Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Tears in the Turkey

The holidays are upon us ... as we are constantly reminded through TV, radio, magazines, newspapers, store decorations, and the internet ... and they can be a very depressing time for many.

This year it seems that we jumped straight from Halloween into Christmas, with Thanksgiving being ignored ... or straight from "give me candy" to "give me presents" and bypassing the "giving thanks" part! Sadly it makes sense because Christmas and Halloween are retail driven, whereas with Thanksgiving, not so much unless you are a turkey farmer!

But Thanksgiving will happen. It is a warm and fuzzy (and yummy) family-focused holiday that is wonderful for those with families who can gather together for the celebration. However, we should not forget that this is not easy or possible for many, and the feelings that go along with that can be extremely complex.

Some come from a different culture in which Thanksgiving is not a part of their holidays, and they may feel left out. Some people have no families so a holiday with so much emphasis on family could certainly leave them feeling depressed and isolated. Some families are scattered far apart, and because of finances, health, time, or any other number of reasons cannot be together and they may feel sad, lonely, and even guilt-ridden. I feel their pain; they are not alone!

Some families have members who are on the other side of the world serving our country and perhaps in harm's way, so the holiday might make them miss those loved ones even more. Some will have to work on Thanksgiving and unable to share the holiday with family, and they may question if their sacrifice is appreciated. Others might have no job and no money to prepare a fest, and they may be concerned over how they will feed their family over the coming weeks and months. I feel their pain; they are not alone!

Some will be celebrating their first Thanksgiving, and I actually missed Thanksgiving with my family one year when I was in the hospital delivering my second son Tim. And sadly, some will be celebrating their last.

Some might be ill and have no energy to join the family in the celebration; they shouldn't feel guilty, but they probably will. Some families only have the strength to sit at the bedside of a frail and dying family member, with no interest in cooking or even eating a holiday meal because they are physically and emotionally drained. Some families will be grieving the loss of a loved one, and the empty chair at the Thanksgiving table will be too much for them to bear. Their hearts will be shattered all over again. I feel their pain; they are not alone!

So while you are enjoying the warmth and love of your family turkey dinner and contemplating all you have to be thankful for, remember that others may be having a difficult time just getting through the holidays. Open your hearts and let them know that they are not alone. Not everyone's Thanksgiving will look like the pictures on greeting cards!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Melanoma Mama (Jaime's mom, Donna) (Remember Jaime) (Jjem Creations) (Jjem Creations)

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Pink Sisters, I Feel Your Pain

Did you know that October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month? If not, you must live under a rock! We are constantly reminded of this by the sea of pink surrounding us. Some of us call it Pinktober because of the pink obsessiveness; I have even heard breast cancer patients call it "Puketober."

While the other cancer communities (like my melanoma community) drool at the amount of awareness and recognition all this pinkness brings to breast cancer, many in their community believe that the pink campaign is excessive and not delivering the right message. A giant case of be careful what you wish for ...

And I get it. All the pink ribbons have not given the breast cancer patients a cure; they have not given advanced stage breast cancer patients much in the way of hope. Don't get me wrong. Awareness is great, but I think there is a saturation point ... and in my opinion, it has been breached!

As I discussed in my blog "Pinktober," businesses are profiting from Pinktober more than breast cancer patients ... and there is definitely something wrong with that picture. But it goes further than that. There are campaigns to save the boobies, save the hooters, save the ta-tas ... but what about saving the men and women who have breast cancer.  Sexualizing a cancer will not cure it.

Unfortunately the breast cancer community is struggling with playful pink as their awareness color and brand as well as all the fun and games supposedly created for awareness. Decorating bras might be a fun thing to do, but probably not a great reminder to those who no longer have a need for bras. We all know, or at least we should, that there is nothing fun or playful or party-like about any cancer. It trivializes those fighting for their lives and disrespects those whose lives have been lost ... and it sure doesn't cure cancer!

This video points out how out of control Pinktober has become:

In the melanoma community, we understand too well what the breast cancer community is feeling as far as having their cancer trivialized. We have heard way too many times -- "Melanoma? Oh, that's just skin cancer. Cut it out and you'll be fine." And perhaps you remember back a couple years when the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) tried to turn melanoma's awareness color of black to orange. Black was too depressing, they thought ... NEWSFLASH, melanoma IS depressing! They wanted something more bright and cheerful and attention-getting (like the sun that caused many of the cases of melanoma???).

For Melanoma Monday, a day reserved not only for spreading awareness but also for honoring melanoma warriors and remembering our fallen, the AAD encouraged dermatologists and their staff to wear orange and throw parties, with orange cupcakes, confetti, and streamers. Can you imagine being given a life-threatening melanoma diagnosis in the midst of such a party or by a doctor blowing orange party favors?

So, I understand what it is like to have a cancer presented as less evil than it really is, especially one that has severely impacted your life and broken your heart. The marketing people who come up with these ideas of fun and playful awareness obviously have never held a loved one with cancer in their arms while they took their last breath. Their approach is thoughtless and insensitive and, sadly, ... it doesn't cure the cancer!!

Many in the breast cancer community and beyond will be grateful to see November push out Pinktober because it has gone too far! The need for breast cancer awareness has passed, and the pink ribbon has now ventured into commercialization. And to make matters even worse, breast cancer patients feel their cancer is being trivialized and sexualized. The pink has gone amuck ... and does all this really help in the search for the cure?

 Melanoma Mama (Jaime's mom, Donna) (Remember Jaime) (Jjem Creations) (Jjem Creations)

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Pinktober: The New October

It's October, and Fall is in the air in many areas of the country (although it is still Summer in my neck of the woods, Texas). Autumn is starting to strut its color palette of the turning leaves: golds, oranges, reds, browns. Mother Nature is showing off her breath-taking display ... but it is being obscured by pinkwashing. Cool, feminine, and flirty pink has become a man-made intrusion into the warm, rich colors of Fall.
This used to be October ...

and now it looks like this ...
and this!!

This explosion of pink has actually taken over the month of October, all in the name of breast cancer awareness. It has gotten so in-your-face obnoxious that October is now called "Pinktober" by many both in and out of the breast cancer community. But more on that later ...

First join me as I ponder over the timing of this pinkness. It is interesting to me that the color pink, a very Spring-ish pastel color, is so prevalent in the Fall. Wonder what the thinking was on that? Isn't it curious that a cancer using pink as its awareness color doesn't have March or April as its special awareness month? Do you think the fact that football is a Fall sport and perhaps needed to
be spiced up with lots of pink accessories was part of the decision-making on that? If the powers-that-be wanted October as their awareness month, why didn't they select a typical Fall color ... like orange? Marketing companies get paid big bucks to figure out these things ... but the logic just isn't there for me. Not that any of this matters; it is just one of those things rattling around in my brain looking for answers. Thanks for indulging me!

Now getting back to Pinktober, it is no secret that I am not a fan. But please don't just call me a hater and dismiss me. I don't hate breasts (I actually have a couple of those myself); I don't hate pink (it was my daughter Jaime's favorite color but not so much mine) ... but I DO hate cancer (and melanoma, the cancer that killed my Jaime, in particular)! I DO support breast cancer awareness and research. I was one of the founding members of the Susan G. Komen chapter in our county about 30 years ago. I have lost too many friends and family members to this disease, and I actually, because of a pre-breast cancer condition diagnosed earlier this year, have my own breast cancer surgeon whom I visit often.

But enough is enough already with the pink!! Pink is everywhere ... from trash cans to PF Chang horse statues ... even drill bits used for fracking. Pink ribbons adorn almost every product on store shelves. You don't have to look hard in the Hunt for the PINK OCTOBER! If you love pink, you are in pink cotton-candy heaven. But for some of us, it just makes us feel like we are drowning in a sea of Pepto-Bismal!

Is this crazy pinkness doing its job to raise breast cancer awareness? Better question: Is there anyone out there who already isn't aware of breast cancer? And an even better question: How many lives are being saved by this awareness campaign? Is it raising funding for research? Possibly, but not near what it should be. Most likely it is raising money for the businesses that advertise the pinkness. Pink has become a commercial honey pot!

Buying your drink in a pink cup may make you feel all warm and fuzzy, but that is probably all it will do. My guess is that businesses are jumping on the pink bandwagon to capture your business and not because of their strong desire to cure breast cancer. Unfortunately, most consumers are not aware that there are no regulations on which products can advertise with the pink ribbon ... even products not remotely connected to cancer or that contain chemicals that research has shown possibly cause breast cancer. Now in defense of cat litter, read my blog From Litterbox to Laboratory!

And what about all the other cancers, many you have probably not even heard of? What about awareness and research funding for those? Shouldn't we be concerned about ALL cancers ... about finding a cure for ALL cancers and not just the pink one?

Today I saw an ad for Swarovski crystals, stating that for this month a donation would be given to a breast cancer foundation based on all pink crystals sold. Before Jaime died, she designed and created awareness bracelets for all cancers using Swarovski crystals. I have continued to make them in her honor so I am aware of the different colors used for different cancers. I have never seen donations made for buying gold crystals for childhood cancer in September or black crystals for melanoma in May, etc. ... just pink in October.

My point? There are more colors than pink, and there are more cancers than breast cancer. Everyone is so fixated on breasts ... but what about colons, lungs, livers, thyroids, brains, skin? Last I checked there is no cure for any of these cancers once they have reached an advanced stage. As a melanoma advocate, I admit to being biased and even a bit (okay, a lot!) jealous of all the attention and funding that breast cancer gets, but recently, to be quite honest, the pinkness has become overwhelming and its results questionable.

And why the focus on breasts instead of on the lives of those who have the
breasts? Decorating bras may be fun, but it must be hurtful to those who no longer have a need for bras. But that is another blog for another day ...

Melanoma Mama (Jaime's mom, Donna) (Remember Jaime) (Jjem Creations) (Jjem Creations)

Monday, September 8, 2014

Not Music to My Ears

I admit it. I have a lot of anger toward the indoor tanning industry. My daughter Jaime was a tanning bed addict when she was in high school and college ... up until she was diagnosed with melanoma, a potentially fatal type of skin cancer, when she was 20. She fought this damn disease for her entire adult life but died when she was 29. A beautiful young life cut way too short, all because of tanning bed use. So I think my anger is justified.

To fan the flames of my anger, tanning beds are still very popular, particularly among teens and young adults. Vanity wins over sanity every time. Everyone knows how dangerous UV radiation is ... or at least everyone should know ... and yet the indoor tanning business is thriving while leaving behind a trail of young dead bodies.

The American Cancer Society and various skin cancer/melanoma foundations and medical organizations, the FDA, the CDC, the US Surgeon General (and me!) have all come out with warnings about the use of tanning beds ... but our pleas are basically ignored.

Why? Because our culture promotes being tan. Reality TV shows and magazines equate being tan with being sexy, and fitness centers promote the idea that a tan is healthy, when, in fact, neither is true. A tan is just the often deadly result of UV radiation damage.

A friend who understands my obsession with getting the message out about the dangers of tanning beds made me aware of this music video (UV Love) by Clinton Sparks. A sweet little romantic ballad it's NOT, so consider yourself warned if you watch it! From the title, you can probably guess that it is filmed in a tanning salon with young women roasting in tanning beds.

I can't understand the lyrics when I listen to the song, but I still don't understand them when I read them! (lyrics) But the lyrics don't even matter. It is the visual that gives the perception that tanning is a positive and acceptable activity.

Now I know I am out of touch with the current music scene (The Lettermen is still one of my favorite groups), and I admit that I have never heard of this guy. My hope is that this recording artist (term used very loosely) is not very popular because the message he is sending, that frying your skin in a tanning bed is sexy, is just flirting with death.

I'm not going to kid myself or you into thinking that kids listen to my preaching (or their parents') about staying out of tanning beds more than they listen to music videos like this one that are targeted to their age group and reach out and grab them.

Kids don't have to use any time or effort thinking about what this video is projecting ... that being tan makes you sexy and desirable and popular and fun. After all, these videos are made to make money; same goal as the indoor tanning industry, no matter the damage they do.

In contrast, my message tells them that tanning could kill them, but kids are certain that will not happen to them. They're too young to worry about that, right? That's what my Jaime thought too!

We must change the way our culture promotes tan bodies ... from the media to the fitness centers to the world of music. Some may claim this video was created with artistic license, but I claim it is irresponsible and driving kids and young adults to participate in an activity that is similar to playing Russian roulette with their lives. Reminds me of the cigarette ads with the sexy, manly Marlboro man!

When the US Surgeon General recently released a Call to Action against skin cancer, he was reaching out to everyone to do their part. Clint Sparks apparently thinks he is exempt. Some people, like the indoor tanning industry, will do anything for a buck ... even put young lives at risk. Why should freedom of artistic expression be acceptable when it is promoting dangerous activity?

Can you see why I'm so angry???

 Melanoma Mama (Jaime's mom, Donna) (Remember Jaime) (Jjem Creations) (Jjem Creations)

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Labors of Love

Labor Day ... marks the unofficial end of summer (but no excuse to stop using your sunscreen!) and the welcoming of the Fall season. Not only is it celebrated with cookouts and a 3-day holiday but tons of sales, sales, and more sales! According to Wikipedia, Labor Day "is a celebration of the American labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of workers."

Okay, so we have a holiday to pay tribute to the American workforce and economic achievement, and don't get me wrong, working for a wage and being financially stable is important ... but does everything have to be about making a buck? What about a long weekend designated to celebrate  "labors of love"?

I define labors of love as meaningful actions that you do with no financial compensation, and we could come up with a long list of those. Giving birth (the true meaning of LABOR), raising a family, being a loving and patient caregiver to an elderly parent or a loved one with illness, adopting a pet, volunteering ... all extremely important although none makes us wealthy.

We have probably all performed many labors of love throughout our lives, but there is still time to do so much more ... and so much more is needed.

There are small labors of love that are simply random acts of kindness that we all should remember to do ... smile at a stranger, say thank you to a store clerk, call or send a card to someone who would be cheered by just knowing you are thinking of them, take a meal to someone who is sick or grieving, hand a cold bottle of water (in summer heat) or a cup of hot chocolate (in winter cold) to your mailman, make a donation to your favorite charity. The possibilities are endless, and they truly make a difference to someone's day!

But I'm really thinking of larger labors of love that take more effort and time and commitment ... plan or participate in a fundraiser, donate blood, volunteer at a nursing home or hospital or school or animal shelter, become a coach for a kid's sports team or a leader for a scout troop, teach a Sunday school class. Get the idea?

I've always been a little (okay, a lot) obsessive about volunteering ... so much so that my efforts were acknowledged with the Volunteer of the Year award in my community of Plano, TX, many years ago. I didn't set out to be so involved in our schools and community; there's just so many wonderful projects that need (wo)manpower that I couldn't resist. Volunteering can be addictive!

When my only daughter Jaime died from melanoma 7 years ago, that following week I did what I swore I would never, ever do. I became a melanoma advocate and the indoor tanning industry's worst nightmare. Watching her struggle with this evil disease, I had thought that once her fight was over, I never wanted to hear the word melanoma again. But over the 9 years of her journey with this cancer, it is what I had come to know and experience, and what I had come to hate ... and something I didn't want other families to have in their lives.

So melanoma advocacy has been my constant labor of love since my last labor of love as Jaime's caregiver ended. I didn't choose it; it chose me. Some think I do this to heal ... but if you have ever lost a child, you know that you can never heal, no matter what actions you take or don't take!

To be honest, I don't even particularly enjoy this labor of love that has attached itself to me, especially as I shed tears watching wonderful people die (too often young adults) and friends and families suffer on what seems like a daily basis. I question why I do what I do when I hear the lies and deception that comes out of the indoor tanning industry and sun worshipers. I scream when I hear the false reasoning of many state legislators regarding the protection of their youth from tanning bed use. I beat my head against the wall when I hear the excuses coming from schools about why the kids can't bring sunscreen to school or wear hats when outside. But this is MY labor of love so I keep doing it, hoping to make a small difference, ... and I will continue to do so until I am no longer able or until melanoma no longer exists.

But you have lots and lots of choices for your own labor of love. Don't worry about "what's in it for me," because what you get out of your labor of love will be so much greater than what you put in ... even if you can't take it to the bank.
Just pick something already, something you are passionate about or have a curiosity to learn more about. Maybe even step out of your comfort zone and try something challenging. You can't fail and many can benefit. Don't wait for a designated holiday ... make the effort to participate in a labor of love as often as you can!

 Melanoma Mama (Jaime's mom, Donna) (Remember Jaime) (Jjem Creations) (Jjem Creations)

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Bzzzing for a Cancer Cure

Lately, we have been reading about a lot of bizarre "possible" cures for cancer. Most recently I have written blogs about the miraculous cure possibilities of smelling farts (Pull My Finger...Save a Life) and then came the amazing potential of cat poop (From Litterbox to Laboratory) as THE cure. And now today, part 3 of this suspenseful trilogy just streamed into my newsfeed.

It seems everyone is buzzing about the discovery that the venom from bees, scorpions, and snakes may offer the promise of a future cure (Bee, Scorpion, and Snake Venom May Hold Cancer Cure) using nanotechnology. It's all very ssssslick ssssscience, and here is another article about the role of nanoparticles in curing cancer (Nanoparticles -- The Next Cure for Cancer), but,

could we just please find a cure for cancer already???

(Side note: Speaking of venom, where you aware that the male duck-billed platypus, which carries venom inside ankle spurs, is one of the few venomous mammals? Consider your life enriched with this piece of trivia!)

But back to the bees, scorpions, and snakes (Ugh ... gives me the creeps but it's for the common good!!). Actually, the idea of venom-based cures from fangs and stingers is not new. There is history of their use as far back as 67 BC. And the Brazilian pit viper venom has led to development of ACE inhibitors for high blood pressure. So perhaps this line of research isn't quite as bizarre as it might first appear, but,

could we just please find a cure for cancer already???

When my daughter Jaime was fighting cancer, there was talk about birch tree bark and mushrooms as a cure for her melanoma. NCI wanted to inject her with the herpes virus for their research. Some of her fellow melanoma patients were getting jolts of electricity. It's good that scientists are reaching ... really reaching and thinking outside the box ... to find a possible cure for cancer, but,

could we just please find a cure for cancer already???

Over the years, so many "encouraging" possibilities as cures for cancer have been suggested -- red wine, coffee, pine bark, peanut butter, blueberries, antioxidants (and then not antioxidants), vitamin C (or maybe vitamin C makes cancer worse), and even tanning beds according to the indoor tanning industry (but NOT to be believed). Just do a Google search for cancer cures -- cannabis oil, zebrafish, gold, cow urine, aspirin, frankincense, sloths. What the heck is a sloth anyway??? So it doesn't seem like I am asking too much when I plead,

could we just please find a cure for cancer already???

Now, I admit that I am not a patient person. But billions of dollars have been donated to cancer research over the many years of our "War on Cancer," and sadly, as you read this, way too many cancer patients are clinging to life, hoping and praying for a cure. It is too late for my forever-29-year-old Jaime and our family, but a cancer cure could make a huge difference in the lives of millions of others. So please keep these warriors and their families in mind when you experiment with cat poop parasites and odiferous gases and "nanobees," and maybe, just maybe,

could we just please find a cure for cancer already???

Melanoma Mama (Jaime's mom, Donna) (Remember Jaime) (Jjem Creations) (Jjem Creations)

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

There Goes Another Little Piece of My Life

Most of you reading this are probably a lot younger than I am, with most of your life ahead of you instead of behind you, so you may not understand this blog. That's okay ... just come back when you're older and maybe you will get it then.

One day, years ago, when my dad was in his early 90s, I asked him why he seemed so sad. He told me that his past was dying as, one by one, each person he had known in his younger years was departing. I didn't understand then ... but I am getting the picture now.

When I watched melanoma devour my 29-year-old daughter Jaime, I felt like I was losing her piece by piece. Whether it was the disease or the surgery to try to stop the cancer, all I could do was sit by her and hold her hand and love her while she left me one piece at a time.

Then when Jaime died, she took a huge part of me with her ... so many pieces from the past, present, and future. How many pieces did I have left? I have tried to make the most of what was left of me, with the love and support of my dear husband and sons ... but it is like trying to put together a puzzle with half the pieces missing.

Over the years since she has been gone, more pieces have disappeared ... her pets die, her husband becomes part of a new family, her car is traded in. Piece by piece, I grieve the lose of each one because it is a part of her that is no longer.

With each year that passes, I am losing more pieces of my past ... piece by piece ... although I really didn't think about it until this week. This week I was slapped in the face with reality; my past is being torn away, just like Jaime was, one piece at a time.

Last week  I received the news that Gary, my 1965  prom date (Fairmont West High School, Kettering, Ohio) and my first serious boyfriend (not counting Elvis), had died. Gary and I shared a past together of about 5 years during high school and college. It was a Romeo and Juliet-type romance, and like the play, it didn't end well. But he has always had a place in
my heart.

I last saw Gary at our 25th high school reunion; our 50th will be next year. We had a wonderful week-end catching up and learning about our families and current lives and the people we had become over our lost 20 years. After that we corresponded for a while and then lost touch. My thoughts and condolences are, of course, with his 4 sons and his ex-wife, whom I met and is delightful.

Gary's death has had a profound effect on me that I wasn't expecting. Every time I read one of my classmates' obituaries, even if I did not know them well, I feel like "there goes another little piece of my life." It seems so many are leaving me behind with memories once shared that now only live in me. Gary and I shared years of memories, some good and some not, but they were memories that only we shared. Now there is just me, mourning not only the loss of an old friend but also the pieces of me and my youth that he took with him.

Rest in peace, Gary ... goodbye, my friend. You were not perfect, but you were perfectly Gary! I'm glad you were a part of my life, and you will not be forgotten.

I am not a deep-thinker so this blog is giving me a headache, but please consider this as a reminder that we need to live each day the best we can because tomorrow is not promised. Tell your friends and loved ones what you want them to know because there might not be another chance. And work on your legacy so when your obituary is written, it will say that you kicked some butt or were a bonafide badass or really did something with the time you were here.

 “What you are is what you have been. What you’ll be is what you do now.” – Buddha

Melanoma Mama (Jaime's mom, Donna)

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Monday, July 21, 2014

From Litterbox to Laboratory

My blogs seem to be stuck in the genre of "potty humor" (or some would say, crappy humor!), but don't kill the messenger. I just report the news; I don't make it. So follow me here as I transition from smelling farts (read my blog Pull My Finger ... Save a Life) to scooping cat poop, all in the name of cancer research.

Last week was a busy news week that had our attention riveted on the heavier, horrific news of wars and plane crashes ... and my thoughts and prayers go out to all who were touched personally by these events. However, some rather bizarre medical news came out of Dartmouth that shouldn't go unnoticed, and thanks to my fellow blogger Black Is the New Pink for calling it to my attention.

For this blog, you must imagine the song "What's New Pussy Cat?" playing in the background. Why? ...  because researchers are studying feline feces as a way to cure cancer, especially melanoma (or as my son Tim suggested for this blog, meow-anoma) and ovarian cancer. An article, Cat Poop Parasite Shows Promise in Treating Cancer, says that a parasite in the intestines of cats might find its way from a clump in the kitty litter to a cancer vaccine. Now that is recycling at its finest!

I admit that I'm a cat lover, and our family has always had cats (even before we knew that cat poop was so valuable). Over a span of 40 years, we have been allowed to share our home with many, including a shy black kitty who was very sweet, even if scared of his own shadow; an orange tabby who loved to cause trouble and eat cantaloupe and Ben-Gay; and an orange-and-white long-haired sweetheart who played fetch and was a mama's girl who never left my side after Jaime died. We seriously would have had tons of cat poop to donate to cancer research over the years!

Which brings me to some "catty" questions ... does one breed or type of cat produce parasites more worthy of a cancer cure than others? Does a cat with a diet of mice and birds have a more valuable end-product than one fed Friskies?  Does a cat who prefers dry kibble over wet canned food pack more power into its parasites? I'm thinking that more research needs to be done here before we have a melanoma vaccine that is the cat's meow.

My daughter Jaime was owned by two cats before her death from melanoma at age 29. The first (Stoney) adopted Jaime when we were at a no-kill animal shelter looking for a kitten for me (well, actually as a new companion for our cat Bubba, who had recently lost the love of his life Missy and wouldn't stop moaning and crying out for her for over a month). He desperately needed a diversion.

Jaime and I were sitting on the floor of the kitten room to watch how they interacted in an attempt to get an idea of their personalities. A tiny gray tabby kept crawling up onto Jaime's shoulder and loudly purring in her ear. The die had been cast. What a salesperson that kitten was ... and what suckers we were! Needless to say we ended up taking two kittens home with us (one to our house and one to Jaime's apartment) instead of just the one we came for. Well played, Stoney ... well played!

It didn't take long for Jaime's sweet little gray kitten to show her true stripes! Stoney grew into an arrogant, independent, snobby, anti-social cat ... but Jaime's brothers always thought that living at Jaime's apartment, she had probably inhaled too much second-hand smoke from an illegal substance. Perhaps she really had grown into her name?? The stories that cat could tell if she could have talked are probably beyond what a mother wants to know!

Jaime thought perhaps if Stoney had a furry friend, she would be happier. After all, that had worked for our Bubba, right? So a tiny, timid black and white tuxedo kitten named Toby was added to Jaime's little family. Except Toby, once he got to his new home, showed his true character, displaying his Attention Deficient Disorder. There was nothing timid about him! Of course, Stoney wanted nothing to do with this strange fur ball bouncing off the walls.

After many months of Stoney becoming more depressed and crabby, Jaime then decided that Stoney would be happier in her "retirement home" (our house instead of Jaime's), and that bad-attitude cat came to live with us and immediately attached herself to my husband. They were best buds for years. Stoney refused to acknowledge Jaime's presence (or anyone else's for that matter) from then on.

Tiny Toby liked to eat, and he thought his mouth was a front-end loader! He grew ... and grew ... and grew, until he was about 30 pounds. Jaime called him "Bear," and for good reason! To take Toby (Tubby?) to the vet, we didn't carry him in ... we wore him. Belly to belly, with his back legs wrapped around our waist and his front legs wrapped around our neck, we must have looked a tad bit strange, but it worked. Toby adored Jaime and was happy ... until Jaime started adding dogs to her menagerie!

The dogs did, however, keep her litterbox clean because they saw the mounds of cat poop as tasty treats! Perhaps dogs have always known what a treasure these little poop piles are?

NOTE: If you are being treated for cancer, don't stop your current treatment and resort instead to eating cat poop. Ewwww! Actually the parasites can be very harmful until the researchers work their magic. But whether you are healthy or a cancer warrior, the rescue of a furry friend from a shelter and its unconditional love would be good for your heart and your health!

 And lastly, why are we limiting our thinking here, in the search for the purr-fect cancer vaccine, to little balls of fluff? "In the jungle, the mighty jungle, the lion sleeps tonight ..." Here kitty, kitty, kitty ...

 Melanoma Mama (Jaime's mom, Donna) (Remember Jaime) (Jjem Creations) (Jjem Creations)

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Pull My Finger...Save a Life!


BREAKING NEWS!!! A new study takes cancer prevention to a whole new level. 

My recent booty blog (Pretoria Revisited: Shake That Booty!) caused a friend who saw a rather bizarre article on cancer prevention to immediately think of me! Not sure I'm flattered ... but let's just go with it.

Believe it or not, a study has recently been published (Smelling Farts Might Prevent Cancer) that has found that inhaling pungent flatulence can possibly save lives. Hydrogen sulfide, produced by bacteria in the gut as it breaks down food, is the gas expelled, and smelling it is said to have potential health benefits ... like preventing cancer, strokes, heart attacks, arthritis, and dementia. Keep in mind, however, that inhaling large amounts of this gas can be deadly so don't get carried away!

Ladies, you might not want your boyfriends or husbands to read this blog or hear about this study. Males are normally (in my many years of experience with a husband and two sons) overly proud of their form of air pollution (aka flatulence, gas, breaking wind, cutting cheese, toots, farts) ... and after reading this, they will view this activity as a public service and will be out to save all mankind with their odoriferous propellants. Just beware of this possibly brutal side effect of this newest research!

Now medically speaking, we are all aware that ladies don't fart; they expel poofs of glitter and rainbows. Some men would claim that females just hold in their gas until it comes out as drama. So it appears that we will need to rely on men to protect us from cancer! Putting art into farts for the benefit of cancer prevention is a campaign I'm sure our guys will embrace. Passing gas will no longer be just for their entertainment ... but will be for the medical well-being of all around them. Heaven help us all!

There is even an app for that! In 2008 iPhone came out with a farting app. Wonder if that app is considered a medical device requiring FDA approval? Or will it be our medical miracle???

But the question that pops out at me (pun intended) is ... are all farts created equal? Does gas released after eating, say, onion or garlic protect us from disease better than farts formed from chili or baked beans? Are animal farts more medically desirable than human farts? Just think about all the lives that could be saved by a dog who has been eating cheese! Further research is definitely needed.

In addition I wonder if this potential environmental hazard has been cleared with the EPA, considering the possible significant source of greenhouse gases.

When I contacted a flatulence expert (my son, Ben) as research for this blog, he suggested that "a fart a day might keep the doctor away." However he is being modest to suggest that his capabilities are limited to one fart a day. As an overachiever, he could be destined to become a health care hero!

In the meantime, keep up with your more conventional forms of cancer and heart attack prevention. Don't stop using sunscreen or taking that baby aspirin to rely on the fragrant gas coming from your male partner. But next time you are stuck in an enclosed area like an elevator or airplane and catch a whiff of an obnoxious odor, just say thank you and breathe in deeply. :-)

Melanoma Mama (Jaime's mom, Donna) (Remember Jaime) (Jjem Creations) (Jjem Creations)

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Shake That Booty!

The keywords that bring people to my blog have taken an interesting turn. But I'm not complaining because they do bring new visitors to the blog, even if by accident, and hopefully they actually learn something while they are here.

My last blog was about the keywords Sweety Mama for Sex in Pretoria that another visitor used to reach my blog. In that blog we learned that Pretoria is the capital of South Africa. I went on to explain that there is nothing sexy about melanoma, which as a melanoma advocate is the main reason for my blogging. But that blog brought an unsuspecting visitor to my page from South Africa using the keywords Pretoria Mama with Big Booty. And so it goes ...

So while we are speaking of booty (aka tushy, buttocks, bottom, posterior, bum, etc), did you know that melanoma, the type of skin cancer that can be and often is deadly, can develop anywhere it wants? That's right. It even likes your booty ... and anywhere else you have skin, which is, by the way, your largest organ (your skin, not your booty).

This is the reason why you need to carefully check your entire body every month with a mirror to see those areas (including your booty) that are difficult to view or have a partner assist you. You can find step-by-step instructions for doing a self skin check at AIM at Melanoma.

You are looking for any new or changing or unusual looking mole. Use the ABCDEs, as shown in the photo, as a guideline. If you find something that concerns you, make an appointment to see your doctor (preferably a medical [not cosmetic] dermatologist who specializes in melanoma) ASAP. The best chance of beating melanoma is catching it early.

In addition to your monthly skin self-examinations, the American Cancer Society recommends that you see a physician for a complete skin check every 3 years if you are 20-40 years old or every year if you are older than 40. Melanoma needs to be taken very seriously. It is estimated that 76,100 invasive melanoma cases will be diagnosed this year in the US, making it the fastest growing cancer, and 9,710 people will die from it.

Let's take this discussion of booty and melanoma a little further. Were you aware that melanoma most commonly develops on the skin but can also start in the eye (ocular melanoma) or in areas where the sun don't shine ... like, yes, the genital and anal areas?

Mucosal melanoma is very rare (1-2% of melanomas) but also very aggressive. Common symptoms of melanoma in the anus-rectal area are rectal bleeding, pain or discomfort, and weight loss. In this area of the body, melanoma is often misdiagnosed as hemorrhoids. For melanoma in the uro-genital area (most commonly the female genital tract), bleeding, lump, itching, pain or irritation, and discharge might be present.

Treatment options for mucosal melanoma are the same as for cutaneous; however, the prognosis for mucosal melanoma is poor because it is usually not identified until it has advanced. Be sure to see your doctor immediately if you experience any symptoms.

And now that you have read the educational portion of my blog, I'll share my booty story with you. My daughter Jaime, as many of you know, was diagnosed with melanoma when she was 20, thanks to her tanning bed use during her teens, and fought it with everything she had for 9 years. When she was hospitalized in the weeks before her death, she was very weak, heavily sedated, and barely able to get to her bedside commode even with assistance. One time when she was sitting on that commode, I noticed that she was making rhythmic motions. I asked her if she was okay. Her answer, along with the huge smile she gave me, was classic Jaime: "I'm doing my Booty Boogie!" Weak as she was, she was moving to the music on the TV, dancing while seated. Death was in the doorway, but Jaime was still shaking her booty.
So keep shaking your booty ... but check it out monthly, along with the rest of your body, for signs of moles that have gone astray! The best booty call you could ever make is the one to your dermatologist for a full body check. It could save your life!!

It is estimated that there will be 76,100 invasive melanomas diagnosed in the United States in 2014, and there will be 9,710 deaths - See more at:
Melanoma Mama (Jaime's mom, Donna)

Twitter: @melanoma_mama
Facebook: (Remember Jaime) (Pull the Plug on Tanning Beds)
Etsy: (Jjem Creations)
Ebay: (Jjem Creations)

The American Cancer Society recommends regular cancer-related checkups, including a skin exam every 3 years if you're 20 to 40 years of age and every year for people 40 and older. - See more at:
The American Cancer Society recommends regular cancer-related checkups, including a skin exam every 3 years if you're 20 to 40 years of age and every year for people 40 and older. - See more at:
The American Cancer Society recommends regular cancer-related checkups, including a skin exam every 3 years if you're 20 to 40 years of age and every year for people 40 and older. - See more at:

Monday, June 30, 2014

Sweety Mama for Sex in Pretoria

Huh??? I am not a Sweety Mama ... definitely not a Sexy Mama ... and I don't even know where Pretoria is. However, I did Google it and found that it is the capital of South Africa ... so now I know! And now you know that geography was not my best subject!

But back to my story -- this is a keyword phrase that someone used to find my blog. Now I have no clue about the connection between this search and my blog, other than my blog title Melanoma Mama, but I am very grateful for every single reader that I get, even if they stumble across my blog by accident!

But just to be very clear ... there is nothing sexy about melanoma. Unless, of course, you think the scars it leaves, both inside and out, are sexy. Or unless you think puking your guts out or that nonstop itchy rash or painful mouth sores or maybe severe diarrhea following treatments has sex appeal. Or perhaps the thought that waking up each morning of your life filled with the fear that this monster disease could end it whenever it likes turns you on. Somehow, I think not. I'm pretty sure that we can all agree that sexy and melanoma do not belong in the same sentence ... and certainly not in the same blog!

Something else that is not sexy is unread blogs! Since jumping into the blogosphere 5 months ago, I do often wonder, especially when my latest blog is published and I can count the readers without even using my toes, "Why DO I blog?"

Some melanoma bloggers are medical professionals and researchers who are experts in their fields and are sharing medical data or concerns. Some bloggers are melanoma patients who blog from diagnosis to their current treatment, to chronicle their journey and perhaps to keep friends and loved ones aware of what and how they are doing. Some blog for the healing quality of putting thoughts and fears into written form, releasing all that heavy emotion from their minds and hearts and onto the blog page.

I fall into none of these categories. I am not even close to being an expert in the field of medicine, although after 16 years in the melanoma community, I have learned more than I ever wanted to know about melanoma along the way. My daughter Jaime was my cancer survivor, but no longer. Now her story is of the harsh reality of melanoma, so sadly I have no need to keep family and friends updated on her status. And as I tell Jaime's story of tanning bed use and the resulting melanoma, I honestly find it more painful than healing.

So why do I blog? I blog for the same reason that I post daily on Facebook and flood Twitter with thousands of tweets ... because I am obsessed with melanoma awareness. I see blogging as one more way to spread the message about the dangers of tanning and the threat of melanoma. It is an expansion to patient advocacy. My blogs might share sun safety or melanoma information, or I might share stories about Jaime, or I might discuss a controversial issue. Whatever the topic, my hope is that people will take a minute to read and think ... and perhaps take action so that their lives or the lives of their loved ones will travel a different path than mine has.

I don't blog to hear myself; I don't blog for my benefit. I don't blog for fame or notoriety; I don't blog for financial gain. I don't blog to attract new clients/customers/business; I don't blog because my job requires it. I don't blog to advance a political agenda; I don't blog to spread any religious ideology. I don't blog as a patient or caregiver; I don't blog for therapy. I don't blog because I have to; I don't blog because I need to. Simply ... I blog for you!

In order for this blogging endeavor to work, however, I need your help. I ask
(beg??) that you actually read my blogs and, if you find value in them, share with your friends. You can even subscribe on my blog page so you will receive notice as each new blog is published. I can fill blogs with my thoughts, information, and stories, but if no one reads it, it is worthless and a huge waste of my time. That said, your comments would also be appreciated so I know that I have touched you, educated you, enlightened you ... or even bored you. I would also love to hear any suggestions for topics you would be interested in reading about.

So, why do I blog? I blog for a reason ... and that reason is you! But I still can't help but wonder if the person using that search term ever found that sweety mama for sex in Pretoria???

 Melanoma Mama (Jaime's mom, Donna)

Twitter: @melanoma_mama
Facebook: (Remember Jaime) (Pull the Plug on Tanning Beds)
Etsy: (Jjem Creations)
Ebay: (Jjem Creations)

Monday, June 23, 2014

Sunscreen Complements Every Outfit!

    Summer has officially arrived, and we all enjoy being outside for fun in the sun ... swimming and sports, picnics and BBQs, gardening, etc. No question about it: the sun's rays make us feel good. Recent studies have even shown that we can become addicted to UV radiation. 

    But too much of a good thing is ... well, never a good thing. It is important to understand sun safety and how to protect your skin and possibly save your life or that of a loved one. I know, I know ... we all think we know the rules. We've heard them before. But they are constantly changing, and as I was researching the facts for this blog, I even learned some new things. So pay attention, just for a minute -- there will be a quiz (not really, but pay attention anyway)!

    What Is UV Radiation?

    The main source of ultraviolet radiation (UV rays) is the sun, but it can also come from man-made sources like tanning beds.

    According to the Amercian Cancer Society, scientists divide UV radiation into three wavelength ranges:
    • UVA rays are the weakest of the UV rays. They can cause skin cells to age and can cause some indirect damage to cells’ DNA. UVA rays are mainly linked to long-term skin damage such as wrinkles but are also thought to play a role in some skin cancers.
    • UVB rays are slightly stronger. They are mainly responsible for direct damage to the DNA and are the rays that cause sunburns. They are also thought to cause most skin cancers.
    • UVC rays are the strongest UV rays. Fortunately, they react with ozone high in our atmosphere and do not reach the ground. Therefore UVC rays are not present in sunlight and are not normally a risk factor for skin cancer. But they can be found in some man-made sources, such as arc welding torches and mercury lamps. In the past, sunbeds were also a source of UVC rays.

    Why Should This Be Important to You?

    More than 3.5 million new cases of skin cancer are diagnosed each year. It is the most common form of cancer in the US. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, more than 90% of all non-melanoma skin cancers and 65% of melanomas are a direct result of exposure to UV radiation and could have been prevented. (See my blog Every Day Should Be Melanoma Awareness Day for more information about melanoma, the deadly form of skin cancer that took my daughter Jaime's life when she was only 29.) 

    Besides skin cancer, UV exposure can cause wrinkles, sagging, and premature aging of the skin; skin discoloration; dilation of small blood vessels under the skin; benign tumors; immune system suppression; cataracts and other eye problems impairing vision; rash or allergic reaction; and even infections and reactivation of herpes. 

    What Can You Do to Protect Your Skin?

    • Avoid excessive sun exposure, especially between the hours of 10am - 2pm. Remember that water, snow, cement, and sand reflect damaging UV rays to increase your chances of sunburn. UV rays can also go through windows and clothing and reach below the water's surface.

    • Seek shade when your shadow is shorter than you are. "Watch your shadow -- Short shadow, seek shade."

    Use Sunscreen  

    • Apply sunscreen with a broad-spectrum (with both UVA and UVB protection) sun-protective factor (SPF) of 15 or higher. No sunscreen blocks out all the UV rays, but they do protect you from them. There has been much controversy over the past few years about toxic chemicals in sunscreen. Weigh the pros and cons of the various brands ... but pick one you are comfortable with and USE it.  
    • Apply 1 oz (a shotglass full) sunscreen 15-30 minutes before going out. Do not apply to palms and rub together but instead squeeze a line of sunscreen on an area of your body and rub it in ... and then repeat. It is best to apply before putting on your bathing suit to protect the skin underneath and to avoid missing the areas around the edges of the suit. Also apply sunscreen before insect repellant or makeup. Reapply every 2 hours, even if it's cloudy (UV rays travel through clouds), or more often after swimming or sweating. The biggest problem with sunscreen is not applying enough ... so use a heavy hand!
    • Do not consider sunscreen to be waterproof or sweatproof, but it can be water resistant, meaning it will stay on longer when you are in the water or sweating. It still must be reapplied when you towel off.
    • Check the expiration date on your sunscreen. It is usually effective for 2-3 years, less if exposed to high temperatures. Be sure to shake it up good to remix the ingredients. And if it has expired and no longer effective as a sunscreen, Real Simple Magazine suggests using the leftovers as shave cream!

    • Don't neglect high-risk areas of your body: eyelids, back of neck, tops of feet, ears, calves, back, and scalp are areas most missed with sunscreen. Lip protectors with a minimum of SPF15 should also be applied.
    • Spray sunscreen is not recommended because of breathing in the mist and poor coverage. It can also be flammable.

    • Keep babies under 6 months old out of the sun, says the American Academy of Pediatrics. When they are older than 6 months, you can use sunscreen on them but pay particular attention to tender young skin exposed to the sun. Sunburns in children put them in the high risk bracket for melanoma.

    Other Forms of Sun Protection

    • Clothes do not block out all UV rays. If you can see light through the fabric, then UV rays are getting through it. Dark colored, tight weave fabrics are best. Special sun protective clothing is also available.

    • Sunglasses should be labeled to block 99-100% of UVA and UVB rays, and most sold in the US meet these standards. Large-framed or wraparound types are best because they keep protect the eyes from light coming from different directions. UV-blocking contact lenses are not sufficient to protect the entire eye from UV rays. Toy sunglasses for children are a NO-NO; they need smaller versions of the protective adult kind. 
    • Hats should have a minimum 2-3 inch brim all the way around. Baseball caps only protect the front and top of the head so are not effective for sun protection. Straw hats are also not protective because of their loose weave.
    • Beach umbrellas do not block all UV rays, usually only providing a protection factor of 30.

    • Check the UV Index ( Special care needs to be taken when the UV Index predicts exposure levels above moderate.

    • Examine your skin often and take note of any changing or new moles.

    • NEVER, never, never use indoor tanning beds or sunlamps. According to the World Health Organization, ultraviolet radiation is a proven human carcinogen. First exposure to tanning beds before age 30 increases melanoma risk by 75%. Of the 28 million people using tanning beds in US each year, 2.3 million are teens. 

    Bottom line: Remember to Slip! Slop! Slap! Wrap!: Slip on clothing, slop on sunscreen, slap on a wide-brimmed hat, and wrap on sunglasses. Protect your skin and that of your loved ones ... and enjoy this summer and many more to come! Matter of fact, don't just follow these rules in the summer. Continue to practice sun safety all year around!

     Melanoma Mama (Jaime's mom, Donna)

    Twitter: @melanoma_mama
    Facebook: (Remember Jaime) (Pull the Plug on Tanning Beds)
    Etsy: (Jjem Creations)
    Ebay: (Jjem Creations)

    Sunday, June 8, 2014

    Schools & Their Sunscreen Rules

    Every year around the end of the school year, the topic of school rules about sunscreen becomes popular. News reports are full of stories about kids who come home blistered and red as lobsters because of being out in the blazing sun all day for Field Day, without any sun protection. 

    Sometimes this occurs because the schools don't allow students to have sunscreen; sometimes it is because teachers and/or school nurses are not permitted to apply it. But whatever the reason is, it should not happen!

    We know the statistics ... one severe sunburn in youth can more than double the odds of getting melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. And melanoma is NOT something you ever want to have!

    Sunscreen/sun protection restrictions in our schools are common. Some may permit sunscreen with a note from the parents; others may permit it with a note from your doctor. (Use the Skin Cancer Foundation's note from your doctor.) Some will not permit it, period. These policies can be changed ... but that will not happen without some help from you.

    You will hear lots of different reasons why they have the policies in place that they do. 
    • Gang affiliated hats -- BUT schools can approve a style or color, or they could sell or supply sun-safety hats. It could be part of their "spirit" wear to get more kids to want to wear them.
    • Inappropriate touching -- BUT teachers can demonstrate to the children the proper way to apply sunscreen (their "screen saver") or teach them how to apply to each other.
    • "Zero tolerance" drug policy -- AND many school districts consider sunscreen as an over-the-counter drug like aspirin. These policies need to be amended to exempt sunscreen.
    • Allergic reactions -- BUT reactions to sunscreens are very uncommon, and if a reaction does occur, it is minor.

     "Even one severe sunburn in a child can more than double their odds of getting melanoma"


    Some ideas of what you can do:
    •  First find out what your school's policy is on the use of sunscreen and the wearing of hats for sun safety during recess. Is it an individual school policy, the local school board policy, or a state policy? This will tell you what your next steps might be.
    • If sunscreen policies are determined by your individual school, talk with your principal about the importance of sun safety. Approach your PTA about forming, if there is not already one, a sun safety committee. This committee could not only suggest a change in school policy regarding the safety of children in the sun, they could also do fundraising for shade projects at the playgrounds.
    • If the sun safety policies are determined by your district school board, write a letter to your school board and school district superintendent explaining the importance of the children using sunscreen and wearing hats when outside for recess. Ask to be put on the agenda for a school board meeting to educate them and distribute sun safety materials. Take along a dermatologist or pediatrician to speak as well. Draw up a petition and ask parents, neighbors, and those in the medical community to sign it.
    • If sunscreen policies are being made on the state level, contact your state senators and representatives. Educate them on the need to protect your children from the rising rates of melanoma.
    • And contact your local chapter of the American Cancer Society or state dermatological society. They may be working on this already and would appreciate your help. Or they may be able to suggest other things you can do to get the word out and changes made.

    Schools and school boards MUST revisit their restrictions on sunscreen and sun safety hats. As one who has been through the process of changing a school district policy, not for sunscreen use but many years ago to change dress code policy, I can tell you that change can happen, but it takes work and time. 

    YOU need to take action ... and you need to start NOW!!!

    [March 2017 addition: Also see the program developed by Cancer Research UK for more ideas to promote sun safety in schools, including preschools and high schools.]

     Melanoma Mama (Jaime's mom, Donna) (Remember Jaime) (Jjem Creations) (Jjem Creations)