Friday, December 28, 2012

2013 Melanoma Awareness Resolu...umm...Plans

Each year I decide upon a set of personal New Year’s Resolutions.  I guess I use the calendar change as a benchmark as to where I am versus a year ago…and set goals as to where I’d like to be in another year.  Consider it a personal employee evaluation.  So let’s review last year’s personal resolutions.

1.       Lose 15 pounds. (I gained 8)
2.       Become more financially secure. (Fiscal cliff?  HA!  I’ve been in a Fiscal Abyss for several months now!  Help!)
3.       Reduce the amount of time spent at work. (I may change my mailing address to “the butt at my desk.”)
4.       Spend more time at home with my wife and kids. (See mailing address above)
5.       Eat healthy foods.  (I ate a salad at McD’s yesterday, but dang that pizza tonight tasted sooo good!)
6.       Exercise more. (Ummmmm…does grunting when I get out of bed count?)
7.       Get more sleep. (Have you noticed how late I usually write these posts?)

Okay…so I fell a bit short this past year.  But I intend to make the exact same resolutions this year (except now to lose 23 pounds) and this year I’ll meet them all.  Yep.  I sure will.  Uh huh.

Isn’t the definition of insanity the act of expecting a different outcome while attempting the same task over and over?  Just wondering.

Anyhow, I’m not here to preach about my personal resolutions.  Instead, I want to share my other resolut…umm…let’s not call them resolutions.  Or even goals.  Let’s just call them plain ol’ plans.  Why?  Because I damn well will work towards these tasks and I don’t plan on falling short!  These are my plans in 2013 with regards to melanoma awareness and sun safety.

1.       Continue writing this blog at least once a week if not more frequently.  Lately, I’ve felt that I’ve shared it all over and over.  I felt the same way last year…I’m sure it’s just the holiday rush.  But just as the Grinch had a mountaintop epiphany, I realize that it’s okay to repeat the same message over and over.  Wear sunscreen…get your skin checked…stay out of tanning beds.  Over and over…it’s a message that NEEDS to be heard!  I won’t stop!

2.       Share the message of sun safety and skin screenings with everyone I can…not just in this blog.  I won’t leap out of dark alleys brandishing sunscreen, but I’ll ask my friends and co-workers if they’ve had their skin checked lately.

3.       Use any talents I have to assist with the passage of the Ban the Tan bill in North Carolina.  I plan to write my representatives and help others write to theirs.  I plan to write several blogs sharing stories of North Carolina citizens who have been touched by melanoma.  I will be heard and they WILL listen.  And they WILL pass the bill!

4.        Promote the next AIM Walk in Charlotte as much as possible and hopefully attend again.

5.       Promote the Amanda-Corey Memorial walk for MRF held in my hometown, and help make it the biggest melanoma awareness event in eastern North Carolina.

6.       Wear sunscreen and get my skin checked.

The best part of these resolu…umm…plans is that you can do them, too!  Spread the word, write your representatives in your town, county or state, and participate in a walk or other fund-raiser.  And by all means, wear your sunscreen and get your skin checked!

2012 was a great year for melanoma awareness…and 2013 will be even better.  You can count on that!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Good Question



How old do you have to be to own a gun?

Hmmm…the law says 18 years old, 21 for hand guns.


Because the government wisely determined that guns can be very dangerous and it takes an older person to understand the risks and responsibilities.



How old do you have to be to buy alcohol?

State law says 21 years old.


Because the government wisely determined that drinking alcohol can be very dangerous and it takes an older person to understand the risks and responsibilities.



How old do you have to be to drive a car?

State law says you have to be 16 years old.


Because the government wisely determined that driving a car can be dangerous and it takes an older person to understand the risks and responsibilities.



How old do you have to be to buy cigarettes?

State law says you have to be 18 years old.


Because the government wisely determined that smoking cigarettes can be dangerous and it takes an older person to understand the risks and responsibilities.



How old do you have to be to go to a tanning salon?

State law says you can go when you're 14 with just written permission from your parent.

Couldn't that be faked?



Didn't you tell me that tanning beds have a link to skin cancer?

Doesn't drinking, smoking, shooting and wreckless driving also cause problems?
Then why hasn't the government made any wise determinations regarding tanning salons?
Good question.

Friday, December 14, 2012

The Christmas Ball

I originally posted the story of the Christmas Ball in 2006 in my personal blog.  I re-posted here last year, but then removed as I entered the story in a writing contest (I didn't win).  I've rewritten the story this year from a retrospective view.  Please enjoy.
On the east side of my house is a small dining room.  In the corner of the dining room sits a small shelving unit.  On the shelves are displayed various figurines and knick knacks honoring the holiday season.  On the bottom shelf sits an ugly metal cube.  Within the cage-like cube sits a tattered and scarred golf ball.  And within this golf ball rests my fondest Christmas memory.

It all started about 30 years ago when my brother Jeff and I were golfing.  We were neither skilled nor rich (which hasn’t changed at all for me).  At some point, we both spotted a lost golf ball in the tall grass with an “Elmer Fike” logo printed upon it. (Elmer Fike was a local chemical company just up the river from the golf course).  Finding a “free” ball was as valuable as a birdie for two novice hackers such as us.  Naturally, we both laid claim to the find, but rather than wrestle in the middle of the fairway, we decided that whichever of us won that hole would win the ball.  (To this day, I still think he cheated).

A few years after that, we were still young and broke, but we made sure to exchange gifts every Christmas despite living hundreds of miles apart.  We made sure our gifts were small enough to package and ship cheaply.  Mind you that this was way before gift cards.  Naturally, each gift exchange included one token prank gift.  One year, I received a small tootsie-roll shaped package.  It turned out to be an empty toilet paper roll with the golf ball inside.  (I’m guessing that he felt guilty about cheating).  Not to be out done, I returned the ball to Jeff the next year in similar packaging.  This continued on for a number of years with the joke being that we knew what the gift would be.  Family members would look under the tree before Christmas to find the golf ball.  It turned into a “Where’s Waldo” of presents.

One year, I decided to change the rules a bit.  While shopping for a gift in a toy and game store, I found a 3D puzzle that looked like it could possibly hold a golf ball.  To dismantle the puzzle, several complex moves were required.  I felt this was the perfect “packaging” to totally annoy Jeff on Christmas morning.  Little did I know, a Christmas tradition was born that would be followed by many.

The next year, I did not receive a tootsie-roll package from Jeff, but a box big enough to hold a softball or grapefruit.  Inside was a golf ball-shaped candle.  Naturally, inside of the wax was the golf ball.  In the spirit of unwrapping the gift, I lit the wick later that night.  It stayed lit until a putrid odor emitted from the candle.  The golf ball was on fire!  This would be the first of many scars.

The Ball before being caged

Over the years, the golf ball had been packaged many ways.  One year I inserted the ball into a snow globe and it somehow survived the shipment without leaking.  Another year I had inserted it into a home-made ornament and sent it to his wife, who was a teacher and had a special tree set up with only hand-made ornaments from her students.  The first Christmas after my kids were born, I packed it in a “used” diaper using oatmeal and melted chocolate for that realistic visual effect.  Yet another year, I enclosed it within a stack of super-glued Lego bricks.

Not to be outdone, Jeff returned the ball to me in very unique packaging as well.  In honor of my cats, he once wrapped it in a basketball-sized ball of yarn.  Another year, he encased it in a commemorative brick.  He had also sent it within a “kissing ball” decoration, and more deliciously he packaged it in a huge chocolate kiss one year as well as his last shipment in hard candy.  You can understand all the scars on the ball…but each one represented something more special.

I shipped it one last time back in 2006.  I asked a local machine shop if they could enclose it in a metal cage of sorts.  They were eager to help, but alas, a little too eager.  Not only did they enclose it, they welded it within hardened steel that was essentially impossible to penetrate.  In retrospect, I should have stressed that it could be somehow opened.  Unfortunately, that brought an end to the exchange as there was no way to remove the ball without destroying it.  Jeff supposedly kept the ball in his office at work as a conversation piece and paper weight.

While that seemed like a sad ending for a great tradition (which was followed by radio stations and newspapers), it created a great trophy.  We decided to start a new tradition of exchanging retro toys (think Etch-a-sketch, etc.) but it really wasn’t the same.  My last prank gift received was a t-shirt and stuffed bear advertising Cocoa Wheats hot cereal.  (When I was a kid, Cocoa Wheats was the ONLY thing I would eat for breakfast).  I received that during the Christmas season of 2009.  The stuffed bear still sits on my night stand.

Cocoa and Zack

As you know, Jeff passed away in November 2010.  When I went home to West Virginia for the funeral, my sister-in-law brought one thing along from their home in Ohio…the Christmas Ball.  She knew I wanted to have it.  I needed to have it.  Ever since then, I keep the ball, metal cage and all, on a shelf beside my computer desk.  It rests between a tacky WVU piggy bank and an autographed football from the 1977 WVU football team…both gifts from my brother.  But during the holiday season, I bring it out along with all the red and green and silver and gold to showcase and celebrate the holiday season.  For me, that scarred golf ball in an ugly welded cage is the best symbol of Christmas joy and family love I could  imagine.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

To Switch Dermatologists or Not?

Last week, my co-worker, Elliot, told me about a new dermatologist’s office that opened up near our work place.  I figured he was just letting me know since he knew of my campaign against skin cancer.  This afternoon, he offered up a review of this new office because he had visited for a full skin check.  “They checked everything, soup to nuts.”  He was very excited about having gone (after my continued insistence to all co-workers) and promised to share the results of the one mole biopsy that was performed.
Yea Elliot!

He said one thing that stuck out. 

“There was not one advertisement in the waiting room for cosmetic treatment.”

I’ve brought up this point before.  The last time I visited my dermatologist (November 1), I couldn’t help but notice pamphlets and brochures on every conceivable cosmetic procedure…yet not one single thing offered about skin cancer.  While I trust my doctor, this little evidence of focus bothered me.

I decided to compare the two office’s websites.  Here’s my dermatologist’s home page:.

As you can see, while my dermatologist offers up full general dermatology services, the focus of the home page seems to be on the cosmetic services.  And because both lists are listed alphabetically, “Skin Cancer” is listed far below “Dandruff” and “Hair Loss.”

Here’s my co-worker’s dermatologist’s home page.

I blotted out all the basic information, but you can see that all services, both general and cosmetic are listed on the right.  The interesting difference is that the list is not alphabetically, but apparently in order of importance to the dermatologist, with "Skin Cancer" listed first.

While I know what your answer will be, which dermatologist would you choose if concerned about skin cancer?

Me, too.  I've got a decision to make before my next exam in November 2013.  I'll let you know what I decide.