Saturday, August 18, 2012

My Interview with UV Skinz

As I’ve shared from my Facebook page, UV Skinz contacted me a few weeks ago to interview me for their “My Story” segment.  I was pleased with their entry and it was a pleasure corresponding with their blogging guru, Kalisha Frazier.  As promised in a previous blog, I’d like to share the environment from which I gave the interview.

Kalisha and I played email tag for over a week before we finally narrowed down a day for me to call.  I still had problems finding a time to spend on such a call, but the opportunity arose in, of all places, the waiting room in a dermatologist’s office.  My wife was visiting for an appointment (more on that in a bit) and I figured I had a good 20 minutes or so of free time to call.  I sat in the back corner of a relatively large waiting room while my kids buried their noses into their iPods.

I think I might have called Kalisha during her lunch as she seemed a little surprised to hear from me.  Again, we decided on the day, but never narrowed down the time.  She was kind enough to take the call despite it being near her lunch time and she was a real pleasure to talk with.  She asked questions about my family and upbringing as well as more detailed questions regarding my involvement with this blog and melanoma awareness in general.  This is where things started to get interesting.  You see, I had forgotten where I was sitting as we talked…and as the conversation leaned heavily on skin cancer and melanoma, I noticed others in the room intently listening I to my conversation.  In fact, one of the office workers was dusting the furniture nearby…barely paying attention to the actual dusting.

My focus was still on the conversation, but I couldn’t help but realize that my conversation was being shared with others.  I made sure my answers to Kalisha’s questions weren’t all gloom and doom…after all some people were probably waiting for an appointment for a skin exam.  But at the same time, we talked about questions people should ask their dermatologist.  I’m pretty sure that one woman was actually taking notes!

My wife eventually came out of her appointment after 30 minutes or so, and I thanked Kalisha for her time and for opportunity to share my story.  As we walked out, I leaned to the one office worker and apologized to her for having been too chatty on my cell phone in the waiting room.  She responded, “No worries…I found it quite educational!”

And I guess that’s what it’s about; educating, informing, or just making others aware.  I thank UV Skinz again for the opportunity to share, and I thank Cary Dermatology for allowing me a little soapbox in the corner of their waiting room.

As for my wife’s appointment, I had mentioned before that her doctor advised her to see a plastic surgeon to have a reemerging dysplastic nevi removed.  He suggested the surgeon due to the depth of the spot, which previously was found benign.  She has a consultation with the plastic surgeon in 12 days…I’ll keep you posted how that goes.  Thank you for your feedback which eventually led her to make the decision to have the spot removed.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Shark Week and Melanoma

If you’re a fan of the Discovery Channel, you know that it’s Shark Week.  Each night, the network showcases programming devoted to learning more about this most fascinating and horrific creature.  Perhaps the most intriguing fact I learned about sharks this week is that they don’t get melanoma.  Read the article here.

Researchers in New Zealand have discovered that sharks tan, but they are extremely resistant to melanoma.   This comes on the heels of a recent discovery that some fish in the Great Barrier Reef of Australia have developed melanoma.  UV radiation is suspected as the culprit for this fishy skin cancer. No one is really sure why sharks simply tan without developing melanoma, but it’s going to be studied further.  It was confirmed in another study that the darkening of shark skin is in fact a result of solar or UV exposure as “tan lines” were created by placing filters over the pectoral fins (as if sharks weren’t frightening enough without tan lines).  Mammals are the only other animals that tan.

So the next time you see a shark, thank it for its unexpected contribution to melanoma research.

On second thought…just run.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Oompa Loompa...

Mel Stuart passed away recently after a bout with melanoma at the age  of 83.  He was the director of the original “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.”  With all due respect to the man (and I love his movie), I find it ironic that many compare the look of tanning addicts and “fake bakers” to that of Stuart’s iconic “Oompa Loompas.”  In addition to his personal battle against melanoma, he unknowingly created a characature which continues to aid others in the battle against the black cancer.

With that in mind, and with apologies as I mimic Rich of the Hotel Melanoma, I offer up another verse to the Oompa Loompa song…

Oompa Loompa doompadee doo
I’ve got another puzzle for you
Oompa Loompa doompadee dee
If you are wise you will listen to me.

What do you get from a glut of UV?
Leathery skin and chance of Black C!
Why do you go through the tanning fuss?
Unless you want to look exactly like us!

An orange skinned Oomp Loompa!

Oompa Loompa doompadee dah
Being sun smart will take you far
You’ll look better and live longer too,
Just don’t turn orange like the Oompa Loompa doompadee do!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Black Salve

Before you read this post, please let me emphasize my disclaimer.  I am not a medical professional and this blog is not written to offer any medical advice.  I am simply a guy that shares links, articles, information and occasional opinions as it relates to melanoma and skin cancer awareness, all in honor of my brother who passed away after battling melanoma.  For medical advice, please consult your physician or dermatologist.  With that being said, read on:

One doesn’t often hear the term “surfing the internet” as much anymore.  Most people browse, but I still like to surf.  I might find a neat article which has a link to another article which might connect to a video which might have similar videos listed and so on and so on.  My original search might have been for sunscreen and the next thing you know my mouth is watering over a recipe for lemon broccoli chicken.  “Surfing” is neat that way.  But sometimes, it just pisses me off.

I was searching for a video I recently posted on Facebook.  It was the one about bad golfers and how the most common hazard is sun exposure.  I thought it was one of the more humorous PSAs and I was impressed with its efforts to make us stubborn men more aware of sun safety.  After I watched it on YouTube, I noticed links to other melanoma-related videos.  There was one that caught my attention…the still photo was of an intelligent looking woman with a caption of “Dermatologists Hate This Video (natural skin cancer cure).”  Notice…CURE.  I had to watch.

I won’t get into all the details.  You can find it and watch it if you’d like…I won’t link it here because I simply cannot endorse it.  Of course, those that would support the video would claim that I’m a pawn of “Big Pharma” or perhaps supporting the wallet-wasting world of modern medicine.  I’m not…but I’m sure I couldn’t convince such people otherwise, so I won’t try.  Anyhow, what pissed me off was the statement that “Skin cancer is curable.  100%...whether it’s basal cell or squamous cell or melanoma, it’s curable…naturally.”

The lady goes on to describe the two natural cures, but I was drawn to the first.  It’s called Black Salve.  (The other is called Hemp Oil).  Black Salve is an escharotic which is defined as a corrosive substance that forms a black, dry scab on the skin from burning.  It’s basically a caustic paste consisting of bloodroot, zinc chloride, and other non-regulated ingredients.  The video goes on to explain that after applying this salve onto a cancerous lesion, the paste will “draw the cancer cells out…including the roots.”  You see, if legitimate surgeons try to cut out the cancer, they might miss some of the root.  And besides, “cutting into a cancer only makes it angry.”


I decided to read other articles related to this magic wonder acid.  Not surprisingly, the FDA (aka, “Big Pharma” as the video gal proclaims) has deemed Black Salve as a “fake cancer cure” and has essentially banned it from the US.  Not surprisingly, the people who sold Black Salve under the brand name of Cansema fled to Ecuador to market their product from there.


 So what I found out in a nut shell (nut-case shell?) is that Black Salve CAN be obtained (or made at home…I found a video with the recipe) and in some instances is approved for use on animals (although there is a drive to ban such use). Proponents of Black Salve claim that the caustic paste only attacks the cancerous flesh and leaves the normal skin alone.  Medical personnel would agree with half of this…but the problem is that it’ll eat through pretty much ANY flesh, including healthy skin.  There are documented reports of a woman applying some on her nose to address “a bump”…only to have her nose and much of her cheeks literally fall off her face within a week!  No, I won’t attach the photo, but it ain’t pretty.

I guess the reason I’m posting this is that many folks will try many methods to eradicate their cancer, and my fear is that some folks will become desperate enough to try Black Salve.  Truthfully, the escharotic was used in the past…WAY in the past.  But nowadays, Mohs surgery and other methods are far more regulated and less risky.  I understand that radiation, chemo, and other medical treatments can cause serious side-effects, but at least it’s regulated, monitored and controlled.   If you buy Black Salve or Cansema today, you have no idea what’s really in the paste…it’s not regulated, by anyone!  Some pastes have been found to have sulfuric acid within.  Also, it seems that the concentration of zinc chloride is very important.  A 40% concentration can pretty much guarantee significant disfigurement and burning pain.  A 30% concentration is better controlled but still very risky and painful.  It is simply not worth it…and it’s illegal to use for a reason.

Remember, I’m not a medical professional, so you should seek out your own answers.  To find out more about Black Salve, you can start with our favorite Dr. Mercola watch dog site, Quackwatch.  They have quite the dissertation on the history and evidence against Black Salve.  If you feel their view is slanted too far away, then I suggest you search legitimate medical sites from which you’ve learned to trust information regarding melanoma.

In my unsolicited and unsponsored opinion…stay away from the stuff!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Preaching to the Choir

I shared print-outs of my blog with my dad several months ago.  That’s right, he doesn’t have a computer.  I’m guessing that he thinks this “computer thing” is a fad that’s destined to fade away.  (He said the same thing to my brother about the Beatles.)  Believe it or not, he actually wrote a book about 6 years ago…without a PC!  But I digress.  After he read the entries, he complimented my work, but then added, “But it seems like you’re preaching to the choir.”

I knew he was right.  Most of those who read this blog are folks keenly aware of melanoma’s wrath.  His statement made me want to refocus and try to spread the word in other ways.  But real life has not cooperated.  A vastly increased workload at work plus the emergence of my kids into the pre-teen years has pretty much choked any time to devote to other efforts.  A presentation package for educating elementary and middle school kids…a far more aggressive t-shirt campaign…the organization of local fund-raisers to provide playground shade…a local swim club awareness campaign…so many decent ideas and so little time.  What time I do have has been devoted to…well…preaching to the choir.  (Which is a task that I love, by the way!)

With Facebook’s newest timeline configuration, I really hadn’t noticed to what level my “Like” count has grown.  Sure, a simple scroll down would expose the number, but I would tend to read the new items on my wall at the top before selecting “home” to read others’ entries.  I figured that my count had reached a plateau a few months ago.

I was shocked this past weekend when I noticed that my Facebook page had reached the 1,500 “Like” mark!  Wow.  I just never figured that my thoughts would spread so much.  When I’ve reached milestones in the past, I would often comment on the diversity of people that read my thoughts and my blog.  That hasn’t changed at all.  And being the geek that I am, I charted some of that diversity.

“Black is the New Pink – Fight Melanoma” has definitely traveled across the US border.  Of other countries following BITNP, Australia leads the pack with 21% of foreign readers.  The United Kingdom is second at 19% with Canada close behind at 17%.  Mexico and Sweden round out the top five.  All in all, BITNP has been read in a confirmed 27 other countries.

Within the US, all but seven states are confirmed to have read my thoughts.  Alaska, Maine, Montana, Nevada, South Dakota, Vermont and Wyoming…you have an open invitation to drop by any time.  (By the way, “confirmed” means that the reader’s Facebook page conveys where they live…and the LARGE majority of readers to not reveal this information…so it’s quite possible that the aforementioned states are indeed represented…just not confirmed).  North Carolina leads the way…obviously...with 10%.  Texas comes in second so far at 7% with California, Florida and Illinois pretty much all bunched together.  This chart shows a pretty even distribution overall.  And this thrills me that the word is spreading everywhere!

While my efforts to spread melanoma and skin cancer awareness to all folks may seem stalled, I now realize that it’s not at all.  While I am “only” preaching to the choir, the choir is 1,500 voices strong!  Some may be silent and merely read my words now and then.  Others are loud and proud and have choirs (some MUCH larger) all their own…spreading melanoma awareness and slowly making a world of difference.

Thank YOU for reading my words and sharing in my drive to increase skin cancer and melanoma awareness.  You are the reason I squeeze a few minutes every day to share links and my own personal thoughts.  And you are the reason we’ll beat this beast…one choir voice at a time!

Friday, August 3, 2012

There's Something Fishy Going on

When you hear the word “tobacco,” you might think of North Carolina.  Likewise, when you hear the word “Olympics,” you might think of London or Greece.  Hearing the words “skin cancer” or “melanoma” might not make you think of a place, but if it did, it should be Australia.   While 1 in 5 Americans can expect to have some type of skin cancer in their lifetime, a staggering 2 out of 3 Australians face the same fate.  But why is that?

Right above their heads is…nothing.  There should be an ozone layer, which naturally blocks about 90% of all UVB rays.  However, there’s a huge hole in the ozone layer around Antarctica and it extends over Australia.  Because of this, our friends down under are more susceptible to the sun’s more harmful rays.  So much so that even the fish are getting melanoma!

Yes, you read that right.  It’s been reported that fish have been found in the Great Barrier Reef with large dark lesions which scientists speculate could have only been caused by UV rays.  A spokesperson stated, “Further works needs to be carried out to establish the exact cause of the cancer but having eliminated other likely factors such as microbial pathogens and marine pollution, UV radiation appears to be the most likely cause.”

The ozone layer was noticed to be decreasing back in the late 1970’s.  Human kind started to take action by reducing or banning the use of halocarbons and fluorocarbons, which was thought to have an adverse effect on the ozone layer.  The reduction seemed to start working as the ozone hole finally stopped growing during the mid 1990’s.  Still, today the hole covers about 27 million square kilometers…about three times the size of Australia.

The discovery of these fish (15% of all coral trout were found to have the melanoma-like lesions) suggests that we’re still being bombarded by dangerous levels of UV radiation.  And while there’s a big hole in our southern hemisphere, you can bet the ozone layer over our heads in the States is probably less than what it used to be as well.

The folks on the pro-tanning side like to claim that the increase in melanoma over the years is a fabrication of sunscreen manufacturers and dermatologists who want to fatten their wallets.  They call it the Great Sun Scare.  If this were true, how would this explain this discovery in fish?  It doesn’t.  The fact is, we have to deal with increased UV radiation in our lifetimes and take the necessary precautions…wear sunscreen, wear protective clothing, and get your skin checked every year!

This is one fish tale we have to believe.