Thursday, January 24, 2013

At the Movies...

When I think back to the summers of my youth, I remember hanging out at the swim club during the day and going to summer block buster movies at night.  Of course, that was many years ago when I was oblivious to the dangers of the sun and before commercials were shown prior to the feature film.  I would imagine that teenagers today spend their summers in much the same way.  They may still be unaware of sun safety habits, but I’m sure they’re used to seeing larger-than-life advertising before the summer’s blockbuster.  What better forum to capture the advertising attention of impressionable teens?  Or for that matter…what about a melanoma awareness PSA?

This is exactly what’s going on in Australia now.  In case you didn’t know, Australia and New Zealand sit underneath a huge hole in the ozone, so they get a far greater daily dosage of UV radiation than most.  Of course, this means the Aussies have a far greater risk of skin cancer and melanoma.  They take sun safety VERY seriously!  Despite having temperatures over 100 degrees lately, the public is encouraged to still wear long-sleeved clothing.  Tanning salons are starting to disappear as various districts pass anti-tanning bills, not just for minors, but everyone!  Their national awareness campaigns are fantastic and commonplace.  We could certainly learn from our friends down under on how to spread the word.

But getting back to the movie PSA, the commercial features interviews with friends and family of Wes Bonny…a normal young guy in Australia who happened to die of melanoma at the age of 26.  The ad isn’t happy by any means…it’s eye opening.  Audiences are reported as being shocked and saddened by the commercial, but it’s having a positive effect.  According to the Cancer Institute of New South Wales, “65 percent of those who saw the ad, being shown throughout the summer, intended to increase their level of sun protection after watching it.”  I know that “intending” is far different than “doing,” but these are encouraging results!

It’s time that an effective campaign was born here in the US.  The Wes Bonny ad airs on Australian television as well, but the greatest impact seems to be at the theaters where the audience is totally focused on the action on-screen.  Perhaps the Skin Cancer Foundation, AIM, or MRF will take similar action soon…at a theater near you.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Six-Word Melanoma Memoirs

Earlier this week, I attended a Memoir Writing Workshop at the local library given by local editor, writer, and poet Alice Osborn.  The first writing exercise that she suggested was to write a six-word memoir.  I wrote several within the given ten minute period:

Twins are very exhausting yet rewarding.

Each day is a new start.

From happy son to worried father.

Finding laughter in every single day.

When does college football start again?

Lived life.  Brother died.  Campaign born!

The last memoir obviously has to do with my personal relationship with melanoma.  This made me wonder what others in Melanoma Nation might say, so I posed the question on my Facebook page.  I felt inspired to share with you:

No self love.  Learned hard way.

Tanning beds.  Stage II.  White Me.

Wasn’t aware.  THANKFULLY survived.  Wear sunscreen!

Since diagnosis, desire to raise awareness.

Stage 4 metastatic aunt lost battle :.(

Frightening dark spot, new bright life.

Lost best friend.  Now melanoma advocate!

A mole.  A beautiful life lost.

I survived!  Get moles checked out!

Spread the word and save others.

Late stage, unknown source, unknown strength!

More blessed than I deserve.  Survivor!

Silent, aggressive killer.  Hope.  Faith.  Believe!

Colorblind doc, melanoma struck.  Just breathe!

Sneaky cancer.  Scared.  Ready to fight!

Stage four, five surgeries, third study?

Keep fighting, tell others, be blessed.

Son 26 years, will win battle.

My sister.  Stage IV.  Miss her.

A great darkness, yet shedding light.

Melanoma.  Life changed.  Roller coaster ride.

Stealing my husband; God help us!

Normal life, melanoma, life changing.

Loved.  Lived.  Family.  Faith.  Cared.  Prayed.

Found it, removed it, survived it!

Each memoir is unique, personal and speaks more deeply than one might think from just six words.  I thank all that shared their thoughts.

There is one more that was not submitted, but I don’t think Susan will mind me sharing Jillian’s words once again.

Fall seven times, stand up eight!

What's your six-word memoir?

Friday, January 18, 2013

Tan-uary? Really?

The Melanoma Education Initiative recently posted a Facebook link showcasing Nicole Polizzi (aka, Snooki) promoting her tanning products.  (Don’t worry, the MEI was NOT endorsing Snooki…they were quite disgusted with her “Tan-uary” promotion).  Her product is one of the many Supre Tan products offered at professional tanning salons across the country.  I discovered this while browsing the website…akin to staring at a nasty car wreck…I couldn’t help it.  Within the site, I found two rather disappointing things.  First was a video of Snooki enjoying herself at the Smart Tan Convention held in Nashville last October.  It wasn’t Snooki herself that disappointed me, but the images of all the tanning beds and accessories on display.  It appeared that many of the tanning beds lain open with the bulbs lit!  I’m not sure I’d even want to walk into that building let alone tour the entire exhibition hall.

Granted, I’m biased.  I’m against tanning beds for obvious reasons.  At the same time, it doesn’t surprise me that there exists such a convention.  All industries have them.  Despite all the recent talk about gun control, there was still a gun show nearby within the last month.  Cigarette use has plummeted in the US, but I’m sure the tobacco industry still has its own gathering.  The Porn Industry has a big convention in Vegas every year (so I’ve heard)…and I’m sure they have their share of protestors.  So I don’t fault the tanning industry for gathering and comparing notes…it’s the American capitalist way.  But the video just oozed ignorance to the dangers of tanning.  The night club like lighting…the glitzy d├ęcor…and techno-funk music…all made the tanning biz seem like some non-stop orgy of golden skin delight.  It was sickening.

The second disappointing feature was a “diversion”…a statement regarding Supre Tan’s support of products sold ONLY at professional tanning salons.  Apparently there are quite a few imposters online that could pose a risk to one’s skin health.  Their statement read as follows:

Sure, ‘professional’ tanning products are available on the Internet.  Tempting as it is to buy them online, be warned.  There’s a dark side to these slick imposters.  They’re diverted products that may be contaminated, black market or counterfeit.

Counterfeit products often contain high levels of bacteria and other impurities.  Don’t endanger the health of your skin or the life of your tan.

Buy Supre products only from professional tanning salons.  And spread the word about the risks of buying professional tanning products anywhere else.

It’s your skin.  Take care of it.

Let me repeat the last line…”It’s your skin.  Take care of it.”  Yes, this was written by a company that thrives from the tanning salon market.  A product that studies have shown radically increases one’s chance of skin cancer and melanoma.  A product that is a declared carcinogen by the World Health Organization.  (Claims that the tanning industry will deny and dispute).

Today I read an article where the Skin Cancer Foundation lodged a formal complaint to the FTC stating that the Jersey Shore (Snooki’s show) reruns and subsequent spin-offs continue to promote tanning which in turn encourages young viewers to engage in cancer-causing habits.  The show is claimed to be deceptive as it fails to disclose the links between tanning and skin cancer. 

You may recall that I wrote a similar appeal to MTV back in April.  Read it here.

MTV stated that their viewers can be trusted to understand the difference between entertainment and responsible behavior.  This may be true for many…after all, I can’t imagine ANYONE taking the cast of Jersey Shore seriously.  But there are those that do.  The Skin Cancer Foundation suggested that MTV at least post a warning message at some point during the show.  This may not work overall, but it certainly can’t hurt.  Is MTV’s decision not to air such a disclaimer worth risking the life of one fan that lies in a tanning bed just to be like Snooki?

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Pale Guy Reads

I just finished reading “Pale Girl Speaks, a Year Uncovered” by Hillary Fogelson.  To read ANY book is a huge feat for me.  Because of my screwy sleep habits, I usually fall asleep before I scan one paragraph of anything I read short of the comic pages.  I guess pictures keep me alert.  I’ve typically kept up with my literary need through audio books while commuting to work.  Thank goodness I’ve yet to fall asleep at 70 MPH.

“Pale Girl Speaks” kept me alert.  Admittedly, I found it a tad difficult to read at first.  The writing style at the beginning can best be described as frantic.  The book starts with Hillary frantically cleaning her house moments before her parents’ arrival.  (I can certainly relate to this).  But before any expected character development occurs, melanoma appears suddenly and out of nowhere (doesn’t it always?).  Hillary’s frantic disposition refocuses from meeting her parents’ expectations to dealing with cancer. 

Who wouldn’t be frantic at a time like this?  Ms. Fogelson conveys frustration, anger, denial and all of the emotions involved with having melanoma.  Her persona early on is borderline irritating as she constantly calls her dermatologist for the latest pathology report.

“She (her dermatologist) knows all too well I can be a little too…involved.  A tad anxious.  A touch obsessive.  A bit of a fucking nut basket.”

The writing style soon becomes understandable and then eventually transforms very nicely as her year with melanoma is unveiled.  Much of her dialogue with others is written in scripted form (after all, she is an actress).  Again, I was thrown off by this style at first, but then I began to anxiously look forward to the next scripted conversation.

One word of warning…this woman can cuss enough to make a sailor blush.  Sometimes the raunchy words seem a bit unnecessary but in most moments, they add the needed splash of emotional color.  As I read deeper into the book, the mood becomes less frantic and foul and becomes more purposeful and at peace.  Hillary encounters several folks during her volunteer work at the hospital who give her insight as to how others are dealing with the disease.  They touch her.  Her words below echo my own experience with meeting new melanoma warriors.

“I’m meeting people in the most vulnerable time of their lives.  Many of them are confronting their own mortality – a few are still trying to accept their illness, some are struggling to make peace with it, others are looking to make peace with themselves, but all of them are willing to share.  Share all of it with me.  And it’s truly amazing.  These people!  I can’t believe these goddamned sick people!  I am constantly amazed at their strength.  They are so strong, so powerful.”

There are so many great comments in this book.  She has a great single paragraph rant about the frustrations many of us have felt about the general popularity and success of breast cancer awareness.  Like I have stated in the past myself, she doesn’t wish for less funds to go towards their cause, but she states about such supporters, “if they could pull themselves away from their pretty-in-pink ribbons for a goddamned second, they might be able to see that melanoma could use a little cash once in a blue moon.”

Anyone who has been touched by melanoma should most definitely read this book.  For those with melanoma, it’ll prove to be an echoing sounding board.  For those who have supported melanoma patients, it will give you some insight to your loved ones emotions and thoughts. 

Everyone else should also read this book!  Much of the written dialogue has sometimes subtle and sometimes blatant lessons on sun safety, skin cancer prevention, and life with melanoma.  The story of Hillary’s year is a mix of humor, frustration and hope.  Most of all, it’s a story of survival.

I don’t want to reveal any more details of the book than I already have, but I do want to state that the Author’s Notes at the conclusion contain the most powerful words concerning melanoma survivorship.  Do not skip this section!

“Pale Girl Speaks” definitely kept me alert.  The book also inspired me.  To call my father and ask how he’s REALLY doing.  To take one more look at the moles on my body.  To encourage others to keep getting your skin checked.  And to encourage you to read Hillary Fogelson’s story of her one year uncovered.