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Melanoma Survivor Capt. Harry

During Skin Cancer Awareness Month, Coolibar invites skin cancer survivors to share their stories with us in their own words. Hope, determination and drive to educate others play a major role in these individuals’ lives. Skin cancer doesn’t discriminate, it can happen to anyone. Prevention and early detection can be life saving! We hope you share these stories with your friends, family and colleagues. Be SunAWARE this month and all year long. Read Capt. Harry’s story below.

I am fifty years old and run a saltwater charter fishing business out of O’Neill’s Marina in St. Pete, Florida. I had always spent a lot of time on the water, but not like this. In 2005, I started going to the dermatologist two times a year. In March of 2012, the dermatologist told me to keep an eye on a spot in the upper middle of my back, not to worry about it, but just watch it. This spot was in a place that I could barely see, even with two mirrors. I made the mistake of forgetting to tell my wife what the doctor said about keeping an eye on that spot.

While on a vacation in October, my wife noticed that spot on my back and said it did not look right. I went to the dermatologist in early November and the doctor said it was great that my wife noticed the spot. It did not look right to him and a biopsy was done.

I was on a fishing charter just off St. Pete beach when the doctor’s office called and told me that I had a Clark Level 3 Melanoma and to schedule an appointment with Moffitt Cancer Center. I didn’t know what to think. I was scared, angry, nervous and just wanted to get off the boat. As much as I tried not to let my clients know what that phone call was about, I’m sure they noticed a change in my attitude. I was so mad and angry that I told my wife that evening, “I don’t want to tell anyone about this, that it was my business, and it stays between us.”

We were reading everything we could about Melanoma and Clark Level 3 diagnosis. All this information was making the both of us more anxious, nervous, scared, angry and upset. Knowing and keeping this a secret was not the right thing to do. After a week or so, we agreed to tell two of her brothers that live close to us and my dad, and at some point my brother and sister who live in other states.

After Thanksgiving, we met with our team at Moffitt Cancer Center, and they told us what the procedure would be and scheduled the surgery for December 13th. While in a tree stand hunting one morning, I finally came to grips with what was going on and decided it was fine to talk about it, and totally changed my attitude. It took me three weeks to get to that point, but the anger was gone. I was still anxious and nervous, but not mad and angry.

After sitting in that tree for three hours, I got down and took a walk through the woods. I came upon a guy who was spraying invasive plant species to get rid of them. We talked for four hours and while talking he tells me that his wife went through breast cancer and Moffitt Cancer Center helped her beat it. She was cancer free and doing great. After about three hours, I told him I had just come to grips with my diagnosis, and I told him about it. He asked if it was alright with me if I would join him in a prayer for me. I told him it can’t hurt, so we prayed. It really was something that I ran into this man just after coming to grips with my situation.

I went in for the surgery on the 13th, and the first step was to inject a dye around the biopsy area to determine where and if the cancer had gone to any lymph nodes. The dye showed that it had gone to one lymph node in my left armpit and three in my right armpit. The surgery went well and they removed one under my left arm and three under my right. They also removed a large area around the biopsy. They scheduled my follow-up visit for December 31st. It was going to be an anxious two and a half weeks waiting for the lab results. After about ten days, my wife said let’s call and get the lab results. This was an anxious call but a great one. The nurse told me that all the lymph nodes came back negative and all of the area around the biopsy was also negative. Hallelujah! Christmas was so much better.

Words to the wise:

I had never heard of Coolibar before having to research melanoma and UPF clothing. Living and boating in Florida, you are going to be in the sun. I think, like myself, a lot of people have never heard of Coolibar. I spend over 200 days on the water, and clients as well as others in my industry, pay attention to what others are wearing. Regular cotton tee shirts just will not hold up, so people need to see others wearing sun protective apparel. Lead by example.

Capt. Harry

Capt. Harry’s Website: Hook Em Harry

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Events SunAWARE

Skin Cancer Awareness Month 2013

May has been declared Skin Cancer Awareness Month by the Centers for Disease Control. They remind us to increase awareness of the importance of the prevention, early detection and treatment of skin cancer. Each year, approximately 2 million persons in the United States are diagnosed with non melanoma skin cancers. Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation and a history of sunburn are preventable risk factors. With a little pre-planning it is easy to be sun safe all season long, and we’ve gathered a few ideas to help get you started.

1. Be SunAWARE and Be Safe! Use the easy to remember SunAWARE acronym to help keep in mind all the steps needed for sun safety. Remember it, use it and share it!

2. Get a Free Skin Cancer Screening at the Road to Healthy Skin Tour. The Skin Cancer Foundation’s Road to Healthy Skin Tour will make its way across the U.S. The mobile Tour kicks off in New York City in May for Skin Cancer Awareness Month. Check the Tour Schedule to see if it’s visiting your community.  If you go, say hi to the Tour event managers, Chris and Christie, protected by Coolibar Sunwear.

3. SPOT Orange™ on Melanoma Monday.  The American Academy of Dermatology designates the first Monday in May as Melanoma Monday and asks you to SPOT Orange™ to raise awareness of skin cancer. Visit the Academy’s website to find free screenings in your neighborhood.

Coolibar proudly supports the AAD’s SPOT Orange™ Skin Cancer Initiative and you can too.  We donate $10 for every Coolibar UPF 50+ SPOT™ Tee sold.

Coolibar UPF 50+ SPOT T-Shirt Coolibar UPF 50+ SPOT T-Shirt

 4. Attend a Skin Cancer Prevention Event.  Throughout the country there are walks, runs and golf tournaments that all benefit skin cancer prevention efforts. A few of our favorites are MRF’s Miles for Melanoma, MIF Safe from the Sun and the Stay Out of the Sun Run in MN.

5. Celebrate Don’t Fry Day. The National Council on Skin Cancer Prevention declares the Friday before Memorial Day (May 24, 2013) as “Don’t Fry Day” to encourage sun safety awareness. Because no single step can fully protect you and your family from overexposure to UV radiation, follow as many tips as possible.

Do you have other suggestions?  Share how you plan to make May and the rest of your summer sun safe. ‘Leave a reply’ below or visit our Facebook page.

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SunAWARE

Study finds aspirin may help prevent melanoma

Reducing your risk for melanoma by 20 percent could be as easy as popping aspirin, at least if you’re a woman over age 50. A new study in the journal Cancer looked at melanoma in 60,000 post-menopausal Caucasian women. Over a 12-year period, women who took aspirin twice a week or more had a 20 percent lower risk of developing melanoma, the most progressive form of skin cancer.

The results applied to aspirin use only and not other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen.

Before aspirin can be prescribed to patients at risk for melanoma, clinical trial testing must be performed. Additionally, pain relievers increase a user’s risk of bleeding and pose other potentially serious side effects. The only proven method of skin cancer prevention is avoiding UV exposure and using sun protection (a wide brim hat, sunscreen and sun protective clothing).

Currently, researchers plan to do follow-up studies in younger women and men.

As always, talk with your doctor regarding your health concerns.

Disclaimer: The information provided by Coolibar and its contributors is general skin care information and should not be a substitute for obtaining medical advice from your physician and is not intended to diagnose or treat any specific medical problem.

Resources: CBS News; FOX News; NPR

Photo credit: Wikipedia

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SunAWARE What's Hot

Minnesota’s rising skin cancer rates reflect a national trend

Minnesota’s skin cancer rates are going up, according to the Minnesota Department of Health, and Minnesota is not the only state seeing more skin cancer cases. Health Commissioner Ed Ehlinger says the national incidence of melanoma has been on the rise since the mid 70s. Officials are urging the public to avoid the sun all year long and stay out of tanning beds.

The department says melanoma rates rose 35 percent for men and 38 percent for women between 2005 and 2009 in Minnesota. Melanoma is the most serious form of skin cancer. According to the Mayo Clinic, the exact cause of melanoma isn’t clear, but exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from sunlight or tanning beds increase a person’s risk of developing melanoma. Adversely, limiting UV exposure can help reduce a person’s chances of getting melanoma.


SunAWARE advice

More on Minnesota’s Rising Melanoma Rates and Melanoma:

http://minnesota.publicradio.org/display/web/2013/01/30/health/melanoma-rates

http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/melanoma/DS00439

http://www.startribune.com/lifestyle/health/189051661.html?refer=y

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Wellness Warriors

Book: Help Me Live… As I Die, Cancer vs. the Power of Love

Joe Peterson, author of “Help Me Live… As I Die / Cancer vs. the Power of Love” shares his story about the creation of a book that demonstrates the true power of love versus melanoma. Kelly, Joe’s partner, passed away from cancer, but his story lives on through Joe.

From Joe:

I am the youngest of twelve and have always been creatively ambitious. Throughout the course of my life I dealt with suicidal thoughts, came to terms with my sexuality, built self-esteem through body and mind improvement, and always believed in love. Exercise, nutrition and creativity have been passions of mine for many years, and when Kelly was diagnosed they were very much a part of our daily life.

Only after writing daily updates on CaringBridge and receiving positive feedback from the readers (while building a united support system) did I consider sharing our journey via a book. I’ve always wanted to write a book, but I never suspected it would be inspired by a tragic circumstance. I contacted a publishing company months before Kelly passed away, and I believed it would be his and my success story against cancer… specifically, melanoma.

In October of 2011, I realized our physical time together was coming to an end and the story I had wanted to write was going to have an unthinkable ending. Kelly and I moved forth with the same amount of positivity and hope, despite the reality we faced.

Our journey, captured in “Help Me Live… As I Die / Cancer vs. the Power of Love” was completed and released almost one year after Kelly moved on. Reliving, over and over, the trials and tribulations we encountered during Kelly’s final nine months became a source of therapy I had not predicted.

Through my own personal growth, from rereading our united travels in 2011, and through the positive encouragement from others, I felt and still believe Kelly’s positivity will still impact others and potentially teach a better way to live, by living positively. Kelly and I also became aware that the relationship we had was very much respected by our straight loved ones, and our CB entries opened their eyes to the prejudices and safety fears we continually lived with. Our journey was as much about sharing as it was about learning.

–Joe

Joe Peterson, Author of “Help Me Live As I Die…Cancer vs. the Power of Love”

About the book:

This is not a story about death. It is a story about one couple’s journey of acceptance, love, and internal awakenings. Kelly and Joe met by chance, but were bound by fate. One morning in the summer of 2010, Kelly Boedigheimer, a thirty-nine year old man in good health, discovered what he thought was yet another ingrown hair on his chin. That was the first step on the life-changing journey he would share with Joe Peterson, his life partner since 1998.

Months later – following three surgical procedures, where each was more aggressive than the last – Kelly and Joe faced the inconceivable: Kelly was diagnosed with melanoma. In early 2011, Kelly met with a team of specialists at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. Another surgery, this one more wide-ranging than the others, removed a section of skin from his chin and a portion of his cheek. A graft from his arm provided new skin for those areas. Highly concerned about this aggressive melanoma, doctor’s proceeded quickly to save and protect Kelly.

Here, Joe lovingly and painfully recreates Kelly’s final nine months through journal entries, e-mails, blog posts, texts, and more. Their relationship was tested as too many are; in this visit back to those days, Joe unfolds an inspiring telling of the power of love, optimism, and hope. This is not a story about death. This is a story about love.

Enter to win a free book signed by the author. Share this story with your friends on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest and tag @Coolibar or comment below. (We will only use your email to contact you for purposes of this contest. One entry per person please. We’ll choose a winner via random drawing on December 6, 2012 at noon CST.)

Purchase “Help Me Live… As I Die / Cancer vs. the Power of Love” at HelpmeliveasIdie.com, www.Amazon.com, www.BarnesandNoble.com.

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Events SunAWARE

The Stars Come Out to Support Melanoma Research Foundation

Celebrity Kevin Nealon, star of Showtime’s hit series Weeds and long time Saturday Night Live actor hosted the first annual Melanoma Research Foundation (MRF) Celebrity Golf Classic on Monday, November 12 at Lakeside Golf Club in Los Angeles. The golf tournament helped raise funds for the MRF, helping further cancer research with the goal of one day finding a cure.

Kevin became involved with the MRF after his old college friend pasted away from skin cancer. Kevin says, “I never realized that skin cancer can be deadly. Since then, I’ve learned that melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, kills someone in this country every hour of every day. Alarmingly, it is not only the fastest growing cancer in young adults but the fastest growing cancer in the world.” Now, he’s working to spread the word about melanoma and skin cancer prevention.

Learn more at the Melanoma Research Foundation’s website. Also, check out photos from the event below.

Melanoma Research Foundation is the largest and oldest non-profit focusing specifically on melanoma. We are in our 14th year of funding cutting-edge medical research, and are the leading voice in providing support and education for patients. MRF is also a major source of awareness messages about melanoma, and is in its third year of a partnership with Cosmopolitan Magazine around their Practice Safe Sun program. Other strategic partners around raising awareness include a multi-national pharmaceutical company, a major motion picture studio and a team from the NFL.

We at Coolibar salute you Kevin Nealon and your fight for skin cancer prevention! P.S. You looked great in your Coolibar polo!
 

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Expert Rx

Skin Cancer in Skin of Color

Only people with light colored skin can get skin cancer—right? The truth is that anyone of any ethnic background is susceptible to all types of skin cancer including melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, skin cancer is in fact more common in Caucasians. When caught early and treated soon after, skin cancer is almost always curable. However, it’s more likely to be fatal in people of color because it’s usually detected at later stages.

Dermatologist Dr. Charles Crutchfield III, a board-certified dermatologist specializing in ethnic skin, is also concerned that people of color oftentimes believe they’re protected from skin cancer and that if a cancerous lesion develops, it’s not as recognizable.  “Skin hue can affect the way lesions look,” Crutchfield says. “Things that appear red in white skin often look completely different in skin of color.” In the past, teachers generally demonstrated skin cancer cases on fair-skinned people, making it more challenging for physicians to recognize suspicious moles on darker skin.

People with darker skin tones do have more “natural” protection from the sun’s ultraviolet rays. Cells in the outermost layer of skin called melanocytes produce melanin, the pigment that gives skin and eyes their color. This pigmentation helps protect the skin against the sun’s ultraviolet rays that can lead to skin cancer and premature aging. “In African American skin, melanin provides a sun protection factor (SPF) approximately equivalent to 13.4, compared to 3.4 in white skin,” states the SCF.

“Pigmentation doesn’t give you a free pass,” says Crutchfield. “It doesn’t matter what color your skin is, anyone can get skin cancer.” Crutchfield also notes that even though pigmentation does offer some sun protection, that using sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher and broad-spectrum coverage is recommended for everyone. “I also recommend sun protective clothing and sun hats with a high ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) as it’s more effective and easier to use than sunscreen alone,” says Crutchfield. Crutchfield, along with other skin cancer prevention organizations, hope that ethnic groups will soon pick-up the message and start protecting themselves from the sun.

Resources:

http://www.skincancer.org/prevention/skin-cancer-and-skin-of-color

http://www.crutchfielddermatology.com/treatments/ethnicskin/SkinCareforPeopleofcolor.asp

http://www.cnn.com/2009/HEALTH/05/29/race.skin.cancer/index.html?iref=allsearch

Photo courtesy of Dr. Crutchfield

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Expert Rx

Mayo Clinic Study Provides More Reasons to Ditch Tanning

According to recent Mayo Clinic study, the incidence of melanoma has escalated, and young women are the hardest hit. Researchers speculate that the use of indoor tanning beds is a key culprit in the rising skin cancer rate in young women.

“We anticipated we’d find rising rates, as other studies are suggesting, but we found an even higher incidence than the National Cancer Institute had reported using the Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Result database, and in particular, a dramatic rise in women in their 20s and 30s,” says lead investigator Jerry Brewer, M.D., a Mayo Clinic dermatologist.

Researchers conducted a population-based study using records from the Rochester Epidemiology Project, a decades-long database of all patient care in Olmsted County, Minn. They looked for first-time diagnoses of melanoma in patients 18 to 39 from 1970 to 2009. The study found the incidence of melanoma increased eightfold among young women and fourfold among young men. The lifetime risk of melanoma is higher in males than females, but the opposite is true in young adults and adolescents, Dr. Brewer says.

“A recent study reported that people who use indoor tanning beds frequently are 74 percent more likely to develop melanoma, and we know young women are more likely to use them than young men,” Dr. Brewer says. Despite abundant information about the dangers of tanning beds, he adds, young women continue to use them.

Dr. Jessica Sparks Lilley, a pediatrician who has dedicated her life to helping children stay healthy, learned the hard way that the risks of getting melanoma from using a tanning bed are real! “The first time I went to a tanning bed, I was fifteen years old and trying to get a little ‘color’ to look good in a beauty pageant dress,” says Dr. Sparks Lilley.  “I heard nothing of the risks (which were largely unknown at the time) and never burned. I went about ten times a year after that for various reasons—prom, pageants, and even my wedding. I thought seriously about never going back was after my first pathology lecture dealing with melanoma and the strong emphasis on UV radiation as a cause of skin cancer. My last tanning visit was April 24, 2007, about a week before my wedding…and two years before the cancer diagnosis that changed my life.”

Three years later, Dr. Sparks Lilley is cancer-free and helping adolescents comprehend the risks of using tanning beds. “It’s humiliating to recount my story—I should have known better—but I hope to teach everyone who will listen three important take-home points,” she says.

Dr. Sparks Lilley’s points include:

1. Never indoor (or outdoor) tan.

2. Talk to your physician about health concerns.

3. Take time to take care of your health. 

Mayo Clinic release: http://www.mayoclinicproceedings.org/article/S0025-6196(12)00209-1/abstract

Dr. Jessica Lilley’s full story: http://blog.coolibar.com/doc-learns-hard-way-to-avoid-tanning

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Expert Rx Routinely Check Skin Videos

Free Skin Checks on Melanoma Monday + Tanning Mom Skit

Is your FREE SKIN CHECK scheduled? Today, the first Monday of May, is Melanoma Monday and dermatology offices across the country are offering free skin checks as a reminder to get your annual exam. A yearly skin check promotes good health and skin cancer prevention, today and all year long.

It is currently estimated that one in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime. When caught early skin cancer is highly treatable, and is often preventable.  Because the signs of skin cancer are visible on the surface, you just need to call your doctor when you see something unusual, growing, or changing on your skin.

You can search the website of the American Academy of Dermatology and their SPOT initiative to find a free screening near you.

Exposure to ultraviolet light is the most preventable risk factor for skin cancer.  If you could reduce your risk of skin cancer by just seeking shade, wearing sun protective clothing and sunscreen, and avoiding tanning beds, wouldn’t you?

Ask your loved ones to commit to keeping their skin safe and getting a skin check.

Now, if we could just convince Tanning Mom that her bronzed skin is not good for her.  Watch the Tanning Mom skit from Saturday Night Live.

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Success Stories Wellness Warriors

Melanoma Survivor Sam

During Skin Cancer Awareness Month, Coolibar invites skin cancer survivors to share their stories with us in their own words. The ins and outs of treatment can be intense and not necessarily a fun thing to read; however hope, determination and drive to educate others play a major role in these individuals’ lives. Skin cancer doesn’t discriminate, it can happen to anyone. Prevention and early detection can be life saving! We hope you share these stories with your friends, family and colleagues. Be SunAWARE this month the all year round.

From Samantha Hessel

Cancer- just a six letter word when looked at purely by letters means nothing. When looked at medically means a diagnosis, hope for a cure, and a battle. When looked at physically is an organism that invades your body and life. When looked at emotionally it breaks you down, tears you apart, and instills fear, sadness, anger, and betrayal in you and your loved ones. Cancer unwelcomingly entered my life two and a half years ago when I was 19 years old. The day before my diagnosis, my family and I enjoyed a nice day together touring quaint, local shops and having a delicious lunch. Little did we know at 8 am the next morning our lives would change forever. On July 24, 2009 I was diagnosed with melanoma skin cancer at 19 years old. On August 13, 2009 I had a minor surgery to remove the rest of the mole and 1cm of surrounding skin.

I never thought at 19 I would have heard “you have cancer”. If it wasn’t for my mom pushing me to have skin checks every year I have no idea what my life would be like right now. From this experience I have learned how truly important it is to protect yourself from the sun, especially tanning beds. I am guilty as charged for using tanning beds from 15-18 years old and truly regret it. If I would have listened to those around me I may not being writing about this experience. Now I protect myself from the sun every day by applying sunscreen regularly and wearing sun protective clothing when I know I will be outside for long periods. Hats have become my new best friend. Yes, is it hard when everyone else is at the beach and not only do I feel I can’t go because of the sun, but when I do go I am all covered in clothing, sticking out like a sore thumb or hearing comments about “how pale you are”. Does it hurt? OF COURSE! I take the looks and the comments because I know in my heart it is better than hearing “you have melanoma” again and enduring a fight for my life. I use that hurt to educate in my local community and I hope through awareness people will come to understand that getting a tan and being a bronze goddess is not worth losing your life.

My challenge to all Coolibar Blog readers is educate your kids, yourself, friends, family, community, workplace, etc. about the dangers of the sun. I beg you because it breaks my heart when people lose their life to this horrible disease. Educate and create awareness so no one has to hear the words “you have cancer” especially at a young age.

Me dressed in all Coolibar in this past summer
In my homecoming dress (when I used to tan)
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