About Me

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I'm a Jesus loving girl who is blessed with an amazing husband and two beautiful children. At the age of 23, while pregnant with my firstborn I noticed a dome shaped nodular area on my left hip. It started growing larger and eventually started bleeding. After the birth of my baby girl and my 24th birthday I decided to get the ugly bump checked. The result was Stage III nodular Malignant Melanoma that had extensions into my lymph nodes. I completed a year of Interferon chemotherapy. a year later I became pregnant with my second child. After his birth I developed two more melanoma primary tumors-- stage 1 2010, and stage 2 in 2011. Since then I have made it my mission to advocate and educate to bring about melanoma awareness in hopes that it could save others from this deadly disease. Thankfully, I am very healthy and doing very well! I have No Evidence of Disease and I'm showing Cancer Who's Boss by staying fit and healthy. I plan to blog about my adventures in running over cancer during training for my first Full marathon Fall 2014. Remember to love your skin, protect your skin, and check your skin. Share the love and spread the chemical-free lotion!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Changes


Hello friends,  

How many of you like change? Anyone out there seem to embrace it and ready to roll with whatever is thrown your way?  Sometimes change is good and it’s a welcomed surprise...Other times change throws us a curveball and we feel emotion we didn’t even know we could have.  Change can make us angry, sad, hurt, confused....but change can also help us grow in many ways if we can embrace it and allow it to teach us a thing or two.  

Here in the last year, we have encountered lots of change.  Some of it has been good and some bad.  Some of the changes have caused me to get angry and feel hurt.  If i’m being completely honest, some of the changes, especially the ones I didn’t get to control made me down right want to say things out of my character.  First in January of 2012 my dear friend Joe, found out the treatment he was on was no longer working against the Black Beast Melanoma.  I was sick with grief over the fact that this monster was ravaging my friends body and taking up resident where IT didn’t belong!  The changes happening made me so angry!  I felt angry at myself more than anything because I couldn’t stop it...I truly thought I had the power and enough faith to save my friend.  Change is hard....

After my friend Joe passed away in February 2012, my best friend Debra moved away. I was completely shocked!   We have worked together for close to six years and she is like my long lost sister.  We always joked that she is the female version of Joe. They are literally so much alike it’s scary! The three of us were inseparable those last few months of Joe’s life.  If Joe wanted Broccoli and Cheese soup from Panera, I could call Deb and she’d be right there to serve it to him. We spent every moment we could with him and his family to help comfort in some way.  Deb was with me and Joe’s family the night he took his last breath...That’s how Joe wanted it.  He said, “When the time comes I wan’t to be surrounded by my mom, my sisters, and my two best friends; You and Deb”.   We’ve been through a lot together.  Deb is that friend that I can seriously tell anything and she always knows what to say to make me laugh.  She loves me for who I am flaws and all.  I miss being able to drive five minutes to see her but I know there is a purpose for these changes.  Still Change is hard....

Just this past month a lot of changes have taken place with my job.  I had been working for this company for 8 1/2 years and had plans of settling into this place until retirement.  I thought my best friends Hattie, Deb and I would be doing sonograms til we  were old ladies.  These people have been with me through chemo and the birth of my children....we are like family, to separate us would be insane.  My husband and I recently bought a new home just a year ago 5 minutes from my work place because we just knew that’s where I would work for years to come.  About a year ago an opportunity came up to continue working for my company/department but it would require an hour commute to and from work each day.  I had been working nights and weekends for the past 7 1/2 years, and this new job was dayshift only and no call.  I took the position with the thoughts of being next in line for the next available dayshift position within my department.  This position was the next best thing until that coveted dayshift position became available locally.  Well those were my plans, but that’s not how things worked out. A year goes by and lots of changes happened.  The things I was told, were not true...the traveling position became a permanent position without the option of transferring back to my old job.  Because of my history with stage 3 melanoma, transferring jobs and insurance is a scary topic, so at times I feel stuck to do what ever the company asks me do.  Yes, this was very difficult for me to swallow and completely out of my control.  This was change that I didn’t embrace so easily.  This was change that made me angry and I became physically ill over it.  The new position will entail taking call and I live an hour away...not something I want to do when I have small children and my family lives four hours away.  Definitely not something I want to do when I have worked “crappy” shifts and put in my time over the years. Change is hard....

Just this morning our children’s pastor and wife made the announcement that they are moving from our church...God has called them to another church closer to their family. This is a change that is very difficult for them and us but at the same time a joyous move closer to family.   I have to admit, I was selfishly saddened by this news.  K and J have allowed God to impact our lives and our church in a Big way.  After much thought and prayer this is what I put on K’s fb wall: Change is hard but sometimes it’s necessary.  Change is uncomfortable but God is more concerned with our hearts and growing us than He is with our comfort.  Pastor K and J, You will be missed tremendously!  I have no doubt that God is going to use you three in a mighty way to impact His kingdom.  you have done so much in the lives of our children and for that we are eternally grateful.  We are so thankful to call you friends!  K you are an amazing leader and it was an honor to finish Tough Mudder Ky with you.  I also want to say I’m so proud of my Livi girl.  After church was over, I asked her if she was ok and she responded with “Yes.  I’m Ok...I was the only one not crying this morning.”  she said “I was too busy hugging and helping everyone else who was crying.”  I asked her if she understood that you guys are moving away and would no longer be our children’s pastors and she said, “Yes, but we can drive to see them sometime if we want to.Again, thanks for impacting our lives!  We are blessed because of you.

Change may be hard but God has a plan and even though some changes are out of our control...They are not out of God’s control.  On the bright side, I had coffee time with my friend Deb this evening before she traveled back to her new home.    Distance may separate us but our friendship is stronger than the roads between us.  Even though I no longer work with my Best friend Hattie, we still go to church together and live in the same town...She even traveled to Charlotte to run the Melanoma 5K with me.  Our friendship is stronger than not working in the same department.  And as for that new job I was so grudgingly not accepting of...well I’ve met some new friends who happen to be amazing!!!  These people love me and cheer for me. They even bought me a cake when I passed my Vascular Boards.  I enjoy their company and we are a great team together.  I realize now, I’m just where I need to be.  Change is hard....but sometimes the things we see as a huge burden can turn out to be just what we needed all along.  

Since I’m talking about Changes, I find it only fitting to make sure you are aware of any changes on your skin...as these changes can be bad!!!  Check moles for the ABCDE’s:  Asymmetry, Border irregularity, Color changes, Diameter, and Evolving.  If it itches, bleeds, or just looks funky get it removed ASAP!!!  As always please share the love and spread the Chemical free lotion to all those around you.  Much love and God bless!!!






Sunday, November 18, 2012

AIM For A Cure 2012-Charlotte, NC


Hello Friends,

I remember stumbling upon a post on Facebook back in January 2012 from the Melanoma Prayer Center about AIM at Melanoma's walk/fun run in Charlotte, NC.  I remember thinking how awesome it would be to raise a bunch of money not just for cancer in general but specifically for Melanoma.  The number of people diagnosed with melanoma is on the rise and sadly the number of deaths due to Melanoma continues to increase.  More research for better treatments need to be available!!!  If Melanoma is caught early the chance of survival is great, something like 99%.  But if Melanoma is caught in the later stages, there aren't good treatment options.  If you are diagnosed with stage II the only treatment option is surgical wide excision and interferon (and some oncologists don't even use interferon for stage II).  If you are diagnosed with stage III the FDA treatment options are surgical wide excision, Lymph node dissection or Ultrasound surveillance, and High Dose Interferon Alpha 2b for One Year.  If you are diagnosed with stage IV the treatments are surgery, Interleukin 2, Zelboraf if you have BRAF mutation, and Yervoy.  Sadly only about 10% of those with stage IV Melanoma survive...We need to change this and take Melanoma Down!!!!

Saturday Nov 17, 2012 the AIM for a Cure Melanoma Walk/Fun Run was a reality.  I was so excited and blessed to meet many of the melanoma warriors I follow on fb and blogs in person.  I was so thankful to travel from Kentucky to North Carolina with my best friends Hattie and Jason, My Mom and Step Dad, My little Sis Teaonna, My babies Livi and Andrew, and My biggest Fan--My Hubby Aaron.  Thanks to those who sent in donations for Hattie and I, we turned in over $1,700!!! Thanks to Randi for helping get our T-shirts for the event, while I'm so last minute! At the time of the event over $60,000 was raised to Show Melanoma Who's Boss!!!

I didn't get the opportunity to grab a hug from Anne, who organized the event, but I want to say: Anne You did an amazing job!!!!  There was free skin cancer screenings from Charlotte Dermatologists, UV skins was there, Awesome T-shirts, Free Starbucks Coffee, Bagels w/ cream cheese, protein bars, water, oranges, chemical-free Aveeno Sunscreen, lots of awesome giveaways, and hundreds of people affected by Melanoma.  I was moved to tears as I listened to those who spoke at the event about their loved one's who passed away from this horrible beast!  Sadly, one of the things I observed as I looked around was how many young people were getting the purple survivor shirts at the event.  We have to stop this beast!!!!

There were lots of people walking and some running...I decided to run, mainly because it was cold and I wanted to warm up.  I had so many names I wanted to put on the back of my shirt because sadly I know way too many people in my personal circle who have/are battling this disease, but I picked four: Joe Stevens (passed away Feb 13, 2012), Me (stage 3-battled 3 x's), Kim Blevins (stage 3-battled 2 x's), Jen Christie (stage IV warrior-Fighting for her life), and All Cancer Warriors!  I want you all to know that I ran for Donna from the Cancer spot, My friend Casey T. from back home, Kasee K. from back home, Megan F. from work, Sara W. my running friend, Eric Sizemore, my patients I meet with melanoma, my fb Melanoma friends, My Blogger Melanoma Friends and those who I've never met but connected because of this horrible disease.  I Run for all of You!!!

Here are the Pics from the Event:  Enjoy......

All the walkers/runners for the Event
Livi-I run for My Mommy and All the Cancer Warriors
Teaonna- I run for My Sister and All the Cancer Warriors
The Back of Our Shirts
Teaonna and Livi
My little Andrew

Hattie and I Running for all the Melanoma Warriors
Mom, Livi, Me, and Teaonna

Livi, Aaron, Andrew, and Me--Andrew didn't want to pose for the pic

Mark, Me, and Rich--check out those TuTu's.  Rich writes Hotel Melanoma
Carol and I.  Carol writes Attitude of Gratitude

Chelsea and I.  Chelsea writes Adventures With My Enemy Melanoma

It was such a blessing meeting all of you and getting to hug you in person!  I hate that we all share this common bond with this ugly Beast, But together we are Showing Melanoma Who's Boss!!!!

This Time Last Year

Hello Friends,

This time last year, November 20, 2011 to be exact, my little girl Livi had been sick for over a week with a Strep/Mono combo. For several days in a row she had fevers reaching above 105... It was very scary! Since my family lives four hours away, my hubby and I have to arrange our work schedules during times like these to be able to care for our kids.  I remember like it was yesterday calling my friend Brittany, who worked midnights, to see if we could trade days so I could be home during the day to take care of my sick little Livi while my hubby was at work.  Thankfully she traded with me and I was set to work Sunday and Monday midnights in the ultrasound department.  

I clocked into work at 6pm and began taking care of my patients.  During my lunch break I received a text from my friend Joe, who is an ER nurse friend of mine also battling Melanoma.  For those who don't know about Joe, let me give you a little history---Joe was diagnosed with stage 3a melanoma on his upper back with positive sentinel lymph node under his arm.  Joe did the full lymph node dissection and all other nodes came back clean. In June 2011 Joe's scans revealed a lung mass and surgery confirmed it was metastatic melanoma.  Joe went on to have half of his lung removed and was told he had clear scans in October 2011.  Since there was no evidence of measurable disease his Dr's said there was no adjuvent chemo he could do other than interferon since his scans were clean.  Now fast forward to November 20, 2011 when I received the text message from my friends Joe.  The text read: "Alicia, I think it's back." I responded with "Where are you?".  He responded with "The ER room 22".  I responded with "I'll be right there".  

When I got down to Joe's room I could see he was lethargic, sweating, and his urinal was black.  He looked at me and said "I think I'm dying"  "I know it's back".  The next day scans confirmed our worse fears that the melanoma had invaded Joe's liver, bones, spleen, lung, and brain.  Joe tested positive for the BRAF mutation and began the treatment Zelboraf.  I tried to be there with my friend every day to support him, encourage him, and to just listen when he needed someone to talk to.  My friend Jennifer Christie, was also on Zelboraf at the time helped us more than she will ever know while Joe was battling.  My friend Joe passed away at the young age of 33 on Feb 13, 2012.  Before Joe passed away I told him about the AIM at Melanoma 5K that was held Nov 17, 2012 in Charlotte NC.  Joe said, "I won't make it that long, but Run for Me."  

Friends as we gather together this Thanksgiving please remember Joe and pray for his family.  He is missed tremendously!!!  I still have his voicemails on my cell phone and I listen to them whenever I need a boost of encouragement.  Please don't forget to check your skin for anything that seems new or out of the ordinary.  Joe's melanoma was on his upper back and his momma told him over and over to get it checked.  My first Melanoma was on my left hip during pregnancy and had I not waited over a year to get it checked mine might have been caught earlier than stage 3.  Melanoma is not just skin cancer!  It can and will Kill no matter what color or how old you are!  Please make the call to get your skin checked with a dermatologist!  Don't forget to share the love and spread the (chemical-free) lotion! Much love and God Bless Each of you!!!!

Joe and his precious Momma





Thursday, November 1, 2012

Patience

Hello friends,

Have you ever been in a situation where you send up a quick prayer asking "God give me patience or I'm going to end up coming unglued and lose my cool?" I don't know about you but sometimes I say those quick prayers as if Im expecting God to just wave a magic wand and "zap" me with some patience in about 2 seconds. I totally believe God could zap me with patience real quick but thats not the way He works. Patience is something that must be developed by experiencing and living thru trials or while waiting for something our heart longs for.

You see the very situation that is testing us to the point of complete breakdown is what develops patience. Its the moment when we quit trying to control the situation and we give it to God. Patience isn't something we can give ourselves by chanting over and over in our head "I need to be patient, I need to be patient, I need to be patient." That only prolongs the ticking time bomb that is going to go off when someone flips our switch so to speak. God is the giver of patience and its given by allowing Him complete control over our circumstances.

The book of James talks about developing patience through trials in this scripture: My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. (James 1:2-5 NKJV)

God in the midst of our trials or while waiting for the "door(s)" to open help us develop patience and give us wisdom when we have to make serious life changing decisions. I know my life is in your hands and you are in control. You are the giver of love and peace. And your love never fails. Thank you for blessing me with far more than I deserve and most of all thank you for loving me while I was so unloveable. In Jesus name, Amen.

Monday, October 29, 2012

"Jesus has me here for a reason"

Hello friends,  
 
Sometimes we find ourselves in circumstances completely out of our control.  I see this quote "God doesn't give us more than we can handle"flash across facebook and twitter status when tragic situations are happening.  But the truth is, sometimes we are given way more than We can handle!  We are not Strong Enough!!! That's why Jesus says "come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest."  I believe that statement should say sometimes we are given way more than we can handle, but give your fears, your panic, your sense of out-of-control to Jesus and He will help you handle what you are given.  And secondly I don't believe it's God who puts us in these terrible situations...terrible things happen because we live in a fallen world with lots of evil all around us.  Read about Paul's thorn in 2 Corinthians Chapter 12, where Paul says his thorn was given to him as a messenger of Satan to torment him--God did not give Paul his thorn but He helped him deal with it.  Paul goes on to say "when I am weak, then He is strong".  While we may find ourselves in the midst of complete turmoil Jesus is the one that gives us power in our weakness...While the storm is raging on the outside... Jesus gives us peace that passes understanding on the inside.  Panic and Fear IS NOT from God!!!  2 Timothy 1:7 says "For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind."  

I tell you these things today because it's something I must constantly remind myself.  I have to admit, I am a control freak!!!  I would love to tell you that I never fear, I never panic, and I never get that feeling to run away from what I'm facing as fast as I can...but that is not true.  The truth is while I look calm and collected on the outside, I am completely freaking out on the inside!  I have hidden these scriptures in my heart and they are always the go to verses when something Bigger than me is going on.  When I read 2 Timothy 1:7 I immediately feel powerful and while I know I'm not in control, it gives me peace knowing that Jesus is in control. 

This whole post was inspired by my friend Jess who is a great example of obedience and trusting God during a devastating situation.  She flew out yesterday to D.C. for an appointment at the National Institute of Health.  Jess has been battling brain tumors from Neurofibromatosis and been on chemo for a year.  As most of you know there is severe weather going on due to "Frankenstorm" Sandy which is hitting the D.C. area today.  After my friend made it to D.C. she was told all federal buildings would be closed today due to the severe storm, including the NIH.  Then to top it off her flight for tonight has also been cancelled.  She is stuck in D.C. and  can't even see her Dr, which was the whole reason she went there in the first place.  Now I don't know about you but I think that is a totally acceptable situation to throw a complete fit or at least complain a little about.  But not Jess... She was asking what would be some fun things to do today considering things would be closed around town and she can't see her Dr.  She even thought about greeting people at her hotel as they came in from the storm.  I told Jess, I'm so sorry you're going through this....This completely sucks!!!  and Her response was "Jesus has me here for a reason."  Wow!!!  

When my friend Jess said that, it completely changed things for me.  I thought how Powerful and How True!  While God may not cause the thorns in our sides and He will help us handle them, there's also a greater purpose for going through the thorn bush.  There may be someone else we can help along the way.  What if each of us took our focus off of the things that we can't control?  What if we quit thinking about how terrible the situation is for us and pondered maybe "Jesus has me here for a reason"?  



Saturday, October 27, 2012

Tough Mudder KY 2012


Hello Friends,  Just one week ago today I was getting up at 5 am to get ready to take on the Maysville Ky Tough Mudder with my team The Wildwood Warriors.  I was nervous and excited to challenge myself against the 12 miles of steep hills covered in mud and the 21 insane obstacles.   I had a lot of people ask "Why do tough mudder?"  "Don't you get electrically shocked?"  "Isn't it like 12 miles?" "You know you have to sign a Death waiver!" Yes, I knew all those things because I researched Tough Mudder and it seemed like a Big enough challenge that I wanted to take on not to mention all proceeds go to the wounded warrior project.  I wanted to do something Big to Shove it in Cancer's face!  I wanted to do something to show cancer who's Boss!!!  I wanted to do something to represent all the other warriors out there who are fighting to survive!  I wanted to do this for my friend Joe, who would have totally been right there trudging through the mud with me.  You see, God has spared my life...I can't just sit back and do nothing.  I must do something BIG and smear it all in cancers face...because it doesn't have me yet!

I was super pumped when I pulled into the church parking lot, where our team was meeting to carpool.  We had been training for months (since June 2012 after my last surgery) and praying it was enough to get us across the finish line.  I was so anxious I had to make myself eat.  My friend Deb picked me up a coffee and a bagel but I was only able to stomach half of it due to nerves.
Me (wearing black bandana for melanoma), Deb, and Amy
Tough Mudder Maysville took place on an ATV course and since there was 9,000 people taking on the challenge we had to park at the Mason County High School and be bused to the event. My initial concern when I stepped out of the car was how cold it was and I wasn't even wet yet.  It was in the 40's, overcast, and the wind was blowing constantly...Not a great combination with 12 miles of hills, mud, ice, and electric shocks.
Wildwood Warriors--Oh Yeah!!!!

We were in the Saturday 9:20am wave and you had to climb over a berlin wall  before you passed through the starting line.  The announcer did an amazing job getting everyone pumped up before we started as did the national anthem and the American Flag. Here is the link to the  Course Map and obstacle list.  The toughest obstacles for me was the Arctic EnemaElectric EElFire Walker, and Everest. The Arctic Enema was the second obstacle on the list.  You had to jump into a tank filled full of ice cubes and swim under a wooden plank to get to the other side.  I have never been that cold before in my life!!!  It wouldn't have been so bad if you didn't have to completely submerge yourself, head and all under the heavy ice.  The electric eel was more mental than anything.  It was like a huge slip in slide covered in mud and rock.  Above you was barbed wire and electric wires that hung down and shocked you as you army crawled on the bed of mud and rock.  I got shocked about seven times by the electric eel and while it wasn't pleasant, it was definitely not as bad as I expected it to be.  The fire walker obstacle caught me off guard when I jumped over the line of fire into the water, I wasn't expecting it to be so deep.  I couldn't even touch the bottom and it went completely over my head not to mention when I finally took a gasp of air I inhaled massive amounts of smoke. By the time we made it to Everest, we were all borderline Hypothermic.  My body was internally shivering uncontrollably!  My muscles were stiff and my body felt numb.  I wasn't sure how I was going to make it up the half pipe, especially after seeing one of my team members bust his face.  I tried everest 3 times with no success.  The guy behind me said, "give it one more try...run fast...I know you can do it this time."  I gave it one more shot and finally grabbed ahold of my friend Shannon's hand and the rest of my team pulled me over the top.
This was the backside of Everest.
By far the toughest part of Tough Mudder Ky wasn't the obstacles but the terrain and climate itself. There is no way you could "run" through Tough Mudder Ky...You have to climb, crawl, and slide through the steepest mud and rock covered hills you could imagine.  The course was slow, dangerous, and brutal! Even the most in shape muscle bulging guys on the course seemed to be struggling.  Most people got injured on the terrain itself or because of hypothermia.  It was freaking cold!!!!!  I thought I was being smart by wearing cold gear but cold gear only works if you are dry.  I knew I would be getting wet but I didn't realize I would be wet the entire 12 miles.  Next time I'm definitely wearing a wet suit lol!

Boa Constrictor Obstacle--crawling thru frigid muddy water filled tubes
"Thumbs Up"  it was cold!!!!
Electroshock Therapy
Me and Amy packing our wood and covered in mud
Berlin Wall
                                                     
My team helping me over a Berlin wall
The most important thing I learned during Tough Mudder wasn't how strong I am....I realized how very weak I am...I learned how important it is to work as a team....and that We need each other! Tough Mudder parallels my battle with cancer in so many ways but mostly in the fact that whether you're in the battle or along the side lines you matter in helping me get to the finish line.  My husband and my friends Hattie, Jason, and Lisa didn't sign up to do tough mudder, but they were there on the side of the mountain cheering me up the steep hills and taking pictures of the insane festivities.  A lot of you may not have cancer or been through Tough Mudder but you've been there showing me support.  You'll never know how much that means to me.  The Tough Mudder Pledge says:  As a Tough Mudder I Pledge that.... (1) I understand that tough mudder is not a race but a challenge.  (2) I put teamwork and camaraderie before my course time.  (3) I do not whine-kids whine!  (4) I help my fellow mudders complete the course. and (5) I overcome all fears
                           
Wildwood Warriors After pic-minus a few mudders on our team.
 I'm not the strongest girl out there and my body has been through a lot but Tough Mudder is very mental. Yes, you must train hard but if I can make it through tough mudder as scrawny as I am then anyone can do it if they just set their mind to it.  It's a lot of mind over matter!  There is no way I could have made it to the finish line without each and everyone of my team members and all my friends support!  Praise God WE did it!!!!!!!!!  Now who's signing up with me for next year?
Showing Cancer Who's Boss!!!!!

Vandy Full Body Exam 10-22-12

Hello Friends,

Sorry it's been so long since I've blogged!!!!  Seems as if I have been completely busy just living life to the fullest.  Since my last post I have been so consumed with work, family, and training for tough mudder there has been no time for sitting down. Some nights I wouldn't get my workout or runs in until after 9 pm while cooking supper,cleaning up house, washing laundry,  juggling bathing two kids and getting homework done.  After four months of training, this past saturday me and my team of Wildwood Warriors took on the Kentucky Tough Mudder, which I will hopefully sooner than later blog about.  Sunday I was pretty sore and bruised up so I soaked a while in hot water to loosen my joints a bit before heading to church.  After church we packed our things and was on our 5 hour drive to Nashville TN.

My appointment was at 11:30 am Monday October 22, 2012 with Dr. E at Vandy's Melanoma Clinic.  Dr. E is specialized specifically in Melanoma genetic mutations and is also a boards certified Dermatologist and Internal Medicine Dr.  It was time for my three month full body exam...and for those who have never had this done, let me just say it's more in depth than a gynecologic pelvic exam. Keep in mind that Melanoma can literally grow any where, so Dr. E thoroughly checks the vaginal, anal, and oral areas very well!  First the Resident came in to get a good medical history by asking questions and asked if I've noticed any new lesions on my skin.  Then the resident began the full body exam starting at the top of my head to the tips of my toes. She was pretty shocked to see all the bruises on my body, which I told her I earned at the Tough Mudder on Sat hehe.  After the resident examined me, then Dr. E came in to do a more thorough examination.  He gave me a high five for surviving tough mudder.  He said he has a nephew that completed it in the summer and whined for months about how hard it was, so he was impressed I survived without any injuries.  Dr. E first examined my scalp, using a hair dryer to move the hair away from the skin. He also palpated my abdomen and lymph nodes. If he see's any unusual lesions, he then evaluates them using a dermascope.  He took pictures and measurements of two new skin lesions that he want's to "watch" for changes and decided to biopsy a new skin lesion on the back of my left thigh that had characteristics worrisome for melanoma.  After Dr. E took pictures of the skin lesion he was getting ready to biopsy he explained to me that this lesion has a hypo pigmentation around it like a halo and the lesion itself appears to have a lot of blood vessels.  I told him the lesion really wasn't bothering me but he insisted I needed to have a punch biopsy just to make sure it's not another melanoma or dysplastic lesion.

During the biopsy, I had to lay on my belly while the nurse prepped the back of my thigh.  Next the resident injected a needle around and in the lesion with lidocaine to numb the area, which feels like a little bee sting.  It's really not too bad and definitely not as painful as lymphoscintigraphy injections!  During the punch biopsy my Dr uses an apple core'er like device that he presses over the lesion and then twists back and forth until the lesion and some tissue around the lesion is removed.  This tissue was then sent to pathology and my incision was sutured up.  Dr. E said he would call me next Monday to give me the results.  Here is a pic of my little biopsy flesh wound:





Thankfully My Dr. called me yesterday with Fantastic News!!!!  My biopsy pathology was negative for Melanoma!!! He said "Completely Benign"!!!  Can I get a Whoop Whoop?!!!!  This was what he called a halo nevus which he said can mimic melanoma due to the hypo pigmentation around the lesion.  This is the first time I've ever had a biopsy come back completely negative.  I've had over 20 biopsies and every  one was either dysplastic or melanoma which required further treatment/surgery.  I just want to thank you all for your prayers, your support, and all your love!  Melanoma may be a thorn in my side but Jesus' power is made perfect in my weakness!  Please take the time to check your skin, check your kids skin, and check your loved ones skin for any unusual areas.  If it itches, flakes, or bleeds get it biopsied ASAP!!!!  Even though the weather is starting to turn cold please be safe on those cold sunny days as you can still get a sunburn.  Always remember to share the love and spread the lotion! Much love and God bless each of you!!!

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Don't be Pink Envy~Be Pink Inspired!

Hello friends, I had an amazing time at the Path to the cure breast cancer race in Huntington WV.  It was an awesome turnout with over 1,500 runners and walkers. I didn't get my best race time today as it was difficult to navigate through the masses of people...what an awesome problem to have:-)  My time was 28:08 with a pace of 9:04 per mile.  I placed 8 out of 131 women in my age group,  53 out of 1,075 women and 155 out of a total of 1,527 people.  I'm so thankful for God giving me the ability to run for such an amazing cause.  Our breast cancer fighting sisters sure know how to party and bring about awareness!  They raised a ton of money ($72,218) to help under/uninsured patients get mammograms in our area.  We could all learn a lot from our pink sisters. Let us not forget that we cancer fighting people are all in this together.  Cancer sucks no matter what type you are diagnosed with.   Cancer is Cancer regardless if  you have breast, melanoma, colon, brain, cervical, pancreatic, bone, prostate, childhood, lung, lymphoma, leukemia, stomach or a rare type you have never heard of.  We are all in the fight for our lives when we hear the words "You have cancer".  The  important thing is getting the word out there about your cancer so others don't have to walk in our shoes!  We are all in this fight together and that cancer kills no matter what type you have.  Let us not become envious of the pink that is everywhere but let it inspire us to share and get out there to promote awareness for the type of cancer we each have.  If you aren't seeing enough awareness out there about your type of cancer don't sit back and complain about it waiting for someone else to take the stand.  Get out there and promote awareness cause  you never know whose life you might save. I have learned a lot from my pink wearing cancer fighting friends! It only takes one person to stand up and share their story that could save a ton of lives.   So what are you waiting for?  Get out there and spread some awareness for your cancer!  I hope that soon with all the awareness and money raised for research that cancer in itself is a rare word!  With tomorrow being the first of October and Breast Cancer awareness month don't forget to do your monthly breast exam and while your at it check your skin for any unusual moles or lesions.  As always share the love and spread the lotion to all those around you!  Much love and God bless each of you!



Couldn't fit the massive line of people in one image!  So Powerful!!!

After the race today my livi girl made me a card.  I thought I would share it with my friends, hope you enjoy!
Livi says the heart means "fight with your heart!"

"Fight this cancer!  Love Fighting this cancer1"


"Do not get sunburnt! Wear Sunscreen!"



Sunday, September 23, 2012

Why Run?

Hello friends,

I get that question a lot these days since I started my running journey in June 2012.  Most people would think I run to get my pre mommy body back after giving birth to two almost 8 1/2 lb babies.  Not so!!!  I have always been someone that enjoyed staying in shape not for the way it made me look but because of how strong it made me feel.  Even during my pregnancies I tried to be active by walking and doing  Zumba. When  I was in high school I ran track during the off months of competitive All Star Cheerleading.  I was an 800 meter runner for the most part and sometimes filled in for the one mile if needed.  I was by no means a distance runner and never really had the desire to run more than a mile. I'm more of a fitness, lift a few weights, gymnastics, dancing, throw in a little yoga kind of girl so it was a real challenge to try to run more than one mile at a time.

Last year around March 2011 I finally thought I was going to try to get myself back into shape after my third battle with Melanoma in January 2011.  I decided I was going to go to a class called RIPPED.  Yep, sounds pretty fun huh?  While lifting what seemed like 100 reps of 5lb weights I felt and heard a pop in my left bicep.  I didn't think much of it and continued working out.  The next morning my arm was so red, hot and swollen around my bicep that I couldn't even extend my arm.  After an MRI of the arm we found out sure enough I tore my bicep tendon.  I kinda laughed cause the Dr. said "what exactly were you doing to tear your bicep tendon?  I mean that usually happens to old men over the age of 50." Me: "Well sir I wish I could say I was curling 50 lbs but it was more like 5" haha!!!Thankfully it wasn't a complete tear and I didn't need surgery Praise God!!!!

After I healed from the bicep tear I never really got back into shape.  April 2011 was PET scan time for me and my friend Joe.  In early May 2011 we found out I had some questionable lymph nodes that would require a 6 week followup scan then core biopsies  and my dear friend Joe was told the melanoma had now spread to his lung.  After I found out about Joe, I immediately went into fighter mode.  I was arranging bake sales, making dinners for him post surgery, and rallying the troops to help give him support.  I was researching the best treatments out there for Stage IV melanoma.  My friend had lung surgery in the summer of 2011 and was back to work as an ER nurse by the end of September 2011.  I remember He had his followup PET scan in early October and my PET scan was at the end of October.  We were so thankful to find out both of our scans came back with no evidence of disease.  Then the week before Thanksgiving 2011 Joe came in to the ER and was very sick.  That night he looked me in the eye and said "the monster is back."  After a day full of scans sure enough the cancer was widespread throughout his body.  My dear friend fought a courageous battle with such grace and the army of his friends and family fought with him all the way til he entered the gates of Heaven on February 13, 2012.  You can read about my amazing friend Joe by visiting www.caringbridge.org/visit/joestevens.  My friend Joe taught me a lot.  He taught me that life is short and the most important thing is to love God and to love people.  While he was in hospice he always talked about how he loved to run the trails of lake Vesuvius or ride his bike through the mountains.  I told him when I healed up from my recent surgeries that I was going to start running 5K's cause I wan't to run to make a difference.  He said "when you run, run for me."
Me and Joe

In May of 2012 I had a wide excision to remove a early melanoma vs severely dysplastic lesion from my right hip. It was during that time that I started this blog and decided I wasn't letting this cancer control my life anymore. Sure I have anemia, sure I get swelling from lymphedema in my left pelvis, sure I get pin prickling pain in my left hip, sure i've had a mini stroke,sure I have stage II kidney failure and sure there's that high chance that the cancer may come back but right now God has given me two good legs and by golly i'm going to use them.  I went all out and joined the tough mudder group from church (which by the way tough mudder is a 10-12 mile military style obstacle course) before I even healed from surgery to push me to train hard.  Starting out in June I could barely run a mile without literally almost passing out and by the end of July I ran my first ever 5K!  I wasn't the fastest but I felt invincible crossing that finish line.
Race to Fight Hunger  5K 7-14-2012
Time:30:06
Wild Wood Warriors Tough Mudder Team
Running for me isn't about being the fastest it's about showing the cancer whose Boss!  When I run, I run for Joe and I run for all of those who are in the fight for their life.  I am blessed with such great health and I'm not going to waste it by sitting on the couch.  I feel guilty if I'm not living my life to the fullest because God has spared my life for a reason and I'm not going to sit back and let it be boring. Luke 12:48 Message version says "Great gifts mean great responsibilities; greater gifts, greater responsibilities!" I know it's hard as a mom or dad to find the time to workout but if you are in good health and your Dr says its ok to partake in exercise by all means running is the most time efficient workout there is.  Like I said, I can find all kinds of excuses not to run:  I work full time, I have two kids (6 yr old and 3 yr old), I help with small group at church, Kids homework, laundry, family time, doctor visits, kids sports, family lives 4 hrs away, and the list could go on and on....but running takes no more than 30 minutes of my time.  While I'm not the best runner and at times running is not fun for me I do enjoy the challenge of trying to beat my time from previous runs.  I love competing with myself, It's my way of sticking it to the cancer.  So why do I run?  I run for all those who aren't able to, I run to show the cancer that I'm in charge, I run to be a healthy mom to my kids, I run to do my part to be healthy for my husband (who by the way is my biggest fan),  I run to help those in need and I run to give glory to God for giving me these two legs to run with.  
Hands and Feet 5K  9-1-12
2nd place in my age group ~Time 28:26
Me and Hattie (my BFF) who has been there with me through it all.

Poage Landing 5K 9-15-2012

Poage Landing 5K
Me, Liv, & Deb (she is seriously like my sister)
2nd place in my age group
Time27:55

Liv and I enjoying a post 5K banana 
Stay tuned for more blogs about my running adventures and the Tough Mudder coming up on October 20, 2012.  All Proceeds for Tough Mudder goes to the wounded warrior project.  I feel it's the least I could do to endure 10-12 miles of mudd for the freedom these men and women have given to me.  My next Vandy appointment is October 22, 2012,  Local Oncology visit is November 2012, and scan time is December 2012. I run in the Melanoma AIM walk November 17, 2012 in Charlotte NC.  Please consider sponsoring me in the fight against Melanoma by clicking here.  Don't forget to share the love and spread the lotion!





Wednesday, September 12, 2012

September 11


Hello friends, September 11 is one of those dates that is forever burned into my mind not just because of the attack on America but because of other events that happened specifically to me and/or my family on this particular date.

September 11, 2001 
I was nineteen years old and a sophomore at Morehead State University.  I remember walking to my morning health class with the excitement of Fall weather.  It was a beautiful morning with the sun beams peering out behind a blanket of fog and a slight crisp chill in the air.  As I got to my class the professor announced that we would be wearing Beer goggles in class and then write a paper about the affects alcohol has on your motor skills.  I remember thinking WOW this is ridiculous!  About midway through the class my professor comes running in frantic "We are under attack!!!"  She was pacing the floor and dialing numbers trying to reach her family that lived in NY city.  After class I remember standing with others around the TV watching as the planes hit the twin towers.  The visions before my eyes were as eerily chilling as the air that September day.  
wtc-9-11-photo.jpg

While workers were searching for people and moving rubble they saw two steel beams in the form of a cross.  It stood there strong in the middle of such destruction as a symbol of strength and hope.  My thoughts and prayers are with those who are daily affected by this tragic day!

World-Trade-Center-9-11-cross-1.jpg
September 11, 2002
A year after the attack on our country my father in law became very ill.  He passed away on 9-8-2002 and was buried on the one year anniversary of September 11.  My husband was 25 when he lost his father.  He was an honorable Man of God that lived and breathed his bible. I am so thankful I had the opportunity to know him and hear him tell stories about traveling around to preach the gospel.
  

September 11, 2006
I don't remember the exact time of my appointment but it was on a Monday afternoon.  This was my first appointment with a dermatologist.  I had this ugly red bump on my left hip since I was 23 and in my 12th week of pregnancy.  Now that I was 24 and was holding my 6 month old bundle of joy it was time to get the ugly bump checked especially since it had started bleeding.  I remember the Doctor sitting directly across from me and asked "so what are we here for today?"  I told her about my bump and she had me slide down my pants to get a better look at my hip.  She poked, prodded and squeezed around the bump then had me go to the procedure room where I soon had a biopsy.  The lidocaine injections felt like a big pinch and after I was numb the procedure wasn't so bad.  In the back of my mind I knew something wasn't right but I kept reminding myself "even if it is cancer, It's just skin cancer".  Besides, I never knew anyone who died from that!  Two days later on September 13, 2006 I received a phone call from my doctor's office telling me to immediately get to her office to discuss my pathology results and options.  I knew at that moment my life would forever be changed.  To hear the words "You have cancer"  "invasive nodular Melanoma" "It has spread to your lymph nodes" "Stage 3 metastatic malignant melanoma" "You will have to do a year of chemotherapy"  "you will be very sick"  "you may need anti depressants as this drug has neuro-toxic side affects"  "you may develop liver and kidney failure" "your chances of survival are less than 50% in 5 years". I cried and I prayed "OH GOD help me get through this"  just as we did on the other Sept 11 days.  I remember laying across my bed sobbing and asking God to help me as these words came to my mind "Can you serve me through this?  Without the power of God and the support of my friends and family there is no way I could have endured that difficult year on my own.  2 Timothy 1:7 says " For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind."  Friends, while September 11 will be one of those dates that we will never forget because of the tragedy that happened, let it also be a reminder to love and encourage one another.  You never know when it could be your last time to tell someone you love them or your proud of them or just hug them.  As a reminder,  Please check your skin for any unusual areas.  If you have any new moles look for the ABCDE A-assymetric, B-Border irregular, C-color variation, D-Diameter (big as a pencil eraser), and E-evolving/changing over time.  I would also like to add if you have a mole or new bump that itches and it doesn't go away please get it checked asap!!!  I know Fall is in the air but don't forget to share the love and spread the lotion as the sun can burn you in the fall and winter just as much as the summer.  Much love and God Bless!!!


Me holding Alivia (6 mo old) one week before getting diagnosed with cancer















Monday, August 27, 2012

Pray for Cristen

Hello Friends, please lift up my dear friend Cristen in your prayers. She is having surgery for the 18th time to remove Metastatic Colon cancer from her abdomen tomorrow morning at MD Anderson. She is an awesome cancer fighting sister that lets her light shine bright! She is an encourager and cheerleader for me during my battle and is always so upbeat. Pray specifically for the surgeon to get clear margin and that the chemo kills any residual cancer cells. Thanks so much!!! As always friends be aware of your body and please get any unusual symptoms checked! Much love and God bless each of you!

The UV War!



Hello Friends,

This past week while browsing through Facebook I noticed a  link on one of my Mela-sisters page that caught my eye.  You can click here to view the full article.  The article starts out by sharing quotes from a video made by the International Smart Tan Network.  It portrays a scene where a dermatologist is entering Heaven and God asks him what his good deeds are. The doctor responds "Well, as a dermatologist, I've been warning people that sunlight will kill them and that it is as deadly as smoking." God says, "You're saying that sunlight, which I created to keep you alive, give you vitamin D, and make you feel good, is deadly?  And the millions of dollars you received from chemical sunscreen companies had nothing to do with your blasphemy?"  Then God sends a bottle of 1000 spf sunscreen to the dermatologist's hand and says "you'll need that where you're going."

I don't know about you, but when I read the quotes from the video I found them very disturbing.  This is the kind of videos the tanning industry is using to train their staff.  Pretty Sick if you ask me!   Not only is the tanning industry trying to villianize  dermatologists,  oncologists, and other health related people but they are trying to create an image of a Mean God.  We don't enter heaven based on our good works but based on a relationship with an amazing Loving God who wants us to love Him back.  He wouldn't just throw us some sunscreen and cast us into hell. Secondly, yes God created the Sun but He did not create the tanning bed!  He also didn't create the years of damage to the ozone layer from pollution.  Now, don't get me wrong.  Please hear me out!  I'm not a sun hating person.  but I do despise tanning beds!!!  Lets not forget that UV radiation is a scientifically proved carcinogen.  One person dies every minute from melanoma.  I love the outdoors and I enjoy the sun but we must play it safe.  We can't just merely grab any type of sunscreen slather it on and be in the sun for  hours on end.  We must re-apply every two hrs, seek shade, wear chemical free sunscreen, wear sun protective clothing, and we must limit our time in the sun. I think the analogy of God creating the sun so it must be 100% safe is about like saying God created water which is something we need to survive so swim out in the deep as long as you want and its completely safe.  Not so!   Swim out in the deep long enough without a floatation device and you will tire and drown... or be eaten by a shark.  I remember a few years ago a lady trying to win a competition by drinking  too much water and she actually died!  Anyways I think the tanning industry has hit an all-time low by creating a video such as this!

In 2009 the World Health Organization and International Agency for Research on Cancer listed UV-emitting tanning devices as carcinogenic. Since then a lot of action has taken place through the AIM at Melanoma foundation and other organizations to make it illegal for teens 18 and under to use a tanning bed.  Teens make up the majority of tanning bed customers and the 4.9 billion dollar industry is suddenly scared of loosing business since implementing these new laws.  I would have more respect for them if they just posted on their walls a warning that this may lead to a lethal form of skin cancer called Melanoma and for people to use at their own risk. Instead of sharing the truth about the dangers of tanning they are spreading lies, lies and more lies. Sound familiar to anyone?  Think back to the tobacco companies.  The tanning bed is the cigarette of today and the UV War is on between the tanning industry, sun screen companies, and health agencies.  My question is Where's the Love?  and Where's the Truth?

If what the tanning industry is trying to say is true then the melanoma rate should be decreasing instead of increasing because there are more tanning salons than there are McDonalds. If what they are saying is true then I must be  a rare anomaly.  I layed in the sun  and I used the tanning bed in moderation I must add.  I actually never used sun screen and I developed stage III metastatic melanoma.  but the truth is I'm not a rare anomaly.  Melanoma is the leading cause of cancer death of women in their 20's.  Before the time of tanning beds, melanoma was only heard of in older males.  but now, thanks to tanning beds its become a young person's disease.  Please don't be fooled that laying in a tanning bed in moderation is safe.  It is scientifically proven that laying one time in the tanning bed increases your chances of deadly melanoma by 75%.

Now, let me get off my tanning bed soap box a moment and share one thing the tanning industry and I do agree on and that is to stay away from the chemical laced sunscreens!  I want to share a link to the Environmental Working Group which is an amazing site to browse for the best types of sunscreen and sun safety tips.  The EWG shared on their site that the FDA said they are not aware of any studies examining the effect of sunscreen use on the development of melanoma. The FDA also says there is no conclusive facts that Vitamin D prevents cancer.   The EWG stresses the fact that if you are going to use sunscreen please use a non chemical sunscreen and don't let sunscreen be your only means of protection.  I want to encourage SHADE, Sun protective CLOTHING, and limit your TIME in the sun.  Be careful to avoid the sun during peak UV hrs 10am-4pm.

 EWG's list of things to AVOID while searching for a good sunscreen:

  • Vitamin A- listed as "Retinyl Palmitate" on ingredient labels.  It causes skin cancer in lab tests because its photo-carcinogenic.  vitamin A is good to be ingested but not on sun exposed skin.
  • Oxybenzone- A synthetic Estrogen that penetrates the skin and contaminates the body.  It causes skin allergies and is a hormone disruptor.
  • High SPF- While this may sound good to use SPF 100 it gives you a false sense of protection.  Using 100 SPF may make you feel more protected than you really are and in turn cause a sunburn.


EWG's list of things to LOOK for while searching for a good sunscreen:

  • Active ingrdients- should be zinc oxide, titanium dioxide, mexoryl Sx or Avobenzone (3%)
  • SPF 30+
  • Lotions- not sprays (sprays can harm the lungs if not in a well ventilated area)
  • water resistant for beach or pools.
I want to end this post by saying I love you all and I don't want anyone to have to go through what I've been through.  Planning my life around my next dermatology, oncology, and scan appointments are not fun and quite expensive.  Not to mention the stress that comes from having advanced cancer.  Sure I'm showing no evidence of disease on my last scan but at any moment the beast could rear its ugly head just as it has with some of my fellow melanoma warriors.    I live with that fact daily and that is what compels me to make others aware of Melanoma and the dangers of tanning. I refuse to be a statistic and I live life to the fullest but because of those stats is why I see an oncologist every 3 months. The tanning industry may want war by spreading lies but I want to share the truth.  I know we have a long way to go in this war but I'm noticing more and more people embracing their natural skin tones.  You are all beautiful just the way you are and your skin will thank you for not damaging it in the years to come.  Keep up the good work!  Prevention is important but early detection is key to survival!  Make sure to do your monthly skin check by stripping down in front of a mirror and examine your skin for any unusual spots.  Don't forget to share the love and spread the lotion!  Much love and God bless each of you who read my blog.  





Monday, August 13, 2012

Aim at Melanoma November Run

Hello friends, please consider sponsoring me in the Nov 17, 2012 AIM at Melanoma walk/run. You can follow this link to donate or print a form put me Alicia Bowling as the person you are sponsoring and mail to AIM. Thanks so much for your support in the fight against Melanoma. Don't forget to share the love and spread the lotion. Aim at Melanoma -

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Extreme Tanning

Hello Friends, Today I read an article on the ABC news blog titled "Extreme Tanner says skin cancer wouldn't stop her."  After I finished reading this article my heart was just broken.  How can we reach these people?  I'm fearful for their lives and if they don't get melanoma imagine how these beautiful young girls will look 10 years from now.  Friends, if you know me and you know me well you know that I'm not a judgmental person.  I have friends who are gay, lesbian, muslim, and friends who tan.  In no way will I ever judge you or call you names for doing so.  My motto is to share the love and spread awareness by educating others about Melanoma in a loving way... not putting them down.  Chances are if you are someone who lays in the tanning bed, then (A) you haven't been educated on the dangers of tanning and the SERIOUSNESS of skin cancer or (B) You know the dangers but you enter at your own risk.  Those that fall into the (B) category also usually have the mindset that "it won't happen to me".  Well I actually fell into both of those categories so I guess you could call this category (C) totally not realizing skin cancer IS CANCER and It CAN and WILL KILL!  I think the two young girls fall into category (C) just like me.   One of the extreme tanners, Giana Gerardo (24) said, "It makes me feel good and I feel comfortable in my skin."  Before I was a Melanoma cancer patient, I too use to think like that.  But now when I see tanned skin (that is not natural) it saddens me.  Now let me set this straight.  I never was an Extreme Tanner by any means.  I was just one of those girls with pale freckled skin that liked a little color during the summer months.  It's just what most teens I went to high school with did for prom and to look good in their bathing suits.  I even used those tanning beds that used UVA radiation and not the UVB, which the tanning experts said was good for my skin because I wouldn't burn.  I believed every word they told me and I loved the golden color of my skin when I was finished laying in their bed.  I probably only used a tanning bed 5-10 times each summer since I was a freshman in high school and some while in college.

There was a lady I went to church with while in college who  pulled me aside and said "young lady please be careful using those tanning beds."  My reply was "Oh, I don't go that much.  I only go a couple times to get a base tan and I use the healthier beds.  Plus if I get skin cancer I'll just have it cut off and be done with it."  Whoahhh!!!  boy am I eating my words now.  I had no idea you could actually die from skin cancer and I really had no idea that there was more to getting rid of the skin cancer than just cutting off a mole.  In the article the extreme tanner named Trisha Paytas said, "If you told me that I have skin cancer I don't think I would stop."  She said, "Scrape it off and keep going."  Trisha,  I wish somehow you would read my blog.  you are a gorgeous young lady.  You don't need to be tan to be pretty.  It took me a long time to realize that being tan isn't worth it.  It took a year of immunotherapy/chemo, high dose 5 days per week for a month and then 3 days per week the next ELEVEN MONTHS!!!  I was taken off the toxic treatment three weeks shy of finishing the full year course due to having a stroke, Hashimotos Thyroiditis, Anemia, and a blood infection which required several days in the hospital on strong IV antibiotics.  Removing the Melanoma was much worse than scrapping it off....if you look at my pictures on the right of my blog you'll see I had a huge slab of tissue (down to the bone as a matter of fact) removed from my left hip along with several lymph nodes from my pelvis and groin. Not to mention the ongoing scans, skin checks, biopsies, blood work, and oncology visits. Since the first surgery I've endured two more Melanoma surgeries, one on my right shoulder and the other on my left lower back. I've also had more dysplastic lesions removed than I can count on my fingers and toes.  I wish I could say those dysplastic PRE-SKIN cancer lesions were just scrapped but Nope those were CUT out too. Even the biopsies I get require stitches, no scrapping.  It actually took my most recent severely dysplastic melanocytic lesion 3 months to completely heal because the wound busted open and had to heal from the inside out.  Not only is Melanoma not scrapped off but it takes a while to feel like you can keep going.  It leaves scars on the inside...the scars of worrying if its going to come back to places like your liver, your lungs, or your brain. The scars of missing out on the first year of my daughters life because it's all but a blur from the cancer treatment I was on.  Melanoma is serious and I don't want anyone to go through what I've been through.  I understand how you can think being tan is pretty and makes you feel better.  Believe me, I thought the same way.  But i'm telling you IT's NOT WORTH IT!!!!  Friends, If you tan or ever tanned I will not judge you, but please educate yourself and please get your skin checked cause your chances of developing deadly melanoma have increased by 75%.  I love you all!!!  Remember to Share the Love and Spread the Lotion.