Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Small and Simple things

Today I am grateful for many things.  Simple things.
Like the fact that I am able to witness my 7 year old son play baseball.

And that I am able to attend preshool "graduation" for my 4 year old and watch him shine.

Today I talked to an old friend and laughed so hard.  I was grateful in that moment for laughter, for love, and for all the many, wonderful friendships that I have.

The other day my husband did the dishes, vacuumed the house, and scopped the poop outside.  Like I said, simple things! ;) I am grateful for his little gestures because they show me that my husband loves me and cherishes me.  He would do anything for me.

On my evening bike ride tonight, I was able to witness a spectacular sunset. And feel the wind on my face. And know that my legs work and keep going. On my bike I feel so ALIVE. I feel control of my body. I feel HEALTHY.  That is a good feeling that I don't take for granted anymore!

I am grateful for the little things that my kids say.  The other day my son, Austin told me that I make him the happiest of anyone (other than the dog ;).


My sweet Carson has such a tender heart.  He always knows just when I need a hug, a cuddle, or a smile from his famous "gapper" grin.  We were driving in the car the other day, and he said, totally out of the blue, "Mom, do you know that I love you?"

Those are the moments I cherish.  I soak them up and try my best to never forget them. A few years ago, I might not have fully recognized all of those moments because I was in too much of a hurry to get to the future.

In life, it's the simple things that matter.  I have come to the conclusion that life is but a million simple moments all strung together.  In my eyes, they are what make life worth living, we just have to recognize them.  And it is through God, who gives us those small and simple "blessings" and tender mercies each and every day to show us that He is there, that He cares, and that we have much to be grateful for.  All we have to do is open our eyes. 

 Today I am especially reminded and grateful to still be here.

Friday, May 25, 2012

And we're 'LIVE'!!!

After 2 months of working on our website, we are ready to share it with the world!  There are still some minor changes and things to edit and add, but we are pleased with how it's turned out!

Please do us a favor and share our website to your family and friends!  We want to spread the word to help educate people about melanoma and also bring hope to those battling it.  There are many survivor stories that we have shared and MANY more to be added soon!  If you would like to share your melanoma survival story with us, please contact us at:

We feel incredibly blessed with how things are progressing with the foundation so far.  The next step is to get our non-profit status and start getting donations so we can progress our work and mission!  If you are able to help out in any way, whether that be donation (to help us with start-up fees, IRS paperwork, marketing materials, etc), or helping at an event please visit our website!

Monday, May 21, 2012


As I was writing about the gala, I realized I didn't update about my scans and treatment!  Silly me! Thankfully, results were good and we can continue forward another 3 months.... :)

We will continue to appeal my radiation treatment through my insurance company.  Next step is a visit to Eugene, OR where I have to plead my case in front of the Membership Rights Panel!  UGH!  Let's cross our fingers and hope that isn't a wasted trip and I can work some "magic"!   I'm also hoping my doctor might have a few "tricks up his sleeve".  And if I know him at all, he does.

Time will tell.  I'll keep you posted.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

MRF Gala

What an amazing night.  I know the word "amazing" is overused and almost cliche, but it really was an AMAZING event and evening!

The highlight for me was meeting and talking with other melanoma warriors and survivors!  I met so many incredible, inspiring, and courageous people!  People from all ages, walks of life, and different backgrounds and stories with melanoma.  Some in remission, some in the fight.

I met a guy who has been in remission for almost 9 years from Stage 4!  His name is Erick Davis and he lives in Modesto, CA.  He is a patient of Dr. Minor's as well.  I heard his story a couple of years ago, but had never met him.  He is such an inspiration to me and it was truly wonderful to meet him face-to-face!  I asked him what he thinks he has done right to keep himself in remission for that long and he said, "Stay active"!  Love that!  I couldn't agree more...

Then there was a gentleman, David McMorrow, who lives in my home town of Pleasanton, CA.  He is in his 40's and is facing Stage 3 right now.  He is currently doing treatments at UCSF.  Great guy and definitely one to keep in touch with!

Mary Dynan is another inspirational survivor.  4 years in remission from Stage 4!  Another one of Dr. Minor's patients and such a sweet lady.  I loved talking to her.  It felt like I had known her for years.

There was a young girl, age 20, named Aine Kline.  She is in the middle of her Stage 4 fight about to embark on a clinical trial combining the BRAF and MEK inhibitors.  As frail and weak as she appeared, her spirit truly encompassed strength, bravery, and the "never give up" attitude!

Towards the end of the evening, I met a guy who is 11 years from his Stage 4 diagnosis!  His name is Brian MacMillin.  He has had FIVE recurrences since his initial diagnosis, but is still fighting and is still here.  I loved talking to him because he reminded me that we have to treat melanoma like a "chronic illness" because there is no cure YET.  He had such a positive attitude though--of holding out for something better and staying hopeful for the future!  His wife was equally amazing, those two are a force to be reckoned with!

I met another lady (and I can't remember her name), who lost her daughter, age 22, to melanoma a couple of years ago.  As devasting as it must be to lose your child to this disease, I was so impressed with her vision of moving forward, being an advocate for melanoma, and giving back to the cause.  A truly astounding woman and mother.

Then, of course, there are my own mole mates and friends, Sue Lescure (whom I have shared her story on here before), Emily and Mike McAuliffe (he is Stage 3), and Kari Worth (another Stage 4 survivor) who is 9 years out from her diagnosis and still fighting.  These friends have a special place in my heart for they have been such an incredible source of strength, support, and example to me in my own fight.  They all always encourage and support others in their fight with melanoma.  Sue and Kari were the Courage Award presenters at the gala and did a fantastic job.  I am simply in awe of them.  Sue is about the sweetest person you'll ever meet and will do anything for anyone!  Never do you hear her complain either (for all that she has endured).  She is truly remarkable.  Kari is a newer friend of mine, but I am so grateful for her in my life as well.  Her ability to just get the job done, keep moving forward, and live life fully are all attributes that I look up to.  Emily and Mike are two of the warmest, funniest, and kindest people.  I joke that Emily might as well be a melanoma survivor for all she knows about melanoma (and all WHO she knows with melanoma)!  They are so involved with the MRF gala each year helping on the planning committee.  Love them to pieces.

Ok, ok, so I have rambled on and on about the people I met.  Now, for the actual event!  When we came in (I was accompanied by my parents, sister, and our friends, the Mitchells), we were greeted,  introduced to the event planners, and then had our pictures taken.  The banquet room was absolutely beautiful.  There was food and drink lining the perimeter and in the front entrance.  I honestly didn't get a chance to eat much because I was meeting and talking with everyone!

About an hour into the event, they started the program with a few special speakers including Boris Bastian, who is a world renown melanoma and genetics scientist and physician.  Then there was another guy, Frederik something-rather, who gave a compelling and hopeful speech about the exciting research in melanoma that is currently happening and progress that is being made to eventually finding a cure.   Dr. Swetter, a dermatologist who heads up the Stanford Melanoma program spoke, as she was being honored for the Humantarian award.  Then the Courage awards were handed out, with me being last.  I gave the closing speech on behalf of all the Courage Award recipients.  I thought I would be nervous, but I wasn't at all actually!  I spoke from my heart and really tried to convey to the audience what it's like to live with this disease.  The fear, the anxiety, the doubts, the worries, but also the hopefulness and the determination to be never give up and to live life fully.  It was indeed emotional (how could it not be!), but I was grateful that I wasn't a blubbering idiot up there either!  I held it together pretty good, I thought! ;)

I will post a video of my speech when I get a copy.  My dear husband really wanted to see it, since he couldn't be with me.  For now though, enjoy a few pictures!

Me and my sister, Trish

My parents, sister, and I

My dear friend, Debbie Mitchell

The fabulous Sue Lescure, introducing the Courage Award recipients

Trying to hold it together during my speech!

One of the guest speakers, he gave a great speech!

Some of the survivors, and Dr. Swetter (far right)

I can't wait for the event next year, I definitely want to be involved more!  All in all, it was a wonderful event!  I left feeling hopeful, blessed to be alive and healthy right now, and so grateful for the new friends that I made.  I am also super grateful to my parents and family who have continually supported me and been there through everything.  I wouldn't be here without them!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Hold Strong and Breathe!

I head back to SF tomorrow.  Yep.  It's that time...good ole' scans and treatment again.  Boy those 3 months creep up fast!  This time though I have the priviledge of attending the MRF 'Wings of Hope' Gala on Thurs night with my parents and my sister.  That should be a great event.  I'm most excited to see some of my other 'molemates' or melanoma friends and to meet and hear others stories.  Always inspiring and hopeful!

Last week, the event planners asked me to speak for a few minutes on behalf of the Courage Award recipients at the gala.  I agreed, thinking that I could just use one of my other speeches that I have delivered in the past.  Then after finding out what they wanted, I quickly realized that I would probably need to write a WHOLE NEW speech!  Yay.  ;)

I am grateful that my scans are the day after the Gala though.  That keeps my mind distracted with the gala and not focused on the whole scan-anxiety.  I do have to say that I am quite nervous for these scans.  I'm not really sure why.  You would think that the longer you get into remission, the more comfortable you would get.  Nope.  Not with melanoma.  I know how evil and sneaky this disease can be and how quickly life can change again...

My insurance is still being lame.  They denied the appeal for radiation treatment twice now, so the next step is for me to stand in front of the Membership Rights Panel and plead my case.  Fun times.  That would mean that I would have to go there, which is in OREGON.  I definitely don't want to give up on this, but I really just need to talk to my doc to determine the next best steps.

So...wish me luck and let's cross our fingers that I don't stumble on my words giving my speech Thurs night and have good results Friday!
Until then...I'm going to concentrate on being STRONG and taking lots of deep BREATHS!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Being a Mom

Being a mom is the most difficult job in the world. It is a job that requires your attention 24/7 with no pay and often no praise. But it is also the most rewarding job in the world and the most important one.

Being a mom means you wear many 'hats' or roles--chef, nurse, teacher, tutorer, maid, chaffeur, referee, cheerleader, discipliner, coach, nurturer, psychologist, and even friend. When you're a mom, you become a master learn to sleep with one eye and one ear open, you put sunscreen on your kids first, you give your kids extra helpings at dinner before serving a plate for yourself, and you give them all the extra blankets when you're camping to make sure they don't get cold. As a mom, you sacrifice everything just so your kids will be happy, and you do everything to create harmony, balance, and love in your home.

There is no greater responsibility than to be a mother. I am so honored and blessed to be the mom of these 2 muchkins. They keep me busy, they give me my continued determination to fight, they keep me "fun", and they help me to want to do better. There are days that I want to literally pull my hair out and throw in the towel, but then there are moments that remind me that this tough work is worth it. Like when Carson climbs into my bed first thing in the morning to snuggle or when Austin says his prayers and continues to pray for me and my healing, that I think, "yes, this is worth it."

They bring me more joy than I ever thought was possible and I know that without them, I wouldn't fight as hard to be here.

Happy Mothers Day to all you moms out there! Take the time to relish in those "small moments" that put a smile on your face, a tear in your eye, and remind you that you are doing the most important job in the world.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Community Ed and BK High School classes

Our second community education class was Thurs May 3rd and was a great success!  There were a few people that registered and didn't end up showing up, but all in all, good turn-out.  Dr. Mings, our dermatologist spoke a little longer this time, touching on all skin types of skin cancer, not just melanoma.  He showed lots of pictures of melanomas and other skin cancers that really got everyone's attention.  Our nutritionist, Anne Woodhouse, also did a fabulous job presenting information on incorporating cancer-fighting foods into the diet, supplements, whole foods lifestyles, etc.  We had great questions and interaction from the participants!

Today, another one of the Sol Survivors, Ruby deBoer and I spoke in the health classes at a local high school, Bishop Kelly.  It was an exhausting day because we repeated our presentation 5 times!  It was such a powerful experience to talk to these 9th graders about their skin, melanoma, and how to protect and prevent melanoma.  I was amazed at the interaction and questions we got from some of the class members, especially the young women.  They were, for the most part, very engaged and seemed to get it!

Our agenda for the HS classes went something like this:  First we opened it up with questions like, "What do you know about melanoma?", "Who has ever had a sunburn?", "Who has ever used a tanning bed?", and "Who knows someone with melanoma?"  It was a great way tofind out what these young kids knew about melanoma and skin cancer.  Most of them knew very little, of course.  After the questions and discussion, Ruby shared her story (she is Stage 3) and related it to what she was doing at their age that she thinks led to her diagnosis (grew up outside on a farm, little to no sunscreen and then as a teenager, went to tanning beds occassionally).  After Ruby's story, we went through our power point which covered facts and statistics (that we thought related to them, plus Idaho statistics), then we went into common myths and misconceptions like, "I need a base tan before I go on vacation" or "Tanning beds are safer than the sun." 

Detection was next, where we covered risk factors for melanoma, the ABCDE's, in which we showed pictures of typical and non-typical melanomas and had the class try to figure out what ABCDE's were presenting in these moles/melanomas.  After covering detection, we went through some prevention tips, spending a fair amount of time covering sunscreen--how much and how often to reapply, what sunscreens are best, what hours in the day to avoid, protective clothing, etc.  We then gave them a hand-out to take home, shared the Dear 16 Year Old Me video on melanoma awareness (they seemed to really enjoy that), and then closed up the class with my story (which I shared a picture of my dark, tanned skin back in my lifeguarding days) and then any last questions.

Our hopes for next year are to get into a lot more schools in the community.  I know that we will do that too.  We have a good network here and lots of resources, and so I think that is a very strong possibility and outcome.  We just need more man-power though!  And really, I think having a melanoma survivor share their story and present the info is KEY.  It makes our stories and faces more relatable and seems to hit home more.

Watch out world, we are on a mission and the Sol Survivors Melanoma Foundation is going to help prevent melanoma from taking another life!!!

Thursday, May 3, 2012


This is just ONE reason why we don't use tanning beds!  I had to laugh on this one though because I think Will Farrell is hilarious! ;)