May 142012

I am seated on the edge of a hotel the bed, chatting with the Germ, wearing a summer dress.  As I cross my legs, my perceptive Germ points to the back of my thigh and asks–what is that?  I look.  Odd, something new that I had never seen before.  I lick my finger in an attempt to rub it off.  Pen?  Chocolate?  It is not coming off.  There is a small black dot and I know instinctively that this is not good.  I am sure that it is really not good.  It is tiny, however it is black, brand new and looks like nothing else on my body.

I had an appointment with a dermatologist two weeks later–booked months before for an unrelated problem.  Of course the original issue had already resolved itself.   I went to that appointment and asked the intern and the derm to take a look at the black dot.  Both of them thought nothing of it.  It was small, but I could not shake the feeling that it really shouldn’t be there.  The derm told me that she was “99% sure it was nothing”, but since it was bothering me–off it came.  No big deal, 1 needle, 2 stitches, done.

I put it out of my head until l I got the call two weeks later.  The derm’s first words were–I am so glad I listened to you.  It is melanoma.  Cancer.  A surgery has been scheduled.

I didn’t think much of it, perhaps because everyone uses the term melanoma so interchangeably (usually incorrectly) with all other forms of skin cancer.  Melanoma is the bad one.  It’s the one that spreads.  It’s the one that kills.  My friend Dana lost her father far too young to this type of cancer.  Melanoma was also the cause of death for Bob Marley–God rest his rasta soul.

A few weeks later I arrive at the hospital for the surgery which I thought was going to minimal.  I pictured another biopsy and a little scar–maybe something the size of a penny.  Not the case.  The surgeon drew with a purple marker all of the flesh that he was going to remove.  Seriously?  THAT big?  The mole was tiny.  The drawing was as big’s as a man’s thumb.  Oh well.  What’s a scar when compared to life?  The staff commented on my mature attitude.  I hadn’t actually seen the drawing of the incision at the time I said this…

Do you tan?  No–never.  Do you wear sunscreen?  Always–I am known for it.  Family history?  None.

SINCE it was caught early–I am all good.  I didn’t spread. t thankfully escaped chemo.  Forever on mole patrol, but happy to say–am now cancer free.

I do have an ugly scar which unfortunately can be seen in most of my dresses, but will remain hopeful that it will shrink and fade as times goes on.

Life lesson:  Be your own health advocate.  If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t.

Melanoma 101

-Melanoma is the least common of all skin cancers

-Melanoma is the deadliest of all skin diseases

-Melanoma is more common in women than in men

-160k cases of Melanoma diagnosed each year WORLDWIDE 

-48k deaths related to Melanoma each year WORLDWIDE

-Melanoma is more common and dangerous to fair people (light hair, eyes and skin)

-Exposure to tanning beds increases the risk of Melanoma

-If not caught early, it spreads to other parts of the body, most commonly starting with lymph nodes

-Melanoma can usually not be cured once it has spread beyond skin and nearby lymph nodes

I entered into 2012, the champagne year with a list of new things I wanted to try and actively saught out new experiences.

I was not expecting this one…But I have kept calm and will continue to carry on.  Stay tuned.

 Posted by on May 14, 2012
Feb 172012

The first thing I did was obvious.  Start writing a list.  Needed:  12 new things (do/try/experience) for the Champagne year.  One item on the list was to sing on stage.  That however is cheating as it is not new.  It is something I have done my entire life.  What I haven’t done is rap on stage.  Yes, rap.  I am a white cousin who likes to go gangsta (usually after some show tunes).  Jay Z is my boy and my kitchen and car are my forums. The audience is typically the Germ, my lovelies or a shared performance with Dr King.  This time however there was a real audience.  Sadly no Sean Carter in the house, but a little Marshall Mathers would do just fine.  Enter Eminem.

There is no question that rapping on stage counts as one of my twelve new things.  Before I took the stage, there was some serious performance anxiety, but the always encouraging Germ kept citing his favourite expression which I suspect will be a mantra throughout this year.  “Feel the Fear and DO IT anyway  So I did it.

Here is a video to prove that I did it.  It is definitely not the most flattering dress or stance, but it was my one shot, the only opportunity that I got…

Dr Joi would say that I am a hot mess.  Either way, I think it is pretty funny but the real bottom line is that I did it.  10 more to go!

Lose Yourself
 Posted by on February 17, 2012
Feb 062012

The champagne year includes the directive to not only to drink a lot of different champagnes (and write about them), but also to do/experience/learn 12 different things that I have never tried before.  It is certainly going to make for an interesting, exciting and challenging year.  Stay tuned for my progress…

[Please note that this was written a month ago, but I wanted to pull pictures before I posted…the pictures are pretty funny.]

We are in gorgeous Saint Thomas.  This morning we went to Sea Cove Island and did what is called a Sea Trek.

I had not intended to conquer something new here, but considering how far removed I was from my comfort zone, this morning’s adventure certainly counts.

I knew signing on for the Sea Trek that this would not be my type of thing.  It is however the Germ’s type of thing.  I could easily break out into a show tune right now.  What I did for love from A Chorus Line would be perfect non?

The group gathers.  There is a lengthy safety session.  Then we are each given Sea Trek helmets–the key to this experience.  They look like an astronaut’s helmet and are white with a glass front.  The helmet  sits on your shoulders and weighs approximately 75 lbs, which, once underwater  feels less than a book bag or Valentino hand bag for that matter.  Tubes are attached to the back of the helmet and compressed oxygen is pumped through allowing you to breathe normally while under water.  Our very own version of 20 thousand leagues under the sea…

Once geared up, everyone takes their turn and backs their way down a ladder, deep into the open water.  I am consumed with anxiety.  I have visions of the damn helmet filling up with water and me drowning.  Au revoir Kitty!

The Germ is not fearful in the least.  As a certified open water diver, this underwater encounter is child’s play to him.  For me, it is a testament of my love.

I am part way down the ladder.  My chest is submerged and I am about to go fully under–then I freeze.  I obviously do the thing any sane person would do–I climb back up the ladder.  Eff this. I am ready to call it a day and then remember that this is the champagne year damn it.   So, I go back down the ladder, hyperventilating and convinced my helmet isn’t going to work, but suddenly there I am–underwater, breathing normally, walking along the sea bed, almost 30 feet below in what can only be described as a fish tank.

The fish were swimming all around us.  I enjoy a fish on my dinner plate, but am definitely not quite so content being in the middle of an entire school. I hate the thought of being swarmed by fish.  Everyone else seems to love it.  Look at my face in this picture as I see them coming.

The guides then “enhance” our experience by finding random sea creatures for us to hold.   This part I did not sign on for and have absolutely no desire to participate.   They find a big sea spider and start passing it around.  No thank you.  My facial expression here hides nothing.

Then they find this critter that has five eyes and looks sort of like a starfish.  I convince myself that I at least need to try and handle this one which is less scary looking but I really do it because I don’t want to look like a total wimpy looser.

In the end, I am feeling quite proud of myself.

After 30 minutes under, up we go.  In the end, I did enjoy my walk through the fish tank, but am convinced it is highly unlikely that I will will ever be successfully converted into an underwater person.  Give me a sail boat any day.

One down, eleven more to go!

 Posted by on February 6, 2012