Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Thank you to the Best MelaPals a Girl Could Have!

I absolutely have the best melapals ever!!  They are a talented, amazing group of people.  They are strong and willing to share an encouraging word, or say a prayer when you are in need.  Cyber hugs too!  No questions asked.  They are kind and caring and are more supportive than some of my own friends.  They are also doing amazing things!  I would like to thank a few and give a little introduction to those that don't know them!

Firecrackers come in small packages! I am talking about Susan, who I had the pleasure of meeting a couple of months ago.  She is known as "Mama Bear" in our melanoma community.  She has a way of getting the job done!  She is a mother of 4.  Her daughter, Jillian is fighting stage 4 melanoma.  She started Jilly's Jems, a non-profit organization dedicated to heighten awareness of Melanoma.  She makes beautiful prayer beads, key chains, cell phone charms and bracelets.  All proceeds go for melanoma awareness.  A portion will go to a local soccer club in Jillian's name to fund a child who otherwise may not have had the opportunity to play. This is a way for Jillian to give back to the sport she loves and coaches.  The rest of the proceeds go for melanoma research. Not only does Susan make all these beautiful items, she also is the driving force behind the recent billboards that were erected all over Michigan, where she lives.  She also contacted many news stations in effort to bring more awareness and here is the TV interview  that she did.  She has other projects in the works currently and I am proud to help her in one of them.  We are bringing faces to melanoma, which is something she has envisioned making into a video.  She writes a blog, "Jillian's Journey with Melanoma- A Mother's Story".   She is a really great mother and she is also a dear friend.  I want to thank you for giving so much of yourself to fighting melanoma and for being such a constant support for all of us. I love that you are not far away from me and I love the love you have for your family. Thank you!

Another friend I have met on this journey is, Kerry.  She is owner of Kspin Designs, which is a children's clothing boutique.  Kerry was a model and was diagnosed with melanoma.  In addition she has a non-profit Melanoma and Skin Cancer awareness organization called www.PrettyPale.Org.
Kerry works tirelessly to raise awareness of melanoma.  She has done several TV and radio interview.  She promotes sun safety and embracing your natural skin. She has a long list of things she does for melanoma awareness, most recently she has started a group on Facebook called where she talks beauty with all things melanoma.  She has always made me feel like safe and that we are going to beat this stupid cancer.   She is very giving and is simply AMAZING!  I want to thank you, Kerry, for giving up your personal time to travel around and spread the word.  You are selfless and so strong.  I admire you for all that you do and all that I know you will do.  Thank you!

Next, I would like to introduce my friend, Chelsea.  She is a beautiful,young, spunky melanoma diva.  Diagnosed with Stage 3 melanoma in the prime of her life.  She is vocal about her dislike of all things melanoma, tanning and such.  She has done a lot for the cause like TV Interviews, and she has a wonderful blog called Adventures With My Enemy...Melanoma , which was one of the first blogs I came across when I was diagnosed.  She also writes for Every Day Health and is a very talented writer I might add!  She educates others with her story and wears her scars proudly.  She shares her fears openly.  She is a force to be reckoned with and I am glad to call her my friend.  Thank you Chelsea, for giving me the courage to let my voice be heard.  I am doing a couple of important projects for melanoma awareness and I am now comfortable in my own skin, scars and all.  I admire you! Thank you!

Carol is one for the first people I connected with after my diagnosis and she helped me through a lot of rough times during my surgery and recovery with prayers and words of comfort and strength.  She always seems to find the right words to say at the right time.  She has a wonderful blog, Attitude of Gratitude, and a Facebook page, Melanoma Prayer Center.  She has been known to throw a little "attirude" around and makes us feel comfortable to do the same.  She is a source of comfort and a voice of reason with an amazingly beautiful soul. She is also a pastor of a church and was diagnosed with Stage 3b melanoma.  She is just wonderful and I can't say enough good things about her!  Thank you Carol, for always being right there when I have needed comfort and strength.  I admire how you can juggle so many different things and your words stick with me and get me through the darkest times.  Thank you!

And finally, I want to introduce the first person that I "met" in cyberspace after my diagnosis.  Actually it is a mother/daughter team.  Andrea and Kayleen.  Andrea was diagnosed with stage 1 melanoma and her daughter, Kayleen started a website called  I chatted with Andrea about my upcoming surgery and she told me exactly what to expect.  She was great AND I found out she lives about 2 hours away from me!  Although, we haven't met in person yet, I am going to finally meet her this summer and hopefully Kayleen too!  They make a great team!  Thank you both for being there for me when I was so scared of what was unknown territory and for educating on the dangers of tanning and giving us warriors a place to share our stories with each other.   I appreciate your kindness and can't wait to meet you!

Those are just a few of the amazing people I have befriended on this Mela-road.  They make me so proud every day. I am honored and blessed to have them in my corner fighting this black beast.  Thank you ladies for all that you do!  There are so many more wonderful people doing so much for melanoma awareness, but I will have to tackle more at a later time! 

My Story for MRF

Melissa Collins

Read my story for the Melanoma Research Foundation
This foundation has a TON of great resources, personal stories, info and pretty much anything and everything you could possible need regarding melanoma!  Check it out! 

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Melanoma is So Much More Than "Skin Cancer"

 "People think that skin cancer is just cut off. Melanoma is soooooo much more than that. I don't refer to it as skin cancer. It is malignant melanoma. I am stage 2 and was told that they got it all, but the facts are that one loose cell can go to my organs and grow undetected because I am not eligible for scans. Not a fun fact to have it brutally excised from my skin down to my muscle and then sent on my way to live the rest of my life in fear. I don't know how to get people to understand."  Melissa Collins

Barbara Tarbox~ Face of Lung Cancer

A patient gave me this package from a Canadian cigarette pack.  The picture was very disturbing.  A young, 42 year old woman, bald, thin lying on a bed.  The picture was taken right before she died of lung cancer from smoking cigarettes.  I couldn't help thinking that I wish we had something like this for melanoma.  I think pictures speak a thousand words and evoke reality into something that we just can't grasp.  It is easy to do something that we have heard is bad for you by ignoring it. If we want to do something bad enough, we will.   I did for 20 years.  I always thought, "Not me."  "I will stop before anything bad happens to me." "I don't smoke that much."  I also did it with tanning.  Always had an excuse to do it even though I knew it probably wasn't healthy.  I think Canada has done a wonderful job of getting the point across that smoking is not glamorous.  It causes cancer and kills.  This woman wanted her picture to be on the packs of cigarettes to stop people from smoking.  To stop them from becoming like her.  I admire her so much for doing this.  Sure, people can purchase them and still ignore the picture, but it seems kinda hard too.  I hope most do not.  I am sure she hoped the same.  RIP Barbara Tarbox and thank you for getting an important message out there!  You are changing lives!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

UV Index Anywhere in the World

You can check the UV index anywhere in the world at this site.  It is pretty cool and easy too!

Feel free to share this link!  Thanks!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Melanoma Has Taught Me So Much

  My journey with melanoma has taught me so much.  This last year has been the toughest year of my whole life.  I have learned to forgive people and to tell them how I feel.  I don't tolerate things as well in some instances, and in others I tolerate them much more.  I live in the knowledge that melanoma can come back at any time and I plan not to let it ruin my life or dictate how I live it.  I have had people turn their backs on me.  I have learned a lot about others too.  The main thing I have learned is that life is short.  Whether we live 100 years or 4 years, life is short.  It goes by in an instant and it can end in an instant.  We are NOT promised time.  We are NOT given a warranty.  We are NOT invincible. 

I have also learned that I am very strong.  I am not invincible, but I can fight.  I have a voice.  I don't need people in my life that are not supportive.  I don't need negativity and I don't have time for those that are.  I cherish my life and I have made a lot of changes in my life.  I have done a TV interview, which I NEVER thought I could do since I was always so shy.  I have found my voice. 

I am going to spend this year doing three (hopefully!) cancer walks, two are AIM walks, which are walks for melanoma and one is for all cancers, which I will do with my family.  Cancer has touched my life several times.  I want a cure as so many of us do. 

My wonderful fiance, organized a fundraiser at his work to raise money for our AIM walks.  I am so touched and very proud of him for doing this.  He has been by my side through all of this journey as have my kids, parents, sister and nieces.  I am so fortunate to have my family and my friends in my life.  It is what keeps me going!

Four years ago yesterday, I quit smoking.  I have overcome many obstacles and I am sure there will be more.  Melanoma gave me the knowledge that I can overcome them.  I am strong and I am a fighter. 
And I have A LOT to live for.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Full TV Interview

Here is the full episode of Newsmaker that I was fortunate enough to be part of a couple of weeks ago for Melanoma Awareness month.   It includes an interview from me, and a lot of good info from a local dermatologist and also, stories from some young survivors.  The reporter's own grandfather died from melanoma 25 years ago on the day this interview was taped. It is something close to her heart and she did a great job! Please watch and share and DON'T TAN!!!
~  (It is the video labeled "One of the deadliest forms of skin cancer.")

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Link to My First Interview

I was fortunate enough to have had the opportunity to tell my story on ABC 12 WJRT Flint, Michigan on May 4,2012, for an episode of Newsmaker.  I sent the reporter, Leslie Toldo, a message and told her briefly my story and gave her links to my blog, but I really wanted to know if they were going to be doing any melanoma awareness shows since it is Melanoma Awareness Month.  She replied back quickly, and said they were going to start airing that very night and then she asked me, "How motivated are you?"  She asked me if I could be at the studio the next morning to tape.  She had someone lined up, that had canceled.  I was so shocked and excited!  Of course I had to do this!  I got the time off work approved and spent the night preparing myself for the next morning.  I wasn't as nervous as I thought I would be.  I was mostly afraid I would not get the important points I needed to get across.  I was afraid of forgetting them.  This was a HUGE opportunity, and I didn't want to blow it! 

The morning of the interview I wasn't nervous at all.  I was ready.  I was excited.  I had my "Let's Do This!"  attitude.  I got to the studio and met the young lady who was from the American Cancer Society who was also being interviewed.  We talked before the taping.  I always love to tell my story and it is always so nice when someone is genuinely listening and interested. 

The interview its self was a breeze.  Leslie Toldo is AMAZING!  She put me right at ease and she gave me time to adjust to being on the set.  She did a really great show and gave me quite a bit of time.  I was thrilled with it and would like to share my interview portion now.  The entire segment will be available later on their website at and is a definite MUST SEE!

It was an amazing experience and I think this could be the start of something for me.  I want to continue spreading awareness.  I would like to say Thank you Leslie for a wonderful opportunity and for such a great, informative show.  It hopefully saved a lot of lives!  XOXO

Thursday, May 3, 2012

My First TV Interview

I contacted a local TV reporter who I was "friends" with on Facebook.  I sent her a message asking her to do a story on melanoma during May, since it is Melanoma Awareness month.  I told her a little of my story and gave her the link to this blog and my facebook page, "My Journey with Melanoma".  I received a quick response and she said that she was going to start covering melanoma on the news tonight and that she was going to be doing their weekly Newsmaker show on melanoma.  Then, she asked if I wanted to be at their studio in the morning since the scheduled quest canceled.  Ummm, YES!!!!!!  I wouldn't have ever imagined that I would be doing something like this!  I was always the shy, quiet girl.  I am NOT a public speaker, but amazingly (right now anyway!)  I am not nervous!  I am just excited!  I just hope that I can remember everything that I want to say! This is such a blessing.

I am not the only melanoma warrior out there spreading the word.  My friend, Kerry of has been a huge advocate for melanoma awareness.  She owns Kspin Designs, which is a children's clothing boutique.  She is a melanoma survivor.  She is amazing! This whole month, she will be out there giving away free samples, and spreading awareness about melanoma.  She does this tirelessly!  She is giving pale is beautiful knew meaning!  Hopefully, someday soon, we will accept our natural skin color. 

Another friend of mine, Chelsea, has been spreading melanoma awareness by blogging on Adventures With My Enemy...Melanoma, doing interviews on HLN with Dr. Drew and again today on HLN.  She is Stage 3 and was diagnosed very young with melanoma.  She is in a clinical trial and is a true inspiration! 

Susan, from Jilly's Jems, which is a non-profit organization for melanoma research, is a mother of a young daughter, Jillian, who is Stage 4.  She makes and sells beautiful bracelets and prayer beads.  She also is an advocate for melanoma awareness.  The proceeds from the sales of Jilly's Jems is split.  Part goes to Melanoma research and awareness and another part goes to a scolarship fund that was set up for a local soccer club in Jillian's name.  The beneficiary is a child who can not afford to enter the program and this allows that child to play.  She is a "Mama Bear" and I had the pleasure of meeting her in February at a melanoma benefit for another warrior Eric, Stage 4.  What a wonderful person! 

Reverend Carol, of Melanoma Prayer Center and Melanoma Grief Chapel, is a source of wonderful information, wonderful advice, and wonderful support!  She is just wonderful!  She also writes a blog Attitude of Gratitude.  She is one of the first people I connected with during this journey.  She is not only informative, she is smart and compassionate.  She is there for all of us warriors and she is one herself.  Stage 3b.

There are many more warriors and many more spreading awareness.  There are many who are fighting the battle of their lives.  They might not look sick.  They might not have hair.  They might be very depressed with their struggle.  There are many who have passed away after long battles with the beast.  Some passed soon after being diagnosed.  In the past year that I have been diagnosed, I have known of too many.  My goal by doing this TV interview is that with May being Prom season as well, and a lot of teens are tanning to look good in that prom dress.  I want to tell the dark side of tanning.  You may look great with that tan, but that tan will catch up to you someday, probably when you least expect it.  You can tell yourself all the things I told myself.  "It's just skin cancer", "They will just cut it off, no big deal". "I never burn, I don't have to worry."  ALL FALSE!!  I hope someday that there will be a cure for melanoma.  Right now there is not.

Please protect yourself and your children!  Wear sunscreen when you are outdoors and avoid peak times between 10 am and 4 pm.  Reapply sunscreen every 2 hours.  You should also wear sunglasses, as melanoma can attack the eyes.

Some statistics of melanoma:

         Tanning in a tanning bed just once, increases your chance of melanoma by 75%.

         Melanoma is the fastest growing cancer and the most common cancer in 20-29 year olds.

         If caught in the earliest stages, melanoma is entirely treatable with a survival rate of nearly         100%. If untreated and allowed to spread, there is no known treatment or cure.

         One bad burn in child hood increases your risk of melanoma.

         One person every hour dies from melanoma.

         Bob Marley died of melanoma, that started in his toe.  He was 36 years old.

DON'T BECOME A STATISTIC!  I will go tomorrow and speak for those that aren't here with us any longer.  I will speak for those that can't.  I speak for all of us affected by this horrible cancer.  I speak for the Samantha's, the Miranda's, the Eric's, the Keri's, the Kitty's and for all the melanoma warrior angels that have battled with such strength and grace.  I speak for the Briana's, the Eric's, the Jillian's, the Grace's and the Steve's that are battling to live.  I speak for all the caregiver's, parents, siblings, friends, spouses and children that are touched by this.  I speak, and you can too!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

May~ Melanoma Awareness Month

    It is May!  Melanoma Awareness Month!  I have been loving all the posts from all my fellow warriors!  So much awareness going on!   Last year was the first year I knew that there was a month designated for Melanoma awareness.  I was recovering from my wide excision biopsy and sentinel node biopsy at the time.  I was waiting for results to find out what stage I was.  I was fearing the worst.  It was the darkest time of my whole life.  I was diagnosed as stage 2a and finally after over 2 weeks of waiting, I found out I remained stage 2a.  Thank God!

I was not able to participate in any of the melanoma or cancer walks until October last year.  6 months after my surgery and it wasn't easy since my surgery was on my leg.  But, it was amazing to be a part of it.  I got really emotional seeing all the people supporting us.  Ours is one of the least talked about cancers, and unfortunately, one of the least funded too.

But, that is about to change!  It HAS changed in the last year!  We are a community that shares information, supports research, helps others, write blogs, write books, have facebook pages dedicated to melanoma, pass out flyers with melanoma info on them, and even talk at schools, do interviews, show pictures of their journeys and even confront people who tan.  We are strong warriors.  A group of people that I am so proud of and so happy to be a part of.

I myself have taken pictures of my entire journey.  The good, the bad and the ugly.  It is not always pleasant, but I felt that it needed to be done.  The first 6 months after my surgery, I was really offended by people not listening to me about tanning.  I would take it so personally.  I have learned that I can't make people change, but I can and will give them the info to do so.   I recently celebrated my 1 year cancerversary and what a great feeling that is.  I feel so blessed.  I know that I have been given more than melanoma.  I have been given the opportunity to share my story and spread awareness doing so.  I have been given the opportunity to possibly change lives because of what I have been through.  Knowing that, makes what I went through easier to accept.   I still have a purpose here and I will continue to spread awareness until the day I am not here anymore.

So in honor of all the melanoma warriors that are fighting, who have fought, the families, friends and caregivers and the newly diagnosed and re-diagnosed.  I will continue to fight the misconceptions of tanning, and keep sharing and spreading awareness of melanoma.  Until the day that there is no longer melanoma,(wouldn't that be great?!), I promise to share my story and share yours too, in the hopes of preventing it from happening to others.

Happy Melanoma Awareness Month!  Love your skin!  XOXO