any more sunscreen to her children than she already does.  While we can all agree that the effectiveness of a campaign also depends on the receptiveness of the audience, I did chose to focus on the "than I already do" part of her comment.  It made me think a little beyond "Ooh, I haven't seen that one. I like it"

It is hard to imagine an infant still in diapers with sun damage and premature aging.  It is much easier to take a group of 20-30 year olds who have varying degrees of age spots and wrinkles and be shocked that they are all the same age category.  Although I have age spots, with make up they blend with my freckles (I know they are there), I am often told that I look like I am closer to 30 or even 25, than 35.  I was even mistaken for a high school student last August, I think that is a far stretch. There are people in the 25-30 range that look much older than I do.    

When I was 20, a work friend revealed to me that her twin sister had come to town.  She was excited to see her, but even though they were identical twins, they looked very different now.  They both had fair skin and red hair.  My friend had never tanned and was dedicated to her skin care routine, her sister on the other hand, did not. She said her sister looked to be about 35-40, I was shocked and said she looked to be about 25 at most.  She thanked me and revealed that they were 30.  From that point forward, even though I tanned, I was very diligent with my skin care routine.  I think that would make for a very effective campaign. I also think that personally knowing someone who was an example, perfect DNA proof, had a big impact on me.

Back to this picture, and the comments associated with it.

Another friend commented that she had received all of her skin damage as a child, and years later she did have skin cancer on her face.  She asked if that was more effective.  My friend responded with the following, "You and my friend Tara are the most persuasive examples to me of why I should be more concerned about mine and my children's skin health. (Tara had melanoma on her arm and just had some precancerous cells removed from the scar from her first surgery.) This poster is effective enough for me, but it's not nearly as effective as knowing people I care deeply for have been effected by skin cancer themselves."  This is not the first time that she has shared with me that she is now more sun-aware and sun-safe as a result of knowing me and what I went through.  

I believe that campaigns like this are effective.  Some more so than others.  You see a poster like this and you think. You wonder why it is there, what the message is, and hopefully are receptive and curious enough to look further into it.  They plant a seed.  They open or at least crack the door.  They are a conversation starter, just as my friend proved by sharing it.

The important thing though is that we, the survivors, advocates, loved ones, warriors, friends and family, have to keep sharing.  We have to put a face to this disease.  The real disease, not the "got it cut out and fine now side"  We have to share so that our friends, family, and loved ones will know.  So they will share themselves, so that they will notice that odd poster on the doctors office wall and look closer and start their own conversation.  If we keep it to ourselves, that door that is cracked by the poster, wont be opened by knowing a familiar face.

Think about it.  When you see a ribbon of any color, how often do you think of a friend or loved one that was affected in some way by that disease?  Yes, you think of the cause, but you also think of that familiar face.  You can detach from that ribbon or poster, but if you know someone, then it becomes personal.

Unfortunately, we are the face of this beast, and we need to make sure people know about it on a personal, not detached level.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Have Faith...Don't Give Up

I feel so much better than I did when I made my last post.  I get frustrated with people who just dont want to hear the truth about melanoma and skin cancer.  Not to get all political, but I once heard a politician characterize the other party in a way that I think can also apply to the tan vs natural argument.  He said that the other sides views were unfounded, so they would first attack the sources and then the person making the statement.  The tanning industry will first attack the victims, then the foundations and then say they are all in the sunscreen industries pocket.  Skin cancer is just made up because the sunscreen industry wants you to buy their product.  What?  Tell that to my arm, abdomen, neck, thigh, forearm, calf, those scars and divots are there because the sunscreen industry wants to make money?  Tell that to the people who are fighting this disease.. Tell that to the families of those who lost their lives because of the beast..  Do you know how ridiculous that sounds?

Enough of that, that isn't why I am posting today.  Other than saying that I am in a much better mindset, I wanted to share that I got some encouragement this week from an unexpected source.

So on Sunday I was working in the church nursery, and I was talking to my friend about what had happened, and as I said that I paid the price for a tan, one of the ushers walked in.  He asked if I had had a basal cell carcinoma or something and I said no, I had melanoma.  He said "oh yeah, I remember that now, you helped at the youth conference right after that"  Yes.  Then he goes on to tell me how one of his best friends and mentors had died of melanoma, from a mole that he put off getting checked and he knows it is nothing to play with.  He said he learned a lot about God and faith from this person, especially in how they fought their battle.  When I told him my story of how my mole was watched and then I put off getting it rechecked, he agreed that I was so blessed to have still gotten it removed in the early stages.  I told him that I had been taking steps to get the word out about the dangers of melanoma and skin cancer, and also for sun safety, but that I had no support from my immediate family in doing so.  He said, "have faith, they will come around.  Don't give up"  That was something I really needed to hear at that time.

I'm not giving up.  An opportunity has landed in my lap.  I will explain more about that towards the end of the month, but I get to take three of my passions, God, healthy living, and skin cancer awareness through my story, and share them all.  I'm not giving up.  I'm not going to be discouraged.  My family will come around.

Saturday, January 14, 2012


This is raw, it's emotional, it might not even make any sense.  It is a vent.  I just need to get this off my chest.

I am so thankful for the melanoma community.  I feel like I sometimes live to separate lives.  In one life, I am wife, mother, daughter, friend who had something wrong with her, got it fixed and now wont move on with life. In the other, I am a fellow melanoma and skin cancer warrior, 1.5 years NED, a small fry in the community, but sharing in the fight to get the word out.  Although my only connection is through Facebook and blogs, I am so thankful for that connection to keep me from feeling like an isolated lunatic.

Last night was a perfect example of that.

In the afternoon, I was talking to my aunt.  She watches Dr. Oz and I was telling her about reading all the statements in response to his show where he implied that tanning was a safe way to get vitamin D in the winter months.  I told her that the American Academy of Dermatology had issued a statement and so had AIM at Melanoma.  My son was sitting next to me throwing in comments about how stupid it was and that nobody should listen to a TV doctor anyway.

So last night, my dad and brother came over, and we took my son out for his birthday dinner.  Once we got home, I was playing on my phone and saw that Dr. Oz had issued a statement in response to all the criticism.  I told my son this, and my dad asked what happened.  I told him a brief version of what happened and what Dr Oz had said. He said "Are you kidding me?" and went on to tell me that it was a crock and that tanning beds were safer, they don't even penetrate the skin, etc.  When I told him I blame the tanning bed for contributing to my melanoma, he said that was ridiculous, that I spent so much time outside on the ball field and at the pool and lake.  I said I don't completely blame it, but I do believe it contributed.  He said there was no way that there are studies proving otherwise.  I said that those were by the tanning industry.  I said that with a tanning bed you are 74% more likely to get melanoma and tried to explain what the UVA and UVB rays do to the skin.  I also said that there was a study saying that melanoma appears 15-20 years later, and that is exactly what mine did.  Since he didn't buy that, I asked him how he could explain that my melanoma mole appeared while I was working at a gym where I used the tanning bed.  He said that was all nonsense, that it was just my lifestyle at the ball field and all that.  I asked him what he thinks of the statement that a tan is an indicator that the skins DNA has been damaged, and that it is like a scab protecting itself until it heals.  He again said it was ridiculous.  It got all heated.  The real kicker was that he said he used to believe all that too, but then he did the research. He wanted to know where I was getting all this information, I said from the Skin Cancer Foundation, American Academy of Dermatology, World Health Organization, experts in the field, the list goes on. I told him that I trusted that more than any of the studies I had seen that all lead back to the tanning industry, who is out to make a buck, not save lives.

It was very heated, I was feeling very attacked.  My brother was just sitting there watching us go back and forth.  Then my son comes out with the whopper.  "Who cares, let them tan, they will get melanoma and just get it cut out like you did" A whole new can of beans was opened.  Let me tell you about melanoma, I was lucky,  melanoma isn't just cut out, there is no cure for melanoma.  Once it is in your system, it can return any time, any where and it can be deadly.  Why do you think I go every three months to get my skin checked?  The room went silent. I was stunned,  I couldn't believe it.

My husband was out of the room when this happened.  So later on he asked what was wrong with me.  I told him what happened.  His response.. Silence.  A few minutes later, I turned over and nudged him.  I told him that I needed him to support me.  (Just a note, when I found out the latest spot was possibly a lentigo maligna and what that meant, I got a twinge of understanding from him)

I have two thoughts after last night.  1. I'm still too emotional about this to speak and educate others.  2. If I cant get my family to understand, can I really get others to?

No, I'm not going to stop trying to get the word out.  As a matter of fact, I am going to start posting facts on my personal Facebook page again.  I am going to continue with my plan of living life this summer, and showing that the outdoors can be enjoyed safely.

Friday, January 13, 2012

That Ah Ha (aka UH OH) Moment

I have had a couple of disturbing conversations recently regarding skin cancer.  It seems that if someone has had a non-melanoma form of skin cancer, they often don't know what type they had or what their risk of it returning is.  I will be honest, I confuse them too.  I know that the names indicate which layer of the skin it is located and how it will grow.  I also know that one has a risk of returning and the other I'm not so sure of.  I know I need to do more research myself too, but my priority has been on melanoma and the risks and dangers associated with it.  Yes, practicing sun safety can prevent all forms of skin cancer.  I guess I am just biased.  I need to fix that.  I also know a couple of people who have had melanoma, had it removed, and never went for the follow up exams as recommended by their doctor, because "It's just skin cancer".

To me, this is the perfect example of why doctors need to do a better job at informing patients about skin cancer.  We need to all get the word and the resources out there.  Pretty much all I know is what I have learned on my own, courtesy of the internet and others who are on the same journey.

When I was diagnosed, it took a few days for the realization to kick in.  Like I have said before, my doctor has a personality that is comforting, not alarming, but will get you excited about what is going on.  That is a good thing and a bad thing.  I hung up with her ready to march into battle, "okay, we are going to call the surgeon, get this cut off, here's how it'll look after, etc, etc."  Then a couple of days later, I was looking at my notes because a funny thing happened, I heard and wrote down that the incision would be 6 cm x 2 cm, but my brain processed inches.  Even though I'm a big girl, I couldn't figure out how 6 inches were coming out of my bicep.  So I was looking at my notes, relieved to discover it was centimeters and not inches, when something else caught my eye.  "follow up exams, 3 mo/2.5 yr, 6 mo/2.5 yr, --> yearly if good after 5 yr"  What?  It's just skin cancer, they cut it out and your done, why do I have follow up like a cancer patient?? Now, I always knew that skin cancer is cancer, but I had been brain washed by society that it was different.  So I started doing my research. I was blown away.  This melanoma stuff was nothing to play with.   Then when I went for my first 3 month scan, and I'm standing there in my bra and underwear, and she actually pulls out the back of my bra and underwear and the cups on my bra to check under them, no skin unchecked.  Three months later, she biopsies a spot and tells me that if I'm ever concerned about any moles, she will take it because I have had melanoma and earned that right.

So for me, I knew melanoma was serious when I was given a follow up screening schedule for the next 5 years, and when I was told that I could have any spot removed that I was ever concerned about because I had the melanoma card.  Both of those things came from my doctor, but other than a bookmark with the ABCDE examples on it, my knowledge of melanoma is self taught.

So I have to wonder, for those who were diagnosed and don't follow up, why don't doctors provide a little more education about it? Just enough that they understand that they need to follow up.  If they were told to follow up, why doesn't it click with them that this is more than just something you have cut out?  It's very disturbing to think that, with the way melanoma can return, that there are people out there thinking that they are perfectly safe because it was removed.  I pray that they are right, that they are the ones that will live a complete lifetime without it returning.  It is just a scary thought to me.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Finally... Pictures of My Scar

In a previous post, I somewhat explained why I have not disclosed as much personal information in my blog.  My family is not supportive of "this melanoma thing".  They treat it as though I am overreacting, that several relatives have had precancerous spots removed, "and they are fine", I need to just move on with life.  I have been questioned about why I am going to these skin exams every three months, and I have even had to justify the fact that my doctor felt the need to do yet another biopsy.

After I wrote that post, I talked to a family member, who I often feel is one of my closest friends too.  She always listens to me when I talk about anything melanoma, and was as outraged at me at some remarks that came my way from another family member.  I told her how I hated how my husband knows of this blog, but that he hasn't looked.  I told her how I know if other family members had seen how I somewhat portray them in a negative light, support-wise, they would probably be hurt. I have talked about my scar in enough detail, that I hope you can picture it.  I would love to show a picture, of it, of me, but even a picture of my scar would be recognizable to my family members.  After I hung up with that family member, I realized something, I have sent her the link to this blog and my Facebook page, and to my knowledge it hasn't been seen.  I've really had it on my mind for the past week or so.

From reading blogs, of those who share their name or pictures, you feel more like you know the person. It does become more personal, more real.  I started thinking again about how my family doesn't (seem to) care, and how I want to protect their feelings for not (seeming to) care.  Yet, how does that level of caring, affect how I feel?  I feel isolated enough, when it comes to melanoma, with my family.   Why hold myself at arms length on here too?

So here goes... I will start with my main scar..  The reason I feel so blessed that it was caught early, and that I need to get the word out about melanoma.  My scar is small and healed very nicely, there is still redness around it and puckering at the edges that the camera doesn't always catch.  I sometimes feel it feeds into the "just cut it out, and you are fine" mentality of many.  At the same time, being in such a prominent place, it does draw enough attention that I can share my story often.

Probably the last picture of my mole

Post-biopsy, I took this the day I found out it was melanoma.

3 days post surgery.  Incision was approximately 6 cm x 2 cm.  2 layers of shoelace style stitches below with the steri-strip above.

Very small.  Taken from a bridesmaid photo the day I removed the steri-strip, 10 days after surgery.

6 months later, you can see the beginning of the "freckle" in the center.

Shave biopsy of "freckle" on scar 18 months later. 

I plan to post soon about the results of the latest biopsy.  I am waiting on a return call from the dermatologist first.  

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Seeking Balance in 2012

I haven't had time to get on the computer at all in the past week.  My kids went back to school today, my husband goes back to work Thursday.  He is helping out a friend today, so I decided to catch up on my reading.  I have checked facebook from my phone, so if there is a link to a blog, I have read it, but couldn't access my actual "reading list" from there.

First, I hope everyone had a very happy and safe new year.  My son came back from almost 2 weeks with my parents, then his fathers, then his other grandparents on NYE.  My daughter tried so hard to stay up and was so excited to say Happy New Year, but dancing to the musical acts on the countdown show wore her out and she sat down to rest and was instantly asleep at about 11:40.

It is always sad to hear of loses, and it seems to have been a season full of them this past month.  Several friends and family members of friends who are like our own family, and a couple in the melanoma community too.  I was reading a blog by someone who was looking forward to their new future with melanoma, and the uncertainty that comes with that diagnosis.  I was thinking as I read it, that no matter the outcome, melanoma will not defeat me.  I was thinking of how melanoma is called the beast, and that Satan is also called a beast.  Should melanoma, the beast, attack again, the beast will not win, because I will be rejoicing in heaven when my time comes.  I hope all those who were lost the past few weeks knew this reality, whether it was melanoma, heart disease, or age that took them from us.

Several blogs that I read seem to be struggling/accomplishing about the same thing I mentioned a couple of posts ago, about finding that balance.  We all want to be able to live our lives.  We know we cannot do it the same as we did before.  We now know about safety, dangers and consequences.  We all feel that fear of it coming back, or spreading, and want to do nothing to hasten that.  We all want that balance of being able to enjoy life, without fear, but still aware.  I hope and pray that we all find it.  We have been given a second chance. We have to use it. We have to live, learn, educate.  We cant encourage others to live a sun safe lifestyle, if we are unhappy and scared in the process.  We cant tell others to seek the shade, when we are acting like we are holding up the wall at a school dance.  Who wants to do that?  We need to show that we can have just as good of a time, and not feel left out in the shade.  I believe it is more possible than we are allowing it to be.  I sure hope so, anyway.

Well, enough rambling.  I wish everyone the best of everything in 2012.