Monday, April 30, 2012

May is Melanoma Awareness Month

May is melanoma awareness month!  I think it is the perfect month for that too---right before summer when people are getting outside more and having fun in the sun.

Here are some simple things you can do to learn more about melanoma, prevent melanoma, and become an advocate:

1.  Get to know your skin.  Learn how to perform self-skin checks ONCE a month.  A good way to remember to do this on the 1st of the month!  To do this, follow the simple steps here.

2.  Even better, go visit a dermatologist if you haven't been in over a year.  Be proactive!  Prevention starts here.  Be educated on melanoma awareness, and take your health in your own hands!  A visit to a dermatologist could literally save your life!

3.  Invest in a top rated sunscreen found here and stock up for the summer.  If you like more "natural" based sunscreens, this one is top-rated by EWG.  Remember, you should apply the amount equal to a shot glass every 2 hours while in the sun.  If you are in the water, you should reapply every 90 minutes!  Take extra caution near the snow, sun, and sand as the UV rays are more damaging!

4.  Make sure you and your family are equipped with hats, sunglasses, and UV protective clothing.  I like these shirts found here.

5.  Do your best to avoid long sun exposure between the hours of 10am-4pm.  Seek shade whenever possible!

6.  Say No to Tanning.  If you haven't heard already, indoor tanning devices are about the worst thing you could do for your skin.  You triple your risk for getting melanoma if you have used tanning beds in your life.  If you feel the need to have a "tan", go get a spray tan or invest in a good self-tanning lotion found here (my personal faves are Neutrogena and St. Tropez).

7.  Make sure your children and loved ones are protected as well!  By spreading awareness for this disease by educating others, you are being an advocate!

8.  Educate yourself on the ABCDE's of melanoma found here.

9.  Remember that a tan is also a risk factor of melanoma.  Sun burns AND tans are a sign of skin damage.  When your skin cells are damaged, they can mutate or change, thus increasing your risk for skin cancer!

10.  Lastly, share this message and video (my all-time favorite melanoma video) with the people you love!!  Prevention starts with education!!

Friday, April 27, 2012

Life Moving Forward

Do you ever feel that life is moving too fast?

I feel that way all the time.  For one, having kids certainly makes life busier and fuller, thus the years seem to go by so quickly...

Reflecting on the last few years, I am in awe of the challenges that we have faced.  Life has changed drastically for our family, and for more than one reason.  Even though some of those reasons we could've never predicted nor wished for at the time, I wouldn't change anything about the way our life has transpired.

Life is about growing.  Learning.  Figuring out who we are and what our purpose is here.  Finding happiness within ourselves, our families, and with our lives.  Being content with what we have, and not always wishing we had something else or were someone else.  To me, life is exactly that...having gratitude for all things in our life, both good and bad.

I am grateful that life has helped me become more grateful, more content with what I have, and to appreciate the "small things".  I'm grateful for the lessons learned and for the blessings that God has bestowed upon me.  I am more grateful for my family, my friends and loved ones, and for the "new" people that have come into my life.  I have always believed that people come into your life for a reason.  I am lucky to have LOTS of those people in my life.

I now have a stronger belief in miracles, as I have witnessed many in my life, especially within the last several years.  I have more faith, I trust God more fully (but not perfectly), and I have more patience, perserverance, and empathy (but again, still have a ways to go).  I feel going through my challenges has truly brought me closer to God and has helped me see all that God gives me.

All I really want to do in life is be a good person.  A good mom.  A good wife.  A good daughter.  And a good friend.  When it is my turn to move forward after life, I want to know that I helped people, that I cared for people, and that I was the best example I could be.  That I made an impact on SOMEONE.

Having cancer has helped me empathisize with others better.  It has shown me how much I have to give to others.  You see, cancer helped me realize how important it is to SERVE OTHERS in life. How serving others, or giving charity is what truly makes us happy.  Serving others makes our burdens seem "light" when we are focused on others.  It puts our own trials into perspective because there is ALWAYS someone that has it worse.  I think that we have such a deeper sense of self full-fillment when we are constantly seeking to help those in need....

Do you ever have a feeling that God has bigger plans for you?  Like there is something more ahead, that is waiting for you?  I feel that ALL the time.  I know that I am blessed with certain talents and abilities and most importantly, life experiences that will help me to help others.  I always pray to God that I can do His will and be a tool in His hand.

Lately, I feel overwhelmed with all the good things going on in my life.   I have SO many things I want to accomplish or do, with raising my children and having a happy family being #1.  Right now, I feel that I am at this cross road of sorts. Trying to figure out what "good things" in my life I should do because that is the right thing to do, or what things to take off "my list" because either it's not the right thing or not the right time.  There's a season for everything and I'm trying to remember that.

I know that ultimately, God will direct my path to the things that I should be doing.  I just don't want to lose focus on my family and my health because if there's one regret that I could live without someday, it is not being "present" for my family or taking care of myself.  I think I do an OK job at those things now, but I want to do better...

So, what do you do when you have an opportunity in front of you that you know you could be good at or make a difference in people's lives, but yet you are hesitant because you worry it will take over your life (or your priorities)?  What if that opportunity feels right, but yet you aren't exactly sure how you are going to squeeze that into your life right then?  Do you seize it or let it pass you by hoping that maybe it's just something you do later?

Life continues to move forward at warp speed, and I am trying my best to keep up.  It's hard though.  Sometimes I just want to press "pause" or even "rewind" for a bit!  But that's not possible, so I guess I just move forward and have faith that I'm doing the right things!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Wings of Hope MRF Gala

Coming up in a couple of weeks is a special fundraising event hosted by the Melanoma Research Foundation called the Wings of Hope Gala.  This event is held in S.F. every May at the Bentley Reserve.  This year I will have the priviledge to be attending.  I wish that my hubbie could go with me, but it is just too expensive for both of us to go.  Luckily, my parents and sisters will attend with me!

It is a fun, inspiring night where you get to mingle with other melanoma survivors, doctors, and those that work hard to raise money and awareness for melanoma research and funding.  There is a silent auction, dinner, and awards given out.  Each year, MRF recognizes a doctor who has dedicated a lot of time to melanoma research and his/her patients.  MRF also gives out "Courage Awards" to a few melanoma survivors who have showed strength and courage in their fight with melanoma.  I was chosen to be one of the recipients of that award this year.

If you live in the Bay area and would like to attend this event, click on the link below to buy a ticket(s) and get more details on the event.  OR, if you would like to donate to this cause, even if only a small amount, that is also appreciated.  MRF raises money to primarily fund melanoma treatments and research, which as we know, is very important to eventually finding a cure.  If you can donate, click on the link below.

Hope to see you there!  And thank you for your support!!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Melanoma in the News

Melanoma is making headline news all over the country lately. Why, you ask? Well, for one, melanoma is on a steep rise. While many cancers have seen a decrease over the last 10 years, melanoma has not. In fact, a recent Mayo study showed an EIGHT-FOLD increase in YOUNG WOMEN in recent years. Tanning is one of the major contributors, even though the FDA and other major health organizations have declared indoor tanning devices "carcinogenic". Young girls just don't get it.

Here are some of the recent articles and stories:

This article talks about the rise of melanoma in young adults, specifically young women.

I like this WebMD article that talks about the rising incidence of melanoma, but also how to prevent it.

This article talks about how teen tanning for Prom is still the norm, despite the rising incidence rate of melanoma.

This story of a young woman is the perfect example of what happens when you use tanning beds. She was diagnosed at age 22 and passed away at 26 from melanoma. It is not worth it!

I also like this quote regarding tanning beds:

"Here's a generally good rule of thumb: when doctors, dermatologists, and scientists link a purely recreational, easy-to-avoid behavior like tanning to cancer, and the people that are making money off that recreational, easy-to-avoid behavior try desperately to refute them, it's best to err on the side of science and safety."--Hanna Brooks Olsen

I have two words for those who think they look better with a tan: SPRAY TAN.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Insurance=my nemesis

There are only a few things in life that I can actually associate the feeling "hate" with. Health insurance is one of them though. I know that I'm not alone on that one.

I'm sure that there so many people that have life-threatening conditions and are insured, yet their insurance denies appropriate treatments for various reasons, even when their physician goes to bat for them and appeals it. I have seen this with a few friends, and it aggravates me to no end. One cannot help to think when this happens and the outcome is death, if it could've been avoided given their insurance company would've cooperated and approved the necessary treatments. Because really, who has a spare couple hundred thousand dollars (or more) to spare out of their own pocket for these astronomical medical expenses?

Just my treatment of Yervoy every 3 months costs nearly $50,000. For a small bag of "saline" (nicknamed "liquid gold") that takes only 90 minutes to infuse into my veins. Unbelieveable. I'm just grateful that my insurance continues to pay for it. Maybe they figure the alternative could be more expensive if the cancer returned.

In March when I was in SF for my last treatment, my doctor decided he wanted to do radiation to get rid of that last little nodule in my lung that isn't active anymore. Just as an insurance policy. I appreciate that he's thinking ahead because he knows melanoma---he knows that more likely than not, it will return, and that nodule is the most likely place for it to return. I thought his plan was smart Plus, it makes me uneasy just knowing that I have that spot left still. Every 3 months when it comes time for scans, my mind goes to, "What if that tumor is active again?", or "What if it has grown and spread?" I'm sure I would have more peace of mind if that little buggor was gone. Sure, it doesn't mean that I'm out of the woods, it just means we are being aggressive and cautious.

So....we were set to do radiation a couple weeks after that last visit in March. Well, low and behold, my insurance company decided to deny it. They said it "wasn't medically necessary". You know what I say? Obviously they don't know anything about melanoma! It's not like I'm N.E.D. yet. I might not have any active cancer cells that are visible on the scans, but the fact is, I still have evidence of disease!

Anyways, we are in the process of appealing it. If I know my doctor at all though, I know that it will get approved because the man just seems to get it done. In the meantime, I'm praying it works out and if it doesn't, than I guess I just have to have faith that it wasn't meant to be and things will still be ok.

That's just what we have to do. Have faith.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Sol Survivors Melanoma Foundation

Our official logo!!!

Idaho 'Sol' Survivors (minus one--the late Amy Dunn)

Well, we are getting closer to getting our website up and running for our foundation. We are also starting to work on all the paperwork required by the IRS to become an official 501c non-profit organization. Our name? Sol Survivors Melanoma Foundation. It took quite a few names before we landed on that one, but this is the one that we feel best about and what sums up our mission. We came up with the name 'Sol Survivors' last Fall when we were starting our support group, and that name has stuck with us. We call each other 'Solmates', I love that! We have also decided to dedicate our foundation to our fellow warrior who lost her life to melanoma, Amy Dunn. Our hope is to not only help prevent this disease from taking another life, but to bring other melanoma survivors together to help increase our odds of survival.

Right now we are in the process of writing the content for our website, which will be designed by the fabulous and talented Brooke Hall. She also came up with the logo design too. I think it is perfect. I am just so happy that everything is starting to come together. With our support group, the Idaho tanning legislation, and some community education classes that we have taught here in Boise, we are starting to really gain some momentum and get our name out there in the community.

Next up once we get our non-profit status and website live? To get it out there! We have plans to teach in junior high and high school health classes about sun protection and melanoma awareness. By the end of this year, we are hoping to have our first fundraising event. It will probably be a walk.
Big things in the future for our foundation. It just feels right. From the very beginning of my journey with melanoma, I have felt that I needed to do something in sharing my story and promoting awareness. I hope and pray that we can make a difference and help others.