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!
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.
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”.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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!
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!
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