Hawaii Bound

I’m gearing up for a fairly long Thursday. I’m heading to Hawaii (Oahu specifically) for a week. My cousin and her family have been renting the same house for 13 years on the North Shore. Last May, while I was on the way to London, she sent me a message saying something like “I know it’s not glamorous but would you want to maybe go with us to Hawaii next year?” Ok, first of all, I get that I had done a boatload of travel last year that when I think of the destinations does make me sound jet-settery. Travel was a promise I made to myself when I was lucky enough to have caught my melanoma early enough. However, it’s not like I’m hanging out in private jets and living it up in Monaco or anything (ok, Dubai and the Maldives does sound pretty freaking glamorous). But Hawaii, I mean, really? Who the heck is going to say no to Hawaii? (Those of you who would say no, I mean, that’s cool, that’s your right – but I’m never going to turn down ocean and palm trees and the very remote chance of seeing Kelly Slater in the flesh again…)

Getting to Hawaii from Austin is basically going to take all day but the bonus is that we still have a half day when we get there. I love flying westward… I haven’t been to Oahu in, well – I don’t actually want to say how long ago it was because it makes me feel ancient. Seriously, how in the world has that much time passed? Anyway, it’s been quite a while. I’m curious to see how much of it has changed and really hoping much of it hasn’t. Hawaii was one of my big trips when I was in my 20s. I went by myself and despite my misgivings about going someplace all romantic as a solo traveler, Hawaii grabbed a tiny little piece of my heart. Since that initial trip, I’ve returned to the islands way more than I ever expected. This will be my fourth trip there. And as someone who wants to see pretty much all of the world, that’s a pretty big commitment to one location. (And as I typed that I was thinking to myself, this is from the same person who went to London twice in one year, hypocrite…)

Anyway, as usual, I will be checking a bag full of sunscreen. My cousin has two kids (12 & 8) and I’ll probably be chasing them around with a bottle of sun block; even though they live in Southern California and I know they probably are pretty sun-smart. The last time I saw my cousin’s young daughter, she was sweet and loving and I had a blast hanging out with her. But that was a year ago and kids these days morph into sullen and silent creatures in a heartbeat so I have no idea what to expect from either of them on this trip (this is why I don’t have kids or are around kids that much because that whiplash is more than I can handle). I’m hoping that my foray into a family-style vacation won’t end with a major blowup and one of those Irish feuds where the participants never speak to each other again (our fathers actually have a running contest to irritate the hell out of each other and neither my cousin nor I can figure out when they’re speaking to each other and when they’re not).

And as usual, I’ll be doing more work than I wanted to thanks to a combination of a bunch of “last-minute but super urgently critical to the whole future of our company” stuff that I seem to be responsible for. Funny how it works when everyone gets amnesia around review time though…Hopefully I won’t be sitting in the yard overlooking the ocean over the top of my laptop most of the time. I swear, one of my life goals for 2018 is to take a trip where I don’t do any work for the duration.

Wish me luck that I avoid too much sun exposure, too much family exposure, and too much work exposure!

Advertisements

The Ugly Duckling Rule

Malignant melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer. To readers of this blog, that shouldn’t come as any surprise. And for years, we’ve been taught the ABCDE rules on detecting melanoma. A stands for asymmetry; B is for borders so anything with ill-defined borders is suspect; C is for the color and whether the mole or lesion has more than one color; D stands for diameter and anything bigger than 6mm should get a look; and E was added a few years ago and represents an evolving lesion. All of these are very good checkmarks for most forms of malignant melanoma.

You knew there was going to be a “but”, right? My melanoma, amelanotic nodular melanoma, doesn’t like to play by those rules. In fact, the only letter than may come into play with this type of melanoma is D, and an amelanotic nodular melanoma lesion may burst onto the scene basically fully formed so you don’t even get the benefit of the E (my dermatologist – has this changed any? Me – nope, just popped out looking like that one day)…

So researchers at the Mayo Clinic in Arizona wanted to see if they switched up the rules whether people would get any better at detecting melanoma lesions. The screening follows what they call the “ugly duckling” rule. Basically what this means is that once you get a baseline of what your skin normally looks like, you notice any outliers. For example, I’ve got a lot of little brown moles on my arms and shoulders but virtually none on my legs. So for me, following the ugly duckling rule, I would notice anything that would be different than my baseline. So if a big pink thing popped up on my leg, I would go get that checked out since I don’t normally have anything on my legs. But if I got a couple more little brown spots on my arm, I wouldn’t.

The study found that those following the “ugly duckling” guidelines were accurate 90% of the time finding melanoma than those following the ABDCE group who were only 66.6% accurate.

The moral of the story is to learn what your skin is like normally, so you can then be able to identify anything that appears on your skin that doesn’t look like whatever your baseline is. Obviously more research needs to be done, but being able to recognize “that’s something unusual” early and get your butt into the doctor could save your life.

My Midlife Crisis Concert Tour – Wrap Up

I’m back in Austin and back at work. I am having a difficult time getting motivated to be a productive worker bee even though I have a ton of work to do. I think I’m in mourning because I really had a great time over the past couple of days and it’s hard to believe that it’s over. Adam Ant needs to schedule some U.S. tour dates this year so I can plan another road trip…

Going back to Saturday morning, I woke up relatively refreshed despite the fact that I didn’t fall asleep until 2:30 a.m. I had spent some time before heading out to the concert rearranging the contents of my suitcase so I didn’t have to spend too much time repacking; although I had to accept the fact that I was going to need to check my suitcase because there was absolutely no way I was going to be able to get all of the clothes I bought during a short but frenzied morning in Clearwater trying to find cuter outfits than the ones I brought with me into my bag without expanding it. And as usual, I didn’t get out of my room in time to get breakfast but at least I got bonus hotel points instead.

Getting out of Jacksonville was no less easy than the drive into town was. The road construction made me cross my fingers that I was taking the correct lanes to get me on I-95 south. Fortunately, the first 6 songs on the radio were fun sing-alongs and I managed to correct guess my way onto the ramps that got me heading south. There was some more traffic on the freeway than there was previously, and I got to see some pretty terrible driving from some of the other vehicles. My favorite was the minivan with the Christ nativity sticker that repeatedly tailgated, cut off, swerved, and otherwise drove like an asshat. Not very Christian behavior if you ask me…

As usual, I had the radio cranked up and I vowed to try to listen to something other than the 80s music I had been gorging on. In fact, I got tired of hearing Naked Eyes’ Always Something There to Remind Me when it was played for the third time in 15 minutes across the radio stations I had on preset. So I ventured off into Today’s Hits. I don’t have a fancy digital display radio in my real-life car but the Mercedes did. I was horrified to discover that a song I know enough to sing along with is a song by 1 Direction. I had no idea… I also discovered that a song that I could really butt-dance to is by a former member of 1D. I’m a closet tween and I wasn’t even aware of this development… I also really was impacted by Kesha’s new song Praying – like I had to wipe away some tears because the emotion in that song got me in the feels. Shawn Mendes has a 40-something fan now too because I could not stop jamming to There’s Nothing Holding Me Back. I tried to salsa in the car to Camila Cabello’s Havana but had to stop when I was drifting out of my lane. For the most part, the ladies singing on today’s hits blow the dudes out of the water (except of course Ed Sheeran)…I rolled into Orlando about 20 minutes quicker than Google Maps thought I would (ahem, 85mph pretty much as soon as I got out of Jacksonville proper, thanks)…

The Sheraton Orlando North is a sprawling suburban hotel that was definitely built back when smoking in hotel rooms was allowed because my room still reeked of stale cigarette smoke. The furniture was that dark cherry wood that reminded me of the early 80s when people who thought they were fancy would select that color for their kitchen cabinets. Fortunately, the bed was pretty comfortable and the bathroom lighting made me look 10 years younger. But let’s just say that both Sheratons on my trip underwhelmed. It is located about 10 miles north of downtown Orlando and even factoring the cost of an Uber to and from the concert, it was still light years cheaper than any option within walking distance to the Beacham, where the final show took place.

My Uber dropped me off at 4:40pm and there was already a crazy line in front of the venue. The staff eventually tried to sort us into two lines, one for the VIP package holders who were supposed to get early entrance into the venue at 5pm and one for the general admission ticket holders. Because of my lack of height, I sprang for the VIP package specifically for that early entrance so I would have a snowball’s chance in hell of actually seeing the stage. I have to say the staff was horribly disorganized and it was 5:20pm before the VIP line even started moving. I was making friends in line, hoping that I would luck out and get someone to save my spot on the floor while I ran to grab my swag that was also part of the package. Fortunately, a husband and wife combo were sweet enough to hold my spot in the very front up against the barricades, right in front of the lead guitarist Will. Most of the other people clustered on the opposite side of the stage because it seems as if Adam Ant prefers to go to that side of the stage more often, so I really lucked out because I wanted to be up front to watch Will play guitar as well. Call it whatever you want, but as I mentioned in a previous post, for me watching someone play guitar is like watching someone perform magic.

I enjoyed the Glam Skanks’ set, although I might have been the only one in my immediate area that did. Whatever, I don’t care if someone is technically not a virtuoso. I just want fun music that I can bounce around to when I hear an opening act. Despite the fact that I was dehydrated, I refused to get a drink because I didn’t want to lose my primo spot (and heaven help me, but I probably would have needed to go to the bathroom because it’s like I have the prostate of a 72-year-old man… yes, I know I don’t even have a prostate but for god’s sake, give me some license with my metaphors…)

Then, Adam Ant and the band took the stage for my last leg of my midlife crisis concert tour… it was phenomenal. I realize I’m a completely biased source on this. But out of the shows I had seen in the past 12 months, this one was by far the most solid. It didn’t hurt that for whatever reason, Adam spent way more time on my side of the stage than normal (I’d love to say it was because he saw me having a great time singing along and I looked cute and he wanted to check me out some more, but I’m highly aware that he likely couldn’t even see me despite me being right at the front of stage because of the stage lights – but hey, a girl [or not so much a girl anymore] can dream). So I got some good photos when I remembered to think about pulling my phone out and I managed to capture video of two of my favorite live songs as well as the guitar solo by Will during the finale. (He even regrammed it on Instagram and you know that I got all giddy about that like an adolescent schoolgirl). I bounced around, I sang along, and couldn’t stop smiling like the village idiot.

Speaking of village idiot, I have to confess. After the show ended, I was hanging out chatting with the girl who had stood next to me during the show when I realized that Will, the lead guitarist, had made his way out into the dwindling crowd to gladhand the unwashed masses. Well, despite the fact that I had made an ass of myself in Ft. Lauderdale when I first got to say hello to him, I decided that it was the perfect time to say hello to him again. I know readers, I know. I’m awkward and fangirling and that was totally not a smart idea. Where were you on Saturday night to talk me out of this?

So I waited in line and of course, the people who cut in front of me gave him presents! I was like the Little Drummer Boy in that Christmas carol… I have no gift to bring pah rum pum pum pum… I seriously said, “well, I feel awkward, I didn’t bring you anything”. And then I got even more tongue-tied. Yes, I was as smooth as extra chunky peanut butter. I mumbled something along the lines of “I don’t want a photo or anything but just wanted to thank you for making me feel young again…mumble…I had been following y’all around Florida and having a great time but I’m done now” with him interjecting well, we’re done now, like duh, I didn’t know that… and then thanking him for regramming a photo I took. He was nice enough to tell me that I had been taking some great shots but at that point, I’m fairly certain I was blushing scarlet and unable to form a coherent sentence in English. I mumbled something else and then basically said, I’m done now…bye. And walked away…

And this is why I don’t speak in public to people I fangirl on!! I should have told him something along the lines of why this midlife crisis concert tour was important to me; how I battled against something and the music helps me to keep going even when I don’t want to fight; how singing my face off and dancing like a fool reconnects the young girl I used to be to this old lady I turned out to be; heck, even plug the blog and tell him to read it so he gets a sense of why this time meant so much to me… So if I had a do-over, this is what I wanted to convey:

Thanks for making music with one of my all-time favorite artists. Thanks for connecting me to a simpler time in my life. I know every fan here has a story on why they love Adam Ant. I’ve loved him since I was eight, but this music has meant so much more to me recently. Let me tell you my story. A few years ago, I was diagnosed with a rare, but aggressive variant of melanoma. For a few scary weeks, I didn’t know what the future held. So I listened to this music and tried to forget how scared I was, scared that I was never going to experience everything I wanted to, scared I was facing a death sentence. And when I learned I had somehow dodged a bullet, I wanted to drink in as much fun and joy as I could find in this life. And this music has continued to help me shake out of the doldrums and release some of the angst I carry, even if it’s just for a night. This music somehow helps remind me to just take in the moment and be grateful that I’m still here. I’m still freaking here to be awkward and silly and dance and sing and fangirl. I’m still here…I’m so eternally glad I have the opportunity, the time, the life to be here, in this moment. To travel to different cities, experience these concerts, and think to myself, I really had a blast doing that, didn’t I? I can’t wait to do that again! And realize that I’m so incredibly lucky to think about the future like this… and to keep making plans for the future because I’m so incredibly lucky to even have a future. So Will, thank you for making magic with your guitar, thank you for making music I love with an artist I have always loved, and thank you for listening to the ramblings of a woman who can’t convey what all of this means to her in a way that makes sense…

Will2

Will Crewdson, Adam Ant guitarist, Florida 2018

My Midlife Crisis Concert Tour – Day Four

OK, now that I’ve checked out of that hotel, I need to warn all y’all about staying at the Sheraton Jacksonville… Do not be deceived by the nice newer furnishings. As evidenced by my last post, that place has the worst insulation between the walls of the guest rooms. I’ve stayed in Motel 6s that had better sound proofing. Yesterday morning, I was treated to a lovely rendition of my neighbor’s morning noises which included loud yawns, farts, and belching. And his requisite bathroom noises too. No wonder the woman on the phone last night seemed noncommittal about furthering their relationship… And even though I’m a platinum guest and confirmed a late checkout time of 3pm, I had housekeeping knock on my door between noon and 1pm four separate times! WTF? Don’t they communicate with the front desk and each other? I was in the middle of presenting during a meeting and had to go on mute, fling the door open repeatedly and tell the poor woman on the other side that I had a confirmed late checkout. I would have had less interruptions taking the meeting from the median of I-95.

Jacksonville and Orlando must be in a competition for the most roadwork on a major freeway category. The sign that should have announced my exit was missing and I made a leap of faith that I should take whatever that lane was. I had a brief but vivid flash of me driving this pimped out Mercedes through a sketchy neighborhood (because you know it’s within the realm of possibility for me). And I had to revert to compound curse words for 6 different drivers in a 15 minute stretch, which is a change from the happy-go-lucky driver I was the past few days. Thank god the radio played Total Eclipse of the Heart to distract me (I totally nailed the last chorus) or that number of cursed drivers would have been far higher.

I finally got to my next hotel in one piece and was even able to check in early, which was a bonus because I still had work stuff I needed to get done before I could resume singing my face off and dancing around like an idiot. I decided to walk to the theater for the next show since on the map, it was just right across the river. I did not take into account how freaking cold the wind would be walking over the bridge however. And there was a group of 8 youngish people right in front of me walking over the bridge that were too scattered for me to pass them so I could keep walking briskly and not freeze (one of the girls at the end of the peloton kept turning around and looking at me like I was going to rob them or something… I wanted to say, if y’all would freaking stop herding like a bunch of migrating wildebeest, I could pass you and stop making you feel uncomfortable.)

The Florida Theater in Jacksonville is another of the old school variety. This one was built in the 1920s (at least according to the usher I was chatting with) and was pretty damn ornate. I spent some time staring at all of the scrollwork and wondering who dusts all the nooks and crannies of that stuff. My seat for this show was up in the balcony/loge area waaaayyyy on the left side looking at the stage, 2nd row back. So I had a pretty good view except for the side of the stage I was closest to since there was a pillar that jutted out (and that made me sad because I love watching Jola bashing on the drums…it’s very girl-powering to watch a female drummer…and I couldn’t really see that part of the stage).

The opening act, Glam Skanks (4 women who play some rocking fun songs, LA-based, go see them if you can because they put on a great show), got the crowd going. When Adam Ant and the band took the stage, I was immediately ready to get up and dance… and was one of the very few apparently. Some redneck jackass was yelling about people getting up. Keep in mind this weasel was sprawled out with his legs over the seat in front of him and lounging like he was on his couch watching TV. I was like, dude, I paid good money to come to a concert, I’m on the very end of the row shoved next to a wall…if I want to get up and dance, I’m going to get up and dance. I triple dog dare you to actually try and stop me. He was screaming at some other woman too and finally the usher went over to him and I don’t know what the usher said to him, but weasel-boy didn’t make a peep the rest of the night. So I was up dancing like a fool, even though the two women sitting right next to me in the rest of the empty row sat like bumps on a log. Didn’t sing along, didn’t even jiggle their knees in time with the music every once in awhile. I think that’s a clear sign if the body snatchers have taken over someone if they don’t react at all to music, right? Because I hear music, I need to move. Shit, I get a song in my head and I’m freaking dancing around (and yes, I am aware of the looks people give me; but you know what, I’m at the age now where IDGAF and I actually have way more fun because of my apathy towards pretending I’m cool).

Anyway…the show was awesome (as usual, like I’m going to say anything different?) and the band seemed to have even more energy than they did in Clearwater. Will, the lead guitarist, had his guitar strap come off during the finale song and just kept shredding. He actually picked up a mallet from one of the drum kits and used it like a violin bow on his guitar. It was absolutely incredible (for someone who loves guitar solos) and I’m freaking pissed I didn’t get it on video because my crappy old iphone has less storage than a damn thumb drive.

After the show, I wandered over to a local bar near the theater to grab a late dinner. Despite the glowing reviews of the place online, I was none too impressed. I basically had a pizza Hot Pocket and cold mac and cheese. Fortunately, I was still too amped up over the show to get too annoyed (plus they had grape 3 Olives vodka which I hadn’t had in over 2 years so there was a small redeeming quality about the place). To get home, I debated whether to walk or take an Uber and opted for an Uber because it was getting kinda cold out there. Thank god I chose that option because while I was in the show having a great time, the city of Jacksonville closed the f-ing bridge I walked over earlier in the day. I don’t even know if there was a pedestrian option for me to have gotten back across the river. The Uber driver had to take the I-95 bridge and I sure as hell would not be trying to walk on the shoulder of a freaking interstate at midnight… Jacksonville, you just pulled into the lead of “f’ed up Florida road works”, although I am on my way back to Orlando today so I can’t call a definitive winner just yet.

So, I have only one more leg of the road trip and only one more show left and that actually makes me sad. I’ve been having a great time and I’m not ready to have it be over. I really did need this to lift my spirits. I was dancing during the show and suddenly, a thought popped into my head that I could be in chemo, I could be unable to stand on that leg, I could unable to dance along to the music. An overwhelming rush of emotion came over me and I had to blink back some tears (which would have been very inappropriate to be crying while the band was playing Greta X). I’m grateful that music, a great rental car, annoying things that can be turned into funny stories, Adam Ant, mini chocolate donuts, band members liking my Instagram photos from the concerts, dancing, and Florida itself can work its magic to remind me that life is pretty damn awesome even if it’s not quite going your way.

 

My Midlife Crisis Concert Tour – Day Three

Currently sitting in a hotel just south of Jacksonville and since I finally got done doing a super-critical, last-minute work document, I figured I would recap my last couple of days in Florida for what I’m billing as my midlife crisis concert tour – for no other reason than I have the laptop fired up and I need to create something fun and lighthearted rather than the business-y thing I just spent hours drafting.

Backing up to Day One, I flew into Orlando, which is an easy and usually inexpensive flight from Austin. The other bonus about flying into Orlando is that every single rental car agency licensed to do business in the United States has an outlet in Orlando, which makes renting a car usually inexpensive as well. So, hence how I ended up with a Mercedes (skip back a post if you’re confused why I just randomly blurted that out)…

After I picked up my sweet-ass car, I immediately started driving to the Clearwater area even though I didn’t need to be there until the next evening. I figured with the way my luck had been lately, it might be a wiser option to not worry about getting stuck in traffic the night of the concert (because if I missed that first concert, I’d have been screaming like that scene in Princess Bride when Westley was getting his life sucked out of him and everyone in the kingdom heard it). As usual, I somehow managed to hit the worst possible traffic on the way there just outside of Orlando; but I somehow did not turn into a raging lunatic spouting every conceivable swear word I know (which usually is a given when I’m behind the wheel). I sang loudly along with the radio, the freaking radio. What a novelty since I don’t think I’ve listened to music that wasn’t on Spotify in a year or so… And when I checked into my hotel that evening, I discovered that I had been upgraded to a 2-bedroom suite which caused a small crisis as I tried to figure out which bed was more comfy…

The next day, I had a late check-out so I could get some work done. I mean, I still have to be functioning productive member of society while I’m off gallivanting… My next hotel was actually on Clearwater Beach so I drove up over the causeway and onto the island. (Do not ask why I stayed the night in Clearwater the night before the concert and then made myself drive further from the theater the night of the show…I’m still trying to figure out what the heck I was thinking…) Sadly, I did not get a massively oversized suite. Once I was checked in, I had my work meeting that I was telling y’all about last post and then I threw on my shoes and made a beeline to the beach. It was so nice and relaxing to walk on the sand and just space out for a little bit. And then I headed back to the hotel to get ready for the concert!

The Capitol Theater is this old-school, art-deco theater in downtown Clearwater. It’s reasonably cozy and my seat was off to the side of the stage, 2nd row back. No joke, it was so close to the stage, it reminded me of the seats I had for the high school talent show in 11th grade when I made my friends sit super close to the stage so I could ogle Kris when he played guitar for his band that was performing that night (I guess you probably didn’t need that detail but it was the only way I could explain what being in that theater in that seat felt like). Although the women in front of me had a friend that kept trying to bring herself and random others to crowd their row, the usher finally bounced her out so I could see around all of them. I had a blast singing and dancing and  wondering about the dude next to me who was dancing on his wife like he was auditioning for the next installment of Magic Mike. I mean, his hip thrusts weren’t even timed to the music (although if he did manage that to Adam Ant’s music, he would have looked like a jack rabbit for most of the evening)… I digress, it was a great show even though the mic kept giving Adam some crazy feedback for half the night. I even managed to remember to take a few photos during the performance!

Adam

Adam Ant, Clearwater, January 31, 2018

As usual after I’ve seen live music, it took me waaaayyyy too long to wind down and go to sleep. And when I did finally fall asleep, I had the weirdest dreams. It must have been the proximity to the headquarters of a very large organization that did it. I woke up, jumped on some work calls for most of the morning and finally checked out around 1pm. I really wanted to get through Orlando before rush hour and give myself the chance to get to Jacksonville at a reasonable hour. However, Orlando, you need to get your shit together… what the hell were you thinking by basically having every single mile of I-4 within the boundaries of the city under construction at once? I couldn’t even dance along to Staying Alive because I had to firmly grip the wheel with both hands to run the slalom course of road works.

I also discovered that when I am in the car by myself I will pretty much sing along to everything I remotely know the words to, except when I’m in heavy traffic in a construction zone. And except anything by Heart… well, that’s not true because I did sing the chorus to Barracuda but amateurs should never try to imitate the Wilson sisters anyway. Even Mariah Carey I will attempt. I do not succeed, but I do attempt and I’m sure there are dogs in the Winter Park area that really wish I hadn’t. (Funny thing I also discovered today is that there is a Mariah Carey song with ODB guesting on it… How have I never heard this before? I couldn’t rap along with Old Dirty Bastard because I had no idea this collab even existed but I am dying to learn the words now…) I’m slightly worried I shredded my voice on the ride here and I have to be careful about overusing it on the car ride to my next hotel before I go to the show tomorrow night. I don’t want to  completely destroy it before the end of the weekend. (That’s what Saturday’s show is for!)

One of the things I love about Florida besides the beaches and the palm trees is the fact that for the most part, the police have no intention for pulling you over for speeding unless you are going Mach 1. I was in the middle lane of I-95 cruising along at 80mph when I got passed on both sides – a cop car in the left lane and some big-ass pickup truck in the right. Note that the speed limit is posted at 70mph. The cop didn’t even glance over.

So anyway, now I’m sitting here thinking I should probably go to bed and get what will likely be the last night of good sleep on this trip – but I can’t because there is a soap opera unfolding on the other side of my hotel room wall. I can clearly hear every single word the old dude next door is yelling into his phone (for reference to my future self, do not ever stay at this hotel again since the walls are apparently made of cardboard and the club level lounge still charges you for alcohol). I feel like I should slip a note under the door and tell him that his tone of voice is not going to engender the woman on the other end of the line to open up and share her feelings and besides, he would need to pause every now and then or she won’t be able to even get a word in edgewise…And I don’t know who Mike is, but this dude just called you a motherf-er…Actually, this is hilariously entertaining even though I’m a horrible person for finding amusement from this…

Anyway, hope you enjoyed my ramblings as much as I enjoyed recounting them. And I’m sure I will provide more color commentary from my trip…stay tuned

Alright, Maybe January is Gonna End Well

So, I’m hanging out in my hotel room in Clearwater pretending to get ready for a work meeting I’m having in 20 minutes. I should be out running around checking out the beach and finding lunch but instead, I’m updating my blog… Seriously, I need to get my priorities in order. Actually after this meeting, I have to check out and move to a different hotel. In fact, the entire time I’m in Florida on my statewide odyssey to relive my youth, I change hotels every night. It’s like I’m the one on tour…

Anyway, I’m slightly more optimistic than I have been for most of the month. Being in Florida almost always makes me happy (until I run smack into rush hour which in winter is ALWAYS because of the snowbirds) and so far, I’ve been having good travel luck. I somehow ended up with a Mercedes rental car and I am completely loving feeling like a spoiled rich housewife instead of a rental-car-driving-tourist. Even getting stuck in rush hour traffic in Orlando after I landed, I was having too much fun singing Don’t Stop Believing to get too annoyed at everyone else’s inability to step on the accelerator. (And is it like a law or something that if that song comes on, everyone has to stop and pretend to be Steve Perry for 4 minutes? Just me? Really?) I made it to Clearwater and somehow I ended up in a 2 bedroom suite. I was like, damn which bedroom do I choose? Kinda sucks being by myself because I can’t be all braggy about my upgrades – except on my blog and I can’t see you acting like you’re happy for me but deep down you’re a bit irritated…

And I haven’t even gone to the first show yet! I’m looking forward to getting done with this meeting, heading over to the next hotel (in my Mercedes – and yes, I am singing that old school 80s song by Pebbles although the video is hella cheesy), and getting ready to head out tonight to catch the concert. With the gloomy little cloud that was over my head for the past few weeks, I forgot how much fun I can have just being silly by myself.

The Protective Benefits of Pregnancy

Science is really cool… and a new research study from the team at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania (an Ivy League school, BTW) thinks it may have the answer on why women with a history of a previous pregnancy statistically end up with better outcomes after a melanoma diagnosis. I’m going to quote a passage on the webpage in its entirety because they summarize it better than I can:

The mechanism is related to a cellular protein called the G protein-coupled estrogen receptor (GPER). When GPER was activated and combined with anti PD-1inhibitor drugs in mouse cancer models, the therapy dramatically extended survival in all animals and completely eliminated the tumor in 50 percent of the mice.

Obviously, the research was conducted on mice, not humans; so let’s get that out of the way first. GPER is found in all female mammals, including mice, humans, and pretty much any other animal with breasts. Scientists suspect that GPER plays a role in the progression of breast cancer. But that’s a topic for a different blog. So what does that have to do with melanoma?

Melanocytes, the pigment-producing cells in the skin, has this GPER receptor. This receptor is normally activated by estrogen, which is higher in females and is at much higher levels in a female’s body during pregnancy. In fact, melasma or the darker patches of skin that sometimes occurs in pregnant women or women on birth control pills is thought to be due to the activation of GPER. Ok, still what does this have to do with melanoma?

Let’s say you’re a woman who has had a pregnancy. That means that GPER has been activated in your body. And then let’s say you develop melanoma at some point after that pregnancy. Once GPER is activated, the melanoma cancer cell becomes more differentiated. What does that mean? According to the article, “this means it divides less frequently, makes more pigment, and becomes more visible and vulnerable to the natural immune system. This makes it harder for the cancer to become resistant to immunotherapies.”

The next part of the study is really the show-stopper. The scientists stimulated GPER in the mice with melanoma and then used anti-PD-1 inhibitors to treat their tumors. These inhibitor drugs help boost the body’s immune response to cancer cells; but they’re not known for eliminating tumors completely and don’t provide long-term survival. But when GPER was activated and they used anti-PD-1 inhibitors, the researchers were able to eliminate tumors in half of the mice…

Half of the mice were basically cured using this approach. Let that sink in… That’s a pretty awesome stat (especially if you’re one of the half that it worked completely on). Ok, the other interesting thing about this study is that the scientists activated something found normally in the body rather than inhibiting something. The cool thing to think about that is that they activated something that is activated during the normal reproductive processes for females. GPER is not a toxic compound or none of us would be here to read this blog. So it could be an avenue of treatment unlike what researchers have traditionally pursued (activating rather than inhibiting) and could end up making melanoma treatments less toxic for the rest of the body.

So not only might they have figured out why women with previous pregnancies what better response rates to melanoma, they may have figured out how to extend that benefit to those of us women that have never had a pregnancy. And men, GPER is actually found in other organs too so you’re not cut out of the party, although there may be some interesting side effects for you…