Sun Worship, Part II

Or why didn’t I get this as an adult?

An earlier blog speaks of some basic sun worship mistakes from my childhood.  The culture of the times was all about that healthy glow and rich tan skin. Really, there was nothing to get; sun bathing was the norm. Don’t let the guilt get the best of you.  Change begins today, never yesterday.

In my young adult years, say in my 20’s and 30’s, I continued to seek sun whenever possible.  My young family  enjoyed walking, hiking, playing sports,riding bikes, gardening, camping, boating, and best of all, the beach, whether lake or ocean. We were active, happy, and brown.

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My new version of light!

Time Out

My son was, and is, feral. He seeks the wild places and “needs” to be outdoors. He was lucky enough to have that most of the time as a child and to create his life around that need as an adult. For our family, outdoor adventure made us feel alive and the best times were “out”.  Dear children-I hope that your past sun history never becomes what mine has.  If I only had known and I hope skin cancer never comes in to your life.

I love being a librarian but sometimes felt work got in the way on a gorgeous summer or winter day, when the natural world beckoned.  I chuckled while doing a mid-February story time about the beach and felt like I was in heaven when I plunked down into my beach chair to read with families.  Summer reading brought the enticement of story time and programs anywhere outside; the pool, the library garden, the bookmobile at the ball field, the free lunch program all lured me in for reading in the great outdoors!

My sisters, brother, and all of our families loved our family reunions.  Sun meant fun as we spent a whole weekend together in the warmer months, traipsing kids, babies, and parents to the beach, on boats, up gorges, to outdoor fairs, through campgrounds.  See the theme in our lives?  Best days were often the maximum time out, just out.

Scoodic Peninsula, Maine!

 

I Took A Walk in the Woods And Came Out Taller Than the Trees (Henry David Thoreau)

I don’t intend to give up on my life alfresco; I intend to be #sunsmart. Wow!  This is a complete lifestyle change.  We know the drill of sunscreen, SPF clothing, and avoiding peak sun times.  There is no way, I repeat NO WAY, I will give up on fresh air and that wonderful feeling it brings.

How do you deal with the sun?  What are you learning to modify your life without giving up your outdoor adventures? I’d love to hear from you because we all have much to learn, not so much to give up. It’s that idea of balance that comes into play so much with all of us, but particularly with cancer patients. It’s easy to tip the scale.

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Enjoy the moonshine!

I am super pleased that I am wrapping my head around getting on and getting out there. Have courage, bring mindfulness into your adventure.  Don’t let melanoma rule.  Find inspiration in the new, different way that you live. Sun safety matters and so does the adventure we call life!

Here’s one easy example-Get out there and enjoy a bit of moonshine this week. Life is full and so is the East coast moon on Thursday! It might be a cloud-covered evening but hey, there’s always tomorrow!  #melanomatheskin #melanoma #thursdaythoughts #melanomamoonshine

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We can-cer vive!

Janis

That Healthy Glow

There’s a lot I’ve learned about cancer in my lifetime, and more than I want to know about the consequences of melanoma. It really wasn’t all that long ago that many of us didn’t know just how deadly skin cancer can be.

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I grew up outdoors as I mentioned in an earlier blog post.  We didn’t realize how damaging the sun could be, or at the most, thought we needed to use lotions and creams after sun damage to keep our tan skin beautiful. I’m going to generalize here and say most of us knew of skin cancer but thought it was no big deal.  The worst that could happen would be we have a small area removed, right?

Wrong, wrong, wrong! How naive we all were and for all of those who still think they are “immune” to cancer and the power of the sun, I deeply hope that is true for you. I know I was absolutely fine with my tan, my rosy cheeks, my “healthy” look…until I found the first area on my face and after the biopsy, learned I was unhealthy, very unhealthy as I had my first cancer diagnosis of melanoma.

Making a List and Checking It Twice

I have a plethora of cancer tips to share with cancer patients and caregivers, along with everyone else. Today I want to share some basics about skin cancer.  A family member asked me if basal cell carcinoma will turn into melanoma if left untreated?  What a great question and the answer is no.  There are different types of skin cancer and while all of them are frightening, they do not start as one type and morph into another.

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Here is a very basic list of skin cancers:

  • Actinic keratoses-pre-cancerous growth
  • Basal cell carcinoma-most common skin cancer and should be removed to avoid disfigurement as it can grow into surrounding tissue
  • Squamous cell carcinoma-causes damage and grows deep

Any of the above skin cancer diagnoses should be taken seriously and mean there is abnormal cell growth.  They do NOT turn into melanoma and each has their own description and photo at the American Academy of Dermatology Yes, you can have more than one kind of skin cancer and each has unique characteristics.

  • Malignant melanoma-the most aggressive and deadly skin cancer

Skin cancer may travel though it’s far less likely to happen with the non-melanoma cancers in the first bulleted group above.  Early detection is beneficial, and with malignant melanoma early diagnosis and treatment is critical.

Get the Skin-ny

Have an area that you are wondering about?  Or have you had sun damage in the past? Dermatologists are a great place to have your skin examined or biopsied if necessary.  Even people who have had no skin issues now have an annual skin checkup.  Why not?  It’s simple and may just ease your mind.

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Please don’t wait if something doesn’t seem right.  My first area of melanoma didn’t look like the online photos; visit a real doctor to clarify any skin concerns. As I mentioned, early detection is very important, and be #sunsmart and take care of your skin now; it’s never too late! I’d love to hear from you on how you are dealing with your skin cancer concerns. #melanoma #melanomatheskin #skincancer

We can-cer vive!

Janis

 

 

Summer Solstice

sun-47083_960_720.pngAh, the longest day of the year! Abundance of daylight! Summer daze ahead!

This Is…This Was

This is… no wait, this was one of my favorite days. I’ve always been a summer girl with a birthday in June and a great love of the warmer months.  Sun worship is…no wait, was a routine of my life. Summer solstice was always a little bittersweet as I felt 14 hours of daylight was perfect and begrudged the coming of the dark.

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Happy Summer Solstice to you in the Northern Hemisphere! ‘Inti Raymi’rata, the sun festival of the Incas, is one celebration of light.  Norway, “Land of the Midnight Sun”, celebrates 24 hours of daylight now. Stonehenge is a site of ancient worship of the sun.  Celebration of the sun started long before our melanoma; its how we cancer patients react to it that really makes the difference.

Yes, I do notice on-screen ads depicting the sun fun thing…it seems everything is better during the warmer months. Whether drinking a Corona or buying a Subaru, life is incredibly perfect on sunny summer days. And this mentality is everywhere. Did I think about this before skin cancer?  Nope and the marketing is not going to change overnight either.  Life changes and how are you dealing with having a life and melanoma, too?

Sun Celebration

Favorite holidays?  Some love Christmas, others Halloween.  Any one that knows me, knows my favorite day of the year is Ground Hog Day!  Advocating for this day is easy…we start talking about Spring, no matter how far away the reality is; we can see the light at the end of the winter darkness tunnel.  Damn it!  We’re half way to Spring. And that is something to celebrate!

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Ground Hog Day, Summer Solstice, and another favorite-Winter Solstice I celebrate knowing the sun is going to come back to us all yet again. Sure I have a lot of fun with people and my Ground Hog Day initiative but hey, come February we all need to tee-hee a bit.

All of this celebration is my solar system; it’s just part of how I mark time, seasons, and living.  Appreciate sunshine, warmth, and growing vegetables. Find courage in shimmering seas,  hope dawning on one more day, inspiration in beautiful sunsets.

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Be Shady

Do what you need to do to live life with a mindfulness about melanoma and other skin cancers.  Check the EPA UV Index, seek shade, wear sun screen, avoid intense sun, wear protective clothing, and get on with life! #melanoma #melanomatheskin #sunsmarts #summersolstice #skincancer

One more rotation for all of us, now that is something to celebrate! 

We can-cer vive!

Janis

 

Flag Day and Looking for My Delete Button

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Old Glory

We all know Betsy Ross may have made the first American flag, and that the current flag represents the 13 original colonies in its blue and white stripes with 50 stars symbolizing the states. Proudly display the American flag on#flagday June 14th.

So Where Is That Delete Button?

But…how many of you know that the U.S. Flag Day is also Julie Petrowski’s birthday? I met Julie the year we moved back to Minnesota. I was in 6th grade and honestly,  I don’t know if she was in my grade, what she looked like, or anything much.  We were neighbors and friends; my first ever snowmobile ride was with Julie and her Dad, she was in my Girl Scout troop. That’s the full sum of what I remember about Julie Petrowski, in part because being a military family we again transferred after a 9 month stint in the Midwest.

Julie is a brief snapshot of my past and non-essential information. So, tell me why can’t I purge Julie from my database of useless information? No offense, Julie, but you probably don’t even remember me at all! I don’t have #bigdata space in my brain and there seems to be a lot of stuff that could go.

The Mystery of History

Sure, we remember our global history, our medical history, our career history, our family history.  I try not to dwell on the cancer “stuff”, but often need to retrieve it for medical professionals.  Again, this is a great time to refer to my medical notebook.  I have the ability to put some of the important stuff in the back of my mind.  It seems like a great storage closet until I need it again and then, whoa, where is that?

Thoughts can be wonderful, thoughts can be detrimental. Like I don’t need to ponder my melanoma history, that exact moment that the sun niched out a few facial cells to wait, in hiding.  Consideration of whether this happened as a child, a teen, or an adult is irrelevant.  More importantly, what am I doing to be present, right now? Scurry the counter-productive thoughts away!

The Evils of Retrieval

Working with family literacy initiatives for most of my adult life, I’ve got a fascination with how brains work, what we keep and why.  How amazing is it that young children understand so much vocabulary long before they are developmentally ready to speak?  Or that teens have all these brain connections made in their short lives, of which many will be un-wired because they are not needed or used. And Alzheimer’s -what happens to people with that tragic, memory depriving disease?

A-Maze!

Exercise that brain! Stimulate your mind. Work if you are able. Play scrabble or cribbage, listen to music and sing along, discuss current events and issues that matter to you, write a note to an old friend or fellow cancer patient. Meditation brings mindfulness! Between those moments of cancer-related fatigue, pain, treatment, or whatever cancer brings your way, be open to mind exercise and positive thoughts.  Cancer tips (life tips) are quite simple cues to jog your memory. Leave yourself notes, set the oven timer, put a reminder in your phone -do what you need to for information retrieval and be patient with yourself.  Give yourself the gift of inspiration…you can only go up from there!

How do you clear out the cobwebs?

Julie Petroski seems to be with me for life, and like my cancer thoughts, I incorporate her into life and move forward. I’d still love to better understand how to do a bit of brain housekeeping, clean out the cobwebs and useless information. Maybe then I might remember where I left my eyeglasses or that bit of important information that is quietly, tiptoeing though my head, but not forthcoming…until the middle of the night!

Friendly reminder – put out your American flag on June 14th! #melanoma  #melanomatheskinwerein  #oldglory #deletebutton #Thursdaythoughts #mindfulness

Happy Flag Day, America! And please wish Julie a Happy Birthday if you see her!

We can-cer vive!

Janis

May You Be Ready for June, July…

“May, more than any other month of the year, wants us to feel alive” -Fennel Hudson

May is also melanoma and skin cancer awareness month, a great time of year to build awareness and to change lifelong habits of sun worship.  I’ve focused my writing this past month on inspiration, courage, and hope.  I’ve shared tips for cancer patients, caregivers, and interested by-standers. And whoa, the month is gone like that, my favorite!

May Day, May Day

A month for renewal, lovely lilacs, and those darn four-o’clock in the morning birds, May brings us a splendor of sensory delight in New England.  While May is the month that targets melanoma education, every month needs to be about sun safety.  If it’s January and you are out for a ski, be prepared.  April and a seemingly overcast day, the sun’s rays are burrowing through the clouds (and potentially your skin).  November, with the sun distancing itself, still offering powerful cancer causing light.

 

May You Be Open to Change

Summer we are more habitual with our sun screen and shade seeking; make #sunsmarts a year round routine.  As a librarian, passionate about early literacy, I always encourage families to make reading at least a twice daily habit, “kinda like brushing your teeth”.  Make skin care rote year round, too; get your groove on, keep sun safety simple, and enjoy!

Okay, I am a word nerd and you’ll recognize my fervency for language, books, and expression throughout my blog. The online dictionary, Merriam-Webster.com, defines the word may as “having the ability to” and  also means having possibility. Think MAY as we jump to June! Give yourself the upturn of May year round!

#melanoma #melanomatheskinwerein #melanomamonth

We can-cer vive!

Janis

Don’t Fry Day

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.

Sunsmarts

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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
  • Seek Shade
  • 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.

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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.

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Summer Fun!

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.

#Don’t Fry Day  #melanoma  #melanomatheskinwerein

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