Thursday, September 29, 2011

Little Miss Magic

Because of the internet, I have been introduced to amazing people. I know, I know. I say this all the time: The one good thing about all of this melanoma hellishness is the wonderful people I have been met. There are certain people who send me funny text messages to keep me laughing during chemo. Others read between the lines of what I am writing and send me very thoughtful messages that give me a totally different way of looking at a situation. Overall, my melanoma family does one huge thing for me: They provide me with friendship.

Today was a normal day....I took my lunch break at my new job (yeah, yeah. I know I need to update you all on my personal life. Soon, I promise.) and started scanning Facebook on my phone. I received an email telling me that my buddy Rich and Carol had both left me comments encouraging me. Since I have been feeling like a bit of a slacker in the melanoma awareness area, I was unsure why the support was coming my way today. 

I noticed I had some emails.....

My sweet friend Rev. Carol randomly posted this on my Facebook wall today:

 "We're not made of steel, but we're strong. We may cry until no tears are left but we don't get so soggy that we dissolve into nothing. We may crack under the strain and pressure but we don't disintegrate into millions of pieces that can't be put back together. Our hearts may break but we give them to God and say "Here." We are people who have melanoma in life but life isn't melanoma. We are people who are determined to fight because life is worth it. We are people of faith who know our God is greater than our melanoma. Whatever life and death holds, we trust God and not the beast; we run into the fight not away from it; we run the race knowing that by running, we win. We cannot win if we sit on the sidelines. We are warriors. Warriors never sit on the sidelines."

Beautiful, right? It gave me chills just reading it.
I thought, huh, that was a random wonderful message.

Then I went to Rich's blog to see his latest blog post he mentioned on Facebook. As most of you know, Rich uses his blog to promote melanoma awareness by taking popular songs and changing the lyrics to describe an experience. Like I have said 100 times, I love it. It is funny and brutally honest. I don't even know what to say. I have been fairly quiet lately...I have been out living my life again...I haven't been a great melanoma awareness warrior. For his latest blog, Rich used good ol' Jimmy Buffett's song Little Miss Magic. Reading Rich's blog flattered me, humbled me, and shocked me. Let me share it with you. (To see actual blog post click here.)

Constantly amazed by the wisdom she shows in her writing
The clever life lessons she gives us can't help but be inciting
She loves to lay into fools with her bloggin’
Says that tanning ages foolish skin
She is my bloggin’ friend

I learn a little more from her everyday
I catch a little more courage on my way
Your parents must be quite proud of the fighter they see
Bloggin’ Miss Magic, what you gonna be?

Sometimes I read her dreamin' and wonder where that finer mind meanders
Is she strollin' along the Shore or cruisin' o'er her broad Virginia
I know this day she yearns to make up for lost times
This day she's gonna take off and fly
Oh that you can’t deny

I catch a little more courage that’s comin' my way
I see those new post lines just start to makin’ our day
Your parents must be quite proud of the woman they see
Bloggin’ Miss Magic, what you gonna be?

Yes she loves to lay into fools with her bloggin’
Says that UV ages foolish skin
She is my wise pale friend

Constantly amazed by the wisdom she shows in her writing
Those clever life lessons she gives us can't help but be inciting
I know this day she yearns to make up for lost times
This day she's gonna take off and fly
That you can’t deny

I learn a little more from her everyday
I catch a little more courage on my way
Your parents must be quite proud of the fighter they see
Bloggin’ Miss Magic, what you gonna be?
Bloggin’ Miss Magic, what you gonna be?
Bloggin’ Miss Magic, just can't wait to see

You’re reigning, you’re soaring
This old man gets boring.

My first thought---after I wiped the eyeliner that had smeared over my face--was that I wish I am as wonderful and brave as he sees me as being. My second thought was that I really, really do feel grateful that I have people in my life that believe in me. I am--without a doubt--incredibly lucky.

(And Rich, I couldn't be even close to Little Miss Magic
without people like you.
Thank you.)

*All photos found on Pinterest.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

For The Sake of Beauty

 Normally you hear sorority disaster stories about underage drinking, parties that get out of control, or maybe some mean girl circling another new girls fat. Have you ever heard of a sorority that requires their members to tan? If not, keep reading.

For the record, I enjoyed my time in sorority. It was not only a great learning experience, it was also a great bonding experience. I met amazing women that I would not have been introduced to otherwise. I can also say that no part of my sorority experience was harmful to my health. In fact, I would argue it was the opposite. Still, years later, I am in touch with many of the sisters. They have gone out of their way to support me in my fight against melanoma.

That being said, I recently heard a rumor (from reliable sources, of course) that two of the sororities at the college where I graced my presence just two years ago requires their members to have a minimum of 120 tanning minutes per week. What does that mean? Six days out of the week these members are heading down to the local tanning salons to tan for the maximum amount of time: twenty minutes. When telling how their sorority is required to tan, they questioned why they never saw any of the Alpha Sigma Tau members. My opinion as to why we weren't at the tanning salon for required tanning hours: although appearance is important--and I mean this in terms of being clean and healthy--it is not everything. We focused our time on scheduling events (besides just parties), we spent time in the library actually studying, and we volunteered when needed. (I tanned some during my sorority time because I wanted to, not because anyone required me to do so.)

These same members are required to spend a certain amount of time at the gym each week. I could argue that this is ridiculous since the sorority should be based on more things than just looks; however, I won't. We all know the truth. And plus, going to the gym a few times a week is good for your health (not that I was ever forced to do so) it is not something that leads to cancer.

When I first learned this information, I was speechless. I knew that these sororities based a lot on the appearances of the members. I just had no idea how far they would go to make sure their girls looked "beautiful." While sending these members to the tanning salon, why don't they send them to the local mini mart to pick up some smokes, too. Smoking leads to lung cancer. Tanning leads to melanoma. Will it take one of their members being diagnosed with melanoma for them to learn how irresponsible they are being? 

Then I started thinking about the type of women that agree to this rule. It is fascinating--and terrifying--to know that hundreds of women AGREE to go to the tanning bed each week because the sorority that they pay to be a part of thinks that being tan leads to being beautiful. I, for the life of me, cannot imagine being a part of an organization that puts that much emphasis on how I look. 

Do I write to the Greek Life of my former college and explain why I am disgusted with this? Do I write to their national headquarters? Will it be ignored? Is it worth the effort that I will put into the letter (pictures and all, of course)? Do I let it be and wait for one of their members to be diagnosed with melanoma? Maybe I should give them the benefit of the doubt that they are unaware that exposure to UV light raises their chances of developing melanoma by 75%. That's a huge risk. 75%!!!

Hearing all of this would usually makes me angry. It would cause me to drive down to good ol' Radford and do some butt kicking. Now, it just makes me sad and disappointed. It is time to kick melanoma awareness into full gear. Otherwise, there may be a lot more "Sisters" experiencing the hell that I have been going through. We will then bond not only by our sorority ties but by the black beast, melanoma.

C'mon, sorority girls, break this trend. Pale skin is in....

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

"...Worse than the sun?"

Excuse me for my lack of posting lately. I had forgotten how busy the real world can be! How can you Momma's & Father's be a Cancer Warrior + parents + employees, +total kick ass people? I have a hard enough time taking care of little ol' me!

It would be very easy for me to end my melanoma awareness campaign. I could build a new life with new people who know little of my past. I could joke with people about their need for going to the tanning bed. I could simply pretend like this experience has not happened to me (well, besides appointment days, scan days, and treatment days....) Maybe that is healthier for some people. Not me. I refuse to let melanoma win. This cancer may abuse my body but I am determined to work on killing it by spreading awareness. Yes, it is work and sometimes it is upsetting reliving the worst moments of my life. However, if hearing my less than pleasant memories causes one person to stop and think, well, then it is worth it. That is exactly why I write this blog, post my pictures, and why I am participating in this walk.

Yesterday a new acquaintance randomly came up to me and asked a question that had apparently been on her mind for the last week:

Acquaintance: "So do you have a family history of melanoma?"
While doing 5 other things: "Nope. I'm the first....But I tanned during high school and college."
Long pause.
Acquaintance: "Wait...are tanning beds worse for you than the sun?"

Stunned silence.


It is easy to forget how far we still have to go with our melanoma awareness campaign. With melanoma being mentioned a few times on the news in the last 6 months, I thought people were truly becoming more aware. Some are! Then there are others who are absolutely clueless. This person had a melanoma removed from her arm and, as she said, "they just cut it out and that was that!" How many people think that? The majority!

In a way the lack of knowledge is frustrating to me. Then I take a step back and realize that less than a year ago, I was also not educated on the seriousness of melanoma. I was also the person who thought "Hey, it's JUST skin cancer." Although this cancer now takes up a great portion of my thoughts, I have to remind myself that this is not a known cancer to most people.

Y'all know I did not let her keep on thinking that tanning beds are safer than the sun. Instead, I educated. I started dropping statistics. Then, I did what always gets the attention.......I showed her my scars.

Needless to say, I don't think she will be using the tanning bed anymore.

My hope for you who read this: Please take the opportunity to educate others about the seriousness of melanoma. With winter on its way ladies (and men!) will begin using the tanning beds. Politely explain to them why melanoma is not something to ignore. Share the videos that are available. Melanoma warriors, I know some of you don't want others knowing your stories, but maybe your story will be the one that saves them. Don't be ashamed of this cancer.

If we all stay quiet, will others learn before it is too late?

Friday, September 16, 2011

The Wicked Witch

If you have been a long time reader of my blog, you know that I--for some unknown reason--nicknamed my doctors with names either made up in my head or from The Wizard of Oz. A quick character list:

Dr. Cool Guy = My original dermatologist.
Dr. Bad Mustache = My first oncologist
Dr. Pink = My first surgeon.
The Wizard = My oncologist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center
Dr. Glinda = My favorite doctor, my second surgeon, also at MSK.
Dr. Adorable = My super sweet neck surgeon at MSK.

While browsing online tonight on Pinterest, I saw this picture and realized I have never formally nicknamed my cancer....So, here we have it:

My melanoma = The Wicked Witch!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Impulsive Decisions?

I have always been the girl who is up for an adventure. A concert on a work night? Count me in. A road trip at the very last minute? Of course. Moving to a fairly large city without knowing a single person? Did it. Then melanoma attacked me...literally...and it paralyzed me. Everything about my 'normal' life ended. Before I even understood what the doctor was telling me, I had appointments with a surgeon and an oncologist. Then I had surgeries, and visits with in the chemo suite, and melanoma tumor scares. My life--and my mom's--truly revolved around my cancer. 

I finished my 4th dose of the ipi/placebo the end of July. I knew that I had scans August 5th so I felt like I truly could not make a single plan until I heard the results. What would happen if I started making plans and The Wizard, my oncologist, gave me bad news? Can you imagine the let down I would feel? Hearing I had melanoma the first time nearly crushed me. This time, I knew it would crush me. So, I didn't make plans. I lived in limbo all summer. I kept a suitcase packed, I spent the most quality time I have had in years with my family (LOVED it! Thankful for it!) and I waited while everyone around me continued on with their day to day routines.

(Let me tell you...Sitting back, silently watching everyone continue with their normal lives, all while waiting for the doctor to call you with bad news is not healthy. Actually, I'm pretty sure "not healthy" is an understatement.)

I have written before about how I was ready to get my life back. And it was true. Emotionally, a huge part of me was ready. However, we all know life can be quite the little brat sometimes, and things kept happening that prevented me from putting those emotions into plan. I am so grateful that I was home with my family when those events occurred. I mean, who else can nurse me back to life like my Momma? Not a single soul!

But now, even though I have scans and treatment coming up in November, I am going to be brave. I am going to jump off the safe harbor and put myself out there again. Yes, life may come crashing down, but why should I waste this "No Evidence of Disease" time by waiting for the disease to attack me again? I am going to have scans every 3 months for a very, very long time. Do I wait for those years to pass? Do I sit back and let my 20's get even more destroyed by melanoma? Call me selfish, but I think melanoma has had enough of my full attention. I want my life back.

No, it won't be my old life. Is that really a bad thing though? My friend Kasey sent me a message the other day after catching up on my blog. She said, "For the last year and a half I have been trying to remember who I was before cancer. But to be honest, it feels like it was another lifetime ago." How many of you Warriors can agree with that? Although it has only been 9 months since I was diagnosed, I know, and those closest to me know, I am not the same girl anymore. How could I be? I cannot jump back into being the girl I was after this wake up call. Truly, I don't want to. Like Kasey said, "it's a long journey, but cancer is just helping us become the people we always wanted to be. Everyone should be a little jealous, because we are the enlightened ones who now have a deeper understanding of the universe...and know that shit happens."

I am going to be brave. I am going to cross my fingers, say my prayers, and trust my gut. If I receive a dirty scan that says melanoma is attacking, I will then focus on kicking its ass. Until then.......

It's moving time, ladies & gentleman.

When Oprah's People Talks...

If you have not checked out this page, you should. The man who created the page is so awesome and dedicated to promoting awareness. Honestly, a lot of the articles I read online are found thanks to him. His most recent posting was regarding an article of Oprah's website. As he said in his comment regarding the article, "When Oprah's people talks, people listen." Let's hope so.

This article, written by Brad Lamm, describes why tanning addiction is more popular than we assume. Lamm goes back in time and discusses how Coco Chanel determined that being tan was popular. Until recently, being tan was considered beautiful. People envied others for their bronzed skin. As Lamm writes, "and over time we've come to think that pale is, well, pathetic in some ways." Isn't that true? I can't tell you how many times--even pre-melanoma--people have commented on my pale skin. One not-so-charming guy (and one not worthy of a second date) even said, "You are just so white! Don't you ever get sun? What about a tanning bed?" It is no surprise people feel pressure to be tan when society assumes that is how they should look...especially in the summer. Now when people comment on my lack of tan lines, I politely say, "I have melanoma. Being tan is the enemy." The conversation quickly ends.

Lamm continues his article by asking a question so many of us folks in Hotel Melanoma wonder: "So if cancer kills (which it does, no denying this), why do tanning salons continue to grow in popularity, and why are we hurting ourselves with the push of a button day after day?"

What is my answer to this question? Well, for one, I think people are still in the habit of believing that tan skin is beautiful skin. Sure, famous actresses and actors are showing their pale skin more often now, but the rest of society has yet to catch up. (Those Hollywood stars...always ahead on the trends!) Plus, research is just now becoming readily available to people. Ask 6 people if melanoma is a serious cancer and I guarantee that half of them will quickly tell you that melanoma is just skin cancer. Big deal, right? Hmph.

Lamm answers his own question of why people continue to tan despite the risks by saying "the answer is easy: We tan because it feels good, emotionally and physically. The sun on our skin, the tingle of the sun-kissed body. There's the slimming effect that we get too, as we look in the mirror when tan." Ask any melanoma warrior who used to frequent a tanning salon, I bet she will agree with Lamm. Being tan did make us feel prettier. Fascinating about being on a beach with the sun beating down on us was a way to escape from our busy (cold) lives. And yes, I admit, I always felt a bit slimmer while tan.

Then Lamm says something that I think all tanning bed lovers should read: "Natural light elevates our mood too, while cancer lowers it. Cancer's a bummer! To every ying, there's a yang. Melanoma is the most deadly form of skin cancer, and while it represents only 4 percent of all skin cancers, it is the cause of 75 percent of all deaths. UV light causes skin cancer—there's no denying it."

Let me tell you....Being Tan VS. Being Cancer Free = There's no competition. If I could turn back time, I would be the whitest white girl out there! (And screw you, dude, who tried to make me feel like I am ugly because I am pale!)

Even if you have not been personally affected by skin cancer, read the research that is being published. Read the stories of the Tina's, the Glenna's, and the others whose lives have ended so abruptly due to melanoma.

The author of this article, Brad Lamm, stopped tanning in 1994 after his family history of skin cancer scared him into realizing the risks of tanning. He writes, "A family health crisis changed my behavior. I still love the beach and sitting outdoors, but now I put on sunscreen and sit in the shade. Truth be told, I miss the glow, and while sometimes bad things feel good, tanning no longer fit into my plan to love myself through my own behaviors and daily actions. The cost of cancer was way too high."

You are right, Mr. Lamm. The cost of cancer is way too high.

Monday, September 12, 2011


I feel very thankful to have so many people--friends and strangers--who think of me, pray for me, and encourage me.

These pictures were sent to me this weekend from the Relay for Life at Nandua High School. To the families who thought of me, thank you. It was unexpected and very thoughtful of you.

Isn't it strange how a white bag with a candle & my name on it can mean so much? It is what it symbolizes....

Although thankful, it is a bit odd to see my name on the bag. I remember participating in Relay for Life a year after my Grand Daddy lost his fight against lung cancer. Seeing the people light the candles...oh my...even the memories gives me chills. Never did I imagine I would be the person who was being honored. I guess I always assumed I would be the one doing the honoring. We always think we are invincible... Seeing my name on those bags was a huge reality check. I do have cancer. I do have to continue to fight for my life. And I do fully plan on beating it! I don't want a bag that says "In Memory Of" any time soon.

My thoughts & prayers go out to the people who participated in the event on Saturday. I can honestly say I am not emotionally prepared to join in just yet. I remember how hard it was years ago! To those of you who were able to light your own candles, keep fighting. You are inspiration to us all.

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Bad Choice, Google.

Today I received an email from my friend John that was titled "You are not going to be happy." John is a fellow melanoma warrior who always gives me pieces of advice I may not want (but need) to hear. He has a way of reading between the lines and understanding what I am really saying. I appreciate it. When I received his latest email, I didn't know what to expect. I saw the picture before I read his message:

While he was reading my latest blog post, this was the Google Ad that was posted. I realize that Google bases the ads on the material I write about; however, promoting tanning beds is basically the opposite of what I am doing with this blog. Like I'd ever suggest receiving your source of vitamin D through a tanning bed. Take a freaking pill. Getting a "glowing tan" from a tanning bed? You definitely won't hear me suggest getting a tan ANY type of way. Oh, and the "Anti-Wrinkles" description? It actually made me laugh out loud. Girls in their 20's who have tanned for a few years look much older than what they are. I can pretty much promise you that a tanning bed will help age you...quickly.

So, if you were like John and saw the tanning bed ad posted on my blog, please forgive Google for their mistake.

Cool kids don't support tanning bed use. Are you a cool kid, too?

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Farewell, Sweet Man.

I don't get into religious discussions with people. First of all, I am intelligent enough to realize I don't know nearly enough to argue with others on this topic. Secondly, I think religion and politics are personal conversations that do not need to be discussed with strangers. However, I do believe that everyone should practice what they preach. To me, religion is a kind way of living, a way of treating others, it doesn't only come into play on Sunday's during the hours the preacher man is preachin'. That being said...

Not long after I was diagnosed with melanoma, my Dad informed me that an older gentleman had given one of his friends a check to pass along to our family. Dad, being the proud and sweet man that he is, tried over and over again to refuse. He kindly told the man's friend that it was so generous of him to offer to help us but that we were fine. The friend informed my Dad that the nearly stranger would be offended if Dad refused the money. Dad agreed, passed the envelope along to me, and I thankfully paid off some medical bills and wrote the sweet stranger a thank you note. A few weeks after my second surgery, another check arrives. Again, we tried to refuse, but the man insisted. He said that his family were long time contributors to Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, he knew how wonderful (but pricey) the facility is, and he wanted his contribution to go directly towards my battle. Again, we accepted it on the terms that I would finally get to meet this stranger face to face.

So, a few months back my Dad, Step Mom, and I were joined by this sweet man for dinner. Oh, what a life he has lived...For two hours I heard about his time in the Army, his years traveling around the world, etc. If you know me, you know that stories fascinate me. I could listen for hours. By the end of dinner, I realized this man did not help our family because he could, he helped because he wanted to.

With a heavy heart, I am writing this post as my farewell to our Sweet Man. He died of a massive heart attack yesterday. No one ever knows when their time will come. He was a man who did not need a special occasion to bring a smile to someone's face. He was the stranger who brought Arby's sandwiches to the watermen because the local restaurant was closed and he did not want them to miss lunch. He was the man who called my dad randomly just to chat about the weather and football. He was the man who honestly would have been perfectly fine never meeting me---It would not have stopped him from asking about me or helping my family emotionally and financially. He was that man. He did not need a reward for helping others. He did it because he wanted to...just like he told me.

Rest well, sweet man. I will never forget the pure kindness you showed me.

PS---- My Dad just called me back. He saw our sweet friend on Monday, the man showed him 4 gold coins that he was going to have turned into necklaces. 3 of the coins were for his daughters. The other coin was for me... And now the waterworks begin. Sweet dreams, Mr. Sparks. You have all our love.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011


I can't really remember life before the internet. Sure, I kind of remember how exciting it was to have dial-up in our own home, but honestly, it seems like it has been around forever. Thanks to the internet, spreading awareness for important (and not-so-important) causes is much easier than before.

I came across this great video yesterday. Before I watched the video I saw that it was directed by Whitley of Jackass. I've seen Jackass for all of 10 minutes before I realized it wasn't my type of thing, so I was a bit surprised with how much the video amused me.

Watch Video Here

Luckily, I haven't had a skin check in the middle of New York City, but the video definitely brought back some memories. Awkwardly posing while a nurse takes pictures of my moles? Done. Being stripped down in just a barely there robe while the doctor awkwardly tells you to lift this arm and that two, and searches through my scalp to make sure there is no hidden melanoma anywhere? Done. Knowing that "Skin Cancer Takes Friends?" Done. Bottom line: Get checked. It only takes a few minutes and it will provide you with a few giggles, I promise. (Right, Tammy?!!)

I also came across this article yesterday. It discusses what you should tell teens when talking to them about the dangers of tanning. As I have discussed with my friend Laura, threatening cancer will not be enough to make teenagers think twice about tanning. Letting them know how ugly their scars will be after a skin cancer scare will hit home. No one--especially teenagers--want to be "ugly." Like the article says, "Now I'm sure that you don't fake bake, since you do not have the time or inclination to splay your bikini-ed body in front of blinding lights in some claustrophobic capsule housed in a strip mall . . but your teenage daughter or son might." Talk to them.

Another great thing happened in the melanoma world yesterday. "AIM at Melanoma, the largest international foundation dedicated to melanoma research and patient advocacy, announced today the California Senate approved and sent to Governor Jerry Brown, Senate Bill 746, which would ban children under 18 from using indoor tanning beds." This is WONDERFUL! If this passes, teenagers, regardless of their parents, will not be allowed to use tanning beds. The way I see it, folks can't legally buy their smokes until they are 18 and they are known to cause cancer. Why should tanning be allowed? This makes me extremely happy. I hope other states follow in California's footsteps.

I posted all 3 of these items on my personal Facebook page. I am sure I annoy some people by my constant preachin' about the dangers of skin cancer and tanning; however, I continue to see people bragging about their tanning bed loving ways. I also see a lot of young parents posting pictures of their SUPER sunburned children. Maybe, just maybe, one of these articles that I post will encourage them to think twice.

And hey, if I annoy them with a cause that is important to me, maybe they should delete me anyway! ;-)

Happy Wednesday! XO

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Universe IS Unfolding.

I am sure some people wonder why I share such intimate fears and feelings with the universe. All you have to do is Google my name & you can read about some of my most private thoughts. Why do I allow people into the little world that I call my own? Why do I risk future employers seeing me at my weakest? Why do I have any desire to share my hardest battle with absolute strangers?

I share my experiences because too many other people do not. Most people, myself included prior to melanoma, want to keep their private lives private. I respect that. When I was first diagnosed, I needed to read more than just statistics. Lord, if statistics were the only thing I read, I would have died of fear right then and there. I wanted to read what being diagnosed with cancer was really like. Was I supposed to cry in the shower? Was it OK that I smiled and laughed with my doctors instead of sobbing my way through appointments? Did it seem odd that I couldn't allow myself to grieve? I needed to hear about the emotional part! Being only 23 years old when I was diagnosed, I did not find many resources. According to Google, melanoma attacked mostly older folks many years after sunburns and tanning bed memberships. I thought that if someone my age, or especially younger, read about my fears & saw my not-so-attractive pictures, maybe they would think twice before they fell into the belief that melanoma is "just" skin cancer.

Another reason I continue to post my most intimate fears for the Internet world to see is because I receive so much positive feedback & advice. Yesterday I was really struggling when I wrote the blog post. As usual, I received wonderful advice from people who have already been through the steps I am going through now. The overall piece of advice they all agreed on was:

I have a hard time not being hard on myself. I realize the traumatic experience that I have been through; however, I like to speed through the grief process and get back to living my "normal" life. I'm not exactly sure that is healthy. And as I discussed in the previous post, I don't have the slightest clue what normal is anymore. In my head, there are certain things I should be doing now that I have No Evidence of Disease and I truly don't know how to just sit back and let the last 9 months sink into this big ol' head of mine.

I want to share a few other pieces of advice from fellow "mole mates" (Thanks to The Big C for that wonderful nickname.)

"When you know... you'll know. Until then, don't look so hard."

"Keep the long range big plan in mind, but a whole lot of life is short little slices of time that fall in between the bigger things you do."

"For now, I'd prescribe for you a large daily dose of living in the present. In the meantime, let the deep soul searching about life plans continue on in the subconscious reaches of your mind. The harder we search, the less we discern, and moments of insight may seem to come out of nowhere and at the most unexpected times and in the strangest places."

"If you discussed this with your parents and family, I'm sure they would say "Go, fly, live your life... We'll ALWAYS be here for you no matter what. You'll always have a safe place to land."

"Where are you going now? ANYWHERE YOU WANT!!! You can do it! Life is scary, growing up is scary, but cancer is SCARY! Just follow your heart!"

"He told me that if I lived with that fear, the Melanoma was already winning. Easier said that done, I know, but he was right. You HAVE to make plans like you will live until you are 100. It's ok to be scared, it's ok to question decisions, it's ok to have a moment where you worry about the the "what if". But ultimately you have to remember that you are ALIVE and you are a SURVIVOR. No one can predict the future and you can't miss out on things because you are worrying that something bad may happen. The good news is that your family isn't going anywhere. They will always be there for you if you need them. Now is the time to figure out what YOU want, regardless of your medical status. Melanoma does not define you and should not define your decisions!"

I hope this advice helps someone else who is facing such tough decisions...It sure helped me. Thanks, mole mates. I adore you.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Where to Go, Who to Be?

One thing I have learned first hand in this experience is that it is very hard to leave your normal, healthy life and try to return to it a few months later as a completely different person. Let me tell is not as easy as it seems. Everything is pretty much the same........except me.

I have always been a bit of a gypsy. I tend to pick a place far from home, move to it, develop a life, then move when I am "over" it or find a reason to move. I guess I am a bit impulsive in that sense. I felt like I had a reason to be in that particular place for the time being, I learned from it, and then I was ready to move on to the next adventure. Although I had strong roots to my hometown, I was not interested in returning to "home." Since I got diagnosed, all I have craved is to be healthy and normal again. I wanted the things that had previously annoyed me---early morning work shifts with no coffee, a schedule that revolved around everyone else but me, I wanted arguments with my boyfriend over what we were having for dinner, not arguments about major decisions. I wanted--no, I craved--normalcy. I still do.

Now I am wondering what is normal? How can I jump back into my previous life when so much about myself has changed? I don't exactly feel lost, more than that I feel like I am seeking my "purpose" in life. Now that I have this second opportunity to reinvent myself, where do I begin? For starters, where do I live? Do I stay in the safety that is my hometown? Is that being true to myself? Do I go back to Roanoke? Will I be OK being away from my family again? Do I branch out and find a new place with new people? I don't know.

My friend Laura told me the universe will give me my sign. It will show me where I am supposed to be. The thing is, the universe is playing mind games....One minute I think I could never leave my little Shore again. It was where I ran when I needed to heal physically & emotionally. In the next minute, I want to try to go back to the life I had before melanoma. How do I make the decision? .

The question I am asking myself tonight is where do I go, who do I want to be, and how do I work on achieving that? 

I guess I have some soul searching ahead of me.

Friday, September 2, 2011

(WO)Man's Best Friend

I came across this article on CNN the other day that says there is new research that suggests that our furry friends may actually be able to smell cancer. The article caught my attention initially because I had recently watched an episode of The Big C where the neighbor's dog begins to stalk Cathy. When Cathy mentions how the dog keeps showing up in the most unusual places, the neighbor asks what type of cancer Cathy has. Caught off guard, Cathy tells her. Apparently Marleen's, the neighbor, husband had cancer and the dog became very attached to him.

I am not one to analyze studies... I read this report and just thought it was interesting. Like the study says, even if a dog can smell cancer, he obviously cannot talk to let us know what type of cancer, etc. Regardless, it gives me another reason to love my furry friend even more than I already do!

(The tie is the result of my sister's babysitting skills.)