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!


Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Cancer Made Me a Shallower Person

I was reading on "My Crazy Sexy Life" just yesterday and found an entry by a woman discussing her cancer journey. She said that she had noticed an emotional cycle that she follows, where she is good with her diagnosis/NED status for a while, then she's anxious, then mad again, then depressed, then feels good for a while again, etc. It's good to read other stories like this, because I know for even the most seasoned survivor, the thought of all there is to deal with continually, while trying to lead a "normal life" can be so daunting. The scans and the waiting for results, for me, are especially killer.
But then I was listening to Elizabeth Lesser on the radio yesterday, and she made an interesting point. She said that we have to think about life as if it is a river, and we can fight it the whole way, trying to get upstream against the current, insisting that things go our way, living in a constant state of struggle. Or we can succumb to the river, let go, float, enjoy the ride, and accept where we are being taken. It is all a choice.
It's so easy to say that- so easy to say let go, let go of all the plans you made and all the dreams you had about what your life would be.
But when the time comes to fight, to do the awful treatment and have the surgery and spend so much time in recovery- when it comes time to make the choice to continue living no matter the cost- it isn't the picture we had created of our life that we are fighting for. What we are fighting for more days here, regardless of our plans, regardless of whether they are days spent floating somewhere we never planned on going or struggling against the current. And that's the thing that those cancer patients you talk to( -you know, the ones with that light behind their eyes-) seem to have gotten during their journey. That any day here is worth the fight.
It's noble and beautiful to come out of the situation with that new view. That every breath is worth a prayer of a thousand thanks.

But how did they get there? To the point where they are really the person that is okay with letting the river take them wherever it is going? Well, according to Elizabeth Lesser, it's really not so hard to be that person, whether we have had a cancer experience or not. And this is what she said that really blew me away: she said that in order to love your life no matter what, that every single day, you have to sit still. And in sitting still, we will be faced with all kinds of things: our disappointments, and anger, or fear, sadness, guilt, or even physical pain. As all these emotions and feelings arise, she said, you take note of them objectively and without any judgment.
That's it.
That's the key to unconditional happiness.

Because, just like sneaky Mr. Miyagi using chores and car washes to teach Ralph Macchio the art of perseverance, sitting in the midst of our reality and our pain little by little teaches us that we can survive anything and still be happy in the midst of it. When we allow what is to be, then, like you are in the river, you will float along and move through it.
Why is it when we admit our pain that we move through it so much faster? Because reality pushes on with or without us, whether we live in denial or not? Because struggling against the current is exhausting? Because acceptance saves us thousands of minutes of grief? Because time itself is the thief?

I guess the real answer is who cares why? It just does. The river will take us exactly where we need to go. There are no accidents.
Even if we fight it, we are still being pushed to the exact place we are supposed to be the whole time.

And if it's as easy as Mrs. Lesser is telling us, if I can love my life no matter how badly it can hurt, well, I'm sitting still every day.
And I'm making it a point to float on my back from here on out.


Sunday, July 06, 2008

Bug Spray, Sunscreen May Not Be a Good Mix

Thanks to my friend Linda who passed this onto me. This is good summertime vacation information!

Sunscreen May Speed Absorption of DEET Through Skin


Saturday, July 05, 2008

The Coolest Thing

So I get an email last week from a melanoma survivor named Paige Wood. The very lovely and talented Paige is a musician and is touring with the Vans Warped Tour and is working with FM World Charities towards awareness of the dangers of sun exposure (you gots to check her out on YouTube, yo). And in case you don't remember, Paige was interviewed in the "Scared of Skin Cancer" vid I posted on June 11th.
So Paige invited Katherine and I to come see her show and to check out the free skin cancer screenings they were doing. And as you know, I am ALL about the promoting of the awareness and any live music show. So this was a big treat for me.
Kat Von Bates (who did the awesome Paula's Choice Interview below), always representing Too Faced and all their good efforts to help promote all things melanoma-research related, and I both agreed that this was one of the most inspirational things we've seen in a long time as far as skin cancer awareness goes. I've got to send out big ups to not only the Vans Tour and Paige, but FM World Charities and the Mole Mate Screening Technology being used at the booths.
Let me give you a little glimpse of what was going on.
First of all, if you don't know what a huge deal this is, let me just say that Vans Warped Tour has about 30,000 people visit the event every day. Think Lollapalooza (as a wise man once said). So a skin screening booth here is maximum exposure. KVB and I spoke for a while with Eric Gast (who had a very Rick Rubin vibe to him), the founder and board chairman of FM World Charities, and he had awesome things to say about using positive media to reach people instead of scary and negative images. I had no idea about this charity, but upon closer investigation, I found that this not-for-profit organization is devoted to promoting public health in a lot of ways. What I really loved about their skin cancer screenings was that FM World Charities had the idea to help screen for common illnesses, like melanoma, during concerts and other public events so that people become aware of the danger before it becomes life threatening. According to their website, "This will be useful in two ways. It will not only increase the number of individuals being screened for these conditions but, given the age of the people usually attending these events, introduce the idea of preventative health care to a young audience. For example, the incidence of skin cancers is increasing rapidly throughout the world. A small lesion that develops when a person is 20 years of age will often be ignored for years before it becomes symptomatic and life threatening. Early diagnosis and treatment is the key to avoiding these problems."
Is anyone else in love?
I just had a moment.
Plus, think about it: Melanoma has become the most common cancer in women between the ages of 25 and 29, so exposing young people to the idea of skin screenings is vitally important!
Also, I gotta say that his whole idea with using Mole Mate was to draw people in with curiosity toward the technology and process instead of fear. That's the "positive media" thing he's talking about. And the amazing part is it really works! If you don't believe me, just check out the pics taken there. These are not necessarily your typical "I'll get this mole checked out at my regular dermatologist appointment" peeps. These are everyday people, music fans and skater kids, dropping by the tent to see what's up. And that rocked my world.
So just to give you a taste of what Mole Mate technology does, here is some more info. The registration process was quick and easy with only 4 or 5 questions to get you started, as illustrated by the pic of me with my new pink hair and sweat spot on my back (it was 95 degrees out, throw me a bone here.) And the next step is just as easy- See that wand thingy pointing the guy is pointing on Kat's face? That is essentially the whole process of Mole Mate: it "is a non-invasive, rapid, and painless melanoma screening device that has been specifically designed with and for General Practitioners and skin specialists. By assisting and accelerating the diagnostic process, Mole Mate™ enables the medical professional to quickly scan and make a decision to refer a patient, excise a lesion or immediately assure them that their lesion is not suspicious." Right on the spot! How, you say, is this possible? Well, allow me to fill you in. That little wand thing takes not only an external photo of a suspicious mole, but gives a magnified dermatoscopic view of it, like so:which the doc can then look at and determine it's danger level. How friggin cool is that.

Speaking of rocking my world, Paige put on a hell of a show. Avril's got nothing on this chic. (Sorry Avril, I've seen you live. It's true.) I mean seriously. Plus she's got her heart in the game and is all about promoting the cause. Not only is she a survivor, but she lost her best friend to melanoma a few years ago, and it runs in her family, so she knows what's up. While we were chatting her up on the nice cool tour bus (where, gratefully, she let us chill for a while), one of the volunteers outside, Katie, a friend of Paige's, brought in a 16 year old that had recently been diagnosed at stage I. She had gone to get checked out after her dad had a lesion removed and sure enough, they found a suspicious mole. Paige took the time to talk with this girl and get to know her, and I was hella impressed. This is what it's all about people, putting the word out there and letting others know they're not alone and to keep up the good fight. Geez, I'm getting misty.

So big ups to everyone I contacted that pitched in for free products to everyone stopping by the free skin cancer screenings (including Neutrogena, Too Faced, Paula's Choice, Imerman Angels,, Spot a spot and Paul Mitchell Salons and of course the amazing and the amazing Melanoma International Foundation), and huge props to Katherine, Paige, FM World Charities, Vans, Mole Mate, Eric Gast, and all the volunteers who pitched in to help make this initiative possible. Party on, Wayne. Party on Garth.


Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Interview with a Cosmetic Goddess!!!

Well kids, exciting news! Today Miss Melanoma has a special guest: Paula Begoun, author of numerous books such as "Don't Go to the Cosmetics Counter Without Me." She also runs a cosmetic company called Paula's Choice and

There's tons of good reviews out there for Paula, and one of the best things I can say about her is that her business is one of the only cosmetics companies out there that recommends products other than her own, even on her own home page. I mean, who does that?!?! That's gutsy, and speaks a lot of her and her company. She also does a great monthly "Best and Worst" Picks which I personally love. (Here's this month's, btw.)

So if you haven't heard of her (I'm talking to you there, living under that rock), now's your chance to get the scoop. My great friend Katherine, who is also a melanoma survivor and my personal consultant when it comes to make-up and skin care products, did an interview with Paula. (How cool is that?) Kat is also the one who introduced me to Too Faced (so you KNOW she's fabulous) and got me hooked on Paula's reviews. And today we have the incredible opportunity to get Katherine's interview with the amazing Paula Begoun here! Enjoy! (You can thank me later...)
K: As a makeup artist and fellow melanoma survivor, I've been reading your books and using as a resource for many years now. In your opinion, how do we get more people to use sunscreen?

PB: This is tricky because lots of people love the sun and getting tan. It is hard to discourage something that feels and looks so good. What many organizations and people like me have been doing is just reminding people what is in store for them if they aren't sun smart. That is all you can do, just like it is for cigarettes.

What do you think about the nano technology use with sunscreens?

The only two sunscreen ingredients this effects is titanium dioxide and zinc oxide because these are the only two sunscreen actives that have been broken down into nano particles. There is no benefit of nano technology as far as effectiveness is concerned, these excellent sunscreen actives are effective in either form. In terms of safety, this is a very complicated question because the risk associated with nano technology is theoretical and the benefits are also theoretical so everyone is just guessing. I tend to err on the side of taking little to no risk especially if there is no benefit.

You list many sunscreens as great in your, can you name 5 good ones for our bloggers that give broad spectrum coverage?

There are many! Here is a range:
-Estee Lauder Day Wear Plus
Multi Protection Anti-Oxidant Lotion SPF 15, for Oily Skin ($38 for 1.7 ounces)
- Good Skin
All Right Oil-Free Sunscreen SPF 30 ($12 for 1.7 ounces; available exclusively at Kohls)
Age Shield Sunblock SPF 45 ($9.99 for 4 ounces)
Sun Protector for Body SPF 30 ($8.99 for 4.2 ounces)
-Bull Frog
Sunblock Lotion, Superblock SPF 45 ($8.99 for 5 ounces)
Sunscreen, Sensitive Skin, SPF 30 ($14.95 for 4 ounces)
But there are many, many more than these!

How much sunscreen should a person use for their whole body for true SPF protection?

There are "measuring" rations you can use, but that is far too complicated for most anyone to deal with. Rather, what people need to remember is to apply sunscreen before they go outdoors during the day and to apply it LIBERALLY! That it is crucial to apply it generously, which is why expensive sunscreens can be dangerous (because it can discourage people from liberal application.)

There has been discussions within the medical community to changing the way sunscreen are rated, do you have any comments on that?

That’s because the SPF number is only about UVB protection, there is no rating yet for UVA and the UVA rays are more damaging than the UVB rays.

Overseas there are more options regarding sunscreens than we have in the USA, why is that?

The only difference between sunscreens overseas is they have use of two additional UVA protecting ingredients than we do which are Tinosorb and Mexoryl SX (also know as ecamsule which is available here in a few L’Oreal and Lancome products). This is a regulatory issue involving how our FDA approves sunscreen active ingredients which is more stringent than overseas.

I know that you and some scientists feel that a good mixture of antioxidents help fight free radicals which can cause damage to the the skin. Do you think a combination of sunscreen chemicals and antioxidents would be good?

Absolutely!!! They just tend to be more expensive. What is most important is using sunscreen- the antioxidants just add benefits, they aren’t crucial.

According to the Tanning Bed Association, Tanning beds are a safe, effective way of getting vitamin D, how do feel about their advertising to teens and young adults?

That is like suggesting smoking cigarettes are a good way to relax or relieve stress. Further, it is UVB rays from the sun that trigger vitamin D production. Tanning beds typically emit 95% UVA and 5% UVB so it isn’t an effective source in the least. There are far healthier and more effective ways to get vitamin D then something that has a good deal of research showing it increases your cancer risk (minimal sun exposure—sunscreen does not block vitamin D or via supplements).

Thank you so much! I'm a huge fan of yours and love your makeup line and you are always so informative.

I'm also interested in finding out what you think about the FDA trial drug Dimercine, Dr. Yaroush and AGI Dermatics. I just read his book, and I thought it was interesting. He didn't always agree with some of the other books I read or even my own dermatologist, Associate Professor of UT Southwestern school of Medicine, Dr. Farhad Niroomand, but I still thought it was interesting from a cosmetic chemist point of view about sunscreens and DNA repair. I would love to interview him also!

Dimercine is Dr. Yaroush’s ingredient so his opinion is, at best, biased. The research about Dimercine is, at best, limited and there are other ingredients that potentially have this function so Dimercine is hardly the only one, but Yaroush would have you believe his is a miracle (but then you can get a lot more investors, media attention, and consumer interest if say you are selling a miracle then just one of many ingredients with only potential functionality).

-Katherine Bates


Other articles:

Kat found these 2 of real interest-

* A story by CNN Study: Some Sunscreens overpromise on Protection

* What's the Story? Health Claims Against Cosmetics How Do They Look in the Light?

* And here's a story on Paula that I really liked: Paula Begoun: A Consumer Advocate


I'm Too Young For This!