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Coolibar Athlete Kristie Talks Melanoma Prevention

This is a special blog post from Coolibar Athlete Kristie Cranford and her words-to-the-wise regarding Melanoma and how you can protect yourself. She speaks from personal experience.

Melanoma-n. 1.  –mas also –mata: a usu. malignant tumor containing dark pigment. 2. Deadly Skin Cancer. The one that won’t leave me alone.

When you get up in the morning, you get dressed, right? Shirt, pants, shoes?  You wouldn’t leave the house naked, would you? But sadly many do. Many leave the house without sunscreen. Sunscreen should be an essential part of your wardrobe.

I am a multiple melanoma (skin cancer) survivor. You never think you will ever hear the words “You have cancer” once in your life, let alone time, after time, after time, like I have. My first and most advanced was discovered during a routine annual exam. It was in the center of my back. I had no way to knowing it was there. Undetected, it would have killed me, I was only 27. I had an area the size of a small nerf football removed from my back because of a mole the size of a pencil eraser. Melanoma  is the most deadly form of skin cancer.

Here are some statistics:

  • In 2012 more than 116,000 people will be diagnosed with the disease
  • By 2012, it is estimated that one in 50 people will be diagnosed with melanoma
  • One person dies nearly EVERY HOUR from melanoma
  • Melanoma affects people of every age and every race
  • The incidence rate for children 18 and under INCREASED by 84% from 1975 to 2005

Many cases of skin cancer can be prevented and detected early.  Here are the ABCDEs of melanoma:

Asymmetry:  One half of the mole does not match the other half

Border:  The borders of the mole are irregular, ragged, blurred, or a notch

Color:  The color of the mole is not the same throughout. There may be brown, black, red, blue, or white.

Diameter:  The mole is larger than 6 millimeters (roughly ¼”, roughly the size of a pencil eraser)

Evolution:  The mole has been growing or changed its shape and color.

Protect yourself anytime when outdoors, rain or shine. Don’t just avoid peak sun exposure hours between 10am and 4pm. Water, Sand and Snow reflect the sun’s rays. Wear sunscreen with an SPF factor of 30 or higher, remember to reapply. My favorite is Raw Elements USA. The Eco Stick can be easily applied under water and over sweat. Smaller than an energy gel, it’s easy to carry.  Look for sun protective clothing like Coolibar. Wear sunglasses to protect your eyes from ocular melanoma. AVOID TANNING BEDS.  Apply sunscreen before placing your hands under the UV rays at the nail salon (bet you NEVER thought about that). Visit a trained dermatologist annually for a complete, head-to-toe exam.

I used to be bitter and angry with Melanoma. I was angry that it was determined to kill me. Then I realized. It saved me. I took back my health. Over time I started eating right, running, and having routine exams and screenings. I credit Melanoma for saving my life. Without it, I would not have detected my breast and cervical cancers in the early stages. I am living breathing proof that early detection is the key to survival.

As athletes we train and compete outdoors. We take precautions to train smart and eat right to prevent illness and injury. Please, don’t forget your skin.

Information, statistics, and ABCDE’s obtained via www.OutruntheSun.org

Visit Kristie’s Blog Here: http://coachkristie.com/2012/07/03/melanoma/

Read Kristie’s full cancer stroy here: http://www.prsfit.com/blog/cancerversary-n-1-_____-2-the-anniversary-of-my-first-cancer-diagnosis/

Visit Coolibar for sunscreen and sun protective clothing: www.coolibar.com

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Success Stories Wellness Warriors

75 time skin cancer patient urges sunscreen use

You’ve heard the advice about wearing sunscreen over and over. But would it mean a little more coming from someone who’s survived skin cancer at least 75 times?

Dennis Hassel enrolled in the U.S. Navy when he was in his 20s. Between work and play, he spent about half of every day outside, often without a shirt and always without sunscreen.

Hassel, now 81, estimates he’s had basal cell carcinoma, a common form of skin cancer, 75 to 100 times. The cancerous growths appear on his face, side, neck, arms, back and chest and often look like small red spots that bleed and don’t heal.

Hassel has an appointment every three months with a dermatologist at the University of Virginia Health System, where any new spots are evaluated. Treatment usually requires cutting out the suspicious spot and sending it to a lab to ensure the doctor removed all the cancer. Sometimes his dermatologist freezes off the spot or gives him a cream to use.

Hassel thinks the x-ray acne treatments he used to get contributed to his recurring cancer, but, “it was mostly the sun,” he says. “I can’t say enough about getting the word out to people who think they’re immune to the sun. They’re not.”

Beyond just remembering to wear sunscreen (Hassel now wears 100 SPF), what can you do to avoid skin cancer? UVA dermatologist Mark Russell recommends you:

– Apply sunscreen 15-20 minutes before going outside.
– Reapply every 1-2 hours. Sunscreen can break down, wear off, wash off or sweat off.
– Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen that protects against UVA and UVB rays and make sure it hasn’t expired.
– Use about an ounce of sunscreen ­— the amount it takes to fill a shot glass — to cover your whole body.
– Stay in the shade when possible and avoid sun exposure during the hottest part of the day, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
– Wear a wide-brimmed hat — not a baseball cap — that protects your neck and ears.

The Skin Cancer Foundation has images and warning signs of each kind of skin cancer. If you find a suspicious spot, get it checked by a dermatologist immediately.

UVA dermatologists offer a free skin cancer screening every year. Currently, they’re also providing Coolibar hats to people who attend the screening and bring a less protective hat, like a baseball cap, to trade. Coolibar hats have the wide brims Dr. Russell recommends.

Photo: UVA Employee Kat modeling Coolibar hat used in hat swap program.

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Success Stories Wellness Warriors

Unborn Daughter Saves Mother From Melanoma

Have you heard of a mom’s unborn child saving her life? Erica’s daughter Caroline did just that (both pictured to left). Read Erica’s story and how her daughter may just have saved her from Melanoma.

My name is Erica. I am a daughter, granddaughter, wife and mother.  Although having my child at the age of 22 was not in my immediate plans, I often say that if it wasn’t for my strong-willed, red-headed little girl I may not have been here to make plans.  I am a firm believer in everything happening for a reason and am at complete peace with the bumpy ride I am still on regarding my skin.  This is a short version of my journey with melanoma thus far. 

Two months after my 22nd birthday I had a six month OBGYN appointment.  I always saw a midwife but on this particular day I saw the actual OB and I was wearing shorts, something I rarely did while I was pregnant.  He took one look at a spot on my thigh and suggested I see my primary care doctor immediately to have it checked out.  This mole had been on my leg for about two years and although it was ugly it was just one of those things I kept putting off getting checked.  It was not important to me, after all what could it have been?  Just an ugly, unattractive spot I could get taken off for cosmetic reasons?  My general practitioner believed it to be nothing but still removed it for further testing.  Initially, I was told that it was severely dysplastic and I was sitting on the door step of melanoma.  After further evaluation from the pathologist it was confirmed that I indeed had a .68 mm stage 1 melanoma that showed signs of regression. 

When I got the news that I had melanoma it truly didn’t hit me that this was a very serious condition.  When I got the call from the doctor that I needed to go in that morning I went by myself and was not the slightest bit nervous. I vividly remember the nurse hugging me and telling me that all would be o.k. and I would still be here for my daughter.  It was at that point that I broke down crying in the office, hugging a stranger trying to get a good grip on the fact that I not only had cancer but I had the deadliest form of skin cancer.

After that things started moving very fast.  I was scheduled immediately for a WLE (wide local excision) and a lymph node biopsy because I had some issues with them around the time the mole originally appeared. Being that I was pregnant, the lymph node biopsy had to wait until my little girl was around seven weeks old.  The WLE resulted in clear margins and there was no signs of melanoma in my lymph nodes once they were checked.  All was fine until roughly seven months later when another melanoma was found in my groin region.  Thankfully that one was an in situ which is essentially stage 0 and is not invasive.  Several other biopsies were taken as a precautionary measure which has left me with several keloids scattered around my body.  Since then I have had a nevus with pre-cancerous cells which was taken care of with a WLE.  I am also currently awaiting results on another biopsy. 

One of the biggest questions I get asked about my personal experience with melanoma is how did I get it.  When I was sixteen I began going to the tanning bed. As a teenager and even during my collage years I didn’t do the typical rebellious things such as drinking, partying, etc.  I was a homebody, an honor student, the type of person who chose to go to bed at 9 on a Friday night.  Little did I know, the one activity I was partaking in to make me feel good about myself and boost my self-confidence was the number one thing that could have very easily robbed me of my life. I would tan a couple times a week, use the hottest tanning lotions and tan for about 15-20 minutes at a time.  What I didn’t know is each and every time I would lay in a tanning bed I was engaging in risky behavior that could have been fatal. During my tanning years I heard of melanoma and even saw pictures but I always brushed it off as something that would not happen to me or happen many years down the road when I was “old”.  I have since found out that skin cancer also runs on my paternal side of the family, something I had no idea about at the time.  Unfortunately, ignorance truly is bliss.

In the past two years I have became very educated when it comes to melanoma.  I have read and reread the facts, told anyone and everyone who will listen about my story and have became very vigilant with my skin checks.  I see my dermatologist every three months and we check and reevaluate areas of concern. My little girl will forever be at a higher risk given my history so sunscreen, monitoring her skin and keeping her safe from the sun is of utmost importance to me.  I am also learning to embrace my once tan body that is now a body full of scars, keloids and regularly appearing nevi. If I was to never get another melanoma it would not mean that it is totally over.  It would simply mean that there is NED (no evidence of disease).  Melanoma education, prevention and awareness will forever play a big role in my life!

Erica Adams – Founder of Astheygrowup.com blog

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Wellness Warriors

Melanoma Survivor Kari

I am in my tenth year of battling the beast called stage IV metastatic melanoma, and I am still just as determined to win as I have ever been!

I was originally diagnosed with Stage IV metastatic melanoma in April 2003 just as my daughter Emilia turned one. At diagnosis, disease had spread to my lungs, femur and multiple sub cue locations and my prognosis was grave. I completed two and a half years of bio-chemotherapy and surgery at California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco and had no evidence of disease in 2004. In recognition of the fifth anniversary of my diagnosis, I spent the first five days of May 2008 walking, with my father (pictured above with me), from Napa to San Francisco (77 miles) to personally thank my physician, Dr. David Minor, and celebrate the gift of life. It was truly the walk of my life!

In May 2009 (the same month as my original diagnosis in 2003), I discovered somewhat ‘by accident’ a lump on my side. It was sudden and unexpected by all, doctors included. A biopsy quickly determined the lump was melanoma, surgery was done with no other cancer found, and I launched into an inpatient IL-2 protocol. Unfortunately, three month progress scans (September 2009) showed a new mass, launching a five month bicoastal diagnostic and potential protocol obstacle course. Our search ended as of March 2010, when after three attempts, I was accepted in the phase II PLX4032 trial at the UCLA. I was an early and complete responder to the drug; however, the side effects were severe and unfortunately the disease returned by the end of the year.

With few options available, I had surgery again in January 2011 to remove a tumor, muscle and nodes in my shoulder and was confident we finally had the upper hand. Despite our determination, melanoma is a crazy beast and it quickly returned. After much discussion and debate regarding quality of life, impact on family, and attempts to forecast the future (ha, ha!), we made the decision for me to start on the newly approved drug “Yervoy” (Ipi) in May 2011.

The response to treatment was positive and we enjoyed a few months “in the clear” only to have the end of the year bring the news that the disease had progressed to my brain. Brain zapping commenced (gamma knife) and was followed with another course of Yervoy. Thankfully my brain is showing signs of improvement (that is shrinking tumors!) but the disease in my body has not been stabilized. 2012 began with a storm of research and investigation on “what next” and it was determined that the immediate course of action called for the surgical removal of a mass in my duodenum. The surgery was a challenging one but I have recovered well. Radiation of seven additional tumors followed in conjunction with another round (third) of treatment with Yervoy (Ipi) that will continue until mid summer. Our fingers are seriously crossed as well.

As always, we remain guided by hope, astounded at the community that continues to surround us, very grateful for the incredible scientific advances that continue to provide us with treatment options and determined to live as full and “normal” of a life as we can.

Kari Worth on Caring Bridge

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Coolibar Athletes Wellness Warriors

Coolibar Athlete Kristie Cranford

I love running. I have overcome so many obstacles in my life, one being cancer, and running is one of the few things I have semi “control” over. I feel alive and at peace when I run. I am alone with my thoughts and it gives me time to think deeply about many things.

My first half marathon was a huge accomplishment—the Rock n’ Roll Las Vegas Half Marathon (RNRLV) 2009. Many said I would never run a race that distance. During the race a friend surprised me on the course. I cannot tell you how big my heart swelled knowing someone supported me. When I crossed the finish, I put my hands over my face and cried. A volunteer had to move my hands to put the medal around my neck. I had conquered another obstacle. My husband and son met me at the finish. It was FREEZING, but I didn’t care. I did it!

That race was the bug that bit me. I started devouring books and magazines on running, hired a trainer and changed my eating habits. I lost weight and started sleeping better.

Along the way I also found a passion for fitness and became a Certified Personal Trainer. I am now studying to be a Certified Coach. As an athlete, I am attempting to transform from a runner who “runs” races to a runner who “races” races. It’s a huge step for me fine tuning my diet and nutrition and training a whole different way. I may never be an elite athlete, but it sure is fun training like one!

I was born and raised in North Carolina (brief moments of childhood in Ohio, and adulthood in Atlanta, GA) now living in the land of Sin City, Las Vegas. People who know me describe me as a friend to everyone I meet.

My life is busy. I find myself training at midnight sometimes just to fit it in. My goals include becoming a USA Track & Field Masters All American in 2012, finishing an Ultra Marathon, bringing an Outrun the Sun Race to Las Vegas and reaching as many people as possible with the message of sun protection.

As a multiple melanoma survivor since age 27, I am passionate about sun safety, especially since becoming a Mom. I have fought and beat cancer multiple times. I fear the day when I will get it again, not if, but when. I want to be as strong and healthy as I can be, in the event I need to fight again. My son’s bright eyes and smile are the reason I train so hard, eat right and protect my skin every day. I want to be the best Mom I can be for him, for as long as I possibly can.

Kristie’s favorite quote: “It’s about you. It’s personal. You’re not racing against anyone else. You only get one first time, so just enjoy the experience.”

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Coolibar Athletes Wellness Warriors

Coolibar Athlete Jeremy Van Ek

Finance professional by day, proud father by night and weekend, and adventurer in any spare time I can manage to fit in. I spend as much time outdoors as possible mountain biking, kayaking, canoeing, hiking, trail running, orienteering, mountaineering, rock climbing, camping and coaching youth sports. I am also a Cub Scout den leader and president of the Chicago Area Adventure Racing Association.

My true passion is adventure racing, an outdoors multisport team competition. Disciplines usually include trail running, mountain biking, paddling (canoes or kayaks), and special challenges. What makes it really interesting is that team members must stick together at all times (it’s not a relay) and there is never any marked course for the race. We navigate our way using maps and a compass (GPS not allowed).  Adventure races range in length anywhere from four hours to 10 days.

I have several podium finishes in adventure races including 1st place in the 2007 Sweaty Otter Ultramarathon. I’ve also completed 25 plus adventure races from six hours to three days in length. My goal for any outdoor adventure is get dirty, have fun, eat strange foods, tell jokes, scream “wheee!” with childlike abandon and push myself (and team) to the best possible finish.

I am an everyday guy who likes to spend as much time outdoors as possible, getting up at 4:30 am just to get in 10 miles of mountain biking before heading to work. Friends constantly ask what kind of racing I am up to because they like to hear the stories. My plan for this year so far includes: Desplaines canoe and kayak marathon (solo kayak division); Chicago Adventure Racing Association All-Nighter workout (I plan and run this event every year); trip to hike Long’s Peak in Colorado; and a three day canoe trip in Northern Michigan.

I truly believe that you don’t have to be a super-athlete or maniac to be an adventurer. There is a lot waiting right in your backyard; you just have to occasionally go looking for it when you can manage to spare the time. I live in the west suburbs of Chicago, not exactly an adventurer’s paradise, but I’ve found many amazing sights just by wandering off the beaten trail, getting up a little earlier than normal to catch the sunrise and following the road less traveled.

On a final note, I feel strongly that sun protection is important in all outdoor activities. My kids are slathered with sunblock every time we go hiking and kayaking!

Jeremy Van Ek on Mt. Lincoln
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Coolibar Athletes Wellness Warriors

Coolibar Athlete Marion Lepert

I have a passion for windsurfing. My father got me started when I was eight years old (2004), and I have been hooked ever since. I learned in a small lagoon in Foster City, California. After three years of practice, I started racing with the local San Francisco Bay racing fleet. I loved the thrill of racing and the speed and tactics that accompany it, so I kept with it. Soon enough, thanks to the support and advice of the local SF racers and my family, I was ready to compete at the national and international level. 

Now, I have raced for almost six years and have traveled across the world to do so. My first major accomplishment was in 2009 when I became the US Junior Girl National Champion in Slalom and Formula windsurfing. I then trained harder and continued to travel to international events to learn from the top sailors. In 2011, I finished in the top 5 in three world championships, including first place at the Women’s Formula Worlds, and second place at the Junior Windsurfing Worlds. I consider myself very fortunate to race internationally, and my dream is now to compete in the 2016 Olympic Games.

I currently enjoy windsurfing 2-3 times a week, and while I am very happy to be able to do so, I am concerned about my exposure to the sun. I became especially aware of this danger in 2010, when a member of my immediate family was diagnosed with melanoma. Since then, I have changed my mindset about being under the sun. I now understand that being exposed to the sun without protection is harmful to my skin, even when I do not sunburn, and this is why I consider sun protection a must whenever I go outdoors. While wearing sunscreen has been an option for me, Coolibar products are more effective and less burdensome because they allow me to avoid the hassle of trying to reapply sunscreen while I am wet and salty. And with UPF 50+ protection, I know I am safe from the sun when I have fun windsurfing!

In addition to windsurfing, I love running on local trails, volunteering with my school garden, baking chocolate desserts, spending time with my family and cuddling with my cat.

Marion Windsurfing
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Coolibar Athletes Wellness Warriors

Coolibar Athlete Sara Snyder

My name is Sara Snyder and I’m a full-time artist, illustrator, part time craftswoman, environmental educator, avid nature photographer, blogger and outdoor adventurer. I run a nature photography project titled A Year in the Woods.

I was born August 10, 1985 on Long Island, NY and moved to Southern California in 2007 to pursue many of my greatest dreams exploring and living outdoors for long stretches of time where I find inspiration and combine both my work and play. Trekking long distances makes for the perfect opportunity to quench my creative and athletic urges and take my interests to a new level.

Currently, I am embarking on a 2,663 mile journey from Mexico to Canada via the Pacific Crest Trail from April to October 2012. The Pacific Crest Trail passes through 24 National Forests, seven National Parks, five California State Parks, five Bureau of Land Management Resource Areas as well as other public and private lands. I believe nature is the perfect canvas, teacher and healer, and with each new step through its primal retreat comes new wisdom and possibility; a chance to restore the spirit, mind, and body.

Each day I take parts of my adventures and capture perfect moments I feel I cannot possibly improve on. Though living by sun and moon is an amazing and liberating experience, with freedom typically comes responsibility. The sun, though our life giver, can be just as merciless as it is loving and I am currently on my second biopsy from the harsh California rays. Coolibar takes a huge burden off my shoulders when it comes to my sun protection worries, so thank you Coolibar for everything you do!

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Coolibar Athletes Wellness Warriors

Coolibar Athlete Tania Prymak

I have always loved sports of all kinds! My problem growing up was trying to play as many sports as I could; softball, soccer, skiing, swimming, track and field. Ultimately, I had to narrow it down to a sport I was really passionate about—skiing. I started ski racing when I was eight years old and in eighth grade attended Burke Mountain Academy, an elite ski academy in East Burke, VT. I trained on a daily basis, racing all over the country and internationally. I raced in alpine state championships, Junior Olympics and a variety of International Ski Federation races.

All of this travel led me to a ski resort in Oregon where elite US ski cross athletes were training on a ski cross course. Completely intrigued, I knew this was something I had to do. In the early winter season, after my high school graduation, I travelled back to Oregon to try the freestyle skiing event I saw. I was hooked instantly!

Even though I have only two seasons of ski cross racing under my belt, I have accomplished a lot. I am the 2011 USASA Woman’s National Ski Cross Champion and the USSA Revolution Tour Champion. I’m also the 2012 NorAm 4th place finisher in Copper Mountain, CO, the Hole Shot Tour 3rd place finisher and 1st place finisher at Killington Mountain, VT.

The highlight of 2012 was being named to the USA World Junior Team that travelled to Valmalenco, Italy in April 2012 for FIS Junior World Ski Championships. Competing against an international field of junior woman, I finished 16th overall, and best of all US women.

After attempting two World Cup races last winter, which was challenging, I learned I need to get serious about training. I hope to move out to Colorado for the upcoming winter season to concentrate on all aspects of training to compete and achieve solid results. This will help me reach my goal of qualifying for an Olympic spot in the future.

Skiing requires year-round training, most done outdoors. During the summer, road and mountain biking comprises much of my training and the sun can be brutal. During my high school alpine ski academy experience, I was hospitalized often and diagnosed with kidney disease. Unfortunately, I was on many strong medications that created other problems, one being skin problems. I have a severe allergy to Doxycycline, and sensitivity to the sun with other meds. I use Coolibar clothing during training and at races during sunny days to protect against burn.

When I’m not skiing, I’m attending school at the University of New Hampshire. I’m majoring in biomedical sciences with the intent of applying to veterinary or medical school. I am currently on leave while I complete EMT training to gain real hands-on experience and look forward to volunteering on an ambulance core and hopefully a ski patrol group. I also love to scuba and am a scuba-certified advanced and scientific research diver. I can ride a unicycle too! I love spending time with my family, friends and my crazy Jack Russell!

Tania Prymak Ski Cross
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Coolibar Athletes Wellness Warriors

Coolibar Athlete Peter Urban

I’ve been playing competitive tennis for almost 30 years, including Division I tennis for Fairfield University from 1985 to 1989. I’m a United States Tennis Association (USTA) and Central Massachusetts Indoor Tennis Association (CMITA) league tennis player with a  4.5 ranking. Went 10-3 during regular season in 2010 USTA tennis league at number one singles and finished 2012 CMITA tennis league at 4-1-1.

My current goal is to publish a book that describes how to watch the ball, “Gaze Control – How to Watch the Ball.” Growing up, everyone told me to watch the ball, but nobody ever explained how to do this. I have an outline of the book completed. Now I just need to finish it and add video!

I also enjoy the outdoors and make a point to be active. If I’m not playing tennis I am running and surfing. I’m also an avid skier, having skied extensively in the US, Canada and Europe.

Fall 2011, I had skin cancer removed from center of my back. My dermatologist claimed this location is typical with men. Fortunately it was curable. Now, I realize I need to be extra careful in the sun. However, sunscreen lotion is inadequate because it is difficult to apply to the back and sweat removes it. I would like to go outside without worrying if I missed a spot.  I also don’t want to worry about whether I applied the right amount of sunscreen, or if it is no longer protecting me. I use clothing for sun protection because it is faster to put a shirt on than to take 10 minutes to put on lotion. I hope my story will help others to see the value in using sun protective clothing.

Peter Playing Tennis
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