Operation Skin Cancer

I know, it’s gross. Or maybe you don’t think it’s gross, I don’t know. Regardless, I publish this picture as a simple reminder that careless sun bathing during teenage and young adult years can cause this to happen to you, like it did me. Heck, reckless sun-seeking behavior during childhood and old age can do it too. And it doesn’t need to be sun bathing. Running outdoors, walking your dog outdoors, tossing a football outdoors (hey, that reminds me: Go Gators!), anything that keeps you in the scorching rays without sunscreen or other cover-up gear for more than, say, 15 minutes is downright dangerous. Go ahead and enjoy your 15 unprotected minutes each day (this is your best bet for soaking up a good dose of vitamin D), but otherwise, be warned, my friends. Or you could look like this.

Silver lining, navy glasses

I like to find the silver lining in all things, if I can. Take my eyes, for example. My vision is utterly horrible, aways has been, ever since something like the first grade. For a long time, my eyesight got worse and worse, which means my glasses got thicker and thicker, which means I normally wear contacts all. the. time. Because my glasses never look trendy or even remotely stylish. They just look thick. The silver lining: My eye doctor recently told me about this new type of glass and all these techniques available for making it look less like a Coke bottle. So I got new glasses. In a pretty navy frame. Just picked them up today. And here they are.

My new glasses are not totally free of thickness. The thick is still there, it’s just not as bad as it could be. Makes sense. My vision is 20/400, after all, which, if you’re not clear on the meaning of this, translates as follows: What a person with perfect vision can see from 400 feet, I can’t see until I’m 20 feet away. I’m something like technically blind, except I can see figures and shadows. Hold up some fingers, though, and unless I’m wearing contacts or my sporty new specs, I’ll have no idea how many are standing tall. A guess is all I can make.

I’m guessing right now that I’m going to like wearing my new glasses for more than getting to and from the bathroom at night. Not just because I think they rock. But because my 5-year-old Danny has told me several times since I put them on, “You look so cute.” I don’t care that 8-year-old Joey said, “They make your eyeballs look really small.” I’m sticking with Danny. He delivered just the silver lining I was looking for.

Skin Cancer Be Gone

I’m not sure what I expeceted when I reported for my skin cancer surgery this morning. I mean, how bad could it be? The spot on my arm was small, after all. Really small.

The surgery wasn’t bad, really, it just wasn’t what I had in mind. Here’s how it went: Technician girl got me all set up on a reclining chair-type thing. Head back. Feet up. Towel across my tummy. Affected arm on towel. Doctor comes in. Technician girl shoots numbing stuff into my arm, all around the cancer spot. No pain, just a few pin pricks. Doctor explains that while the cancerous spot is a circle, she will make a cut like a football to make suturing easier (same thing my tummy tuck doc did too). Problem with this is that it makes the incision lots bigger, longer. This is one thing I did not anticipate. I also didn’t anticipate feeling the doctor cut my skin. “I can feel that,” I told her. Technician gave me a few more numbing shots. “I can still feel that,” I shared. More shots. Finally, I felt nothing more.

I have no idea what the doctor did, really, because I didn’t look. I never can look when a doctor does something to me. It makes me queasy and dizzy and well, the same way I feel when I don’t look.

“I feel dizzy,” I told the doctor, as she tugged her stitches back and forth through my skin and black spots flashed before my eyes. She reclined my chair even more, told me in five minutes I’d feel better. It took a bit longer than five, and a glass of water, before I could make my way to the reception desk to pay for the pleasure of this surgery. Armed with written instructions, some bandages, an ointment and an appointment card (stiches come out in two weeks), I was on my way. And here I am at home, with an almost entirely numb left arm and hand, feeling pretty certain I’m going to have one beauty of a scar when this thing heals up. Yea, not what I expected. But hey, in the words of Joey, my new 8-year-old: “Things could be worse.” Indeed, they could.

Ode to Joe

My mom and sister weren’t sure I could ever have a baby. I don’t mean physically have a baby. I mean mentally have a baby. Too much of a whiner, I guess, to hack the pain involved. I surprised them both on that January 3 day, back in 2001, when I pushed out a 10 pound, 9 ounce baby boy with the aid of a heavy-duty epidural and the powerful suck of a vacuum. When Joey emerged, heavy as a sack of rocks and appearing more like a two-month-old than a newborn, all was well with the world. I had done it. I’d had a baby. I didn’t even whine. Score one for me. Joey didn’t fare so well. He turned out to be, well, a whiner.

Joey whined for much of his early life. He just was not a happy boy. He fussed, complained, demanded and generally traveled against the grain. It was a challenging few years and sometimes, I find myself looking back at home videos to remember his few happy baby and toddler moments. My theory is that Joey never wanted to be a little kid. He was a big boy, after all (22 pounds by the time he hit six months). Maybe he wanted to act his size before his body would allow for it.

Joey hit his stride by the time he was five. My shy, difficult boy turned social and easy-going by the end of kindergarten. In first grade, he was independent and spirited. Now in second grade, my guy walks himself to class, works hard, gets good grades, is well-liked by his peers and rarely puts up a fight. Now, it’s not that he doesn’t argue with his brother, bump heads with me about homework and lobby for a later bedtime and more candy. It’s just that his behavior now is manageable. It’s typical eight-year-old stuff, not over-the-top little-boy madness.

Today, Joey is eight. And I am so in awe of this boy, who has both worn me out and warmed my heart. I remember a pediatrician once telling me his personality at three months would be his personality for life. I just need to learn to cope, and teach him to cope, the good doc told me. But it didn’t happen that way. Just as I was learning to find peace with my tempermental small kid, this beautiful and confident bigger boy emerged. A boy who rarely whines, always tells me he loves me and is so surprised when we tell him stories about his years of discontent.

I think Joey was meant to be eight. The age fits him perfectly. All is well with the world. And I have absolutely nothing to whine about.

Happy Birthday, Joey. I love you, too.

Skin cancer, indeed

It’s skin cancer, that little red spot on my arm that I watched and watched and watched. It must have taken me months to get my butt into the office of my dermatologist. What’s wrong with me? I know what’s wrong: Even after having a serious form of cancer, I still believe the darn disease isn’t going to happen to me. A red patch on my arm? Probably nothing. So I plug along, until it hits me that the thing isn’t going away, that its changing shape and color is probably a sign of something I don’t want. Cancer.

I think I knew the day of my biopsy what the outcome would be. And my phone call this morning confirmed it. Basal cell skin cancer. Bummer. It’s not a big, scary deal, though. Most skin cancers are of this variety and are largely curable.

I’m headed to have this cancer removed on Monday. A doctor will dig deep and remove everything she can. And I won’t have it anymore. And then hopefully, I will learn my lesson and report to her office for anything else that looks remotely suspicious. That’s my plan, anyway.

I love you, a little bit

Danny recently made his Nanny a thank-you card for the Christmas gifts she gave him. He drew pictures of her favorite things—a butterfly, a flower, a swimming pool, a rainbow, an alligator, a snail and a wolf (a cat is what he intended, but he said he couldn’t draw one). When I told him I really liked the snail, he announced that he would make me something. “It’s a secret,” he said. “Don’t look.”

I didn’t look. But I couldn’t help but notice the fit he threw when he messed up on his masterpiece. Crayons went flying. Scissors hit the floor. Groans and moans filled the room. I was mad. I told him his behavior was not appropriate, that he needed to calm down and start again. He eventually did. I praised his ability to recover and told him, “I love you, Danny.”

“I love you, too,” he said. “A little bit.”

I’m OK with this. I know Danny loves me more than he lets on. He proved it by making me four perfect snails, one for each person in our family (“This one is daddy, this one is you, this one is me when I was a baby and this one is Joey when he was two”). He put them in brown lunch bag, folded it over, taped it closed and asked how to spell “Jacki.” I told him. He wrote it down. And then he presented me with his gift.

“It doesn’t matter if the letters are backwards,” he declared while handing over the bag. No it doesn’t. A backwards “J” works just fine for me.

My four little snails, drawn with orange marker and cut out in kindergarten fashion, sit next to me at this very moment. They are beautiful. And so is Danny. I really love that guy. A lot.

Hair by cancer

First, my hair was blond. Then it was gone. It grew back dark and curly. Now it is less curly (but only entirely straight when I flat iron it). And it’s lighter (without the assistance of any chemicals), like it’s going back to its original color. Funny what cancer did to my hair. And how I like it better now than ever before.

It could be skin cancer

I went to the dermatologist on Monday for a suspicious something on my arm. It’s a small, red patch of skin that appears to change in size and color. Seemed time to have it checked out, so off I went with two little boys in tow to an exam room where a nurse numbed and a physician assistant removed a slice of skin for biopsy. Then the PA said, “It could be skin cancer.”

“Cancer?” said 7-year-old Joey. “That would be your second cancer. What was your first one again?”

I told him my first was breast cancer and that he shouldn’t worry since most skin cancers are pretty easy to fix. The PA jumped in, confirming that yes, indeed, skin cancer is usually no big deal. Sometimes, it’s removed with the biopsy alone, she said.

And so that is my hope, that if it is skin cancer that lives on my arm, it’s the kind that is a cinch to eradicate. Well, my hope is that it’s not skin cancer at all because, really, one cancer is enough. No seconds for me, thank you.

Ho, Ho, Ho

For all you Santa-believers out there, the big guy is almost here. Are you ready? We are.

Our tree is up, decorated and sparkling with white lights. A few wrapped gifts sit underneath, tempting two little boys who want to know so badly what’s packaged inside. Our gas fireplace is roaring (even though Florida temps will reach the 70s today), and we have our kids fully confused about how exactly Santa will enter our house without a chimney.

We’re all abuzz here about what the jolly old guy will deliver. Will it be a Wii, Ben 10 toys, a pirate castle? We’re also wondering what will happen if we catch Santa in our house. “What if I wake up and see Santa here?” 7-year-old Joey asked. “He’ll probably just tell you to go back to bed,” was my response. Good enough? I’m not sure.

I’m not really sold on the whole Santa story. I know it’s all in good fun, but I wonder when we’ll be found out, what we’ll say to explain our sketchy stories. Today, it doesn’t matter. Today, it’s all about the countdown to Santa and gifts and family and fun. It’s exciting indeed.

A love story and a blog book tour

When I first got my copy of Chad Moutray’s book “My Life with Laura: A Love Story,” I looked at the photo on the front cover, then the photos on the back cover, then I realized there are photos scattered throughout. I studied these photos, looking deeply at the shots of Chad, Laura, their little girl Charlotte. I tried to put myself in their shoes, because I kind of was in Laura’s shoes, and I imagined what it must be like to be them. In some ways, I know what it’s like. Like Laura, I had breast cancer. Breast cancer and a husband. And kids. And family and friends who care so deeply. I had doctors visits, and surgery, and a bald head. Just like Laura did.

But Laura’s path and my path are different too. One year ago, she passed away. And four years after my diagnosis, I’m still living. And so I don’t fit entirely in Laura’s shoes. I have this book, though, sent to me by the love of Laura’s life, and I am about to dive into each page so I can fully appreciate the life belonging to this beautiful young woman. And I’m going to tell you all about my new book on January 14, 2009.

Chad Moutray has invited me to join his Blog Book Tour. In addition to many others who will write about his work on blogs across the country, I will feature this man and his story right here on my blog. Maybe I’ll publish a review, maybe I’ll interview Chad, maybe I’ll do something else. In some way, though, I will present to you the inspiring story of one man, one woman, and one little girl whose lives will be forever touched by a disease so many of us are fiercely trying to outrun.

January 14. See you then.

More about the book tour here.

More about the book here (you can download the book here for just $5 or buy a paperback for $24.99).


Last night while John was reading the boys’ favorite Goosebumps book, 5-year-old Danny curled up in my lap (I love that), tugged at my shirt and asked, “Where’s that thing, where you had that bump?” I knew just what he meant. He wondered where to find the area where a port once poked up from underneath my skin. (My port lived near my collarbone for almost two years so that chemotherapy drugs had easy access to my veins.) I pointed to the area, now marked by a very faint scar about two inches long.

“Oh,” he said, and then returned his attention to the story about a boy who became a wax figure in a museum.

Danny doesn’t have much memory of breast cancer. A “thing” and a “bump” pretty much sum up his recollection of a disease that entered his life when he was just 18 months old. It seemed sad way back then to have a baby and cancer at the same time. Now, it seems a blessing. He doesn’t have a clue really. And that’s just how I think it should be.

Saving Second Base

Of all the cutesy cancer slogans out there, this is my favorite: Save Second Base. I like it because that’s what I’m doing, saving my own personal second base with every self-exam, clinical exam, mammogram, ultrasound, MRI, morsel of healthy food that passes through my lips and with every mile I run.

Check out these clever quips I’m borrowing from the spunky survivor over at Melon Wars. Go visit and see her whole list. These are a just a few of my faves.

  • Eyebrows Are So Last Year
  • Bald is the New Black
  • I Have Cancer – Cancer Doesn’t Have Me
  • Chemo – Breakfast of Champions
  • Nice Try Cancer, But I’m Still Here
  • Does This Shirt Make My Head Look Bald?
  • Bald Chicks Rule
  • I’m Confused. Wait Maybe I’m Not.
  • I Pay My Oncologist Big Bucks for This Hair Style
  • Friends Don’t Let Friends Fight Cancer Alone
  • Fight Like A Girl
  • Unbeknownst to the Mosquito, I Just Had Chemo
  • One Day Pink Will Just Be for Princesses. Let’s Find A Cure.
  • Breast Cancer Isn’t for Sissies
  • Fighting Cancer and Still Fabulous

Got any you’d like to share? Please do.

Like that Santa Baby bra pictured above. It came from this blog right here.

Thanks for the visit — now leave me a comment

My husband just checked my blog stats and told me I’m getting about 750 unique visits per day. Wow. It makes me happy, of course, to know that so many people are stopping by. It’s just hard to wrap my head around that number. It’s so quiet around here. Who knew?

I want to do a little experiment now that I know so many of you are reading what I write. I want you—everyone one of you who reads this post—to leave me a comment today so I know you were here. Just write something—anything (make it tasteful, please)—and tell me where you live. By the end of the day, I hope to read bunches of comments from all over the country (or world, maybe, who knows).

OK. Ready. Set. Go.

Women Transcend

This is just so perfect, this video clip, and all the words spoken by Kelly Corrigan, a wife, mom, breast cancer survivor and author of The Middle Place. She talks about how women transcend everything that’s thrown at them. It made me laugh. And cry. And want to share it with you.


Happy Holidays 2008

Just before Joey turned one, we snapped our very first holiday photo and mailed it off to family and friends. That was, gosh, seven years ago. Six photos followed, and now we have a collection of shots that capture our boys, and sometimes all four of us, at very specific moments in time.

Above is this year’s photo, taken on a whim at Lake Alice on The University of Florida campus. Below, two of my favorites from years past.

Lucky Laura wins a prize

It’s an emotional time for reader Laura. She’s just completed chemotherapy for breast cancer and will soon head for a mastectomy and reconstruction. A perfect time for a shiny, new necklace, don’t you think?

Lucky Laura. She won the hand-crafted breast cancer awareness necklace that my blogger friend Christine made and offered for my recent giveaway.

“I look so forward to wearing it,” Laura tells me. “I feel honored!”

Ditto. I feel honored to know these women, both of whom have their very own blogs. Visit Christine at Color Me Pink. And stop and see Laura here.

Classic Christmas

What would the holiday season be without a screaming baby on the lap of Santa? Here, cousin Tori refuses to tell the big guy what she wants for Christmas. Classic.

I love this one too: Danny feeding a happier Tori some of his flavored shaved ice. “She’s had like 11 bites,” he declared, after announcing he was done serving her.

Been through a lot worse

This morning, I had my eyes dilated during an eye exam. I hate that. So much so that last year, I refused to let my very nice doctor place those evil drops in my nearly-blind eyes. You need them, she told me, and I told her I’d come back in a few months. I never did. One year later, today, I complied. I permitted the dilation, and I’ve been suffering all day.

Those drops, given after the also-hated glaucoma drops that numb my eyelids, make my vision blurry and prevent me from seeing anything up close. They make light much brighter than it should be, and they give me a killer headache. Have I used the word hate yet?

“Gosh, your pupils are so dilated,” my doctor told me as I was paying for this torture. “I know, I hate it,” I told her. Her wise response: “You’ve been through a lot worse.”

She’s right. I have been through a lot worse. A growing tumor or yucky eye drops? I’ll take the eye drops. Chemotherapy or blurry vision? Blurry is better. Radiation or a day-long headache? OK, so the headache isn’t so bad.

Geez, I’m such a whiner. The funny thing is, I really only whine about the little things, like dilated eyes. Somehow, I rise to the occasion for the big stuff. Cancer scared me. But I didn’t whine about it. Same with childbirth. Big, painful stuff. No whining at all. What’s wrong with me? Nothing, actually. My eyes checked out just fine. And I don’t have cancer anymore. I have absolutely nothing to whine about. Well, until next year’s eye exam.

Giving away some breast cancer awareness

My new blogger friend Christine over at Color Me Pink is offering this beautiful breast cancer necklace for one lucky reader. Yep, it’s another giveaway, and you could be the one who scores this made-by-Christine treasure. Here’s what you must do to enter to win:

Head on over to Color Me Pink, browse around a bit and tell me in a comment one thing you learned from your trip to Christine’s blog. I’m giving you one week from today to make this happen. On Wednesday, December 10 at 5 PM, I’ll randomly draw a name. Then, Christine will mail off this pretty prize, which happens to feature a chunky pink faceted pendant, with sterling awareness ribbon and sterling star charm. Strung on a sterling fine chain with lobster claw clasp. Valued at: $25.00.

Consider this your chance to pick up a free holiday gift, for you or for someone you know. Now, get on over to my favorite new pink site and tell me something that captivated you.

A blue minivan and a pink blog

We bought a lovely, brand new 2008 Honda Odyssey minivan today. Who knew when we took our beater 2001 Odyssey in for service last week that we’d never drive it again, that we’d become the proud owners of a shiny, new, navy blue thing. We certainly had no idea our transmission was shot and required a major and expensive fix. But it did. And we didn’t want to sink loads of funds into an 8-year-old jalopy. So we bit the bullet and re-entered the world or car payments after a two-year reprieve. But that’s not the point of my story. The point is this: We met a lovely business manager man, who shared with us that his lovely wife authors her very own lovely blog. Armed with her business card and two wild little boys primed for wearing out their automatic window buttons, I headed home in my fancy van and paid this lovely wife a visit. You should visit her too.

Color Me Pink is stocked with all kinds of goodies, like recipes for clever meal creations (I am so not clever in the kitchen and am impressed with anyone who can throw together a fancy, healthy meal: Check out this one for Super Easy Tuna Packet with Veggies and Rice) and thoughts on Thanksgiving and musings on vegetarian kids. Need some direction for locating great sites around the Internet? This is your place. All Around the Internet posts will steer you toward great finds. There’s also a Homeschooling component to this blogger’s world. And a jewelry shop too (look at this perfect breast cancer necklace).

All of this I found during my very first visit to this lovely blog. I can’t wait to go back. Join me, and see what you can find.