Thursday, March 22, 2012

"This I Can Handle."

Fear has the ability to paralyze you. You want to protect yourself. You don't want to tempt your body into the danger zone. You put yourself into a bubble because you are afraid of what will happen if you pop that bubble. To take yourself away from your safety net? Far too risky.

Fear paralyzes you, emotionally and physically...

Unless you stand up to it.

Today I had the pleasure of working with a woman who is celebrating her 10 year breast Cancer-versary. For the sake of her privacy, let's call her Mary. People with cancer tend to automatically click, this case was no different. This woman knew my story through the grapevine, but I had not heard hers. It is a bit odd how similar our stories are despite our different types of cancer. We actually even had the same surgeon--he specializes in breast cancer and melanoma. Mary and I were discussing our issues following the lymph node dissections and the aftereffects that the surgeries have had on our bodies. Mary asked me if I use my arms in the way that I did Pre-Melanoma. I explained that I ignored my original oncologist and still use my arms and that I am actually going to the gym to try to regain the muscle that I have lost in the past year. I never know how people will respond to someone going against a doctor's orders, but Mary disobeyed her doctor too.

Mary shared an emotional memory with me today. She told me, "I remember going for radiation and the doctor said, "this may hurt. I am going to stretch your arm out but only stretch it as far as you can. It may be painful." Mary stretched her arm to a fully extended position, looked at her doctor, and said, "No. Pain is being told I have cancer. Everything stopped. Everything. That is real pain."

Mary looked at me with tears in her eyes and said, "Now I go to the gym 3 times a week and lift weights. I use those arms. That is not pain to me. I have felt real pain. This? I can handle." 

Fear, if you let it win, has the ability to stump you. It will cause you to stop living life the way that you used to live because you are terrified of jeopardizing your current healthy state. You start to think in terms of the next day, but God knows you don't plan for the next year. You are scared to make permanent plans because you don't know how you are going to feel, you don't know where you are going to be, you don't even know if you will be. Finalizing future plans is a risk because your future is so unknown.

I am talking about myself. Ask me to make a serious permanent decision and I will wiggle my way out of it. It terrifies me. How can I buy a house if I don't know if I am going to be healthy in 3 months? How will I have a baby (far in the future!) if I don't know what the scans will show in 3 months? Should I even have a baby? Why should I sign up to go back to school if there is a chance I may have to drop out because Melanoma shows its face again?

It will keep you up many of nights just thinking about those things!

I shared some of these fears with my friend Max over green beer on Saturday night. He asked one question: "Are you going to live like you are dying?" Max did not ask that question in the Tim McGraw ride-a-bull-&-go-sky-diving type of way. He meant, am I going to live day by day, not making any permanent decisions all because melanoma may show up again?

I tried to defend myself. I blurted out the statistics. I talked about the 2 more years of chemo sessions I have. I dropped names of Molemates who we have lost this year. Again, Max asked, "Are you going to live your life or are you going to live like you are dying?"

Am I?

I have felt real pain. I have had, like Mary shared, my world come to a halt. I know what it is like to actually have to face the fact that I may not survive this. I also know that I have opportunities that some of my cancer friends no longer have. I have the opportunity to not only exist, but I have the opportunity to live.

It is time to stop holding myself back just because I am scared of the future.

"I have felt real pain. This? I can handle."


Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Beauty Marks

I had planned all night to write this special post about a conversation I had on Saturday over green beer. It was good...very blog worthy...and I promise that I will write it soon. (I keep making promises to write more, don't I?) Then I changed out of my work clothes and noticed that my body is reacting to something tonight. These rashes do not hurt, they don't even itch, they just exist.

I have talked to the nurse at Sloan Kettering once about my stomach rash that pops up when I do not feel well, but I have never been so covered in the rash before. It's in 3 different spots on my stomach, on 2 different spots on my right leg, and on one spot on my left leg.

Oh, one of my toenails fell off tonight! Random! I used to have such pretty toenails...

What's going on?!?!! Melanoma friends, do you have any advice? I don't feel sick. I'm a bit stressed out with work, but I feel OK overall. I haven't changed soaps, lotions, foods, etc. It just seems weird that my body is reacting to something in this way. Is there anything I can do to stop the rash from spreading more?

That tan skin sure wasn't worth this.

Pity party over.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Happy St. Patty's Day

I hope everyone had a wonderful weekend! I went out for some fun with some of my friends and thought I would share the pictures with you. It was a beautiful St. Patrick's Day in Virginia. Don't worry, I wore and reapplied my sunscreen often!

Have a great week, friends!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

R(R)andom Opportunities.

So, I am sticking to my goal of working out and trying to live an overall healthier lifestyle. Week 2 of the gym has begun and this week I have a work out partner: My Mr. Spots! Although it was a learning experience for me to go to the gym by myself, I really enjoyed working out with him tonight. We definitely pushed ourselves harder than we would have had we been alone. So, when I can't move tomorrow, I am blaming him.

Mr. Spots had an interesting encounter with the sales person when he was signing up for his membership. The guy in his mid 20's asked Mr. Spots if he would like to sign up for the Black Membership which includes 1 free tanning session. Mr. Spots didn't say a word, he just pointed to his Melanoma t-shirt. The sales guy looks at the shirt and says, "I don't do the tanning. I am pre-med. Did you know Melanoma is the fastest growing cancer now?" Mr. Spots blurts out, "I like you."

Hey, it's not often that we have random strangers sharing melanoma statistics with us! It's usually the other way around.

After our intense work out session, we headed to the grocery store. Sure enough, the cashier Mr. Spots' t-shirt out loud, "Someone I love has.......What is melanoma?" Mr. Spots says, "A type of skin cancer." Conversation ends.

Today I learned how a t-shirt can educate and start conversations you do not expect. I guess I need to go order some more Melanoma t-shirts, huh?

Monday, March 12, 2012

Just A Hello!

I am sorry that I have not posted lately. I have a lot to say, but I have no time to write. Sigh. Soon! Life outside of melanoma is very busy! At least it's just work related and not major life crisis related!

I promise to dedicate some time to writing soon...I have a few thoughts spinning around in my head, especially regarding 25 candles.

Until then...

Monday, March 5, 2012


"Be soft. Don't let the world make you hard.
Do not let the pain make you hate.
Do not let the bitterness steal your sweetness.
Take pride that even though
the rest of the world may disagree,
you still believe it to be a beautiful place."

Sunday, March 4, 2012


I did something that scares me today...

I joined a gym.

How can I fear the gym after everything I have been through in the last year, right? I know. It is silly. In fact, it is ridiculous. It's a g-y-m: the place where other folks go to be healthy and fit. I guess it's not knowing the correct way to use certain machines and the fear of looking foolish in public that intimidates me. When I told Mr. Spots today that I wanted to go sign up for a membership, he said, "I have to warn you. They are going to try to get you to sign up for the ultimate package that includes 1 free tanning session." Boom! There was my final motivator--a chance to educate!

I don't know if it was my pretty porcelain skin or the fact that I was wearing an AIM at Melanoma t-shirt, but the red headed male did not offer the tanning package to me. I was a bit disappointed because I had already planned a speech in my head, but I was quite relieved at the same time. I didn't want my first session to be fueled by anger and a reminder of my cancer.

Today was day 1 of Operation Live Healthier.

Tomorrow, when I can't move, someone please remind me how empowered I felt today. I want to be fit again. I can do this.