Friday, December 28, 2012

Rest in Peace, Jillian

Jillian Hayes, at the tender age of 23, passed away from complications of melanoma.  Such a sad day for all those who know her, love her, and even those (like me) who don't know know her personally, but read about her on the blog her sweet mother, Susan Hayes, writes.  It always hits home for me when one of my 'comrades' loses their battle with the exact same disease that I have.
Jillian was truly an inspiring person who lived life with great joy, who gave back, who fought long and hard with determination, and who wanted everyone to be happy.  Everytime I read her blog, I am in tears reading Susan's beautiful words.  Here is an excerpt from her latest post after Jillian passed away:
"I don’t know where I'm going yet. But I do know this. Jillian would stand. She would not let life’s circumstances break her. Jillian would live her life each and every day fully. She would have fun! I’m terribly sad, but I’m not broken. I’m lost, but I’ll find my way. God hasn’t let me down so far, not once. I’ll listen for His voice, and wait for His exciting plan for me.
In the meantime, I’ll take Jillian’s lead. In honor of what she has taught us, I’m going to Fall Seven Times, and Stand Eight. Or eighty eight."
May you find great peace and comfort during such a difficult time, Susan.  I pray that your family will feel of God's constant and infinite love.  I pray that you will be able to slowly heal, that you will find new meaning to life, and that you will fill your life with happiness and always remember the important life lessons your daughter taught you.  God bless.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas from our family to yours!  This year for Christmas we are surprising our kids and taking them to Disneyland, along with the rest of my family!
We hope you are celebrating life and all its blessings and the birth of our Savior.  We have much to be grateful for this year!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Be a Helper

 I saw this picture on Facebook shortly after the Sandy Hook shootings and loved it.
Perfectly said, Mister Rogers. 
You were right, there are still a lot of good people and 'helpers' in this world.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Prayers for Sandy Hook

One of the most devasting and tragic events happened today. 26 people, 20 of which were first graders, were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Conneticut in a mass shooting. Their faces will be engraved into my heart forever.

Unfortunately, there have been too of these shootings in the last decade or so. All terrible and tragic, but for some reason, the Sandy Hook shootings struck me emotionally on such a different level, one that I cannot fully put into words. When I heard the news, I couldn't take my eyes off the computer, reading and watching the latest breaking news. I was in tears, MAJOR tears. I just couldn't believe it. How could this happen to such innocent, beautiful, sweet people who have so much life left to be lived? I kept thinking about these little children, all who go to school everyday thinking they are safe and then the unthinkable happens. They are gone. And then I thought about the survivors of that event and what they witnessed and experienced. Horrible. Nobody should have to experience those events, and especially children. And then I thought of these childrens families, who I'm sure sent their children to school that day, just like any other day, not thinking twice about their safety or the fact that they might not see their child again.

My mind wandered all day to what I would do in that situation. I honestly cannot even imagine the pain and sorrow that these families are feeling right now and will continue to feel for a long time. I thought of my own children, one whom is near the age of these school children and I tried to picture that scenario happening to my own child and I just couldn't. It was just...well, unimaginable.

All I wanted to do that day was go pick up my son from school and hug him tight and never let go. I wanted him home safe. I wanted him to always know how much I love him and how important he is to our family.

Dec. 15th was a tragic day for all of us, I think. I know it hit everyone hard, and for me, it put things in perspective for me once again. With Christmas approaching, I thought about what this holiday is about. I thought about what we are celebrating, and what is most important in life. Gifts, parties, Santa and all the "stuff" that tends to take over at Christmas time doesn't matter. What matters is our families. What matters is the people in our lives. What matters is our relationship with God and his Son, Jesus Christ.

I saw this picture on Facebook, and after feeling such a heavy heart all day, this picture eased my mind and gave me so much peace. I knew that our Lord and Savior was waiting to greet these little children today with open arms and embraces. I knew that these children of God had returned home to live with God and were once again happy. I knew that only through our Savior, can these families' hearts be healed someday. For only He knows what and how we feel and what we go through. Only Jesus Christ can take the pain away and mend our broken hearts with His infinite and unconditional love.

I am so thankful for that knowledge. It brings me so much comfort during a time like this. I am also grateful for the reminder of what is important in life, and to never take my family for granted. I was reminded to hold my children closer and always tell them that I love them each and every day.

Life is a gift. We must always remember that.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Prayers for Jillian

One of the blogs that I follow, Jillian's Journey with Melanoma, is the story of a vibrant 23 year old young woman fighting Stage 4 Melanoma.  Her mom is the author of the blog and it is truly inspiring, yet heartbreaking to read.
Jillian recently was told that the chemo treatments she was getting were not working and that there was pretty much nothing else the doctor's could do.  I can't even fathom hearing those words from my doctor.  CANNOT.
Jillian is in the fight for her life and needs a miracle.  Please read a little of her story because it is truly moving.  And then I ask that you please pray for her.  Pray for peace and comfort for her and her sweet family.  Pray that Jillian feels the love from so many people praying for her on her behalf.  Pray that Jillian story will continue to touch lives.
Here are some inspiring thoughts from the Jillian's mother.  I am in awe of her attitude, grace, strength, and courage.
"My family has lost its innocence in everyday living. We will always walk with cancer as our companion. Although none of us know what the future holds, and there is always fear and uncertainty, maybe it’s not such a loss after all. Perhaps it’s a blessing and an opportunity to share and to give hope and encouragement to those who are experiencing similar trials. Yes, that’s how I’m choosing to look at my future."

"I’ve learned much these last two years. I’ve seen firsthand the resilience, determination, and joy, coming from a young 21 year old woman who has been handed a cancer card. I’ve seen what love can do. I’ve seen how extended family members and friends rally around us. I’ve been blessed to have met so many new, wonderful people along this road as we meander along with melanoma as our partner."

"I’ve also seen a darker side, and have taken some hard hits because of it. But my faith remains strong through it all, and I KNOW without a doubt that we will see the other side of this with love, compassion and a peace that surpasses all the darkness that threatens to suck us in."
"I will continue to fight for my daughter and for all of those Faces that are currently battling this war against melanoma. And in doing so, spreading awareness where ever I go. That is my quest, my focus. My mission. Nothing will deter me, or my family from achieving this goal."

One more thing.  Take a minute please and sign Jillian's petition to ban teen tanning.  It is her last request and will make a difference in getting the word out about the dangers of tanning.

Friday, November 30, 2012

28 Months and counting!

I am so beyond happy to report that my latest scan results were good and that my remission continues!  I am closer and closer to that 3 year mark and that is a big deal!
Even though I physically feel healthy, I always get very anxious when it's scan time because I know how quickly things can change, and often without symptoms.  So, every clean scan I get I praise the Lord that I am able to continue on this path of remission!
Sometimes it is so hard to hear different results from other melanoma comrades.  The very same week I was having scans, many others were also doing the same.  When I heard that some of those warriors were not getting favorable results, my heart broke for them!  I feel this strange pull of emotion upon hearing that news--on one hand, grateful that I am still in remission, but on the other, almost guilty for it too!  I want so badly for everyone to have good news and success with treatments.
Even still, I continue to support them in their fight and pray for their own miracles.  I guess that is all I can do.

Monday, November 26, 2012


Sometimes I go back and read back through my blog to when I first began this journey with melanoma.  It is always therapeutic, strengthening and humbling to recall some of the experiences (both good and bad) that I have had the past few years.
One thing that I have been thinking about a lot lately (and often forget) are some of the painful, not-so-fun experiences that I have had.  For example, I still remember very clearly the day I was told I had Stage 4 Melanoma. It was literally like a bus ran over me.  Or a knife stabbing my heart.  Hearing those words from my doctor was probably one of the most surreal moments of my life.  And obviously not in a good way.  I felt like I was having a nightmare or out-of-body experience where I didn't feel connected to the experience that I was having.  Almost like I was just "watching" or "witnessing" myself being told that news.  It was very strange.  And then grasping that news and dealing with it was a whole different ball game.  It was so frightening, that even now I tear up just remembering how scared I was.  I would cry at the drop of the hat just thinking about the enormity of my situation, the unknown of the future, and how delicate my life hung in the balance...
I remember thinking to myself upon hearing that dreadful news that, "I might not make it to my 35th birthday".  That milestone seemed so far away and yet I was still SO young!  Now, as I approach that birthday in 2 months, I am overwhelmed with joy that I WILL make it to my 35th birthday.  I hope to celebrate it in a big way because there was a time when I honestly doubted I would see that day come.
Another memory or instance that has crossed my mind recently was an experience quite polar opposite from the previous.  And that was hearing the news from my doctor that my treatment was working.  I was half way through my biochemotherapy and had just completed scans.  I was so anxious to hear the results, just hoping and praying that they were good and that we could continue on this path to remission and recovery.  What I didn't expect was to hear that not only was the treatment working, but miraculously 5 of my 6 tumors (which were quite large), were gone.  Dissapated.  No evidence or trace of them left behind. And the one remaining was more than half its size and no longer active!  I remember watching my doctor excitedly tell me the results and the only words that came to my mind were, "It's a miracle."
Because it was.  It was truly a miracle.  I have witnessed miracles in my life before.  But nothing like this.  I was so overcome with emotion, gratitude to my Heavenly Father for healing me through the medicine, and filled with love for all the prayers and love being sent from so many family members, friends, and even strangers.  I knew at that moment that prayers really do work.
It's memories like these that I am so grateful for because I always want to remember them.  When I remember them, I am humbed, strengthened, and reminded of the blessings I have been given in my life and that is truly a gift!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Much gratitude

When I reflect on the "low points" of my life,  I can honestly say that I have always remained happy despite the challenges and found joy in my life.  And I think that this quote really sums it up.  If we can always find the blessings and good things in our life, then we can truly be happy, even when times are tough.

This year I have so much to be grateful for.   My life is overfull of love from all my family and friends, I have good health, I have a warm home and bed, I live in a free country, I have Jesus Christ in my life, and a lot of faith and hope for a bright, LONG future!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Sol Survivors success!

We have had success these past couple of months with our foundation, Sol Survivors Melanoma Foundation, in raising awareness for melanoma and educating our youth.  We recently spoke at Timberline and Rocky Mountain High School in Boise and have plans to speak to 2 more schools in December.
It has been such an empowering experience talking to these youth about melanoma and sharing our  knowledge as well as our personal stories with melanoma.  So far, we have gotten AWESOME feedback from both the teachers and students in the schools and all have invited us back next semester to repeat the curriculum.  Some of the things we cover in our presentation are:
1.  Melanoma facts and statistics relevant to the youth
2.  Common misconceptions and myths of melanoma/skin cancer
3.  Risk factors for melanoma
4.  Detection (ABCDE's)
5.  Prevention strategies
6.  Anti-tanning
7.  Embracing their skin or "Going with their Glow"
We try to make the whole presentation relatable to these teens by making it interactive, asking/answering questions, and even making it humerous at times.  We also show the Dear 16 Year Old Me video at the end, and of course share our personal stories with melanoma, both of which really grab their attention.
It has been effective so far, I think.  We have had a few students tell us they promise not to tan anymore!  Success!
The best part for me is sharing a little of my story with them as I know it relates to the choices they are making right now (that I also did at their age).  We are so grateful that our mission is moving forward and know that in the process of educating others, we will save lives ultimately!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012


I love this because when I think back to the journey I've been on, it's never been just me.  It's a slew of people behind me that have helped me get me to where I am today.
I have said this time and time again, but having a strong support system really does matter and can often make the difference between life and death.
To anyone out there fighting cancer or any other kind of illness, make sure to thank your loved ones for supporting you!  Your "wellness" depends on it!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Live Like You're Dying

Sometimes we fall down, can't get back up
We're hiding behind skin that's too tough
How come we don't say I love you enough?
'Til it's to late, it's not too late

Our hearts are hungry for a food that won't come
And we could make a feast from these crumbs
And we're all staring down the barrel of a gun
So if your life flashed before you, what would you wish you would've done?

Yeah, we gotta start lookin' at the hands of the time we've been given
If this is all we got, then we gotta start thinkin'
If every second counts on a clock that's tickin'
Gotta live like we're dying

We only got 86 400 seconds in a day to
Turn it all around or to throw it all away
We gotta tell 'em that we love 'em while we got the chance to say
Gotta live like we're dying

And if your plane fell out of the skies
Who would you call with your last goodbye?
Should be so careful who we left out of our lives
And when we long for absolution, there will be no one on the line

Yeah, we gotta start lookin' at the hands of the time we've been given
If this is all we got, then we gotta start thinkin'
If every second counts on a clock that's tickin'
Gotta live like we're dying

--Lyrics by Kris Allen

Friday, November 2, 2012


Almost a year ago, the founder of Needs Beyond Medicine approached me and asked if I would be willing to have my photograph taken for their annual fundraising event in SLC, UT in November of 2012.  This event, called canSURVIVE is a wonderful, unique event in which cancer survivors' photographs and stories are beautifully displayed in a gallery stroll.  Each story and survivor is different, inspiring, and evokes strength and courage.
I was humbled to be chosen as one of the survivors they honored in the event, and the picture above is the one they chose to display (not my favorite however!).  I wish we were able to attend this event (which is actually tonight), but we just had too many conflicting things on our schedule.
Needs Beyond Medicine is a non-profit organization that is dedicated to diminishing the burden of cancer by increasing awareness, education, and giving relief to cancer patients. The organization’s Relief Program is the primary means of support for patients. Through this program, Needs Beyond Medicine offers small financial grants to cancer patients. These grants are designed to help with non-medical expenses such as food, utility bills, transportation to therapy, etc.
To learn more about this incredible foundation and the work they do, or to see if you would qualify for financial assistance as a cancer patient, please go here.

Monday, October 29, 2012

To Live

Sometimes I forget I had cancer.  I use the word, "had" because I am hopeful that it will never come back!  I have days where I almost forget what I have been through, days where the "C" word doesn't even pop into my mind at all (tender mercy!).
I can't decide if that's a blessing or a curse.
One one end, it's really quite a blessing to not have my world and thoughts "revolve" around cancer, my mortality, and the unknown future.  To live a "normal" life again is such a gift!
But on the other end, sometimes I wonder, "Do I just not live in reality?",  "Is the cancer going to return eventually, only to take my life?"  Maybe I should think about it more often, not to dwell on the negative emotions, but just to remind myself not only what I've been through and still going through.  Maybe it's good to always prepare oneself for the worse, right?!
I used to say that all I wanted was to be a survivor.
But there really is a difference between surviving and LIVING.  To live implies, that one is living life to the fullest, enjoying every minute of it, even the ups and downs.  Right now, that is what I'm trying to do, I guess.  I just want to live my life. I want to be around to see my 40th birthday, I want to cheer on my boys at their games, I want to see them graduate from high school, I want to see them off on their missions, go to college, get married, and someday have GRANDBABIES! I want to be with my husband, by his side, and continue building our life together, making adventures, and tackling the challenges in life.
There is so much to live for.
May we all not just survive, but LIVE.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Common Denominators

I remember at one point a couple of years ago asking my doctor, "What do you feel are the common denominators in your patients that survived?"  I knew this was a loaded question perhaps, and of course, subjective, but my curious nature couldn't help but inquire.
His response?  "Well, I think it might be a lot of things, but a positive attitude gets you far."
At the time, I was satisfied with his answer (because it made sense to me), but then I decided to do a little of my own research in finding out what other possible "common denominators" there might be between cancer survivors.
Now, my conclusion (after talking to lots of cancer survivors)...And I admit is totally MY own opinion.  I have met a lot of cancer survivors, and many who were given a poor prognosis just like me.  Upon talking to them and getting to hear their stories, I believe that my doctor is right, attitude is everything.
People who ignore the statistics, I think, in general fare better.
People who maintain a positive outlook on life and throughout their challenges, in my opinion, often do better than those who have a poor attitude.
Those that don't give up because that isn't even an option, live longer.
But there's more.  I think there are some other common denominators between cancer survivors:
1.  They are their own best advocates when it comes to their health care.
2.  They have a good support network.
3.  They believe in a God or some "supreme being" and exercise their faith.
4.  They do everything they can to have success with treatments.  They adopt a healthier lifestyle.  Or maybe that means "thinking outside of the box" and combining uncoventional with conventional treatments.
5.  They take risks (such as choosing a cutting-edge chinical trial).
6.  They enjoy life despite their challenges and set-backs.
7.  They are happy.
8.  They allow others to help and support them when times call for it--physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.
9.  They take care of themselves, eating healthy and exercising.
10.  Last but not least, they pray.  The power of prayer is a real!
I'm sure there are many more common denominators.  I know that even if one has all of these attributes it doesn't mean they will get the desired outcome, but I don't think they hurt either!
What has helped you survive cancer?

Monday, October 22, 2012

Ryan Reynolds melanoma PSA

Do you know what the sun and Ryan Reynolds have in common?
They are both HOT.
On the Style network, Ryan Reynolds recently did a PSA for melanoma awareness. It's pretty freakin' awesome.  Style also has a ton of melanoma facts and prevention tips on their website.  To learn more go here.
You must watch this PSA.  Not only because Ryan Reynolds is in it (wink, wink), but because this message is important and could save your life.
To watch, go here.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Before and After

I have learned in my life that our lives really are divided into different "chapters", as this quote implies.  Beginnings, endings and lots of "middle parts".  When I look at my life, I can "break" it into these "before" and "after" moments, and all of them were pivotal turning points in my life.
First there was my childhood/adolescent years, where I was growing, learning, and being cared for by my parents.  Then came my college years when I was on my own, free to do what I please, learning about myself, and figuring out what I wanted in life.  Those years were great experiences, as it was during those times that I really found out who I was.  Next came marriage which was probably the most pivotal point in my life up to that point.  Instead of being on your own, now you have a partner that you have chosen to commit yourself to and share your life with.  I didn't anticipate that my life would get better after marriage, but it did.  I was happy on my own, but with my husband, I was happier and more complete, if that was even possible.  Sure, we had our challenges as newlyweds, but we grew more in love over those first few years and shared some amazing, memorable times together.  We grew together and truly became "companions" to one another.
Next to getting married, having children was the next most pivotal moment in our lives. There was "before" kids and then "after" kids.  Our life changed even more once we brought children into the world.  And even though I feared losing our independence and freedom once we had kids, our world changed for the better.  Parenthood made us more selfless, more empathetic, more loving, more protective, more cautious, and more patient.  I remember thinking the first few months of our first son's life, "What did we do before we had kids?"  We just couldn't imagine our lives without our kids.
The next "before" and "after" moment of my life occurred when I was diagnosed with cancer.  There was before cancer--I often took my health and life for granted, never thinking that I, of all people, would get cancer at my young age.  The thought just never crossed my mind.  I was too busy planning for the future, running in 10 different directions all at once, taking care of our family, stressing over things like finances, raising our boys, and where we would be in 5, 10 years.
After cancer, I felt like a different, more confident and self-assured person.  I have a greater perspective, I appreciate life more, I enjoy the simpler things in life, I have more patience and humility, I have more trust and faith in God, and most importantly, I have more love and compassion for others. 
 Can cancer be a blessing? For me, it was.
Cancer truly changed my life for the better.  It transformed me and it made me a stronger person.  I am grateful for this new chapter in my life--my life after cancer. 

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Letting Go....

I have learned this to be true in my life.  Letting go of our burdens (whether physical or mental) is a necessity to move forward in life and be happy and present.  To feel that weight lifted off our shoulders when we are able to do so is both FREEING and EMPOWERING.
Letting go is NOT giving up, it is realizing that there are more important things to worry about it in life than the things that we can't control or change in our life.
I am also learning better to take my heavy burdens to the Lord better.  That is the reason He is there for us, to take our burdens and make them light.  We simply just have to let Him.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

My "Tool belt"

Occasionally, someone will ask me how I "beat" Stage 4 Melanoma.  First of all, I don't think of it that way.  I don't think I will ever say those words because one, it can always come back ANYTIME, and two, when it's all said and done, God is in control of my life, not me.
BUT, there are some things or "tools" that I believe helped me get to remission and I call them my "tool belt".  I think my tool belt helped increase my odds in having success.
They consist of (and in no particular order):
1.  Having the right doctor.  I did a lot of research when I was first diagnosed with Stage 4.  I sought out opinions from some of the best melanoma experts in the country.  I eventually went with a doctor in S.F.  I chose him because one, my parents live in the Bay area, and two, he had been treating melanoma for over 20 years and had many SURVIVORS.  I figured he was doing something right!  I feel I made the best decision for ME, and I trust my doctor with my life (and that's saying a lot)!
2.  Choosing the right treatment.  There isn't one sure-all treatment plan that works for everyone (unfortunately).  We are all unique in our genetics, lifestyle, diagnosis, etc.  When I was choosing a treatment plan, I really researched it, studied it out, listened and contemplated on ALL of the opinions I received from doctors (and even patients I had met), and then went with the plan that made the most sense to me, gave me the best chance of remission and success, and seemed like the best FIRST step in kicking melanoma to the curb.  This plan also included a couple of back-up plans (also important, I believe).
3.  An amazing support network.  This is probably one of the most helpful "tools" in my tool belt.  There is no way I would've made it through treatment physcially, emotionally, and spiritually without my family, friends, church, community, and even strangers rallying behind me.  I can honestly say I wouldn't be here today without my "peeps"! :)
4.  The right mind-frame.  Another necessary "tool" to carry.  I think in order to "beat the odds" (especially when you aren't given very good odds), you have to ignore the statistics, have hope and faith in a miracle, be determined to come out on top, keep your "eye on the prize", and remain optimistic throughout the entire journey.
5.  A healthy lifestyle.  I was lucky, I think, to already have a healthy lifestyle before beginning treatment or even before I was diagnosed.  I have been physically active my WHOLE LIFE and have always tried my best to eat healthy, nutritious whole foods.  When I was diagnosed and then started treatment, I made more changes though.  I incorporated more yoga to my exercise routine (a big one for stress relief, anxiety, and the mind-body connection), I ate more leafy greens (by drinking green smoothies daily), I juiced vegetables and fruit, I cut out sugar almost completely, and I refrained from drinking any soda of any kind (not that I drank a lot of that before hand anyways).  In general, I adopted more a plant-based diet, taking in more than 50% of my diet in form of fruits and vegetables (and mostly in their raw form).  I even cut down on animal protein, rarely eating red meat, and even eating vegetarian a couple times a week.  I think all of those things made a HUGE difference and aided in my recovery and boosting my immune system.
6.  To go along with the healthy lifestyle, I also researched and incorporated a few "supplements" into my diet/lifestyle.  I started taking some really comprehesive whole food supplements designed to regenerate cellular vitality, enhance the immune system, strengthen the digestive and nervous system, and detoxify my organs.  I also started using essential oils and found incredible results.  Since using essential oils, I have yet to get a cold (and that was more than a year ago), my allergy symptoms are lessened, I sleep better, I deal with anxiety better, the list goes on...
7.  Having an acupuncturist and hynotherapist.  While undergoing treatment, I had regular hynotherapy and acupuncture sessions.  Those helped with stress and anxiety, sleep issues, detoxifying my liver/kidneys, tolerating the side effects of treatments, and harnassing the power of the subconcious mind by utilizing postive self-guided imagery.  I credit both of these practices with tolerating the treatments better than the average patient and staying positive throughout everything.  I think the people who are open to "alternative" forms of healthcare often do better.  For me, it just made sense to do everything I can, and "beat" cancer from all different angles.  I wasn't going to put all my eggs in one basket.
8.  Prayer, prayer, and more prayer.  The power of prayer is truly, in my mind, the most powerful force on the planet.  And I'm not speaking of only my own prayers.  Knowing that literally hundreds of people are praying for you everyday is one of the greatest blessings I could have ever experienced.  I know it is the power of prayer, and through the Lord's hands, that I was healed.
9.  An incredible caregiver.  One does not simply get through cancer without a great caregiver(s).  I was lucky to have a few.  My parents for one, who were with me for every doctor visit, scan, treatment, and hospital stay.  They would even sleep in a cot next to me when I was doing treatment for 5 days at a time.  Talk about selfless!  My parents would run "food" errands and get anything I was craving (and would eat), rub lotion on my back, brush my hair, and keep my mind distracted with happier things.  I simply couldn't have gotten through treatment without them beside me.  My husband was also a great caregiver.  When I was home, he made sure I ate well, got enough sleep, and took care of the kids, all so that I wouldn't have to worry about any of it when I was home (or away for that matter).  He arranged meals, got the kids off to school or friends' houses, grocery shopped, cleaned the house, and did the laundry.  I have one amazing husband and I'm so grateful that he stuck by my side and remained such a "rock" throughout.
10.  Did I mention, GOD?!  Of all my "tools" in my toolbelt, God was definitley the most important tool.  If it weren't for Him, the other tools wouldn't have made a difference.  They wouldn't have mattered without God.  I fully recognize that God provided me ALL of these tools to heal and get better.  He blessed with me the power, the knowledge, the people, and the attitude to do what I needed to do to get better.  Ultimately, it was His almighty power that provided the miracle that I see today--my life. I am so grateful to God for overseeing my journey and for answering all of my prayers.  Relying and trusting on Him has helped me see His hand in all things, and that is a true gift.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012


Today is worldwide LIVESTRONG day.  15 years ago, Lance Armstrong won his battle with cancer and started the Livestrong Foundation to help fund cancer research in finding a cure and connecting cancer patients to support all over the world.  Today his foundation has raised over 100 million dollars!
In honor of my late mother-in-law and grandma, and for many friends who have bravely lost or won their battles with cancer, I rode my bike today to honor them.  I also rode to celebrate my own survivorship with cancer and to remind myself how grateful I am to be alive! 
Life is truly a gift and I am determined to not take it granted ever again!
Who do you LIVESTRONG for?

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Need we say more??

Wise up, people!  Tan, leathery skin does NOT look good.  Especially as you age.  Case in point?  The "tan mom" (picture below).  Guess how old she is??  44!  She looks 64!
Don't think the occasional tan is hurtful?  Tanning is a real addiction.  Just like an eating disorder.  Tanorexics think they are pale.  They don't see themselves tan enough and they tan as often as possible.  Some even a couple times a day (and will go to different salons to avoid the regulations).  It is SAD.

Most importantly, tanning bed use leads to MELANOMA (75% of the time), which often leads to DEATH....

Need we say more??  A tan is NOT worth your LIFE.  Trust me!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Things work out

I love this.  And I 100% agree.  Having a good attitude, trying to make the best out of the situation, and striving to be happy is always the solution.
I look back to some of the most stressful and difficult times in my life, especially the last few years, and even despite some of the anxiousness, stress, and fear that I felt I was always happy at the end of the day.  I have always tried to live my life with the attitude of, "If my life ended today, would I be content with how my life turned out?"
That is an important question to ask ourselves! When I am feeling down or sorry for myself, I try to think of a thousand things to be grateful for.  It always works!  I even have a little "gratitude journal" where I keep notes of things I am grateful for in my life.  Blessings, answers to my prayers (big and small), miracles, and even the everyday things.
Instead of dwelling on the negative things that are going wrong in our lives, we should switch our thinking to the things that ARE going right in our lives.
And if we do just that, things always have a way of working out...

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Melanoma Moon Shot

"The time is now.  Together, we will end cancer."
Those are the infamous words quoted on the MD Anderson website.  MD Anderson is a world-renown cancer and research hospital, in fact, #1 in the U.S. for cancer care. 
Just this week, MD Anderson announced something BIG.  Inspired by America's drive generations ago to put a man on the moon, MD Anderson has launced an ambitious and comprehensive action plan, called the "Moon Shots" Program, to make a giant leap for patients and to dramatically accerlerate the pace of coverting discoveries into clinical advances that reduce cancer deaths.
Over the course of this decade, MD Anderson will donate BILLIONS of dollars to research to FIVE different cancers.  These initial "moon shots" will ultimately lead to cures for all types of the disease.

What is most exciting about this newly launched program is that MELANOMA was chosen as one of the cancers that MD Anderson has chosen to focus on.  It is a little well-known fact that melanoma has historically been one of the least funded cancers for research.  Which would explain why the statistics and prognosis for survival of late-stage patients is so dismal.  Because there have been many exciting advances for the treatment of melanoma in the last few years (hooray!), this momentum will only accelerate with MD Anderson's new program.
Upon reading this news, I was so relieved, optimistic and hopeful.  Relieved because like many late-stage melanoma patients, I am grateful that we have finally taken this big step to put more resources in treating melanoma and finding a cure.  I really do believe the end to this disease is closer than we think.  And maybe we won't find a "cure", but we find treatments that are effective for the long-term that stabilize or manage the disease to greatly prolong the life of a patient.  (Maybe like HIV?)
I am optimistic and hopeful that I will still be around when we find a cure.  And how great will be that day!  Finding more effective treatments (with hopefully less side effects) will save thousands of lives in the U.S. and millions worldwide.
To read more about MD Anderson's Melanoma's Moon Shot program, go here.  On their website, there are also some very inspiring stories of patients who have been treated for melanoma at MD Anderson and are doing well.  When I read their stories, I was struck by the commonalities that all of us melanoma warriors share...
Hopeful to find something that will "hold off" our disease, hopeful that we can hold out for something better in the future, and hopeful that we can finally beat melanoma at its own game.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

SU2C Story: Hillary Quinn Kind

This young, brave woman's story was shared at the Stand-Up 2 Cancer's annual telecast recently.  Her story is remarkable and inspiring.  I hope that Hillary continues to fight melanoma, to ignore the statistics, and to live a long, happy life!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Never give up on anybody...

Not too long ago, I posted about a fellow melanoma friend and blogger, Alisa (see my post).  She is my age, married, with 3 boys.
If you can recall, I wrote about how inspired I was by her story, her strength and courage, but also how real she is in sharing her struggles with cancer (and finds humor in them!).  Through all of her challenges though, she has remained optimistic and hopeful for a MIRACLE.
In June of this year, she and her family received unfortunate news that the melanoma had further metastasized.  Her scans dated in June showed metastasis in her brain and all throughout her body. 
She had over 100 tumors.  Yes, you heard me, 100.
Alisa started Yervoy shortly after her June scans and only a couple weeks later noticed that some of her subcutaneous lesions appeared to be "melting away".  She was hopeful that this was a good response to treatment.  Right before her next scheduled infusion of Yervoy, she developed colitis and was unable to do the second treatment.  Because of the state of her colon, she was never able to do another treatment of Yervoy.
Hence, Alisa only had ONE treatment of Yervoy.
Her faith remained as she prayed that maybe one treatment would be enough (as she was seeing success).   Well, it was enough.
Just yesterday, Alisa had scans again and I couldn't be more thrilled for her, as the results were ASTOUNDING.
Alisa went from over 100 tumors down to FOUR.
If that isn't a miracle, than I don't know what is.  What a wonderful blessing to Alisa and her sweet family! 
And what a testament that good ole' prayers and faith WORK.  That sometimes ONE can be enough because God's power comes in and does the rest.  It is through His onmipotent power that Alisa was healed.
When I heard Alisa's news on Facebook, I literally cried and jumped up and down!  I haven't even met Alisa yet (in person), but I have felt compelled by her story to encourage, uplift, and pray for her through her fight.
Melanoma might be a devasting disease to so many, but that doesn't mean that miracles don't happen.  For Alisa, myself and so many others that I know, I am so grateful that miracles do exist! 
(If you would like to read Alisa's blog post sharing this news, along with some pretty amazing pictures of before/after scans, go here.) 

Monday, September 3, 2012

Subtracting, not Adding.

I don't know why, but when I saw this quote on Pinterest, it really struck me.  Sometimes I feel that I have too much going on in my life.  When I start analyzing the things that are "wrong" or not quite right with my life (or maybe just exactly where I want them to be), I often think the solution is to do more, to do better, or to do differently.
Maybe the answer though is to subtract
To simplify my life, even though simplifying implies that it will still be busy (how can it not be with two young children?!), is a tough thing to do when you're a mother, a Type A, and always running 100 mph an hour.  The answer might be that I need to go out of my comfort zone (like, WAY out of my comfort zone) and take a step back and slow down.
This is not a new thing to me.  In fact, I'm pretty sure it's a recurring theme in my life and I'm also certain that I've blogged about this before? ;)  I wouldn't be surprised.
I think one of my life struggles is trying to slow down.  Cancer definitely taught me at times to do this.  And for a short time, I did slow down.  WAY down.  But that was easy to do then--when I wasn't feeling good during treatments or traveling back and forth to CA so frequently, that I didn't have time to put extra things on my plate.
But that was then, and this is now.  Am I supposed to re-learn this lesson?  Do I need to slow down?  Some things in our life just aren't going the way we would want or plan them to be.  And yes, I know such is life.  But I feel like we are at a pivital point where big decisions are before us and we need to figure out what to do, where to go with these choices, and most importantly, how to get where we ultimately want to be.
For now, I am trying to revaluate my life and look at the things that are taking precious time away from the most important things--our family, our relationships, and our goals.  If something doesn't fit into those categories, than I guess it isn't important enough and should be crossed off the list.
We have all heard the phrase, "There is a time and a season for everything."  Maybe the time now is to slow down and focus on the big things and not the unimportant things.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Lance, a true hero

Years ago, long before I got cancer I read Lance's book, "It's Not About the Bike."  I was a cyclist and had been following his cycling career.  Each year, I watched him win the Tour de France, but in all reality, what drew me to him wasn't his athletic talent and incredible skill on the bike.  It was his story and fight with cancer and how he came back, after being told that the odds of survival weren't in his favor.  Lance, not only ignored and defied those odds, but he surpassed what doctors thought he would do.  He not only beat cancer, but trained for and won the Tour de France SEVEN years in a row. 

We know that story though.

Recently, Lance has made headline news with his doping allegations.  After decades of allegations that Lance was blood doping and using illegal substances during his Tour wins, and after a two year legal investigation with the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, Lance has decided to walk away.  Consequently, he faces a lifetime ban from competitive cycling and even possibly having his Tour titles stripped.

Some might think that Lance is quitting this legal battle because he is guilty.  Well, the jury is still out on that one.  Sure, he has never failed a drug test (in over 600 drug tests), yet countless team members attest that Lance is guilty.  The question if he is guilty or not might be the question of the century.  We will probably just never know.  Do I think Lance is guilty?  I am not the judge of that.  I won't come to my own conclusions on the issue because it is not my place.  At the end of the day, Lance is the one accountable for his own actions.  Only he truly knows if he is innocent or guilty and only he can feel good or bad about his actions.

The thing is, nothing can take away from the fact that Lance has done amazing things for this world.  Lance has made this world a better place.  Guilty or not, his cancer foundation, in my opinion, is his greatest success.  Raising 500 million for cancer research and patients is awesome, but nothing trumps the vision he has created for millions of cancer patients.  Lance has given hope to so many cancer survivors that there is hope, that we must never give up fighting, and that we must stand up and fight against cancer.  And because of him, millions of people are cancer SURVIVORS.  They are alive because Lance helped people realize that they had "it" in them to defeat cancer.

The yellow rubber bracelet that I wear on my wrist (and have worn for nearly 8 years now) is a reminder to me to never give up hope, to continue to be optimistic, and to look forward with optimism and faith for a bright future.  It truly is a reminder to LIVESTRONG.

Thank you, Lance.  I don't care if you doped or not. You will always be a hero in my books.

Here are some of my favorite Lance quotes, a few from his books:

"What ever your 100% looks like, give it."

"Knowledge is power, community is strength and positive attitude is everything."

"What are my chances? It was a question I would repeat over and over. But it was irrelevant, wasn't it? It didn't matter, because the medical odds don't take into account the unfathomable. There is no proper way to estimate somebody's chances, and we shouldn't try, because we can never be entirely right, and it deprives people of hope. Hope that is the only antidote of fear."

"I'll spend the rest of my life puzzling over my survival. Cancer no longer consumes my life, my thoughts, or my behavior, but the changes it wrought are in me, unalterable."

"You know, I would rather have one year of wonderful than seventy years of mediocre. That's how I feel about it. Life's an unknown. You don't know. Nobody knows."

"Anyone who imagines they can work alone winds up surrounded by nothing but rivals, without companions. The fact is, no one ascends alone.”

And of course, my favorite...

"If children have the ability to ignore all odds and percentages, then maybe we can all learn from them. When you think about it, what other choice is there but to hope? We have two options, medically and emotionally: give up, or Fight Like Hell.”

Friday, August 24, 2012

Dear Fellow Melanoma Warriors

The melanoma "world" seems to be a rather small place.  I meet people all the time from all over the country, even the world, that share this melanoma link, this diagnoisis, this life.  Even though our personal stories may vary, we all share the same feelings--the same anxieties and worries, the same fear, and even the same hopes and dreams.  Some of these people I know in person and blessed to call a "dear friend" now, others I only know from Facebook, or from a melanoma forum, or through following their blogs.

This melanoma world is a delicate and interesting place.  Often I hear the most inspiring stories of survival--people who are years out from their diagnosis and doing well.  Like my friends Tina and Sue, who are both 5+ years out from Stage 4 and still in remission.  Or Erick, who I recently met at a melanoma gala, who is nearly 10 years in remission from Stage 4!  Another friend of mine, Kari, is almost 10 years out from Stage 4, and even though she is fighting the battle (bravely) again, she is still here--kicking and screaming.  This other friend, Carol, that I know, has an incredible story--10 years into remission from Stage 4 and she had 77 tumors in her body!  Her story is miraculous and one that I will be sharing on my blog soon.  She not only beat Stage 4 melanoma, but has beat breast cancer 3 times!  Then, there is Lisa, whom I met on Facebook and is treating her Stage 4 melanoma through holistic and natural methods.  She is alive and doing well!  I could go on and on--Mike, Jen, Robin, Ruby, Lisa, Janice, Kim, Bob, Kristina, Tammi, Michelle--so many melanoma warriors and survivors who I have met and who have inspiring stories of survival.

And then I read stories of melanoma warriors who are still in the fight--fighting with every ounce of bravery, courage, and strength they can muster--to try to win the fight.  My fondest desire is that every melanoma warrior will come out on top and beat this monster. Unfortunately and all to often, I hear of those who ultimately lost their lives to melanoma.  These stories sadden me so much, that sometimes, I have to temporarily cut myself off and take a little break from the melanoma "world".  I stop reading others' blogs, I don't pay much attention on Facebook, and I don't read the forums.  It makes me feel selfish and guilty for not being supportive for these fellow warriors and I feel awful for not recipricating the kind of love and support that I felt from so many during my own fight.  But it is my only coping mechanism.  It is the only way I can seperate myself from all the discouraging and devasting stories.  It is how I balance my emotions and not let them get the best of me.  I just have to go into my little bubble.  Shut off the "noise" around me and focus on me for a time-- my health, my family, and my life.  I have to regain optimism and hope and then move forward again.

For any readers out there that might feel that I haven't supported you in your journey, please know that I am truly sorry.  Please forgive me for not being there for you.  But please know how often I think of you, pray for you, and send my love and positive thoughts.  There isn't a day that goes by that I think of all the people I know who have fought bravely or are currently fighting this disease.  I want ALL of us to win.  I want melanoma to lose the battle and disappear into oblivion! 


Here is what I want to say to each and every melanoma warrior out there.  Melanoma might be big, bad, and terrible.  And yes, it takes too many lives.  But that doesn't mean that you should surrender to it.  It doesn't mean that "it" is bigger than YOU.  It doesn't mean that you can't come out on top.  One of the most beautiful blessings that has come into my life as a result of my melanoma diagnosis is hearing these amazing stories of survival and meeting and becoming life-long friends with these fellow warriors.  Their stories have uplifted me, inspired me, and most importantly, have been the glimmer of hope in a dark tunnel of darkness when the world seems to be crashing down upon me.  If it weren't for these survivors and friends, I can openly and honestly say, that I might not be here today. 

These people have given me everything I need to believe that I can do this.  I can be one of them.  I can be a miracle just like them.  I can and WILL defy the odds and statistics.  I will be a success story.

Thank you, thank you, thank you to those of you who have strengthened  me, (which is ALL of you) in some way or another.  We must stick together, we must lift each other up, and we must seek out those that need a little bit of encouragment, hope, and courage to face the fight. 

To those who are in the midst of the battle, keep on going.  Don't stop.  Take one day at a time and know that there are so many miracles happening around you.  Surround yourself with optimism and hope, surround yourself with people who lift you up, and look forward with faith and an unconquerable spirit. 

You can do this.  Just believe.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Game plan

So, I'm back in CA.  Again.  After 3 weeks away from home (2 weeks visiting my folks in CA and then 1 week visiting family and friends in UT), I'm back in CA for radiation.

5 radiation treatments to my right lung nodule in 10 days.  High dose.  And then I'm done.  That is the plan.  We will re-scan in 3 months in hopes to see this nodule as a "sliver" of scar tissue.

I can honestly say that there was a time when I wasn't sure if that day would come.  I mean, I know very well that things can always change, but I can almost taste those three little letters.  N.E.D.

And how sweet they taste.  Let's keep our fingers crossed.

My happy place.  Celebrating the miracle that is life.  It is glorious to be alive.