Monday, September 24, 2012

Three Billion Reasons to Be Excited!


One of my favorite things to do is have some coffee on a Sunday morning and watch the CBS Sunday Morning show.  Nearly every story is a feel-good piece and any others are fact-based with limited negative vibe.  It’s just a good news way to start the day.  Anyhow, there was a brief piece this morning about how much money is being spent on the current presidential political campaigns.  Since we see an ad during nearly every commercial break, it should come as no surprise that the amount spent is in the hundreds of millions of dollars.  That’s a lot of money!

Then it occurred to me.  MD Anderson Cancer Center is getting ready to spend three BILLION dollars to take aim at cancer.  That’s billion…with a “B.”  Now THAT’s a lot of money!  They could pay for several presidential campaigns!  Thank God they’re spending it against cancer!

As most of you know by now, MD Anderson has launched their Moon Shots program which targets several cancers for annihilation…including melanoma!  The goals against melanoma include those involved in research, clinical trials, and prevention.  Since my personal mission is to spread melanoma awareness, their latter goal has me very excited.  MD Anderson’s website says this regarding their goals toward prevention:

There is strong evidence that exposure to ultraviolet radiation (UVR) plays an important causal role in melanoma. Despite the declaration of UVR as a carcinogen by the World Health Organization in 2009, public health surveys have reported increasing prevalence of both sun exposure and tanning bed use among adults in the U.S., and few, if any, comprehensive preventative programs targeting children exist. Further, although recent experiences in other countries demonstrate that improved sun-safety practices and skin screening can reduce both melanoma morbidity and mortality, few, if any, comprehensive screening efforts exist in the U.S.

The melanoma moon shot effort in prevention includes plans to:

·         Expand evidence-based, age-appropriate melanoma prevention approaches throughout schools
·         Access multiple forms of media and community-based interventions to discourage or eliminate tanning behavior, increase sun protection and encourage participation in skin screening efforts

This is such exciting news.  Not only are the medical gurus of MD Anderson going to concentrate on eradicating and curing this disease, their PR folks are going to concentrate on educating this country and increasing awareness!

I join many fellow bloggers and sun-safe advocates in applauding the MD Anderson Cancer Center and offering help in any way I can.

Thank you!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Good Luck Susan!


I wore my BITNP shirt for her last day!
For the last year and a half, I’ve made it a personal mission to spread the word about melanoma awareness.  So have many, many others.  There is no better support group for encouragement than those folks I’ve encountered online.  We have all read, applauded, and commented on one another’s thoughts and helped to spread them to other readers.

Unfortunately, I don’t have as many folks in my life that offer face-to-face encouragement.  My family is, of course very supportive as I spend many nights seeking new information about melanoma or writing my latest thoughts.  But for the most part, other people are only somewhat aware that I have “that thing about skin cancer” and little else.

Most of the people I encounter outside of family are at work.  I enjoy the day-to-day interaction with nearly all of my colleagues and some would be considered friends.  However, recent changes have us all pretty busy and somewhat out of touch with others’ lives.  Frankly, one of my biggest flaws is to stay isolated and not discovering the personal lives of my co-workers as I should.  It’s no wonder that most are unaware of my campaign.

Then there’s Susan.  I’m not even sure how I first shared my mission with her, but she has taken a large interest in this blog and my overall mission.  She would comment on my latest post the very next day at work.  She would compliment my homemade t-shirts.  And she would constantly remind me that I’m “making a difference.”  Best of all, she started seeing a dermatologist regularly because of what I’ve shared.

There have been times that I’m just dead beat.  Either work or family life had me frazzled and I’d feel guilty for having not blogged or put forth the efforts to my mission.  But eventually, Susan would remind me or encourage me.  Frankly, without her, BITNP might have faded away several months ago.  But it didn’t, and I plan to stick with it for many months and years to come.

Friday was the last day of work for Susan at my workplace.  She has taken a job closer to her home and her aging mother.  She’s always been one to keep life’s important priorities in mind.  Monday will be the first day in a year and a half where I won’t see Susan sitting across from me and commenting on my latest blog.  But while she’ll be missed, rest assured her encouragement will continue.  She reads the blog and she follows on Facebook.  And she’s a constant opponent on Words with Friends (I promise you’ll win one Susan…eventually …J )

There are a few other equally supportive folks at work and elsewhere which I’ll mention one day, but I wanted to send a special thanks to Susan as she ventures onward.  Best of luck along your next path. 

And Susan, wear your sunscreen!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Amanda and Corey Memorial Walk, 2012


A few weeks ago, I received a request on my Facebook timeline to inform others of a memorial walk benefitting the Melanoma Research Foundation.  A couple of days later, I received another request for the same walk.  What Judy and Kim didn’t realize was that this walk is to be held in the very town in which I live!  How could I not offer to be somehow involved?

The Amanda Wall-Corey Haddon Memorial Walk is in honor of two beautiful young women who sadly succumbed to Melanoma.  In short, each young woman was diagnosed with melanoma too early in life (then again, ANY time is too early…isn’t it?).   They each embraced life and fought off the beast as best they could, but ultimately donned their wings to direct the battle from above.  That’s where the real miracle of this event begins.  You see, while both attended East Carolina University, and both may have passed one another in the halls of the Duke University Hospital, they never met here on earth.  Both their parents did, at a Compassionate Friends meeting in September of 2010 where each sought answers and solace with others who experienced the same type of loss.

An immediate bond formed between the two couples and the Memorial Walk started to take shape.  In fact, the first such walk took place about a year later.  The walk was to benefit the Melanoma Research Foundation, but because of the apparent small nature of the event, many didn’t have hope that much money would be raised.  Amanda and Corey’s parents did.  While the MRF established a goal of $10,000, the first annual walk raised a whopping $28,000!

This year’s walk is scheduled in Apex, NC on October 13, 2012.  After I announced my close proximity to Kim and Judy, they invited me to a planning meeting this past week.  As I’ve stated here before, I’m pretty shy away from the keyboard, but I made time to attend and meet these amazing people.  Both Amanda’s parents and Corey’s parents were there, as were a few more friends and family.

I won’t get into all the details, but I can say that what I witnessed wasn’t a stern meeting to discuss logistics and financials.  Those items were discussed, but the atmosphere was that of a gathering of friends and family.  There was laughter…lots of laughter…and genuine compassion for the cause.  Many times, a discussion was interrupted as someone would convey a story of how others were touched or affected by Amanda or Corey’s story.  I’ve never met these folks before, but even I sensed that the two honored girls were sitting at the same table, eating Subway sandwiches and sharing the same laughter.  This wasn’t a committee…this was a family.  Such a family passionate that one member gave me one of the biggest bear hugs I’ve ever had!

But business did get done.  The course and logistics were discussed as were the raffle prizes.  It was announced that the numbers of registrants was low at this time, but this was not unlike a year ago when the majority of walkers signed up in the last week.  Amanda’s father was optimistic, but commented that while they’d love to exceed last year’s number of walkers and donations they’d be happy as long as one person became more aware.  And I believed him.  More than once, he stated a fact about melanoma and he’d follow up with “and people still don’t get it.”

He’s right.  But these people do.

So what’s my involvement?  Right now, it’s to tell you about it…and ask that you spread the word.  Yes, many of us are gung ho on attending the AIM Walk in Charlotte in November, and that hasn’t changed for me.  But I’d like to ask that you spread the word of this event as well. 

I believe they’ll be having an online auction as well as the aforementioned raffle during the event, so you can most definitely help there!  I would love it if some folks in the melanoma community could donate an item to raffle.  I’ll be pitching in a BITNP T-shirt and coffee mug, and I’d love to make an entire “Molemate” gift pack to raffle or auction.  If you have a talent…or a product you’d care to donate, please contact me at my email address at fightmelanoma@live.com.  Or go to the contact page on the Amanda-Corey website and offer up your ideas there.  Every bit of money received through this will go to the Amanda and Corey fund which benefits MRF.

Please help support this cause…and continue the fight against melanoma everywhere!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Where Was Your Melanoma?


 
According to the Melanoma Education Foundation (MEF), melanoma can appear anywhere on the body, even in places never exposed to the sun.  In White males, the most common location is on the back.  For White women, the back of the lower legs is most common.  For darker toned folks such as Hispanic, Asians, and African-Americans, the most common location is the feet or hands.  See the chart below from the MEF website:

Courtesy of MEF


 A few days ago, I posed the following question on Facebook and Twitter.  “Where did your melanoma first appear?”  I received over 100 responses with answers as varied as the people that responded.  Some answers were very specific (“on my neck just below the right ear”) and others were very general (“on my back”).  I categorized the responses the same as listed in the MEF chart except that I didn’t split by sex.  The result of my informal survey:

Head & Neck
24%
Trunk
27%
Arms
20%
Legs
29%

Keep in mind that melanoma can indeed appear anywhere.  Some of the more specific answers included “bottom of my foot,” “eyeball,” “thumbnail,” “right breast,” “buttocks,” and “scalp.”  This proves that you should check every inch of your body for any suspicious spots.  Every.  Place.  Including the genitals.  Guys, check around your penis (as if you don’t already) included beneath the scrotum.  Gals, check your vaginal area.  If you don’t listen to me, listen to my friend Timna at “Respect the Rays” who is always sending this reminder!

It’s advised to perform a self-check at least once a month.  Melanoma Exposed recommends a three-step method:

1.       Look in the mirror.  Use a mirror to examine your head, scalp, face, neck, chest and torso (women should check under their breasts).  Then check your hands, nails, elbows, arms and underarms.

2.       Sit Down.  Take a seat and check your legs and feet, including the soles, heels and nails.  Use a hand mirror to check your genitals.

3.       Stand.  Use a hand mirror to inspect the back of your neck, shoulders, upper arms, back, buttocks, and legs.

Better yet, get a partner to check with you! 

See a dermatologist at least once a year…preferably one that specializes in skin cancer and melanoma.  The Melanoma Research Foundation offers a Metastatic Melanoma Treatment Center finder by region on their website.  Other organizations offer similar services.

Melanoma can start anywhere.  But with a constant monitoring of our own skin, it can be detected and stopped with great success.  Early detection is the key!  Please check today!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Random Thoughts...


Yeah, yeah…I know.  It’s been a couple weeks since my last blog posting.  Please accept my apologies.  As is always the case, life and work have interfered with me sharing thoughts and spreading awareness about melanoma.

Speaking of thoughts, I’ve had a few random ones during my blogging absence.  Here are a few updates and brief thoughts from the last two weeks.

·         I visited my dad in West Virginia last week.  It was my first trip back “home” since my brother’s funeral.  While I have a few friends and relatives in the same area, I decided merely to spend time with Dad…and to have him spend rare time with his grandkids.  We all went fishing at the local park (each kids caught three), played in his back yard, and generally enjoyed our time.  It was far too short, but it was time well spent.  I hope to see other relatives and friends during my next visit.

·         My wife, kids and I visited my brother’s site.  His wife Debbie had purchased a very nice headstone.  It is in the shape of a bench and there is an etching of a photo of the two of them along with the dates of both births, his death, and their marriage.  On the back of the bench are etched the words “Go Mountaineers.”  He loved his WVU Mountaineers for sure.  I did the only logical thing when I visited…I sat on the bench and just laughed a little.  Call it a weird way pinning him when we used to wrestle, or call it a way of him continuing to support me.  I told him of the Black is the New Pink campaign as I sat, and left a melanoma wrist band around faded flowers that had been placed there before.  We left, and I was not sad.  I miss him, but I feel some comfort.

·         We also visited my mother’s grave in a different part of the valley.  It’s the first time I visited when I didn’t feel great sadness, but a sense of comfort.  I had an inner thought flow through me at both sites that said, “you don’t need to visit here again…it’s time to live your life and to know that we’ll be following you.”  Corny I know…but it felt good to know.

·         I gave dad a hard copy of the ten most read postings from this log (remember, he doesn’t own a computer).  I told him that it would be a hard read at times.  His tears a little later proved me right.  But this time, he didn’t convey that I was preaching to the choir.  He simply told me, “good job.”  That’s an entire sermon from my dad.

·         My dad and his wife’s hearing is quite bad.  The TV was turned up to its maximum volume during our entire visit.  I’m surprised Jeff and mom didn’t tell me to have him turn it down.  J

·         Back at home, my wife had her consultation with the plastic surgeon to have her re-emerging mole removed.  Her appointment is September 14.  Thank you for your encouraging words to convince her to have this done.  I’ll keep you posted.

·         The whole Lance Armstrong thing occurred while I was out of town.  When the yellow “Livestrong” wrist bands came out so many years ago, I felt that many wore them simply to be fashionable and not for the message.  I was quite na├»ve about any cancer back then.  Now, I see the impact this campaign has had and “understand” the message.  My brother wore a Livestrong band along with his black melanoma band.  I have no thoughts one way or the other about his cycling/doping controversy…but I have great respect for what the campaign has done.  I wore yellow this past Friday as others did in honor of Lance Armstrong.

·         I’m getting very excited to attend the AIM walk in November!  I can’t wait to meet so many of my Facebook friends for the first time.  But I’ve also asked to be involved with another walk in my town of Apex…an MRF walk in October (yes, in the middle of Breast Cancer Awareness Month).  I’m very excited about this event being so close to home and will definitely blog more about it soon.  Donations are still encouraged for the November walk, and I’ll be providing a link later this week to donate to the October walk.  Honestly, I wish I could participate in something every month!

I don’t see work and life letting up any time soon, but I’ll do my best to keep posting as much as possible and doing my part to spread melanoma awareness!