Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Fast Moving Rollercoaster: 2013.

How can it already be the eve of a new year? It has been a year of so many life changing moments!

Let me break it down for you in pictures:

Emily Giffin, my favorite autor, tweeted me regarding my efforts to raise melanoma awareness.
Yes, this is life changing. ;-)

I celebrated my 2 year Cancerversary in January!
It was a quiet night with my boyfriend where I found comfort in this quote:
"But understand this: my commitment to living in the now means
I'll never ever say that I've beaten cancer.
To do so would be living in the "tomorrow," if you will,
and melanoma is far too erratic an opponent to go around making predictions.
But I can tell you for sure that I'll never give in to it.
Life is too precious to give it up
without giving everything you've got -- now."
Dr. Jack Ramsay.

I traveled to Richmond, Virginia, to testify about my experience with melanoma.
Sadly, the bill was tabled, but it was a learning experience for me, and I feel certain
that folks in Virginia, including myself, will still continue to try to get a law passed that would protect our minors.

In March, Melanoma decided to reappear.
Luckily, I caught it right away, went to the dermatologist within days.
The mole was diagnosed as an in-situ melanoma.
This caused a lot of drama with the doctors in New York as they were unsure
of how to classify this new melanoma. Was I kicked out of the clinical trial?

Nope, it was decided that this new melanoma did not mean
 I couldn't continue with the clinical trial.
Since the melanoma was surgically removed, I was once again showing no evidence of disease.

I got a visit in with my melanoma sister, Julie!

We got engaged!

I spoke at the Cambridge, Maryland, Choptank's Trot for Melanoma!
I was joined by family and friends.
The only person missing was my dear friend Lynette. Oh, I missed her.

I fulfilled a dream: I found my wedding dress.

I made my guy suffer through engagement pictures! ;-)
I was listed as #2 on the Top 10 Skin Cancer Bloggers!

My family and friends held 2 wonderful bridal showers for me!

I met this wonderful online friend, Susan, in person!

I met Heidi Klum!

I chatted with Giada De Laurentiis about melanoma!

Her brother passed from Melanoma when he was 32.

I married Mr. Spots.
(This was, by far, my most favorite day. Ever.)

And then we learned that melanoma may be back.
So many memories, so many life changing moments.
I can only wonder what 2014 has in store for us!
My hope for you is that 2014 brings you health, love, and happiness!
See ya next year!

Monday, December 23, 2013

"When Our Knees Hit the Floor."

I recently met a man I know I will never forget.

It sounds weird to say I'll never forget a complete stranger, but it's true.

When I met this man for the very first time I asked how he was, just as a conversation starter. With a smile, he responded, "I'm not kicking too high today, darlin'." We didn't chat too much during that first visit, but I walked away knowing that I wouldn't forget him.

Then recently, when I wasn't expecting it, I came across that same man again. He waved me over, we made casual chit chat, and then he informed me that his cancer had returned. Right there, in an unexpected place, this stranger told me that 8 years after his original diagnosis, the cancer is back.

He wasn't asking for my sympathy. He just needed an ear to listen. He needed to say it out loud to a stranger who he may never see again. He needed to say it to know that it is real.

I can't stop thinking about him.

It wasn't his recurrence that hurt my heart. That goes without saying. What broke my heart and inspired me the most was that this stranger, this beautiful man with tears rolling down his face, looked at me and said, "I've done it once. I will do it again."

And I do, without a doubt, believe he will.

F**K Cancer.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

"On Particularly Rough Days..."

I've had some time to process the idea that melanoma may have shown her ugly face again. How do I feel about it? Frustrated. Scared. Angry. But I've also decided that I can't obsess about the possibility. I gave myself a week to work through my emotions, but now I want to enjoy the holiday with my new little family. What happens in January will happen in January!

I saw this one Facebook yesterday & I knew I had to share. I figured someone else may appreciate it too!

Have a great week, friends. 


Sunday, December 8, 2013

"You're OK...I Think."

I often get asked if it is safe to have CT scans every 3 months. They question if I'm receiving too much radiation. People wonder out loud if the scans are really needed. "How long will you continue that? The radiation is so bad for you!" they say with an knowing look in their eyes. This past Thursday we learned first hand how necessary those scans are.

After an unusually long wait to see my oncologist, he walks in, shakes my hand and says, "So, I think you're OK." My heart starts pounding. "You think?", mom and I ask. "I think. Let's cut the chit chat and get straight to your scans."

Shit. My heart really starts to pound.

The Wizard explains that my organs are all fine and healthy,(deep sigh of relief here), but the radiologist noted a swollen lymph node. My hand goes immediately to the left side of my neck where I'm been monitoring a swollen node. He shakes his head, and continues, "in your right axilla." Apparently it is just one node that is larger than the accepted 1 centimeter. In a normal person, this would possibly be ignored. In a stage 3 malignant melanoma patient, ignoring such a thing could be a death sentence.

He doesn't sugarcoat things for me, he said we are almost to the 3 year mark and it is quite possible it is a recurrence. I ask, probably with a wishful tone, "but it's possible it could be an infection?" Absolutely, he says. Then he reminds me of the results we had 3 years ago: lymph nodes positive under left axilla, right side of neck, possibly--but later decided it wasn't melanoma--in the right axilla. The only place that was unquestionably negative for melanoma was the left side of my neck. The cancer has spread to both sides of my body in multiple lymph node basins. This is why he's taking one swollen lymph node seriously, I think to myself.

The first time I had the SNB's, January 2011

He does the physical exam. I often do a self exam checking my lymph nodes and moles. I'm careful and pay attention to my body. How did I miss this? I ask if he can feel it. "No, it's too small." 

Oh. Had it not been for the required 3 month scans, would I have been alerted so early that the cancer may be back? No. That's why I do the scans. That's why I risk the exposure.

I get dressed and we move back to our seats. He tells me he has signed off on getting my treatment because there is no reason why I shouldn't receive the drug/placebo at this time. He tells me I have 2 options: I can rescan in 3 months and see what the results show then, or we can rescan in 6 weeks to monitor the growth. He states that he votes to rescan, but that it's up to me. (He knows this isn't even a question he has to ask me. Of course I'm going to rescan in 6 weeks.) If the lymph node is the same size, we continue as we are now. If it has grown, he will schedule me to see Glinda again and we will surgically remove it.

This isn't my first rodeo. I know what that surgery is like. I know I can handle it. I thank God it's only a swollen lymph node and not a suspicious area in my organs. My lymph nodes have done their job, for now, they've kept the cancer out. But still, as my oncologist looks at me patiently waiting for my questions, I am pissed. And I am scared.

And he knows it.

He mentioned not that long ago that he's dreading the day he has to walk into the exam room and tell me something that isn't "You're fine." Thursday was that day, and it was obviously uncomfortable for all of us.

I asked a few questions: If it is melanoma, will I be kicked out of the trial? (He never directly answered this, but said it really doesn't matter, because I only have 2 treatments left.) Will we do something else besides surgery? (He didn't really want to answer this either. He said we will have to see. If we can surgically excise it, then we may just start over in terms of keeping a close eye on things.) 

It's funny in a way. The way we were talking, we've already decided it is melanoma. It's so strange to know that you have this possibly cancerous area in your body, yet you feel perfectly fine. That's what makes melanoma so scary. I hear so many of my friends say it: We look healthy. We feel healthy. Yet, one scan can show something completely different. How terrifying is that?

So, that's where we stand. I've been a little angry these last few days. Bitter that I'm once again tossed into Hotel Melanoma when I was so enjoying my new life as a wife and step mother, a life where melanoma wasn't my every other thought. But I remind myself that I have no right to be angry. This is something I can handle. I've proven that before. This--even if it is melanoma--is something we can remove. I'm still one of the lucky ones, and for that, I'm so grateful. If this is the worst I have to deal with, bring it on.

As you say your prayers, and keep people in your thoughts, I ask that you include my friends Julie and Ron in them. Julie is heading in for another surgery on Tuesday and my friend Ron was just told to get his affairs in order. Please pray for their strength and healing, as for their families. 

As always, thank you for your support and love. I know you're all with me on this crazy, crazy ride. 


Tuesday, October 29, 2013


I'm baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaack from my wedding & honeymoon, friends!

And it was fabulous.

 Before I share too much with you, I need a huge favor.

Do you know anyone who lives in Virginia? If so, I need you to pass along this information.

The Joint Commission released information regarding indoor tanning and minors. They presented the most recent research, including the fact that melanoma is the second most common cancer in women between the ages of 20-29, and the third most common cancer in men between the ages of 20-29.

Now they have given us 3 options asking us how they should handle this new information:

Option 1: Take no action

Option 2: Introduce legislation prohibiting persons under the age of 15 years from using tanning devices at tanning facilities; and requiring a parent or legal guardian of unemancipated persons 15-17 years of age to provide written consent prior to allowing the minor to use a tanning device at a tanning facility.

Option 3: Introduce legislation prohibiting unemancipated persons under the age of 18 years from using a tanning device at a tanning facility.

Y'all know that option 1 is just not acceptable for me. We have too much research that proves the dangers of indoor tanning for teens to simply ignore it. I find that doing nothing with this information is lazy & irresponsible.

Option 2 still isn't good enough for me. Why? My mom loves my sisters and me more than anything in this world. That being said, back when we were kids, she signed those consent papers that allowed us to tan because none of us knew any better. We were not fully educated on the damage those coffin-like beds do to our young skin! Would she willingly approve something so harmful? No. And I know that she will always regret signing those consent papers. (Sadly, she's not the only parent with those same regrets.)

Option 3 is my pick. Virginia doesn't allow our teens to smoke. If tobacco is classified as the same carcinogen as UV rays, why is one outlawed, and the other is not?

I am BEGGING you to take the time to review this research and send in your opinion to sreid@jchc.virginia.gov.

Please, please, please don't miss out on an opportunity to let your voice be heard. I'm begging you.

Comments must be submitted by November 12th.

Please don't allow future teens, and their parents, to make the same poor decisions that we did.

Lots of love,

Mrs. Dawson!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

The Dawson's

Heading out for the honeymoon, but I wanted to introduce you to my husband.

See you next week!
The Dawson's

Monday, October 14, 2013

Written By A Single Woman

This is probably the last post I will write as Miss Chelsea! 
It's hard to believe that the day is finally here. I've been asked by folks how Mr. Spots and I survived our relationship after being diagnosed with melanoma. The truth is, it wasn't easy. In fact, we broke up when I moved the 7 hours back home to my family while I went through the 3 months of treatment in New York. Despite the distance, despite the emotional roller coaster we were both on, we found our way back to each other. In fact, I would say we found the relationship we were both looking for.
Savannah, Georgia 2011
Our first vacation together following my first surgery

We were sitting in the living room last week when Mr. Spots randomly said, "We have come a long way." He's completely right. Almost 4 years ago we were just two strangers at the same wedding. Now we're the bride and groom! 
St. Patrick's Day 2012

I thought I would take this time to thank you for your love and support throughout this journey. You all felt for me when we were going through the trying times, you cheered when I posted those pictures of us together on my 6 month Cancerversary, you sent your love when he popped the question. We've appreciated all of your thoughts and prayers not just for my health, but for our life together. Thank you.

As I walk down the aisle, I promise, I will know just how lucky I am. 

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Isn't It Ironic?

 "Chelsea, having met you and followed you, I have no question that you would accomplish many things. But isn't it ironic that the one thing that threatened your very existence (melanoma) and continues to haunt you in many ways has also played a part in guiding you to the most incredible experiences? The Gala last year...being featured on Headline News...and now meeting two celebrities because melanoma guided you to New York. I think karma is really blessing you...rewarding you for taking your scary cancer experiences and helping others deal with it, fight it, and hopefully avoid it."
-My Friend, the author of http://blackispink.blogspot.com/

Al's message keeps repeating in my head.

We all look at our cancer as such a horrible thing--and it is--but it has given me the best years of my life!

This trip to NY was no exception: NO EVIDENCE of Melanoma! I immediately felt so much relief when my oncologist gave me the news. Melanoma has played such a role in our relationship that I really didn't want her to show her ugly face during our special wedding day. I feel especially thankful. 2 weeks and 2 days!!!

Wednesday night after my scans, we headed to America's Got Talent to catch the show! It was so cool to see how live TV is filmed. What was really cool was meeting Mrs. Heidi Klum after the show! She is absolutely beautiful and spent a lot of time making sure everyone had autographs and pictures! Super sweet.

I love Heidi for the work she did with Marc Jacobs'

I was sitting in the waiting room 2 and 1/2 hours after my scheduled chemo time when I began browsing Facebook. My Facebook friend Susan mentioned something about being in NY so I asked her if she was in town at MSK. Oddly enough, she was in the same waiting room as I was, just on the opposite side!

I love getting to hug my online friends!
Please send well wishes to her husband as he begins a new treatment!
Hope to see you two again soon!

 And then we almost got kicked out of the chemo suite.

I've mentioned Julie to you all a lot, she's not a stranger to this blog, and it is always such a pleasure to see her and her mom. I'm quite certain that I laughed during every single 90 minute sitting in that chemo chair. Julie and her mom Jackie have been such a blessing to us. Ladies, we need to plan our vacation!

While I was waiting for treatment I noticed that Giada De Laurentiis tweeted that she was going to be at the Barnes and Noble in Union Square for a book signing. I had to go. I didn't get to thank Heidi for the work she did to raise awareness for melanoma, but I had a new opportunity to thank another celebrity, so I wanted to take it! Giada's brother Dino died when he was 31 from melanoma, and this year, she shared his story in a PSA. (View the PSA.)

Giada was very sweet! I introduced myself, told her that I, too, have melanoma, and how sorry I was for her brother's loss. Then I thanked Giada from the entire melanoma community for sharing her brother's battle with the public. She agrees that more awareness is needed. Who knows, maybe she'll help raise awareness in another way soon! 

It was such a whirlwind of a trip! I was so relieved to leave the city with good news and the opportunity to focus entirely on my upcoming wedding. I do feel like the luckiest girl in the world.

So, yes. Melanoma continues to haunt me, but it continues to give me some of the most rewarding experiences that I could have never imagined. I just needed my friend Al to remind me.

"And isn't it ironic, don't ya think?"


Tuesday, August 27, 2013


I had a moment this morning. You know, one of those moments that you're almost embarrassed to tell anyone about because it's so out of character for you. One of those moments where you say to yourself, "OK. Get it together, girl!" Yeah, I had one today.

 I was driving out of my neighborhood this morning when I had to stop for a school bus. I sat there and watched a family prepare to send their baby girl to school. It was obviously her first day of kindergarten. She had her big book bag, both parents, and her baby sister cheering her on. The parents put her on the bus, the school bus driver sat there while they waved to each other, then the doors closed and baby girl was off for her first day of school. The parents continued to wave for a few seconds, and before I could even drive away, both parents started crying. Both of them, in the middle of their yard, sobbing. Naturally, I started crying too. It was like watching a damn Hallmark commercial. (Seriously wish I had recorded it for the family. It was special.)

Ah, special moments...

...Moments I want to have one day.

Thinking back on this special moment  made me remember I haven't shared my special moment with you! My bridal shower last weekend!

 My mom came in on Friday night as a complete surprise to me
as I thought she had to work!
I should have known,
mom doesn't miss milestones!

 My awesome cupcake dress cake!
(Thanks, baby sister!!)

With the amazing hosts:
 my baby sister Cara,
and the gal who introduced me to my future husband!
They threw a great--totally me--shower!

Apparently there is an old wives tale that says the amount of bows
you break indicates how many children you will have.
The one bow I broke--even though I tried not to--
was on the present my future husband wrapped!
How appropriate.
And hilarious.

I can't wait to use these October 18th!

It was such a special weekend. My mom was in town, my mom's best friend from Canada drove in for the shower, Mr. Spots' family joined us, and a few women who are special to me joined us for a great shower. It was personal, relaxed, and sweet. Absolutely perfect.

It was a day I once wondered if I would get.

When the reality of cancer started sinking after they diagnosed me with stage 3 malignant melanoma, everything I may not get to do ran through my head. Days when my anxiety levels are high--cough SCAN DAYS--cough--It still runs through my head. Would I get to marry my guy? Would I be a Momma? Would I get to grow old? 

To be able to marry my guy on October 18th really will be a blessing for so many reasons.

Non-existent bucket list item, Marry the love of my life, will be complete.

...and I can't wait.

Monday, August 26, 2013

The Silent Agreement

If you were able to recover from the disaster that was Miley Cyrus, maybe you noticed that the celebrities embraced their natural skin tones at the VMA's last night! The gals--and guys--looked stunning and a whole lot less orange than usual! It's like they all made a secret agreement to ditch the over spray tan look! I like!

I thought I would share a few of my favorite looks from last nights award show:

Even Snooki looked a little less tan:
...I did said a little less tan.
It was nice to see a little less orange on the red carpet! 

Have a great week, friends. I'm rushing through a busy work week before heading to NYC next week! It's that time again: one more set of scans & treatment between me and our wedding! Fingers crossed. Always.

Have a great week, y'all! XO

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Rules Do Apply

My co-worker was reading the local newspaper this afternoon during her lunch break when she came across this heartbreaking letter to a local doctor. Apparently the young lady mentioned in the article had a biopsy of a mole years ago, continued to tan despite knowing the risks, and died at age 33 of melanoma. 


The letter left me feeling a lot of emotions: sadness over this loss of life, frustration that this may have been prevented had she learned with the early biopsy, and anger that there is so much more that we need to do to make people aware that melanoma is not just skin cancer.

I'm trying to put myself in the shoes of someone who had to have a biopsy, everything came back fine, and I was able to continue on with my life as before. Would I have embraced the pale skin? Would I have refused to step foot in the tanning bed again? Would I consider buying stock in sunscreen since I buy so much of it? Of course I don't know the answer to that. I would like to believe I would have had the shit scared out of me by the experience and by my doctor so I would have made the necessary changes, but who really knows the answer? Considering how uneducated I was on the seriousness of melanoma, maybe I would have been just like this girl. Maybe, I, too, would have believed the rules did not apply to me.

Dr. Camardi responded to the letter perfectly. He expressed his sympathy, yet he used this opportunity to educate our little town on the seriousness of melanoma. Dr. Camardi fully explained the ABCDE's of melanoma, and states: "The challenege in all of this is to 'get it right' and biopsy only the cancer. Frankly, that's impossible. I'd rather do 10 normal biopsies to find one melanoma and treat it at its earliest stage."

Yes, Dr. Camardi, I agree! As a patient, I would rather have 10 brand new scars if that means we catch the one melanoma in the earliest possible stage. Don't get me wrong, I don't like scars--didn't even have any before all of this melanoma craziness began--but scars beat cancer any day! 

While it is important to biopsy any suspicious mole, we have to agree with Dr. Camardi, prevention is the best medicine. Lather up the sunscreen, seek shade between the hours of 10 and 4, and throw on a fancy hat and some big shades! No one is saying you have to avoid the sunshine. We just suggest that you safely enjoy it!

This young lady, this free spirit who loved people and loved life, was obviously loved by the author of this letter. While it hearts to think of another life taken from this cruel disease, it breaks my heart for the author who is so right when he/she wrote: "She just did not have to die so young."


Tuesday, August 13, 2013

"Is My Cancer Different?"

When you hear that someone has been diagnosed with the big C what is the first question that pops in your head? For me, I want to know what type of cancer. I know when it boils down to it "cancer is cancer," and no matter what type of cancer a person has, it's horrible. However, the statement "cancer is cancer" really isn't that true.

Let me backtrack.

There is a new movement that forces us to ask ourselves, "Is My Cancer Different?" Maybe I would have answered differently had I not been diagnosed with melanoma already in my young age, I don't know, but now I want to scream it from the roof tops: MY cancer is different! Every cancer is different! The same cancer in different patients is different!

When people first find out about my history with melanoma they ask if I had to have chemo and radiation. I would have asked the same thing 4 years ago! However, we melanoma patients have had that frustrating conversation. You know the one, that heartbreaking conversation with the oncologist where he informs us that melanoma doesn't respond to the typical chemo cocktail.

I remember calling my Gran after that first meeting in New York, crying in the bathroom floor, because the doctor basically said the options are limited when it comes to stage 3 melanoma. They just can't treat our cancer like they do other cancers. It doesn't work!

This is why it is so important to be followed by a melanoma specialist. On their website Is My Cancer Different? discusses how patients with the same cancer are still totally different: (View their 2.23 minute video here!) I think many of you have already seen that in our melanoma community. Some of us have been a part of the same clinical trial and had very different reactions! We can't give up though just because one treatment works for one person and not for us. We move on to the next thing that may help!

I encourage you to take a few minutes and view their website, Facebook, and Twitter.

...And don't forget to ask yourself the question: "Is My Cancer Different?"

You know it is! Treat it like it is!