In An Instance

via Daily Prompt: Complication

Word to the Wise

Words, whether written, read, heard, or said, are powerful.  The power brings emotion; joy, sorrow, concern, abandon, love, hate are a few of the plethora of feeling that comes from the word.  Words can also bring complication.

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If old enough, we remember where we were when we heard of J.F. Kennedy’s assassination, the words stunning the adults around us.  Or perhaps it was learning of the 9-1-1 tragedy that brings us to a time of grief and sorrow.  Martin Luther King, Jr.’s speech, “I Have a Dream”, or hearing your baby cry out to you for the first time brings tears of joy.

 

Tilt-A-Whirl…or Was That Tilt-A-World?

We’ve all had personal conversations, bringing joy or sorrow, into our own lives.  Do you remember learning that you had cancer, or perhaps that a loved one did?  The c-word is a tough one in my family as cancer is a prolific taker of lives for us. We have waited for information, finding out about cancer diagnosis, and learning how to readjust to the complication cancer brings to family and friends.

For me, after a routine checkup with my doctor in 2015 and my questioning a worrisome spot I noticed on my face, it was on to a dermatologist.  Always healthy, I was good with all of this, no worries and no fear, and then…a friend…said “Oh, a biopsy?  Well, that is a terrifying word that none of us want to deal with.”  YIKES!  Now I was nervous. Amazing how the power of words can skew our thoughts “in an instance”.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

The dermatologist visit went well and biopsy done, no worries, right?  Until the phone call. “In an instance”, my world tilted in a different way. “Your biopsy showed melanoma.  This is very serious and I can suggest an oncologist, a surgeon, and some other medical professionals you will need to help you.  Janis, this is very serious.  You could die if left untreated”.  I’m not sure I even heard another word, the loud crashing of cancer and life’s complications roared through my head.  Wait!  This isn’t how I planned my life to go.

It’s Really What You Do With It

Hope, that is what we cancer patients have. That and a lot of medical genius to navigate the challenges of such disease.  Processing a cancer diagnosis is a network of emotions, challenges, obstacles, and re-envisioning of life.  Those words, “you have cancer”, open the floodgates to so much; fear, anger, sorrow, to name just a few, come pouring over us.  Processing our new life, the complications of not-the-life you wished for, is probably the greatest challenge for many of us.

words have power

Those words, change you forever, bring you to a new place.  Life is tricky enough, right?  It’s processing and learning how to incorporate this c-word complication that is crucial to our changing lives.  Finding the beauty in your modified life may just be around the next corner.  Bring your hope to the forefront and allow the happy energy to guide you because “in an instance”, you will help yourself and those you love.

#melanomatheskinwerein  #sunsmarts  #melanoma

We can-cer vive!

Janis

Sun Worship and Sun Smarts

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One of my goals is to create a new culture around sun loving.  The sun, provider of light and warmth, has been worshiped forever.  Life itself would not exist without the sun. I am not promoting that we become vampires, no, no, no!  Let’s use our #sunsmarts!

I grew up with no regard to the power of the sun, the potential for life threatening disease.  We were the generation that actually had the time to relax at the beach versus earlier generations that worked long hours.  We sought the sun versus shade and craved that Coppertone tan  (remember their illustration of  a child with a white butt in contrast to the glorious tan?).  Sunscreen, what was that?

 

Sunshine on the Water Looks So Lovely (John Denver)

As a child, I was given one of my father’s white Navy hats to wear; it never covered any of my face but I sure looked cute! My nose peeled and off to the beach we went again.  Cover ups were for foggy or dreary days when we turned bluest of blue, before admitting it was time to get out of the water. Yes, we were an East coast, sea loving family and when, as Navy brats we moved to Minnesota, we were loving those 10,000 lakes.  Vacation ALWAYS meant water, fishing, and boating. Weekends , too, were about being on or near the water.  If not, we were surely outside.  Remember the freedom with the parental guide of “be home when the street lights come on”?

As we grew, my older sisters loved to use something to lighten their hair. I want to call it “Sun In”?  We were envious of each other’s tans, talked of best sunburn remedies, and were sure that we looked best with our deep summer skin color.  I would joke that my  career would be beach chair tester.
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Your Sun History

Space.com offers facts about the sun’s history but what about your personal sun history? For me, sand buckets of wonderful memories come to mind; whether beaching, boating or (sun) bathing our family loved this time together.  It was the start of a life time of sun worship and I never would have thought skin cancer would effect me. Or you either…what are your sun traditions? The first step to change is to consider this question.

Did you know that melanoma can have a long history in your body?  You may have damaged your skin as a child or it may have happened last year.  Those damaged cells sit in-wait.  Determining what is the catalyst to activate that killer cancer is one of many melanoma mysteries.

 Like A Red Rubber Ball (Paul Simon)

I sit here watching the sunset over the ocean (yes, I live across the road from the Atlantic).  The beauty of the sun is breathtaking…oh, that is so not the right wording for melanoma patients.  Sun worship is deeply ingrained in our culture from beautiful days to lovely sunsets, from growing our food to keep our seasons revolving.

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Let’s learn to admire the sun from afar, appreciate all that solar power, and create a culture where people worship their health more than their tan.  That’s not easy if your life has been about being outdoors. The sun is here to stay, so it’s more about teaching others and teaching ourselves, too.

What are you changing to be safe in the sun? I’d love to hear from you!  #melanomatheskinwerein #melanoma #sunsmarts

We can-cer vive!

Janis

 

Thin Skin

via Daily Prompt: Thin

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Do you have it, thin skin I mean?  I find with melanoma, and think it may be true for many cancer patients, that some times my feelings are raw, dangling nerve ends.  Honestly, I don’t intend to let things bother me.  Mostly, I am upbeat, positive, and oh so grateful to be alive!

Howdy!

How do you deal with things that people say or do that feel like a negative charge racing through your body, zapping you of any positive energy? I have always been one to ask how someone is…because I really want to know and really care, too.  When people ask me how I am, whoa! Do they want to know what is really going on? Best buds, yes, they do.  The lady at the bank not so much. I have learned to say “I’m doing okay” to the casual askers, because really they don’t need to hear that my scar tissue feels very tight or that my knees are killing me today.  When you think about it, you aren’t going to hear about their life challenges either so get over the woe is me thing!

People tell me I look good.  I enjoy hearing that but in the quiet of the night I wonder if people think I should have melanoma marks all over my body?  Or I should be deathly thin because I have cancer?  Friends, family, and acquaintances may not know how to talk about cancer….remember, everyone feels differently and absorbs information differently.  Thin skin or not, enjoy every compliment and kind word.  You deserve it!

Right now I choose to believe I am on a healthy path with almost a year since my last tumor was removed.  That opens me up to feeling the possibilities, to feeling lighter, to having a tougher skin with less fragile emotions.  Don’t get me wrong, I am tough and a fighter.  You’ll never see a lot of tears with me, and hey cancer patients we all process in our own way.  Don’t feel you are a mess or not doing the human interaction thing well.  We each do it our way and we love the skin we’re in!

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Odd Case

One of the most interesting comments I had last summer after two facial surgeries and talking with my radiation oncologist about the “plan”….”you’re an odd case, Janis”.  Now really did that need to be said?  I mean, really, I’ve been living with me for almost sixty years, this is old news! (And a great story for another post!).

So carry on!  Thin skin is an emotional trigger for sure as we absorb so much more than those around us can ever imagine.  Don’t wear a coat of armor to protect yourself but do what works for you to find the beauty of life. And with all that we cancer patients are taking in, seek counseling if needed.   #melanomatheskinwerein #thinskin #cancer

We can-cer vive!

Janis

I Can See Clearly Now

sky-red-art-blue-9333.jpgOcular Melanoma (OM) is a rare, yet all to common cancer that effects the eyes.  Melanoma, as a deadly cancer, can be diagnosed in the eyes.  I’ve had melanoma on my face and with no eye issues.  With a need for new eye glasses, I’ve just been to an optometrist for basic evaluation. Let me also mention that an optometrist does the typical eye exams, lense changes, adjustment of frames, and non-urgent eye health process. An ophthalmologist is a specialist who works with the study and treatment of disorders and diseases of the eye.  Ocular oncologists treat patients with ocular melanoma and other eye cancers, and may also be an ophthalmologist.  I chose to go with an optometrist as I have no signs of OM.

In The Blink of an Eye

My oncologists recommend having my eyes checked for melanoma and  it was long overdue! The visit was all very routine though I did request a doctor (in advance) that has diagnosed eye cancer. No tumors or questionable areas were found and a routine eye exam ensued.  With a mother with macular degeneration, I witness the importance of eye health and the tragedy of eye damage on a regular basis.

Whether you are a melanoma patient or not, schedule your next eye exam with a request to be “looked over” for ocular melanoma and other eye disease.  Eye health should routinely include close examination of all areas of your eyes; the exam is painless and I felt a tiny bit of relief, knowing my eyes are melanoma free.  Skin cancer is a reckless fugitive that I deal with daily, and why not feel confident that your vision is okay?

Easy on the Eyes

 

Ocular melanoma is NOT a  cutaneous skin melanoma.  I just thought it important to discuss OM where it is often considered a skin cancer (cutaneous) and from what I read, it is not!  Uveal melanoma and useful information about eye cancers,  as described by the National Cancer Institute, is more specific to the tumors that can go undetected in the eye and are often fatal.

OM is rare and early detection matters. Each year approximately 2,500 people are diagnosed in the United States.  According to studies, this is not a melanoma that is sun related, though over 50, fair skin, and blue or green eyes are commonalities in most patients.   Tumors start in the pigment cells (melanocytes)  of the uvea that gives color to the eyes.  This information still has me wondering if there is a connection to the sun with this type of eye cancer?

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We don’t need to have eyes in the back of our heads to know eye health is essential.

  • Make an appointment for an eye exam
  • Be aware of changes in your eyes
  • Protective glasses are critical anywhere that effect your eye health
  •  Avoid unnecessary brightness and sun situations
  • Wear your sun glasses (ultraviolet (UV) protection is just sensible as it filters the sun’s rays; polarized lenses block intense reflected light and reduce glare)
  • Let tired eyes rest

Ocular melanoma is not common and is lethal. While it is not known what causes this type of eye cancer, consider eye health a part of your whole health agenda.  With so many unknowns in uveal melanoma, all the more reason to practice good eye health.  New glasses for me next week!

I hope that those of you working through eye cancers will consider adding comments here.

We can-cer vive!

Janis

Adore Your Core…Values, That Is

via Daily Prompt: Core

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The Apple Core Doesn’t Fall Far from the Compost

Happy Mother’s Day to all!  For many of us, our Moms and Dads are where we get out core values from….is that a good thing?  Some times yes and sometimes noooo!  I love my Mom dearly yet when she has said things such as “oh, you are a relaxed housekeeper, aren’t you?”, I tend to feel myself tiptoeing away from the conversation!

What she and my father did teach me is multi-fold.  Now that melanoma cancer is integrated into who I am, I am so very grateful for the lessons I learned from my parents.  Never one to do things the easy way, I am humbled to have strength, integrity, and the ability to take the knocks.  Yep, some days are easier than others but it is those core values that help with moving forward and not letting the challenges keep us down.

bird-nest-eggs-blue-158734.jpegTo the Core

Just a short ditty today as I am immunotherapy pooped!  Listen to your core values that pave your path and grow with you.  Starting in the nest and moving beyond parents, there are many people and circumstances that give us snippets that become part of who we are. Cancer patients and their families have much to incorporate into our lives so remember who you are and live in your strength. Take the best of that core, filter out the negative, and put those positive pieces together.  You’ve got this!

We can-cer vive!

Janis

Stage Left, or Was That Right? Cancer Staging and Life

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We’ve all been there… the stage, waiting for the show to begin. Excitement as the lights flicker, the signal for us to prepare ourselves…find our row, comfy on in to our seats, and review the program.  Anticipation quickens the heart, eyes scan the audience, as we settle in for what promises to be an entertaining evening. When friends or family are to be on stage, whether a first grade year-end concert or a Broadway show, the pride becomes multitudinous.

All The World’s a Stage (Shakespeare)

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Staging, in the world of cancer, is a whole different beast. Those of us who have cancer, state our stage in writing, speaking, or correspondence; this neatly places our disease into some type of category for all to consider. Learning that you are a Stage II is scary but for those around you it may give them relief.  Finding out your disease is a Stage IV is completely unnerving and will set your people into places we hate to see them go, never mind what it brings to ourselves.

There is no glamour or excitement in having your life medically staged and this is not the show that any of us want to open the curtain to.  Labels have always been reprehensible to me, and yet essential, too.  A conundrum for me!  Yes, as a librarian and lover of order, I like things manageable, but I am reminded of my son struggling with learning disabilities as a young boy.  When we narrowed his disability to dyslexia, we were able to focus in on how to best accommodate his learning process. Ideas came from this discovery and my son was able to “learn better”, as he put it.  He also wanted to know why he was “stupid”.  My point, labeling is a means to best understand (usually with a broad umbrella) a person, a place, a political view.  A label or a staging does not define the person (as in “stupid”).

You are a 10!

The American Cancer Society has charts for different cancer stages; I have linked the melanoma skin cancer stages.  I think all cancers have similar staging, though each is unique in its progression and treatment.  When first diagnosed in 2015 as having Stage II melanoma, I think I may have looked at a gazillon online sites to read about Stage II.  Did I think if I read enough of the same information and tables, that I would find one that would cure me?!!!!!  The year 2017 brought another melanoma diagnosis and Stage III; this news was frightening, but the information was part of my script, my medical drama, and led me to a better medical plan.

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We’ve all been there… the medical stage, waiting for the show to begin. Anxious now, knowing you have cancer or that a loved one does, and wanting to know that number, a piece of the prognosis.  Will it be 0 (yes, there is a stage 0 in cancer) or 4, or somewhere in between? And then, there are subsets within those numbers! Remember, cancer staging doesn’t define you.  It is a category, useful to your medical team, your family and friends, to you.  That number gives everyone a sense about your cancer diagnosis, a way for the brain and the heart to make sense of something that is terrifying.

Yes, your cancer staging matters and remember, it is just one part of your life’s script.  It’s not meant to direct your entire existence.  Learn to live with your cancer information and use it to give yourself the best possible life. We are fortunate to live in a time where there is a plethora of medical options and scientific data.  Incorporate your medical information into your life, be who you are, and live for today.

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We can rock this cancer!

Keep it real and I will post ideas on how to manage staging and all the “stuff” whorling through our minds, whether cancer patient, caregiver, friends, or family.  I’d love to hear your thoughts, too!

We can-cer vive!

Janis

 

 

Marvelous Melanoma Monday

Thanks for stopping by!

What?  How can anyone say Marvelous and Melanoma in the same header?  Well, I can and do!  Let me introduce myself now that I caught your attention.  My name is Janis, I live in the Northeast, and I live with melanoma.

Today is Melanoma Monday, the first Monday in May each year, and May is Melanoma month. So what the heck do I feel marvelous about?  Let me share with you what we all should know about today.

I’m starting with melanoma, the skin cancer that kills.  Wow, I’ve known plenty of people that have had pre-cancer puffed away (myself included), I’ve known people with basal or squamous cell carcinoma-YIKES, all so scary.  But melanoma, hmmmm…..until 2015 it was a vague idea that held no bearing on me.

Melanoma kills people, people like you, like me.  Did you know that skin cancer is deadly?  In fact, Cancer.net states that in 2016, an estimated 91,270 people would die from melanoma.  Wow, how many of us really knew the significance of skin cancer and how many people, like you, like me it effects?

Monday, well we all know how Mondays feel, right?  Somehow, Mondays get the bad rap of the week with most of us.  The beginning of the work week, the end of weekends, a day of change.  What better way to give melanoma the recognition it deserves than by designating one day to really shine, to enlighten all of us of the danger of melanoma.

Marvelous!  Really, this is the word that comes to mind because education helps and today is the day for melanoma to be in the spotlight!  Unfortunately, this type of skin cancer is becoming more common.  I am going to write this blog to help all of us; through love, understanding, and a bit of humor, we can learn about melanoma. What better way to appreciate Melanoma Monday than to start a blog to help us all.  There is much we need to change and my goal is be the catalyst for that change!

The medical community, caregivers, patients, parents, outdoor enthusiasts, and other assorted humans of all skin color provide hope and support.  I invite you all to sign up for this blog to learn about melanoma and share it with others.

Thank you all for your support and a Marvelous Melanoma Monday to you!