“Becoming”, by Michelle Obama…And Our Becoming

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Let It Be

Whoa! Amazing how time gets away from us. I’ve known I wanted to post in my blog, that I needed time to just let it be, and that other priorities had precedence. Not making excuses as it’s just the way it is! I find that I am always doing something so what the heck? Time can be such a game player!

Time seems to run from us, doesn’t it? And here I am, working on my melanoma and keeping stress to a minimum, part of a personal plan to keep life in balance while on a clinical trial drug called Yervoy. Creating space to improve my medical status has left me more challenged with time than when I raised my children, worked, and continued my education…all at the same time!

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Becoming

Becoming takes on different meanings for all of us but truly brings us all to a place for vision, action, reflection, and hopefully life growth through the process. It reminds me a bit of literacy grants and projects where ideas are born, nurtured and loved, to one day take flight while we evaluate the success (and failures) of such work. I’ve applied this a bit to life as it is now….becoming.

So, have you read Becoming by Michelle Obama? I am a stickler with reviews because, well, some books just don’t do it for me! However, Becoming is a book I love. In a time when life seems hard (not written to be a bummer at all, but really there are some awful things happening around the globe), this book gave me hope and was a very enjoyable read!

becoming

Divided into three parts, the reader learns first about Michelle growing up, then as a forward thinking career woman who is a wife and mother, and lastly, as the First Lady who puts all she’s got into doing everything to the best of her ability.  She is so real and so honest in her depiction that at times I cringed to think about obstacles she had to overcome and the hard work she has put in to her life.

Neither stuck in the politics or the travesties in life, this book speaks about all of us, about our dreams, about our hard work. Hope does spring eternal and this is the perfect time to be reminded of this.

Love, education, and determination are three of the dominant themes that I found throughout Becoming. Fascination with this book really set in when I realized that these are the same things are central to my life, to most of our lives. I’ve read several books lately (when I should have been blogging!), but this book has stayed with me because of the hope that gets us through and beyond challenges of life.

Be-autiful

Cancer is there. Even if cured, we cancer patients will always wonder, ever so slightly about that one rogue cell. For many of us, we wonder if treatment is harder than the disease!  Reading positive books might just be another variation of meditation that leads to inspiration. What books have inspired you lately? Let me know in the comments! I’m always looking for more great reads!

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Life is about becoming, the process does not end. Above is a worn piece of paper, a quote that long ago helped me through a tough time. It’s place was on the fridge and ironically, I stumbled upon it the other day buried in a bureau drawer, a beautiful reminder of earlier lessons learned. I’m not religious but it never hurts to recognize how far we’ve come. Becoming: it’s for me, it’s for you, it’s for all of us. We’re doing just fine! #becoming #bookreview #melanomatheskin #cancer #melanoma #naturalskinrocks #skincancer #wecancervive

We can-cervive!

Janis

 

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6 Suggestions for Giving Tuesday

AWOL

I know, I’ve been absent for a while…longer than I want to consider

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Melting down around 5 pm every day!

It’s been a tough run with Yervoy for the clinical trial I’m on. For whatever reason, my energy levels, which are not good, are less than non-existent. I’m putting up a great front though feel like the melting witch on the inside!

Immunotherapy would make me believe I have a super immune system, charging those T-cells to the infinite degree. I guess not because I’m coming down with a cold. Totally was hoping I was invincible, but hey, it’s good to know I’m still human even with all these chemicals racing to catch and kill cancer cells.

Upcycling Life

Enough of that. I’ve always been big on giving back, paying forward, or upcycling life. There, does that cover all the current lingo?!!!! Caring about others needs to be part of our lives every day. Kindness rules and with the crazy, scary world we live in, I truly believe that our goodness and love can win out. So do it every day, every way.

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Doing good for others brings joy to our lives.

Today is Giving Tuesday. Being the draggy person I am, I’m thinking about my donation giving for the holidays but might not get to it today. That’s okay. If you are able, do it! I actually give to two groups for our Moms; you see our Moms don’t need a lot and are incredibly hard to shop for anyway. THE Moms love donations that we make to either Camp Sunshine or the Children’s Literacy Foundation. Vicariously, they too, are paying it forward.

I’ve created a small list of organizations that are near and dear to me. I have connections with each of them so feel free to ask me about them if you want to hear from a person on what they do. I love your comments! I share this with you as I’m not working much these days and hope that you might just find one that works for you. My favs include:

  1. Camp Sunshine -an amazing retreat for families with terminally ill children offering smiles and love
  2. Children’s Literacy Foundation -an amazing literacy foundation that encourages the love of reading with children
  3. Dana Farber Cancer Institute -a world class medical facility that also cares for children with cancer
  4. Hope Lodge, Burlington, VT -one of many Hope Lodge housing options around the U.S. for cancer patients
  5. Hospitality Homes -a Boston-based program that offers housing to those requiring medical treatment
  6. Your local library -what a great way to keep on giving when you donate to your library and ask that it be used for books…it keeps on giving!

And please do ask about my connection with each of these worthy organizations!

Giving Life, An Attitude of Gratitude

If you are thinking about donating money or time somewhere, hooray to you! Money may seem a cold, callous gift but it’s not when you consider how costly medical situations can be. Cancer patients hold their heads high, but whoa, the financial strain is tough! Let me know of your favorite places to volunteer or donate money. Positive begets positive in this life! Inspiration comes in giving!

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We all do what we can. If your Giving Tuesday is as simple as opening a door, calling a friend, or smiling as you walk past a stranger, it’s all important to making this world a better place. And then make it a Giving Week which leads to a Giving Month which leads to a Giving Life. #melanoma #cancer #GivingTuesday #melanomatheskin #GivingLife #Wecancervive #volunteer #upcycling #LoveTrumpsHate

We can-cer vive!

Janis

Veteran’s Day and Military Brats

Yes, I’m one of those military brats. Lots of memories I could share but mostly today is a day to remember the veterans. My father, a young World War II vet rarely spoke of his years overseas. I believe it to be a wild time for a young aircrewman, as well as a life-threatening time for a well-trained partner to the pilot in two-seater. He and his pilot, an intricate team, working closely both physically and mentally to carry out missions, to come out alive.

Sounds of Silence Or What I Missed in the Quiet

Yikes! Dad was a gunner in that war. I don’t remember when I first learned of this but I know it confused me. How could this sweet, funny, social, loving father have fought in the war, any war? My father rarely spoke of his years overseas so it took me a long time to understand.

You see, being a military brat for me was just:

  • moving ( a lot)
  • learning how to make friends and build community
  • knowing that Dad traveled often and around the globe
  • thinking of my father as a teacher; he taught air radio technology and navigation to young recruits and “weekend warriors”
  • realizing weekends with my Dad were rare and special

These were all things that happened AFTER his war years. For a long time, I didn’t even realize that my Dad was an unsung American war hero. Communication was not his strong suit and somehow, being a Navy brat meant going to strange Christmas parties on base, emphasis on NOT living on base, and wondering if Dad was on board the plane that flew so low and made the house shake.  I had little toys I packed in his suitcase so he would find my treasures when away. Wars were not part of my childhood understanding.

Lose Lips Sink Ships

You see I was a peace loving child of the 60’s, distraught to grow beyond the naivety of childhood and being to understand the atrocities of war through the black and white body bags of tv and Vietnam. Is this when I began to question what my father did in the war? Honestly, I have no recollection when I saw glimmers of what my father had sacrificed. Perhaps it was just the knowledge that her rarely spoke of his years overseas that said so very, very much.

I remember the carrier reunions of my youth, wild with conversation between the vets and more than a few drinks consumed, we kids ran wild, missing an opportunity to learn from the war discussions. I never learned anything at these parties, excepting perhaps that these veterans had much joy and sorrow shared, relationships like no other.

Over the years, my father began to share snippets about his active duty stints on the Essex, the Ranger, and the Randolph. Choosing never to climb the ranks, this veteran was in the cockpit, proud to be one of the best aircrew “white hats”. Different ships meant different pilots, training and building the comaraderie that would last a life time, the brotherhood of naval aviators.

My father felt life aboard the wartime carriers was “pretty good”.  As an enlisted aircrew, he didn’t have to stand watch, was paid $60-$90 extra a month for hazardous duty (in 1942), and was primarily off-duty when not on a mission. This all assuming you survived the rigors of war.

Heroes Among Us

My father was one of the lucky ones and fifty years after the war, he was recognized, along with 400 other vets and their wives, as the Yorktown dedicated an Enlisted Combat Aircrew Roll of Honor. This is not just enlisted crew from one war, but from several. If you are an American history buff, a visit to Patriot Point is well advised.

My siblings and I were included in this week of celebration, along with our parents, wartime friends of my father, and the one pilot of his that was still living. My father walked with a cane and oxygen down that aisle to see his engraved name along with others on the honor roll, tears streaming down his cheeks. Many of his buddies never lived for such an honor.

I know where my bravery and courage comes from and this pivotal moment with my father,  I understood. I truly understood. Yes, I’m still a peace-nic and believe in avoiding war at all costs. But in those silent tears, I felt the patriotism, the sorrow, the pain, the loss that was rarely mentioned.

My father protected our country, our rights, our freedoms. In humbly doing what he felt was right, my father quietly protected his family from the atrocities of war. My father believed we didn’t need to know the horror he lived with. At the ceremony, a fellow crewman,  Retired Captain Schultz stated the often heard phrase “Freedom is not free”.  I finally understood.

A plethora of medals, including two Distinguished Flying Crosses, were no longer hidden in his bureau. His flight logs and training maneuvers are kept at my brother’s, who has embraced my father’s military history. My brother recently revisited the Yorktown, a smaller display over the years, but a reminder of what our veterans sacrifice. Much of our father’s history went with him when he passed but we thank him for always protecting US.

Thank you all and may peace be with us all.

#VeteransDay #ThankYouVeterans #melanomatheskin #Freedomisnotfree

We can-cer vive,

Janis

PS The librarian in me just wants to mention a book that includes my father in it and is a strong depiction of airstrikes in the Pacific during World War II, Crommelin’s Thunderbirds by Lt. Cdr. Roy W. Bruce and Lt. Cdr. Charles R. Leonard

 

Melanoma and Self-Deceit Among Us

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Warning! Content is Meant to Scare YOU!

Skin cancer is no big deal, right? I believed this as I continued to love beach days, boat days, and time outside from the moment I was born until a few years ago. I truly thought that I would never have skin cancer and if I did, it could just be removed in the doctor office and back to the beach we go!

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Another melanoma excision, May 2017.

Metastatic melanoma is deadly; more than that, the things we cancer patients go through should be enough to scare everyone out of the sun. Multiple surgeries, embarrassing spot checks with a group of dermatologists, knowledgeable oncologists recommending radiation to live, and choosing to be part of a clinical trial as there is no known cure for this disease. Does any of that freak you out?

Ignorance is Bliss

I’m hoping it does! It’s not me wishing you any of what’s become my norm, NONE OF IT! What I’ve noticed is that ignorance is bliss when it comes to melanoma. There is some sort of selective hearing; mostly, I find the family and friends can’t deal. I never preach, I never tell others what to do. I think I might be the poster child for what can go wrong and  people don’t want to be reminded.

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I still go to the beach, I still love the beach. Sanctuary, balance, and peace are found listening to the surf, watching the waves. I do it differently now. Beyond the usual sunscreen,  I wear SPF clothing. If sitting, I keep moving position even though I’m under an umbrella. Yes, I even have a shade tent. I PACK…for the beach.

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Still my happy place but with modifications.

Sounds a bit much?  This is life with melanoma. I tend to go to the beach for walks now versus the day. Cloudy days are my favorite. I check the UV index often, not out of paranoia but I consider it knowledge for my day. My love of boating is painfully not fulfilled any more. Spot checks and clinical trial fatigue are the norm.

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Does this sound extreme?  This is nothing compared to what I and others been through at Dana Farber Cancer Institute. This is my life, no complaints as I’m so very happy to be here! Whether patient like Kevin S. Anderson who believed his melanoma was one and done, or me learning to live differently with the hope of many more years, lessons about skin cancer are costly.

Life changing forever, melanoma is now part of me. While I am disease free (YES!), cancer brings a whole new mind set and melanoma a whole new lifestyle. Please consider what you can do to incorporate sun safety into your life.  Sensible measures may save you from life altering melanoma.

Read about melanoma. Educate yourself about melanoma. Be afraid, be sun shy. Stay alive! And thanks for signing up to follow my blog! I love to hear from you in the comments!

We can-cer vive!

Janis

#melanomatheskin   #cancer  #sunsmart  #sunsavvy365 #melanoma

Vote Early, Vote Often

***I’ve decided to post this again. Infusion last week, fatigue this week. Please vote, whatever you believe in! It’s how democracy works! Elections matter!

Feeling the Blow

I’m already breaking a political promise; I vowed this blog wouldn’t get into my political beliefs. So like all those running for office, not all promises are kept! You see sometimes life changes our platforms, whether we approve or not! I’ve voted and hope you participate on November 6th if not before. I’d love to hear your thoughts on politics, voting, or cancer. Comments are encouraged and discussion most welcome!

boxer

After years of great health, I was dealt the first melanoma blow in 2015.  Determined not to have it be a knock out, I came back fighting. Until things didn’t feel right to me again, a facial excision left an area tender; my old boxing injury I joked. Except  something wasn’t right and I needed to believe in myself, to fight.

The Main Event (Round Two)

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Doctors didn’t believe me and so time went by; we cancer patients have a love-hate relationship with time. (We want more of it, though hate it when it means waiting on test results). Finally, I requested a biopsy; metastatic melanoma again and recommendations that we now go to the medical epi-center of Boston, Dana Farber Cancer Institute being our choice. I was in the big ring now.

I’ve mentioned my cancer before and will again, but not in the context of politics. I could be the poster child for pre-existing conditions. My skin, like yours, holds onto its history; its damage, whether it be sun or other sources is pre-existing. My metastatic melanoma could have happened as a child, or just a few years ago. It’s been two hard punches to the left side of my face.

So, my pre-existing condition just may have been lurking for years, waiting for the optimum conditions to let cancer, medical diagnosis, doctors and dermatologists, become the new normal in my life. I’ve always listened to my physical being, but we cancer patients feel we’re caught cold when going another round. Pre-existing, why yes I am!

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Saved By The Bell

Think pre-existing conditions aren’t relevant to you? Yes, I gratefully thought that previous to 2015. I agree that we want to cultivate hope and inspiration, not worry about the what-ifs that can drag us down with a one-two punch.  And any given day, you may be in a bout for your life, for your medical treatment.

Insurance discussion is a constant in our home, at our table now. I’m the lucky one because we have insurance to cover my clinical trial drug for now. At some point, we are going to make a decision on insurance expenses and/or treatment. Decisions are regularly made by people who can’t afford insurance premiums. Long before my health issues, I was deeply affected by those I love making tough life choices based on medical expense.

We Are The Champions

So, yeah! Vote early, vote often, but whatever you do vote! We’ve all fallen to the canvas a few times, all taken a few sucker punches. Life is like that. However you vote, at least you’re making a decision to participate, to get up and fight for what you believe in. An outcome, the decision, will be heard; if you vote, you’ve put it out there, given it your best shot!

Contenders, all of us, with our concerns and passions. Believe in yourself, have courage, and stay in the ring. There has never been a more important time to fill out a ballot. Voting is super easy and vitally important. I’ve taken to voting absentee; bringing the ballot home to research the questions and candidates more closely. Vote, vote, vote for what matters to you on November 6th (and wear your sunscreen;).

Next time, I promise not to talk politics. “And if you believe that, I’ve got a bridge…”!

#melanomatheskin #vote #melanoma #cancer #sunsavvy365 #Tuesdaythoughts #election

We can-cer vive!

Janis

Daylight Savings Ends Sunday; 23 Free Things To Do After Dark

Melanoma patients have to be sun shy. Does it mean I stay inside and watch the world go by? Hell, no! Modification is key to living the best life you can. Sun-safe habits are important and now integrated into my day. But have you considered night time in your plan? In the summer, that may be crucial to avoiding high noon sun time; as we fall back to end daylight savings for this year, we have a lot of darkness to consider!

Things That Go Bump In The Night

Okay so evening is not my strong suit. Immunotherapy drags me through my days and by the evening, I am weary from this new lifestyle. That being said, consider taking a rest during the day so you might be able to do a few of these things at night:

  1. Walking is great and going for an evening stroll means you don’t have to worry about UV ratings. Wear what works depending on the season.
  2. Nighttime gives us a completely different perspective. Enhance your other senses by using them! Allow your visual overload to relax, let the sounds of the night be your focus. Or your sense of smell, touch, or taste…have your bedtime snack outside by the fire!
  3. Dress for the weather, bugs, snow, or whatever!

The Skies Have It

Consider your season and what you can do to get out after dark. Weather needs to be considered.

Spring might mean:

4.  Walking in the rain.

5.  Night crawler-ing!

6. Considering the changes that come with this season but from the darkness.

7. Meditating outside.

8. Trying some yoga poses.

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 Summer has great potential with:

9. Observing the end of day flights and songs of birds.

10. Watching lightning bugs (early July here in the Northeast).

11. Moonlight bike rides or canoe paddling, often offered via community calendars.

12. Slip, slop, slap and wrap as needed and go on that sunset cruise.

13. Step out for an ice cream, theater, or movie.

14. This meteor show, the Perseid Shower is a spectacular summer show. Seeing 5 meteors before 9:30 pm reminded me what a sight this is to enjoy.

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Fall Brings Options Including:

15. Tell stories and have a bonfire. Read a passage from a favorite book.

16. Avoid light pollution when possible and actively observe the constellations changing as some such as Orion come marching back for winter viewing.

17. Space. com is a great resource for sky information and be sure to read the dates for the Geminid Meteor Shower, the brightest of the year in mid December.

18. When the moon is close to full or full, it creates a lot of light, so star viewing is not as crisp. Those naturally bright nights are a great time to find your way around outside and get adventuring.

19. Got leaves?! Make a pile away from tree, plop into your pile, and just look up. On a clear, chilly night the smells of Autumn along with night sky clarity will have you awestruck with the magnitude of beauty.

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And Then, There’s Winter:

Isn’t it easy to hunker down and avoid the brrrrrr of it all? Push yourself each day to find pleasure in the night. Winter may be the most challenging; I know it is for me. The lack of light with daylight savings is abysmal. My best remedy is to get out, so gear up and do it. The winter nights are long and breaking up the doldrums might include:

20. Shoveling-Ha, you laugh. It’s a never ending project in the winter and why not chip away at it for a bit? Aches and pains are a reality with my clinical trial but I figure moving beats the alternative.

21. Reflection from the moon is intense during the coldest months. Dress for the weather, let the cold steal your breath away, and go for a walk, snowshoe, or cross country ski. It needn’t be long but that fresh air will give you inspiration!

22. Clear nights are perfect for stargazing. It’s cold out there so bundle up, grab your lounger lawn chair (it saves on neck discomfort), or lay down in a snowbank. Look up, look up!

22. Bright nights might mean building a snowman or decorating snowbanks with food coloring and water in a squirt bottle. Silly is okay because laughing is good for the soul and healing.

23. On a snowy night, step out and listen to the snow on your jacket, feel the wind, and stick your tongue out. Sometimes, it’s good to just know you are alive!

Finding Light In The Darkness

Modification is key to enjoying life when dealing with melanoma and other cancers. There are good days and bad days. There is pain, sadness, and loss. What do you do to find pleasure, even if you can’t be in the sun? What would you do if you could play after dark? Please do comment and add your suggestions!

Gift yourself moments like these; hope is found here. Build your new life knowing you have disease and create balance with the best moments. Cancer patients have challenges and those with melanoma have sun safety concerns.

After-dark adventures needn’t be long or complicated. Plan ahead, know the weather, and smile. Learn when the crickets chirp, when the moon phases are this month, and when that outdoor concert will be held.  Courage comes in small doses and moonshine provides inspiration!

We can-cer vive!

Janis

#melanomatheskin #cancer #melanoma #slipslopslapandwrap #naturalskinrocks #moonshine #daylightsavings  #timechange #Fridayfeelings

 

 

 

What’s In Your…Backpack?

Just a quick note as I prepare for my next infusion…that alone is an assumption! There will be blood tests, spot checking, scans, and evaluations. It’s a time of mixed emotions; I always hope that I pass with flying colors and get the immunotherapy that may be saving my life, I also feel the anxiety of what might not be okay.

I’d really love comments from others on what you do when faced with challenges ahead. Do you take that nervous energy and just go out and have fun? Or do you take on a project to keep your mind and body busy, expending dark energy? Do you get lost in your worry?

And That’s Why It’s Called a Nervous “WRECK”!

A few days out from the process and it’s a rainy day. The beach walk I thought I’d squish in this morning was given a literal “rain check”. Travel bags are now packed, some small projects completed, and next up will be the cats! Wow, to the World Series but it also means no more Red Sox to keep me inspired. I prefer to have bills paid and administrative duties completed. Clean sheets are always a good thing. Diversion, good! Nervous? Hell, yes!DSC01632

All of this seems silly but in having things in order for now, I expend some tension. Doing that leaves more room for things I will need while at Dana Farber Cancer Institute; it’s my emotional backpack. We all have them and when cancer treatment is imminent,  it’s important to NOT fill my emotional backpack with negativity, nervousness, and worry.

Get Ready (by The Temptations)

Here’s a brief list of what I will put in my emotional backpack:

  • belief in a tomorrow
  • courage
  • hope
  • inspiration
  • integrity
  • love

Hokey as hell but in putting in positive feelings, there is less room for the emotions that drag one down. Sure, they are there (those scary thoughts), and yes, when I walk into the medical facility there is a pit in my stomach. Metastatic melanoma, stage III, is one deadly disease. I’m well versed in what I’m up against.

Choosing to bring all those positive emotions and desires with me gives me strength, strength to get through a long day.  I put a positive spin on something I never thought would be a part of my life; I believe that I’m part of something bigger and that satisfies my soul. Cancer research is imperative and clinical trials matter.

Balancing Act

Balance will be skewed on my medical day, no doubt. There is no way to discount the possibility of a questionable scan, bloodwork values, or other concerns. This is how those cancer cells are found, this is the chance we cancer patients have. Packing the positives in my emotional bag become the bulwark for whatever this trip brings.

Exhausting, the Yervoy infusion is only one part of the depleting feeling of cancer treatment. Finding your emotional infusion may take time, but look high and low; positive emotion may just be the reserve you need to pack. Take the time to discover what it is for you and how to pack it up for when you need it!

selective focus photography of balance rock
Balance is a building process!

We all need to have emotional reserves for challenges in life. I’d love to hear what works for you. Please share in the comments as we all will benefit from learning what to pack in life’s emotional bag! What works for you?

We can-cervive!

Janis

#melanomatheskin #wecancervive #cancer #worldserieschamps #cancer #melanoma #TuesdayThoughts