Monday, December 30, 2013

Merry Christmas and a Happy and Healthy New Year!

I know it's been forever since I blogged, but I really have nothing melanoma related to talk about, which is great! I don't think I even blogged about my last scans/treatment, but it was pretty uneventful - also great. At the end of this week, I have my last round of treatment for the clinical trial, and I'm ready for that chapter of my life to be over with, and I hope I never visit the chemo area again!

I want to take this opportunity to challenge you to be the healthiest you that you can be in 2014. 'Tis the season of starting new diets and making resolutions to work out, and so many times we set ourselves up for failure - then when we fail, we give up completely. I know, because I'm an expert at this; just this weekend I did the "well, I'll re-start on Monday" thing even though Saturday morning I had decided that enough was enough. 

So, while you're making your health related New Year's Resolutions, think about what is actually feasible for you and your schedule, what you can actually live with long term when it comes to your diet, and what your plan will be WHEN you fail and need to re-group, because it's inevitable. Also think about why you want to make changes. Try to find reasons a little deeper than how you look in a bikini, like the way you feel, your overall health, etc. If you diet just to look good on the outside, and don't care about how it affects your inside, you won't succeed, at least not for long, and in the end, your health suffers - including your metabolism, which makes it even more difficult to lose the weight again. God gave you one body, and you may not think it's perfect, you may have not taken the best care of it, but if you have all your necessary limbs and organs, and they all work, you should thank Him for it every day, wrinkles, fat, gray hair and all (even if you don't have all working parts, if you woke up alive this morning, be thankful!). Realize that you can only be the best version of yourself, inside and out, and stop comparing yourself to others. 

So there's my feel good message for 2013 :) Have a safe, happy, and healthy New Year, and remember, just because it's winter doesn't mean you don't need sunscreen when you're outside!

Friday, November 1, 2013

Go Gators


It's Florida-Georgia Weekend! It's one of my favorites events of the year and I'm super excited to spend Saturday tailgating and watching football.....and maybe having a drink or 2..... :) Go Gators!

Next week I start a DietBet and start working on losing 10% of my body weight. It's exactly what I need to motivate me to lose the extra pounds I've been carrying around, and I love that DietBet promotes slow and steady weight loss. I have 5 months to lose 10%, then another month of maintaining that weight loss, which is pretty genius of them because maintaining can be just as difficult as losing. Check out the link (at the beginning of this paragraph) if you're interested in betting on yourself! I'm planning to use this blog as a kind of journal as I go along.

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Happy Immunoversary!

I swear I have good intentions when it comes to blogging - I have plenty to say, that's for sure, just not so much time to say it! Anyway, I realized that today is one year since I started immunotherapy and thought I should commemorate that. I only found out the day before or day of which arm of the clinical trial I was randomized into, and I was SO stressed out about it. I didn't want to be a guinea pig for some new medicine (although it helped that it was already approved for use in later staged melanoma patients), and I didn't want to get the old standard of care that would probably make me sick for a year and has a very low success rate. The 3 options were interferon (standard of care), and high or low dose ipilimumab (new drug being compared to interferon). I wanted the high dose because I figured "more = better", and was a little disappointed when I got the low dose. Well, once again I have been reminded that what I want isn't always best for me because a lot of people on the high dose (almost 3x the amount of the low dose) have had complications and had to quit the clinical trial. While I have had 7 of 8 doses and have had no side effects except a little fatigue right after I get a treatment, which I can totally deal with! I've got one more to go and could still have some side effects, but I've made it almost all the way through with little disruption to my life.

Feeling very thankful for this last year, and I'm constantly reminded that God blesses us through the storms in life :)

Friday, October 4, 2013

Whose Fault Is It?

I carry a certain amount of guilt about having melanoma. I assume smokers who get lung cancer feel like they caused it by smoking, and I wonder if I caused my melanoma by being less careful than I should have been in the sun, and using tanning beds. I see a lot of people in "mela-land" blaming their cancer on tanning. In my case, I have family history AND I tanned, so I honestly don't know which one caused it. There are people who have no known history, and no tanning history, so sometimes I think it's just plain bad luck. None of us will ever truly know what factor caused our cancer, or if it was a combination of genetics, environment, and/or luck. I relate melanoma and lung cancer because they both have major links to the choice to smoke or tan, but people with different cancers probably also wonder if they could have done anything to prevent it.

I read a post on Facebook this morning from Aim at Melanoma about a lawsuit between a woman with melanoma and the tanning salon(s) she went to. The jury ruled in favor of the tanning salon, and according to the few comments that were already posted, this made some people angry. It just reminded me that we live in a society of blame shifting. This woman tanned in tanning beds, allegedly after her dermatologist talked to her about the dangers of tanning, and continued tanning even after being diagnosed with melanoma, a day before her excision was planned, and again 3 days before her stitches were going to be removed. And then attempted to sue that tanning salon and several others. You can read the summary here if you want the entire story. Granted, the summary is written from the vantage point of the defendant's attorney, but it seems pretty clear to me that this woman ignored the risks of tanning, like so many of us have, but then wanted someone else to take responsibility. 

In my opinion, we have to take responsibility for ourselves and our actions - as hard as that can be. If someone is negligent and that causes us harm, then yes, they should be held responsible for their part. But I think most of us feel that it's unreasonable to sue cigarette companies over lung cancer, McDonald's over heart disease or coffee burns, or a brewery for a drunk driving accident, and this is no different. And I also think frivolous lawsuits like this one take away from the seriousness of the regulations needed in the tanning industry. A lot of states are working to pass laws to prohibit or restrict minors' use of tanning beds, and I think that's important, way more important than trying to play a blame game.

In related news, I have a half marathon this weekend, which was my choice, and I'm probably going to complain endlessly and maybe sue the race promoters because I'll definitely be in some pain afterwards ;)

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Here's to Your Health

Someone was asking me for some health and fitness advice the other day, and suggested that I start a blog related to that. I didn't want to start a whole new blog, but I was thinking that since I fortunately don't have much melanoma related news to share, why not start posting more here about health and fitness related things? Health is connected to cancer prevention anyway.

First off, I am clearly not a doctor or any medical expert, blah blah blah. So don't listen to what I have to say and ignore your doctor's advice or anything silly like that. 

To start off, here are some of my basics for being healthy, whether you want to lose fat, gain muscle, or just maintain your weight and/or live a healthier lifestyle; I'll expand on these basics in later posts:

1. Don't "Go on a Diet". Make lifestyle changes. A "diet" is what you eat, whether it's "good" or "bad".  Make changes you can stick with for life, and include foods that you love, even if they are not the healthiest, and work on finding substitutes, eating smaller portions, or cutting out the really terrible stuff completely. 

2.  Quality and Quantity BOTH matter. You have probably heard of, or been on, "diets" that restrict fat, carbs, or times that you are supposed to eat. Basically, it's calories in/calories out. If you consume more calories than you burn off, you will gain weight. If you consume less, you'll lose weight. However, the quality does matter as well. Your food should be doing something good for you, and candy, cookies and chips don't. A decent rule is that if you can't understand the ingredients on the package, don't eat the food. This website has some really good, detailed rules about eating Real Food.

3. MOVE and Pick Up Heavy Things. Whatever your goals are, we all need to move more. If your current exercise routine consists of getting up from the couch to get more chips, then start off with walking or taking a family bike ride. If you already have a basic fitness level, step it up. When you are comfortable with whatever you're doing, make it uncomfortable again. Lift weights. If you don't know how, and don't have a gym membership or access to a personal trainer, Google is your friend. 

4. Set realistic goals, and find what motivates YOU. Whether you want to lose, gain, or maintain your weight, set goals for yourself. Start small, and set daily, weekly, monthly goals to start out. It doesn't have to be based on that number on the scale, it can be just working out a set number of days/minutes each week, staying within your calorie range, or anything else that you set out to do. Reward yourself with something for each goal you reach - I warn against rewarding yourself with food, you're not a dog! 

5. Realize that you will fail at some point. We aren't perfect, there are going to be weeks that you don't have time to get to the gym or grocery shop, or you just give in to temptation. When that happens, don't beat yourself up, just pick up and move forward - right then, not the next Monday (the national day for starting anything).

<3
Melissa

Friday, September 13, 2013

Cruisin'

Well guys, I am happy to report that I managed to go on a tropical weekend getaway, without getting sunburned or tan! It still feels weird to be happy about not getting a tan, but I was really proud of that. I wore my hats and sunscreen and tried to sit in the shade when I could, and it worked.  I had a great time with my friends, from the time we got into the truck to leave town Friday morning, til the time we got back home on Monday afternoon, it was a blast. Full of laughs, no drama, just a ton of fun. And everyone on that ship knew who we were, partially thanks to the awesome hats we wore:

Our shirts said "Catalina Wine Mixer" because we were 
talking about the movie Stepbrothers and thought
it would be hilarious.....and it was :)

We went to Nassau, Bahamas on Saturday, and Cococay on Sunday, which is a private island owned by the cruise line. In Nassau we just walked down to Senor Frogs for the afternoon, and in Cococay a couple of the girls stayed on the boat while the rest of us hung out on the white sandy beaches:


I also wanna let y'all (all 5 of you who read this.....) know about the lip sunscreen I've discovered. I've always been crazy about making sure I had sunscreen on my lips, because I've always gotten fever blisters if my face/lips get much sun at all. A couple of years ago, my mom got me some Supergoop products. I really don't care for their face sunscreen, I love my Neutrogena, but I LOVE their SPF30 lip balm. Every SPF chapstick I've ever tried has left a weird taste in my mouth (which doesn't go well with tropical drinks!), but Supergoop doesn't. I was a little leery at first because it's kind of shiny and I feel like that will attract sun, but I've been using it all summer and no burned lips or fever blisters! Check it out, and remember, you need sunscreen even in winter!

 And last, but definitely not least, when I got home, I got to meet the newest member of my "family" (not family by blood or marriage, but by choice)! I would like to introduce you guys to Vivian Ann:

Aunt Mel had just come from Spin class :)

This precious little girl was born as I was shipping out to sea, but luckily I got to see some pics and video before I had to turn off my phone. It's impossible not to instantly fall in love with her, and mommy and baby are both very happy and healthy!

Well that's all my news for now, I'm currently at Mayo for blood work but don't expect to hear anything but how great my blood is, as always :)


Thursday, August 29, 2013

Update on the Von St. James Family

Well this is a little embarrassing, but I just remembered that Cameron Von St. James from this post sent me a link to a video that his wife Heather did.....over 3 months ago. Sorry Cameron and Heather for taking so long, but here's the link to the video!!

Heather's Video

(I can't embed videos, for whatever reason. Sorry!)

I follow Heather on Facebook and love her positive attitude (and cool hair and tattoos!). Check out her video :)

Btw......I leave for my cruise tomorrow, and my best friend is having her baby tomorrow too! Exciting weekend ahead!