Thursday, February 14, 2013

Will You Be Your Valentine?

Ah, Valentine’s Day. The day we are forced to feel guilty if we don’t properly express our feelings for our one true love and/or the day to feel completely unworthy when no one makes an effort to express feelings for us.

I’ve been at both extremes when it comes to the importance I put on Valentine’s Day.  The most important years were in high school, you know, when it’s almost necessary to get a gift and have validation that YES, someone other than your mom and dad (if you are blessed) think you’re kind of cute and worth spending time with.

Then I entered my 20’s, when the real man hating begins. Valentine’s Day became a day of expected disappointment.  I had all 3 of my only serious boyfriends through my 20’s.  The first one was great about sending me flowers every valentine’s day, which, I in turn thought was pretty dumb. I mean, why buy me roses today that cost twice as much as they would have just last week? Oh yeah, and they will die, really, really fast.  Just being in my presence decreases the life expectancy of all shrubbery. Jewelry, clothes, shoes...these things cost just as much and last a hell of a lot longer.

Then I had a boyfriend whose first valentine’s gift to me was a box of chocolates (I am not a candy person) and a card that he didn’t even bother to sign. These were given to me at about oh, 7:30 on Valentine’s night, for which we had absolutely no plans. You can tell it was a last minute thought as he paid for his gum on his way out of the drug store.  I was highly disgusted and offended. I remember all I kept saying was, “Elmer’s Chocolates? Don’t they ALSO make glue???” Yes, I can be a real butt when I want to, but that is totally beside the point.

Now my very last boyfriend , Mr. LSM was SUPER romantic. And he was romantic all the time, not just when he was “supposed” to be. That, of course, lasted until our first child together. You see, once you get married and become a parent, no matter how romantic you may be, you are just too tired.  All. The. Time. So, your only options are to either slowly hate the person you love because they no longer do back flips when you enter the room OR you can start noticing the OTHER ways love is shown.   Yes, overpriced roses, chocolate, and stuffed animals doomed to become a breeding ground for dust mites are not the only ways to express true love. There are other ways.

What kind of things mean LOVE to me nowadays?

  • Coming home and telling me to "Get out of the house." So I can have a break without the kids. Or maybe it's because you can't think of a nicer way to get me to stop complaining about how I am paying for what a bad child YOU were. Either way, it's appreciated.
  • Letting me lay in bed all day watching Psych after surgery. Yes, even though surgery  to remove cancer from my skin was required for you to be totally ok with me laying around, the break was super nice. I love me some Shawn and Gus. 
  • Stopping to pick me up a fountain soda on your way home.  Even though there is soda here, but I just HAVE to have one from a fountain. And even though I may have to remind you that I never EVER tell you no, so how dare you say no when I rarely ask you for anything. 

I know, not exactly 50 Shades material here, but hey this is the real world people. 

To me, the best expressions of love are when someone lets me know they are thinking about me or that they truly know me. 

Like when my husband shows up with a Keurig for me after I've been talking about it for months and he absolutely hates how much coffee I drink. Or when my kids pick up a maple leaf from the yard and give it to me, because they know I love them. Or when my daughter comes home from college for the weekend, gives me a hug and tells me she missed me (when usually, she is about as affectionate and cuddly as a pine cone). Or when friends post coffee memes on my Facebook page because it made them “think” of me. Or when my sisters send me a picture of an Oompa Loompa because they know it will totally freak me out and make me sing the song for the rest of the day while I curse them into damnation. Wait. No. That is the OPPOSITE of love. That is just pure evil. But the others, those are the best.

In the end, we must remember that it is our responsibility and our privilege to love ourselves first. Something we definitely don't do enough- ESPECIALLY after we become parents.  I believe not loving myself has led me to make the worst mistakes of my life and is definitely one of the main reasons I was diagnosed with melanoma (trying to be something I wasn’t by tanning).  So tonight I want to encourage you to be your own Valentine, today and every day, by doing the things I have  added to my "to-do" list.

Be yourself.
Know who you are and share that person with the world.

Love your imperfections.
Because without them we would all be just a bunch of Stepford wives and mommies running around.

Trust yourself.
You've made it this far. You are smarter than you think and you can handle more than you know.

Be as patient with yourself as you would a friend or family member.
Stop expecting perfection from yourself

Forgive yourself.
We've all made mistakes. Some we may always regret, but we can't dwell on them. Move on. Make a difference.

Take care of yourself FIRST.
This is the toughest one, especially for women. But if we are not healthy and happy and functioning from a remotely sane perspective, well, perfect heart- shaped pancakes for breakfast and cute hand-crafted note cards in our kids' lunch boxes really won't make all that much of a difference.

Do what you love.
 Dance, read, write, craft, sew, run, swim, bike, sit, sleep, nap, whatever truly makes you happy. Do it!

And for those of you who, like I used to, find most of your validation from others, there is still hope. plant your own garden and decorate your own soul,
Instead of waiting for someone to bring you flowers.
And you learn that you really can endure...
That you really are strong,
And you really do have worth.

In closing, I thought it would be fun to share some Valentine's For the Real World from Rants From Mommyland.  LOVE LOVE LOVE their blog btw. 

Thanks for reading! Until next time, practice safe sun!

Friday, February 8, 2013

Are You Giving Yourself the Best?

Today I had my 3 month skin check with my dermatologist.  Actually, it was my 2 month, 2 week checkup, since I moved up a little early due to the lovely new beauty mark over my lip.

 So, since it was skin check day, I did what my fellow warrior suggested at Respect the Rays. I circled all the marks I was most concerned about. I always leave the doctors’ offices forgetting to ask questions. ALWAYS. So this way, at least if I forget, the circles will draw her attention to them. 

I asked Mr. LSM to help with some of the circling, and he got a little carried away.  I, too, almost got carried away. I was recently asking my 3 year old what it was she enjoys SO much about writing on herself. Well, today I got a little reminder of the power you hold with your pen in hand and your skin as an empty canvas. I won’t question her again.

I've been visiting my current dermatologist office and seeing the Physician’s Assistant since my surgery to remove my melanoma in July.  I left my former dermatologist’s office, the office where I got my diagnosis. For the entire 10+ years that I went to that office, I only saw the actual doctor once. It was for an appointment about my hair loss.  He was never EVER available for any of my other appointments for skin examinations, nor did I ever even see him in the office. I always saw his PA. I am extremely grateful for her finding my melanoma (after I went in and told her to remove the mole on my neck), but I felt that this was just not the place for me if i want to stay ahead in my war on melanoma. 

Much like parents who make sure their child has  the latest Xbox, but could care less about whether their child can SPELL Xbox...
Or the Real Housewife who gets a non-surgical, fat-reducing machine brought into her home and eats a slice of pizza while sitting under it...
Or the mom who makes sure to stop off at Starbucks on her way home from the dermatologist’s office, but doesn’t bother to stop off at the store to buy toilet paper her home, which currently has none...  I absolutely know NO one like this btw.
These people aren’t necessarily BAD people, but I am quite certain their priorities are in order.  

My former derm’s office focused on beauty, Botox, and hair implants. 

 If you want to look like a Joan Rivers, they can help.
If you want to live as long as her, probably not.

Here’s what I think are signs of a great dermatologist’s office (and what I happen to love about my new one):

Reading Material:
How can you not totally ADORE this book all about the spots on your skin??? I think everyone (elementary age and up) should either own this or at least read it over a few times. I am thinking every one of my kids’ classrooms will have one donated by me all through their elementary school years.

A Space Heater:
Ok, so this isn’t the end –all, be-all of determinging whether you have a good derm, but I mean come on, who doesn’t get a tad bit chilly when sliding down into your unmentionables? Those paper gowns aren’t thick at all.

Posters on the Wall:
Notice the view from the patient’s chair.
I am a reader, and I will read the back of a shampoo bottle to occupy  my time if it’s all I have available (This usually when I am taking my 5 minute bathroom escape every evening. The only place and time I can sort of get a few moments peace.)  So had these posters been up in the office of my previous dermatologist, well, maybe I would have known about the E in the ABC’s of skin cancer and gotten my butt in there a lot sooner-like a year sooner- to have my “suspicious” mole removed. This would have drastically decreased the chances of my melanoma getting into my lymph nodes or blood stream.

Priority on the Patient:
My PA takes time to listen to me. She is not at all annoyed if I come in with 100 circles on my body. She knows what I have been through and she will "humor" me, even if I do sometimes appear totally nuts. 

She asks about different marks, “How long have you had this?” She checks under my unmentionables. She checks my scalp. She looks between my toes and my fingers.  She examines me ALMOST as good as I would examine myself. Also, when I go in with a concern, like the mark on my lip, she takes it serious. 

Importance of the Patient:
As I mentioned earlier, in my new dermatologist office, the doctor has always been there when I have visited. Twice now, he has come in to help my PA with a concern she had about a mark on my body. Today it was my lip. She noticed the mark had gotten darker. She thought removing it was a good idea when I asked, but she was also concerned about where the mark was located and how I will look after. She asked the doctor to come in. They could have just said, "Screw it. You need it cut, and it's a yucky place to cut. So deal." But together they determined the best way to remove it  in order to leave me still looking like a decent human being ( and somewhat of a pretty mama).

All of these things make a huge difference when it comes to my health, to my life. So it is important that i make sure I treat myself to the best. We all deserve that. 

Final notes: 

1.  In case you ever wonder, getting a needle stuck in the top of your lip hurts like a MOFO!!! I can take a lot. I've had needles in my eye lid, needles in my neck, needles in my back, and I took this one like a BOSS- make no mistake of that- but I can't lie, it stung inside my heart a little. 

2.  The dermatologist said by looking at the mark, he was pretty sure-99%- it is benign, but given my history, why ask me to wait and watch. Why stress me out when I do need to? Removing it was the right thing to do and me wanting it removed was the right way to think, regardless of the location.  It feels good to have doctors on your side.  I should get the results in about a week.

Thank you for reading. Until next time, practice safe sun...and give yourself the BEST of everything!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

A Friendly Challenge to Raise Cancer Awareness

Monday, February 4th was world cancer day. But I want it to last longer than that. 

I’ll be honest, I wasn’t aware what day it was until I saw posts on Facebook and Twitter.  There were a lot of great posts and reminders from fellow warriors, blog posts by celebrities like Brooke Burke and Katie Couric, but most of all I enjoyed the Stand Up 2 Cancer posts.  In those posts, you saw real, everyday people holding up signs provided by the SU2C website, proudly naming those for whom they stand.

It’s one thing to see beautiful celebrities on TV talking about doing things to help cancer.  It’s another thing to see someone who could be your neighbor or your brother proudly making a statement for those they love.  The ones who touched my heart the most, were the children. No, not the children who were standing up for someone they love- that is sad enough- but the ones who were standing for themselves! When you’re 37 and you feel you’ve been dealt a bad had because you were diagnoses with cancer, that’s tough, it’s terrifying.  When you are 4 and diagnosed with cancer,  that's just damn unfair.

I made this mural from pictures on the SU2C Facebook page.

The brave little smiles they were wearing in the face of having to be so strong, stronger than most are asked to be, it touched me deep into my soul. I thought what Marlo Thomas says at the end of every  St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital- Give thanks for the healthy kids that are in your life and give to those who are not.  Which I do. I give regularly to St. Jude’s because I am truly grateful for my healthy kids and wish I could save eevery child who is not.  But there is more than just giving money.

Katie Couric wrote a post for Huffington Post Blog onMonday. She wrote about things you can do- yes you, the one reading this with very little time and even less funds-to make a difference on World Cancer Day and EVERY other day of the year.

The tips are Katie’s. The descriptions are a take on hers with my influence. :)

Even if you only have 10 Twitter followers, that’s 10 people you can possibly influence.  Use your voice to educate, to inform, to encourage whether it be Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Google +, Instagram, etc.

Small is good, and as you have probably witnessed, small things usually grow into big things when we nurture them and encourage them.  Have a bake sale, a dance off, an event to benefit cancer research, participate in a run/walk, throw a read-a-thon or dance-a-thon. Your community will thank you for it.

Find a way to bring it up or slip it into conversation! I am currently working on some informational cards with skin cancer facts and tips on how to protect yourself. I plan to pass them out at my son’s football games. Sure, I may soon be known as the "weird SPF freak" mom, but if one mom protects her children and teaches them how to be sun safe because of what I did, then my nickname was well worth it.

Cancer is not always a death sentence. It is a battle, one that will be fought hard, but can be won.  Reach out to others. Learn about what they are going through and ENCOURAGE and support them through their battle!!

We never know what to say or do when someone we know has been diagnosed. I absolutely HATED when my friends said, “Oh. I am SO sorry this is happening to you.”  I felt like they were sentencing me to death or at the very least, a miserable future. But I know they didn’t mean it that way.  I mean, that is EXACTLY what I say when I find out that someone has lost someone they loved to death. “I am so sorry.”  No, it doesn’t help, but at the very least it is my way to express that I feel for you, and I am here for you. Be open to talking about whatever they want to talk about. Send cards. Call to say hi.  Make them laugh. I know that always helps me.

My challenge to you:

I challenge you all to come up with ideas, suggestions, tips (the more unique the better) and SHARE THEM HERE or on my Facebook page, or on my Twitter.  Let’s think of things that are so easy for us to do with just a little effort to stand up for cancer and those who have fought it, who are fighting it, and for those who will fight it one day. I will follow up with a post sharing as many ideas as I can.  If we can get those ideas out, maybe, just maybe, some people will run with them.

I look forward to hearing from you all.

Thank you for reading. Until next time, practice safe sun. 

Monday, February 4, 2013

Why Vanity is GOOD!

In case you weren’t sure, there IS a plus side to being a little bit vain. 

I am no super model, and as you know from previous posts, I didn’t have the greatest self-esteem for the first 20 + years of my life.  But I still like to show off a good picture of myself whenever possible.

And now with the invention of social media and finally having a cell phone with a camera, my tiny vanity issues have been magnified about 1000 times. In other words, I take a lot of pictures of myself.  I don’t like most of them, but hey, that’s what’s great about digital pictures- you can take them and take them until you get one you like (and you don’t have to wait for the entire hour of the film to be processed).

It’s amazing what technology has done to us. I mean, we can brag about what we are doing, how we look, what we are eating, how cute our kids or grandkids are, how sexy our partner is, and all the great places we are visiting to all 500 of our “friends” at the same time. Instantly.

 Having a camera full of pictures of my kids and myself, has really been of great help to me today.   Mr. LSM doesn’t like me taking pictures of him. I think he’s afraid they’ll show up on Facebook or my blog

As a melanoma warrior, I should be checking my skin at least once a month (most of us do it daily because yes, it becomes an obsession) and if I were super smart, which I am beginning to question, I would be taking lots of pictures of my skin so I can monitor any changes. I have done this quite a bit, but I do have nightmares of losing my phone and someone finding all of my skin pics. The horror!  Still, I should be more organized and document the measures of suspicious marks or moles. 

A while back, my mom asked me about a mark above my lip. At the time, I was hoping it was a pimple or a blackhead, so I was leaving it alone for it to go away on its own. Of course, once she asked me about it,  I went home and picked at. Soon the bump turned into a little freckle. I didn’t think too much about it, because for the first month, I was sure it was just a scar from me picking at it.  It seemed to be getting more noticeable, but as I mentioned before , us melanoma warriors can be quite obsessive about marks on our skin.   I wasn’t sure if it was actually growing or if I was just noticing it more.  I never once measured it until this weekend. It is 4 mm long.  I decided I would keep an extra close eye on it until my next derm apt.

Then last night at our family super bowl party, my sister asked me about it. 
“It’s getting bigger isn’t it?” I asked.“I think so, because I am noticing it a lot more than I used to. You should go get that checked out. Like now.”

Not words I wanted to hear.  

I confessed that I noticed it was getting bigger as well, but it is on my LIP. The very top of my LIP. On the little left camel hump on my LIP.  You know what that means..another scar..a very VERY noticeable scar. And let me tell you, from the age of 7 to 17 I was in dance groups where I had to wear red lipstick for every performance. Nothing shows off a tiny top lip like red lipstick! And on top of it, in my younger years, my mom would fuss about how difficult it was to put the lipstick on my teeny tiny upper lip.

So naturally, I don’t want them taking part of my miniscule upper lip off.  But even more so, I don’t want to die. But I am not going to lie to you, there is still a small part of me that needed more convincing of whether I should have it checked.

So I went to my phone. Surely, with all my “not-so-glamour” shots I take every few days, I could see if this is really something I should be worried about.  

Here is what I found:

Oct 4, 2012  I took this picture while waiting for my son to get out of school. My daughter and I were taking silly pics. I can't even see the mark in this picture. 

Nov 22, 2012  I took this one on Thanksgiving while I was waiting to eat. You can notice a tiny spec (though the zoom is not the clearest).

Dec 4, 2012 I took this picture of me while wearing my new HUMONGOUS sun hat. Seriously, a small tribe of children could walk next to me and be TOTALLY protected by the hat. You can notice the mark more here.

Feb 3, 2013.  I took this one last night. Just of my lip, so naturally, it is clearer and more pronounced than that others. Man, I need some lip gloss!!

Although some of the pics are blurry, I think you can still see from the mouth montage, that this thing has definitely changed in the last 4 months. Remember, change was the the tell tale sign of my first melanoma (and hopefully my last). Ignoring this would be more than stupid. It would be a true case of denial. 

I always wanted a sexy beauty mark above my lip. Like they say, be careful what you wish for. 

I moved up my regular 3 month exam by my dermatologist from the 26th of this month to Friday.  I am nervous, but I need my derm to take this off and send it away to make sure it is JUST a freckle. And regardless of whether I like the way i look after, well, I still need to keep taking pictures of myself and being a little vain.

I suggest you do it, too. It just may save your life

Thank you for reading. I will keep you posted on the results. Until next time, practice safe 

Friday, February 1, 2013

Super Mole Shuffle.. um Screening

There’s just two days until Superbowl 2013.  If you’re not excited about the teams playing, at the very least you should be a tad bit excited about the commercials or the halftime show. I mean, isn’t that why the non-football fans watch?

I love football. It’s my favorite sport. I grew up as a Miami Dolphins fan, thanks to my dad, but when I got married it was all but in my marriage vows that I would become a die hard Dallas Cowboy fan.  Yes, there was an actual “shout out” to the Dallas Cowboys in my wedding program by my husband.

That's us at our first home game in Dallas in 2007. 

One of the reasons why I love football is probably because it was the only sport we ever watched in my home while growing up. It was the only sport my dad ever liked.  ( I had cousins that played baseball, but those games were just TOO long and not enough action for me. ) I realized, however, the biggest reason I love football is because football  season  was always a sign of new beginnings- a new school year, a new year of my life (my birthday is in August), the beginning of my favorite season- Autumn, the return of  the sounds of high school bands all over the country playing after school, a new season of half-time performances from my dance team, the beginning of cooler weather, the start of the holidays, and the leaves finally falling to the ground.

With all these reasons to love football and football season, I recently found one more: 

The Melanoma Exposed campaign.

Please bare with me, as I sound a little "reporter-ish"

In May of 2012, former Steelers coach, Bill Cowher, teamed up with advocacy groups and Bristol-Myers Squib to become the spokesman  and help launch Melanoma Exposed, an educational campaign to encourage more people to get screened for melanoma.

The former NFL coach lost his wife Kaye to melanoma in 2010. She was only 54 years old.

"Having lost my wife to melanoma about two years ago, I saw how devastating it can be and how quickly it can happen," said Mr. Cowher in a phone interview.   Source

The motto of Melanoma Exposed is Screen, Protect, Know, and Tell. 

  • Screen yourself monthly and visit a Dermatologist.
  • Protect yourself by using  sun safe habits daily.
  • Know the dangers of too much UV exposure.
  • Tell a friend or family member to help spread awareness. 

Four teams partnered up with Melanoma Exposed to provide the local skin screenings. The teams were the New York Giants, Baltimore Ravens, Miami Dolphins, and the Denver Broncos.  The first screening was sponsored by the Miami Dolphins in June of 2012. Each team also provided their own spokesperson. One of them was former New York Giants QB Phil Simms who recently had skin cancer.  In order to promote the screening events, the NFL partners posted info on their social media pages, team websites, during games on the Jumbotrons, email blasts, and local TV and radio channels. Men’s Fitness even ran an article highlighting Cower’s story and his involvement with Melanoma exposed. Source

The site includes melanoma stories, and shares one especially dear to me. Jillian, (the beautiful warrior who I "carried" around during the AIM Walk) is one of three stories on living with melanoma. Sadly,  Jillian's battle ended recently.  Her brother has started his own blog, The Melanoma Ripple Effect, to help our community and others get LOUD about melanoma.

How’s that for some awareness? I only wish I lived in one of these areas to see it first hand (Particularly New York , my favorite place EVER!) It's nice to know there are people out there, FAMOUS people, who are working hard to do what us little people are trying so hard to do. 

Since coaches and players spend a lot of time out in the sun,  it's no surprise that Cowher is not the only NFL member familiar with melanoma.  Former Cowboys QB turned sportscaster Troy Aikman, had a melanoma removed from his shoulder in 1997 and long-time defensive coordinator for the Philadelphia Eagles, Jim Johnson, died from melanoma.

Here’s a video of Cowher talking about Johnson and why it is so important to spread awareness. This video can also be found at Men's Fitness. 

You can find out more about Melanoma Exposed at their website

Regardless of who you are rooting for this Sunday,( I was leaning towards the 9ers, but I must say, the Ravens are looking better now) the four teams who have already joined to help spread awareness, the New York Giants, Baltimore Ravens, Miami Dolphins, and Denver Broncos all deserve a ring in my book.  


Enjoy the Superbowl everyone! While you're watching, take some time to spread the word about melanoma.  Tell others about the Melanoma Exposed campaign and encourage them to get their skin checked.

Thanks for reading. Until next time, practice safe sun!!!