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?!?!