Monday, December 30, 2013


2013 is almost out the door and I am so grateful I to have another year here!  I look back at this year and although there have been some ups and downs, we are healthy, together, and happy, so what more can anyone ask for?!
Life is a gift, a precious gift above anything else on earth.  Each year that passes, I just feel humbled and blessed to be given this life.  2014, bring it on!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Merry Christmas!!

How grateful I am for these boys of mine who are the sparkle in my eye, for love and friendship in my life, for good health, and for the reason for the season, Jesus Christ!!!
Merry Christmas all!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013


I love both of these quotes so much as they remind me to never lose sight of the future or the "big picture".  Being a religious person myself, I truly believe that God has a unique and individual plan for each of us and that plan provides us the most happiness if we endure to the end.  In order to achieve that happiness, we must pass through sorrow and life experiences that help us gain a greater perspective for what's really important, what we need to learn in our trials to become more better people, and to trust God.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013


Oh how I love these Sol-mates of mine!  (Missing a few in this picture.)  It's crazy how we all met and came together, and all because of MELANOMA!  How grateful I am to have found these amazing women who inspire one another, lift each other, and support one another.  Even if Sol Survivors Melanoma Foundation did nothing else to raise awareness for melanoma, I feel proud of the fact that we are helping others with this disease and build this support network in our community.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Cancer is my herpes

I recently read this interesting and enlightening article talking about how we need to change our perspective when fighting cancer...
"About a year ago, I learned about some "worrisome" spots that had shown up on my quarterly CT scan. This was about six months after my last of 24 chemotherapy infusions, and to say I was bummed upon hearing the news would be an understatement. But I slowly wrapped my brain around the notion of a "third option" relating to cancer, the third option being something between permanent remission from cancer... and death.
Now the thought of just "learning to live with" cancer was unappealing then and is unappealing now. Of course, I (and anyone else without a death wish) would prefer to live a long life, free of illness and disease, without the scepter of cancer hanging over my head. But as a couple of wise blokes named Mick Jagger and Keith Richards once wrote, you can't always get what you want.
Over the course of the past year, I and my oncology team have watched and monitored those worrisome nodules, hoping they'd either go away or at least remain unchanged. The nodes were too small and scattered to biopsy; but since cancer rarely remains completely stagnant, the thought was that if they didn't grow, they likely weren't cancer. Unfortunately, they grew. Not at an alarming rate, but slowly and steadily they grew. And just as slowly and steadily, my CA125 (cancer marker) levels crept upward.
My family and I watched and waited, hoping for the best but fearing the worst, until a couple of weeks ago, my oncologist called me in for the hard conversation...."
To read the full article, click here.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Cancer surrounds us

We've all heard the saying that everyone has been touched by cancer in some form or another.  It's true though.  Cancer affects EVERYONE.

For example, just recently, we had a good friend (our age) lose her husband to brain cancer.  They had four young children.  It was just devastating.  And then my 8 yr old son's Primary teacher was recently diagnosed with a rare form of adrenal cancer.  Her cancer was caught somewhat late, and there aren't a lot of treatment options available to her, but she is fighting it to her best ability.
One of our Sol Survivors, Janice, just lost her mom to lung cancer.  She was in her early 60's and had beat lung cancer 13 years ago before it came back this year.  Such a sad loss for Janice and her sweet family.  Then there's Amy Dunn's father.  Remember Amy Dunn?  She was a fellow Sol Survivor, who lost her life to melanoma almost 2 years ago.  29 years old.  Her dad has Stage IV colon cancer and it just breaks my heart.
Cancer really is everywhere.  Cancer doesn't discriminate and it usually just sneaks up upon you!  There are days that I just hate cancer.  I wish scientists would find a cure for it already.  On the bright side though, cancer is a reminder of our mortality, our fragile existence, and how precious life is.  After having gone through that experience myself, I will never take that for granted.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Shae Simis

 Meet our newest Sol Survivor, Shae Simis!  She is a 7 yr old Stage 3 melanoma warrior and lives in Meridian, Idaho.  Her mom recently reached out to us via our support group and we are so grateful to help support this family in any way we can!  Shae is currently undergoing treatment and doing well and we have big hopes for her to continue a long, happy, healthy life free of melanoma!  GO SHAE!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The Wrong Road

I recently watched this video and it touched me so much I just to share it.  I feel like there have been many times in my life when I have realized that I am on the "wrong road" when I have felt it was right.  It is frustrating to go down a path that you feel is right, only to have to back track and find the right path.

What I have come to realize watching this video is that sometimes God leads you down the wrong path at first because he wants you to learn something, maybe an important life lesson that wouldn't have been learned any other way.  Or maybe God wants to reassure you that when you do find the right path, the other path was undoubtedly wrong.

While it may seem incredibly frustrating to be going the wrong direction for a time, in the end, I believe that is all for our good.  We can't learn or progress in this life without stumbling across road blocks in our path.  For when we do overcome those road blocks and find the right path again, we have a greater appreciation for our successes.

Friday, November 8, 2013

And yet another 3 months (sigh)...

Well, the good news continues and how blessed I feel!  My test results came back good once again, and remission continues.  I feel so incredibly grateful each time I hear this news.  I never take it for granted.  My doctor has decided that my next 3 month visit will be my last 3 month visit, so long as my results are good.  And then I graduate to 6 month visits and no more Yervoy!
I have mixed emotions about this, as I have continually been in treatment for 3 1/2 years without a break.  On one hand, I feel anxious about the cancer returning once I'm no longer in treatment, but on the other hand, I'm also grateful to only have to return twice a year.  I guess I just need to trust my doctor, the statistics (my recurrence rate has dropped tremendously), and most importantly, God!

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Try again

When I saw this, I immediately thought of my sweet husband who is the master of perseverance, not giving up, and enduring to the end!  I also think of Abraham Lincoln who failed multiple times in his life before succeeding.  Great characters are built from our ability to never give up!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Survivor's guilt

There is something that I never would have predicted I would feel being a cancer survivor, let alone even knew about.  And that is something called survivor's guilt.  You're probably thinking that I'm making this up, right?!
You would think that surviving cancer would lend mostly positive feelings, such as gratitude and hope, or maybe even a sense of accomplishment, but there is this whole other side of being a survivor that can sometimes be hard to deal with.  Fear is part of it.  Fear of the cancer returning, fear of the unknown, fear of not having control over your body.  But then there is also guilt.  Guilt for living when others around you are dying.  Guilt for having success with treatments when others aren't.  Guilt for managing the disease well when maybe others have a difficult time and experience unpleasant side effects.  It just doesn't seem fair.
My intention in writing about this is not to gain pity and sympathy.  It is solely to explore this other side of "survivorship", so that others like myself may not feel alone, as I am sure that others out there that can relate to this sentiment.
It becomes especially difficult when you personally know people that are struggling to stay alive or maybe don't have the same outcome as you did.  Unfortunately, for me, I know plenty of people who have had less than desirable outcomes with cancer and have passed on.  It's even harder when it's the same kind of cancer.  I always experience this pang of guilt and start questioning why they had to die and I survived.  After all, what makes them any different than me?
For example, I recently wrote about my friend, Leslee's husband Jared.  Jared was not much older than me.  Jared had a wife and four young children.  Jared was a good person.  But yet, Jared lost his life to brain cancer.  He was yanked from his family too soon.  He wasn't even middle-aged!  Yet, God had a different plan for him, a plan that maybe we don't comprehend at this point.  So, why him and not me?  We both have similar circumstances.  We both have families, spouses, responsibilities, life to be lived!
And yet for some reason (maybe several reasons), I am still here.  God is obviously not "done" with me yet.  Ok, that sounded like I was getting fired from life or something, but you know what I mean.  My time isn't up yet.  I probably have a lot of lessons to still learn!  I don't want this to sound like I'm ungrateful.  Because trust me, I am NOT ungrateful.  In fact, seeing others go before me (especially younger people) only makes me more grateful to be alive.  But what sometimes accompanies that gratitude is this feeling of guilt.  And it sometimes gets the best of me.  I need to just focus on the positive and push the bad feelings out of my head (easier said than done).
The thing is that I KNOW that God has a plan for all of us.  A very beautiful, unique, individualized plan that only He knows.  His plan for us, I believe, will provide us with the most happiness and growth too.  I also know that people die all the time, at all different ages, sometimes unexplained or at no fault of their own.  Thus is life, right?!  But yet, even with this knowledge, I still struggle with this guilt.
I guess the trick to balancing the good and the bad side of cancer survivorship is to always keep my priorities and perspective in check.  To always come back to what I know and what I feel.  And what I feel is incredible gratitude to be alive, to have a healthy body that is working, to be around for my husband and kids, and to enjoy life even despite the challenges that arise.

Thursday, October 24, 2013


How I love this so much!  I think any challenge, good or bad, can change us for the better if we have the right attitude and perspective.  There is nothing more rewarding than seeing what we've learned and gained from our challenges!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Definition of Inconquerable

What do you think of when you think of the word INCONQUERABLE?

I think of our friend, Leslee Olsen's husband, Jared who just passed away on Friday due to brain cancer.  Even when death was eminent, Jared's spirit never gave up.  He never let cancer define who he was.  He never became bitter at cancer or more importantly, at God for letting his life slip away from his dear wife and 4 sweet, young children.  Jared never complained, he never used his cancer as a "crutch", and he always found humor in everything around him.  He simply turned this devastating, terminal life challenge into something positive and beautiful to teach others what is important in life and that with God's help, anything is possible.

To me, that is someone who is INCONQUERABLE.  I am in awe of not only how Jared handled his cancer, but how his family sought to find the blessings and silver linings along their journey.  I would like to say that I have done that in my own journey, although not perfectly, but nevertheless, found the joy in the journey when times were tough and hope was lost.

We can all learn from Jared and his family.  Their story always reminds me that God is indeed mindful of us, has a plan for us, and loves us more than we can comprehend.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Sol Survivors update

A few exciting things in the works for Sol Survivors!  First off, our paperwork is in!  We are hopefully one final step closer to becoming an official non-profit.  I couldn't be more thrilled (and overwhelmed).  Now is the waiting game and hopefully by the end of the year, we will have heard back from the IRS.  Crossing fingers!
Second...our support group is growing more!  We have added a few new members.  There is Reese, who is currently fighting Stage 4, Shaelyn a 7 year old girl fighting Stage 3, Christie from Mountain Home who is fighting Stage 3, and Courtney who is been in the clear for almost 5 years from Stage 1.
It is truly exciting to know that our group is reaching more and more people in our community.  I know that if nothing else, even without our education and awareness presentations, that this support group is important and NEEDED.  Every time we meet someone new, I have this undeniable feeling that we were supposed to come together, to meet, and to share our stories and lives with one another.  Each person is unique, incredible and brings something different to our group.  It is awesome!
We have a few schools scheduled for the Fall semester coming up and I'm excited to present our information and stories to another group of high school-aged kids!  I know that we are saving lives with this information.  My hope is that as we grow, we will be able to accommodate more schools, but for now, this is about all I can handle! :)

Friday, October 11, 2013

Sweet Shaelyn

About a year ago I learned of a 6 year old girl, Shaelyn, also living in Meridian, who had just been diagnosed with Stage 3 Melanoma.  When I first heard this, I immediately wanted to reach out to the family, but it wasn't until now that the stars aligned and we were able to meet.
After a couple of email exchanges, we were finally able to meet Shaelyn's mom at our support group. Shaelyn seems like a very special and strong girl.  She is undergoing Interferon treatment currently and doing very well considering the side effects that are typical with this drug.  I can't even imagine watching my young child go through this, it is just heartbreaking, but at the same time, inspiring that Shaelyn seems to be holding strong!  I hope and pray that Shaelyn has continued success and that her cancer stays in remission!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Stage 4 Melanoma Survivors

I was reading one of my fellow melanoma friend's blog the other day and I got to thinking that it's time to write another post about Stage 4 melanoma survivors that I know.  I think anyone that has gone through this disease can understand and relate to the following.
When I was in the middle of trying to figure out what treatment plan I would do when my cancer returned as Stage 4, I remember desperately seeking for anyone out in the "melanoma world" that was still alive.  It's hard to hold onto hope when everything you read, the statistics and stories, are dismal!  It diminishes your hope of finding any long-term plans and creates so much unnecessary fear in our head.
Luckily for me, I stumbled across some survivors.  Let me say this first though, almost ALL of them do NOT have blogs.  You don't read about on them on any on-line forum either because why?  They are doing well and living their lives!  They are doing their best to live normal lives, just like we all were before our diagnosis.
When I came to this conclusion, I stopped reading on-line forums.  They just didn't give me hope that I needed.  Most of the people are those are in the trenches, desperately looking for guidance on treatments, or seeking for hope in a dreary diagnosis and prognosis.  I couldn't read them anymore.  It just wasn't helping my spirits AT ALL.
Let me just say this--I don't believe in coincidences.  I believe the people we meet are put in our path for a reason.  And in my case, the survivors that I met were merely answers to my prayers.  I needed HOPE, and hope is exactly what I got when I talked to these survivors, met them, heard their stories.  It gave me everything I needed to know that one, I am not alone and two, that I can do this.
A couple of years ago, I wrote a post about other advanced melanoma survivors, both Stage 3 and 4.   Some of those people I didn't know personally, but some I did.  Some have passed away since then, but a lot of them are still around.  That particular blog post was and is still my most popular and read post of all time.  When I look at my statistics--who is reading my blog, what key word searches people are looking under, I noticed one thing.  A lot of people are searching for survivors.  They are seeking for hope.  They NEED to know that there people out there doing well and living past their "prognosis".
I want to share again a few of these stories, as to give hope to others out there who might be struggling to find that hope or will to live and move forward.
The very first person who comes to mind is my dear friend, Tina Rosenthal.  She is not much older than me and was diagnosed with Stage 4 about 7 years ago.  She has been in remission for 6 years and is healthier than ever.  Tina will always remain to be one of the most influential people for me in giving me hope when I was in the midst of treatments and such.  I am so lucky to call her friend.
The next is Sue Lescure.  Sue had ocular melanoma, but Stage 4 as well.  She has gone through a lot, but almost 7 years later, is still in remission.  In fact, her and Tina were in the hospital together enduring the same treatment!  She is also a dear friend of mine now, and such a positive, bright, supportive spirit.  I adore her.
There's Erick Davis, who I think has been in remission from Stage 4 for almost 12 years now?!  His melanoma was even in his liver, and yet, he has been clear for that long now.  He is super healthy and active, and competes in swimming events still.  Such an inspiring story.
Kari W orth is another 12 year + survivor.  Her struggle is different than the last three though because her melanoma has returned off and on over the years.  BUT Kari is still alive today and currently in remission.  Talk about a strong lady, Kari is everything you think of when you hear the words, "never give up."  She has never given up.  EVER.
I also know a wonderful lady, named Carol Shelton.  Carol is quite a bit older than me, was diagnosed with Stage 4 over 10 years ago and was told she had MONTHS to live.  Her cancer was so advanced that the doctors didn't think that any treatment would do the trick.  Carol's daughter couldn't take that answer, and so she sought out experimental clinical trials as her mother's best chance to surviving.  Well, that clinical trial worked (she was on one of the first Ipi trials) and Carol has been in remission ever since.  That was over 10 years ago!
Then there's Lisa Formato who is still around, despite her ups and downs with the disease.  Lisa has chosen to fight her melanoma with a more holistic approach and has done extremely well with her approaches.  Lisa probably wouldn't even have survived a year if she didn't take drastic measures, but yet, Lisa is still alive, a few years later, still fighting and winning the fight.  Another inspiration.
I also know a couple of people on Facebook that have amazing stories.  One is Mark Williams, who has been in remission with his Stage 4 melanoma for over 6 years now.  He is a great example of someone who fully embraces his second chance at life and lives his life everyday like its his last.
Bob Hefferman and Jimmy Breitfeller are other Stage 4 warriors and survivors.  Bob is another Facebook friend and did TIL treatment at NIH and has been doing well for over 4 years now.  Jimmy did a series of different treatments to fight his melanoma and is convinced that his sequence of treatments "cured" his disease.  He is, to my knowledge, still in remission about 8 or so years later.
 And these stories are just a few!  I just hope that by sharing them, that someone out there that is struggling to keep hopeful will know that there are LOTS of us out there.  Never give up.  It isn't an option.  You just have to put one foot in front of the other and keep going!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Melanoma cure???

I read this article the other day, which gave me so much hope that we are SO close to finding a cure to melanoma, or even treatments that will not only help so many advanced melanoma patients have more durable remissions.  The word "cure" has always seemed so far out there, almost like that wasn't possible, and even though I'm still hesitant on using that word to describe melanoma, I also know that we really are on the breakthrough of finding better treatments that will at least halt and manage the cancer in late-stage melanoma patients.
I'm always looking for the silver lining to my diagnosis, so I see that as a "good" time to have melanoma!  Better now than 20, 10, or even 5 years ago!  To think of how far we've come in research over even the last few years is astounding and so hopeful.  Because I have never considered myself "cured" of melanoma and only in remission, I see this good news for me too.  I always have a "Plan B" in the back of my head if my melanoma were to return, so this gives me hope that if it does, I will hopefully have some viable options!

Monday, September 9, 2013

26 Day Detox

About a month ago, three friends and I embarked on a 26 day detox cleanse. Why, you ask?  Well, we all had our own reasons, but for me, I wanted to get back to not craving sugar, eating more green smoothies (something I wasn't doing as frequently as I used to), and just eating cleaner.  I'm a pretty good eater, but I still acknowledge my weaknesses and desire to  master them.  I knew this cleanse was going to be difficult, but I also knew that I could do it (especially with the help of friends).  We chose a month that none of us were going out-of-town or had a lot going on to make it more do-able too.  Each day we would check in with each other on a group text and help motivate each other and give each other ideas on how to combat cravings and weak moments we might have.  We also split up different tasks like juicing, making recipes, and grocery shopping.  It made it a TON easier!
I'm not going to lie, the first week was brutal.  No fruit for the first 4 days and then days 5-7 were just green smoothies, but only with certain fruits added in.  As we started Phase 2, things got a little easier and we had some yummy recipes that helped us not feel deprived.  The Purple Heaven cabbage salad was amazing, the millet was delicious, and even the baked sweet potatoes improved as we were able to add butter.  Keep in mind though, that throughout the whole detox, we couldn't eat any dairy (other than the no-salt added organic butter), animal protein (no meat or eggs), no sugar, no salt, no preservatives, and nothing processed, of course.

The reason I loved this cleanse is that it takes a systemic way of detoxing your organs and it also identifies possible food sensitivities and allergens.  The cleanse first started with the colon, and then moved to the liver, kidneys, and gall bladder.  We also drank a ton of water, especially lemon water,  and obviously green smoothies everyday.  There were definitely days that I didn't want to "drink" my meal, but for the most part, I stuck to it and listened to my body and what felt good.  We finish this cleanse tomorrow and I honestly don't even want to be done!  I love how I feel, I don't miss meat AT ALL, and I definitely don't have a desire to eat sugar.  Losing 7 lbs was icing on the cake too and I'm hoping that wasn't just water weight.  Most importantly, I think doing something like is such a mental game of self-discipline and self-mastery.  Knowing that I accomplished it and didn't give up in moments of weakness is empowering.  And I love to feel empowered.

I'm hoping that we will do this cleanse twice a year to re-set our bodies and our digestive systems and keep things in check!

Phase 1 of this detox was pretty tough!  No fruit for the first 4 days was the hardest.

I love green smoothies, but 3 days of drinking only green smoothies got old!

This crunchy tomato avocado salad was one of our faves.  So yummy! I looked forward to this everyday.

Phase 3 we added salads and legumes and nuts.

Phase 4 was pretty easy because we added more grains (like sprouted wheat and quinoa).  My favorite was the guacamole, of course, with the homemade no-salt tortilla chips! 

Monday, September 2, 2013

This is what life is all about.

The beautiful outdoors, my family, our health, what else do we really need?!?!


Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Indoor tanning is banned in SIX states!!

Six states have now banned tanning bed use in minors!  California, Nevada, Oregon, Texas, Illinois, and Vermont!  This is exciting news, people!  C'mon Idaho, let's get with the program!

Friday, August 16, 2013

Live not just survive

How many melanoma survivors, (or any cancer survivor for that matter) can relate to this??
I remember not too long ago, I would think this very thought.  I don't just want to survive!  I want to live because living, to me, means enjoying life to the fullest!  And today I am grateful that I can truthfully say that  I am living, not just surviving.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Melanoma joke

I had to chuckle at this because I think it's important to find laughter in all of this ugly world of melanoma!!

Monday, August 5, 2013

3 years is a big deal.

Well, I made it to my 3 year mark!  3 years in remission, 3 years without evidence of disease, 3 years all clear!  There was a time in the past that I wondered (and at times seriously doubted) that I would still be here.  So, to say that I'm grateful I am alive, is an understatement!
I was recently reading back through previous posts when I was in the thick of it all.  It was humbling, extremely gratifying, and even emotional to read through all of my posts.  It definitely brought back a flood of memories, both good and bad!  In memoriam of the last 3 years, I thought I would highlight some of those moments (even the not-so-good):

On September 12, 2010 I wrote: 

"Sometimes I find myself crying myself to sleep or in the shower as I think about the possibility of being taken away from my family too early. I'm only 32 years old! Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought that I would be fighting cancer at this stage in my life (or any stage in my life). The thought is too much to bare sometimes. I often doubt my own strength and courage, and even my will to live because I know that the odds are greatly stacked up against me."

On October 8, 2010 I wrote:

"This news was above and beyond what I expected. I mean, I had prayed hard for "remarkable results", but Heavenly Father really hit this one out of the park! Only one word can describe this event and blessing...MIRACLE. I have witnessed with my own eyes many miracles in my life, but this one takes the cake and I'm grateful to be at the receiving end of this wonderful blessing.  I don't even know if I deserve it!  I know that this answer to our prayers was the collective faith, prayers, fasting, and love from everyone around us, not just my own. Thank you for all of your prayers and love, one of the most amazing gifts to me is to "feel" of the power of prayer of so many people praying on behalf of us around the WORLD. It is truly astounding and humbling. We are so blessed!"

On Dec 3, 2010 I wrote:

"On top of the fatigue I've been battling with, it's been a tough week mentally too. I'm nervous for the scans coming up, just praying that the last tumor will be completely gone so I won't need surgery. And I just haven't been feeling as positive about things as I normally do, probably because I physically feel so crappy. I just need to get out of this slump so I can move on and concentrate on the "miracles" that have already occurred and that I'm healing. I do know that I have been blessed and that God is watching over me everyday. There are so many good things that have happened in our lives.

This quote has been a good reminder to me this week, 'Some days there won't be a song in your heart. Sing anyway.' ~Emory Austin"

On Dec 27, 2010 I wrote:

"I'm ready to kick 2010 out the door. Sure, there were some great highlights and we have been extremely blessed, but let's be honest, 2010 was one for the books! It was definitely the hardest year I have endured thus far in my nearly 33 years of life--physically, mentally, and emotionally. But I'm still here alive and kicking. The fight in me will never die. I have too much to live for and too many things that I want to accomplish in my life. Mostly, I want to change lives and help others. I'm not sure how I'm supposed to do that yet, but I have to hold onto that hope. There is more life to be lived! 2011 better go off with a bang! I usually make lots of goals or resolutions every year, but this year I'm simplifying it. My only goal for 2011 is to kick the cancer out of me once and for all!!!"

And then almost 2 years later on February 10, 2012 I wrote:

"The part that humbles me the most is to see my "melanoma comrades" slipping by the wayside--losing their battles to melanoma or perhaps struggling to stay alive. It's that part that always puts a lump in my throat and brings tears to my eyes--because that could easily be ME. In fact, that could have been me a year ago if I hadn't responded to treatment. I COULD BE DEAD. Yes, that is a strong statement, but I realize that it could've easily been my destiny. Fortunately for me, I am still here. But the thing with melanoma is, you are never out of the woods.  I try to stay humble knowing that this beast can always find a way back into my body. Melanoma is sneaky like that--some even like to refer to it as the "great masquerader" because it is often unpredictable and erratic.  I personally know this from experience. All I can do is remember that TODAY IS A PRECIOUS GIFT AND THAT RIGHT NOW I AM DOING ALL THAT I CAN.

It's those 3 months scans that come creeping up that make me anxious and worrisome, and often bring me to my knees pleading for peace and comfort. I'm sure God is sometimes sick of hearing, "Please, Heavenly Father, let me continue on this path. Continue to heal me and bless me with another 3 months of clean scans". I sometimes even find myself making "deals" with Him to do whatever he asks of me, so that I can still be here with my boys. ;)

What also humbles me is to think of all the great blessings and tender mercies that my loving Heavenly Father has provided me and my family these last few years. I am often struck with awe when I realize the big things, and more importantly, the little things that He has given me to ease my burdens. I don't know what I did to deserve those blessings and miracles, but I am eternally grateful for them and try to recognize and acknowledge every one.

I guess I am glad for these humbling moments because if we didn't remember all that we've gone through and learned, how could we be grateful? How could we look back on our lives and see the Lord's hand in it? How could we progress? Being humble and grateful is the key to our existence, I have realized. If we can do that, I know that we will not only be happier for it, but be able to tackle all obstacles that come in our way."

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Balancing Act

I've talked about this before, but sometimes I really struggle with keeping a healthy balance between my "pre-cancer" self and the person I am now, living with cancer in remission (as well as life in general).
I see other melanoma warriors on social media outlets always talking about their journeys and struggles with melanoma (or promoting awareness), and yet why do I struggle to do the same?  I guess I sometimes feel like nobody wants to hear that anymore (nor hear me up on my soapbox ;), but then there's another part of me that also knows that I should continue to do my part to raise awareness for this disease, even if that is just sharing tid-bits here and there.  I also find myself occasionally drifting away from the "melanoma world" because I'm trying to live as normal as a life as possible and so, living in constant fear and doubt that my disease will come back is no way of life for me.  So, I sometimes stay away from the blogging and social media world of melanoma.
I have said before that there are many days now that the word cancer doesn't even enter my mind.  Is this a blessing or curse?  I think it's mostly a blessing, but sometimes I need to remind myself of what I've been through (and what can still happen) and to never take anything for granted, especially my health.
I also struggle at balancing my family life and all the responsibilities that entails (as well as taking care of myself), with our foundation, Sol Survivors.  I know that this is what I am supposed to do, (and we've done some important things already), but I get overwhelmed by everything that we are need and plan to do (and feeling like I don't have enough help too).  I'm not sure what the right thing to do is, and I'm trying to take it one day at a time, and one step at a time.  Hopefully, that will work itself out in the future.
(Love this.)
For now, I'm just trying to enjoy life, enjoy my family and loved ones, create memories, and live each day to its fullest because at the end of the day, that is the one regret that I don't want to have.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

New Sol Survivors

We welcomed a couple of new Sol Survivors in the last couple of months.  One being, Reese Ferguson!  He is a Stage 4 Melanoma survivor, still undergoing treatments, but doing well.  Him and his wife, Kim, came to our Sol summer BBQ and it was so nice to meet them!  They were lovely and great, and a great addition to our group!
We have also added Courtney Knutson, not pictured here, within the last few months.  Courtney is a real go-getter and has already taken off with our Sol Survivors Instagram and Twitter accounts!  She is also a melanoma survivor, almost 6 years!  She is so fantastic and fits right in with all of the ladies!
We continue to try to spread the word about our group, and hope that we will continue to draw any and all persons affected by melanoma!

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Claim to Fame

The Idaho Statesman recently interviewed me for an article for their July-August Living Healthy issue.  The article is obviously about skin cancer in Idaho, sun safety, and how we can prevent the damage the sun can cause us (cancer and aging).  It's a really good article and I was grateful they were so thorough writing and publishing it!  Our kids especially thought they were pretty hot stuff seeing their pictures in the magazine!  So, since I couldn't copy and save the pictures from the magazine article, (the website won't let me), so this is the best I have...
To read the full article and see the pictures, go here.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Never Give Up

Is that true or what?!  I can't tell you how many times I have said this in my life.  Life throws some doozies at us, that's for sure, but one thing I have learned is that we are strong enough to handle it. 
And that is why I named my blog, Strong Enough! ;)

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Celebrate our freedom

I think we, as Americans, often take our freedom for granted.  When we have never lived anywhere else, or have traveled extensively across the world, we don't realize really how great we have it.  I often find myself complaining about so many things wrong with our country and government (healthcare, for one), but at the end of the day, we have it 100 times better than most countries.  Do I really need to list all the reasons??
We have it good here after all.  This year I vow to appreciate everything America has to offer, imperfections and all.  America is truly a great country to live in and I am proud to be an American!

Sunday, June 30, 2013

My favorite sunscreen

My favorite ready?!?!

You might ask why Elta MD is my favorite?!  Well first of all, it is paraben free, chemical free, fragrance free, oil-free, NON-GMO, and contains the most important active ingredient in a sunscreen: zinc oxide!  I have tried so many different sunscreens and not that others didn't work well, but what I love best about Elta MD's is not only that there are no chemicals in it, but the way that they have micronized the zinc oxide so that it rubs in easy (most zinc based sunscreens are thicker and take a little more effort to rub in clear).  In fact, their Aero spray is the only zinc-based spray sunscreen on the market!  I love the Facial moisturizer, the Aero, and the Sport.  Try it, I promise you'll love it and won't want to buy anything else! ;)

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Follow Sol Survivors!

Not only are on Facebook, but we are now on Twitter and Instagram now!  Please follow us, your support means everything to us and only helps us spread our message and mission in educating others in a positive way about melanoma and the prevention of it!
In the meantime...

Friday, June 21, 2013

Pinch me

Every once in awhile, I have these moments that I pinch myself that I am still alive, living this life.  No, my life is not some luxurious, dreamy life, (trust me, I have my daily struggles and trials!), but just that I'm here!  I'm still kicking!  Just the fact that I am able to live my life normally, be here for my family, enjoying and living life to the fullest, is truly the best gift that I could ever ask for.
Because really...

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Divine plan

This quote has proven to be true in every aspect of my life.  I look back at my life and know that everything happened for a reason, and always for the better.  God is good and his plan for us is happiness!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Love the Skin You're In

I am going to be REAL wasn't always easy for me to love the skin I'm in (and still isn't), even after being diagnosed with melanoma and accepting the fact that I will never have a real "tan" again.  I'm not going to lie, I was one of those teens and young adults that LOVED having a tan.  I remember dreading the Fall when school started because that would mean that I would gradually lose my tan from a long summer of working outdoors (I was a lifeguard and swim instructor).
Looking back, I definitely recognize that I had a tanning addiction.  I couldn't wait to get my summer tan each year, I hated being "pale", and if there was a cloudy or indoor day in the summer, I worried my tan would fade!  I know, crazy! 
Fast forward to my 30's when I was diagnosed with melanoma.  I have accepted the fact that a tan isn't worth that diagnosis, but not only that, the sun AGES you.  I can see it now, all the sun spots, freckles and moles, fine lines and wrinkles!  It flat-out SUCKS!  I am now a sunscreen Nazi, and I always have a hat and sunglasses on to protect my face and head.  But here's the thing, I still love having a little color, so occasionally I use the self-tanners (and even once in a blue moon get a spray tan).

Does this mean that I can't accept and love the skin I'm in though?  I feel conflicted about this.  Here I am preaching to love the skin you're in, but then I use a self-tanner to darken my skin?  Am I not a good example now?  And do people get the wrong assumptions when they see me "tan" and think that it's from the sun?
I go back and forth with this.  On hand, I think, people can jump to any conclusion they want, I don't care.  The people that know me, know that I am not getting a tan from outside (or tanning beds).  But then on the other hand, I feel like I should just really accept my natural skin color (which isn't that pasty white anyways) and go with my glow because that's really what we should do!
It's a daily struggle being comfortable in your skin.  I am still working on it.

Friday, June 7, 2013

A cure for everything

Ain't that the truth!!  I absolutely agree and would add chocolate to that list!

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Run for Dunn 2013

The second annual Run for Dunn was a success!  I have to admit, I was a little worried we wouldn't get the turn-out like last year, but we did!  It was a perfect day weather wise too!  We were able to give out lots of brochures and sunscreen samples, and more importantly, we had lots of participants lined up to get free skin checks by our dermatologists.
We are hoping that the upcoming years will grow even more and that eventually this event will be HUGE!  I would love to see a melanoma run do well in our community here.  Our community needs this important education!
(By the way, how cute are we in this picture?!  This is some of the Sol Survivors.  We are missing Janice, Ruby, and Dan.  What a fantastic group we have! ;)

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Advances in the treatment of melanoma

The landscape for melanoma treatments is rapidly changing.  From even 3 years ago when I was diagnosed with Stage 4 disease, there was really only one treatment FDA approved for Stage 4.  A year later, there were 2 more treatments approved (Yervoy and Zelboraf), and now another two are soon to be approved.
"The new findings in immunotherapy for advanced melanoma were presented at this year’s American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) meeting. While the results are encouraging, the studies are still in early stages. 
Researchers from cancer centers around the world tested an anti-PD-1 drug calle Lambrolizumab in 135 patients with advanced melanoma.  In more than a third of the patients, 38%, the melanoma shrank significantly in response to the drug and in many others the disease stopped growing.  On average, it took longer than 7 months for the cancer to get worse in patients taking Lambrolizumab. 
Also at the ASCO meeting, researchers presented longer-term data about another anti-PD-1 drug: Nivolumab.  It was tested in 107 people with advanced melanoma.  The new results showed that overall, about one-third of patients responded to treatment with the drug.  This confirms earlier results of the study that began about a year ago."
To read more, go here.
This is so exciting and so hopeful!  I know that even if we don't find a "cure" to this disease, we are finding better methods to manage it, and not only that methods that are less toxic to the body.  Let's hope we continue on this trend.  I have a feeling it will!

Saturday, May 18, 2013

MRF Gala 2013

I attended my second MRF (Melanoma Research Foundation) gala in SF.  It's a wonderful event and raises a lot of money for MRF, which in turn goes to funding research grants and education.  MRF asked me to present the awards to the Courage recipients this year (last year I was one), which was a true honor and priviledge!  All of them were fantastic and truly embody the word, "survivor".

Such a beautiful venue.  Love the tall ceilings and pillars.

My dear friend, Tina Rosenthal, who I admire so much.  She was instrumental for me before and during my treatments in the hospital.  She prepared me well with what to expect from treatments, sent me books and literature to read, and even came to visit me in the hospital several times.  I just adore her to pieces.  Her and I think a lot alike!  Wish we lived closer.

Dr. Minor with myself, Tina, and Sue, all Stage 4 melanoma survivors and patients of this brilliant and wonderful doctor.  He is a big reason we are all still alive!

Some other melanoma survivors and warriors, Kristina (far left), and Aine (far right).  This was my first time meeting Kristina (Stage 3) in person and I was so happy to meet her!  She is simply amazing in every way and a true fighter!  Aine is a young girl (Stage 4) who was at the gala last year when I attended.  I was very relieved to see her doing well and responding to treatment!

The day after the gala, I had my routine scans and treatment.  I was grateful for the distraction of the gala the night before to keep me from getting nervous the next day.  Fortunately, I received good results and am able to continue forward with good health and remission.  God is good!!!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Not Worth Dying For

This article is worth reading.  Have you ever wondered why more and more young people, especially young women are getting melanoma??  In this article lies your answer.
 I know I certainly fit the mold in my younger years.  I was in the sun constantly in the summers, often working in the sun (lifeguarding and teaching swimming), but I also spent a fair amount laying out by the pool to keep my tan and while in my early 20's, sometimes used tanning beds to achieve that glow!  Little did I know back then, that all that damage from UV light catch up to me and land me a melanoma diagnosis.
Hindsight vision is always 20/20.