Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Conversations from the Waiting Room

Waiting rooms.  For me, they are ugly and strange places...consisting of muted-colored, vinyl chairs, lots of strangers, possibly bad music playing, and the smell of hospital.  But worse than the external attributes of these places, is what goes on in my mind that makes waiting rooms so uncomfortable.  
According to Wikipedia, a waiting room is a building or more commonly a part of a building, where people sit or stand until the event they are waiting for occurs.  That would be cool...to JUST sit or stand and wait.  JUST!!!

But typically, that simple concept never seems to take place while I wait.  A waiting room becomes a place for my brain to take off into the land of conversation between me, myself, and I...and God, too.  It's a golden opportunity for "the committee" (you know, the voices in the head.  No, not auditory hallucinations or anything...really, just anxiety talking) to convene and get rather rowdy.  And once that committee gets going...it's ON.  

Here are the "minutes" from the committee meeting that took place in my head in the waiting room today...

Sit down.  Pick a seat.
Just sit.  Ok, I'm sitting.  Now what?  Well, breathing is good.  Yeah, meditate.  Inhale fear, exhale peace.  Inhale fear, exhale faith.  Oh, what about the serenity prayer?  Yes, focus on that...God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I can not change, the courage to change the things I can....Wait, I wonder if the doctor will take off all of the moles I have circled.  Crap.  I can't even complete a 3 sentence prayer without busting in with thoughts.  Ugh.  My hands are getting sweaty.  I hope my sweat doesn't cause the ink around my circled moles to come off.  Breathing.  My heart is flip-flopping around.  Drink water.  Maybe I can guess what my blood pressure will be.  Numbers.  Pulse.  Too fast.  Slow it all down- your mind, your fears, your heart.  Should I text Becky?  No, that will detract from my attempted meditation (which is obviously not going so well).  OH!  I know exactly what I need...a good Lion's Breath (if unfamiliar with this, click here- How To Do Lion's Breath ).  YES!.......NO!  The other people in this waiting room might think I'm hyperventilating...and then I'm in big trouble.  Save Lion's Breath for the car ride home.

But what's taking so long?  I know...the doctor is doing her job...thoroughly...and that's a good thing.  Gratitude!  Mental gratitude list.  GO!  I am grateful for my doctors.  I am grateful for getting to be seen today.  I am grateful for my kids, my husband, my friends, all of the people I have met on this melanoma journey.  I am grateful for this day.  GRATEful...but wouldn't it be GREAT if she took off tons of moles?  I'm sure she won't.  Is she too conservative?  What if she misses something?  OK, now just stop.  I know that when I start "what if-ing" the committee has gotten completely out of hand.  Move.  Move a muscle, change a thought...I love that! I have to pee...get up and go to the bathroom.  Action.  That helps- walking, finding the bathroom.  Good.  And then I hear my name being called!  Thank God!  And I do just that...

I thank God that I am here and ask for help...to have more faith than fear.

We all experience this "waiting room" scenario differently.  I would love to hear what your mind does in a waiting room.  What goes through your brain?  Be REAL about it.  We are all human.

Thank you, Fugazi for this song. 

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Escapism: It's No Wonder

I just returned from an incredible trip to NYC.  While there, I had a little "light bulb" experience. Ya know, those moments you realize something and can't sluff it off...

Laying on my bed, feet blistered from the non-stop walking (which I adore!!!), exhausted from the magnitude of constant stimulation (of which I crave), and gazing out the window from the 24th floor, over looking a beautiful city (of which I used to live), I became very aware of the increase in the frequency of my travels over the past 4+ years.

The first thing that came to mind in this epiphany, was escapism.  And the next part of this was about timing...that this increase in travel (escapism) came right around the time I received my first cancer diagnosis.  

It is twofold, this escapism...it's not just a running from reality, but also a variation on the bucket list...a push to get out and LIVE. So, I'm not going to make this longing to escape a negative thing, but rather just an observation, a heightened awareness.

And here are some of my observations: when I travel, I feel like me without a melanoma diagnosis, I have no doctors in these places, I feel free of worry, my eyes are so open to joy, I don't have constant appointments related to health, I am grateful.

So, now I'm back, facing a week of many realities- my dermatology visit, my birthday, and my appointment with my surgical oncologist (who planned that?!  oh, I did).  Yep.  Back to reality, but extremely refreshed, mind opened, and ready.  

Maybe, just maybe...this whole thing is about finding the balance...the balance of reality and escape.  I'm not sure, as balance is definitely not my forte (aside from a few yoga poses).  But I'm working on it.

central park

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

When Fear Becomes Obsession

I recently shared with a friend, about a time in my life that I had pushed aside (blocked out, tried to forget, etc... all those good ole defense mechanisms).  After speaking about it, I decided to dig through an old box, a box I might now name "The Fear Box", which contains all of my daughter's food allergy stuff and the folder that holds all the info about this crazy time I'm about to discuss.  Just a box of anxiety provoking shit, really...one that gives me a stomach ache when I sift through it.

OK, so this time period, this folder, this fear that soon became an obsession..Here it is:  I had my first melanoma, had my surgery, healed physically....and then the after-math happened.  It was marked by the moment that "normal fear" switched to an all-encompassing obsession.

Let's define it in its most basic form:
Obsession- noun. The domination of one's thoughts or feelings by a persistent idea.  

Over time, I became consumed with each and every freckle on my body!  And when I say consumed, I mean that every time I went to pee, I would start checking my thighs, inspecting my moles, building anxiety, panic and the like.  Each time I took a bath, I'd throw out any possibility of relaxation, and fill it with obsessional checking.  Check, check, check.  It just went on.....and on, and on.

At first, I could justify this behavior (or so I thought...and did!).  Of course I should be checking my body as often as I can for moles (their color, size, shape, changes, etc.), I just had fucking melanoma!  Justify away...but this eventually turned into something that was creating an extremely small life, and really not a life at all. 

It got so bad, that I recall one day getting the brilliant idea of finding a plastic surgeon that would take off ALL of the moles on my body (and there are MANY!!!).  Yep, that would solve this problem, so I thought.  Of course, after one phone call to a plastics office, and hearing the response of the nurse when I inquired about this "procedure", I knew I needed help!  

And so I sought help.  And luckily, I found exactly what I needed- a behavioral therapist who specialized in "health worry".  I wasn't really sure what was in store for me here, but I was willing to try anything to feel better.  

That's where our (me and my new therapist) journey began...This was not a "talk about your feelings/dive into your family history/lay on a couch thing".  This was something I had never experienced before.  We met once a week for about 10 weeks, practicing a multitude of various exercises that help to "re-train" the brain.  As the student at heart that I am, I loved this- homework?  YES!  tasks?  YES!  I pounced all over it.

And, with work...it worked!

And life began to have more room.

Don't get me wrong, this was by no means an attempt to not be vigilant about my melanoma.  No.  I still do my once a month body checks (just not my once an HOUR checks), I still see my dermatologist every 2 months, and my oncologist every 6 months.  But, for the times in between all that, I am LIVING.  

We all handle fear in different ways.  We all respond to it uniquely.  But please know, that if it takes over to the point of NOT living at all, there is help.  This was what helped me, my experience, strength, and hope.  Just know, that it's OK to ask for help!  


Sunday, November 18, 2012

It's a Sign: We Are Truly Connected

My head is still spinning from the magic of yesterday's walk.  I'm still very much in the midst of processing such an unbelievable day.  But here is just a little piece of a very big experience... 

Connected- Adj. 1. Joined together  2. Fastened, linked

This is the word that envelops me when I think about the disease of melanoma.  We are joined together, not by choice, but rather by a terrifying, life threatening beast.  That sounds awful.  And it is...but, the connection that it brings is beyond words.  And sometimes, we don't even really know how connected we are...until being graced with extraordinary moments of clarity into this connectedness.

As the walk was quickly approaching, an amazing idea was put out into the melanoma community, and we were all given the chance to see this connectedness in action.  In brief, this is how it went: 

Rev. Carol Taylor of the Melanoma Prayer Center on Facebook had talked to a fellow fighter Judy, who was with another fighter Jen, who was supposed to be walking in the AIM at Melanoma Walk, but couldn't because she is currently in the hospital fighting for her life. Judy had the brilliant idea of "how to make them (Jen and many others who wanted to be there, but couldn't) feel apart of the walk" by making signs with the pictures of those who could not be at the walk, either because they have passed on or because they were currently in treatment, fighting!   Rev. Carol kicked this idea into high gear, creating a group message about this....and, as a CONNECTED group of remarkable people, we took an idea, and made it real....because really, when we come together, we seem to be able to make the ordinary, EXTRAordinary!

So, let me tell you this, living with something like melanoma, something that makes me feel extremely powerless at times...when given the opportunity to DO SOMETHING...something productive, positive...you jump all over it!  And that's what I did.  

I volunteered to make signs.  YES!  Finally, some action I can take that is helpful in this battle!  When I leaped at this idea, I had no idea what kind of a journey it would actually be. There is no way I can describe to you exactly what I experienced in this process, but I can tell you this- it was life changing!  Here is a sprinkling of it:

It started out with the printing of pictures.... pictures of faces of people I have never met.  20 pictures, 8.5 X 11 spread all over my office floor.  In the process of gluing, taping, sticking, cutting, creating, etc... I had a spiritual experience with these people. I know this is going to sound crazy, and I'm ok with that...because I already know I'm a little bit crazy... I would talk to all of these faces...sometimes laughing with them, sometimes crying.  I joked with Bob (who has passed on) about how he may not dig the tie-dye decor I had chosen for his sign, as his picture was of him in a suit.  I cried with Jillian (fighting stage IV) and her pup about how crazy life can be.  Again, there are no words.

Fast forward to the walk...20 signs were held by so many loving people!  Eric, Bob, Judy, Steven, Jen, Jillian, Leslie were all "at the walk"!  THIS is what WE do!  We make shit happen!  WE!  As the brilliant Helen Keller said, "Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much."

Black is the New PinkMy Adventures with My Enemy Melanoma, and Respect the Rays all together!

And so it is, WE come together to fight, to connect, to make a difference.....to be WE!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Now and Then. Then and Now.

Every now and then we are given the opportunity to see our own growth, our own progress. It's a gift, to say the least...although it may not feel quite like a gift at the time of "receiving" it.  

Yesterday I experienced two things that brought about this spiraling of thoughts related to progress.  I had decided to finally (after 5 years) organize my pictures on my computer.  I don't even really know what I had in mind when setting out to this, so I just started scrolling.  

I was taken aback by a sight I did not want to recognize!  It was a picture of me, in my surgical oncologist's office, awaiting PET scan results...but I was UNDER his desk (my husband took this pic, which I did not appreciate at the time...AT ALL, but now, I'm grateful for it)...

When I saw this, I instantly felt sick, and shocked, and was jolted back to this awful time...which was the very beginning of my melanoma journey.  

I remember the feelings so clearly...that of total fear, isolation, and impending doom.  But, now, sitting here looking at this picture, I am given the opportunity to see (and I'm glad it's as concrete as a picture) how things have changed over time.  

I still experience fear, of course.  But today, I have faith and many others tools that help me through fear.  As long as progress (slow as it may be) is happening, I am grateful.  Perfection (or total lack of fear) is not my goal...as I know it's not very realistic...for me.

Not too long after encountering that picture, I happened upon an amazing creation on Facebook...that seemed to foster some clarity in this whole "growth" epiphany.

I saw this and realized that back THEN, I felt completely alone.  And that NOW, I am happily connected to so much: faith, a melanoma community, family, doctors, etc.  Life is so much better NOW!

So, every now and then, we are graced with the gift of seeing things in a "then and now" way, and for that I am thankful.  Be open to seeing these gifts, as they can come in some unusual packages.

"If there is no struggle, there is no progress."
~Frederick Douglass

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Nothing Lasts Forever

Some days suck. They just do. They can suck for no apparent reason, or they can suck for a plethora of reasons...or something in between.  Life is just like that.  Whether you are on the melanoma roller coaster, or struggle with anything (which we all do!), you know that there are days that feel harder than others.  

Today I had what I am now calling "an upside down rainbow day".  I set out to do errands and other stuff I do in a day, and when I got out of my car at  the pediatrician's office, I saw something I have never seen before....an upside down fucking rainbow!  I whipped out my camera to capture this incredible beauty that Mother Nature (or whatever you believe in) was giving us in that moment!  Click, click, click....got it!  

I was like a crazy kid in a candy store....or, because today is 10/31, I will say I was like an overzealous child ready to burst out the door to trick or treat.  I was smiling.  Smiling huge!  I think I might have even been giggling a little.  Giddy?  Yeah, that.  Wait...and the rainbow was smiling too!  See it?

I felt the need to share this awesomeness with LOTS of people..lol...like the people at the front desk of the pediatrician's office, the peeps working at Starbucks...It was just such an invigorating experience, I was bursting with "must share".

As I drove to my next stop, I thought about how seeing these unreal sights may not always happen....due to MY mind, my "set of eyes" in any given moment.  I received great news from my dermatologist a few days ago- BENIGN results...but for the week I was waiting to hear, I'm not sure I would have even seen this upside down rainbow.  

I love this reminder that everyday may not be good, but that something good may be found in each day.  I NEED this reminder it times of fear.  I need to remember that nothing lasts forever...and that that is a good thing.  

Here's to the days on this path we are all on....that we be reminded of the importance of always looking for the blessings in each day.  As the wise philosopher Heraclitus said, "The only thing constant is change."

So, what I tell myself, and thankfully, others tell me, is....cherish the good while it lasts and HOLD ON during the rough times...this too shall pass.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Rituals: unique, weird, odd...and maybe, actually not uncommon?

A ritual.  What is that?  Well, by definition, it can read like this:
ri-tu-al:  A detailed method of procedure faithfully or regularly followed.
Or like this:
           ri-tu-al:   An automatic pattern of behavior in reaction to a specific situation.

Why do I bring this up? I have become very aware of a ritual I have developed over the past 4+ years, in relation to my dermatology visits.  

Rituals can provide comfort in times of heightened anxiety. They can be calming.  They may even offer up a sense of control in a situation where one feels powerless.  Rituals have been said to be an effective "strategy" for dealing with things that are out of our control.  OK, good to know!  I love strategies....especially ones that are helpful in trying times.  

It makes perfect sense then, that I have created what feels like a well developed science, crafted with care, that I use each and every time I go for my full-body skin checks.  

Keep in mind, I do not delude myself with my ritual, in thinking this will have some magical sprinkling of a positive outcome on my visits.  I don't.  I know I am completely powerless over the results of each visit.  But rather, I use this purely as a way to help myself navigate the landscape of uncertain times.  

And so, here goes my pre-dermatology visit ritual...
Step 1- Pop out of bed before my alarm goes off. Sometimes, anxiety works even better than coffee.

Step 2- Grab a brand new razor and jump in the shower to do a most excellent shaving job, so as not to have a tiny hair follicle be mistaken for a mole. 

Step 3- Before getting dressed, I reach for my handy black marker, fully inspect my body for moles that look "suspicious"...and circle them (at least 20, I can assure you).  Yes, I look like the canvas of a Miro work of art (I wish).

Step 4- Dress in all black, a skirt or dress, no jeans.  This step I have definitely fine-tuned over the years, learning from experience.  Black is the only good option for blood.  I once wore a white top and had a mole removed from my ear, and on the way home in the car, I felt something wet on my shoulder, and sure enough, it was blood dripping....ok, you get the point and my reasoning for all black.  Oh, and jeans are just no good if you have bandages anywhere below the waist (guys...maybe an Irish kilt could work?).

Step 5- Breathe in, breathe out...knowing I am doing everything I can do (trying to listen to the sound of the breath, rather than the thoughts in my head!).

Step 6- Let go....and GO!

Oh, and here are a couple of the songs that will be blasting ( I like to BLAST!) in my car as I drive to my appointment...

And, of course, I have found a quote to support my cuckoo-ness....

"Ritual is necessary for us to know anything."
~Ken Kesey

(Yep, that's the guy who wrote One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.  lol.)

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Getting Comfortable with the Uncomfortable

As if getting comfortable, in and of itself, isn't hard enough, attempting to get comfortable with the UNcomfortable feels like an impossibility at times (most of the time, that is).  Well, this seems to be what the universe wants me to work on, because I have been given lots of opportunities to practice this as of late.  

I'm speaking specifically about my eye ordeal.  I went for my 6 week post-op visit yesterday, and was overflowing with joy to be given the green light on returning to contact lenses.  Ready to run out of the office and home to my little, delicate, disk-shaped, polymer wonders that I have missed so much...I was told that I would need to be refitted in my left eye for lenses....because my eye is forever changed.  

A new set of eyes?  Hmm.  Yeah, I can see that.  A piece of eye taken out=shape changed forever.  And it was then I realize that not only is my eye changed forever, but I am.  

For six weeks I have been out of balance.  Literally.  I feel a tad bit sideways when wearing my glasses.  I've noticed I park my car in the garage about 2 inches too far to the left.  I trimmed my hair very unevenly, with the left side much longer.  When I go to yoga class, I get the sense that I might just fall over onto my neighbor at any point...not to mention my mind cursing my glasses in downward dog, as they slide down my nose, making my vision half totally blurred and half in focus.  Below is the best example I can give to you in terms of trying to explain the sensation.
I mean, I wasn't really seeing double or anything, just an overall feeling of being a little bit sideways (I hope that makes  some sense).

Throughout this whole healing process, I have been forced (lol) to see what little patience I have with myself.  Typically, I want things to run on MY time, be done quick, quick, quick, and NOW, NOW, NOW!  Well, what I have come to realize, over and over again, is that the body does not care about MY agenda.  It knows better than I do.  It knows how it works, and there is no controlling that.  

Sometimes I believe I was not given a fully expressible gene for patience.  Excuses, I know.  I just suck at it, and know that it is one of the many things I need to work on...daily.  And so it is.  I am given many opportunities to become comfortable with the uncomfortable.  This feels bad while in it, but ultimately, it's a time that heightens awareness, fosters mindfulness, and builds gratitude.  All good things!

Patience...We have become better friends over the past 6 weeks (not by choice, of course).  I have gotten to know patience personally, beyond a concept, beyond an idea.  It's part of me, whether I like it or not, and I'm ready to embrace it! And so, with my newfound "like" of patience, I decided to do something that will forever remind me that patience is necessary; that it is the key to serenity for me.
Yes, a tattoo... a symbol of patience in Hindi.  (ouch!!!!!!!!!!!!)
I'm hoping this reminder on my foot will keep from from sprinting across the parking lot to the door of my eye doctor's office tomorrow, as I go to get my new eye fitted for lenses.  We shall see....

A new set of eyes, a new perspective.

Monday, September 24, 2012

My Herstory of Melanoma: A Picture Story in Brief

I have been asked by many people about my story as it relates to melanoma, a disease that has changed me from the moment I got the call with my first diagnosis.  

Here it is, in brief, with pictures to help...

I was born a baby with fair skin.

I grew up with hippie parents in the late 60s and early 70s.  We lived in New Mexico and California, spending a LOT of time outside, dressed in minimal clothing.

I spent my time with my mom in Pacific Palisades, my dad in Venice, and my grandmother (Nonnie) in Marina Del Ray...on the beach.

Sunscreen was not a thing then...at lease that I knew of.  It was all about just being outside, in nature.
(I know, weird that hippies let their kids play with toy guns...but they did)

Fast forward (but NOT to forget the 20+ years of sun loving, laying out, skin burning, beach going, roof-top pool visiting, and much more)......

At 38, I was sitting on my bed, studying the bottom of my right foot.  Yes, I can see the bottom of my feet.  Maybe it's the yoga, but really I think it's just my body...because below you will see me, at age 4, eating my foot.....
So, yeah...I was inspecting my right foot and saw a TINY black speck.  I actually thought it was a baby tick, and with my fabulous surgical skills, I proceeded to remove the "tick" with a cuticle clipper...GROSS, I know.  It was done.  The "tick" was out and life went on....until a few weeks later while catching another good look at my foot, I noticed this black speck was back.  Somewhere in the back of my head I remembered hearing the words, "If you have a freckle on the bottom of your foot, it is not a good thing."  And I knew I needed to get to my dermatologist asap.  

I got in as soon as I could, seeing a PA, who removed the dot and told me to have a good weekend.

Over a week later, a nurse called me.  She starts talking to me....about melanoma...my oncologist (I DON'T HAVE AN ONCOLOGIST)...my appointment for blood work and chest x-rays at UNC...surgery...cancer center.  I left my body at those words.  And when I came back, I told the nurse she needed to stop talking because I was not hearing her, and that I needed to get a pen and paper to write all of this down.  This is not real!  It's JUST SKIN!  Why x-rays and surgery and new doctors, etc??????????  I mean, it is just about skin, right?

It was then I quickly became an expert on all things melanoma.  I knew that when my oncologist LOUDLY stated to me, "THIS IS SERIOUS!" that my life was changing fast and forever.

Fast forward (but NOT to forget the dermatology visits every 3 months with multiple biopsies, most of which coming back severely atypical and needing further excision, the anxiety, fear, post traumatic stress, obsession with checking my moles all day long, 3 months for the hole in my foot to close after the wide excision, and the incision in my groin to heal after the lymph node biopsy, and more fear, and more terror, and, and, and..........oh, and practicing safe sun in all ways)

Three years later (no, I didn't reach the 5 year mark.  so bummed!) I have my second melanoma.  This one is on my right forearm, found at one of my regularly scheduled dermatology visits.  Back to fear, back to crazy, back to wide excisions.

And then, a few months ago, I started seeing flashes of light in my left eye.  So, I decide to study the shit out of my eye ball, something I had never done in the past (surprising!).  And sure enough, I see THE TINIEST dark fleck on the white of my eye...and I sink into melanoma fear, knowing that tomorrow I will be in my eye doctor's office no matter how booked and busy she is.  

My eye doctor tells me that what I had found were just a few pigmented cells.  Well, after you have had melanoma, the words PIGMENTED CELLS don't jive well...no matter how few there are.  She tells me it's nothing, but that if I want to see an eye tumor specialist because I'm "so anxious", she would make the call.  OF COURSE I WANT HER TO MAKE THE CALL!!!!!!

After weeks of waiting to get in with this eye tumor guy, and after a FIVE (yes, FIVE) hour appointment of dilation, pictures, exams, different residents....I finally get to see THE specialist, who tells me this: "The reason you came in here today is actually fine, but right next to it is something called Primary Acquired Melanosis, and because of your history with melanoma, we are not going to wait and watch, we need to biopsy it and freeze around the area."  

Um......with shock having taken over, I blurted out, "ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME?"  The thought of my eye ball being cut and frozen and.......................It's all just too much.  I break.  I break down....right there, with this nice eye tumor specialist and his nurse, I just sob.  

So, this is how it goes...once you have melanoma.  It's a LIFE LONG deal.  It's never over.  

And so it is with these experiences, and this new life, that I hope to raise awareness and help to educate others about what might just be something they can hear about rather than experience it firsthand.  

"Out of difficulties grow miracles."
~Jean De La Bruyere

Pacific Palisades

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Do You Do It?

I recently asked the question "How often do you have your skin checked by a dermatologist?" in the form of a poll, offering four answers: every six months, once a year, every few years, and never.  I was surprised by the numbers....in a good way, and in a bad way.  Sounds strange?  Well, let's have a look at the distribution of my extremely unofficial "data".  

Looking at the graph, you can see the good news clearly- lots of folks are visiting their dermatologist on a regular basis!  The bad news is in the red- 31% of those who participated, have NEVER had their skin checked by a professional.  This percentage shows the need for more education about the importance of putting the dermatologist on your list of annual people to visit.  

The largest skin screening study ever done, provides compelling information.  SCREEN (Skin Cancer Research to Provide Evidence foe Effectiveness of Screening) published a study in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, with 360,288 subjects.  The study concluded that regular total body skin exams by doctors can lower melanoma deaths by more than 50 percent.  

So, why not do it?  There seems to be a few common reasons why people do not get to the dermatologist.  First, FEAR.  If we fear something, we tend to avoid it.  I know all about this.  I did it with my teeth.  I avoided the dentist for 10 years....and sure enough, when I finally did return, I had 10 cavities.  Thus, a perfect example of how avoidance is self-sabotaging.  There is a sense of immediate relief by avoiding something we fear, but that relief is fleeting.  Facing the fear is the only way to lower our fear.  And the best way to do this, is practice, practice, practice!  Now, when I visit my dentist I am sure to book my next appointment before walking out the door.  Otherwise, I know the phone will get too heavy to pick up to make the appointment.  The more I do it, the easier it gets.  

The second common reason for not going to the dermatologist is TIME.  "I don't have time. There is nothing wrong."  I love this Spanish Proverb to address this: "A man too busy to take care of his health is like a mechanic too busy to take care of his tools."  It is hard to make time for things that don't feel urgent.  We are busy people, living busy lives.  But the truth is, if you go for a skin check on a regular basis, a full-body skin check may only take about 15 minutes.  That is not a lot of time in the grand scheme of things.  

Lastly, MONEY....I know, these visits add up, and many don't have health insurance to cover such visits.  Two things here- 1) If you do have health insurance, try this on for size...If you think the cost of an annual dermatology visit is expensive, the cost of cancer, surgeries, etc. is WAY more expensive!  2) If you do not have health insurance, there are FREE skin cancer screenings being done all over.   You just need to Google search "free skin cancer screening" and add your city.  Or visit The Skin Cancer Foundation's website for information on locations and dates of their screenings.  You can find that info here- http://www.skincancer.org/events/tour

In closing, the best way to protect the skin you are in and to stay safe, is to practice safe sun (avoid peek hours, use SFP 30+ mineral based broad spectrum sunscreen, wear hats and sun glasses, seek shade, wear UPF clothing) and have your skin check regularly by a dermatologist.  DO IT!  

"My philosophy is that not only are you responsible for your life, but doing the best as this moment puts you in the best place for the next moment."
~Oprah Winfrey

This is scarier.
This takes more time.
This is more expensive.

This is scarier.
This takes more time.
This is more expensive.

Invest in yourself!  YOU ARE WORTH IT!!!!!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

My Brain in a Holding Pattern

Have you ever experienced what feels like the suspension of time?  I'm sure there are countless circumstances that could render this sensation.  For me, this comes every time I await pathology reports.  

I've been in this for a week now.  I feel myself turn into an airplane in a holding a pattern.  Truly. Get the visual going- I can feel myself turning stiff with fear, not wanting to say anything but the uttering of a groan (that's sort of airplane-ish). I can feel it come on, a couple of days after a surgery...and each day that I wait, I sense the building of doom from within.  

A holding pattern is the only way I can explain this with a visual twist.  Here is the evolution of this temporary transformation: It's me, the aircraft, flying through life, doing what I need to do, moving forward, taking care of myself (the surgery).  Then a short-lived sense of relief...ya know, from surviving the surgery.  With this comes bunches of gratitude, smiles, joy....for a day or two.  Then comes the announcement from air traffic control (which is really just my brain.  ugh.), telling me that at this time, I will need to go into a holding pattern, until otherwise notified (pathology results come).  And right there, the direction of moving forward gets bent...into a circular motion.  Circling.  

While swirling through this suspended state of being, lots of stuff arises in the mind.  It's an interesting place for thought.  It's where I revamp my bucket list, hang out in the Kubler-Ross model a little bit, with some bargaining with God.  It's where I vow to enjoy every moment if I am given more moments.  It's where I talk to myself about eating more healthfully, treating my body like a temple.  It's also where the doldrums set in and a tinge of listlessness may come.  

So, technically, while in a holding pattern, one awaits clearance to land.  In my brain, I'm waiting to hear if I will get clearance to make a smooth landing, or if I will just crash.  Circling and waiting.  

I know.  There are tools to employ during times like this.  And I do.  I pray, and breathe, and try to keep my daily routine going, but the mind, MY mind, does this.  And then the day comes.  The call comes from those in air traffic control (my surgeon), and I hear the words.  Today I heard the words "NO malignancy", which is my permission to land...safely.  

And down I come.  Back to earth; back to life.  The smile comes back, gratitude overflows, and with a renewed mind, I am back on the ground.  Glad to be back!

"Forever is composed of nows."

~Emily Dickinson 

Getting ready for eye surgery...at the party store.  Making it a family affair...all members wearing eye patches.

Coming down from the holding pattern!