Friday, May 31, 2013

End of Melanoma Month

Today is the last day of melanoma month, and at some point I'll recap the facts etc that I shared throughout the month on Facebook. 

I'm at Mayo Clinic for a routine blood work checkup and I'm just reminded once again of how very blessed I am. First of all, the guy who drew blood is a pro! I've gotten used to being stuck, but I didn't even feel it this time! I have to wait a couple hours after having blood drawn before I see the NP Gena (who I adore!!), and usually I make myself comfortable in a recliner in the quiet section of the oncology waiting room. There are so many people in here that are so sick and obviously going through serious treatment and I am so fortunate to feel so good! A volunteer usually comes around to see if anyone needs pillows or blankets (Mayo is awesome) and it's pretty chilly and I'm dressed for summer so I asked for a blanket today. She commented on how much she loved my nail polish (Tiffany blue, thanks to my friend Melanie for giving it to me!) and covered me with the blanket and we talked for a few minutes and she left. It was nothing major but she was just so sweet and I love these random encounters I have with people here, I have at least one nice conversation with a stranger every time I'm here, no lie. 

Mayo Clinic shared another video by my oncologist! Here's the link: (for whatever reason, I can't embed videos in the blog). This one is about new melanoma therapies, one of which I am getting through a clinical trial. 

As melanoma month ends, I am reminded that melanoma awareness never ends for me and so many others. I encourage you to protect your skin, and go get it checked every year. I know it doesn't seem like a big deal to most people, but every day I read a story of someone going through difficult treatments, worrying about insurance claims and bills, or running out of options and planning for hospice. The caregivers and loved ones are heartbroken and it reminds me that our choices don't just affect us. So slather on the SPF and visit your dermatologist! 

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Overview of Melanoma

Mayo Clinic shared a video on Facebook today by my oncologist, Dr. Joseph! It's pretty basic but informative about the stages of melanoma. Here's a link to the video:

The 4 Stages of Melanoma

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: I am SO thankful to be able to go to Mayo Clinic! Dr J, my clinical trial nurse Ann, and my NP Gena are all so wonderful and caring and supportive. I couldn't ask for a better medical team, and I am so lucky to have them 30 minutes away. So many people have to travel to get to a good cancer center and I'm glad that's one less thing I have to worry about! 

Have a great week, and don't forget to protect your skin, and watch those freckles and moles for changes - and if you see any, get to the dermatologist stat! :)

Friday, May 24, 2013

Don't Fry Day!

Well, so much for blogging more often for Melanoma Month right? I've gotten a little lazy with my posts on Facebook as well, it's hard to remember to post every day! 

Today, the Friday before Memorial Day, is designated "No Fry Day"by the National Council on Skin Cancer Prevention. For most of us, Memorial Weekend is the official beginning of summer and many of us spend a lot of it in the sun, ending up sunburned. You know the rules: use sunscreen (and reapply every 2 hours!) and/or UV protective clothing, try to sit in the shade when you can, and be extra careful when around water, sand and snow - hopefully none of you are in snow, but with the crazy weather lately, who knows?? Just remember that tans and burns are damage to your skin, and you could pay dearly for that damage later on. 

Also remember this weekend that it's not about the beginning of summer, or a 3 day weekend, it's about honoring those who have lost their lives fighting for our country. It's hard to know what to say about that because I cannot even begin to imagine sacrificing my life - my literal "life", or my life as I know it, where I have A/C in the house and work for 8 hours then go home, where I can see my friends and family pretty much anytime I want, where I can hop in my Jeep and go grab a hamburger and fries whenever I'm hungry - all these things that I take for granted, a soldier and his or her family are going without. All I really know is, these men and women work way too hard for way too little compensation! They give up their time and talents and families and are willing to give up their lives if necessary, and they all deserve our respect and admiration. 

So have a happy and safe (and sunburn free!) Memorial Day Weekend, and be thankful for those who sacrifice for our freedom! 

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Melanoma Month - Week 1

We're one week into Skin Cancer Awareness Month, which I have just renamed "Melanoma Month"! Every day on Facebook and sometimes Instagram, I've been posting facts about skin cancer and melanoma. I'm already wondering if people are tired of it, but then I remember that if I can read people's drama, complaints, boring details of their day, not to mention all the selfies and duck face pics, they can read my skin cancer facts - at least these could be life saving!

In case you missed it, here are my first 7 days of tips/facts about skin cancer/melanoma:

Day 1 - Melanoma can start anywhere, not just on your skin, and not just skin that sees the sun! It can start under your fingernails, in your eyes, in your mouth, and other orifices - there are melanoma survivors who never found their primary site. So in addition to checking your skin for suspicious moles, check fingernails for spots that don't grow with the nail, check the whites of your eyes for spots, and ask your dentist, optometrist, and OB/GYN to check for moles/spots etc. during your routine checkups.  

Day 2 - Darker skinned people can also get skin cancer, Bob Marley being the most famous example. It most often occurs on non exposed skin, under fingernails, or in mucous membranes. So check those areas and visit your dermatologist even if you are not pale and covered in freckles and moles!

*Bonus for Day 2 - I was at the hair salon and thought I'd remind everyone to have their hair stylist check for moles or spots on their scalp. My first dermatologist said that it's easier to check when they're washing your hair than having someone check your scalp when your hair is dry. 

Day 3 - There are many risk factors for melanoma and other skin cancers, and it's not just excessive tanning or burning. UV Radiation is a factor of course, but so is: 

Pale skin and/or light colored hair
Exposure to coal tar, pitch, creosote, arsenic compounds or radium
Family history of skin cancer
Multiple freckles/moles

Also, having one type of skin cancer (BCC, SCC, melanoma) can increase your risk for another type. (This information came from the American Cancer Society, through the Melanoma Prayer Center)

Day 4 - I shared another picture from the Melanoma Prayer Center showing how melanoma doesn't always look like a funky mole. It can look like a rash or burn - but it will grow instead of heal. I encourage you to Google pictures of what melanoma looks like, but probably not during lunch, because while a funky mole isn't that bad, advanced melanoma can be pretty horrific. 

I also shared that using tanning beds before the age of 35 increases your chances of melanoma by 75%!! That's especially scary because so many people tan, and when I was younger, it seems like all of my friends tanned in tanning beds at one time or another. This info is from I know that plenty of people will continue to tan, despite the risks, so if you do, PLEASE get your skin checked by a dermatologist twice a year, and remember that a sunburn from a tanning bed is no safer than a sunburn from the sun! 

If I had at least went to the dermatologist sooner, maybe I wouldn't be visiting Mayo Clinic every 3-6-12 weeks, getting scans, bloodwork, and drug infusions. Maybe I'd still be able to do pull ups and plyo push ups and my range of motion wouldn't be completely screwed up from lymph node removal and radiation therapy. Just sayin!

Day 5 - Melanoma is not an "old people" disease. Melanoma has seen a huge increase in teenagers 15-19. I've talked about Jillian Hayes many times, she passed away at 23 years old from this disease. That is far too young! I know teenagers (and in my case, people in their 30's) think nothing bad can ever happen to them, but it's not true. We can't prevent bad things from happening, but we can try, and melanoma can be preventable!

Day 6 - Melanoma is one of the 3 types of cancer that can be passed to a child during pregnancy. Can you imagine how difficult that must be for an expectant mother?? It's yet another reminder that what we do affects more than just ourselves. Visit Addison's Army to learn more about melanoma's youngest warrior. 

Day 7 - Getting sunburned can DOUBLE your chances of melanoma! One blistering burn at a young age, or 5 sunburns at any age doubles your risk. Who has never been sunburned?! Growing up in Florida, I think it's almost a requirement, it's definitely normal. But we need to change that. Wear sunscreen and/or UV protective clothing, and avoid the sun when possible between 10am - 4pm. Stop letting yourself get burned, and protect your kids in the sun!

So, that's week 1! Love the skin you're in!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Good News/Skin Cancer Awareness Month

I had my scans last Thursday and Friday, and once again, I'm all clear! I had a lot less "scanxiety" this time, I just knew that everything was fine and I didn't stress. I had my 5th treatment of ipi and so far, still no side effects. 

Today is May 1st, and it marks the first day of Skin Cancer Awareness Month. A lot of those affected by melanoma prefer to think of it as Melanoma Awareness Month, and I kind of do too, but although melanoma is the worst, all types of skin cancer can be bad! At the very least, skin cancers require an excision, and depending on the depth and where it's located, this can be disfiguring, and of course, at its worst, skin cancer can cause death. In between, there's multiple surgeries, biopsies, radiation and drug treatment, etc. 

During the month of May, I'm going to try to post more often about different types of skin cancer and things about melanoma. I think it's great timing since it's the start of bathing suit season and I've already cringed at seeing posts on Facebook about being sunburned - and cringed at my own sunburn after being outside without enough sunscreen! So let's take care of our skin and ourselves this year!