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.