Guest Post: The Burning Truth About Skin Cancer

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Welcome to Finding My Strong Blog’s first ever guest series. Over the course of the next 4 weeks I will be adding two guest posts from a wonderful writer who not only happens to be my best friend, but happens to be finding her own strong this year. Her journey through cancer, weight loss, and Hypothyroidism is one you won’t want to miss! Christy is a professional counselor and Mobile Crisis Team Specialist living in Annapolis, MD. Between lifeguarding for six years and subsequently responding to crisis situations with local police, Christy has learned to handle adversity, keep her cool, and how to make a plan of action. Christy is a strong believer in gaining support and learning from others and hopes to pass on some of what she has learned along the way. Christy’s journey to finding her strong is ongoing and you can follow Christy on Twitter: @beachnative27, on Instagram: beachnative27, and even on Snapchat for motivational gym snaps: (you may have guessed it…) beachnative27. Now join me as we learn more about to to build strong and healthy bodies through Christy’s inspiring journey.

Growing up I was that kid at the beach. You know… that pale kid… slathered in sunblock… wearing the oversized shirt… under the enormous umbrella. That was me from the time I was born until I became a teen and could conveniently “forget” to put on sunblock, or I could choose to toss off the shirt and escape the umbrella in search of a tan. I’m pale, that’s just a fact of life for people with strong German and Irish heritage; so the sun can be a major problem. I’ve always been pretty good about wearing my sunblock when I’m outside, and even though I have never once stepped foot inside a tanning bed, I still got cancer.

I love the sun! Growing up in San Diego on the beach and then lifeguarding each summer after moving to the East Coast meant that I saw a ton of sun as a kid. I still see it all the time between my various activities because my favorite place to be is outside. I was 18 years old when I was diagnosed with my first Stage 1 Melanoma. It was a small spot on my arm that I overlooked given my many freckles and moles; it simply looked like an extra dark freckle with a light colored ring around it. I asked my dermatologist for a mole check to have a baseline – for future problems I thought – when I was 18 and walked out with a bandage over my biopsy site thinking it was no big deal… but it was. I had cancer.

I am very blessed that all three of my melanomas were caught early and I have not had to undergo aggressive treatment like some of the people in the attached video. I have had one removed from the topside of my right forearm (2007), one removed from my left shoulder blade (2012), and one removed from the backside of my right ear (removed one month ago). The common factors about all three sites are that they see a lot of sun when you are not careful and consistent with sun block.

I’ve played sports my entire life, and currently I have gotten involved in league sports as well as pursuing fitness for my own goals. As I mentioned previously, I love to be outside so sunblock has become a permanent sidekick of mine. The various manufacturers have made it so convenient to wear that there are no good excuses to skip it. I’m outside a lot so I carry lip balm that has sun block in it with me at all times, and I make sure to apply sunblock at least ten minutes before my activity and then reapply every hour to two hours.  I also make sure to use a spray sunblock to go over the part in my hair and my scalp. I’m not perfect, I still get sunburns, but I do my very best to protect myself from further sun damage and cancer.

Don’t get me wrong, the sun is your friend. You need vitamin D for strong bones and you need sunshine to improve mood; but you don’t want to get so much that it ends up harming you. Learn from my experience and don’t face going in for biopsies of suspicious sites every six months (I have 12 scars from skin biopsies), wear your sunblock. When you go out running, swimming, biking, hiking, or any other type of outdoor activity… WEAR YOUR SUNBLOCK! Wear your sunblock even if you are only planning to be outside for an hour and wear it even if it is cloudy outside (cloudy days and water activity are deceptively dangerous for sun damage).

If you have freckles and moles, no need to panic! Just make sure that you know your body; keep track of your freckles, moles, and skin in general. If you notice changes in size, color, or shape be sure to get it checked out by a dermatologist. It’s smart to get freckles and moles checked by a dermatologist every couple of years just in case. As my dermatologist put it… skin cancer can pop up where the sun don’t shine … and she ain’t kidding.

If you really want that tan, consider getting a spray tan. Check out the link below and consider this… “Just one indoor tanning session increases users’ chances of developing melanoma by 20%1; and people who first use a tanning bed before age 35 increase their risk for melanoma by 75%2. Knowledge is power, learn from others’ experiences and protect your skin so that it can protect you.

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For more information please visit: http://www.skincancer.org/skin-cancer-information/skin-cancer-facts

 References:
Boniol M, Autier P, Boyle P, Gandini S. Cutaneous melanoma attributable to sunbed use: systematic review and meta-analysis. BMJ 2012; 345:e4757. doi: 10.1136/bmj.e4757
Lazovich D, Vogel RI, Berwick M, Weinstock MA, Anderson KE, Warshaw EM. Indoor tanning and risk of melanoma: a case-control study in a highly-exposed population. Cancer Epidem Biomar Prev 2010 June; 19(6):1557-1568.
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Seven for Saturday

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What a week! I missed Five for Friday this week, so I thought I would join in on Seven for Saturday instead. Here we go!

1) Vega

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As a #SweatPink Ambassador I had the opportunity to review Vega Sport as part of the #FueldYourBetter campaign. I was originally introduced to Vega through their Vega One wellness line and was happy to see them dive deeper into a sport-specific line. The Vega Team sent me a box of sugar-free (super important!) pre-workout energizer packets in the lemon-lime flavor. The energizer is taken 20-minutes before a workout and enhances mental focus, increases energy, and boosts your endurance. At least 4 times a week I bike to and from work, and run when I get home. I find that after a long work day I am exhausted by the time I ride the 4 miles home and it is difficult to get my butt back out the door for a run. This week has been a little different! After being sick on Sunday and Monday I got back in gear on Tuesday and started using Vega Sport before I got on my bike. By the time I got on my run I felt stronger and was able to run my hill intervals at a more consistent pace than a usual work-day-drag. My super picky (but lovely) husband has even take packets to his office to use for his runs. A co-worker saw me mixing my packet and cringed at the green (and I mean GREEN) color of Vega and I let him try an ice-cold mix. He cringed a little more when I read off the plant-based ingredients, and he grew a little skeptical, and held the cup with caution. He was happy to find out that it in fact did not “taste green” but tastes a lot like a glass of iced tea! Vega Sport products come in three phases: prepare, sustain, and recover. I’ve only tried their prepare stage — so I cannot account for their other phases — but I am very impressed with it so far!

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2) Mother’s Day
This year we are spending mothers day with my mom by having brunch with my mom, cousin, sister, and her fiance. My mom loves the Elizabeth Arden perfume line, so we got her one of their spingy scents as a mothers day gift. Mama B is in the midwest so we mailed her a care package with a set of Bell & Jack preppy beachy earrings and a Super Bowl 43 shirt (Go Hawks!). Now go hug your mothers everyone!

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3) EnergyBits
As I mentioned above, I was out sick for a few days. I fit in a short run on one of those days (not advised) and sat out the second day. Whether it was food poisoning or a stomach bug I will never know…but I sure am happy it’s gone. On day 2 I received a great little package from ENERGYbits with a tin of their bits to try. Ever heard of them? They are tiny tablets of organically grown NON GMO spirulina algae and chlorella that eliminate fatigue and hunger instantly in just 1 calorie tabs. I took one as soon as I got the package with the hopes that it would help bring me back into the world of the living as far as my stomach problems went. The smell is a little hard to handle, but once you swallow the pill there’s barely any taste. It kind of reminded me of feeding my fish as a kid! I haven’t used EnergyBits on too many runs yet, but I am really looking forward to carrying it on longer-runs and half-marathons to take with salt tablets as a source of energy. We tested it out today at the 5k and loved it. Kyle compared it to drinking coffee post run minus the jitters, I agree. I’ll keep you posted on the progress. If you would like to try ENERGYBits out you can use the promocode “blog” when you check out for a 10% discount!

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4) Truckeroo
Once a month DC food trucks get together outside of National’s ball park for a food truck rally with bars, live music, yard games, and tons of great food trucks. My friends Christy and Kyle were over for the weekend so we rounded up the troops and went over for dinner. It may not have been the healthiest choice before a race day…but I knew we were taking this race easy and indulged a little! YOLO! Sorry…I said YOLO…moving on! My dinner included a Maine lobster roll, corn fritters, ice cream, and cider. Cheat day? Sure! But who could say no to this?

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5) MyOatmeal
Several SweatPink Ambassadors are big fans of MyOatmeal and I’ve read several reviews of their product. I was really happy to partner with them in reviewing their oatmeal. They have a really neat feature where you can customize your own blend from a whole host of ingredients and toppings in three different sizes. I made two “small” blends to try — and the small packages were actually larger than I expected and were packed full to the top! You really do get your moneys worth. The first mix was a “cookie” themed mix with oats, cookie dough, snickerdoodle, sugar cookies, flax seeds, pecans, and brown sugar cane. The second mix was “apple” themed and contained oats, apple pie, apple, gingerbread, apples, chia seeds, walnuts, and brown sugar cane. The flavors are AMAZING and I love all of the add-in’s like chia seeds and flax seeds that they offer. It’s hard to pick from so many amazing choices. For the past 2 weeks I have kept one bag of my “cookie” flavored mix at my office and one bag of my “apple” flavored mix at home. I use the at-home bag for snacks and breakfast and the at-work bag as a morning snack to eat after I bike into work. My little morning bike workout can leave my hungry during the day, but a small cup of oatmeal fills me up until lunch time and give me the energy I need to focus during the day. They’ve also extended a 15% discount on their oatmeal and PBLean blends for my readers. Simply enter “healthy15” when you check out! Oatmeal’s often listed as one of the “cheaper” health-foods and I 100% agree…MyOatmeal just proves that!


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6) BrokenMillenial
My best friend from high school has an amazing blog and writes for several outlets including Forbes and most recently TaxAct. Erin interviewed me for her most recent piece. Check it out!

7) 5k
Today we ran/walked the Susan G. Komen Global Race for the Cure 5k in DC. My mom is a breast cancer survivor, as is my mother-in-law, and they are both some of the strongest and most wonderful women I know! My mom actually took part in some of their breast cancer research while she underwent surgery and treatment here in DC this past year. It was great to come full-circle and be there with her on this special day. My mom, sister, and her girl-friends walked the 5k and me and two of my friends ran the 5k. You know me, if there was a 5k run option…I had to run! It worked out well because we were able to get photos of my mom finishing and set up a cheering section for her. It was also really great to run with some of my best friends on this special day – these races always get me choked up. After the race, we headed to my mom’s house and we hosted a PartyLite party through Kyle along with a brunch for family and friends. Check out her site! And lastly, one of my cousins came into town this weekend to start his internship on Capitol Hill for the summer so he joined us as well. All-in-all a blast!! I will leave you with some of my favorite pictures from the race:

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