Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Trick Or Treat!

Happy Halloween!

My boyfriend's kiddo, G, before trick or treating!

Look what else I saw tonight... 

Someone else in Roanoke supporting Melanoma!

It isn't every day you see one of those ribbons!

Hope you got lots of candy!


Tuesday, October 30, 2012

I Blame Sandy

I know. I can't believe it has been a week since I blogged either. With Sandy attacking my hometown, and simply feeling exhausted, I've been totally out of the loop over the last week. I haven't even caught up on my daily reads! Sorry, y'all, I guess I needed some time away from the computer.

I'm thankful to report that besides a broken furnace, and some outside damage, my family survived Sandy. She definitely took a toll on our little peninsula though. I've attached a few pictures folks have posted from the Eastern Shore of Virginia--AKA, that little peninsula most leave off the map. You may have heard them mention Chincoteague Island on CNN yesterday. 

One of the main roads on our island.

I know a lot of people are without homes tonight, but I can't help but be thankful it wasn't worse. My hopes are that you and your families are safe tonight too.

Until things calm down, don't forget the sunscreen!

Talk soon. XOXO

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Daily Frustrations

It's not unusual for me to tell you my frustration with folks who think that melanoma isn't a big deal. How often have you told someone you have melanoma and they respond, "Oh, skin cancer?" like it isn't anything to worry about? Yeah, it happens.

Today I found myself even more frustrated than usual. I wasn't even talking to anyone about cancer, I was simply carrying around a heavy heart thinking about how Hillary Quinn Kind's family cannot celebrate her 26th birthday with her today. Why? She passed away two days ago from melanoma, skin cancer.

Even now, even with the research that is slowly getting out there in the media, folks don't see the importance of skin protection.

Your friendly reminder to wear sunscreen

When I was in New York City this month for my latest set of scans and treatment, I began reading Pale Girl Speaks, by Hillary Fogelson. Hillary discusses her anger with people who acted like she ought to be grateful that she only had skin cancer. Hillary writes:

"It's like Debra Winger in Terms of Endearment: "It's okay to talk about 'the cancer.'" My problem is, no one seems to know diddly squat about melanoma, so I end up defending my illness. "People die from melanoma, you know." "Melanoma spreads throughout the body faster than any other cancer." "Melanoma is the number one cancer among women twenty-five to twenty-nine." "Second to lung cancer, melanoma is the fastest-growing cancer in the world." "If not caught early, melanoma is almost always fatal." "Melanoma doesn't respond to traditional chemotherapy or radiation." Yeah, that's right. I've been doing some online research. So fu** you! Sorry. Like I said, bad day (40)."

What melanoma patient hasn't felt like Hillary? What family member of a melanoma patient hasn't fought the urge to slap the post office lady after she started to laugh while reading a melanoma t-shirt? (OK, maybe that was just my mom...) The point is, there are many people who don't know the seriousness of this cancer. I used to be one of them. It's frustrating. It's risky. And as the person who has had to defend her illness, it tends to piss me off when someone brushes it aside like it's nothing to stress. (Hey Khloe Kardashian and Bruce Jenner!)

This is when we have to try to ignore our own personal frustrations and find the opportunity to educate these people. Instead of getting pissy with the person like I'm often tempted to do, share a statistic with them. Mention why you have such a strong hate for tanning beds. Briefly tell them your own story. Whatever you have to do, force them to think twice. Most of them won't absorb the information you are sharing. But some? Some will go home to their friend Google and type in one word--melanoma--and begin to educate themselves and possibly change the way they live their lives.

Oh, the shock they will have when they realize that melanoma is so much more than just skin cancer.

*Happy birthday, Hillary. My thoughts are with your friends and family today.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Keep Going, Keep Fighting

Do you remember this beautiful girl 
from September's Stand Up To Cancer telecast?

She asked her oncologist the difficult question,
if she stopped treatment,
how long would she have?

The oncologist questioned,
how long would Hillary want?

Hillary wanted a year:
One gosh darn year that we take for granted.
365 beautiful days that we complain about.

The oncologist remained silent.

Hillary, 25, passed away on October 21, 2012...
just two days before her 26th birthday,
8 years after she was diagnosed with stage 3 malignant melanoma.

Please--I'm begging you--share her story.

Hillary said, "I just keep going, keep fighting, something good will come of it."

Let something good come of it.

Protect your skin.

Hillary with her boyfriend,
borrowed from her Facebook page.


Saturday, October 20, 2012

The Kardashian's & Bruce Jenner

I know I have told you all before about my minor obsession with celebrity gossip. It's stupid, I know. Every once in a while I like to read the gossip. I signed up for Twitter years ago simply to see the tweets from celebs. It's ridiculous. Don't judge me.

Today's pointless celebrity bitching is regarding The Kardashian's. No matter where you look, you see the Kardashians. Weight loss products, SEARS clothing,  Kayne West's bed...Kardashians. I have to admire how they took a less than classy experience (beautiful Kim's sex tape) and turned that attention into world wide fame. They work hard for their money, really, and I'm not being sarcastic.  The topic today is their mixed signals when it comes to protecting their skin. If you watched Khloe's wedding episode, or read any gossip magazine during 2008, you would probably have heard that Khloe had skin cancer. In this interview, Khloe mentioned how scared she was and how it is important to be careful in the sun.  Apparently Khloe has had a change of heart.

Yesterday one of my melanoma friends directed my attention to this tweet:

Who’s going to the tanning convention in Nashville? Bruce will be there!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Photo Time

I have a bit of a flu bug which is why I'm MIA but I wanted to share a few pictures with you that The Skin Cancer Foundation sent me today.

Did I mention what an incredible night it was?


The beautiful Shelly, Jerry Penacoli, me

Jerry Penacoli, the executive director of The Skin Cancer Foundation, Mary, & me

Did you know that tanning 4 times in a single year raises your risk for melanoma by 37%?

By far, one of the best nights of my life.

I'll be back soon!
Have a great weekend!

Monday, October 15, 2012


I was fully enjoying my hot bubble bath when I read Lucy Danziger's editor letter in the latest edition of SELF magazine. I had the pleasure of listening to Lucy speak at the gala last week, so reading her article impacted me in a totally different way. She's cool, she's hip, and she is not afraid to tell it like it is. Yes, she inspired me.

 Celebrity chef Katie Lee,
Editor in chief of SELF, Lucy Danziger
Owner of Dylan's Candy Bar, Dylan Lauren 

This months letter begins "Be Fearless. Great things happen when you do or say the thing that others won't." I know that I probably offend people with some of the crap I write. I get it. I can be a little too pushy, I might show things you really don't want to see (Wanna see my scars?!), and I might give you the look for those tan lines you're sporting. I'm harmless. I just don't want to see you--OR YOUR CHILDREN-- sitting next to me in the chemo suite. That's all.

No one downplays the seriousness of breast cancer. We know it, we support it, and we try like hell to prevent it. This is all thanks to folks who have put a great deal of time and support into raising awareness. While I am proud of societies acceptance of the seriousness of this horrible cancer, it ticks me off when people assume that my cancer is nothing to stress. No lie, I have lost track how many people have told my family and I, "At least it's just skin cancer!"

Bottom line: I support all cancers, and I am active about supporting breast cancer due to the people I love who have been touched by it.

However, I ran into a little issue the other week that just didn't settle well with me...

I attended a breast cancer event recently in honor of our family friend who has recently started her own battle. I enjoyed the event, I was touched by the survivors there, and I will more than likely run the race again next year.

What I didn't like was the basket promoting indoor and outdoor tanning that was a raffle item.

My mom and sister both warned me not to look at the basket. I knew right then what it was.

I know that the event coordinators cannot monitor every little item that folks donate, but a basket with tanning items, including sessions at a local tanning salon, just seems inappropriate since we are all there to raise money and awareness for cancer. Yes, the event was for breast cancer. Does that make it acceptable to raffle off items that are known carcinogenics?

Oh, it just makes me crazy.

Anyway, back to Lucy's letter. Lucy touches on how supporting breast cancer is the "in" thing for companies to do these days. She writes, "Companies have recently come under fire for 'pinkwashing'--using the ribbon to burnish their image while marketing products that endanger women's health..." Haven't we seen this lately?

I have heard from people all over the country who have become infuriated with local tanning salons who are offering discounted tanning sessions in honor of breast cancer awareness month. I know I am not the only one who sees the issue with this. Let's double check our boobies all while baking our skin--our largest organs-- in the coffin shaped bed. Brilliant.

Here's one great marketing campaign. "D-Feat Breast Cancer By Tanning." 

I can't even write about this anymore.

Because I don't want another tanning bed basket to be raffled off--and even if it is, it won't be as awesome as mine--I have offered to donate a skin safety basket at the upcoming Party in Pink with Just Dance Roanoke event this coming Saturday,  This basket will include sunscreens, high priced self-tanners, my favorite bronzer, and The Skin Cancer Foundation's Journal. I'll probably toss in other last minute goodies that promote skin cancer awareness as well. I haven't thought it through yet.

I just know that I can't sit back and stay quiet.

Skin cancer is cancer, too, damn it.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Safe & Sound

Well, after one exciting week, I am back in my apartment with Mr. Spots and heading back to work tomorrow. I think I am still in disbelief over the entire week.

 On Monday my luggage was lost. Then there was a hiccup with our hotel reservation. (Yes, I was in panic mode.)

Tuesday morning I was scheduled to ask Bryan Cranston (AKA, Walter White--Breaking Bad) a question on Anderson Cooper's show and had to cancel at the last minute due to the late taping of the show. (This girl had a hair and make-up appointment to get to!) 

Then there was the amazing gala at The Plaza Tuesday night. 

A day of rest on Wednesday. 

A post season baseball game at Yankees stadium on Thursday night. 

 My mom, my sorority sister and I 

Oh! I am so excited to tell you that the Yankee stadium sells sunscreen at their kiosks! Yay!

Friday--after my amazing clear scan results which I will blog about in detail when I'm not sleep deprived--I had to wait for OVER 3 hours for my treatment, rush back to the hotel to get our bags, and head to the airport where we arrived at our local airport at midnight. It was a long day.

Yesterday was fully enjoyed by spending the day with my family and today I made the 6 hour drive back to the 'Noke. 

Now, I am exhausted. 

The week has finally caught up with me just in time to go back to work tomorrow!

Sweet dreams, friends. We'll gossip soon, I promise.

*Dear Blogger, how did I go from 240,000 hits to only 60? Way to reset the statistics...Boo!

Friday, October 12, 2012

Scan Results

No evidence of disease.

*Counting my off to the treatment suite!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The Night I'll Never Forget

Let's start at the beginning. 
What is The Skin Cancer Foundation Gala?

The Gala is the Skin Cancer Foundation's largest annual fundraiser. During the event, organizations and individuals are awarded with Skin Sense Awards in recognition of their achievements in sun safety and skin cancer prevention. 

Why is the Gala so important? 

The funds raised from the Gala are what makes these incredible things possible:  their website, Sun Safe U, and The Road to Healthy Skin Tour. These projects help raise awareness and prevention. To be blunt, The Foundation needs this event to make these events successful, and we need these events to help save lives!

OK, I hear you snoring. On to the fun details of the night...

A car picked us up from our hotel and took us to the side entrance of The Plaza Hotel to sneak in and make rehearsal time. I have never addressed a crowd larger than 20, so needless to say, I was quite thankful for a little practice!

A big thank you to these guys for letting me practice!

Just hanging out before going to cocktail hour! 
The Plaza is very beautiful, don't you agree?!

Here I am with Mary Stine, The executive director of The Foundation.
She is incredible and fun!

This picture was first seen on The Associated Press!
I'm mixed in with celebrities like Brooke Shields,
Dylan Lawrence, Sam Champion, Jerry Penacoli, 
Real Housewives Aviva Drescher and Alex McCord, etc.
Click here to view the other photos.

So thankful Mom was right next to me.
She's beautiful, I know.


The Real Housewife Alex McCord. 
Sadly, I didn't get to talk to her last night,
but we did get to chit chat a little via Twitter today.
She knows the importance of sun safety!

Sam Champion of Good Morning America and Jerry Penacoli of EXTRA.
Both of these men have battled skin cancer. 

Even the napkins in the bathrooms are beautiful...

The ballroom while everyone enjoyed cocktail hour.

The ballroom once everyone was seated.
Now, do you see why I was nervous?

Then I met this dude,
fellow stage III melanoma warrior,
Jerry Penacoli.
Not only did he force me to eat some of my dinner,
he continued to encourage me throughout the entire night,
and he made me LAUGH!
He really is a nice fella,
and I'm grateful for his support, and the big hugs, last night!
*Click here to listen to Jerry's words after my speech.

Giving my speech. You can watch it here.

I also had the true pleasure of meeting fellow skin cancer warriors. I wish we had thought to take a picture together or exchanged information. Still, I will think of Suzanne as she continues on her clinical trial, and I will allow Richard, stage IV melanoma warrior, to challenge me
to live life to the fullest. Richard only had 6 months to live before he began a clinical trial. He has shown no evidence of disease for a year and a half. The audience was in tears.

I said this in my speech, but I need to say it again: I am so grateful to The Foundation for allowing me such a platform to raise awareness. My friend John reminded me yesterday that a
year and a half ago, I was a scared little girl, a little girl too scared to talk about her experience.

Last night I spoke to people like the beautiful celebrity chef Katie Lee, the inspiring Editor in Chief of SELF, Lucy Danziger, folks from the PGA Tour, and numerous doctors and folks in the medical field.

I helped put a face to melanoma.

I truly appreciate the response I received following my speech. One lady came up with tears in her eyes, insisted on hugging and kissing me. People stopped my on my way back to my seat to thank me. A skin cancer hero in his own right, Rick Fair, Vice President of Oral Oncolytics, Genentech, approached me and said he reads my blog!  This list could go on and on. It motivated me to keep doing what I'm doing...getting the word out there!

It was a humbling experience.
It was a night I will never forget.
It was an experience of a lifetime.

Thank you, The Skin Cancer Foundation, for making it happen.

I will be forever grateful. 

PS) I head in for CT scans tomorrow and treatment on Friday. Fingers crossed I will have good news to report on Friday. <3 

Red Carpet

Last night was incredible.
Last night was life changing.
Last night was humbling.

I can't wait to blog about this incredible experience,
but friends,
I am absolutely exhausted!
Please pardon me while I take a short nap.

In the mean time,
if you want to check out my speech, you can.
Thank you all for the continued support and love.
**A special thank you to the strangers who approached me last night
who said that they follow this little blog!
I appreciate you!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012


I am putting the finishing touches on my appearance, I am prancing around the hotel room practicing my speech,and I am trying to hold my anxiety to a minimum.

In other words, I'm freaking out.

Tonight is the night I address 300+ people at The Plaza who are there to support The Skin Cancer Foundation. I sincerely hope my personal experience allows them to see what living with melanoma is really like, and let's face it, I hope it causes them to write larger checks for such a worthy cause!

Now, I leave with you with the final words of my speech:

"When my insecurity about my scars becomes too much,
I remind myself what writer Chris Cleave wrote in his novel, Little Bee. 
He wrote, "I ask you right here, please, to agree with me
that a scar is never ugly.
That is what the scar makers want us to think.
But you and I,
we must make an agreement to defy them,
we must see all scars as beauty.
Because take it from me,
a scar does not form on the dying.
A scar means,
I survived."

Sunday, October 7, 2012

The Gala Sneak Peek

It is almost time for Tuesday's big event: 
The Skin Cancer Foundation's gala 
at The Plaza Hotel.

I am becoming really emotional about this upcoming event. I am so honored that I have been asked to attend, but I am even more honored that they have asked me to speak at such an event. I was informed today that I will be seated with stage III malignant melanoma warrior Jerry Penacoli. Not gonna lie, I'm pretty thrilled to meet him.

In the mean time, I thought I would give you a sneak peek of my dress!

Keep your eyes open for more updates!
Tuesday is the main event!

Friday, October 5, 2012

Tan No More

When your friends go to the tanning bed,
I invite you to share Emily's picture.
This beautiful--YOUNG--girl
is now resting peacefully after a brutal battle with melanoma.

I hate you, melanoma.

Thoughts are with Emily's family this morning.
She was only a high school senior...
just a baby.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Ass Kicking

I am being a bad blogger friend again.
We're trying to find the house. 
We have the kiddo this week.
I'm on week 2 of my brand new government job.
I have a long road trip ahead of me,
a whole lot to pack,
a speech to give for The Skin Cancer Foundation,
CT scans to receive,
and a visit to the chemo suite.
I'm a tad bit busy this week so by the time I get to the couch,
I'm ready for bed.

I head to NYC on Monday, speech is on Tuesday, scans are on Thursday,
treatment is on Friday.
I will try to update my Facebook and Twitter as soon as I receive my scan results.
Please pray for no evidence of disease. 
As usual, I am scared.
I have one more prayer request.
My sweet friend Erin is in the hospital recovering from a surgery
that removed a malignant tumor the size of a baseball
from her intestines.
She's totally a rock star.
Please send love and juju her way for healing and a successful treatment.
Giving up is not an option.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The Countdown To The Plaza

One week from tonight I will be here:

 at The Plaza Hotel in New York City to speak at the annual Skin Cancer Foundation's Gala. 

One week, y'all!

Two days after that I go in for my latest set of CT scans and treatment. Are you surprised I've stopped sleeping? I'm a 5'5", 130 lbs ball of nervous energy. Speaking of being 130 pounds, I attended my first ever Zumba class. Technically it was a "just dance" class held at a Zumba studio, but whatever. It was 60 minutes of booty shaking, sweat inducing, giggle producing, and  overall awesome work-out. I highly recommend it.

Anyway, 5:30 rolls around quickly. I need to attempt to get more than a few hours of sleep tonight! 

**To all of you who prayed for my family friend: THANK YOU. Her surgery went well and the doctor has high hopes for her. Continued thoughts and prayers are greatly appreciated for her as she heals and battles breast cancer.

Monday, October 1, 2012

The Month of PINK

Pink socks.
        Pink water bottles.
                          Pink hair bows.
                                           Pink football players.

It's October!
AKA, The Pink Month.

I have nothing but respect for breast cancer patients, their families, and the folks who put so much time, energy, and money into promoting breast cancer awareness and research. They have taken an ugly and brutal disease and turned it into something marketable that actually attracts the attention of all. It's admirable. It's inspirational.

What a breast cancer patient will quickly tell you: it's not all pink ribbons and bow ties.

It's real.
It's scary.
It's life threatening.

Today on October 1, 2012, and on the night before our family friend goes in for surgery, I invite you to check your boobies. If you feel something unusual, don't wait. Make the call.

(...While you are doing that, take a look at your skin. Do you have any unusual moles? A mole that is itchy? Go ahead and make that appointment too. What are you waiting for?)

*Want to read a history of breast cancer advocacy? Read Carol's blog here.

We run for Susan.
We're rooting for you!