Sunday, May 20, 2012

Heading out of town for the week!

Just wanted to get in a quick hello and goodbye before I head out on my work trip/vacation tomorrow morning (6 a.m. flight, gag). East Coast here we come! I'll probably be off the grid until the beginning of June, but I'm sure I'll have lots to share when I return.

Stay sun safe, happy, and healthy while I'm gone :)

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Does this look like a cancer patient to you?

May is Melanoma Awareness Month. Please help spread the word by sharing this post with your friends and family. 

Earlier this week, my friend Rachael, the brains behind the Glenna Kohl Fund for Hope's social media outreach, posted this picture on Facebook of Glenna on her graduation day. If you're part of the melanoma club, you may already be familiar with Glenna's story (if not, you can read up on Cosmo). Long story short: this photo was taken mere months before Glenna found out she had stage III melanoma. She died four years later at age 26.

The other day, I was out having a drink with a friend of mine when I mentioned the Portland Melanoma Walk.

"Oh yeah, you had melanoma, right? Well, if your going to get cancer, at least it's just skin cancer, right?"

I love my friend. She is a very intelligent young woman, but in this instance she was all wrong. This is an uphill battle that many of us early-stage melanoma survivors face. Superficially, it may look like we just had to have a funky mole removed, and then things were golden again. But let me remind you that I had the very same type of cancer Glenna had, and she died. This vibrant, beautiful, fun-loving girl died because of skin cancer.

Sometimes I look back at pictures of myself over the holidays in 2009. I had just had my mole biopsied, and was completely unaware that there was anything malignant growing on my body. Unless you looked at my skin cells under a microscope, you would have had no idea that there was anything wrong with me. You can look healthy and happy but still be at risk for developing a deadly disease. Just look at Glenna on her graduation day. Does she look like your stereotypical "cancer patient"? Maybe that's part of the reason why melanoma is so dangerous. It's sneaky and ruthless.

So, two takeaway messages for this lovely Thursday evening:
  1. Don't ever underestimate the dangers of skin cancer. Just last week, at the melanoma walk, I met friends and family members of three more individuals who lost their lives to melanoma.
  2. No one knows your body like you do (OK, except for maybe your significant other). So check yourself out in the mirror. (Just don't take creepy pictures of yourself and post them on Facebook.) Notice if anything changes or looks suspicious. If so, go talk to your derm. It's likely nothing, but you'll thank me if it's not.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Portland's first AIM at Melanoma 5k makes local news

May is Melanoma Awareness Month. Please help spread the word by sharing this post with your friends and family. 

Yes, that's yours truly, out of breath and sweaty, but still speaking out about the dangers of melanoma on Fox 12 Oregon. Thank you to everyone who sponsored me in Portland's first AIM at Melanoma 5k, including:

  • Tim Slavin
  • Kevin Posch
  • Mark Williams
  • Suzanne DeVaney-Wilkes (thanks, Mom)
  • Jessica Giles
  • Skin Zen Acupuncture & Esthetics
  • Liz Carr
  • Barbara Burbank

An extra special thank you to my wonderful friend Liz Carr who thought she was going to be walking on Saturday morning, but ended up jogging with me just because she is an amazing friend (and I am a huge pain in the ass.)

I was so impressed by the turnout and the high caliber of sponsors we had for the event. Emily Clay deserves a huge hug for organizing everyone. She and several others organized this walk in remembrance of their good friend Sarah Bach who lost her battle to melanoma at age 42 in 2011. It was incredibly difficult for me to hear the stories from people who have lost loved ones to this disease, but also comforting to know that we're all in this together.

Looking forward making things even bigger and better next year.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

3-year-old me and loving the skin you were born in

May is Melanoma Awareness Month. Please help spread the word by sharing this post with your friends and family. 

Little me, happily oblivious of skin cancer.
Last week, AIM at Melanoma shared this fantastic new American Academy of Dermatology PSA on their twitter feed (kudos to whoever manages that by the way--you always write me back!) Much as I love bashing on tanning beds, I love this PSA because it digs a little deeper than that. It makes you think: at what point did I look at my natural skin color and start to think, "This is unacceptable. You are ugly"? Was it when kids on my basketball team started giving me a hard time for baring my pasty white legs in a pair of shorts, when I went to the Clinique counter for the first time and realized even alabaster made my face look dirty, or when I flipped through a Delia's catalog and realized none of the models looked like me?

Yes, it was the tanning beds fault that I got skin cancer. Yes, it was my fault that I went to the tanning beds. But whose fault is it that I felt like I needed to start tanning in the first place? Why wasn't my natural skin color good enough for me? Studies have shown that people are more attracted to others who have tan skin than those who don't. Just a few generations ago, however, folks felt the opposite. I hate to think that if I have a daughter she will be faced with the same pressures I have been: bleach this, tan that, buy this, don't buy that. Does it ever end? As a species, we can be pretty self destructive.

Although melanoma is depressing, and my rants about tanning are, too, I purposefully created this blog to celebrate pale being pretty. As a professional writer and a perfectionist, I agonized for days over how I should "label" my writings. "You're writing about tanning," my friends said, "The name of your blog should have something to do with tanning." But I held firm. This blog was to be more than just about tanning. It's about me learning how to embrace the skin I was born in, and to share that journey with others. I think that's why this PSA in particular resonated with me so clearly. On that note, please check out this lovely short video, and make sure you share it with all your friends!

Monday, May 7, 2012

I want a big, floppy hat

May is Melanoma Awareness Month. Please help spread the word by sharing this post with your friends and family. 

Image: via Pinterest
I have been pinning over large, floppy hats as of late. And it's not just because of the Kentucky Derby last weekend.

When it comes to sun protection, my scalp has always been my Achilles' heel. No matter how many SPF creams, gels, or sprays I try, I always end up with at least one or two nasty sunburns every year along my part. This is bad because: 1) a flaky scalp is never sexy, and 2) because sunburns mean skin cancer! I loathe the idea of ruining a cute summer outfit with an ugly hat (I'm really not a hat person to begin with), but oh, how glamorous ladies some look in a wide-brimmed straw hat! I've tried a few so far, and unfortunately, they all looked awful. Too big, too small, too pink. My boyfriend caught me trying some on the other day, and he laughed at me. BUT, I will not rest until I find the perfect summer hat. I know it has to be out there somewhere.

I would also love to know if anyone has found a non-greasy spray sunscreen that they've used to protect their hairline. Sometimes a girl just needs to go for a swim... so I'll be keeping my eyes peeled. Let me know if you find one first!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Free skin cancer screenings at Portland Melanoma Walk, May 12

May is Melanoma Awareness Month. Please help spread the word by sharing this post with your friends and family.

If you live in the Portland area and haven't yet signed up for the AIM at Melanoma 5k on Saturday, May 12, the walk's organizers have recently added free skin cancer screenings by the Portland Dermatology Clinic to the event. Save yourself a trip to the dermatologist, then stay and walk for a good cause.

A few reasons why you need a skin check:
  • Melanoma is the most common form of cancer for young adults 25-29 years old and the second most common form of cancer for young people 15-29.
  • The survival rate for patients whose melanoma is detected early is about 99 percent. The survival rate falls to 15 percent for those with advanced disease.
  • The number of women under age 40 diagnosed with basal cell carcinoma has more than doubled in the last 30 years; the incidence of squamous cell carcinoma among women under age 40 has increased almost 700 percent.
  • If you've used a tanning bed, you're 74 percent more likely to develop melanoma than those who haven't.
For more information, visit the AIM at Melanoma Portland website. Can't make it? Consider sponsoring me for the walk.