Friday, December 28, 2012

Scan Results

 Looks like I have a hot date for New Years Eve: NED.

No Evidence of Disease.

I was patiently waiting for the nurse to come in to talk to me before my appointment this morning when there was a knock on the door. My oncologist stuck his head in and said, "Everything is fine! I'll be back soon." As you may remember, I told him about a year ago that it makes me nervous when he comes in and makes chit chat before telling me my results. I told him I can't focus enough to carry on a normal conversation. So, ever since then, he has spoiled me by telling me my results without even saying hi to me. He told me again this morning he has set a bad precedent with me, and that he's dreading the day he has to come in and do something differently. Although, like he said, that will never happen. (We can pray for that, right?!)

You may see in the picture that it mentions a ovarian cyst that has grown. I asked Dr. Dickson what we will have to do & he advised me to see my gyno and have an ultrasound within the next month. He said that he isn't overly concerned because these are very common in women--especially since I have already had 2 removed along with endometriosis. He said he is confident this is not melanoma related; however, like the other incidental findings we have found (lung, liver, thyroid) we have to follow it and be certain it's nothing to be concerned about. I've already called and scheduled the ultrasound for January 14, 2013 and I will see the gyno right after. I want to know what we're dealing with.

All in all, it was a great visit. My visit to the treatment suite was uneventful and we left the city at a decent hour. I am extremely thankful that a cyst is the only thing that is concerning. I didn't think I would get to celebrate my 2 year cancerversary with no evidence of disease, but come January, celebrating I will.

Thank you for your thoughts, prayers, messages and calls. It comforts me knowing I have your continued support. Thank you.

Now...I sleep!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

New York, New York

Well, another Christmas holiday has come and gone! I hope you had a wonderful holiday with your family. I know I did. It was so special to be with my family and spend some good ol' QT with them.

Christmas Eve, 2012

It is with a heavy heart that I inform you my sweet friend Lynette passed away this morning after a 5 year battle with melanoma. Her husband sent me an email early this afternoon to tell me the news. I can't imagine the pain he's feeling tonight, but I think we both know we have another angel on our side. Although I will miss her, I feel honored that I can call her a friend. She had a beautiful soul that I will miss.

Lynette and I, May 2012

Tonight I am in Manhattan, frozen and curled up in the hotel room hoping for a good night sleep. I have scans tomorrow morning at 8:20 and I will receive results Friday followed by a visit to the treatment suite. It's hard to believe it's time for another visit to the oncologist. I can't say I'm excited for this visit...

How does one avoid scanxiety? One must walk around NYC, in the wet snow and become a drowned rat! 

Mom & I at Rockefeller Center


Mom at Bryant Park

We had a fun afternoon exploring the city; however, it's cold! I'm going to curl up with a book, say a prayer for Lynette and her family, and get some much needed sleep. I plan on doing a little shopping tomorrow after my scans!

I hope you are all tucked in with your families and staying warm!

Monday, December 24, 2012

From My Family... yours!

I hope you have a wonderful holiday with your loved ones. Merry Christmas! Oh, and HAPPY BIRTHDAY to my momma, the Christmas baby! I love you!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Tanning While Pregnant: Round 3

When a doctor tells you something you assume it is true. Doctors have years of schooling, they are licensed in the state they practice, and they are simply believed to be smarter than the rest. These doctors are the ones we turn to when we have aches, pains, and even the unusual looking mole.

What happens when you are handed something like this by your doctor?

 "While tanning beds are safe..."

Not only is this medical facility flat out telling their patients that tanning beds are safe, they are telling their pregnant patients that it's safe to tan in them! Tanning while pregnant is not a topic that's new to this blog. I've blogged about it here and here. However, I have never seen a doctor flat out publish something for their patients that states that tanning beds are safe.

Needless to say, my friend had a pause in her celebration when she read the pamphlet in November. A melanoma survivor herself, she could not believe her eyes. As she wrote to me, "Oh my blood is boiling! Just got home from my first OB appointment and found this in the literature. I will be writing them a letter to distribute at my next appointment! "While tanning beds are safe..." I could vomit!!" 

And write the letter she did...

Luckily for the rest of us, this woman is determined to have the facility look again at the information that they are handing out to their patients. It terrifies me a woman--not even just the pregnant woman--will see this information and assume that tanning beds are safe. I mean, her doctor clearly believes it. Why else would he give her that information? I can hear her talking to her friends now..."But my doctor said tanning beds are safe!" 

Oh, the damage this could do...

Now the question is, how do we get our doctors to learn that tanning beds are known carcinogenics? 

Monday, December 17, 2012

The Chair

I was browsing through my pictures on my cell phone, looking for the picture of the house we're buying when I saw this. It looks like an innocent chair. Sometimes it is. But until I hear those words, "Everything is fine," the chair gets my heart beating faster, my hands begin to sweat, and I try to determine my scan results based on how the nurse treats me.

This chair--the chair where many cancer patients have probably received life changing news--is somewhere I will be on December 28, 2012.

How is it that a simple chair can help produce so much anxiety? 

I can't help but have some anxiety. I have a new job I'm enjoying, a house we're moving into, a future we're planning. My 2 year Cancerversary is in January & I want to celebrate it with no evidence of disease.

That sounds pretty selfish, doesn't it?

Blame the chair. It brought back nervous energy.

My friends have moved into hospice, others are beginning new treatments, and one just advanced to stage IV malignant melanoma. I'm thankful to be as healthy as I am. I know that I will handle whatever Dr. D (AKA The Wizard) tells me on the 28th in the only way I know how. I'll follow in my friends footsteps & handle myself with a smile, maybe a laugh, and definitely a little bad ass attitude.

After all, we are bad ass melanoma warriors, right?

Saturday, December 15, 2012

A Sad Day.

Like many others, I walked into the kiddo's daycare yesterday with a heavy heart & the strong urge to hug him. I looked around the classroom at the innocent young children--ages 4-7--and wanted to cry. How could someone hurt the babies? How could someone intentionally bring harm to the kids?

My heart is heavy.

I know I need to stop watching the news, but I can't. It isn't the murderer I want to know about. He's a coward in my eyes, a monster. It's the incredible adults who made the ultimate sacrifice I want to learn more about. The principal who lunged at the killer. The custodian who ran through the hallways warning others of the violence. The 27-year old teacher who gave her own life for the lives of her students. The innocent babies...the poor innocent babies.

Mr. Rogers once said, "When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, 'Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.' To this day, especially in times of 'disaster,' I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers - so many caring people in this world." Those are the people I want to learn about.

I turned off the news last night, I changed the radio station, and I took the kiddo to a Christmas parade. I did what 20 other parents will never get to do again. We sang Rudolph on the way there--as I held back tears listening to his sweet little voice--and cuddled during the festivities. I held him a little tighter.

My heart breaks for the families whose lives were forever changed. My heart breaks for the innocence that was greedily taken. My heart just breaks.

Hug your loved ones.

Monday, December 10, 2012

In Charge

One of the hardest things about being diagnosed with stage 3 malignant melanoma was losing the control I had over my life. OK, I know none of us have complete control of our lives, but our daily schedules are made up of what we want them to be. Early coffee alone on the couch, 8 hour work day, dinner with the little guy and Mr. Spots, heck maybe even five minutes for  a cuddle session with the dude. That's my typical day. While ideally I would like a yoga session mixed in there, it hasn't been happening lately. When I was first diagnosed, my schedule went to crap. My newly diagnosed life consisted of meeting with yet another new doctor, flying to New York to visit my new cancer center, flying home to Virginia to recover from surgery, to moving home with my family to begin 12 weeks of treatment, etc, etc, etc. I lost all control over my life. (Well, during the angry stages I experienced, I felt like I lost that control.) It made me crazy.

All I felt like I had--and it wasn't always--was the opportunity to share my concerns, ask my questions, and pick a new doctor if I did not feel comfortable with the one I had. I was the patient, and while we like to believe that every doctor is on our side, if we don't feel comfortable, how can we have complete faith in the one making life saving decisions?

I'm sharing this because today I received a message on my Facebook page from a woman who had a mole removed 10 years ago. The mole was benign; however, over the past few years she noticed the pigmentation returning. She double checked the area with multiple dermatologists to see if she should be concerned with it. Cathy wrote to me, "...they all told me no - since it had been removed it could not come back and was only pigmentation." Today Cathy went in for her yearly check-up with a new dermatologist. Sure enough, this dermatologist zoomed right in on this suspicious area & removed it. The new dermatologist told Cathy that moles can come back and can become cancerous. Now Cathy is waiting for the pathology report on an area that has been bothering her for years.

I'm like Cathy. I tend to be very trusting. I figure these doctors have had years and years of education and experience, why shouldn't I believe what they say?

While I'm not saying you should doubt every doctor, I do encourage you to find one you trust and feel comfortable with. This is your life we are talking about!

I want to thank Cathy for sharing her experience & encouraging me to share it with you all. She wrote, "It angers me that we trust our doctors so much (with our life!) and we can be told incorrect information that can cause devastating results. I'm so glad I found this new Dermatologist!"

Lesson that I'm still learning: I have no control over melanoma, but I am still in charge of what I do to deal with it. Be your own advocate.


*A huge thank you to Cathy for wanting my readers to hear her story & learn from her experience. We are all impatiently waiting to hear your good news!

Sunday, December 9, 2012


I'm mad.
I'm sad.
I'm quite freaking pissed off,
and yet, I'm inspired...
It's all because of this one thing:


Lynette & Jillian are struggling right now. Struggling is an understatement. Although they have different stories, and they are different ages, they have two things in common: They both have melanoma to the brain, and they are fighters. I've never had the privilege of meeting Jillian in person, but her mom's posts make me feel like I know what type of person she is. She's like my friend Lynette. These two people women would not want us to sit on the couch and cry over their struggles--and while I can't help but do a tiny bit of that today--I'm going to try to find a smile.

Melanoma may take its toll on our bodies, but it can do nothing to our spirits.

 *One of my friends shared this video on Facebook earlier this week & it seemed appropriate to share with you all now.

Let these fighters inspire you like they have me. Live your life, hug your loved ones, don't let cancer hold you back from enjoying the daily gifts we're given. I know it's hard. But you know what? We're beyond lucky to have the opportunity to keep living. Don't take it for granted. Live.  

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Melanoma Monster

This past May I had the pleasure of traveling to Cambridge, Maryland to participate in the Choptank Trot For Melanoma. Not only was it great to be surrounded by my family, I also had the privilege of meeting a special "mole mate" and her husband. Meet Lynette. We chatted, we hugged, and we made plans of meeting in Chincoteague Island to eat crabs & shoot tequila.

Stage IV, and then NED melanoma warrior, Lynette ran this 5K while I walked it with my step dad and boyfriend. Tonight I have received word from Lynette's husband that our Lynette is struggling. I won't go into the details because they aren't mine to share, but I am begging you to send prayers of healing for this beautiful friend. I also ask that you think of her husband and children. 

Melanoma is a mean f**king monster.

And that's as nice as I can put it tonight.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

It's OK!

I don't know about y'all but it's been one heck of a work week for this gal. I should write something inspiring or educational, but honestly, I don't have it in me. (And really, who are we kidding? I use this blog simply to chat about MelaNormal: Living with Melanoma. That being said, I thought I'd link-up for the always fun "It's OK Thursday" party with Neely from A Complete Waste of Makeup. 

Its Ok Thursdays

It's OK... not be really into Christmas this year. (I mean, I have scans, treatment & a house to move into!) curse people who refuse to wave after you've made the effort to let them into the line of traffic. absolutely love the pictures people post of Elf on the Shelf. absolutely love the inappropriate pictures people post of Elf on the Shelf. be excited that the mean lady is retiring. ignore the chores for couch time with my fella. be absolutely traumatized by this little baby: spend an hour on Twitter discussing important melanoma topics with Hillary Fogelson. realize you are getting old when you feel frustration instead of excitement over Instagram. feel anxiety when you receive the word that 2 more people you know in "real life" had family members diagnosed with melanoma just this week. act like a silly girl with a crush when you receive messages from people who inspire you. adore my clean and organized new blog page. (Thanks, Joelle!) go to bed at 8:30.

Happy Friday Eve!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012


"I think adversity magnifies behavior. Tend to be a control freak? 
You'll become more controlling.
Eat for comfort?
You'll eat more.
And on the positive,  if you tend to focus on solutions 
and celebrate small successes,
that's what you'll do in adversity.
But with a correspondingly bigger success at the end."
-Gretchen Rubin

I read this again tonight & it hit home for me.
I'd love to tell you why but I'm battling my first winter cold of the year
and I'm quite certain none of it would make sense.
Until next time, my friends!

OH! If you are on Twitter RIGHT NOW (December 5, 2012, 8 PM)
join Hillary Fogelson & Raw Elements USA 
discussing skin safety!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Teenagers Making A Difference

I am so amazed by the courage of high school students in today's society. They are vocal, confident, and determined in sharing their messages. Sometimes it's about bullying, other times it's discussing the need for acceptance, and then there are times when teenagers discuss tanning  with their classmates. 

I introduced you to the beautiful Caroline earlier this year. Caroline spoke in front of 350+ classmates about the dangers of tanning and the need for sun protection. According to Caroline's mom, she created quite the buzz in her school! (You can hear Caroline's speech here.)

Today I am bringing Ms. Taylor to your attention. Once again, I don't know this brave high school student. She found my blog a few months ago and messaged my melanoma pal to ask him to speak to me regarding permission to share my story. This morning I woke up to a message from Paul saying Taylor had done it, she wrote the story, and that story made it to the front page of her high school's newspaper! (You can read the article here.)

I am so in awe of these strangers. Like I said in my original post about Caroline, I know that I did not have the courage to stand in front of my high school peers and discuss a habit that many of us had. I mean, we tanned for a reason...We wanted to be beautiful. To talk about something that the majority of us enjoyed so much would be to go against the majority. And in high school, who wants to take that chance? These girls had an opportunity to apply the things they learned about melanoma and skin cancer, add a 'face' to their presentation, and share it with those willing to listen. 

From all of us in the melanoma community, we thank you Taylor and Caroline for your awesome efforts at raising awareness for this cause so close to our hearts!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Jilly's Jems

There are times when I don't feel like I should share other people's stories, this is one of those times. Susan tells their story in a way that touches your heart and causes the tears--even the happy tears--to fall. However, I have so many faithful readers and so many good souls who follow this blog that I have to introduce you to a special family and ask you to keep hem your thoughts, well wishes, and prayers.

I also beg you to share their story.

For the life of me I cannot remember how I "met" Susan. I believe Susan had posted on a forum about her young daughter and how she refused to let melanoma rule her life and I commented because the post spoke to me. I was only 23 at the time, angry and scared of the unknown. Seeing Susan mention how Jillian wanted to continue on with school and her apartment living made me think I could do it too. Regardless of how we met, in the two years I've "known" Susan, she has continued to amaze me with her inner strength, the love she has for her children, and her true determination at getting the word out about the seriousness of melanoma. This is a mother who during her father's last few days on Earth asked him, "Dad, when you get to Heaven, will you wait for Jillian and be there for her when she gets to Heaven too? Will you give her a big hug from her mama? I want to be able to tell her that you and I spoke about it, and that you will be waiting for her". She is real and honest. (To read more about The Promise:

Susan is one determined Mama Bear!
This billboard, and others, have been in numerous places like Michigan & North Carolina!

Anyway, I'm sure Susan is itching for me to stop talking about her, so let me give you a brief introduction to the beautiful Jillian. She's 23 years old, newly married, and has been gracefully battling stage IV melanoma since 2010. Last night she was told that the chemo is not working. Jillian is 23 years old, the brain mets are inoperable and the chemo is not working. She has heard the words, "It will take a miracle for you to survive." Yet, she fought on. She has lived life with a laugh, a hug for her mama, and an independent streak that causes me smile every time Susan mentions it.

I don't know what's next for this beautiful family, but as Melanoma Prayer Center posted today on their Facebook page: "Please, when the time comes, never say "Jillian lost her battle." Jillian will not lose at all. Her motto is "fall seven times, stand eight." When melanoma knocks her down that final time here on earth, she will not only STAND at Heaven's Gates, she'll run through them a WINNER! She's got her granddaddy waiting for her and Jesus will welcome her. Sounds like a winner to me!"

To Jillian and her family, we send our love and prayers.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Let's Get Your Glow On!

I hope you all had a lovely holiday weekend with your family! We had a nice quiet weekend with the family.  I didn't blog about this because things were so up in the air, but Mr. Spots (for you new readers, this is my boyfriend. How did he get his name? Read here.) was unable to go to the AIM at Melanoma walk in Charlotte the weekend before last because his dad was involved in a hunting accident. Since then, he's been in and out of the hospital. Thanksgiving landed him back in the hospital. He came home Saturday afternoon and is resting comfortably. We spent the weekend helping around their house and enjoying their company. Now you know why I was MIA! :-)

So, let me share a picture with you and ask for your opinion:

"Let's get your glow on!"

OK, when I first saw this, I thought it was a tanning advertisement. I kept reading, hoping I was wrong, and realized it's actually a plastic surgery group sponsoring this event that includes a "Reveal Camera" that allows folks to see pictures of the sun damage on their faces. 

Am I the only person who thinks maybe they shouldn't have used a girl facing the sun, getting her glow on, for an event that's going to point out sun damage to women? Shouldn't they promote protecting her skin in the first place? It just seems odd to me that the girl is facing the sun, absorbing the sun that causes the damage they are then going to reveal with their fancy "reveal camera."

Or maybe I had entirely too much time on my hands today and over thought this completely?

Whatever. ;-)

Happy Monday! XO

Thursday, November 22, 2012

The Second Thanksgiving

Like many of you, I have a new perspective on Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving isn't held on one day in the crisp month of November. No sir. Thanksgiving is every day of every year. How do you sum up what you're thankful for in just a few words? Although I tried to do so last year, I can't. It's as simple and as complicated as this: I'm thankful to live a happy and healthy life surrounded by incredible people.

This year I feel like I need to take the time to thank each and every one of you for your continued love and support. I started this blog in February 2011 at the suggestion of my mom. Nervously, I posted it to my Facebook, and boy, it took off. You read, you commented, and you shared. Now just a year and 8 months later, this little diary of mine has been viewed 285,035 times. I wanted to share my story my hopes of changing minds about tanning and the need for sun protection. Because of YOU, I am accomplishing my goal. Thank you.

This was a gift from my new friend Donna! (Appropriate for today's posting, yes?) Donna had this in her RV on Saturday and my sister and I both commented on it. What arrived at my doorstep yesterday? This. One for me and one for my sister. Did I mention how truly blessed we are to have made such a great new friend?  I am so excited about seeing her again next week!

Alright, friends, get off the computer and go spend time with your loved ones.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Old Friends

“There's not a word yet, 
for old friends who've just met.” 
~Jim Henson

Friday night, meeting for the first time.

I knew when I planned my trip to Charlotte for the AIM at Melanoma 5K that it would be a special weekend. I did not prepare myself for how special it actually would be, how honored and humbled I would feel, and how these cyber friends would instantly feel like family. 

We arrived in Charlotte around 10:30 Friday night. There I was, checking in with the receptionist when I heard, "There's Chelsea!" I turned to greet Reverend Carol of Attitude of Gratitude and Melanoma Grief Chapel for the very first time. I got a hug from the Rev herself and then she informed me she had a little present for me. Clueless, I opened the bag...

Rev. Carol made me a melanoma princess for the weekend! I can't remember how it was determined that I should have a tiara, but a few months ago, my mole mates joked that I would have one at the walk. I had totally forgotten about it, but not Rev. Carol. She remembered & crowned me PRINCESS! (Here's her description of our meeting!I've always wanted to be a princess...(Although I think Mr. Spots--and maybe my sisters-- would say I already act like one sometimes. Oops!) 

Rev. Carol informed me that there were other melanoma warriors still hanging in the hotel lounge so I hugged my mom and step dad, convinced my sister it was too early for bed, and brought my luggage into the bar with us. It was time to hug my friends.

  The 3 of us met on Twitter!

After many hugs, a few hours of convo, and too much wine, we headed up to our rooms and happily said, "See you tomorrow!" (Which is really, really fun, by the way!) 

Saturday morning arrived and it was a beautiful day to AIM for a CURE! I think the best way to document this day is to share the pictures with you. Of course I will add a few comments here and there.

Newly diagnosed melanoma warrior, 
showing that she doesn't chase the sun anymore!
It turns out that the owner of this RV became a very dear friend to me this weekend.

 This beautiful gal is Timna of Respect the Rays.

Sometimes you meet people and they instantly feel like family. Meeting Timna & her real life family was like that for me. (I mean, her daughter picked me out of a crowd of strangers and said, "Are you Chelsea?" Love ya, Ella!) I highly doubt I'm the only one this weekend who felt like that about Mrs. Timna. 

 "Fast forward to the walk...20 signs were held by so many loving people!  Eric, Bob, Judy, Steven, Jen, Jillian, Leslie were all "at the walk"!  THIS is what WE do!  We make shit happen!  WE!  As the brilliant Helen Keller said, "Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much."

Let me explain...Timna went above & beyond this . Rev. Carol shared an idea, Timna put it into action, and people all around the country were impacted. You see those signs? She made them to honor warriors who are off battling this horrible beast. These folks wanted to be at the walk with us; however, melanoma had another plan. With her help, they attended. People noticed!

I can't wait to see her again!

My twitter girls!
I'm already secretly planning road trips
to TN & FL! 

 Cute Alicia of The Skin I'm In!
Isn't she adorable?!
She's just as sweet too!

Alicia's support system! Love the shirts!

I had wanted to meet the author of Hotel Melanoma ever since he made me lose my sh*t in the middle of an oncology waiting room while reading his blog. Warning, if you worry about being socially acceptable, do not read his blog in public. I'm pretty sure there were sad tears and happy tears during my 3 hour wait for an appointment. I guess I owe Rich a big THANK YOU for sharing his blog, otherwise I would have had to read some crap like Cosmo. ;-)  (It was this post that made me laugh out loud and wipe a few tears.)

Survivors carrying the signs of our inspirations.

Author of Hotel Melanoma & Stage IV (NED) warrior Mark Williams.
You can read a little about Mark HERE!
Both men are true gentlemen and I am so honored to call them PALS!
Oh, and yes, they are wearing tutus! 
You helped them reach their goals, they kept their word!

Did YOU get your FREE skin cancer screening?

They call us The Power Rangers.
Mark Williams

 My family made the trip for a second year in a row!
I am so thankful for them.

Helping Charlotte's AIM Chapter President, Anne, with the raffle!
Oh, and it just so happens, she is a great friend of mine.
For those who met her for the first time this weekend,
isn't she amazing?!   

Melanoma Tailgate Party!
I was convinced by my new mole mate to join her and Al, author of Black is the New Pink, and his family for a glass of wine. One glass turned into more than one glass, and we had such a great visit! This was definitely a highlight of my weekend. These two people were exactly as I imagined them being. She is incredibly sweet, welcoming, and just fun! Al, as I knew he would be, is a joker! He claims to be shy but I don't believe it for one second. Al's wife and family were such fun to be around, too. After a few minutes, it really felt to me like we were old friends getting together to play catch-up! I have a feeling all of us will get together again one day for more wine out of a paint can! :-) 

Meeting all of my "mole mates" was such a special experience.
This lady pictured above, her mom, and her beautiful daughter
were truly a pleasure to meet!

I know that I said last years AIM at Melanoma walk was special, and it was because it was the first fundraiser I had ever attended for a disease that has hit so close to home, but this was incredible. I met so many friends who I've shared secrets with, fears with, and I got to hug them in person! I met strangers who came up to me and openly said, "You have no idea who I am." I listened to a beautiful young girl honor her sister's memory, and promise that one day a cashier at the grocery store will say, "Would you like to donate a dollar for melanoma awareness?" I got to stand next to a stage IV melanoma warrior who told me all about the YMCA LIVESTRONG program that got him back in the gym. I walked with a mother who recently buried her own daughter due to this damn disease, yet she's putting her grief aside in order to save other young women. The point I'm trying to make is that I was surrounded by so many incredibly strong people who understand that melanoma is so much more than just skin cancer.  

Picture from Respect the Rays!

We were a group...
        a group made up of old friends who had just met.

Mole mates, 2012, Charlotte, NC