Don’t Just Look for Changes in Moles

Because of my history of amelanotic nodular melanoma, I’m all too familiar with skin cancer arising out of a a patch of clear skin. Apparently researchers agree that new skin spots are just as worthy of a dermatologist’s review than existing moles.

The science behind this claim? Researchers reviewed 38 previously published medical studies involving more than 20,000 melanomas. Only 29% of diagnosed melanoma arose out of pre-existing moles, while 71% of melanoma formed as new skin lesions. (Spoiler alert, I’m part of the majority in this study.)

Another aspect of the study that’s worth noting? The lead researcher in the study stated that melanomas that arise on their own also tend to be more aggressive than melanomas associated with moles, suggesting the two types of malignancies might be different.

And this has pretty big consequences because when doing a skin check, you should be looking for not only changes to a mole but also looking to see if something new has popped up. Because if you have anything similar to my experience where that new thing was aggressive, there’s not a lot of opportunity to wait around to see what it does next.

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Two Celebs with Skin Cancer in the News

Today, I saw two different stories about celebrities who were diagnosed with skin cancer, in this case, basal cell carcinoma. As mentioned in a previous post, basal cell carcinoma is the most frequently diagnosed skin cancer. While not usually deadly, it can be disfiguring if not caught in time.

Bethanny Frankel had a growth under her eye removed that turned out to be basal cell carcinoma. She mentioned that she will undergo Mohs surgery to remove the rest of the lesion. This type of surgery is considered to be the most effective option to remove both basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas. Basically, the surgeon removes the thinnest layer of skin, checks it under the microscope for cancer cells, and continues the process until there are no cancer cells detected. Unlike my excision, it is designed to remove as little bit of the healthy tissue as possible.

Melanie Griffiths also had basal cell carcinoma removed recently from her nose. It is a recurrence of skin cancer that she previously had removed a number of years ago.

The thread here is that both of these women had skin cancer on their faces, which for people who make their livings based in some part on their looks, has to be a difficult situation. Fortunately, the Mohs surgery option is an option that minimizes the scar that results from removal. I wish both of these two women luck and healthy outcomes.

Did you know your chance of developing a nonmelanoma skin cancer in your lifetime is about one in five, according to experts at SkinCancer.org? The best prevention is to avoid UV rays – whether in a tanning bed or outside. Use sunscreen and make sure to do those skin checks to find something before it grows to a point where it does cause disfigurement.

Safe and Sound Tonight

As noted in my previous post, my trip to Florida to follow Adam Ant around on his Florida gigs hit a big snag named Irma. On Wednesday, after I received the evacuation notice from my hotel in Ft. Lauderdale, I decided to opt out of the fourth show in Jacksonville and try to get home earlier than Monday evening, figuring that the likelihood of me actually having an airport that was functional on Monday was as likely as me waking up tomorrow looking like Christie Brinkley (i.e. snowball’s chance in hell). So even though my return flight wasn’t within the flight advisory dates, I called my airline and cajoled them to reschedule me to a flight Sunday morning.

Then, the remaining Florida concerts except for Fort Lauderdale were postponed and I said screw it, now I want to get out of here as soon as I can. My new departure date was within the travel advisory so I figured that I wouldn’t have a problem getting an earlier flight. After spending 45 minutes on the phone, I was able to talk to someone who was nice and said she could put me on a flight on Friday night back to Austin. Perfect…Because my other options were: take my rental car as far north as I could and pay through the nose for a one-way rental; or taking a Greyhound or Megabus up to Atlanta and make my friend there host me until I could figure out how to get back to Austin; or find out how hurricane-proof my hotel room was.

So I went to the Fort Lauderdale show and had a blast. Even though there wasn’t an opening act and the theater was 2/3 full, the band put on a great show. I was next to a couple of guys who were up and dancing as much as I was. I ended chatting with one of the guys after the show for awhile and that was awesome because Will, the guitarist for Adam Ant, came out to the front of the theater to sign autographs and take photos. I got my picture taken with him and 1. he’s freaking tall, and 2. I look like I just won the lottery, I’m smiling like a simpleton… He was very gracious with my fangirling (seriously if he ever stumbles on this blog, please come play some shows in Austin with your solo project) and I walked away with a new friend and an awesome photo that I’m not going to share on this blog because I loathe photos of myself even if it’s with a rock god standing next to me.

The next morning (Thursday) security for the hotel was pounding on people’s doors at 8am to remind them of the evacuation order (which sucked for me since I stayed up until 1am drinking in the hotel bar with some of the other guests who wanted one last round). I got packed up and stood on my balcony staring at the beach and it felt like I was saying goodbye to a friend that I wasn’t sure that I would ever see again. I drove through Ft. Lauderdale along A1A trying to imprint what it looked like pre-storm into my mind. And then I jumped on 75, drove across Alligator Alley and up to Tampa. Despite the scare stories about the traffic on the freeways, I managed to get up to Tampa in roughly 3.5 hours. I had the cruise control on 74mph pretty much the whole way. I rolled into Tampa not knowing that my mom was freaking out because she still thought I had a Sunday morning flight and the Orlando airport announced that they were closing at 5pm on Saturday. I had to let her know that I changed my flight and secretly marveled at how lucky I was that I had changed my flight when I did. Anyway, I was safe for a night in Tampa. A woman I had gone to high school with saw my Facebook post and we ended up going to dinner that night (and with the change in the track of the storm, I’m super concerned for her and her boyfriend).

The next day, I drove over to Orlando – again with barely any traffic and pretty much driving 70mph the whole way. I dropped off my rental car and took the shuttle to the airport – which I lovingly described in texts to friends as Hell’s Waiting Room. It was mobbed with panicking people, barking dogs, crying tantrum kids, and the smell of desperation. The Club at MCO lounge was on a 2.5 hour wait list but I lucked out by loitering near a group that vacated a chair relatively soon after I got there. After 2.5 hours, I got a call that there was a vacancy in the club lounge so I hightailed it in there. My flight was delayed so I drank some vodka and texted my mom until my flight boarded. I spent most of the flight thinking of how lucky I was to be able to get out of the path of such a dangerous storm. There was a lot of things that needed to go right for me for it to happen the way it did.

It wasn’t until I walked into the door of my condo that I realized how exhausted I was. And it was sobering to realize that there are thousands of people who were nowhere near as lucky as I was to be able to get all of the pieces to fall into place so I could still see a concert that I was looking so forward to AND be able to evacuate. But I was upset that my hubby seemed unconcerned that I was in a pretty iffy situation for awhile. I mentioned something to him and his response was – I knew that you can handle things so I figured that you didn’t need me to worry about you. And while it’s true that I can handle things like a boss, I still would like to know that I matter enough to worry about, you know? It’s exhausting to always be the one to handle things.

So readers, if you know someone that seems to be cool and collected under pressure and manages to always find solutions to problems, just know that person would likely would appreciate you telling them that you know that it’s tiring to always be the one to hold things together. I don’t know, tell them that they matter enough to worry about every once in awhile. I’ve spent all day today texting and messaging people to let them know that they matter enough to me that I’m worried about their safety during this storm.

Sitting in Irma’s Path

Hello from sunny Fort Lauderdale! Yes, I am in Florida , the state that has a catastrophic Category 5 hurricane bearing down on it. Why, you ask? Well, I decided awhile back to do a little road trip and see a few concerts by Adam Ant. I’m not exactly sure who on his team is responsible for scheduling four concerts in Florida during hurricane season but at the moment, I’m kicking myself for thinking it was a great idea for me to attend them. I mean, I lived in South Florida for five years and am highly aware that September is usually hurricane month.

My hotel down here has a mandatory evacuation by 11am tomorrow morning. Good thing I was already set to head up to Tampa. I do have hotel rooms booked until Monday. But I already called the airline to see if I could change my original flight that had me departing Orlando Monday evening. After checking the weather forecast, Monday is not a day I want to be driving around Florida trying to get to an airport to a catch a flight that won’t be able to go out anyway. Wish me luck that I can get on a flight before the airport is shut down…

The good news is that I have a car that I was able to fill up with gas last night. So, full tank of gas and a fuel efficient vehicle (and a Volvo so it’s supposed to be safe, although I really don’t want to put it to the test in 185 mph winds). Last night, I stopped at grocery store and basically bought all of the food that would survive five years being unwrapped (junk food is good for something). It’s like a 6 year old is preparing for the apocalypse. The concerts are all still scheduled, but I’m definitely going to miss the Jacksonville one on Sunday night.

I’m really hoping that I get out of Florida in one piece and that this will be an interesting story to tell people later. I mean, who else has a midlife crisis that involves an touring 80s icon, a road trip, random junk food, and a dangerous, life-threatening storm?

Update a few hours later: Adam Ant has postponed the rest of the Florida dates, with the exception of tonight’s show. I sat on hold with the airline for 30 minutes but am able to get out of Orlando on Friday evening. So incredibly bummed that my midlife crisis hit a detour. But I’m also glad to get out of the way of this storm.

 

Fingernail Check

In one of my first posts, I talked about the different types of melanoma and where you can end up with a lesion (i.e. pretty much everywhere on the human body). A recent story put the spotlight on a little-known way melanoma can manifest – on a fingernail.

In the story, a manicurist had a client that came in looking for a nail polish color that could cover a dark stripe that had appeared on her nail. While the other manicurists thought the stripe came from a variety of sources, one woman realized that it was something her client needed to get checked out immediately. It turned out that the stripe was actually melanoma. Unfortunately, the prognosis of the woman who had the stripe-that-turned-out-to-be-melanoma is not good.

The gel manicures offered by a lot of nail salons promise long-lasting manicures. But some of the compounds need a UV light to bond it to the nail. Obviously, with my history, UV light is a super bad thing for me. But even before my melanoma diagnosis, I hadn’t really ever wanted to get that UV light so near my hands since my hands started looking like a grandma’s a few years back. (Seriously, can someone take fat out of my stomach to plump up my hands again?)

There is a photo of what melanoma in a nail looks like in the story. Honestly, it does look somewhat like a bruise that you might get underneath a nail when you smack it hard against something. But bruises grow out. If you have a stripe on your nail that doesn’t seem to go away, go to a dermatologist and get it checked out. In my last visit with my doctor, I had a horizontal stripe in one of my toenails. The doctor spent quite a bit of time hunched over my toes with the magnifying glass. Because I have been walking so much, she decided that it was likely a bruise under the nail bed. But she also had her assistant note it in my file and told me that if it changes at all, to go back in immediately. (And naturally now that I’m relating this story, I realize that I have super dark polish on my toes right now so god only knows what the heck that nail actually looks like right now… I’m smart but apparently also not so bright.)

Sunny Skies and a Grateful Reminder

Here in Austin, we really were fortunate over the weekend. Hurricane Harvey (later downgraded to a Tropical Storm while parked over us) only brought some wind and rain to the area. It hardly even rained 45 minutes to the west of us – which is incredibly fortuitous because that means there was no rain upstream from us. So we didn’t flood. And after seeing the images and reading posts from friends in the Houston area, I know how lucky we are to be experiencing cloudless blue skies that past couple of days. We didn’t even have the usual flooding that we normally experience during pounding rain. And the way that my condo is situated, I was blocked from the wind as well. So, for me the storm was a bit longer lasting than the typical rains we get, but nothing that even made me worry about whether my windows would leak. Heck, even my cat didn’t go run and hide like she normally does during storms!

The only thing that I did notice was my head was killing me most of the weekend. Anytime the atmospheric pressure changes, I get headaches. This weekend, I ended up with migraines – which wasn’t fun but I would rather experience that than watching my house flood, watching my neighborhood be obliterated, watching my loved ones be swept downstream in raging waters. I wrote before about gratitude and how much being grateful can shift your world in ways big and small. And I was extraordinarily grateful this past weekend that I only had migraines to worry about.

If you’d like to help those Texans less fortunate, there are a number of ways you can do so. I’m donating an entire set of bedroom furniture as well as a bunch of clothes, toiletries, and linen to the Salvation Army (which is my charity of choice) and well as cash and some pet supplies to Austin Pets Alive. But there are a bunch of other organizations that are reputable that are working to help as well. If you’re interested, the NY Times had a great article that list very worthwhile organizations. Americans are a strange bunch: we fight and divide over any issue that we can think of; but in times of crises, we can also pull together and help each other any way we can. I’m hoping that this spirit of unity, that we’re all in this together lasts longer than it takes to dry out Texas and Louisiana.

Here Comes Harvey

Well, I’m back in Austin and apparently just in time for the arrival of Hurricane Harvey to hit Texas. We’re supposed to get quite a bit of rain and we likely will have some flooding here; but we’re pretty far from the coast so we don’t have the concerns about the storm surge in addition to a bunch of rain. I hope the people closer to the coast make it through ok.

We’ve started to get some of the rain bands this afternoon. Friday rush hours are always crazy as it is around here, let alone with some heavy rain moving in and extra traffic from the people evacuating the Gulf Coast. So I worked from home today to just avoid all of the hassle. Plus, the falling air pressure is giving me quite a headache. I hate being a human barometer. I’m hoping that my scar doesn’t start to ache with the weather moving in. I’m sure I’ll let you know if it does. But so far, so good.

So, I have a pantry full of groceries, enough wine to last a month, a pile of books, and I’m doing all of the laundry I can right now. I pulled in the chairs from the balcony. I charged up my portable power pack and have my phone and Kindle on the chargers. I think I’m as prepared as I can be for an entire weekend spent on my couch.

I hope my fellow Texans stay safe this weekend…