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)