Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Minty fresh

It's spring break here in Oregon for some, but I'm having one of those weeks where every time I look at my to-do list I get dizzy and want to take a nap! Ever since November, I knew March/April/May was going to be insane, but now I'm finally in the middle of it all. Sometimes a girl just needs a little down time. For me, this means a combination of crafting, shopping, and march madness.

Oh, and of course, Pinterest. Here are some of my favorites this week.

Source: via Katie on Pinterest

Source: via Katie on Pinterest

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

A tribute to Ashley Trenner (1972-2013)

Ashley Trenner celebrating her 40th birthday.

Blogging about melanoma and raising awareness for skin cancer in my community has its perks. I've met some of the most inspiring people I know, and most recently, I had the opportunity to testify in front of the Oregon State legislature. But there's a downside to raising awareness about a disease that kills 1 in 8 people who receive its diagnosis: melanoma kills people I care about.

After testifying in Salem, I heard about Ashley Trenner on the local news. Ashley was a stage IV melanoma patient whose final wish was to inform people about the dangers of UV exposure. I was touched by Ashley's story. I could totally relate--I used to love tanning beds, too, until I was diagnosed with melanoma in 2010. I reached out to her mother, Karen, to ask permission to share Ashley's story at the Portland Melanoma Walk this May.

Ashley at hospice. Melanoma is so much more
than just skin cancer.

I was deeply saddened when I learned about Ashley's passing on Friday, March 15. While I never had the opportunity to meet Ashley personally, my heart goes out to all her friends and family.

I encourage you to read and share Ashley's warning about melanoma, which is posted on her friend Tracie's blog. Here's a quick excerpt:

"I want to help people to be knowledgeable about Melanoma. It’s a cancer that’s not taken seriously. The majority of people say, 'Oh, it's just skin cancer, your lucky.' If not detected early skin cancer is deadly. It’s so important to get regular skin checkups by a dermatologist. Also don’t procrastinate if you see something suspicious. I didn't listen when I was warned about the dangers of tanning beds and not using sunscreen. I can't take back my poor decisions but I HOPE to help others make better decisions about not using tanning beds."

Read more.

Monday, March 18, 2013

New Orleans in a nutshell

This lucky lady got to travel to New Orleans for a work conference last week. I'd never been to New Orleans before--or anywhere south of Ocean City, Maryland--so I stayed an extra day to play tourist. Such a fun place to visit. Here are a few snapshots from my trip.

Me being a tourist on Bourbon Street. Surprise, surprise.

St. Louis Cathedral.

River cruise. You better believe I was rocking my SPF.

Street music everywhere. Loved it.


This is an awful picture, so you can barely see anything, but before I left, I told my friends: "I hope I find my vampire boyfriend in New Orleans." On my first night out, we stumbled across a taping of The Vampire Diaries. Coincidence? I think not.

Trying to stalk my would-be boyfriend Ian Somerhalder.

Have you been to New Orleans before? If so, what was your favorite thing to do or see?

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The truth about your pre-vacation tan

Your legs have been hiding beneath layers of tights and cozy knee-high boots for months. Your stomach hasn't seen the sun since Labor Day. And now you're headed to Cabo in two weeks for spring break. It seems like common sense: The best way to protect yourself from a sunburn is to get a "base tan" from an indoor tanning salon before your trip.

Unfortunately, the benefits of getting a pre-vacation tan are a myth. Here's why: Getting a tan in the sun will only bump your skin's natural SPF up to about a 3 or a 4. Tanning indoors provides even less protection. Since dermatologists recommend a minimum of SPF 15 (or higher for us pale folks), the protection you get from a base tan is inadequate. Plus, researchers have found that people who use tanning beds before going on vacation have a false sense of security that their skin is protected, which ultimately results in more severe sunburns.

If you're worried about looking like a ghost when you get off the plane, get a spray tan before your trip. Treat yourself to a bottle of your favorite SPF 30 and re-apply diligently (especially after the pool). No sunscreen blocks 100% of UV rays, so even when using SPF 30, you'll still develop a little color if you're spending a lot of time on the beach. Don't let a nasty sunburn ruin your vacation. Eventually your tan will fade, but the sun damage won't.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Sweetheart VoxBox Review 2013

The 2013 Sweetheart VoxBox.

I'm a few weeks late sharing this, but I got another VoxBox from Influenster! Sometimes I feel obnoxious posting about these, but earlier this week, Erin from Melanoma in the City said that she's gotten hooked on some of the goodies I've blogged about, so I'll continue indulging in this guilty pleasure. Love that I got to test some skincare products this time (since, well, ya know).

Olay Fresh Effects {Va-Va-Vivid!} Powered Contour Cleansing System - $12.99
I'm a Clarisonic devotee. This doesn't even compare. The brush is made of rubber, so it's not as gentle on your face as the Clarisonic. Two thumbs down on this, unfortunately.

Olay Fresh Effects {Shine, Shine Go Away!} Shine Minimizing Cleanser - $6.99
I typically buy the anti-aging Olay skin care products. My skin is dry, so this cleanser obviously isn't a good match for my skin type. I tried it out of curiosity, and I do think this would be a good product for someone with oilier skin. It contains kaolin, which is an oil-absorbing clay. Seems like it was pretty effective at removing makeup, too.

Secret Clinical Strength Stress Response - $7.99
Before this came in the mail, I saw and ad for this on TV and thought to myself, "Wow, stress sweat, eh? This must be a marketing gimmick." I take it back. This stuff works better than my regular antiperspirant and it smells amazing. I would definitely purchase this again.

Skinnygirl Daily On-the-Go Bars: $9.99 for a box of 5
I love finding new protein bars that I can stash in my purse for snack emergencies. This tasted better than expected. More like a muffin than a diet bar. Would purchase again, but the price is higher than Luna bars.

Not Your Mother's Volumizing Hair Spray - $6.00 for full size
Some testers got sea salt spray in their boxes--which my absolute favorite--so I was a little bummed I got the hairspray. It works like a normal hairspray, but I didn't notice any extra volume when I sprayed at the roots.

Have you tried any of these products?

Disclaimer: I received these treats for free in exchange for providing reviews of the products. Opinions contained in this post are my own.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Jessica's getting married!

Jessica and me circa 2008 (note the tan).

Last weekend, I packed into a beach house with 12 other ladies to celebrate my friend Jessica's bachelorette. Jessica is an amazing friend, and after months and months of talking about it, I can't believe her wedding in Punta Cana is almost finally here.

Not long ago, Jessica mentioned that she had been reading my blog, and that she was super excited when I referred to her here and here.

"You didn't mention my name, but I knew it was me!"

Out to dinner with the girls. The bride-to-be is in pink.

So, as you get ready to celebrate your big day, Jessica, here is a post completely and totally dedicated to you!

Pole dancing class. Don't be fooled - it's harder than it looks.

Before Jessica met and subsequently fell in love with her fiance, Dustin, we picked each other up at a bar. Seriously.

I had just graduated from college and had moved home to live with my parents until I could find a job. Having been away from Portland for four years, I barely knew anyone in the area, and I missed my friends who were all living on the East coast. One night, I went out for drinks with a friend from high school, who introduced me to a group of girls who went to Portland State. Jessica and I bonded immediately. Our conversation sounded something like this:

"Hey, so I don't know a lot of people here."

"Yeah, me neither! We should hang out sometime."

"Totally. What's your number?"

Shortly after, we went on our first "date" and we've been friends ever since.

Prom pose! From left: Stephanie, Liz, Jessica, and me.

Thank you for being there for me through all the ups and downs life has thrown at us over the past five years. Dustin is one lucky dude. Can't wait 'til April!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Guest post: Never give up hope

A few weeks ago, I was approached by a fellow health advocate who asked if he could share his experience about being a caregiver to someone with cancer on my blog. I've been very fortunate to have others help spread my story, so I was more than happy to dedicate a post to a different but also very scary disease: mesothelioma. Mesothelioma is a rare cancer that is typically caused by exposure to asbestos. Cam's wife, Heather, was diagnosed with mesothelioma seven years ago. Doctors said she had only 3-12 months to live, but Heather is still alive today. I think it's important to show how cancer (or any disease) impacts not only patients but their caregivers as well. I hope you find inspiration in Cam's story.

Never Give Up Hope
By Cameron Von St. James

On November 21, 2005, my wife, Heather, received a devastating diagnosis: malignant pleural mesothelioma. We had just celebrated the birth of our daughter, Lily, just three months earlier. We thought we’d be happily celebrating her first Christmas together as a family. Instead, our lives became chaotic. I became a caregiver for a cancer patient, and my family started down a long and difficult journey to rid our lives of this disease.

My role as a caregiver started before we even left the doctor’s office. When the doctor gave us the diagnosis of mesothelioma, Heather was so shocked that she could not speak. He gave us the choice of a local university hospital, an excellent regional hospital that didn’t have a mesothelioma program, or Dr. David Sugarbaker, a mesothelioma specialist in Boston. My wife looked at me. Her eyes were pleading, “Oh God, please help me!” I made the decision for her: “Get us to Boston.”

Cancer threw our normal lives into complete chaos. Before the diagnosis, we both worked full time. Heather quickly became unable to work. I was only able to work part time, in order to care for her and Lily. Heather had to concentrate on fighting the cancer. I became the one who made all the doctor appointments, travel arrangements to and from Boston, working, and taking care of our baby full time. I was overwhelmed with all the work, terror that I would lose my wife, and concerns about how we would pay for all the treatments and travel without bankrupting our family.

Being a caregiver for someone diagnosed with cancer is difficult. You’ll experience emotional upheaval, uncertainty, and an unbearable amount of stress. It will likely be the most difficult test you’ll ever face. Unlike other difficult tasks, though, you can’t walk away. Just remember never to give up hope. You’ll need every resource you have to remain sane and navigate through each day.

Heather and I were blessed with help from friends, family, and even complete strangers. They helped us with everything from comforting words to financial assistance. One bit of advice I can offer to caregivers is that if someone offers you help, take them up on the offer. It’s one less thing to worry about. It also lets you know you’re not alone. There are people who care about you and can help lighten your load, don’t be too proud to let them.

It took years for our lives to return to normal. Heather went through surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy to fight mesothelioma. Despite the odds, she’s beaten this awful disease. Seven years after her diagnosis, she remains cancer-free.

The ordeal taught me that perseverance is an advantage and time is precious. Two years after Heather’s mesothelioma diagnosis, I had learned a lot about dealing with stress and juggling time commitments. I decided to fulfill a dream and go back to school to study Information Technology. I continued to work full time and care for my wife and then 2-year-old daughter. I graduated with high honors and was asked to be the commencement speaker. I told the graduating class that five years earlier, I would have never predicted that I would be on that stage giving that speech after all we’d been through with my wife’s cancer diagnosis. I urged them to believe in themselves, realize that they’re all capable of accomplishing far more than they could imagine, and never give up hope. Heather and Lily were in the audience to cheer me on, and that was the greatest reward of all.