Thursday, December 25, 2008

Holiday post: Epic in Nature

I think about the waiting. That, I think, is cancer's toughest treatment: the constant battle to accept that there is no certainty in the future. Even when you know you're going to live through it, you are a sitting duck. You can't make any plans, because no one can tell you what's ahead of you. They don't tell you because they don't know. So you don't want to make any decisions because of the tremendous chance that something will come up and you'll have to drop out of that school you applied to, the job you interviewed for, that trip you planned. And doing that- starting something you worked so hard for, having it within your reach, only to have to quit when you are so close to it- or once you've had a taste of it- that is heart wrenching.

Then you are hit with a barely tolerable second bit of reality, and that is that you have become completely dependent on other people. You can't move forward in your life until the doctor tells you what to do next. So you wait for the next scan results- 2 weeks. Those are a little unclear. Call and schedule a PET. Another 2 weeks. Then an additional week for the results. Let's confer with a surgeon and see what she thinks. The appointment is a month away. Should I be concerned about not getting in before then? No, your oncologist says, it's fine. So you wait a month. And then the surgeon wants to talk to another surgeon and also to a radiologist. 2 weeks again. Wait for surgery. Wait for radiation. Wait and see if the chemo worked. Wait, wait, wait.

Suddenly, you look around and a year of your life has gone by. When am I gonna have an answer? you think. But there is no answer. That's what none of us got the first time we went through treatment. There are no answers. If the doctor had one, he would give it to you. But he is making an educated guess and gathering all the info he can to do the best possible job at that. And let's face it, you just really want to know if you're going to live. And for how long. That is all it boils down to. And there is no one who can tell you that.

So you eat lunch. You watch some t.v. You try to fill your time with whatever you can until the next appointment. But are you living? I didn't. I don't think I lived a single day in between my diagnosis and my official declaration of being N.E.D. I survived. I relied on everyone else for what was going to happen to me, and as the treatment began to take a toll on my body, I began to rely on others to take care of that, too. I fought it for as long as I could, but then it felt inevitable. Can you wash my hair? Help me get upstairs? Pull me up out of bed? Change my clothes? Help me clean myself up? I threw up again, will you bring me a towel? Do you see my pain meds? How am I going to get to the hospital on Thursday? Do we have any soup? I can only imagine what the weight of caring for me must have felt like. It must have been smothering. And me- I was fading into a ghost, having lost everything that I considered a normal life. I hated myself for trying to fight it. I hated how stubborn I was. I hated my body. I hated myself for having succumbed. I hated myself for not being stronger. I hated myself for hating myself. My body was so torn up physically, there was no hope for me to maintain my emotional health. My mental outlook had completely deteriorated with my ability to take care of myself.

So this holiday season, I look back at all of it with an honesty and empathy that has taken me literally years to muster. Did my life stop the day I was diagnosed? No, but it did not begin, either. I guess I say this because if you open your heart and love cancer (how bizarre does that sound?) for what it is, it will, in time I think, allow you to find the things that matter most. And that truly is a gift. But that is not an easy journey. Or it wasn't for me, at least. I am so much smarter now. I know that now, I would be a much more active patient- doing my own research and making my own decisions. But even if all that was taken away, even if one day I was rendered completely helpless, I would still be smarter. Because I'd know the truth, and the truth is this: it doesn't matter. It is what it is. Life is life, and you better just take it for what it is. Even when we're "healthy," we can try and fool ourselves into thinking our future is a sure thing, but it never is. It never was, and it never will be. Today is what we get. And that's it. You better make it all it can be and accept it for what it is, 'cause it's all you get.

A while back I wrote about how low I've been. I guess it's time to come clean and just be open about everything. In a way, I look back on this blog and it seems it didn't exist before October 11th of this year. It seems my whole life kinda started the day I really realized how depressed I was. It became about moving forward and getting healthier mentally. Which is good. But to be honest with you, it's sometimes exhausting, too. Maybe I don't have to tell you because you've faced the process before, but if you haven't, let me just break it down for you: it is so overwhelming to look forward into your life and see that the process you are going to have to go through is painful and arduous, but most of all that it could take years before it does not feel like a daily, forced chore.

That being said, irregardless of how bad coming to grips with everything and facing my demons sucked, being healthy and happy has become my number one priority, and so I have learned to love it like a 12-step recovery junkie loves their meetings. It is painful but somehow wonderful. I have begun my journey. I guess that I think part of that journey is telling everyone about it (to keep myself on track), and that include you. See, the deal is, when all of this went down with cancer and I became so dependent on everyone else for my physical care, I somehow got things mixed up and allowed my emotional well-being to be their responsibility, too. I made my happiness dependent on them. Because my happiness was completely in their hands, I had to become really controlling of everyone and everything. I wanted to be happy so I tried to make sure they made me happy. It sounds crazy and it's kinda hard to explain, but that, in a nut-shell, is what has been dragging me down: the exhausting, white- knuckled approach to life. You are probably thinking, as a good friend said to me, "Honey, cancer didn't teach you that trying to control life doesn't work?" Well, no, I guess not.

So that's me and where I am. Tomorrow starts a new year and it seems appropriate as I've already begun the transformation of a new and better me. I think the best part about all of this is the humility it has brought me. Nothing in my life has been as freeing as it has been to allow everyone to see how flawed I am. It is truly amazing to be as transparent as I can be and still be accepted and loved. I never want to be the other way again.

So, after that 8 minute rant, I was really leading to this: I learned it's okay. If I am or you are depressed, it's okay. If I can't or you can't seem to pull yourself out of a funk, it's okay. We don't have to hide it or be ashamed of it. A few weeks ago (the day after my birthday) I said I'd finally come close to forgiving myself for my dichotomy. Now I'm like, forgive? For what, being human? Where in the world did I get that stupid idea.

Anyway, that's the dirt. Now you know. Someone call National Enquirer! :)


And now, on a completely unrelated note, this totally uplifting and amazing story! 2 exclamation points in a row!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Truly Magical

I found a site tonight called Dear God, Hear Us, One Prayer at a Time by way of Leslie's blog, which I also discovered tonight. Both are great. But anyway, not the point.

So on this Dear God site, people write in their prayers. It's a crazy experience to read other people's intimate prayers, especially the ones from people who are so hurt and so angry. And there are a lot of those, as, in these days and times, you might expect. But then, I came upon this amazing prayer below, which totally lit up my day. And he's here in Dallas! One more reason to be happy, people. I am overwhelmed by the humility, patience and love he has for each moment and for himself. I can only aspire to such, but maybe one day...

Dear Universe,

It is with a heavy, exhausted heart that I say, “thanks”. Deep in my heart I know that I am feeling exactly what I need to, in order to move into my next moment. Sometimes I try to force myself into the next moment quicker than time (your heartbeat) wants me to. You want me to enjoy and learn from each beat. I try, each day, I try. I am also trying to not turn the hands of time backwards.
I know, each moment is precious, and I thank you for that. That, and all of the people, experiences, good things and bad things that are part of each moment, I am thankful. From these people and things I learn - I try to take the good forward and leave the bad behind. Thank you Universe for all of these things, including my very tough day today.
I love you and me.

Steven, Dallas/USA

Friday, December 19, 2008

Behind, as usual...

... but kinda in a good way! Hard to explain. Anyway, 2 quick things and I'll post again this week.
First, thanks to Anonymous for posting the Percepcion unitaria page. I'm not finished checking it out but I'm finding it all very interesting. Good stuff so far and I always appreciate anything that may make my life better.

Also thanks to Gil J. for letting me know about this melanoma awareness video on Johnson & Johnson's Youtube Health Channel.

And here's a tip for all of you out there looking to write a song parody for the very talented (yuk) Weird Al Yankovic: some of the songs from the Johnson & Johnson Youtube channel may be your golden ticket. I mean seriously. A nurse video with a bad wannabe-Indigo Girls' background song? I don't even know what to do with that.

Also, this cartoon, which is very funny to me.

heart ya, (mean it!)

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Here are the things I need to tell you about Paris

1. There are no words to tell you how beautiful every single street is.
2. Everyone there loves their dog as much as I love mine, which is an incomprehensible amount of love.
3. That whole French-people-are-rude-thing really may be a myth. I'm not kidding.
4. Ten hours on a plane is a small price to pay for the experience. Even when the plane is 85 degrees and there are 30 drill team members in blue eyeshadow on your flight. That should tell you how awesome Paris is.
5. If I lived there, I would go to church all the time. I went to Notre Dame three times. And that doesn't even include all the other churches I went to.
6. It is very cold in November. Like really very cold.
7. The Arc de Triomphe rocked my world.

I may be French. It's true. Or maybe I'm just having vision of gaufres.


Saturday, November 22, 2008

So Much Things

It seems unfair that I am posting about an amazing trip I'm beginning today, and posting about more cancer nonsense at the same time. But I guess this is life. As far as me, I am noticing every day a new microscopically small healthy behavior showing up without me even having to think of it. Today I noticed that I didn't back down on a comment I made. Not such a big deal in the big scheme but it meant a lot to me. So bit by bit I'm climbing out of the hole.

Please keep these peeps in your thoughts and prayers if you pray; they are all going through their own battles right now: One Tough Chic, Linda, David & Tara, Baldylocks, Becky, Bekah, Allison. All of these brave souls are in the blogroll to the right. They have all been inspirations to me and they at least deserve this small shout out. I'd appreciate you doing the same.

And, in case you haven't read, Eric lost his fight with melanoma. I know I am late posting this. I regret being so late to comment on it and it brings to mind other deaths I've known about, even recently, that I didn't post on. I guess I have been taking a new route of giving myself all the time I need to deal with things. When a friend of mine died a year ago because she never overcame the side effects of Interferon, I didn't post anything at all. I'd like to say it was to maintain her privacy but in reality I just didn't know what to say. I guess now I'd just like to say that it's no secret how hard any of this is. But we have been given the gift to not have to deal with any of it alone. Alone, however, I think, is how we find we have the strength to keep going.

Thanks for keeping these folks in your thoughts. Because I'm a teacher, I'm thinking of positive reinforcement for you. Perhaps if you do really well, I'll bring back pics from Paris!


Sunday, November 16, 2008

I love lamp

When I read back over my entries on this blog in the last 2 years, my first instinct is to judge myself for the ups and downs I have been through. I think to myself about all the times I thought I was on the right track when actually it was a minor lift in mood. I get so angry about being so naive when I was, in fact, so far away from any semblance of healthy.
But I think the truth, and I hope that I'm not just being overly optimistic here, is that all of those minor lifts have led me to the bigger insights I have been working through this past couple of months. I hope that it's true that all that work I did then laid the groundwork for this tougher stuff I'm dealing with now.
For the most part, things are better. I can see real, legitimate, healthy thoughts and behaviors beginning to creep into my daily life. I feel more positive than I have in a very, very long time. And this positivity feels so different than the things I felt and wrote about before. This positivity is from my core, not just a surface-level fix I've managed to maintain for a bit. I feel like I have CHANGED. The kind of change that only an earth-shattering event can do for you. And, unlike cancer, I hope that this change brings me peace with reality, rather than hatred of it. I am learning to come to terms with this: I am both weak and strong, independent and needy, beautiful and ugly, peaceful and angry, sad and happy. I am such a dichotomy, and for some reason I have not been able to forgive myself for that before now.

But the change has not come without a lot of pain. I still fight that regularly. Reality is so very painful sometimes. It is frightening how badly I can want and will myself to have something, and how often I can let myself be open to it happening, literally putting myself in the exact position I need to be in to receive it, and be denied time and time again. At some point I have to muster the self respect to let go and accept that this thing I want so badly may never come to me. And if that is so, I need to make the choice to either accept it and go on living the way I am now, or decide I deserve a better life, not always waiting for what I think I need.
These are the kinds of changes I'm talking about. These are not just tricks to see the world in a better way this week, these are totally new eyes with which to see the world. They don't always feel like they fit or belong to me, but they are mine now, nonetheless, and I am learning to love them. Because they were waiting for me the whole time.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Doing Better

I guess the news is that I'm doing better. I had lots of good folks writing and calling me to check in and I appreciate all the concern. It's always encouraging to see how much you're thought of. I feel very loved.

I wish that I could say everything I've been going through is a big misunderstanding but the truth is I've taken a long, hard look at myself and realized that a few too many things I thought I was doing right were in fact very wrong. It's strange when things feel like they are so right and then one day you suddenly find that no matter how right they feel, they just plain aren't. I realize also that it seems I'm talking in riddles here but you just have to go with me on this one.
It's a very humbling experience to say the least. I have been doing things a certain way for many years now and it is a big change for me to suddenly face a different direction and do things totally different. I am working through it and can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. It's just a very tiny light and a long, long tunnel. But a light, nonetheless.

It's also come to my attention that things I thought I got over years ago, things that I have worked through and found my footing on began to creep back up in my life. I am told that being very ill and vulnerable and weak can cause you to relapse like this. I never thought that would be possible because I spent so much time correcting these things years ago. But issues from a long time past are in my face once again, and I can only pray that this time they will be easier to conquer.
I guess that's it for now. Thanks again for all your thoughts and prayers and I promise to check in again soon.


Saturday, October 11, 2008

Would you believe me if I said I was depressed?

Probably so, huh. You've probably had an inkling all along. Looking back, I don't know how I didn't know. But a certain turn of events within the last 2 weeks left me standing completely still in the middle of the day and saying, "I feel like I have no control over my life."

What a revelation.

How is that possible? Aren't I the ONLY one who has control of my life? Am I just now feeling this or have I felt this (and lied about feeling it) since May 22, 2005, when I was diagnosed with cancer? The answer is I honestly have no idea. But now the truth is in front of me, and I can look back and see that so much of what I've felt for a very long time has stemmed from this. Maybe not since diagnosis, but at some point since then.

So what does this mean? I guess I don't know. I can tell you how I feel: like I've just moved into a big, new flat and am all ready to start fixing it up but have no idea where to begin. Then I have waves of complete exhaustion and I think, "Are you kidding me? How are you going to do all this?"

And, of course, I feel like an idiot that I've just now realized something that I've felt for a very long time.

Suddenly everything looks very different to me. Like I said, it varies in waves between bright, sunny skies and ominously dark clouds. I am smiling one moment, completely happy, and then crying for no apparent reason for hours at a time. I have people all around me; more support than I've probably had in my whole life, and yet I somehow allow myself to feel very alone and small.

And then I think again of the big, new place and how cool it will be to live there in just a few weeks or months. I have to admit that I'm so self-absorbed I can hardly stand myself, but I'm not sure if there's any other option now. I just want to feel really, really safe again in my own skin. That's my first goal.

I'll keep you posted.


Sunday, October 05, 2008

Jordin Sparks & Melanoma Awareness

It's the little things we can do that sometimes helps the most.


Monday, September 22, 2008

Life is life

In college, I wrote a short story one time about a road trip I took by myself. On the Road had always been a favorite, and when plans fell through with everyone else for a trip we'd planned, I decided to just go solo. I ended my travel story (of course) with a bit of cliched enlightenment:

"... after a few states and many miles, here's what you come to figure out: people are just people. Some live close to the freeways in dustier and smaller houses, and some live in big, lonely ones that can only be found while exasperatedly lost in the suburbs. But there's a vein that runs through all of us, whether we dare to admit it or not, and the blood that's pumping in it is our commonality. We're more alike than we are different. For a lot of us, that's scarier than the thought of being isolated. Because to admit that we're all just people is to dive into a place where others understand and have felt our own vulnerability, and where we can share little delights (like traveling to a new place) and make those damn emotional investments that our paranoia tells us are the next heartbreaks. We can't view all of life as simply as we see the houses from the freeway, but we can step back and take solace in the fact that no matter our differences, people are still just people."

It's true, isn't it? How often have you met someone famous and walked away thinking about how surprisingly normal they were? I have to remind myself of that all the time, because somehow just because a person is legendary or well-known doesn't mean they don't struggle with all the things the rest of us struggle with. No matter who you are, life is good, and life is hard.

If you life here locally, you probably saw on the news about Erika Clouet dieing in a car wreck on Labor Day. Erika was a teacher at my school. She was a newly-wed July bride, and she was 24 years old. I didn't know her well at all, and in the 2 years I knew her we probably talked a couple dozen times. But I will say that she was one of those people that you think about being a genuinely nice person. The wedding picture they keep posting in the news is one she never saw; her wedding pictures arrived the day after she and her husband were hit and killed by a drunk driver. This was the driver's fifth DUI. I don't really know if her death is any more or less tragic than the other young people I've known whose lives were taken by cancer, but it's really not the point. I just know this: Life is hard.

You've probably seen that Leroy Sievers died, too. It's a terrible loss. It's all so terrible I can hardly stand it sometimes. I try not to think it's unfair or it shouldn't be this way, but over the couple of years that I read his blog, I felt I had come to really know him, and his dieing left a surprisingly sharp pain. He made a conscious effort to be very open and honest about his feelings on his blog I guess it's no surprise that so many people have expressed feeling this way. Through his journalism he had covered 14 different wars, including Afghanistan and Iraq, but he said that his blog was the most important work that he'd ever done. He opened up a small piece of society by starting a converstaion about sickness and death, and he united thousands of survivors and caregivers under the guise of his daily posts. When someone asked him what he got out of his sometimes heart-wrenching blog, he wrote, "A daily reminder that none of us walks this road alone. What could be better than that?"

In the last 6 months, as he neared the end, it was more and more difficult to force myself to read his posts. When he sold his Jeep, that was when I knew he had come to terms with the end, and I stopped reading all together. I'm sure that some of this stemmed from my similar experience with my dad, who did a pretty good job of keeping hidden how ill he was until close to the end. The little clues would slip out, like red flags, telling me it was time to see things for myself. Regrettably, I didn't pick up on these fast enough. Fathers always seem so invincible, I guess. And like Leroy, to think of them as just as vulnerable as the rest of us will nearly break your heart.

The last few years, sometimes the loss has seemed like too much to bare. Losing Leroy, this person I never talked to, never looked in the face, never once met was not as sad to me as the other people I've had to say good-bye to, but I think served as a reminder that these things never stop happening. The end of life is an essential part of it, and though some of us are able to live in a world where reality is far enough out of eye-sight to ignore it, it still continues on. Life is tough.

Strangely enough, during this weird time, I've recently seen that I've taken a step onto a new emotional plain in my personal life. It has been a long time coming but I've progressed to a level of openness and vulnerability that I haven't found myself on in a very long while (think high school). That sounds much more dramatic than it is, really, because if it weren't for my seemingly unexplained feelings of fear then I probably wouldn't have even realized that I was in a new place that I didn't allow myself before. When these things happen it is always both shocking to find one's self here and simulateously frightening how long I denied being elsewhere. And that I denied that I could actually allow myself to love more than I did before. As many times as I've written here that there is little other choice than to live this way, it is definitely easier said than done.

Believe it or not, I think this is the "life is good" part; this is the silver lining. Like Doc Paskowitz said, "It's easier to die when you have lived than it is to die when you have not. So I say to all young people: go make beautiful memories. And when the time comes for you to go, you will not be alone." It's so difficult to get to the edge and take the leap, but it's also what life is about. So I'm trying to follow my own advise and to live in spite of the fear, in spite of the pain, and in spite of the sadness.

With the death of those around me, I want to soak up the grief and live with it, because fearing it and stuffing it down will only kill a tiny part of me. But I also want to know, at the end of my life, that I didn't allow that sadness and fear to stop me from feeling the love that I feel today. Yes, it's the scariest thing I've ever felt, because it means if I'm hurt, it will nearly devour me. But I guess you can't only make good memories. So in order to make any memories at all we have to embrace it all, even the darkness. And look for and feel the connectness between us all. That is what keeps us sane. That is what living is.

Today I'm living.

Life is good.


Sunday, September 14, 2008

All we hear is Radio GaGa

The title means what, you ask? It's only there as part of my obsession with Queen of late. But why I'm really here is to catch you up with this info:

1. Check out the new blogs listed to the right-- I've gotten a few emails in the last month informing me of blogs dealing with melanoma and I'm happy to pass on the word (including one at the Ulman Cancer Fund by our own Redheaded Bald Chick!) If you find any others you'd like to promote, be sure to send them my way and I will add them to the roll doggettes.

2. I also heard from Andrea at Paula's Choice and she was gracious enough to write and offer all of us a sneak peek at! All you have to do is go to the site, click on subscribe, and enter “blogfree” as the coupon code. No credit card required! You get 2 free days to search over 40,000 cosmetic reviews and browse around the site. Yay! They are also starting a blog at Paula's Choice and are asking readers to advise as to what they believe it should include. Feel free to comment here. They also have a Facebook page is you want to reach them there. A special thanks to Paula Begoun and Andrea.

3. And it's about f%@#ing time, but finally there is a major movement to raise funds for cancer research. If you've been unda dat rock, let me just tell you a little about Stand Up to Cancer, which even has a catchy little acronym, SU2C, as all good causes should. Actually, just watch this, because they say it better than I can:

If our government didn't have their heads up their a&&es, then this wouldn't really be necessarily, but nonetheless people have decided not to sit around and wait for things to get better, and rather have made the decision to do something about it. Good for them! Gandhi would be so proud.

It's not too late to give or to pass on the message!

4. This is completely uncancer related, but do you know about Shock Of Pleasure? Bobby's long-time friend started the group, and they've really taken off here in Dallas. We went to a show the other night and I asked Kelly, the beautiful lead singer, to sign my boob. Of course, she said "Yes!" and that I was the first boob she's ever signed. Wow! I deflowered her. Anyway, check out their stuff on iTunes. I'm not typically an electronic music lover, but this stuff is way cool. Great for those chilled evenings.

5. John McCain's melanoma is in the news a bit, too.

6. There's also some potentially good biomedical news about melanoma treatment.

Keep in touch, peoples.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

I Don't Give a Damn 'bout my Bad Reputation

But I do want you to see the winner of the drawing--- You have to watch to find out who won!

Write and send me your addy, winner, so I can send you the free goods!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Catch it early!

Good piece I thought, and very informative on how skin cancer and melanoma spreads.
I plan on doing the drawing for the free stuff this week (or weekend)! Sorry, it's just that life is crazy now that school is back in session. For that reason, I'm still taking entries and will put your name in right up until the last moment.
Hope all is well with all of you!


Monday, August 11, 2008

Your Epidermis Is Showing

Can we all just take a moment to be grateful that melanoma awareness is up, research is happening and things like this are taking place:

Article: Hippy Approach to Medicine - Could it be the Cure?

And also, that this t-shirt is being made and sold some where? I mean, someone probably has this shirt on right now.

Don't forget: you have until the 17th to comment and be entered into the drawing for the free stuff!

Thursday, August 07, 2008


Hi internet family,
Just a reminder to let me know if you'd like to be in the drawing for the free stuff (--see the post from yesterday if you're confused).

In other news, tonight as I was trying to update my "Melanoma/Cancer Links," and I accidentally deleted them all. Yes, I think you're right, there must have been acid in the spaghetti. Why else would I accidentally delete ALL of my links? Needless to say I have made an effort to repost them. I have no idea if I forgot any, but I'm hoping that you will have some idea. So, if you notice, would you drop me a line? Don't take it personally if I left your blog off, it's 4 a.m. and I really do love you dearly. You mean the world to me. It's just that my memory is failing me.

I guess I don't have to say that I was a little more upset about Sean than I thought. Yes, Bobby, I am fine. It's just that this disease takes so many bright, vibrant people. Good, strong, wonderful, deserving people. It's really heart breaking.

Please take a moment to offer your condolences to the Shields family here. I'm sure they will appreciate it. Rest in peace, Sean.


Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Free Stuff, part Deux

I know this isn't your usual "hot summer read," but I recently received a book from Dr. Daniel Yarosh, CEO of AGI Dermatics. If you don't know what AGI Dermatics is, well, let me tell you. It is a "bio-pharmaceutical company that develops and markets topical prescription and over-the-counter drugs, as well as prestige skincare ingredients and products." What does that mean to you? It means that there is a skincare lab out there that "1) recognizes that DNA damage suppresses skin immunity, and 2) demonstrates that DNA repair can preserve and restore healthy young skin." Which, in a nut shell, means that there is a chance we can undo the stupid things we did to our skin earlier in life.
For more info on this good science, you can listen to a live interview with him from April 2 on's Show "The Health and Beauty Revolution" here: > part 1 > part 2 and read an article in Allure Magazine where they name Remergent® DNA Repair Formula Best of Beauty (September 25, 2007) here: > article or watch the > Today Show video of Allure's review.

I've been using the Remergent for about a week now, and though it's too early to really say much, I will say it's got 30 SPF, so I put it on every morning before I leave the house, and if nothing else, it's helped with moisturizing and minimizing those fine lines around my eyes that I've noticed popped during and after Interferon treatments. As vain as I am, that's saying a lot. I mean, I'm putting on sunscreen everyday anyway, why not give my skin a chance at healing some of that damage? I plan on taking some "after" photos in a few weeks and comparing to this recent one where you can see these fine lines really starting to show up around my eyes. Wouldn't it be great if this stuff actually worked?

Kat Von B, our lovely make-up and skin care consultant (as well as melanoma survivor), swears by this stuff, and she really enjoyed reading this book. She said that Dr. Yarosh writes about technical skin issues, such as melanoma, but puts the verbage in terms that's easy to understand. Says Kat, "I thought I knew a lot about skin and skin cancer, but I learned so much more from this book. It's going to be one of my 'go-to' books when I have questions about my skin. His lab is on the cutting edge of research with regards to skin cancer, and I believe he genuinely cares about finding ways to combat it. Case in point, he just recently lost a very dear friend to melanoma and works closely with the American Cancer Society. Of all the books I've read that explain how the skin as an organ works, this is the best one I've read. If you've never heard of him, just know that he is widely recognized as a pioneer in the science of DNA repair. He and his laboratory are responsible for inventing the ingredients for brands like Estee Lauder, L'Oreal, and Shiseido. He is working on a drug which may even be able to repair DNA and prevent some skin cancers!"

The really super great news is Dr. Daniel Yarosh gave Miss Melly a copy of his book "The New Science of Perfect Skin" as well as one Remergent High Intensity DNA Repair +SPF 30 (3.4 oz in a pump bottle which retails for $95.00!!!) to give away here on the site. Yay! That means YOU get the chance to try it out, too, for absolutely nothing AND get the books to boot. Is life good or what? Comment here, kids, to be entered into the raffle! I heart free stuff and I know you do, too.

So to get you hooked on the info in the books and to get you interested in the product, Kat scored an exclusive interview with big Doc Y and passed along the dibs for you to read up on right here. Kat always has melanoma survivors' backs, and she's the absolute best about researching how to raise awareness and promote prevention, especially in young people. So it's good to read what an authority's take on that is. This interview has also got some good information about DNA repair, and I really like what he has to say about innovations in labeling sunscreen, too. Enjoy! And don't forget to comment if you'd like in on the drawing.
Kat: In your book, you state that the next wave of sunscreens will have a new rating that will appear next to the SPF rating on the product label, called the immune protection factor (IPF). Do you see this as a better indicator of protection against DNA damage?

Dr. Daniel Yarosh: The IPF is a measure of an effect of the sun on skin. Just as the SPF measures sunburn potential, the IPF measures immune suppression potential. It seems to be a more sensitive measure of protection than just a sunburn.

K: Your company is currently working on FDA approval for a drug called Dimericine. Can you tell me how this drug will reverse DNA damage and who will see most benefit from this drug? I see this drug potentially being used to counteract or act as a melanoma prevention drug for those high risk patients, such as people who had melanoma and went through chemotherapy, immunotherapy, or biotherapy, etc. What do you think?

Dr. Y: The best approach is prevention, and Dimericine offers the promise of preventing the DNA damage that leads to melanoma. It would certainly be appropriately used by the high risk people who have already had a skin cancer.

K: You recommend protective clothing and sunscreen use for all ages. You also suggested washing clothes with Rit SunGuard (Tinosorb) to add SPF protection to clothes. I like that you emphasize prevention. How do we get younger people to stop using tanning beds?

Dr. Y: Tough question! Remember, it took an entire generation to change the image of smoking from something cool to something dirty. First, we have to stop glamorizing a tan and show images of beauty, such as Nicole Kidman, that don’t involve a tan. Second, we have to recognize that people will tan, and provide safe alternatives, like bronzers. Third, we have to make the connection between tanning and aging – getting ugly. Young women respond more to the fear of losing beauty than the fear of cancer.

K: Which antioxidants do you consider the most powerful for DNA repair and can we find them in our sunscreens?

Dr. Y: First, antioxidants don’t repair DNA. The best they can do is stop the free radicals before they damage DNA. Once the damage is done, antioxidants are out of the ballgame. But the best antioxidants are the natural ones like vitamin C, vitamin E and ergothioneine. They should also be used in combination, since no one antioxidant can go it alone.

K: Thank you so much! I really appreciate your efforts and everything you do in the name of research and science. You have been a great source of encouragement to me.

Dr. Y: My pleasure. Thanks for your support.

Interview by Katherine Bates

Sunday, July 27, 2008

My Hot Mess

So, if you remember back in March, we moved into our new warehouse. Well, we've done so much work on the warehouse (although some still needs to be done), but I AM (Yay!) finally finished with my room.

So first, let's go back and look at the before pictures. Remember this one?
My soon-to-be room is that section to the right
next to the edge of the pic.

Here's a close-up of it. Whoever lived here last evidently used it as some sort of painting booth, as you can see here...

...which is why this wall is covered in black spray paint. These aren't even really walls, they were just sheets of plastic. Weird, huh?

And then this is a couple of days after we moved in. What a disaster. Bobby and I were going crazy trying to find stuff. It's hysterical to look at now, but I assure you at the time it wasn't. It was the end of school and we were both swamped at work, and blah blah blah. Anyway, the tubby girl on the couch is me. Bobby says I have lost weight since then. Let's hope so. :) This pic is good though because you can see that we actually had the walls sheetrocked and ready to paint.

We don't have closets in our place, so we have to improvise a bit and fashion our own (nothing we haven't done before), and that's up in this pic. That was a big improvement at the time. The top rack is about 10 feet up, so I have to use one of those department store hookie things to get the clothes down, or a tall step stool. But I've gotten it down to an art form.

Then got some of the paint up in the place (which meant taking the closet down, hehe). That pink room is mine, now officially with 4 walls. Notice there's no door, which we fix later (and by we, I mean Bobby).

The place was coming along, despite what you're thinking. Looking back, it's like we need to be on some Oprah clutter intervention or something.

That was when the real work started, believe it or not, at least on my part. I really needed to create my own spot where I could go and reboot, re-energize, recenter, etc. So I decided I wanted all my favorite thoughts around me.

And here are the pics I took today. This is the door to my room. I know, funky, right? The Boob put up a sliding barn door up for me, which I
heart so much. Also, just for clarity, we'll call that wall you see peeking from behind the door the west wall.

This is the south wall, directly to the left when you're standing at the door. It's Bobby's favorite part of my room, and I have to admit I love it, too. The couch is where I hang out when I can't sleep (which, let's face it, is all the time) and just above the couch are pics of all my peeps, my family, and some other favorites. The pics on the wall are some of my favorite musicians as well as some artwork I've done that I really like.

The quote at the top says, "If we could see the miracle of a single flower clearly, our whole life would change." That's by the big B, btw.

The wall you see at the right of the pic is the west wall.

This west wall is my favorite part of my room, personally.

At the top is a quote from Jill Bolte Taylor (thnx to Candi for turning me on to that.) That big beautiful mirror is something Bobby made for me a couple of Christmases ago.

This is one of my very favorite quotes ever, the one painted to the left of the mirror, blown up so you can see it. (Sorry it's blurry.)

More of the west wall...

... including where it meets the north wall where my vanity is. That pink blob above the mirror reads, "Rethink Everything."

This north wall obviously is the one that serves as the closet.

The poster above the clothes. I wrote this quote on it, by Dr. Seuss. It says, "Don't cry because it's over. Smile because it happened."

Awesome quote, huh?

And finally, the east wall, where my bookshelf and desk are, along with my vision boards where I can see them every day.
Along with the door.

Thanks for checking out my room! This week I've got another free give-away coming up. Yay, free stuff! Check back often.


Thursday, July 17, 2008

Like seriously.

So here's a new thing I'm doing. I downloaded this awesome bomb countdown thingy (that I also use in my classroom- the kids dig it hardcore), and I make myself write. I make myself write and I can not stop writing until the bomb explodes and the alarm sounds.

Sounds not so bad, right? Especially since I only set it for 15 or 20 minutes at a time. (?) But, here's the thing which I did not realize until I heard Jon Kabat-Zinn (thanks Candi, for the heads up on those podcasts, btw) say it the other day, and that is that writing - or rather stringing words together in a manner that is meaningful to other people and yourself- is a sincere form of meditation. And since this is the form I've been practicing for some 20 years now, this is a good way for me to force myself to bring my thoughts to the surface.

I have a quote on my wall that says "In my world, nothing ever goes wrong." I have that quote there not because I understand it or because it defines the way I look at things, but because I strive daily to think that way. I strive to believe that every day up until this one was perfect in that it brought me to this very moment, which is exactly where I need to be. That everything that has come into my life has had something really important and really wonderful to teach me, and that, therefore, there have been no mistakes.

That's so hard. Like seriously hard. No mistakes? Like none at all? What about that Beatles haircut I had that one time. Or those skinny jeans. That night in Tijuana. Or the bad boy boyfriend. Actually, all 9 of the bad boy boyfriends.

On one hand, yes, I can see that's it true- there are no mistakes. Because if I hadn't done all those goofy things I did, then I may not be here, where I am today. And it feels pretty obvious to me that this IS where I'm supposed to be, even though it's not permanent. But then I think about all these great people around me that I've just now figured out that I keep at arm's length because... because.... because why? Because I don't want to see new friends hurt the way old friends did when we thought I was going to die? Because I lost so many friends during this whole journey through cancer and I don't think I could take that again? Because of those people that couldn't accept me for who or where I was?

And what does that mean anyway, "when we all thought I was going to die." I mean, hello, I'm still going to die. And I hate to tell you this, dollface, but you are, too. Relatively speaking, we're all going to do it (no, not that, I mean we're all going to die) pretty soon. You know, like within the next hundred years. So why, after we get the all clear/no melanoma news do we pretend that death was never really there?

I remember after my brief stint in the hospital last year that as I was coming to terms with everything I was really weepy. And I wonder if I'm just allowing myself to just heal a bit here. Maybe that's why I've been so emotional- because I'm letting another layer dissipate. Because I'm opening up a little more. It has to be. Or hopefully, because here's something scary- I cried today during Project Runway. Project Runway people. Is that even possible? Like seriously.

The good news is I do see myself recently being much more real about how I feel and allowing myself to move through these things. Being honest about my emotions instead thinking I always have to be so tough or deal with them privately. That was more about me not wanting others to feel uncomfortable than about just being honest. And so now I feel like I'm moving forward. Moving through the pain of the past, moving through the pain of my "mistakes." Moving through the fear. Moving through the impermanence.
But in a really good way. In a way that cancer patients seem to understand. In a way that we all should and can understand, but maybe just lie to ourselves about because the thought of not being in control of it all is so harrowing.

Lori Hope, who I simply love, had an excerpt on her blog from Kairol Rosenthal's upcoming book, "Everything Changes: Living with Cancer in Your 20s and 30s” that I was just so blown away by. I am going to run out and snag up this book the moment it hits the shelves. Here's an abridged version of some of what she had to say: "In the midst of my cancer, I found myself surrounded by peers who had the luxury of not facing illness and death each morning when they looked in the mirror. Some have placed my proximity to death on a pedestal, as though I am a beacon who, at a young age, is bestowed the honor of looking the scary beast of death straight in the face. I want people who live free of cancer to know that everyone has the choice to become deeply familiar with their own mortality. Most young adults can’t imagine death as clearly or as vividly when they are healthy. . . It is your responsibility none the less... Young adults living with cancer are not, and never chose to be, the death and dying ambassadors from our generation... We are all dying. Once you face this sharp and weighty reality, you will be able to sit beside your young friends who have cancer with less fear... less nervousness... erase the boundary that divides us and them, the sick and the well... From this place, you can provide the very simple comfort of compassion that people living with cancer desperately want.”
Amazingly written. Have you been to that place where you look death in the face and realize for the first time that you are so much bigger than it, that you are so much more expansive and beautiful than it? So much so that none of us should ever really consider that, death, an ending? From that place you not only look your poor friend in the eye and supply some support, but you can provide your own comfort, too. You can do as Lao Tzu, that smart bastard, said- you can know at the center of your being all that you are.

And so I pray I'm there. Or at least one step closer to being in that place than I was yesterday. Even if it's a tiny little step, it's something I'm thrilled to be millimeters closer to.

And if I am, I'm going to actually open up and allow myself these new friendships.
That's right, I said it. I'm allowing new, genuine, deep, frightening close, painful, beautiful friendships with the good people that surround me. Good people that don't want me to be anything except myself. And whether it hurts or not, I am forcing myself to relish the moments within those friendships for as long as I'm granted them.

Thanks to each of you who read this and allow me to be your friend.

Aww. Hold me.


Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Washington Post Article on Melanoma

Special thanks to Eric Lingenfelder and Easterlygal who sent me this link a couple of weeks ago in the midst of all the Vans hubbub. Great article in the Washington Post titled Melanoma Rates Increase Among Younger Women.

The battle continues. But we'll be like Ghandi and be all zen about the battle so as to promote peace without melanoma.


Sunday, July 13, 2008

Too Faced Review by Carver

In case you haven't seen, Carver has reported on her blog about the the free make-up she received from the raffle here on Ms. Melanoma. Check it out, there's good pics at the haul!

And not to worry, I've got another superfly give-away coming up again by way of my good friend Katherine who is getting us the hook-up. Remember, to get entered into the raffle, all you have to do is comment and mention that you'd like your name entered. It's that easy!

Bobby and I are on a quasi-vacay, but I have to tell you about my latest realization. Crazy!



I'm Too Young For This!