Saturday, March 23, 2013


 I was asked to be part of an article on survivorship for Cure magazine.  Here is the link.

I didn't think of myself as a survivor, until I was asked to write a speech for the local Relay for Life event last year, as a survivor.  I questioned if I had the right to say I was a survivor.  I knew what I had been through was horrible and traumatic, life changing and still with me, but was I a survivor?   I hadn't survived a natural disaster, a tornado, a hurricane, a car crash,a shooting, or an assault.  I just had melanoma removed from my leg and I was told I was fine.  But, why did it feel like so much more?  Because, it was much more than a mole removal.  It changed me completely. 

 I thought about the word survivor.  I looked up the definition of survivor and found this.

"Survivor-  a person regarded as resilient or courageous enough to be able to overcome hardship, misfortune; a person who survives; to carry on despite hardships or trauma and persevere;  to live."

Then it hit me.  We are ALL survivors.  If you are not gone from this earth, you are a survivor. Anyone battling melanoma, no matter what stage, is a survivor.  I am a survivor, and YOU are a survivor.  A lot of people struggle to call themselves or even think or themselves as a survivor.  Some feel guilt for surviving when others have not. I didn't realize how many people must feel like this, until I did this interview.

 During the interview, I thought back to the Relay for Life.  I was proud to be part of the survivor walk.  The survivor laps were amazing.  It was so emotional.  I really allowed myself to be a survivor that day.   I imagine that a lot of those people have also struggled with the survivor tag.  If you think of yourself as a survivor, are you saying that you are free and clear of melanoma and can go about your life and just forget it?  Are you jinxing yourself that you will have a reoccurance, or that you won't ultimately survive because you walked around thinking you already survived?  It is very interesting that most of us are humble about it.  Just like not thinking of yourself as a warrior because your cancer is not as bad as someone else.

I was asked during the interview about the post I made regarding stage discrimination, A Stage By Any Other Name Is Still Melanoma.  The interviewer wanted to know if I felt that there were a lot of people that are higher stages that were non supportive of lower stages.  I said, "Absolutely not.  I have never encountered anyone that has ever tried to make me feel like I was not as much of a warrior or survivor as them, because I am stage 1 versus stage 4, until that happened.  Everyone is so supportive,compassionate and caring towards one another.  I don't know what I would do without my online buddies.  I reached out in the very beginning of my melanoma journey and I have made a lot of good friends that have helped me tremendously and selfishly.  We are like a family."

That is true.  I honestly don't know what I would have done without the support and love from all of my online melapals.

So, do you feel you are a survivor?  Do you feel guilty for being a survivor, or have trouble calling yourself a survivor?  

I have one friend, every time I ask how he is doing, he replies, "Surviving."  Maybe we need to do more than just survive.  Maybe we need to make sure we are really living our lives.  Let's not just survive, let's remember that life is a gift and we should not take it for granted. 

Get out there and LIVE.  Life is not promised.  It can be gone tomorrow.  Carpe Diem~Seize the Day!!

Friday, March 22, 2013

Melanoma, Melanoma, Mela-freakin-noma!

There are days that I call "Melanoma Days".  Those days could be good days, or bad days, depending on the type of "Melanoma Day" it is.  A "Melanoma Day" is what I call a day where everything draws me back to melanoma.   I have them sometimes and when I do, I pay close attention.

Started as a normal day.  I was at work and I started seeing butterflies everywhere.  Not REAL, LIVE ones, but a patient brought us treats and they were in a package with butterflies all over them.  I had a patient who had butterflies on her shirt.  My friend Briana who passed away last month, was a butterfly lover and I felt she was telling me something.

My next patient, who was new to our office, had been diagnosed with melanoma years ago.  She was stage 2 and was NED for the last 6 years.  She and I chatted briefly.  I love meeting others who are like me. It's like an instant connection!  Makes me feel good that I am not alone, and also makes me realize that this cancer is REAL and BIG.  There are a lot of patients that have melanoma in the practice I work for.   It is nice to swap stories and to meet people who have been a survivor for years.

At lunch, I went to pick up my daughter to take her from school to work, and she started telling me about a friend that was tanning and how she told her that she was excited and scared to do it for the first time.  My daughter told her not to do it because it causes melanoma and death.  Her friend said it was okay because they were the "UV free tanning beds".  My daughter was very upset by this and asked me to find out what they were because she was really worried about her friend.  I went back to work with no time left to research this.  I felt like it was just a way for the tanning salon to get people to lay in their death beds. (I had a lot of friends look up stuff for me that day, and as I suspected, there is no such thing! Thanks everyone!)

Then, when I got home later that night, my sister texted me that my niece's friend, who was only 15, died from stage 4 melanoma.  Another awesome friend got her results back from a biopsy of a strange mole and it was melanoma. Again.  Which means surgery, again.  And she was taken out of the trial she was participating in.  Damn.

As I put my phone down, a picture of my friend Briana was there and her beautiful face and huge smile were beaming at me.  I lost it.


Sometimes, it would be really nice to not have these kinds of days.  That isn't going to happen.  I miss my friend EVERYDAY.  I encounter something related to melanoma EVERYDAY.  How in the world did my life feel like before melanoma?  I can't even remember anymore.  I think that the more I try to ignore melanoma, the more it is there.

When I was first diagnosed almost 2 years ago, I was scared out of my mind.  I reached out online and started sharing my story.  I started healing.  I didn't realize how much of a part of my life melanoma was to become.  It is a huge part of my life.  I have learned to live with it, to respect the sun, to treat my body with much more love and care.  I have become healthier.  I have become more intune with myself.  I have become a lot stronger and I have become a lot more focused on my life and where I want it to go.

I am kind of hoping that tomorrow is not so much of a melanoma day, because I have a lot to do.  But if it is, I hope it is a good news melanoma day!

Saturday, March 2, 2013

How Do YOU Spread Awareness? The Stand Up To Melanoma Challenge

I am SO proud of my fiance, Kevin (for so many reasons), but today I am proud of him for speaking out against tanning!  Yesterday, he was interviewing a lady for a potential job and there was a gap on her resume.  He asked her about it and she said she had owned her own tanning business, but that it was closed now.  His reply..."Good, I am glad it's closed."  She wasn't really expecting that and wasn't really happy about the comment, but he stood his ground.

The lady tried to defend tanning and  "educate" him on the good things about tanning.  He told her to STOP, then proceeded to educate HER on the dangers of tanning.  He said he got really upset and thought about what I have gone through and what my friends have gone though. He has been through it all with me.  He has been helpless to help me with the fear and turmoil that I have gone through since I was diagnosed with melanoma.  He told her why he was glad calmly, sternly, and with raw emotion.  She didn't have any ground to stand on, even though she threw out the Vitamin D and seasonal effective disorder (SAD) cards. He still didn't back down.  It made him feel good to say what he did, to stand his ground.  He probably didn't realize how much info he has picked up just from me.  He has been a huge support through out my entire journey with melanoma.  He is on the other side of it.  He is going through it, but doesn't physically have it.  He has his own emotions and experiences with it.  It has changed him to. 

He proceeded to complete the interview like the professional he is. He didn't end up hiring her (for other reasons), but said he was glad he spoke up too, even though the person that was with interviewing with him wasn't happy that he spoke up SO much!

Can you say PROUD? It was the best gift I could have received.  Better than flowers, better than candy or dinner, better than anything!  He stood up and defended me and all my friends and our cause. I have to say that I love it when I hear about my friends, and family, stand up and educate!  My 17 year old daughter, my sister, my young nieces, and my friends have also heard me and have shared the awareness too. They get it.  They care.  And it validates what I feel.  It gives my journey and fight more purpose.  It makes me feel that I am NOT alone.  There are so many people that think I am weird for not loving the sun and for speaking out against tanning.  They think a tan means you're healthy.  They think skin cancer is JUST a simple spot removal.  They look at me funny because I am anti-tan.  They just don't get it. They are afraid to be too pale. Why are people so afraid of being pale?   I have to say that for the most part, we are seeing a lot more celebrities rocking their natural skin tones, which is awesome!  The Oscars had the most beautiful actresses rocking their own skin tones.  They looked very healthy and had a glow too and it wasn't orange!  I hope it spreads.  I hope that people start to realize how silly they look with a sunburn or a bad spray tan.  Maybe someday soon, people will mark the change from tan is cool to pale is beautiful by saying, "Anne Hathaway showed up to the Oscars pale and people thought it was beautiful and stopped tanning.", the way they do about Coco Chanel showing up tan after vacation and then everyone wanted a tan as the start of the tanning craze. I am so sick of hearing about Coco Chanel...

For the record, I am glad that lady's salon closed too. I would love to see them ALL close.  I realize those people are trying to make a living, but I don't agree with how they are doing it. It is really hard to convince people to stop doing something that they want to do like smoking, drinking, or tanning.  But, we need to keep trying. I haven't always had the guts to tell someone to their face that they need to stop tanning.  Mostly because I don't want to be the lady that everyone stays away from, that is a party pooper.  You know a busy-body?  Not what I want to be know for,but I would not mind being know for fighting melanoma.  I do think that if my Kevin can stand up and say what he feels,  I can too. I am sure that lady was shocked to hear him say what he did about her former business, (in a job interview!) but we need to let people know how we feel and not keep quiet.  We need to keep fighting melanoma.  I told Kevin how proud I was of him and I told him I know that Briana was proud of him too.  (And probably laughing because he had the guts to say what he did!)

So, in honor of my wonderful man,  I have created the Stand Up To Melanoma Challenge.  I challenge you to stand up and educate someone, even though you may not normally speak up.  I am challenging you to do something to educate, make a video, write your state reps, talk to a school, make a poster, talk to a teen that is obviously tan, or tell someone they have a funny mole on their back.  SPEAK UP.  The chances that they listen to you are going up with all the new cases of melanoma every day.  The chances that they may know or end up knowing someone that has melanoma, and hopefully with your educating it won't be them.  Maybe you will be that one person that changes their life.

I will be accepting this challenge too.  I will not be so quiet about it in public as I have been.  I don't want any of you to do anything rude, or dangerous.  We will get our point across much better by remaining calm and cool, stating facts and if they don't want to hear it, move on.  They will be more responsive if you aren't in their face yelling.  I know we are all passionate about raising awareness and everything and we all have a lot of emotions running crazy, but let's do it the right way, even if someone makes you angry.  Just know that you have planted a seed.  They will think about it when they lay out or use a tanning bed.  We WILL change the world's way of thinking someday.  In the meantime, it will take a lot of work.  We can do it.  I am doing it for my family and for my friends and myself.  I am doing it for YOU.

I would love to hear your stories of educating!  Please share them with me at or if you follow me on Facebook at My Journey with Melanoma and look under NOTES and add your story in a comment.  

If anyone needs statistics to share when educating, go to either the Melanoma Research Foundation or Aim at Melanoma.  There is a lot of good information on these sites.

I would like to say a special thank you to Kevin for always being my support and my best friend through all of this.  You did something so amazing and I love you so much for it!  Thank you XOXOI would also like to dedicate this challenge to all of the caregivers out there that would also like their voices to be heard!

Happy Educating!  Go spread the lotion and save some lives!