Friday, December 30, 2011

Sound Advice

I read an article the other day citing a study from Nancy University in France stating that some multi-vitamin pills containing vitamin E, ascorbic acid, beta-carotene, selenium and zinc increase the risk of malignant melanoma.  Ironically, during a visit to my general practitioner last month, I asked about whether or not I took too many supplements and vitamins.   For the most part, he supported my intake with only minor warnings for overuse of a couple supplements.  Overall, he didn’t completely didn’t completely debunk this study, but he seemed to think that there were far more studies supporting the individual benefits.  
It has been stated that “data” can be manipulated to benefit any side of an argument.  I’ve also heard it be said that any point of any argument can find some quote or passage from the Bible to back it up.  I have to believe the same is true of all the studies published or discussed about almost any medical issue.  The study in France was not about melanoma, but of whether or not multi-vitamins served any benefit to people at all.  In short, the study stated that there was no benefit, and in fact there were some statistical relations with increased melanoma risk as I mentioned above.  I would guess that further medical studies should be performed to validate this finding as my doctor implied.
I also read a letter in the Calgary Herald from a gentleman citing research from the UK which found no evidence for sun bed use as a risk factor for melanoma and only a small non-significant increased risk for those under 25.  Of course, this counters many other studies I’ve read from many reputable sources that state that tanning beds can be a direct contributor to melanoma.
Several melanoma survivors and warriors have issued warnings to others to not do your own research on the medical specifics of melanoma.  I have to agree with that.  For one thing, the true experts…your doctors, dermatologists and oncologists and their staffs are the ones that deal with your situation every day.  They are human and may not be perfect, but they are far more focused and informed than a large majority of internet articles and bloggers…including yours truly.
What I’m trying to say is, you can find any study which supports exactly what you don’t want to read, and yet you can find the same to help give you confidence.  The important thing is to always, ALWAYS confide in your doctors.  Ask them the questions…ask them to validate or debunk the article you’ve read.  Listen to other warriors who have been there as they share their experiences, fears and struggles…but always seek the medical advice from the professionals.
And that’s my advice for the day.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Don't Be Missed

Another Christmas has passed without my brother, Jeff.  He is included in so many holiday memories…from the EARLY Christmas mornings where we’d sneak around checking out Santa’s gifts, to the infamous Christmas golf ball, to more standard memories.  This year, more than last, he was truly missed.
He passed away in November last year…about the same time we all start decorating our houses for Christmas.  The post-funeral mourning sort of meandered its way into the holiday season…so missing him last year was more like an extension of his initial passing.  But this year, Christmas showed up with no pre-Thanksgiving grieving, but with the normal fanfare and anticipation that only one’s children can amplify to the most enjoyable levels.  No, this year we’d have no grieving period.  But damn was he missed.
Don’t get me wrong…I had a fantastic Christmas with my immediate family.  Santa confirmed to my kids that they were indeed good this past year…to record spoiling (and bankruptcy) levels.  The food prepared was delicious and filling.  And the company of my wife’s family visiting for Christmas dinner was excellent as always.  We always keep it simple and have ham sandwiches (real ham…not Oscar Meyer deli meat), three bean salad, potato salad…almost as if it were a summer picnic.  After dinner we exchanged gifts.  We surprised my in-laws by having their old 8mm home movies converted to DVD.  This of course spawned all sorts of stories of Christmases and relationships of the past.  This was exactly like the type of conversation Jeff and I would have had.
I laughed at their stories and had genuine interest of the various uncles and their hijinks of yester-year.  But deep inside, I missed my brother.  I wasn’t grieving any more…I was just missing him.
I’ve been suffering from blogger’s block lately because, frankly, I’ve had nothing but family and “Jeff thoughts” of late.  My intent in this blog was never to be a Jeff Grieving site…but to be an outlet to create awareness for skin cancer.  So in that regard, let me add one melanoma-related thought.
Melanoma kills people.  It kills family.  It makes those family members be missed.  To keep your loved ones from grieving your illness or your death, do what you can to prevent this mostly- preventable form of cancer.
Don’t be missed.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Ignore the Boundaries

My Facebook page “Likes” have surpassed 800.  Thank you SO much…I never would have thought that a few months ago that I would even have 20 people following my page.  It means a lot.
One of my personal traits (quirks most likely) is that I tend to make lists.  I can make a great list of projects (and not complete one), Christmas gifts (but hate to shop) and just random stuff.  For my Facebook page, I started to keep a list of all the people that have “liked” it.  All 800 plus!
I recently modified the list a bit and included where folks live.  Many people keep such information private on their Facebook page (I don’t blame them), but I still have a pretty good idea how widespread the readership has reached.  By my count, I’ve been visited by at least 33 states and 10 countries! My Blogspot statistics show that I've had nearly 15,000 pageviews fomr even more countries.  Amazing!  Honestly, it’s not the location of “likers” that amazes me, but the diversity of the people.
I’ve been very pleased to see teenagers follow our words, and humbled by compliments from those who are more elderly and wiser than me.  There are people who have very strong Christian faith, those who follow other faiths as devoutly, and some that follow no set religion at all.  I’ve seen photos of heavily tattooed or pierced individuals, and images of pure untouched innocence.  And I’ve sensed great wealth from a few and financial hardship from others.  All these people from all walks of life are brought together by one thing.  Melanoma
That nasty sneaky brutal son of a gun…melanoma…has proven to be a force to bond across many boundaries.  While the Beast prefers lighter-toned skin and the practices of tanning addicts, it still touches all races.  It bows to no higher power as it invades people of any religion or belief.  It ignores any age difference.  It has no political preference as I’ve seen it affect conservative tea partiers and liberal occupiers.
Unlike forces of nature like earthquakes or tsunamis, melanoma feels far more personal to those who have been attacked.  A storm may affect hundreds in an isolated area, but the disease has a way of affecting thousands worldwide while still feeling like it’s picking on the one person.  The only way we can beat it is use its own power against it. 
Melanoma ignores boundaries and so should we.  We need to bond together as individuals spread around the world to raise awareness and fight this thing.  We must forget whether or not the person next to us worships in the same house, has a different sexual orientation, or is more or less well-off than yourself.  It’s time to clasp hands and join as one to fight melanoma.  It’s a lesson that the disease itself teaches us. 
Ignore the boundaries.


I don't like this one
I’ve not really introduced my family to the BITNP gang.  I suppose I tend to keep my personal life private…even though this is a forum where many folks share some pretty personal stuff.  Still, I try to keep this blog related to Melanoma and Skin Cancer Awareness with occasional personal stories of my brother Jeff who inspired this campaign.  But today, I’ll take a moment to talk about my wife Kim.
I won’t share much…she’s shy that way and would probably rather me just keep quiet.  But she’s allowing me to share a recent experience.  Like me, she’s blonde-haired, fair-skinned and rather “moley”…and she also used to lifeguard during the summers years ago.  I guess in this case, likes attract. 
I had encouraged her to see her dermatologist for quite some time.  She’s had acne and Rosacea issues in the past, but I was more concerned about a few spots on her back and arms.  (I wonder from where I got that paranoia?)  She finally went for an appointment about 2 weeks ago.
She told me in the evening that a “spot” had been cut out and that the doctors were taking a look at it.  Having read many of your accounts, I looked forward to receiving a simple voicemail or letter that said everything was fine.  What we got was a voicemail to call the office back.  Naturally, I got a little worried.
It turns out it was an atypical mole…a dysplastic nevi.  As many of you know, this is something “to keep an eye on”…and I know that many of you simply have the doctor cut it out.  We trust this dermatologist, so for now, we’ll keep a very close eye.  I took photos and measurements of several moles and she has a return visit scheduled in three months.  This seems aggressive behavior for “a mole”…but I’m glad it’s being taken.
Kim doesn’t share the same interest or fascination with Facebook and online networking as I…so she’ll probably rarely be online.  But I told her that this group of individuals…fellow Molemates and BITNP’ers …is one of the best groups of people from whom to gather info and support.  Still, I’ll most likely be her voice here and I hope that I won’t have much to say.  I hope it continues to be “just a mole.”