Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Be thankful, be happy

Image: Julep Instagram.

Some research suggests that the key to happiness is gratitude, so I'm making a point to try to recognize the people and things I am thankful for--not only on Thanksgiving, but year round. Here are a few of the things in my life I'm grateful for right now:

  • Living so close to my mom.
  • My job.
  • Dark chocolate.
  • My iPhone 6.
  • Friends who are having babies!
  • Weekends with absolutely nothing on the agenda.
  • Exploring new restaurants with Tim.
  • Cabo 2014.
  • Oprah chai tea lattes from Starbucks.
  • My first wine club shipment.
  • My health.
  • New episodes of Homeland.
  • Having a network of friends and family who are supportive of my personal and professional goals.
  • Birchbox. Because is still makes me smile every month.
  • Puppies.
  • My Invisalign treatment is almost done!
  • The never-ending source of entertainment that is my Kindle.

Wishing you a wonderful Thanksgiving with all of your favorite things.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

#TBT: Super blonde

Long blonde hair freshman year of college in 2004.

Blame it on Pinterest, but lately I've had a mysterious urge to highlight my hair. To give a little context, I first started coloring my hair when I was 14. I brought pictures of platinum blonde celebs with me to the hair dresser, and predictably cried when I left the salon looking anything less than a John Freida model.

In my teens, it was never just about being blonde. It was about being blonde-and-tan. One was not sufficient without the other. There was no such thing as being too blonde or too tan. It wasn't until my senior year in college that I got fed up with the split ends and meandered back to the dark side. Shortly thereafter, I cut back on and soon quit tanning altogether, embracing a new, more natural look.

Me and a friend in NYC in 2007.

Fast forward six years: my hair has grown about a foot, and I haven't gotten close to a foil or box of hair dye in several years. For no reason in particular, I find myself daydreaming about subtle caramel highlights or a touch of ombre. Until now, I would have blown off the urges and stuck with my usual routine, but sometimes its nice to make a change.

You may have noticed that I've been a "bad blogger" lately. The reason for this is twofold: (1) the trackpad on my MacBook has been broken and driving me crazy, and (2) last month, I started a new job! After nearly five years working in grant development and communications, I've shifted into an entirely new role doing community relations for the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute. It's been incredibly exciting for me to try something new, as well as to get paid to do the type of work I've spent so much time doing as a volunteer for the past few years.

With the little broski at my college graduation in 2008.

As I've made this move, it's been the perfect time for me to step back and evaluate my continued involvement in extracurricular activities like planning the Portland Melanoma Walk and even writing this blog. These activities have been immensely therapeutic for me, but as life goes on, I've felt less and less compelled to spend all my free time working on these projects. It's gotten to the point where every time I plan a melanoma-related meeting or event, it feels like a nagging reminder of something I've worked so hard to overcome. When I feel this way, I have to remind myself, this is a good thing. It's not quitting. It's coping. It's finding a way to make the best of a bad situation and then passing the torch to others who need that outlet. My job will continue to keep me connected to some great cancer prevention and early detection initiatives, but I'm definitely ready to step out of the spotlight and let the focus be on others.

Last weekend up at Mt. Hood. Hair au natural.

You can see why I'm tempted to switch up my look. I know I haven't escaped melanoma for good. Just last week I had a minor surgery on my left shin to remove an abnormal mole, but overall, I feel like I'm in a really great place right now, and I'm excited to see where life takes me next.

xo Katie

P.S. Will share pics if and when I do highlight my hair.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

I detoxed... and then I ate a Big Mac

After completing my first 10k on Aug. 11.

This spring, I found a rather delectable-looking clean eating meal plan on Buzzfeed and followed it religiously for about five days. It was a bit burdensome to cook three meals a day (usually I buy lunch at work or grab take out on the way home) but it was fun to try news things in the kitchen, like roasting fennel and adding unexpected ingredients like blueberries to my salads.

Eating healthy made me feel better for a split second, but by the time the weekend rolled around I was exhausted and too busy to cook. One night, I went out on the town with friends and inadvertently ended the night in the McDonald's late-night walk-up window. As I sat on my futon eating a Big Mac, french fries, and a sugar-laden soda, I decided that something needed to change.

Chicken, snap peas, and cucumber salad.

As a patient advocate and health blogger, I spend a lot of time thinking and writing about health, beauty, and self esteem, so how had I become someone who was binging on junk food and feeling awful about my waistline?

In June, I joined my cousin and signed up for a 21-day fitness challenge. During the month of June, I ended up exercising 19 out of 30 days. Whether I was weight lifting, jogging, or doing pilates, I got off the couch and made myself sweat even when it hurt. For three weeks, I cut about 95 percent of the crap out of my diet. In doing so, I learned that I can survive without sharp cheddar and that the world won't end without ranch dressing. I can look Ben & Jerry's in the face, drool a little, and then walk away. More importantly, I learned some pretty interesting things about my body, like it's easier to wake up in the morning when I don't go to bed with a full stomach, and my energy levels vary based on what types of foods I eat.

Indulging in an occasional post-race beer? Fine by me.

Every time I read the news, there's a new article saying that exercise prevents cancer, that it lowers our risk for dementia, or that sitting at a desk all day is probably killing us. But working out every day? Easier said than done. 

Three months after my "you shouldn't be doing this to yourself" epiphany, I'm not perfect by any means, but I've made strides to challenge my body and mind in new ways. On Aug. 11, I ran my first 10k, which was a rugged, off-road trail run. It was by far the hardest race I've ever done, but I finished it and it felt awesome. I've also been taking a ballet class for adults, which has been a great way to meet new people and learn something completely new and different. (Side note: ballet is way harder than it looks.)

Why am I telling you all this? As friends and regular readers of my blog, you are the people who hold me accountable for my actions. When I quit tanning, you helped keep me on track. I hope that by sharing this with you, I'll be less likely to slip up and fall back to old habits. We all have room for growth and improvement, but I hope that I never forget to keep loving and taking care of myself.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Tips for staying safe and stylish in the sun

Safe and stylish in the sun!

Summerskin Dolman top in kiwi / Banana Republic Zoe hat / Supergoop Everday Sunscreen SPF 30 / Ray-Ban Clubmaster sunglasses / Bare Minerals Ready Foundation SPF 20 / Clinique Glosswear SPF 15 / Summerskin Endless Summer scarf in Grey

We're in the midst of a 90-degrees-until-the-end-of-time heat wave here, so when I'm not locked up in my air-conditioned office, I like to spend as much time as I can outdoors. Delightful as it can be, too much sun exposure leads to premature aging and ups risk for skin cancer. HSN recently launched a campaign to encourage bloggers to share their tips for staying both safe an stylish in the summertime. As both a beauty and sun safety devotee, here are a few that I swear by:
  • Indulge in an SPF you love: One of the easiest ways to protect your skin from UV rays is to use a broad-spectrum sunscreen that's SPF 30 or higher. I used to look at $20 tubes of sunscreen and run the other way, but now I think of it as an investment in my health and beauty. Like any beauty product, if you buy a sunscreen with a cute bottle or a fun fragrance, you're 10x more likely to reach for it at the beach. (Looking for a new SPF? Check out these picks from HSN.)
  • Look for clothing with SPF built in: Once upon a time, cute sun protective clothing was an oxymoron. Now, more and more brands (hello, J.Crew) are making clothes and swimwear with sun protection built in. I recently purchased one of these versatile scarves from SummerSkin and I love it.
  • Seek the shade: Sometimes, sitting in the sun is inevitable, but if I'm lounging by the pool, I always try to snag a spot next to an umbrella. Not only do you avoid the sun, but you can keep your cool (i.e. sweat less) under an umbrella. You can also create your own shade with a cute floppy hat.
  • Enjoy happy hour: The sun's rays are strongest from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., so I like to hit the pool between 4 and 6 p.m. Bonus: The pool is less crowded after 4 p.m., which means you don't have to fight for a lounge chair with an umbrella.
How do you stay sun safe and without sacrificing your style?

Friday, June 27, 2014

Road tripping

I just got back from a four-day road trip down to Southern and Central Oregon with Tim. Even though it's only a few hours away, I hadn't been to Crater Lake or Bend since I was a a kid. Our trip wasn't as glamorous as my trip to Cabo or Napa Valley, but it was AWESOME.

Our first stop was Crater Lake in Southern Oregon. In case you've never heard of it, Crater Lake is the deepest lake in the U.S. and the 9th deepest lake in the world. Because the water is so deep (and clean) it's the most jaw-dropping deep blue you could imagine. While we were gaping at the view, Tim and I met a lovely couple who was visiting from New Mexico. They snapped this picture for us.

Tim and I did a hike from the rim of the crater down to the water. It looks like an innocent, 2-mile hike, but the steep drop in elevation makes for a beast of a walk back up. (In case you were worried, I'm wearing SPF 50 in this picture.)

After Crater Lake, we drove up to Bend, which is a growing town in Central Oregon. About 15 miles south of Bend, we found these incredible lava caves. Apparently, tubes of lava from nearby volcanoes carved out tunnels in the rock. Now, you can rent a lantern and hike about a mile deep into the lava caves. Needless to say, it was pretty freakin' cool. I'm also quite proud of myself for overcoming my claustrophobia and not totally freaking out about being 30-minutes deep into a cave full of bats and goodness knows what else.

In the decade since I've visited Bend, several trendy microbreweries have also sprouted up. We visited a few of them, including 10 Barrel and Crux Fermentation Project. Rumor has it they're opening a 10 Barrel taproom in my neighborhood soon. I must admit, I'm not a huge fan of their flagship beer--the Apocalypse IPA--but the food was great and I can never say no to a taster tray.

As you can see, it was a pretty action-packed weekend. Not to sound like too much of a cheeseball, but I feel pretty lucky to live within driving distance of mountains and lakes and rivers and waterfalls and so many other beautiful natural resources. If you've never visited the Pacific Northwest, I highly suggest you book a trip.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

The 5 stages of event planning

Whether its a giant fundraising gala, a business conference, or a wedding in your parent's backyard, event planning can be incredibly stressful. Last month, I was involved in planning three big events, and let me tell you: I'm exhausted.

If you've done any event planning yourself, you know it isn't all about the big day. There are months and months of preparation that go into planning that one three-hour meeting or that one two-day trip. I've discovered that I experience several stages of emotion during the months leading up to and following a big event. In fact, they share some similarities with the five stages of grief described by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross. (I'm kidding! Kind of...)

1. Denial

Commonly characterized by: "My event is still nine months away. I don't need to start planning for it yet." Or, it's still two months before the big event and you still haven't sent in the required site permits. You'd rather drain your phone's battery on Pinterest than figure out which vendor to work with. Sometimes, the list of to-do's is so long that you don't know where to start. But it's OK. You've still got time.

2. Anger

Your event planning committee is driving you nuts. Your volunteers are driving you nuts. Your boss is driving you nuts. Your boyfriend is driving you nuts. The person who messed up the floral arrangements is driving you nuts. Basically, everyone including your dog is driving you nuts!!!

3. Bargaining

You find yourself asking everyone and their second cousin for a favor. "If you buy a ticket to my event I'll buy you a drink!" "If you sign up to volunteer I'll be forever in your debt!" "If you print 100 color copies I'll take you out for coffee!" "If you help me make these centerpieces I'll sell you my soul for half price!"

4. Depression

A few days after the event, it hits you like a brick: Now that your event is over, there is no meaning in life. What is the point of breathing if you don't need to micromanage a team of 12 volunteers anymore? You're totally burnt out from working a 16-hour shift on Saturday. Oh, and you'd rather not have to think about all those thank you notes you still need to write.

5. Acceptance

Now that it's been a month or two since your event, the whole event planning process doesn't seem so bad. Looking back at the photos, you give yourself a little pat on the back. Maybe you won't mind doing the whole thing over again next year...

Fellow event planners: Can you relate?

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Is there such a thing as cute UV-protective clothing?

I'll be the first person to admit, even with my history of skin cancer, I'd rather wear a teensy weensy bikini to the beach than dress like this:

Cute on the kiddos. Less so on me. (Image credit)

I know that sunscreen is not perfect, but it's hard to cover up when everyone else is flaunting it.

When SummerSkin, a Portland-based sun protective clothing company, became a sponsor of the AIM walk I'm organizing later this month, I promised I'd give it another shot.

Since then, I've been introduced to Summer Kramer, the creator of SummerSkin. Like me, she's a patient-turned-advocate who is doing great things both locally and nationally to raise awareness about melanoma.

I am very excited to share that Summer and her team have just launched an Indiegogo campaign where you can test out items from SummerSkin's clothing and accessories line at a fraction of the normal retail price. Plus, 10% of proceeds go to OHSU Knight Cancer Institute melanoma research program.

Here's a sampling of what she's offering:

I don't usually plug brands on my blog, but this is a company and a cause that I am 100% supporting. Please help spread the word on Facebook and Twitter: #SPFyRevolution

And, of course, get shopping!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Where did April go?

When life gets tough, I just need to remind myself: I climbed this!

I can't believe it's almost May. This month has been a blur. It probably seems like I've gone MIA, but I've just been really, really busy with melanoma-related activities. Earlier this month, I traveled to Utah for a meeting with SolSurvivors, a patient advocacy organization based in Salt Lake City. (This is the group I'm working with on the PCORI-funded project.) Then today, I had a chance to meet with this guy in Seattle. Everyone I've met since I began working on this project has been incredibly receptive to the idea of involving patients in the design of cancer research and outreach projects. There's still lots of details up in the air and lots to figure out, but I'm feeling very confident about being able to engage more laypeople in the melanoma research process going forward--and that's incredibly, incredibly exciting to me.

Meanwhile, it's crunch time as we prepare for the Northwest Melanoma Walk on May 31. I've connected with several new partners for the the walk this year, so it'll be interesting to see how the event evolves from last year.

Protecting my skin from the hot Cabo sun.

On a slightly unrelated note, this month I also accomplished something I never thought would be possible: I turned off my iPhone for five full days while I was in Mexico.

Coming from someone who checks her email at least 50 times a day and practically cuddles her phone when she goes to sleep, I was expecting to go through withdrawals. But, surprisingly, the company I kept while I was vacationing was enough to distract me from that constant nagging feeling that I needed to check my email. I suppose the margaritas and shrimp tacos didn't hurt either.

Disconnecting during an incredibly busy time--both at work and for my patient advocacy activities--was oddly liberating. I embraced relaxation to the point where I barely felt like myself anymore. I danced until 4 a.m. and climbed a huge mountain of rocks (see photo above), even though I'm ordinarily scared of heights. I heard people talk about their tans and sunburns, and I barely batted an eye.

My amigas!

I think one of my strengths as a human being is my ability to be empathetic and compassionate to others. But let's be real: caring is exhausting. It was nice to know that I could almost "turn it off" for a few days, just so that I could get a little down time.

Coming back to work on Monday was a bit of a rude wake up call. My inbox was full and I had several major deadlines to meet. Regardless, Cabo '14 will go down as one of the best trips ever. Crazy adventures with great friends--and I was finally able to chill out enough to enjoy it. Definitely just what I needed to get me through my busy season.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

7 things that drive me absolutely crazy

While I'm typically the kind of gal whose glass is half full, there are a handful of things that drive me completely and totally batty. I pre-apologize if your pet peeves list includes bloggers' pet peeves lists. Mine includes:

1. Anything (or anyone) that stands in my way of being on time
I absolutely hate being late for meetings, appointments, events, etc. Even worse, I hate when being late is completely out of my control. For example, if I'm getting a ride from a friend to a birthday party and she shows up late, making both of us late to the party... %&#$@ Beware, you will feel my wrath.

2. People who are rude to bus drivers
This morning, I witnessed a man yell profanities at my bus driver for no apparent reason. I don't care if your wife just left you, if you just went bankrupt, or your March Madness bracket is busted--don't take it out on people who are simply doing their job.

3. These absurd "Got Vitamin D?" ads
These ads are in virtually every ladies room at every bar in downtown Portland. It's also currently on the billboard I have to walk past in order to get to the gym.

Stop trying to tell me that tanning is healthy. Because it's not. Just stop.

4. The words "We'll find out...... After the break."
I'm looking at you Chris Harrison. I cancelled my cable recently, so I missed the bulk of the most recent season of The Bachelor, but is it REALLY necessary to have that show go on for TWO HOURS?! No. Stop dragging it out. Just send the girl home.


5. #hashtags
Sorry folks. I don't like them. #sorryimnotsorry

6. Blogs that have so many ads on the sidebar that it takes 20 minutes to load
I came here to read your content, but now I can't, so I'll catch you later (or not).

7. When people cancel at the last minute
Saving the best for last. I think my all-time biggest pet peeve is when people cancel on me at the last minute. I'm like the dentist - I need 24 hours notice or I'm still going to send you the bill.

What drives you crazy?

Friday, March 14, 2014

3rd Annual Northwest Melanoma Walk and Fun Run, May 31

This May, AIM at Melanoma (with help from yours truly!) will be hosting the 3rd Annual AIM for a CURE Northwest Melanoma Walk and Fun Run in Portland, Oregon. New for 2014, all net proceeds will benefit the Melanoma Research Program at Oregon Health & Science University’s Knight Cancer Institute and Department of Dermatology. Specifically, the event will raise funds for Portland's first Melanoma Tissue Bank, widely believed by the oncology community to be a key to major breakthroughs in melanoma research.

Northwest Melanoma Walk and Fun Run
Saturday, May 31, 2014 from 8:30 to 12 p.m. 
Wallace Park, NW 25th Ave. & Raleigh Street, Portland, OR 

 Register at: 
Follow us on Facebook for news and updates

The event is free and will include a health fair, hosted by OHSU's Let's Get Healthy, where the whole family can learn about sun safety, how to detect suspicious spots on the skin, as well as how to participate in life-saving research.

Questions? Contact Not local? Find an event in your area.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Spring break state of mind

Spring break
Sun Bum sunscreen / Butter london nail polish / Vintage cateye sunglasses / Stella Dot beige leather handbag / Gap loafer shoes

The past few weeks have been busy, busy. I have lots of exciting things in the works that I can't wait to share, but for the time being I'm going to keep my lips sealed and simply blab about my upcoming vacation plans.

When I was in college, I never went on *spring break.* My family paid to fly me across the country to go to college, so they couldn't rationalize spending $1,000 to put me up in an all-inclusive resort when I was 19. Fair enough. Nearly ten years later, I finally have the opportunity to travel to Mexico for the first time this April. After all the traveling I did last year, I've been getting a little stir crazy the past couple of months. Plus, I need an excuse to shop for shorts when it's still nearly freezing outside. Needless to say, I'm stoked.

Because of the whole skin cancer thing, traveling to exotic, sun-filled locations continues to present some challenges. I'm obviously not going to have a tan when I arrive in Cabo, and I'm probably going to be paranoid about getting a sunburn while I'm there. But that doesn't mean I don't like visiting tropical islands or drinking piña coladas on the beach. I love going on vacation. I wish I could travel more frequently than I already do. In fact, at some point during the next year or so, my heart is set on visiting a good friend of mine who is currently living in Australia. What this means is that I usually end up spending a fair amount of time under the beach umbrella and I pay extra to check luggage because I have too many bottles of SPF to fit in a quart-sized plastic baggie. Sometimes I wish I could be more "normal," but what does normal really mean, anyway?

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Life goal #578: Learn how to line dance

A couple of weeks ago, we celebrated my friend Jessica's birthday by going to a bar where they do line dancing. We got all dolled up in our cowboy boots and headed out for a night on the... errr... country. I don't know what I was expecting, but it was definitely not a dance floor FULL of people who all appeared to know exactly what they were doing. My little city girl jaw was on the floor. I felt like I was in a movie where all of a sudden the whole cast busts out in a choreographed dance routine.

Not one to be a wallflower, by the end of the night, I was determined to learn how to line dance. Two weeks later, I am nowhere near closer to crossing this item off my bucket list, but the bar we went to offers lessons, so I'm excited to go back at some point to give it a try.

The moral of this blog post? It's easy for me to get stuck in the "same ole same ole" routine. Same restaurants, same stores, even the same route to and from work. Routine isn't bad--it helps keep life on track. But I don't ever want to forget how much I love trying new things, even if I fail, and even if it's something as simple as learning the two-step.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

When business meets pleasure

A few weeks ago, I was recognized at the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute's annual awards ceremony for all the melanoma outreach work I did last year. It was kind of fun to have my name called amidst a room full of people I admire, but believe it or not, the intent of this post isn't to gloat. Instead, I need to spill about how my work life and personal life are becoming completely incestuous.

It all started a little over a year ago when there were rumblings that Oregon Health & Science University--my employer--would be lobbying for a teen tanning ban during the Spring 2013 legislative season. In addition to testifying, I agreed to share my story on OHSU's website and to do a number of media interviews.

To put it plainly: it's one thing to spill your guts to thousands of people you'll never meet in real life. It's an entirely different thing to do so in front of your boss, your boss's boss, your colleagues down the hall, and pretty much everyone else you know in a professional capacity. My landlord saw me on TV and sent me a note. I got Facebook messages from people I hadn't spoken to since 2008. Almost a year after those interviews, I'm still running into people at meetings that say, "Hey, I saw that article you wrote about melanoma." Suddenly, my personal life isn't so personal anymore.

For the most part, people have reacted positively, although I have had a few people make offensive comments. In a way, bringing my personal life with me into the workplace has been a bit like dating a roommate. And you know what they say about s@!#$ing where you eat.

As my work and err... "outside of work" work become more deeply entwined--I'm now collaborating with OHSU on the Northwest Melanoma Walk, too--I've become hyper conscious about how my patient advocacy activities will impact my work and vice versa. It's been my lifelong dream to do work that I'm passionate about, but making myself vulnerable to colleagues has and continues to be a bit nerve racking.

I'd be curious to hear if any of you have gone through similar situations and how you've coped. Do you think that having some overlap between your work life and your personal life is harmful or beneficial? Feel free to shoot me an email at

Monday, February 10, 2014

Check your mate this Valentine's Day

I love a slightly provocative public health campaign. Something that catches my attention, but also helps me remember to take care of myself. These clever "Check Your Mate" e-cards from the Prevent Cancer Foundation do just that--and are available in time for v-day.

Here's what their website says: "Whether in bed, in the shower or anywhere you might find yourselves in the nude with your partner, take a few minutes to look for abnormal changes in your partner’s skin. The ABCDE rule is a quick and easy way to remember red flags for suspicious moles.

A word of caution: It would probably be awkward to do this on a first, second or third date. But if you're cuddling up with your hubby or live-in significant other, keep your eyes peeled. Moles or freckles that look abnormal or are changing are worth having looked at by a dermatologist. Skin cancer? Not sexy.

Visit to send an e-card or share via social media.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Meet Amanda from Marry Mint

I'd like to introduce you all to my new friend Amanda from Marry Mint. Since we started chatting a couple of weeks ago, I've become smitten with her bubbly personality, adorable pregnancy photos, and most importantly, the courage she's demonstrated since being diagnosed with melanoma at age 19. Thank you, Amanda, for sharing your story.

Hey everyone! I’m so thrilled and honored to be here today :)

Goodness, putting my “story” into words is much harder than I thought it would be. I’m FIVE YEARS cancer free and I only recently found the courage to begin sharing my experiences with melanoma. So, I’m sure you can tell from my photo that my skin is quite fair. As a little kid my parents were always careful and kept my skin covered either by clothing or sunblock. Were they perfect about it? Probably not. But they were certainly cautious. Then came those awful teenage years… Am I the only one who wishes I could get a do over? For more reasons than one. Ew. Just ew to being a teen. Anyway, I still wasn’t a sun worshiper but was definitely self-conscious about my pasty white mole covered skin. I knew enough to know that I was someone who was at a higher risk for skin cancer but of course “it won’t happen to me.” Was I a sun worshiper? No. Frequent tanner? No. Did I always make good choices about sun safety? Most definitely not.

The most common question I am asked is: “how did you know?” The answer is, I didn’t. Even my dermatologist didn’t. I had a new “spot” on my shoulder that was just weird. It was new, kind of blue-ish in color and got on my nerves because it was exactly where my seatbelt rested in the car. So new spot= go see your dermatologist, right? So I did.

At my initial visit with him we decided to leave it there and keep an eye on it. It didn’t remotely resemble a melanoma. About a month later I still had an unsettling feeling about it so scheduled an appointment to have it removed. Just a couple of days later my dermatologist called saying it didn’t look good. Pathology showed it could be one of three different things, one of those of course being melanoma. The next step was to have the area excised AND complete the sentinel node biopsy while the pathology was being sent off for multiple opinions. Long story short, I was diagnosed with malignant melanoma with spitzoid deviation stage 3b.

{The ‘spitzoid deviation’ is what made my particular disease complicated. It is a lesion that is most common in very young children and it’s behavior really isn’t known. SO we had to just treat it as aggressively as possible even though it is believed to be less invasive than your garden-variety melanomas.}

My treatment consisted of a modified radical neck dissections followed by the standard year of interferon, one month of induction and eleven months of maintenance. All while having regular scans and check ups with my dermatologist.

On my blog I try and open up about life after cancer. My anxieties, my family, different support systems, lessons, plus million and one photos of my sweet daughter. My hope is to show the world that life can and does go own following something as horrific as cancer. It isn’t perfect and it isn’t always pretty, but it can be damn good! :)

Find me online

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Best BB creams for fair skin: Missha, Dr. Jart, Clinique and more

When BB creams first came on the market they were very "one size fits all." I tried a few but with no luck. Even the formulas for light skin made me look orange. Last year, I set out on a mission to find the perfect BB cream for fair skin. Since then, I logged several hours of watching YouTube videos and visited a number of beauty blogs. I've bought BBs on, tested a few that have come in my Birchbox, and made a few purchases at Sephora. While I'm still partial to my Revlon foundation and Bare Minerals face powder, I'm quickly becoming a convert (especially because of the built in SPF). Here are my thoughts on several popular brands of BB creams.

My skin tone

This is what my skin color looks like in natural light:


BB Creams I recommend

Missha Perfect Cover BB Cream SPF 42 in #13 Milky Beige & #21 Light Beige
This is one of my favorite formulas for summertime, and my top pick before I discovered Dr. Jart's Renewalist. The formula is buildable like foundation, so it ranges from sheer to medium coverage depending on how you apply it. I've found that applying and blending with my fingers works best (even though I always use a brush when I apply liquid foundation). If you have very fair, porcelain skin, I recommend shade #13. If you have fair to light skin, go with #21. Or, you could do what I did and buy sample sizes of both shades. While #13 matches my neck perfectly, the skin on my forehead and cheeks tends to be much more pink, so if I apply #13 all over it looks a little chalky. While #21 seems like it would be too dark (and it has a grey cast to it straight out of the tube), it's effective at neutralizing the redness on my face. It also blends in effortlessly. With two shades, you can mix a little of each color together to customize the color for your skin tone.
Rating: 4/5 - One of the best BBs I've tried. Knocking it down a point only because I have to mix two shades to get my perfect match and the formula isn't as moisturizing as some others.

Dr. Jart Premium Beauty Balm
Dr. Jart BB creams have a huge following, and the Premium Formula seems to be a crowd favorite. Unlike Missha, however, Dr. Jart BBs only come in one shade per formula. The color of Premium is a hint darker than Missha #21, but it's also a bit warmer. I would recommend this BB to someone with light (but not super pale) skin, who is looking for a sheer, moisturizing coverage. I can't usually wear it alone, but if I mix in a dab of Missha #13, the color matches my skin better.
3/5 - Lightweight, moisturizing formula but the color is a bit too dark.

Dr. Jart Renewalist Beauty Balm
Of Dr. Jart's four most popular formulas, Renewalist is by far the lightest in color. It matches my skin tone absolutely perfectly. It also offers the fullest coverage, so it feels the most like a foundation. I love the SPF 40 and that the active ingredients are physical sun blockers, titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. Because it feels a bit more like a foundation than a BB cream, I've found that I have to apply this with a foundation brush to get the smoothest coverage. With a brush, it's a breeze to blend, but when I just use my fingers, it's a bit harder to blend. My favorite thing about this formula is that my skin looks healthier and my glowing after I wash my face in the evening. Besides the sunscreen, I don't know what they put in it, but it makes my skin very happy. And I can use it to brighten my under eye area without concealer.
Rating: 5/5 - Love it.

Dr. Jart Water Fuse Beauty Balm
Coming in at a close second, Dr. Jart's Water Fuse BB is my go-to product for every day wear. Straight out of the tube, the color is a smidge darker than the Renewalist, but the formula is so sheer that it blends into my skin perfectly. I like to use when I'm going for the "no makeup" look. It ever so slightly evens my skin tone and adds a boost of moisture, without looking too obvious. Since I have such a hard time picking a favorite--it totally depends on the look I'm going for--I really like this Dr. Jart kit. The Detox formula is way too dark for me, even if I mix it with Missha #13, but my mom loves it, so I can always unload that tube on her.
Rating: 5/5

Juice Beauty CC Cream
This cream is the most different from the others in terms of color, texture, and consistency. It has extremely light coverage, so I probably won't wear this alone. I was happiest when I applied to this dry, clean skin for it's moisturizing/nourishing/SPF benefits, but I still had to use my Bare Minerals to cover redness. My skin felt great when I wore it, so I would recommend it as a primer for powder mineral makeup. Of note: The scent on this one is a bit strong. It didn't bother me, but other online reviews mention the scent, so take a sniff or try a sample before you buy.
Rating: 4/5 - Good primer, but I wouldn't wear it alone.

Clinique Moisture Surge CC Cream in Very Light
When I first tried this one, I didn't love it. Unlike some of the Asian BB creams I've tried, it doesn't quite melt into your skin. That said, after applying it with a foundation brush, I decided it does offer a nice light-to-moderate level of coverage, and the color is a decent match for my skin tone. It looks a bit more yellow than some, but if you're a Clinique devotee, you might want to give this one a try.
Rating: 4/5 - Not my absolute favorite, but a solid formula.

BB Creams I don't recommend

Pur Minerals CC Cream
This was a Birchbox sample. Initially, the shade seemed to match my skin tone based on a quick swatch, but I had a really hard time blending this cream into my skin. I tried using my fingers, a foundation brush, and a damp sponge, but nothing made application less burdensome. I also felt like it made me look a little orange. I ended up tossing my sample because I even finished it, so I definitely wouldn't recommend it.
Rating: 1/5 - Definitely not for me.

Skin 79
These BB creams have a cult following on YouTube. I was a little bummed because they only come in one shade. It's pretty light, but it's still too dark for my skin tone. The pink formula works best for normal to oily skin, while the gold one is best for normal to dry.
Rating: 2/5 - Too dark.

More swatches

Also important to note: With any BB cream, always set with a translucent powder, otherwise they melt right off your face. I like Tarte's Amazonian Clay Finishing Powder because it's completely colorless and doesn't cake. If you're on a budget, ELF High Definition Powder in translucent is a pretty good dupe.

Do you have a favorite BB cream? A suggestion for a new brand I should try? Leave me a comment below.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

A belated cancerversary

Last week marked four years since I was diagnosed with melanoma. It seems fitting that on my four-year cancerversary I had a meeting with one of the co-founders of AIM at Melanoma and that later in the evening I had an orientation for my PCORI Pipeline award on patient-driven melanoma research. Somewhere along the way, I've transformed from scared patient to a fierce advocate for cancer prevention.

Earlier this year, during a period of self-reflection, I struggled with the fact that perhaps all my blogging and fundraising and whatnot was taking up too much of my free time. After four years, I thought, maybe it was time for me to stop obsessing over the past and to move on. But I can't. Every time I try to step back and "take a break," someone makes an ignorant comment about skin cancer, or I overhear two teenagers talking about their tan lines on the bus.

I've also recently found new ways to become involved in melanoma research. Not just as a subject in a study, but as a patient who can partner with scientists to develop better strategies for prevention and earlier detection. There's lots to learn, which can be a little intimidating, but I'm excited to see where things lead.

I'll leave you with this fabulous infographic I found on Chelsea's Pinterest today--9 Sneaky Places Skin Cancer Hides. Check it out and help spread the word!