Friday, December 30, 2011

Obsession with nutrition

Ok, as most of you know, I am slightly obsessed with nutrition. If I went to college all over again, I would have majored in nutrition I think. It's not really a new obsession either. Because of my background as a Personal Trainer, I have always been surrounded and integrated with healthy people. And I love it. I THRIVE in that kind of environment. People that care about their health, care about what they put into their bodies--or even those that want to change their health for the better. It's why I went into fitness and health in the first place. If there is ONE thing that I have always been passionate about, it is that.

It trickles down at home kids and I are always having chats about health--what we eat, why we eat it, what's in it that's good or bad for us, and why it's important to eat healthy. I don't make it a daily topic of discussion, but I would say that my kids are more knowledgeable than the average American kid about health and nutrition. And they eat practically anything too. Spinach salads. Broccoli. Asparagus. Bell peppers. Tomatoes. All fruit. Fish. Quinoa. Brown rice. Whole-wheat bread and other whole grains. And they weren't naturally born that way either (well, at least my oldest child wasn't). We have just always tried to make it a point of introducing new foods to their palate in colorful ways, mixing it with things that they like, or eveb just in small "no thank you" serving sizes. The pay-off is that now I can cook pretty much anything, even new recipes (which right now is quite often) and they will eat it entirely. If there is any ONE thing that I have done right in parenting it is to take care of their bodies!

Lately though, my obsession with nutrition comes from a different place. A place of "I had cancer and now I want to make sure I keep my body healthy as to stay in remission!!" During my cancer treatments, I started reading up on different things and talking to "experts". Granted, I was always a pretty healthy eater to start. But once I was diagnosed, I wanted to do MORE. So, I bought a juicer and started juicing fresh vegetables and fruits everyday. This SAVED me while I was recovering in between treatments. Fresh juice was like an instant pick-me-up when I was feeling wiped out. It also helped keep my nutrients high and aided in detoxifying the chemicals out of my body.

I also got a Vita Mix, which is like a blender on steriods. A VERY powerful blender. You can do pretty much anything with a Vita Mix--but mostly I blend up green smoothies (leafy greens and fruits), soups, sauces, almond butter, and even grind up whole grains to make flour (like wheat or quinoa). It's an amazing machine and if you don't have one, I would highly recommend investing in one. You will NOT regret it. I feel it is truly the first step in eating healthier and eating more RAW WHOLE FOODS.

I could do a whole seperate blog on nutrition and healthy recipes, but I don't really have time for that right now. (I can hardly keep up with my 2 blogs as it is!) So, because many of my family, friends, and even strangers have asked about what I do and how I eat, I have decided to occasionally throw in my "two cents" (remember I'm not a Nutritionist or Dietician) on what I do, what I have found in my research to be quite compelling, and more importantly, stuff that JUST MAKES SENSE. Cancer, or no cancer, I think you will like I have to say.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Jesus is the Reason for the Season

Christmas is a special time of year for us. It's not without a certain amount of craziness though, I might add. I don't really enjoy Christmas shopping much, (although Amazon made it pretty easy this year) because it's always NUTS everywhere! Plus, it always seems like an extra busy month, and this year was no exception, especially since the kids and I flew to CA a little earlier (for my scans/treatment) and so I needed to squeeze everything in beforehand.

I love the actual day of Christmas though. For us, it's reflecting on why we celebrate this holiday in the first place--the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ--the greatest "gift" we could receive. It's also about being with those that matter most in our lives--our families--and cherishing that time together.

We are so blessed with much in our lives. When I reflect on my blessings, I am humbled to know that I really do have it ALL--I have the Savior's love for me and the knowledge that I can return to Him--and I have my family. All that love is really what makes me happiest in life and I certainly am not lacking in that department!

I hope that we can all take a look at ourselves and our lives, and see all the good in it. Last year was a much more different and challenging place for me and yet, I still was able to see how blessed I was. Whenever I am feeling down, discouraged, or even hopeless, I start making a list of the "bad" things in my life, but then follow it with a list of "good" things. The good ALWAYS outweighs the bad, and when I do that, I instantly snap out of my bad mood.

This upcoming year, I pray for good health for myself, for everyone out there struggling with their health, and of course much happiness! GOD BLESS AND MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Christmas wishes DO come true!

I am so very thankful that I received good results from my scans. It's always a relief when those are over! My doctor thinks that I am doing remarkably well, so well, that he even noticed that the palms of my hands were slightly orange, to which I replied, "Well, it must be all the carrots I juice!"

My doc is a great oncologist/physician, but an even greater man. He is so in tune with me, this disease, and where melanoma research and treatments are headed. What I love most is that despite the grim prognosis for Stage 4 Melanoma patients that he has dealt with for over 20 years, he always remains genuinely hopeful for each of his patients. And what's funny is that he never seems very surprised by how well I'm doing. I guess that's a good thing, right?!

I am also grateful that we can continue on this path of scans, check-ups, blood work, and maintenance treatment every 3 months. What a blessing that is compared to last year where I was traveling there every 3-4 weeks!

I feel so good for now--strong, healthy, and back to "normal". I know that the things that I can control like my healthy eating habits, exercise, managing stress, and getting adequate sleep are ALL helping me. Of course, I am never over-confident when it comes to this disease because I know that no one is immune to it, and even though I know that God is ultimately in control, I feel that I'm at least doing my best to take care of myself. It's a little overwhelming at times, but slowly I am working on establishing better habits and doing the things that I feel is right for ME.

It breaks my heart to see other melanoma warriors not doing so great...It really does because often I feel guilty that I am doing well and they are not. It is simply unfair. I just pray that those still in the fight don't give up, keep their heads held high, and their spirits even higher. There is always hope, there are always miracles that happen, and there is a plan for all of us.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011


Those 3 months sure creep up fast. Tomorrow is scan day, AGAIN! I always get so nervous about a week before scans because I know how quickly things can change in 3 months without even having SYMPTOMS of disease.

I pray that I can keep moving forward on this path, holding out a little while longer before this disease comes back. Sure, that might sound awfully pesimistic, but I know the reality of this disease. It almost always returns. The thing is that I know that I will just have to KEEP BEATING it. There is just no way around it. I WILL CONQUER IN THE END. I know if I can buy some time, get past even a year or two, there will be better treatments down the road.

Let's cross our fingers and toes for good scan results tomorrow!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Be like a Bee

"According to all known laws of aviation, there is no way a bee should be able to fly. It's wings are too small to get its fat little body off the ground. The bee, of course, flies anyway, because bees don't care what humans think is impossible." (Bee Movie)

We could all use a little more "bee" in us....

Tuesday, December 6, 2011


A good friend of mine sent me a link to this blog about this inspiring mother of FIVE who battled and SURVIVED Stage 4 cancer only to have her son battle cancer shortly after her own. Her story is remarkable and I wanted to share because it gives me great perspective when I read stories like this! When we think we have big trials, there is always someone who has even BIGGER trials. This great lady has great optimism, faith, courage, and the ability to see the silver linings in all things....

Here's an excerpt from her latest post:

"Being a survivor means that I can do hard things and that I can be strong. I have five children. The youngest was a year and a half old and the oldest was twelve when I was diagnosed. When you have children you learn to be strong -- for them. You learn to be happy in difficult circumstances. You learn to notice the beauty and the miracles in the everyday. You learn to keep going. When you have kids, and cancer, you don't give up.

During my cancer journey -- and my son's -- I was often surprised to find myself laughing...happy. Somehow, hope would overshadow my fear, if only for a moment. So, to others who have cancer, I say...hold your head up, keep moving forward and never, never, never lose hope.

When you hear that your child has cancer, your world stops for a moment. You realize that heartbreak is an actual physical feeling. You are afraid. When your child has cancer, you learn to dig deep and to be strong for another person. If you open yourself up and look past your fear, you will learn from your child.

I know I did.

Hutton taught me that every day is good, even when you feel terrible and you are afraid. He taught me not to dwell on the difficult times, but to move forward. He taught me to look for the fun in life and to laugh. Hutton taught me to slow down and watch as the beauty of our life unfolded.

Having a child with cancer means that you will watch your child suffer and that you will be afraid. But, it also means that you will see the greatness in your child... and be changed forever."

Reading this post brought tears to my eyes as I share much of the same sentiment about the lessons learned from battling cancer. Cancer has been a blessing in my life as well because it has taught me so many important life lessons...

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Pet peeves

I understand that people mean well. Well, MOST people. But I can't tell you how many TIMES I am surprised, NO SHOCKED, but some of things people say out of their mouths when I a share my story. Most of the time I take it with a grain of salt and don't let it rub me the wrong way, but there are always the occasion when I want to yell, "CENSOR YOURSELF FOR PETE'S SAKE!" Remember--you must filter your words sometimes. My life is in danger, you know.

Here are just a few of the comments that I have heard:

"It's just skin cancer. Don't they just remove it and you will be fine?"

This simple statement has the ability to run me wild. Melanoma is NOT JUST SKIN CANCER. people! People are often surprised to learn that melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer and is also one of the most difficult cancers to treat in late Stages. Just look up the statistics for Stage 4 Melanoma! AND yes, if caught early, melanoma can be "cut off of you", but you will just need to be followed closely by a dermatologist throughout the years and really you are never "safe". I was one of those people that caught it early as a Stage 1 and was told that most likely it would never return or metastasize! Well, it did!!! Melanoma is highly unpredictable and erratic. Need I remind you that your skin is your largest organ?

"But you don't even look sick?!"

Sometimes I think people would take my cancer more seriously if the treatments caused me to lose my hair. People associate cancer as a bald head with a scarf. I do not look like the typical cancer patient. Because I have my hair, people assume I am not that sick (or that I have cancer). You know what scares me most? I don't know what's going on inside of my body. I would much rather look like crap on the outside and know that these "miracle" drugs are healing me.

"Well at least it's not breast cancer!"

I am not trying to discredit breast cancer patients. Their own personal battles are no different than my own. Cancer is cancer. However, do not tell me that I should be thankful that I have melanoma instead of cancer like breast. Do you know what it feels like when your oncologist, a melanoma specialist, tells you that they just don't know the best way to treat melanoma? With many cancers, there are certain treatment plans that have been tested and have been proven to work time and time again. With many cancers, there are numerous years of extensive medical research. With melanoma, we are just now beginning to progress with research.

"I have a family history of skin cancer but I have never been to a dermatologist."

Family history is a huge indicator of what you will eventually have. Don't wait until it's too late.

"My cousin died from melanoma."

This is my absolute worst pet-peeve. I mean, c'mon people, I know that you're just trying to relate to me, but maybe you should filter yourself? Please, I am already scared. Instead, tell me something that will give me hope. Knowing that this cancer is not going away--ever--I need things that will inspire me.

"But I LOVE being tan!"

...I am pretty sure you love being alive too. Pick one.

And I repeat...

"It's just skin cancer."

"Melanoma - a word that changes your life forever.
To all the survivors you make us believe in miracles.
To all the beautiful angels you make us believe in love.
To all the amazing warriors you make us believe in hope.
We will never give in and will never give up. ♥"

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

To give thanks

Today, on Thanksgiving, I relflect on how much I have to be grateful for in my life. These are just a FEW things:

1. My terrific, supportive, and loving husband and best friend, Eric.

2. Two beautiful, healthy, bright, kind, and spirited boys who call me Mom.

3. An amazing family--on both sides. Eric and I really lucked out on that one! No in-law issues either!

4. A warm house with food on the table.

5. My strong body and mind.

6. GOD and his hand in my life everyday. Miracles do not cease and I am a witness of that!

6. His Son, Jesus Christ, the only one who knows exactly what we go through because he has experiened it. Which leads me to...

7. The Atonement. I am so grateful for the knowledge I have to know that I be forgiven of my sins and return and live in the presence of our Father and his Son again someday.

8. This great and bountious country we live in.

9. Much laughter.

10. Good friends who lift me and inspire me to be a better wife, mother, friend, and person. Each one of them has come into my life for a reason.

11. The scriptures.

12. Sunshine.

13. The beauty of the Earth, created by a loving Heavenly Father.

14. My testimony, beliefs, and hopes.

15. The opportunity to learn and grown in so many different facets of life--all of which improve my well being and spirit and add so much happiness to my life.

16. My AGE. I know that is weird, but cancer has taught me to embrace each birthday and to be grateful for that important milestone every year. Bring it on!

17. My health. A year ago I was in a completely different place, and I feel so blessed to be where I am now--healthy, strong, and feeliing better than ever.

18. My doctors and other healthcare professionals who have aided in my healing this year. This also includes my acupuncturist, hypnotherapist, and others who have all kept my best interests in heart and have given me the best tools that they could to get where I am.

19. Exercise. I can't imagine not doing it. It serves more purposes for my health than anything else in my life combined. And more recently, yoga, which has empowered me even more and has given me more "balance" in my life.

20. Last, but not least, my parents who have continually been one of the biggest sources of my strength throughout my life. Their encouragement, their faith, and their wisdom are invaluable and precious to me. Their examples are everything!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Joy X 2.

These two make me smile, laugh, and love life so much more! I am so grateful to be blessed with the opportunity to raise such terrific kids!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

November already??

Seriously, where does time go?

All I know is that I am so grateful for where I am at right now. Last year at this time, I was starting my last biochemo round and feeling...VERY WIPED OUT. I was lucky that I didn't drop a lot of weight (hardly any really), didn't lose my hair (it just thinned), and was able to bounce back to about 70% of feeling normal within a week of completing each round of treatment. BUT with that said, by the sixth round, I could tell that it was having an accumalitive affect on me...It was rough, but I got through it. And I didn't doubt that I wouldn't get through it. I just didn't see any other way around it.

So, here I am, a year later, in remission (but not completely NED yet). I have done 3 different treatments this year, and I believe that my doctor had a sound plan in place that led me to have the successful outcome that I had. AT LEAST FOR NOW. I am realistic about this disease. I know that there is no cure yet, and that for MOST, it comes back. But I am also optimistic and hopeful about the future. I can only pray that the cancer will hold off and buy me a little time for the next best thing. Maybe a year, or two even!

My kids keep me super busy between school, sports, homework, and church activities. It's a good thing because really, at the end of the day, I don't really have time to dwell on anything else that could be negative. Those boys keep me feeling ALIVE each day. What a blessing that is! I am also exercising a lot (of course) and eating as healthy as I can right now. There are things that I want to adopt in the future, but for now, I'm doing the best I can with the resources that I have. It's a step-by-step process for me.

And then there is the melanoma support group that we started, the Idaho Sol Survivors, which is kicking off to an amazing start. Already 6 of us! Everyone comes from different backgrounds, has different stories, and is at different stages with the disease. These women are some powerful women and I feel blessed to get to know them better. I truly believe that everyone comes into your life for a reason.

On a sad note, a couple of friends have passed or been diagnosed with cancer. One girl, Sarah Hays Shurtz, who I blogged about awhile back, passed from an unknown cancer. Doctors never determined her primary, and so she eventually surrendered to the disease. Miracously enough though, she lived more than a year longer than anyone anticipated. She was an incredibly courageous, happy, caring, optimistic woman and even though it is very sad for her husband and loved ones to lose her, I am also relieved that she is no longer in pain and living with our Heavenly Father. I know that he has a plan for her and that someday she will be reunited with her sweet family.

Our other friend's husband was just diagnosed with Stage 4 brain cancer. He is our age with 3 young children. The sad thing is that his mom passed away from this cancer only 3 years ago. BUT he has already seen good signs and miracles happen in his life, and I have faith that he will recover and beat this thing, and be here for a long, long time. My hearts go out to them during this time.

I am humbled everytime I read someone else's story of tragedy and/or triumph and grateful that I have those constant reminders in my life of how fragile and precious life is. We all need to remember those things more often, so we can enjoy life more fully, hold our loved ones closer, and not stress about things that really don't matter.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

C.S. Lewis

“Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of - throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.” ― C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

Monday, October 24, 2011

Lisa James

I met this woman, Lisa James, on the Melanoma International Forum recently. We connected and started emailing each other about nutritional habits, but after hearing and reading her story, I felt inspired to share. This woman has been through a lot with melanoma and was told she wouldn't make it 6 months after her Stage 4 diagnosis (with brain mets), but is still here a couple years later. She says that, "Cancer can't steal my hope or crush my spirit!" I love that! She is a true fighter, a courageous woman, mother, and wife, and I have no doubt that God will provide a way for her to be healed. Please keep keep her in your prayers as she gets ready to start a grueling treatment in Texas (TIL therapy) and if you would like to read her story or drop her a note, this is where to find her:

Sunday, October 16, 2011


Exactly one year ago, I had just completed the 1/2 way mark on my grueling biochemotherapy treatment. We had received good news too on the PET/CT scans that were performed prior, which were that 5 of the 6 nodules in my lungs were GONE. VANISHED. And the one remaining nodule was no longer active on the PET scan. It was the best possible news we could've asked for. Prayers were answered and once again, I was amazed by the miracle that had just occured.

I know that I couldn't have finished that treatment (or year, for that matter) without my family and friends. Besides my loving Heavenly Father, I give them full credit for helping me get through those treatments. Never in my life, had I experienced or felt so much love, prayers on my behalf, and felt so much peace in my life. It was truly a tender mercy and great blessing from God!

A year ago TODAY, our friends and family organized a fundraiser/fun run (the 2nd of 3!) in our behalf to help us pay for the medical bills and travel expenses that we were facing. I had the opportunity to attend that fundraiser and it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I wish I could've been at the other 2 races held in my behalf (I was recovering or in the hospital for both), but I am at least grateful that I was able to experience one of them, where I was surrounded by so much love from family, friends, and so many generous strangers. I needed that pick-me-up to motivate and encourage me to keep going and get through the remainder of my treatments.

Today I am so thankful to be in a good place. I don't know how long it will last, but I'm hoping to ride it out for as long as I can. The future is uncertain, that's for sure, and I have a long way to go before I am out of the woods, but I am optimistic and certain that no matter what happens or changes in the future, I will fight again and win the battle once more. For now, I will enjoy taking one day at a time and relish in the goodness of life....

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Yoga does a body good.

I have always had a love-hate relationship with yoga. I love it when I find a good instructor, when I break a sweat (only in Power Yoga or Ashtanga yoga), and when I leave feeling rejuvenating and invorgated. I hate it when I have a bad instructor (more times than not) and when I don't feel challenged enough.

Having cancer has made realize how important yoga is in my life. Not only for the mind-body connection, the breath, and the stress relief, but because my body genuinely NEEDS it. I am naturally a high-energy, high-intensity person on a mission. On a mission to torch the most amount of calories, break a good sweat, and feel my muscles and lungs burn. And the majority of my exericse reflects that--circuit strength training (high intensity), cycling, swimming, etc. Yoga, although it can be intense, is quite opposite of everything else I do. It gets me to really BE in my body. To be keenly aware of my body and my movements. It gives me the opportunity to really focus on my breath and stretch those tight muscles that I work doing my high-intensity exercise. More importantly, it allows me to release any stress or tension in my body and MIND. I think those are all powerful and invaluable motives for doing yoga, cancer or no cancer.

Recently, I have been taking classes 2-3 times/week at my local gym. I finally found a good instructor/class and I am loving it. I can tell such a difference in my balance, muscle recovery (from strength training), and flexibility. I leave feeling SO good. Someday I would love to get even more involved in yoga and possibly become an instructor. That is years down the road though when I have time to devote to something like that and I am a solid devotee/yogi.

In the meantime, NAMASTE! :)

Friday, October 7, 2011

Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs passed away from a long battle with pancreatic cancer this week. He was an inspiring, brilliant, and generous entrepeneur and human being. He left an amazing legacy and made a huge impact on the world. I love this quote!!!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Sigh of relief...

Today I had my 3 month scans and received good results. I will continue to be in stable remission. What a blessing and answer to our prayers. I think deep in my heart I knew it would be good news, but there's always a tiny part of me that doubts, or has to prepare for the worst.

I know from experience that it doesn't matter how good you feel, this beast called melanoma can always come back and bite you again. In fact, it often does in a sneaky, unpredictable manner. I know that my risk of recurrence is extremely high the next 3 years, especially this first year. BUT, I can't dwell on the "what ifs", and I just need to live my life as stress-free as I can (if that's even possible) and be grateful for where I am at 3 month increments.

Life is good to me right now. There are many days in a row that I don't even think of cancer. I don't feel like a "cancer patient", and I don't let my thoughts wonder there...Those days are such a tender mercy from God, to let me live my life to the fullest and enjoy being a mom and wife right now. What a blessing!

Thank you for your prayers, support, and love that you have shown me. I appreciate it more than you know and I wouldn't have made it to where I am today without them!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Idaho 'Sol Survivors'


A couple of other melanoma warriors/survivors in the Boise area and I are forming a melanoma support group, called the Idaho Sol Survivors. It is the first step in forming our foundation, that we felt needed to happen soon. With no real support here locally for melanoma patients and survivors (and their caregivers), as well as no melanoma specialists, we felt that there was a huge need. Plus, with the alarmingly growing rate of melanoma in Idaho and Boise (one of the fastest in the country), it seemed necessary to put this group together now.

We plan to meet every month and are working on getting the word out through various channels. Specifically with our doctors who diagnose and treat melanoma here like dermatologists and oncologists. They are probably the most critical to spreading the word and getting a good, solid group together here. Various topics we will discuss in our monthly meetings are treatment options (locally and nationally), doctors who specialize in those treatments, awareness/education, health and nutrition, caregiver support, the list goes on...

Our next step, once we have established a foundation (early next year) is to start promoting awareness in schools locally. We hope to be given the opportunity to talk to students (and their parents) about melanoma prevention and detection. In the future, we would like to conduct fundraisers in various forms to help raise money for different foundations that do research for melanoma treatments (like MRF), as well as help support patients that have limited resources to seek out the best care.

Friday, September 16, 2011


Ok, I'm going to get on my soap box for a minute or two here...The other day I was talking to a man at the gym (that knew about my struggle with cancer) and he told me that in his opinion, "95% of cancers could be avoided if people just paid attention to their nutrition and didn't eat crap!" So, what are you saying here Mister? That I got cancer because I ate badly? I think not! Sure, I don't eat perfectly, but I guarantee that I have always eaten better than the majority of the American population! On top of that, I have always been super healthy--no major sickness other than the occasional cold, never been overweight, always perfect blood pressure and cholesterol, etc.

You're probably wondering what I said to him? Well, first I told him that I didn't agree with his statement whole-heartedly. I informed him that I got my melanoma from all the sun exposure and damage that I had growing up as a lifeguard and such, laying out, and all the outdoor sports and activities that I engaged in. I then asked him, "So, you attribute poor nutrition being the cause of cancer in young babies that have only ingested breast milk?" Lets just say that after that, he didn't really have a good response... :)

Ok, so here's the thing--do I think that poor nutrition can eventually cause cancer? Of course I do! I think that the rise of cancer in our country--the epidemic we are facing--is largely due to lifestyle and environmental causes like poor nutrition, toxins in the air and water, stress, smoking, sedentary activity, etc. With that said though, there are a lot of other factors that influence our risk of cancer like genetics and our bodies are complex! But then again, cancer isn't a respector of persons. Lots of very healthy people get cancer all the time and many unhealthy people don't. Sometimes there is just no rhyme or reason.

The bottom line is that there are things we can do to HELP prevent cancer, but there is NO 100% guarantee that we won't get it either. Even if we ate perfectly, had perfect genes, and lived in a bubble, there is no way to predict with full certainty that we will get cancer or not. And anybody that thinks differently is ignorant in my opinion. We can't fear cancer though. We just have to live our lives the best we can, doing all that we can to prevent it (as well as other diseases), but most importantly trusting in God. And if we do get cancer, it doesn't mean our lives are going to end! Lots of people beat the odds and survive and I will be one of those!

And there you go. That is my soap box and I feel better now. ;)

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Viking Man

Well, I did it again. I kicked some major #$@ in my second race this year, called the Viking Man. It wasn't without it's set-backs though. I had a rough morning to start with not getting enough sleep the night before, then problems getting my wet suit to zip up, a timing chip that didn't work, a tough headwind to ride against on the bike, and lastly getting the wrong directions from a cop (who was directing traffic) which led me down the wrong course and added an extra 7 minutes onto my bike time. OH well, things like that happen sometimes though, and I really can't complain because I still managed to place 1st in my age division and 2nd in overall females (I would've gotten 1st overall if it weren't for getting off course). It was a tough race, but a lot of fun and I'm just glad I had my husband and kids there supporting me!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

12 Steps to Whole Foods

As though I wasn't already healthy enough, I still continue to research and find other good nutritional habits to adopt into my family's life. I have always been pretty good at incorporating whole foods into our family's diet--Eric and I were never the frozen pizza-packaged dinner-kind-of-family,nor do we eat out often. We have always made things from scratch too. Whole grains are integral-whole wheat bread and pasta, brown rice, quinoa, oats, etc as well as lean meats or animal proteins, lots of vegetables and fruits, and small amounts of dairy, sugar, and processed foods. The thing is though--nobody is perfect and upon reading more about nutrition, specifically how it affects cancer prevention or growth--I want to do more.

Since being diagnosed with cancer, I have become EVEN MORE aware of the foods our family eats. For instance, eating more organic vegetables and fruits, especially the Dirty Dozen (which contains the most pesticides). Also, we try to buy grass-fed meat and range-free chicken as much as possible to reduce the hormones that are often in meats. Lately though, I have been researching raw food diets. There is a lot of science that backs up the idea of eating a mostly raw whole foods diet. Basically the premise behind it is that when we cook our food, we are taking out the enzymes that our body needs to properly digest and absorb all the nutrients. Especially vegetables and fruits, which are best consumed when ripe and raw (or uncooked). The majority of produce that we eat is raw fortunately, but we could do better. Like for example, I juice and make green smoothies. I generally juice everything from carrots, beets, apples, oranges, lemons, wheatgrass, cucumbers, grapefruit, and celery. Having all those nutrients condensed into a 16 oz glass is so nutrient-dense and combined yields 5-8 servings of vegetables and fruits per day! I also make green smoothies almost daily as well, which yields another 8+ servings. Those are more centered around leafy greens, which are the most nutrient dense food on the planet. I use fruit in those too, to make them taste good. I usually put 2 fresh fruits (for example, a banana and a pear) mixed with a few large handfuls of greens--spinach, chard, kale, and collard greens are my stapes--and then I add 1 cup of frozen fruit like berries, some ground flax seed, and sometimes a scoop of protein powder. That is often my lunch and I usually drink a quart.

So, I already feel like I'm doing a lot of really good things. BUT after doing more research on eating raw, I would like to gradually increase the amount of raw foods that I eat a day (right now it's probably around 60%) to 80% a day. I also want to decrease the amount of animal proteins and dairy that I eat. Because I'm not ready to be vegetarian yet (mostly for the sake of my family and not cooking 2 meals), my husband and I have compromised on having 2 vegetarian meals/week with other plant proteins like beans, lentils, brown rice, or quinoa. The other days we will most likely cook chicken, but also do fish once a week, and a lean, organic red meat once a week too. The reason I want to cut down on animal proteins is because it is highly acidic when it digests in the body thereby creating a more acidic environment, for which cancer and other diseases can grow and thrive. The same goes for dairy. Luckily for me, cutting back on dairy isn't that difficult because I really only eat cheese and yogurt occasionally. For milk, I do almond milk.

As for other highly acidic foods-- like soda, refined sugar, and processed foods, I don't eat those often or at all. on. Now, that's not to say that I won't have the occasional treat or dessert from time to time, but I have cut out sweets from my diet for the most part and to be honest, I feel better not eating them anyways. Soda and most other processed foods aren't a problem for me.

The book above, 12 Steps to Whole Foods, is a great resource to incorporating more raw and whole foods to your diet and has amazing, easy, and delicious recipes in it. I am learning how to sprout foods, like nuts and beans, which makes them "live" and aids in better digestion. In the future, I want to get a wheat grinder so I can first sprout my wheat, and then grind it to make my own whole wheat bread (as well as quinoa and almond flour). I also want a food dehyrator to make snacks like crackers, fruit leathers, dried fruit, toasted nuts, etc.

It can be a bit overwhelming to do all of this, but I have decided that it is best to pick one good habit to adopt at a time, like making green smoothies everyday, and then move onto another habit. It makes it more do-able long-term. I am a firm believer in this principle, especially when it comes to nutrition. You have to make small steps and make it lifestyle change in order to be successful in the long run!

Sunday, September 4, 2011


This subject is a hard one for me to talk about sometimes, but one that I feel is important for me to open up and write about. My husband and I will not be having any more children of our own. Now I say this, but I also know that you "never say never". And I do believe that miracles happen! So, let's just say that we would not CHOOSE for me to get pregnant again... ;)

When I found out that my cancer came back in Jan 2010, we went to several doctors, oncologists that specialized in melanoma, to get opinions on treatments and next steps. It was a grueling process in itself. Upon learning my medical history and original diagnosis with melanoma when I was 7 1/2 months pregnant with #2, every doctor pretty much told us that I SHOULD NOT get pregnant again. Why? Well, for one, when you're pregnant your hormones are all over the place and two, your immune system is suppressed. Because melanoma is directly influenced by the immune response, there is reason to believe that getting pregnant AGAIN for me would mean that the cancer would most likely return. This should especially be considered when you are late-Stage and your risk of recurrence is already very high. This would obviously be a very bad and frightening scenario, hence the reason we have chosen against any more pregnancies.

At the time we were dealing with the painful news of not having any more children, we were also amidst figuring out treatment options, which made it even more emotional for me. This news was very difficult to grasp because we had wanted and planned for more children in our family. When everyone around me was telling me, "Well, at least you have two children", I was thinking differently--that this beautiful experience, righteous desire, and miracle of life was being taken away from me. Sure I was grateful for my 2 boys, but the fact is, I didn't feel or plan to be "done". Funny how plans often don't work out how we want them to!

I have now moved forward and accepted this fact, but sometimes it is still hard. Being in my early 30's, it seems like everyone around me is pregnant and having babies. Of course, I am happy for them and delighted that they are blessed with that opportunity! But there are times when I yearn for that myself too, and when I think about never experiencing pregnancy again, it still brings back those raw emotions...

My goal now is to someday adopt. My husband is open to this too, but wants our focus right now to be on keeping me healthy (and in remission) and taking care of our family. And I fully agree. If we adopt, it won't be for a long time, but I can't help but sometimes think about it and wish for it. I think it is healthy for me to think and plan for this in the future, because it makes me think that I will still be here! In the meantime, I am putting the majority of my thoughts into being here now and being the mother of Austin and Carson because they are what matter most.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Life as we know it

Ok, ok, I have been a slacker lately at writing. But it's been super-duper crazy lately with summer winding down and school starting and the blog has taken a back seat. I have been catching up though, so read on to hear the latest happenings! I promise it's good stuff! ;)

For now, life is pretty good. Not without significant stress though. But all in all, I can't complain too much because I know life could be much worse. What makes me happiest is spending time with my family. Like for example, we had a little get-away last weekend to the mountains with some friends. We went to the Sawtooth Mountains, a couple hours from us, and enjoyed the sereness of the mountains, fresh air, and cooler temperatures. I am always happiest when I am in nature. All my stresses and cares just float away for the time being...

Please continue reading, I want to know that people still read this blog and follow my journey (and I'm not just talking to myself here! ;). It motivates me to keep going and helps me know that people still care...OH, and please comment because I know that most of you don't and your comments always make my day!!! ;)

Thursday, August 25, 2011


I'm going to be real here. Sometimes I feel all alone. I know that might come as a shock to all of you, but I'm just being honest. The truth is there are two sides to me--the side that looks and feels normal and goes about everyday life keeping busy with a smile on my face. And then there's the other side to me--the side that is scared to death of what might or might not happen in the future. The side that still thinks about the uncertainty of the future and what that holds for me. The fact is I am still a cancer patient and there are a lot of uncertainties. I know and realize that things can change quickly--in a blink of an eye. One day you're on top of the world, and the next you are wondering if you will make it to your next birthday. It is a crazy world to be in.

But I know that life is uncertain for EVERYONE. We don't know what our destiny is or what our future holds and we aren't supposed to. We just have to have faith that it will all work out in the end. It is harder to do that when you are facing a life-threatening illness because the fear of the unknown is magnified ten-fold and staring at you in the face everyday.

The thing is, I KNOW that I'm not alone, in the literal sense that is. I have an army of people behind of me--family, friends, church, community, etc. I also know that I have a Heavenly Father to rely on. But there are times, as I am "wandering inside my head" that I feel trapped. I feel like I can't breathe and the weight of everything lands on my shoulders again.

I think I do a pretty good job "faking it" to everyone around me. Not that I'm not happy, I AM happy. Very happy and very grateful. My life is stressful, but GOOD. I guess I just don't like to complain about my problems or seek pity and I don't want everyone know that I'm struggling at times and feel alone. You know the saying, "Fake it until you make it"? I think I have perfected that.

How do I get over feeling this way? Lots of prayer, pondering, and soul searching. I find that my best moments of reflection are on my bike actually! Just me, 2 wheels, and the open road, and I feel free. The weight on my shoulders suddenly doesn't feel so heavy anymore. I feel peaceful and serene and I am able to have clarity in my thoughts as I sort out my problems.

Life has been a juxtaposition of sorts for us the past few years. On one end, we have been extremely blessed and have seen the Lord's hand in our lives numerous times. On the other, it has been very difficult--we have experienced our fair share of challenges (even other than the whole cancer thing). I know life isn't ever going to be easy, but I woud like to have a little relief from some of these challenges. I want to feel like we are moving forward, and not "stuck". Every night I pray that I can remain in remission for a long time. I know that this disease is likely to come back, but I just want to buy some time.

I apologize if this post is different from what I usually write. But I promised myself when I started this blog that I would be real. I would show the strength, the vulnerability, the fears, the frustrations, and the joy in my life. And that, my friends, is ME.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Amy Dunn

Amy Dunn is a brave, courageous young woman who is a former Boise State soccer player, was recently diagnosed with Stage 4 Melanoma, and is in the fight of her life now. I was inspired by her story, but also by her attitude to take the bull by its horns. She has already started treatment at the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, AZ and seems to be doing well so far. Her and I have corresponded via email and on her Caring Bridge site (see below). My hope for her is to not give up no matter scary it gets and to face this "beast" head-on. I also hope that I can lend her comfort and support because I have been through it and I know what a rollercoaster this journey is. For me, having a few "survivors" behind me, who helped prepare me for treatments, as well as encouraged me, made all the difference. Now, I hope to do the same for someone else.

Amy is a fighter and certainly has all of Boise rallying behind her. BSU put on an exhibition soccer game for her recently which raised over $12,000 to help her pay for her medical bills. Awesome!!! We live in such a great community here where people want to help others. Please consider making a donation to help Amy pay for her medical expenses on this website: OR by even just sending her a note of encouragement on her Caring Bridge website:

Sunday, August 14, 2011

My Comeback

Since May, I have been preparing and training for a race--called an Aquabike. It is the swim/bike of the triathlon and is a 1 mile swim and 25 mile bike ride. Back in May, I looked up the fastest women's time from last year and told my husband that I wanted to beat that and take 1st place. (Am I crazy or what?!) I knew that it was ambititious, especially after the year I had with treatments and what not, but I really wanted to do it. I guess it was kinda like saying, "Take that cancer!" I wanted it by my own mini version of the Lance Armstrong story (emphasize MINI). And I am a competitive person who likes to win!

So, did I accomplish what I set out to do?? Of course I did, silly! I trained hard (but not too hard, thanks to the advice of my doc) and felt prepared at the time of the race. The week leading up to the race had it's challenges though--we found out 2 days before the race that we had lost over $2000 in fraud (long story, I'll spare you the details). I was so wrapped up in that those 2 days--filing police and FBI reports, gathering all my evidence, etc.--that my head was NOT in the game come Sat. I guess all that anger and frustration prior to the race paid off because I kicked some serious #$%!!! ;) My swim was under 30 min, which is what I wanted and even though my bike was a couple min shy of my bike leg goal, I still ended up finishing 1st place in overall female by a landslide---like 8 min. I was elated, no ECSTATIC that I did what I set out to do. It made me feel powerful and strong and more than that, it made me realize that we really CAN DO ANYTHING WE SET OUR MINDS TO. Like winning this race and BEATING CANCER!!!!

I have one more race in Sept that is a bit longer in distance. I'm excited! I figure, why not do this now when I'm feeling good and myself again? I don't know what a year will be from now and I'm trying to live in the moment. A big thanks to my #1 fan, Eric, who supported me throughout all the training. I couldn't have done it without him. And my kids who keep inspiring me to live life fully and enjoy it!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Climb to Conquer Cancer

I was asked to be the guest speaker at an event called, "Climb to Conquer Cancer" which is sponsored by the American Cancer Society and is a 3 mile hike up to Table Rock in Boise. It is similar to Relay for Life in the way that there are teams that fundraise for the American Cancer Society, but on a smaller scale. It is only a 2 year old event, but is growing.

For the week leading up to event, I thought long and hard on what to speak about. I didn't just want to share my cancer story. I wasn't sure if that would be memorable enough. I finally put it together though and since I had trouble uploading the video of my speech (our computer was having problems), I copied and pasted it below...

It was a great event and I feel blessed to have had the opportunity to be able to share my story and motivate and inspire others to keep fighting and to never give up hope!

Lotoja is like Cancer
Several years ago I participated in a 203 mile cycling race called LOTOJA, which starts in Logan, UT and finishes in Jackson Hole, WY. It is a grueling race that you complete in one day, climbing over 7,000 feet in elevation. It is best not to ride this race ALONE-you need a group to ride with to “draft” in order to conserve energy. When I started the race, I rode with some other female riders who I had trained with. After the first 40 miles these ladies struggled to keep up and I had to make a decision- stay with them and sacrifice my pace, or find a new group to ride with. I chose the latter. I guess that’s the competitive side of me!

Fortunately, I found a group of men that seemed to fit my pace well. We rode the remaining 150 miles or so together, taking turns in the front “pulling” and then riding in the back “drafting”. There were several of us that had moments of “hitting the wall” which is basically when your body begins screaming at you that enough-is-enough, and it’s time to call it quits. It also didn’t help that we were riding against a headwind all day, which made it all the more difficult. It wasn’t until the last 15 miles to the finish line where I felt like I was hitting the wall. My legs were cramping up, my back and rear ached from being in the saddle all day, and even worse, I started feeling dizzy and was seeing “spots”. I wanted to quit.

Before I finish this story, what does this have to do with cancer or why I was asked to speak? Well, I am a Stage 4 cancer survivor!!!

3 ½ years ago I was diagnosed with Stage 1 Melanoma while I was 7 ½ months pregnant with my second child. 2 years later, the cancer came back into my lymph nodes and then 5 months after that, it metastasized to my lungs, landing me a Stage 4 diagnosis and only a 4 % chance of survival in 2 years. It was the most frightening time of my life. Exactly a year ago I started treatment in SF with an oncologist specializing in melanoma. It was a grueling year, but I finished treatment in June of 2011 and I can now say that I am in REMISSION! Am I out of the woods? Not by any means, but this is an important and difficult milestone to get to with Stage 4 Melanoma and I am grateful to be where I am today.

What got me through the past 3 years? My support group, which consisted of my husband, children, parents, extended family, friends, our church, the community, my doctors and nurses, even an acupuncturist and a hypnotherapist, and of course GOD who I give full credit to for my healing. But I am leaving out the most crucial person as my support-and that is ME! I had to believe that I CAN do this, that I have the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual strength and stamina to overcome a challenge like cancer. As you can see, I was blessed to have such a large support group and I know that not everyone has that. But though big or small, your support group is VITAL to your success in “conquering” cancer.

Now let me conclude my bike race…The last 15 miles of the race when I “hit the wall”, I didn’t know if I could finish. But my “support group” encouraged me, let me ride in the back so I could conserve my energy, and even pushed my saddle up the hills when I didn’t have the strength to do it. What also got me through those challenging last miles was knowing that my husband was waiting for me at the finish line! Miraculously enough, I finished the race in 10 hrs and 30 min. It was a big accomplishment and one that I will always be proud of.

As you can see illustrated from this story, like LOTOJA, you can’t “conquer cancer” ALONE. You can’t be an “island”. You need support. They are critical to having a successful outcome. It is amazing where that support can sometimes come from too-strangers can often rally around you-encourage you, pray for you, help you, and even empathize with you. I know that I wouldn’t be here today, doing as well as I am, without my support or “team”.

I also believe that it is key to have the WILL TO LIVE. Sometimes you have to find it, it’s not right there in front of you. For me, it was easy to find because I am a mom of 2 young boys, whom I couldn’t imagine growing up without their mother. And of course, my husband, who I didn’t want to leave without his wife. Keeping a positive attitude, not surrendering or paying attention to the statistics, being your own best advocate, and not giving up hope are all important to facing cancer head-on and hopefully conquering it.

Like LOTOJA, cancer isn’t a sprint, it’s a race of endurance. One with lots of hills to climb, headwinds at times, and even moments of “hitting the wall”. But I know with a little perseverance we can get through it. We are ALL strong enough to make it. I also think that our victory is sweeter when we have faced these “hills” or obstacles to overcome. We appreciate life more, we don’t take anything for granted, we learn to live in the moment, we try not to “sweat the small stuff”, and we find our inner strength and confidence through these challenges. I am grateful for cancer because it has given me a greater perspective on life and has made me a better person.

To end, I will leave with one of my favorite quotes by Martin Luther King: “We must accept finite disappointment, but we must never lose infinite hope.” There is HOPE for a cure for cancer. And American Cancer Society is helping make that happen. There are people who are beating the odds and are living miracles. We must never give up, we must never surrender, and we must always keep our heads up.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Sarah Hays Shurtz

This beautiful, courageous woman is so incredible. She lives in SLC, UT and has Stage 4 terminal cancer. Doctors don't know what kind of cancer she has, so Sarah has tried all kinds of chemo (used for different types of cancer) and had mixed responses. She wasn't supposed to live this long, but she keeps fighting and is still here, all with a smile on her face! What an inspiration she is to all who know her! I am so happy that we finally connected and will continue to keep her in my prayers! To see her website or read her blog, click on below links (blog hasn't been updated in a year, but you can still read her story there).

Tuesday, July 26, 2011


I can't believe that the day has come when I can finally say that "I AM IN REMISION!" It is such a difficult and important milestone to reach at Stage 4 Melanoma and I feel blessed to be where I am today. Don't get me wrong--I know I have a LONG way to go--the rate of recurrence is very high, especially the first 3 years. With that said though, I also know that I need to enjoy where I am now and relish in the moment, even if it is short-lived. My wonderful doctor, Dr. Minor informed me that it is harder to get to remission at this stage than to stay in remission. That made me feel a little better.

He also told us that he feels very encouraged by the results that we have seen from the treatments and scans over the past year. I have responded very well, and all signs are pointing to hopefully a durable remission. I do have to mention that though I am considered "in remission", I am not technically considered "N.E.D." (no evidence of disease) because I do have one little spot still showing up on the CT in my right lung. However, my doctor is confident based on the fact that I have had negative PET scans for almost a year now that what is remaining is just scar tissue. WHEW!

I will continue to have scans every 3 months and will see my doctor then too. The other plan is to remain on Yervoy (Ipi) every 3 months as maintainence if my insurance will cover it. I feel good about that plan. I know that I'm going to have moments of high anxiety, especially leading up to the scans, but I am going to try my best to not stress about it so much and enjoy my life now.

Having Eric with me at this doctor's visit was especially memorable. Over the past year, Eric has stayed at home with the kids while I have traveled back and forth to SF for treatment, so this was the first time meeting my doctor. I am so grateful that he was there to hear that all-too-important news so we could share that joy and temporary relief together.

I have to give thanks to all who have helped me get to where I am today--my husband and children who keep me fighting, loving, and enjoying life to the fullest. To my parents who have supported me in so manys through this year, who have been at all my doctor's appointments, hospital stays, and scans. To my other family members who have encouraged and uplifted me, who have helped us with the kids amoungst other things. To my friends and church family who have rallied together to make sure that I had help with the house, the kids, and meals and of course, who have offered so much emotional support to me too. To my acupuncturist and hypnotherapist for helping me get through treatment, envision a positive future, and for always believing that I could do it too. But I can't leave out the most important person and that is GOD. I give full credit and thanks to my Heavenly Father for His hand in healing me. I know that the medicine and all the other things that I have done have worked because they work TOGETHER through His power, and ultimately, I know that it is HE who healed me.

I know that this journey will certainly have more "bumps" in the road, but I also know that I can get through anything after the last year. I accept that there is no cure for Melanoma yet, but I also have so much HOPE for the future and know that it is bright and that there WILL be a CURE someday. I figure if I can buy some time.. if "the beast" comes back..there will be more options, BETTER options. I will BEAT it again. Life is good if we choose to see that. I am indeed blessed, happy, and forever grateful.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Bay Area Melanoma Survivors

During our first week in CA, we had a backyard BBQ get-together with some of my melanoma friends in the Bay Area that I have met. They are all SURVIVORS-Sue, a 5- year survivor of Stage 4 Ocular Melanoma; Tina, a 5-year survivor of Stage 4 Melanoma; and Mike, a 2-year survivor of Stage 3. All of these friends and survivors are so IMPORTANT to me and have helped me tremendously through treatments (Tina and Sue completed the same treatment as I) and I think that by personally knowing survivors, people that have already beat the odds, it gives me more hope for an optimistic future. I feel so blessed to have these friends in my life. I absolutely know with a certainty that we were meant to cross paths!

We had a wonderful evening and enjoyed fantastic food, great conversation, and bonded over our stories of survival and triumph. It was particularly good for me to be surrounded by such positive energy because the next day I had scans!

Dinner in the backyard

Survivors-Sue, Tina, me, Mike

Emily and I (Mike's wife who is amazing)

Friday, July 15, 2011

My Grandma Jackie

My grandma Jackie was diagnosed with breast cancer a couple of months ago, at the age of 79. It is heart-breaking to see another person that I know battle cancer. What is more heart-breaking though is she doesn't seem to have much "fight" in her. Sure, she is much older than I and I have asked myself what would I do in her situation and stage in life. To answer that, I'm not really sure. But I feel like no matter what age you are, you should fight like hell and not surrender. Sure, it really isn't in your control, only God can control your destiny. But wouldn't God want you to fight? Wouldn't He want you to believe that there is hope, that miracles happen, and that you can conquer this challenge? I believe so because I know that He wants us to be happy. I guess I just wouldn't want to leave this life with any regrets. And most certainly the regret of knowing that I didn't give it my all.

To my dear, sweet Grandma Jackie...May you find peace and comfort in this challenge you face. May you find the will to live and a greater sense of purpose in this life. Sure, it is a tough road. That's the way life is sometimes. I pray that you will find the good that can come from this challenge, that you will see it as something that can strengthen you and those around you (such as your children), and that you will believe that your MIND is more POWERFUL than your BODY. I wish I could be there to hug you, pray with you, and lift your spirit. I also pray that you will be able to look around you and know how LOVED you are by so many. You are blessed, despite your challenges, and you can PREVAIL. I love you and I am here for you!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Why I Relay

Relay for Life 2011 was beyond undescribable. It was a lot of work to prepare for this event, but we did it and it wouldn't have happened without all the amazing support from our family and friends. At the end of it all, we were able to raise over $4500 for the American Cancer Society! We sold cupcakes, s'mores (our motto was "Don't roast like a marshmellow, wear s'more sunscreen!"), head wraps, and key chains. Our booth looked awesome, our team had incredible energy and euthusiasm, our goods sold like hot cakes, and our ability to promote melanoma awareness and prevention (by showing a video-Dear 16 Year Old Me, wearing statistics on our shirts, and handing out literature) was flat-out brilliant. We basically killed it (Yes, I'm bragging. Bug off! ;)

I can't wait for next year. Everybody had such a great time we didn't want it to end. Next year will be even better and we will raise twice the amount of money. I have no doubt! To Safe In the Sun team, you guys are nothing short of incredible and words can't express how grateful, humble, and awe-struck I am by your talents, time, and willingness to help. It was quite the night!

In all seriousness though, the part of the evening that got me choked up a bit was walking around the track with my dear husband and sweet children. It was an honor to be there in that moment-to remember our loved ones who have passed from cancer and to honor and celebrate those fighting and surviving. I realized that I am now part of this group. I am still here fighting. I am surviving. And I'm doing it for these 3 boys who give me more joy in my life than I ever dreamed of. They are why I am here and why I will never give up. I love you Eric, Austin, and Carson. You ARE the light of my light!

To read more about this event and see more pictures, visit our family blog:

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Boise leads nation in skin cancer deaths

I'm must be a hot commodity for news stations in Boise! :) Once again, I was interviewed by a local news station to share my story and battle with melanoma and to spread awareness and prevention for it. I have a love-hate relationship with these interviews, because on one hand I want to do everything I can to educate people on this disease, but on the other hand, I really don't like being on video and even worse, SEEING myself on video. Yikes!

Anyways, it went pretty well, but I do have to say that the news reporter didn't get all his facts straight. Like for example, the opening sentence in the article below. Technically speaking yes, I have had cancer in those areas, but the sentence implies (at least to me) that it's currently eating away all those areas. Not exactly the truth. And also, I didn't get my "sun" growing up in Boise skiing and biking. Yes, I know it makes the story more meaningful-but unfortunately, my sun exposure came from good ole' Cali-forn-IA, lifeguarding and teaching swim lessons for 8-9hours a day and for 7 years in a row. Not so good, right? OH well, the message behind the story is still good and I am just grateful that they chose to cover it (and air it during prime time). If I can be a small part in getting the word out, even at my embarrasing expense, then I am happy!

Here is the article they wrote. The link below the article is the video clip...

Meridian’s Christina McEvoy has two kids, a loving husband and a cancer that’s eating away at her skin cells, lymph nodes and lungs.

“The biggest misconception I get all the time is: ‘Oh, you have skin cancer. That’s the easy cancer.’” McEvoy said.

And that’s sort of how a pregnant McEvoy reacted in 2008 when doctors first diagnosed her with melanoma. She then underwent treatment for that cancer on her thigh and got well.

Two years later, it returned. And today, doctors give the 33-year-old McEvoy a four percent chance of survival.

“Which I don’t really pay attention to,” she said.

Christina’s definitely an extreme example, but in Boise, not as extreme as we might like to imagine. The City of Trees has the most deaths from melanoma per 100,000 people in America.

“If you don’t burn,” Meridian dermatologist Dr. Alan Pitt said, “it doesn’t mean that you’re sort of getting away with it.”

McEvoy found that out the hard way.

Even though she has a darker complexion, all the time she spent biking, swimming and skiing outside under Boise’s intense sunshine added up.

Dermatologists like Pitt believe the city’s elevation, those six months a year we spend out of the sun and, yes, perhaps also the outdoorsiness of our population likely contribute to Boise’s astonishing number of melanoma cases.

McEvoy said the prominence of skin cancer here surprised her too, but – then again – so did her diagnosis.


In late June, McEvoy sat at a Meridian Chili’s enlisting support for Boise’s upcoming Relay for Life.

“I’m young, you know,” she said. “I’m not 80 years old. I’m 33 and I still feel like I have a lot of life to live. So for me, this is important.”

Not only does McEvoy have a lot of life to live, but also a group of very important people to live for. Her sons, Austin and Carson, just turned six and three.

“I can’t imagine not being here to see them play soccer and graduate from high school,” McEvoy said. “And it’s also hard for me to think about leaving my husband without a wife.”

Christina is scared. But for a woman who supposedly has just a four percent chance of seeing her 35th birthday, she also seems remarkably calm and put-together.

Christina said she planned first to beat this fourth-stage melanoma and then, to make sure – in an area known for its skin cancer – her story leads to other tales of prevention and survival.

“It’s important for me to be here,” she said.


Monday, June 27, 2011

Rollercoaster ride

Anyone that has had cancer knows what a physical and emotional rollercoaster ride it can be. One day you're feeling good, hopeful and optimistic, and kicking some cancer a%# and the next day you are faced with the reality of what this disease can be to so many (or MOST in my case), and once again doubtful and fearful of your fate...

Fortunately, the last few months I have been riding UP the rollercoaster and what a blessing that is!

Physically I feel the best I have felt in a year, emotionally I feel strong and ready to face anything. But then I wonder, when is the ride going to peak and start rolling downhill again? Am I going to hear bad news again? Am I going to feel my heart beat inside my head from the anxiety as I start the pain-staking process of researching and debating treatment options and next steps? Am I going to wonder what my future holds? Am I going to doubt that I will be around to see my kids grow up or even see my 35th birthday?

A big part of me feels like this treatment is going to work (or at least put me in remission for a good while) and I will be able to continue enjoying life and feeling good. But then there's a small part of me that thinks that this isn't over, that there is a next step in the near future. Am I dooming myself to have these thoughts?

I don't know.

All I know is that I need to rely on God no matter what happens. I need to trust in Him and His plan for me. I need to take a deep breath, take one day at a time, and put one foot in front of the other. That is the only way to do it, as I see it. I also know another thing-and that is that I WILL NEVER GIVE UP. I have never just "quit" anything in my life. I am way too determined, too strong-willed, and too competitive to let this disease win. I know I have the ability to survive, both physically and mentally. It's just up to the Big Man upstairs to keep me here.

I wonder if some people think I'm in complete denial of my disease or my so-called-prognosis. Some might think that I'm completely ignorant or "live in a bubble". What do I say to those nay-sayers?

I'll show you. I won't be a statistic. I WILL BE A SURVIVOR! Miracles never cease and I am already proof of that.

Let's hope this rollercoaster ride doesn't have too many "big drops", "loop-to-loops", or "cork screws" anytime soon. I kinda like where I am at right now!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

One year. Wow.

Exactly one year ago TODAY I was hit with my Stage 4 Melanoma diagnosis.

And today I am finishing my last treatment for at least 3 months.

Ironic, right?!

Let's hope this treatment works and I will only have to return every 3 months...

I have to say that this past year has felt like a CENTURY in so many ways, yet fortunately, it has also gone extremely fast.

I have completed 3 different treatments within the last year, had 9 anxiety-ridden CT, PET, and MRI scans (yeah, that's a lot of radiation!), spent 42 days in the hospital, had 10 PICC lines performed (not fun!), had too many IV's and blood draws to count, and spent over $4200 in just flights from ID to CA...

Has it been worth it??

Well, I am still here, so YES!!! We have witnessed miracle after miracle, prayer after prayer being answered, and have felt the LOVE and support from SO many people and most importantly, from God.

For as tough of a year as it has been physically, emotionally, and in so many other ways, I can actually say that it has been a year of MANY blessings and wonderful events that have happened.

I know that God is looking over me and keeping me wrapped up in His loving arms. I know that I will beat this thing and I can feel that I am THAT much closer to hearing the doctor's words, "You are officially No Evidence of Disease!"

What a year. I feel so ALIVE right now, so grateful for my healthy body which keeps on going, grateful that I can wake up every morning and see the 3 most beautiful faces on the planet-my husband, and my 2 sons. Grateful that I am surrounded by so much LOVE. Grateful that I can keep on being HERE.

This is what life is all about!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

My kids' prayers

Austin: "Dear Heavenly Father:
Please help the medicine to work for Mom
so she can doesn't have to go to CA to the
doctor anymore. Help her to get all the way
better so she can stay with us."

Carson: "Bless Mommy to not be sick so she
won't cry anymore. And bless the doctor
to make her better so she doesn't have anymore

Just a snipet of my kids' prayers as of late! I usually can't leave their rooms without a dry eye after hearing those sweet, innocent, genuine pleadings! I know that their faith (combined with my own) will make me whole someday!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Moments That Matter Most

This beautiful video touched my heart in a way that I just had to share it! Its message will brighten your day, bring tears to your eyes, and remind you of what life is all about. Please take a couple of minutes to watch it, it will be worth it!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Relay for Life 2011

Last summer Eric and I attended the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life in Boise to help a friend in charge of the event and to see what it was all about. It was right in the height of the summer when I had just been diagnosed with Stage 4 Melanoma and didn't know what treatment I would choose. It was a very difficult and emotional time for us and I remember walking amoungst the survivors in the first lap to kick-off the event thinking that if I was still around the next year that I wanted to somehow do more...

Here we are a year later (and still kicking! ) and we are planning to do just that. We have formed our own team, called Safe In the Sun, and we have two missions. The first is to help raise money to go to the American Cancer Society. There are several ways we are hoping to do that. One way is to get on-line donations (by clicking on the link below) from our family and friends. And on the actual day of the event/relay, we are hoping to raise even more money by selling baked goods and crafts. A good friend of mine thought of selling s'mores and having our motto be, "Don't roast like a marshmellow, wear s'MORE sunscreen!"

Our second mission is to promote awareness and prevention for skin cancer, specifically for melanoma. Last year there was only one tent that promoted melanoma awareness and it wasn't well publicized. Because melanoma is the fastest growing cancer in the U.S. and the deadliest out of the skin cancers, we feel there needs to be a lot more concentration and focus on this disease, especially to our youth, who spend hours in the sun and in tanning beds, which is putting them at a higher risk for melanoma.

If there is ANY way that you can help contribute, whether that be a donation, time, or products/goods to our team and mission, we would be incredibly grateful. We know how hard it is to give up those things, so we will take whatever we can get! We really want to raise a lot of money for the American Cancer Society which helps fund cancer treatments and research, and helps cancer patients. Their motto is to "create more birthdays" for cancer patients as they work to find a cure to cancer and save lives. This is a very personal endeavor for us, not just because of my own battle with it, but because we know other loved ones that are also in the fight of their lives or have lost their battle with cancer. I think EACH ONE OF US has been affected by cancer in some way or another.

Please let us know how you can help. We are so thankful and excited for this opportunity to give back. It is the first of many in the future to come as we someday hope to start our own foundation which will help other melanoma patients and promote awareness. Thank you, thank you for being such a great support to us, we wouldn't be here without you!

Please click on link to donate!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Sarah Bach

I follow the journey of a fellow melanoma warrior, Sarah Bach who is also a wife and young mom. I don't know her personally, but through reading her journal, I have come to find that she is a wonderful, warm, happy, and beautiful person that truly loves and lives life to the fullest. Over the past month or so, her health has taken a huge downturn. She was also doing Ipi, but started it ahead of me. Since finishing her last treatment and having scans, she has come to find out that she has tumors everywhere in her body and that now it is only a matter of time before this disease takes over her life. This is hard for me, because on one hand I want to lend my support and love to this dear family who is on the brink of losing their wife and mother, but on other hand, it is difficult for me to read these stories because it brings back fear into my mind. I know what the reality of this awful disease can be to so many people, but I also need to remain optimistic about my own future, keep fighting a good fight, and live my life as joyfully as I can. I need to believe that my future will have a different outcome and that I WILL BE A SURVIVOR.

My heart is torn for this family as Sarah says her last good-byes, but I am also comforted by the knowledge that she will soon be pain-free and in the arms of a loving Heavenly Father. I also know that their family will be reunited someday, and so that this really isn't a good-bye, just a "see you later." I pray that their family will find the peace and comfort that they need during this difficult time. I also pray that I will be able to gain added strength, not discouragment, through this experience to fight even harder. I just won't give up!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Slow dance


Have you ever watched kids
On a merry-go-round?

Or listened to the rain
Slapping on the ground?

Ever followed a butterfly's erratic flight?
Or gazed at the sun into the fading night?

You better slow down.
Don't dance so fast.

Time is short.
The music won't last.

Do you run through each day
On the fly?

When you ask 'How are you?'
Do you hear the reply?

When the day is done
Do you lie in your bed
With the next hundred chores
Running through your head?

You'd better slow down
Don't dance so fast.

Time is short.
The music won't last.

Ever told your child,
We'll do it tomorrow?
And in your haste,
Not see his sorrow?

Ever lost touch,
Let a good friendship die
Cause you never had time
To call and say,'Hi'

You'd better slow down.
Don't dance so fast.

Time is short.
The music won't last..

When you run so fast to get somewhere
You miss half the fun of getting there.

When you worry and hurry
through your day,
It is like an unopened gift....
Thrown away.

Life is not a race.
Do take it slower

Hear the music
Before the song is over.

I needed this reminder today!! This poem was written by a young teenage girl dying from cancer and her last wish was to pass this poem on to as many people as possible to send the message to live life to the fullest!