Wednesday, December 24, 2014

2014 comes to a close

As 2014 comes to a close in just a week, I reflect on this past year with so much gratitude for all the blessings I have been given!  I don't know what I did to deserve them, but God has certainly blessed my life beyond belief.
I am especially grateful to be here with my boys still.  I recall a time when I wondered if I didn't make it, if they would even remember me.  Every year that goes by, I feel blessed to have another year with them.  More memories, more life experiences, more growth, more TIME.
I am ever hopeful that 2015 will be a great year too!!
Merry Christmas!!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Share the Gift

Our Lord, Jesus Christ is the reason for the season!  I am so grateful for his birth, his life, his life, and most importantly, his sacrifice for us to live with Him again someday.  I know that he loves us and knows us individually and only wants us to have true happiness.  To me, true happiness is living a life that would make Jesus Christ proud of, serving and helping others, keeping the commandments, and loving one another.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

No coicidences

Just in the last 2 weeks, I have had 3 different people reach out to me that read my article in Cancer Today, then found my blog, and contacted me.  All 3 were people dealing with Stage 4 melanoma, like myself.  All 3 were in the trenches of the disease, still dealing with the shock and devastation that comes from that kind of diagnosis.  All 3 were also clinging to some kind of hope that there were survivors out there.
It's times like those that make me extremely grateful that I have been willing to share my story with the public. Every time I have done just that, I have done it with the sole goal of reaching others that, like me once, were reaching for a glimmer of hope in all of this.  Sometimes it's very hard to hear their stories and not feel guilty that I'm still here.  It's also hard because hearing their experiences gives me anxiety of the harsh reality of this disease.  And that is, that unfortunately, most people don't make it past a couple of years.
The 3 people that reached out to me, I was able to either email or talk with, and it was a very humbling experience.  I am so grateful that God has used me as a tool to help others in some way, and there have been numerous times where I have known that was my purpose here on Earth, and why I was still here.  There are no coincidences.

Friday, November 28, 2014


Every once in awhile, I have these nightmares of the cancer returning.  I wake up, usually in a cold sweat, heart pumping, unable to breathe.  I quickly snap out of it and realize it's all a dream, but sometimes it feels so real I'm not sure it was a nightmare or not.
You would think that nearly 5 years out of this, I wouldn't have these kinds of nightmares anymore.  But the truth is, they are and probably will always be my subconscious thoughts and fear of this disease taking over my body again.  I realize that it's probably normal to have these kinds of thoughts still, but they still haunt me and cause anxiety.
To be completely honest, part of me feels like I'm not "done" yet with this disease, that it will come back.  Does that mean it will take my life?  I don't know, but sometimes I feel like my gut is telling me that it will return.  But then again, maybe that's just my way of preparing for the worst (that's the realist in me).
It's a fine line of balancing both worlds, I've decided.  I think I've gotten pretty good at it, but it's still hard.  On one hand, I try to live my life as normally as I can, taking good care of myself, living in the moment and not worrying about the future and the unknown so much.  On the other hand though, I see so many people around me that are falling victim to this disease and that scares the beejeezes out of me.  Am I just a waiting duck?  Or by some miraculous reason, am I cured forever?
I try to have faith in God's will and purpose for me, and sometimes, that's the only thing I have to stick to.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Seize the day

I think if my life could have a motto, this would be it.  I have always tried to live life to the fullest, but ever since my cancer diagnosis, this motto takes on a whole new meaning.
To me, seizing the day doesn't necessarily mean doing fun, adventurous, grand things everyday. I think it means enjoying the small things in life, the moments that make you stop and express gratitude for this life you live.  Seizing the day is making the most of your life, even during dark times and I believe that we can do that if we choose to focus on the good and not the bad.
The other day it was freezing cold (like 0 degrees, which is freezing for November) and I was picking up the kids from school.  On our way home, we saw a bunch of kids having a snowball fight on the side of the road in our neighborhood.  They were having a great time, despite the freezing temperatures.  My kids urged me to pull over so they could join in on the fun.  Normally, I would've said no (despite the cold weather, didn't we have homework to do?), but this time, I said ok, and so we pulled over and got out of the car.  Before we knew it, we were in the thick of a snowball fight and all of a sudden, it didn't seem cold anymore!  We were only outside for 10-15 minutes maybe, but after we were done, I noticed the happy, flushed faces on my kids (and my own!), and I knew that was a moment that we had chosen to seize the day.  It was such a small thing, and it wasn't grand, but it was a happy moment and one that made me very grateful for many things.
(Happy kids, happy mom.  Life is good.)
I've come to the conclusion that life should be made up of lots of the small moments...where we seize the day and enjoy this gift of life that we are given.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Peace and Love, Lisa Formato

A couple of years ago, I posted about an amazing woman, Lisa Formato who was fighting Stage 4 melanoma.  We even featured her story on our website because her story was not only inspiring, but also different than that "norm".  Lisa took an unconventional route for many years fighting the disease primarily holistically.  Her and I emailed back and forth many times about her methods and research for fighting the disease naturally, as I was fascinated to hear about her path of treatment.  She gave me lots of ideas and tips for my own fight, and although some of it was a little extreme for me, I always thought she was brave for choosing this path and giving it everything she had.  Lisa fought melanoma for almost 10 years, but recently passed away.  I was devastated to hear this news.
Lisa was such a fighter, a pillar of strength and hope to so many, myself included and even though I never met Lisa personally, I will always keep her in my memory and look up to her example of never giving up, all the while fighting with a smile on her face.  Rest in peace, sweet Lisa!

You can read Lisa's blog and story here.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Miracle for Kathy Taylor

There are many stories of melanoma warriors that have touched me through the years, some who have lived on well past their prognosis and are thriving, others that were taken too soon.  Each time I read these stories, I am always reminded of how blessed I am to still be here.

This story pricked my soul in a different way, on a deeper level.  This young mom of five (pictured above) was recently diagnosed with aggressive Stage 4 melanoma while she was pregnant.  She chose to forgo treatment at first, to give her baby a chance to live, but ultimately, became so sick from the cancer, that she was told she needed to deliver the baby early (at 26 weeks), so that she could start treatment to save her life.

Baby Luke was born and doing well for a preemie.  Kathy, on the other hand, was declining fast, and doctors at first thought she wouldn't live past the weekend following Luke's birth.  Kathy's liver was failing and doctors needed to do something fast.

Then the miracles started happening.  All of a sudden, Kathy's health took a turn for the better slowly but surely.  Kathy got to a point, where the doctors were able to stabilize her liver so she could begin treatment for melanoma.  After she was only given days to live, now all of a sudden, she was living weeks beyond this devastating news.  And not only that, she was given the ok to be released from the hospital so she could go home! (Under the care of doctors and healthcare providers, of course.)

The unfortunate news is that baby Luke didn't make it.  He passed away due to complications in his digestive system.  I can't even imagine how Kathy or her family feel.  But I'm also comforted to know that they feel peace and reassurance that they will be with their son again in heaven.

Please pray for this mother and wife, as she continues to astonish doctors with her progress, but needs our prayers and support all the while!

You can read the first news story here , the updated story here, or for the family's blog and updates, read here.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Social norms and melanoma

I read a very interesting article the other day about how social norms in our culture have influenced the spike in melanoma in the last 30 years.  If you think back to the turn of the century, for the most part, people covered up (in regards to clothing).  They also idolized porcelain skin, in which was also meant a "higher" class in society, while tan skin was usually found in people who worked outdoors in the fields and were "lower" class in society.
The article also points out that earliest evidence that UV exposure could lead to skin cancer was found in the early 20th century, but ignored by most people. As the years went on, from the 1940s to the 1960s, tan skin hit its stride, and bikinis and T-shirts were the clothes of choice. But incidences of melanoma went up 300% in men and 400% in women between the 1930s and 1960s.
And now the incidence rate of melanoma is an all-time high.  What's interesting to me is that awareness and education for the disease is also increasing, yet people seem to be ignoring the statistics and opting for the tanning beds, the long, unprotected exposure in the sun, and less clothing.
Can we change this?  Yes, we can, but it's going to take small groups of people to change and make an impact, before we see any real decrease in incidence and deaths from this melanoma.
You can read the full article here.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Now what?!


My kids started school this week and it's always bittersweet.  I love having them home for the summer, but I also look forward to the "routine" that school brings.  I will admit, starting school this year was more "bitter" than "sweet" because my baby went to first grade!  I have long dreaded this day and boy, was I a mess!!  It's a huge milestone to have all your kids in school all day!
Many moms look forward to this day and I'm hoping I will feel that way eventually, but for now, I'm mourning having my youngest in school all day and not to myself anymore.  Plus, kids seem to grow up so much when they go to school all day. :(
So, I've been thinking, now what?! Do I go back to work?  What do I with myself now that I have all this time while the kids are in school?  First things first though, it's not like I'm going to be BORED and have NOTHING to do.  There's always things to do--clean the house, grocery shop, pay bills, run errands, volunteer in the class, help friends, attend to my church responsibilities, the list goes on. Oh, and then there's always the non-profit responsibilities too.  So, it's not like I don't have plenty to do.  I guess I just feel like now is the time to be productive in the world again, help out with finances, and well, reinvent myself.
For now, I'm going to try to get used to being all by myself during the day, but stay tuned, I have a feeling that big changes are on the horizon!!

Friday, August 22, 2014

Hot off the press!

Another treatment was approved for metastatic melanoma!  This drug, otherwise known as Anti-PD1 is similar to Yervoy, in that it enhances your immune system to kill off the cancerous cells (to put it simply).  What's great about this treatment is it is showing better efficacy with less severe side effects.
You can read the complete article here.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

How the sun sees you

This is a very powerful message about the importance of sunscreen and how damaging the sun really is.  You will be blown away!!!

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Surgeon general issues skin cancer warning

This is great news!  The surgeon general speaks out about the epidemic that skin cancer is becoming across the U.S.  Here's a few quotes from the article:
"Until today, the surgeon general has never said, 'UV radiation is bad for you; protect your skin,' " acting Surgeon General Dr. Boris Lushniak said.
"We have to change the social norms about tanning," he said. "Tanned skin is damaged skin, and we need to shatter the myth that tanned skin is a sign of health."
"We know that the risk level for skin cancer decreases with more skin pigmentation," he said. "But no one is immune. All races are still diagnosed and still affected by UV rays."
To read the complete story, or watch the video click here.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

4 years!!!

I am happy to report that today I celebrate 4 years in remission!  Yesterday was my scans and doctor appointment (I met my new doctor, Dr. Kevin Kim), and am so happy and relieved to get the good news that scans were clear and I can come back in 6 months!
Keep fighting because the treatment that you need might be around the corner!  I have hope that there is something for everyone!  We will beat this monster!
Now off to some celebrating!!!

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Love these Sol-mates

We had our annual Sol Survivors family BBQ last week, what a great group of people we have among us!  We come from all walks of life, backgrounds, and stages of disease, but we all have one common bond--our experiences with melanoma.  I am so grateful that melanoma brought us together.  I thought I would highlight each Sol Survivor: (from left)
Lisa: Our mother hen.  She has such a warm, calming presence about her and is so nurturing and caring.  She is the first person to ask, "How can I help?" and always lends a hand even despite her busy life.  Lisa also provides the unique perspective of understanding a cancer patient's experiences and emotions, but also a caregiver's (her daughter battled Lymphoma a couple years ago).  Lisa is also my right hand woman and I don't know what I would do without her!
The Dunns (Kevin, Virginia, and Eric): This family not only lost their daughter, Amy, to melanoma, but Kevin has battled Stage 4 colon cancer this past year and is such a trooper!  Always so positive and supportive.  They are the picture of strength amidst major adversity.
Shaelyn (the little girl): Shae is our newest and youngest Sol Survivor.  She was diagnosed with Stage 3 melanoma a little over a year ago.  She was a total rock star throughout year long treatment and has a smile and contagious laugh.  When she walks in the door, her spirit lights up the room!
Janice (blond, next to me on the right): Janice is my other wing man! Janice is super organized and on top of things. When you ask her to do something, she gets it done.  She is also very sweet natured and loving, but what I love about Janice the most is she makes you feel at ease talking to her.  My first time meeting Janice, I felt like I had known her for years!  She is total best friend material. ;)
Christy: Christy is also somewhat new to the group.  She comes from Mountain Home, about an hour away from Boise.  She is a fighter!  She has been battling Stage 3 for a couple of years now, off and on, but continues to hold on and not give up hope!  Christy also seems super positive and that positivity rubs off on everyone around her!
Robin: I met Robin a few years ago in yoga class and I think in our conversation, we talked for an hour!  When I think of Robin, the first word that comes to my mind is WARRIOR.  She is a survivor, and not just melanoma, but a survivor of many things in her life.  She doesn't slow down, she is always willing to help others, and she lives life to the fullest!  Despite Robin's melanomas and frequent health scares, she never gives up or lets her hurdles get in the way of living life. She just does what she has to do and doesn't make excuses for it.  What I also love about Robin is her vulnerability.
Ruby:  Ruby is our "sunshine" of the group.  When Ruby is around, you can't help smiling and laughing.  Ruby also lights up the room and always has something nice to say about everyone.  She is a good supporter and cheerleader to everyone in the group and also very positive and proactive about her own health too!  I just love Ruby!
Courtney (not pictured):  From the very first meeting Courtney attended, she wanted to be involved with Sol Survivors.  She is also a "get it done" (or get it dunn) kind of girl.  She is on top of things and always willing to help and lend a hand.  I also love Courtney's sense of humor and wit.  She makes me laugh!

Friday, July 18, 2014

Happy to be alive

This picture is of me jumping off a rock into a river near where we live in Idaho.  I love it because it represents my love for life!!
 My main purpose and reason for living.  These 3 boys.  Love them with every part of my being!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Sad news

About a month ago, I received news that my doctor--my amazing, brilliant, caring, trust-worthy oncologist is retiring at the end of this month (after 38 years of practicing medicine). To say this news was devastating to me is an understatement. The last few weeks I have been reflecting on how blessed I was to have four years under his care. Not only did he save my life, but he played an integral part in helping me stay optimistic and hopeful for the future. From the start, Dr. Minor treated me as an individual and provided me with the BEST level of care. He has never once treated me as a number and given me a prognosis. 
It's going to be difficult to trust and love a doctor as much as I love Dr. Minor, but I'm hopeful that the doctor replacing him will be just as great. (He has big shoes to fill though!) My only wish is that I could've had one more visit with him to adequately thank him for all he has done for me. I just hope that I will be lucky enough to someday do that in person. 
P.S. The top photo represents me (along with Dr. Minor and his nurse) half way through my treatment in 2010 after we found out the "good news". I was puffy from the drugs, I had no eyelashes and I was beyond exhausted, but getting the news that the drugs were working was the best medicine I could receive. The bottom pic was taken at the MRF gala last year with two of Dr. Minor's other Stage 4 patients and survivors, and dear friends of mine!


Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Cancer Today

Several months ago I was approached by Cancer Today to be their cover story, (or read here) which is the survivor profile.  I was honored and humbled to be asked to share my story and experiences with cancer and said yes, in hopes to help others fighting the disease.  Over the course of a couple of months, I had many interviews and then a photo shoot where a professional photographer took our pictures.  Below are some of the best shots of our family. I especially love the shot of Carson and Tucker. It ended up being a great experience and the magazine article turned out nicely!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Take risks

I love this advice!  The older I get, the easier it is for me to take risks!  Sometimes making that leap of faith is hard, but usually it's worth it even if we fall because of what we learned about ourselves in the process.  Great wisdom!

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Third Annual Run for Dunn

The Third Annual Run for Dunn was a success! There were more than 300 participants, over 70 skin checks performed (lifesaving!), sunscreen samples and UV bands handed out, and lots of good ole' fun! All to honor Amy Dunn, who passed away from melanoma 2 1/2 years ago. What a legacy she left behind and what a great impact she made!





Friday, May 30, 2014

Top 10 Tips to Prevent Melanoma

With Melanoma awareness month here in full swing, I thought I would share my Top 10 list of things you can do not only to prevent melanoma, but help us increase awareness.  Here they go:


 10. Wear black this coming Monday, which is "Melanoma Monday" and post your picture on any social media outlet explaining that you are helping promote melanoma awareness. (Black is melanoma's "color" like pink is breast cancer's.)

9. Share our page on FB with your friends, so they can learn helpful and useful information about melanoma.

8. Learn more about melanoma, how it starts, how it spreads, and how to prevent it by going here:

 7. Join the Thunderclap movement and help spread worldwide attention for melanoma May 20th.

6. Tell at least 3 people about melanoma this month and how to prevent it!

5. If you live in the Boise area, sign up for the Run for Dunn, which is June 1st. The proceeds from the run help Sol Survivors.

 4. Say NO to tanning! This includes tanning beds and laying out to get a tan. Any kind of "color" to your skin albeit a sunburn or a tan is a sign of DNA damage in your skin cells, which can lead to skin cancer.

 3. Know the ABCDE's of melanoma--Asymmetry, Border, Color, Diameter, and Evolution and perform a self-skin check once a month. If you notice any moles that have any of these signs, see below! To learn more go here:

2. If you haven't been to the dermatologist in over a year, schedule an appointment to get your skin checked! This alone, could save your life. And schedule one for your spouse!

1. With summer coming up, the best thing you can do to promote awareness and prevent skin cancer including melanoma is to COVER UP. That means, wear your SPF 30 broad spectrum (preferably zinc oxide based) sunscreen and make sure to REAPPLY liberally every 2 hours, avoid long exposure in the sun, seek shade when possible, and lastly, wear protective clothing including hats and sunglasses! Prevention is key since almost all melanoma is entirely preventable!

Wednesday, May 28, 2014


After a long 9 months and a lot of work, we finally received the good news yesterday.  Our application for non-profit (501c) status was reviewed and APPROVED by the IRS!
We are so thrilled that it went through (the first time) and can't wait to get started as an official non-profit!  To learn more about our organization, Sol Survivors Melanoma Foundation, go here.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Celebrities with skin cancer

These are just a few celebrities that have been diagnosed with some form of skin cancer, many of them with melanoma.  And yes, in case you didn't know, Bob Marley died of melanoma!
The bottom line: It can and WILL happen to anyone if you aren't careful. Be smart!

Friday, May 23, 2014

Don't Fry Day

Did you know that today is National Don't Fry Day?!  Right in time for Memorial Day weekend and an important weekend to get out that sunscreen as you plan your outdoor activities!
And remember...

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

We've got some work to do...

In a recent article by the Huffington Post titled, "It's Time for the U.S. to Catch Up on Melanoma Prevention", I was astonished by how behind we are in the U.S. for educating the public on melanoma and how to prevent it.  Countries like Australia where melanoma is an epidemic, are getting it right.  Here are some note-worthy quotes from the article:
"This year Melanoma Monday (May 5) was one of the most successful ever in generating information and buzz around the important messages tied to melanoma prevention."
"Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays and the resulting cellular damage is a leading risk factor for developing melanoma -- and that risk factor is something we can control and reduce. The U.S. needs a comprehensive public health plan designed to reduce UV exposure and combat melanoma."
"While these state-level efforts to restrict access to tanning beds signal an increased public awareness of their dangers, the U.S. is still inexplicably behind countries like the U.K. and France, where nationwide under-18 indoor tanning bans are in place. Brazil has gone a step further and banned tanning beds for everyone, no matter their age."
"Catching melanoma early saves lives, but the U.S. does not have uniform melanoma and skin cancer screening guidelines. Unless people go out of their way to broach the subject with the family doctor or schedule a skin check with a dermatologist, it is unlikely that they will hear about the importance of skin checks."

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Know the Facts

Did you know???
Most melanomas are directly attributed to overexposure from UV light.

Did you know?

People with fair skin are at a higher risk of developing melanoma; yet it does not discriminate. Melanoma is less frequently diagnosed among African-Americans, Latinos, and Asians; however, when diagnosed in these populations it is more likely diagnosed at a later stage.
Did you know?
While it's important to prevent a sunburn before the age of 18, it's also important to protect your skin at all ages because most of your sun exposure occurs after the age of 18!  The moral of the story is it's never too late (or too early) to cover up and protect your skin!
 Lastly, did you know?

There is no such thing a safe tan, including a base tan.  Base tans don't add protection to your skin, they only increase harmful exposure to more UV radiation, thereby increasing your risk for skin cancer!


Thursday, May 15, 2014

Celebrating melanoma survivors

(From our Facebook page):  "With melanoma month now in full swing, we thought we would take a day to celebrate "melanoma survivorship". These are just a FEW "faces of melanoma". They are all fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, grandparents, uncles and aunts. All of these survivors have inspired us in their own way, taught us to be brave and to keep going, and most importantly, given us a greater purpose spreading the word and providing hope to others. These survivors represent YEARS of fighting and defeating this horrible disease. Some of these survivors have battled melanoma a number of times, some were lucky to catch it early, some were even told they had months to live, but are now living MANY years later. ALL of these incredible people and their stories give hope to thousands who are just beginning their fight with melanoma. And as know, HOPE is everything.

Today let's celebrate these incredible melanoma survivors and many more out there surviving, thriving and beating this disease!"
You want to know what's so cool about this?  Besides the fact that I know almost all of these melanoma survivors, 16 of the 32 faces you see are living and surviving STAGE 4!  Many have been in remission 5, 8, and even 12 years!  That's something to celebrate right there!  I loved putting together this collage and it makes so incredibly happy and humbled to do what I'm doing with Sol Survivors.

Monday, May 12, 2014

#getnaked to Save a Life!

Did that hashtag catch your attention? ;)  We love the new Melanoma Research Foundation's new ad campaign which promotes skin cancer awareness, specifically performing monthly skin checks.  Here are some tips on how to do skin checks and what to look for!
Also, if you don't know the ABCDE's of melanoma, go here to learn more.  And remember, E is the most important! The evolution of your mole(s) has become the most important factor to consider when it comes to diagnosing a melanoma.  Knowing what is normal for YOU could save your life.  If a mole has gone through recent changes in color and/or size, bring it to the attention of a dermatologist immediately.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Black Out Monday for Melanoma

Today for Melanoma Monday, I wear black for many melanoma survivors, warriors, and angels.  Many whom I personally know and call "friend".  I also wear black for myself to remind me of the journey I have been on the past 6 years with melanoma.  I have come a long way and am so grateful to be alive and healthy today.
Who do you wear black for today?