Memorial Day is a day of remembrance, a day honoring those who have fallen fighting for our freedom. My father, a WWII veteran with two Distinguished Flying Cross awards, saw things I never could imagine, found courage that I aspire to, and lost several comrades to war. Humble about all his war years, we kids never knew “that part” of his life. Parades on Memorial Day were a chance for him to remember, to forget, to move forward.
Gratitude is immense when I consider the sacrifice men and women of the United States have made and continue to make. With heads held high, soldiers incorporate their losses into their lives. Thank you to those who have passed, and to those who continue to fight for our freedoms.
Cancer, while an entirely different battlefield, also is one of those life reminders. Cancer patients remember what life was like “before”, try to let it go, and move forward with the living part. Courage takes on many forms and it is during those most raw experiences that we learn just how strong we are.
Whether melanoma, another cancer, or what ever battle you face, we can learn from our amazing military. Yes, remember what life once was, learn to process the loss and change, and keep on fighting.
Here’s come summer! Memorial Day weekend, a time to honor U.S. military people who died in service to the country, has also become the gateway to summer fun! Our first camping trip usually took place Memorial Day weekend and for others, it may mean getting the boat in the water, planting the garden in the northeast, or heading to the beach. Did you know that the Friday of Memorial Day Weekend is now recognized as Don’t Fry Day by the National Council on Skin Cancer Prevention.
With all the warm weather fun to come, Don’t Fry Day is the perfect time to remember how important sun safety is for all of us. Listed on the National Council on Skin Cancer Prevention site are some easy #sunsmarts that we all can practice:
Do Not Burn or Tan
Wear Sun-Protective Clothing
Generously Apply Sunscreen
Use Extra Caution Near Water, Snow, and Sand
Get Vitamin D Safely
As someone who always sought the sun and loves to be outdoors, I feel I have a choice. I can be sensible with sun safety or I can hide away inside. Well, I need to be outside so I plan on doing what I need to do to be enjoying life and living with melanoma.
After being checked for ocular melanoma recently, I’d add polarized sun glasses to the above list for visual sun safety. And yes, I have protective clothing, and have you considered a face mask? Fishermen and other outdoor enthusiasts wear them and again, I don’t want to live my life indoors. Some days my face mask makes great sense so I can boat, walk the beach, or garden while protecting my face (where tumors were removed and radiation added). Wide brim hats offer some protection, depending on the fabric. Keep an eye on the UV Index, avoiding mid-day sun when possible.
A Change Would Do You Good (Cheryl Crow)
As someone who always sought the sun and loves to be outdoors, I feel I have a choice. I can be sensible with sun safety or I can hide away inside. I need to be outside on these beautiful, warm days, so I plan on doing what I need to do to be enjoying life and living with melanoma. My brother in-law says “nothing changes until something changes”. Sun attitudes need to change in our society and I am proof that it can and should be a life saving change for all of us. New outdoor habits take a bit of will power and common sense. Be pro-active and incorporate sun safety into your life.
May is melanoma awareness month and comes at the perfect time as we all gear up for the sunshine months we love. I wrote about Melanoma Monday earlier this month and Don’t Fry Day is another opportunity to promote skin cancer prevention. Things happen in life that change us, and I’d be the first to admit I have worshiped the sun…a lot. With two melanoma diagnoses in the rear view mirror, it’s time for a change in my life and also time to change the culture of sun worship.
I still plan to enjoy all the fun that summer brings…I will just have a bit more gear for cruising! It’s not the end, it’s the beginning of a new way to love the summer months, to love life.
Happy Don’t Fry Day! And Memorial Day – thank you to all the people in United States service who lost their lives so that we might be free.
and so true! Learning you have cancer may put you in a tailspin. My post, “In An Instance”, shares how that one moment changes your life forever. Not the way you anticipate your life to go, but hey, we all have our challenges. With all the change in my life, I’ve had the education of a lifetime, literally. Having a go-to person for all the medical melee is essential. And remember, your caregiver’s life has been rocked forever, as well.
Do you have someone to take you to appointments, surgeries, scans, etc? This is a critical part of your healthcare. Learning about my melanoma was tough, but easier to deal with in the comfort of my own home, my own life. I thought I was also ready for the medical world. Ensconced in the ‘idea” of cancer, I was ready to deal, or so I believed.
Going to appointments, with the wealth of information and limited options, threw me for a curve. A great listener by nature, I now found myself half-hearing. A family member had said that a support person is essential as somehow the patient mind checks out. He was so right with this! Our minds protect us when trying to process any trauma or difficult information. Instant processing doesn’t happen for most of us, and so we catch some of the medical conversation, not all. At times, I feel as though I am an object being discussed while I observe from above….crazy, right? It might just be my way to try to have some objectivity.
Location, Location, Location
Having someone with you is critical to your whole health plan. Don’t consider this an extra to your cancer care; you need to have someone help you. For one example of the challenges (and minor in the whole scheme of things), with two people you are able to navigate actual physical challenges such as finding your medical facility, planning your day, acquiring wheel chairs, local parking, and actual location of your scans, doctors, etc.
Finding your way may sound easy or tough, but when you add that layer of cancer angst, everyday things become more challenging. Two people can each use their strengths to pull a full day of cancer related appointments. This is not where we want to be but figure out what works best for you and appreciate that support. Finding our way has so many layers!
Get It Together
At my last CT scan, I overheard a gentleman on his phone, saying he came by himself to the hospital as it is too hard for his elderly father to bring him to Boston. He was there alone, nervous, and scared. All too often, cancer patients have no one to support them. Find resources that work for you!
Help is out there, and Dana Farber Cancer Institute is one example of Patient Navigator support. Cancer patients have so much to contend with and these health care professionals are there to provide services and inspiration. Whether flying solo, needing travel information, needing language translators, or wanting additional support, consider these options as part of your plan. All cancer facilities have options for navigators, social services, counselors, and more. “Together” has many faces and please find the services that make your cancer journey easier.
What support do you have in place? What is working well for you? I’d love to hear from you! And a HUGE thank you to all of you in support and caregiver roles. Hope lives through you! #melanoma #melanomatheskinwerein #cancersupport
Wow, wow, wow! Do you get overwhelmed with all of the options for good health? I know I do. Traditionally, I use to take just a multiple vitamin, knowing it may do nothing but also that it might just supplement the gaps in my quite decent diet. That was it for the most part and with no health issues, it worked.
I still prefer to not take a lot of meds, granted I am on a clinical trial that infuses my body with hope! One quick thought I want to share is that if you have melanoma or are at risk for having melanoma, or just want to be careful in the sun, vitamin D might be a good consideration.
Why Vitamin D3? To avoid skin cancer, we seek shade, wear appropriate sun shielding clothes, and wear sunscreen. Vitamin D, also known as the sunshine vitamin, is created in our bodies through our skin and is essential to bone, skin, immune system, and general good health and feeling energetic. If we are watching our “sun intake”, we must find other ways to put Vitamin D in our bodies.
Cod Liver Oil? Can’t Do IT!
Food is one option with many fish providing us with a good source of oil and Vitamin D. Here are some food options and the Vitamin D level for you:
cod liver oil, 1 tablespoon: 1,360 IU
herring, fresh, raw, 4 ounces: 1,056 IU
swordfish, cooked, 4 ounces: 941 IU
raw maitake mushrooms, 1 cup: 786 IU
salmon, sockeye, cooked, 4 ounces: 596 IU
sardines, canned, 4 ounces: 336 IU
fortified skim milk, 1 cup: 120 IU
tuna, canned in water, drained, 3 ounces: 68 IU
egg, chicken, whole large: 44 IU
For most of us, eating foods that give us a reasonable amount of Vitamin D is not realistic. I LOVE fish, eggs, mushrooms, and most everything listed above (okay, I will never be okay with cod liver oil!). The problem is that I don’t eat enough of any of it. Now that I am sun shy, I need to take a supplement.
Options Are a Good Thing!
A dermatologist recommended Vitamin D3 to me and suggested 2-3 capsules a day, each 1,000 IU. Mayo Clinic has a similar recommendation though there are many different recommendations online. Talk to your doctor and determine if taking Vitamin D3 is right for you and what amount suits your health needs.
So many things to consider when a cancer patient. I don’t intend to stay inside and hide, but skin cover is a part of the life. Vitamin D is one easy way to take care of my body while having sunsmarts! Do you take vitamin D supplements and how much? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this!