I’m baaaaack! A lot has gone on in the week and a half I took off, but I’m ready to write again and update you all on some new developments.
It’s been crazy rainy lately and my POTS symptoms seem to get aggravated during changes in weather. Something interesting about POTS is that it affects a bunch of important organs, and has trouble finding homeostasis when even minor changes are introduced. My physical therapist takes my blood pressure and heart rate every single session — before and after and sometimes during my workouts — and it’s crazy to see that whenever I feel symptomatic my blood pressure is super low, and my heart rate is higher than usual. One cool thing about people with chronic illnesses is that we really know our bodies well. I can almost always pinpoint what is physically wrong with me because of the way my symptoms are behaving. We are going to start looking at the barometric pressure and my blood pressure throughout the day, just as a little test to see how they compare since both of us have noticed this trend. I can’t wait until POTS has been studied better and we can just look up a million and one facts about it, and one day there can actually be a cure.
Which leads me to my next point. I have been trying to be really cognizant of the blessings I have in my life lately. It makes every obstacle a whole lot easier to tackle, and I have felt more peace and joy by looking at the great things God has given me, rather than focusing only on the pain or discomfort. Today, for example, I saw a sweet little bunny outside on our front lawn. He was eating part of our flowers, but I sat and watched him until he was ready to leave before I walked past him. While I was sitting on the porch I saw a little red robin fly into a puddle next to our yard, and he started to fluff his feathers and bathe himself. These two little moments made my heart so warm the rest of the night.
As far as wedding planning goes, we keep making slow and steady progress. Robert and I got our wedding bands this week and they’re absolutely perfect. I keep putting mine on every time I go to his house because I love it so much! I am super sentimental, so I love that he picked everything out for me, but it’s also just so me. I love his too, and I think he looks super handsome with a wedding band. I wrote a little message to him in it so he’ll always be reminded of how I feel when he looks at it. 🙂 Despite all the stress of planning, I keep realizing how fast this time is going by and reminding myself that the primary feeling of this time of engagement should be joy. We have four months to go as of today, and I am so, so excited.
Hello, blog family, I’m finally back! I had a pretty rough week. I haven’t really gotten much of a cold/flu/virus sickness since getting POTS because I am so incredibly careful with taking care of myself and not hanging out with people if they’ve been sick recently. My cardiologist has always emphasized the importance of a flu shot and taking preventative measures with POTS because being sick makes my chronic illness a lot more difficult to manage. Now I see why.
My parents took me to the emergency room just over a week ago because I kept getting sick and passing out on my way to or from the bathroom (Or the bucket next to my bed). That night was weird because I had decided to sleep at 8:30 due to extreme nausea. I had been in the car for eight hours on our way home from Boston that day, and hadn’t felt well most of the trip home. I typically get a little nauseous on car rides — particularly long ones — so dismissed it as a POTS thing and ate a few ginger chews in hopes of feeling a little better. There weren’t any signs of having any sort of bug, except for the fact that I almost fell asleep while we were driving a few times, which is really not a typical Krista move.
Anyway, despite going to bed early, I woke up every hour with really bad abdominal pain and couldn’t fall back asleep for more than a few minutes at a time. Finally, around 10:30, I started getting sick. As most of you know I still live at home, so my poor mom had to come in and check on me a million times to make sure I wouldn’t faint and hit my head on the hard bathroom floor. Finally, she came in and told me to get dressed because we were going to take a trip to the emergency room.
Surprisingly I didn’t put up a fuss. I slowly walked back to my room and threw on my Nike sweatpants and “Army Girlfriend” sweatshirt. My mental state was in tact, as I debated putting on my engagement ring. I quickly decided against it, and grabbed Robert’s dog tags instead. I figured just on the off chance something was really wrong I wouldn’t want my ring to get lost during any hospital drama, and that the dog tags would be pretty easy to wear throughout any procedure.
My dad helped me to the car as I clutched a big, white plastic bucket in my lap. Luckily I didn’t need it, as I had cut myself off of food and water an hour prior. Not drinking made me feel sick, but it also left my stomach empty, which was just what I needed.
Five long hours, two IVs of saline solution, and a couple of Zofrans later, I finally began to feel better. A few different things ran through my mind as I sat on my little white hospital bed. First, it’s crazy that nurses work all hours of the day. Like, we got to the hospital at 1-something, and didn’t leave until a little after 6 in the morning. There were people running around doing their job like it was a normal hour. Second, these people put their own health at risk by being around people who are sick with a lot scarier things than just the stomach bug that I had. Even towards the beginning of my visit I tried to stay far away from the people who were caring for me because I didn’t want to spread my germs. I quickly realized they weren’t afraid of getting my virus when they poked and prodded at the EKG electrodes I am all too familiar with. It was hilariously comforting having some normal medical procedures done when I felt like hell. I knew they weren’t going to help me feel better, but it was nice having something that made it feel like a normal trip to the doctors. Lastly, all of my nurses were kind and made me feel comfortable — at least considering the circumstances. It makes a world of difference when someone takes care of your feelings along with your symptoms. I always think back to the nurse who told me I’d have to endure my awful POTS symptoms for the rest of my life and that it wouldn’t get better, and I am so grateful that she was wrong. Hope and comfort are both such healing things, and I’m thankful for each and every person who decides to be encouraging and kind to the people they come into contact with.
I am completely better now, and am looking forward to resuming my normal life, writing schedule, and wedding planning — which I will have a million updates on in my next few posts! I am also going to keep pushing forward in my journey get healthy again. I have a few exciting diet updates I’ll be writing about on here, and I will continue to work hard at PT and the gym to keep my symptoms at bay. Here’s to the beginning of a new week!
Time is a funny thing because as intangible as it is, it sometimes feels very concrete. There are certain things that make time more significant. You know both college and high school are going to last 4 years, your birthday will be around again exactly 365 days from the last one, and the Christmas season is every 48 weeks or so. Having a chronic illness makes time a little fuzzy sometimes, though. I have had POTS since August of 2013 and can pinpoint different phases throughout my journey, but it feels weird that I’m coming up on five years now. I have been fighting for my health longer than the time I spent in college, which is super weird. When I think about going to Mason I have such different memories from each year I was there. When I was a freshman I was timid and shy. I didn’t feel like I had a place I belonged, and I left campus to stay with my family just about every other weekend. I liked my classes and had a couple of really close friends I would keep for the rest of my life, but I was still figuring everything out.
My sophomore year was a blast. I made so many new friends, and I had a group of people who felt like home. I made friends with the girls I would call my roommates the next year, and I was an editor for the school newspaper. I didn’t find as much confidence with writing until later in college, but I looked forward to every day I would spend in the Broadsideoffice with all of the other aspiring writers. Sophomore year was spent finding myself, and learning what I wanted to do the rest of my time in college.
Junior year was probably my favorite. I loved feeling secure with some of the best friends I could ever dream of, and had a great balance of work and play. I turned 21 that year and will never forget that birthday. I waited to drink until I turned 21, so all of my friends crammed into our little apartment living room to celebrate with me. People brought six packs of different things to drink, but I stuck with a cherry Smirnoff Ice. I was surprised it didn’t taste very alcoholic, and took my time sipping on my new favorite drink. That year we spent long nights dancing at the bar down the street every Thursday, and still had the energy to go out and explore restaurants and museums on Friday and Saturday.
Senior year before moving to New York is a blur, but my last semester of college spent in the city was one of the best memories from those four years. I had my fair share of adventures, long hours working overtime in the office, and despite blocking it out most of the time, I had my share of lonely nights in that little shoebox apartment on the eighth floor. New York was definitely an enormous highlight of my college career, and I’m still so thankful for each and every memory I gathered from that time.
Do you see how easy it was for me to create four years of my life?
It hasn’t really been like that again until recently. The first few years of getting sick really blur together. I have a little bit of a timeline I can create, but it isn’t the same concrete, certain one I have from every other year of my life.
I got sick and went to a million different doctors. I had my heart hooked up to echocardiograms, holter monitors, and got tested for diseases I had never heard of. I watched The Food Network, then I watched The Office, then even later I started a new series called Pretty Little Liars. I went to the local shopping center with friends and found myself lying on the lobby floor of the movie theater to keep from fainting. I went home and cried, and wondered why I was the person God allowed to get sick. I remember nights of lying on the couch and having conversations with friends about the outside world I no longer felt a part of, and wondering aloud if I would ever be able to have a normal twenty-something life again. I remember getting my first job while I was home sick, then having chronic, debilitating pain from using my arms too much. I was diagnosed with Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, and had to stop doing the one thing that made me feel kind of normal and independent.
I remember moments, but I have no idea when they happened.
I also don’t know when I started getting better, as it’s been super-slow, but there are a few things that offer great markers of healing. One year ago my mom hosted a Bunco party at our home. She always takes the month of February, and I often get invited to come play with her group when it’s held at our house. Bunco is essentially a game of rolling dice and giving an opportunity to catch up with friends. Last year I remember finishing the game and going upstairs and feeling heartbroken at all the pain I was in — just from rolling dice for an hour. My pectoral muscles were sore and ropey, and my shoulders and arms burned with sharp, constant pain. I regretted taxing myself so much for a game, but I also wondered how something so simple could cause so much of an issue. It wasn’t normal, and I hated having to choose between living my life and feeling good.
She hosted this same party again last night and I got to attend. I am sore and by the end of the night I was glad to be done with the rolling motions, but today isn’t an 8 or 9 on the pain scale like it was last year. My physical therapy sessions are sobeneficial for my health, but I will be able to make it until my Friday appointment without trying to hold it together while I’m reeling in pain. I’m more sore than I am on an average day, but I don’t feel like I’m going to have a complete breakdown from being in pain. I can easily handle a little bit of soreness and as long as I take it a little easier today I will make up for everything with my stretching and workouts. This is proof that despite relying heavily on physical therapy and rest, I am making progress.
Today’s lesson: Even if you feel frustrated because something isn’t changing, taking a look at the really big picture and having little mile markers is so helpful for keeping spirits high. I still may have a long way to go in being normal again (And maybe I’ll never quite get there), but any kind of baby steps I can take is still progress. I’ve already learned so much through my journey, and I trust God to be with me every step of the way. Staying positive and remembering blessings throughout every step helps me have a thankful heart. My path has helped me become more empathetic, kind, and understanding, and it has led me to my new forever family member, which is absolutely priceless.
Pain and sickness are really difficult things to write about. Trying to describe things you’re feeling but many people have never dealt with before is essentially attempting to put pen to paper about the way butterflies feel in the beginning of a relationship to someone who still has yet to experience it. You can use the right words, but they won’t really connect until they have something to relate it to.
For example, think about the way some of your first crushes felt, versus how actually being in love feels. They both have the same warm and fuzzy feelings as a base, but feel drastically different. That’s how I would compare temporary short-term pain, such as an injury or a broken bone, to chronic, long-lasting pain. I’ve experienced both, and before getting sick I wouldn’t have had anything to draw from to compare to the new exhaustion chronic pain brings. You don’t ever get a break from chronic pain. Even when you can kind of ignore some of your problems on your good days, the bad days are right around the corner. I do a great job of not thinking too much about that when I am well, and I’ve gotten really good at living in the present when I can. Then, the bright side is that on bad days I know a good one just has to be right around the corner. Chronic pain is a vicious cycle, though, and wears you out to your core. Not only does everything hurt, but you also are always so incredibly tired from not being able to sleep. Whether your body is annoyed from being tense and having your muscles screaming at you all day long or your brain keeps you up thinkingabout the pain you’re feeling, you don’t get good rest. I don’t remember the last time I got in bed and just fell right asleep. It’s been years.
I’m constantly sending articles and trying to pull up scientific findings about my conditions to people I love because I want them to understand how I feel. God, I want to be understood. I hate feeling cranky because of my pain or having days where I can’t stand it anymore and just break down and cry. Granted, the latter are few and far between, but sometimes my body just can’t take anything else and needs some sort of outlet. Talking isn’t my best one because I want to help other people feel happy and good, so I don’t like to complain — or maybe I don’t know how to complain properly; I haven’t quite figured that one out yet. I love to write, but I don’t always have the strength, and frankly I don’t want to leave behind troves of essays on how much my body hurts.
I just don’t feel like anyone I’m incredibly close to has been in a situation quite like mine, and it’s minorly heartbreaking knowing that yes, I always have a shoulder to cry on, but I don’t have anyone who really gets it and can tell me that they know how I feel. That’s why I am motivated to write about my struggles.
Don’t get me wrong; I don’t want anyone I love and care about to ever understand chronic pain or any other kind of difficulties in life. One thing I’ve always been thankful for is that I’m the one with this problem. I would gladly take every pain away from the people I care about if it meant they didn’t ever need to face it themselves. Not only do I feel like God gave me a strong heart and will to keep pushing forward, but I think He gave me a beautifully optimistic outlook on things, and I’m really grateful for that. I think I’m handling the hurdles I’ve been thrown the best I possibly can, and I actually think that despite being a painfully average twentysomething, I am exceptional in accepting the negative things in life as a reality and then figuring out how they can turn into a blessing — or at the very least, something that doesn’t consume me. I have always said that I may have POTS, but POTS doesn’t have me. The same goes for my chronic widespread pain; it’s a big part of my life, but there’s no way in hell that chronic pain is going to take my entire life from me. I will count my blessings until the day I die, and today those are my loved ones, dogs, chocolate, Taylor Swift, Brad Paisley, and each and every one of you.
“New Year, New Me.” We see it year after year after year and I’m honestly not really quite sure what it’s supposed to mean.
Making resolutions is such a fun thing. Normally I spend New Year’s Eve at home in my pajamas with a glass of sparkling cider in one hand and a Sharpie in the other. My favorite thing is making new goals, adding to my dream board, and checking some things off my bucket list from the entire year. I wouldn’t say a new number on the calendar means that I am going to be an entirely new Krista, though.
My heart still beats for the same people, I still have my same core values, and I am still trying to figure out how to change the world with my thoughts, feelings, and writing. Even if some of my habits change, I’m not going to be a different person.
A few of my goals this year are:
Writing more and doing a better job of posting regularly on here.
Going back to my gym routine and continuing to heal and kick as many POTS and EDS symptoms to the curb as humanly possible.
Planning a wedding with the help of two of my favorite people in the entire world.
Eating well and saving money on necessary evils like food, medical expenses, and getting married.
I want to make a trip back to New York City. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t miss living there sometimes, but who says you can’t pretend to be a local again for a weekend?
Lastly, I want to start going to church again, but more importantly I want to develop habits that bring me closer to God. I try to live my life in a way that is pleasing to Him, however I fall short every day — and I don’t see that changing drastically since I’m only human. I want to learn how to better love the way Jesus does, and I want to be able to rely on Him, even in the things that sometimes feel hopeless or scary.
I have a few secret goals I will unveil at some point on this blog. One is something I want to do for Robert, one is something I want to learn for myself, and the last is an exciting surprise for a bunch of people I care about deeply.
2018 has such a beautiful ring to it. Those four numbers somehow look even more beautiful than the last. I know many of us love the feeling of a blank slate for the new year, and I’m certainly not exempt from that. I am going to be slowly rebranding parts of this site, and I do think this new year will bring health and interesting opportunities with the habits I will be forming.
This blog is still going to be heavily focused on relationships and health, but now I will be adding some wedding planning and marriage posts sprinkled throughout. The thing I love so much about this community is that many of my readers don’t really care about the content as much as they do about the heart and soul that goes behind the words that are splashed on the pages. Thank you for letting me be myself and for cheering me on while I do the same for each and every one of you.
So even though most of us aren’t changing who we are, here’s to the imaginary blank slate each of us has that is 2018, and here’s to a wicked awesome year.
This month I’ve had a very rude awakening about just how much physical therapy helps me. As someone with POTS and EDS, I have lots of chronic pain, particularly in my upper body and limbs. Whenever you go to the doctor or physical therapist, they ask if you can rate your pain scale from 1-10, 10 being completely unbearable. I’ve had very wide ranges, but the more I am able to go into the office and have hands-on work done, as well as doing my monitored strength and mobility exercises, the better I typically feel.
This article about exercising and living with EDS is well written and super-relatable. My insured PT visits ran out this month and I’ve only been a little over a week without care, but my pain levels have quickly shot up to an 8. I can’t focus on anything entirely because of how much everything hurts, and I can’t do the activities I’ve worked up to because of how much it hurts my shoulders and arms. Sleep is the only thing that relieves my pain right now, and I need to get back to my therapy sessions as soon as possible so that I don’t lose the progress I’ve worked so hard to get. It’s so frustrating living in a body that depends so heavily on doctors and working out the right way, but the thing that is the most difficult isn’t the time or effort put into all of this; rather, it’s the expense and toll this unwanted illness takes on myself and my family. I’ve always tried to remain positive and focus on the good in my life without allowing myself to dwell on the fact that it’s not fair for a young twentysomething to be sick, however it’s a lot more difficult when I feel like everything in the healthcare world is working against me. I don’t want to debate politics on this blog — ever — but one thing I do want to touch on is that I very strongly believe that people with disabilities should be cared for and given as much help as necessary to have as much of a chance at normalcy as possible. “Normal” hasn’t been attainable to me yet, but I feel blessed enough to not constantly have sharp, intense pain that I am grateful for the help I do get through physical therapy.
In the meantime, I’m going to continue to do the best I can by doing my gentle stretches, mobility exercises, and managing the pain the best I can until January comes when I can get back in a normal routine. I have a pretty big doctor’s appointment today, and am hoping to get some relief from my pain tomorrow, so if you could say a little prayer for me that would be amazing. I’ll be back on this little corner of the Internet soon, but wanted to write a quick update about what’s been going on lately since I haven’t been great at keeping y’all updated. Love and hugs to you all.
I wanted to do a fun, light post about a few of my favorite things for fall. I have a lot of new segments coming up this month, so please keep coming back to my little space on the internet if you want to keep walking in this journey of life with me. These are five of my favorite cruelty-free beauty finds:
1. Jane Iredale Blush I mentioned recently that I’m obsessed with Jane Iredale makeup. Not only is it cruelty free, but it’s super light and feels good on your skin! My new favorite purchase is their blush. I wear the “flawless” shade, and I like it because it has a little bit of a brown undertone, which makes me feel like I’m wearing a tiny bit of bronzer.
2. Klorane Dry Shampoo Oh my gosh. This is the best dry shampoo I’ve ever used. Not only does it smell incredible, but it also doesn’t leave white powder streaks in my hair when I use it. I’ve tried a lot of different brands with my Birchbox subscription, but this is by far my favorite!
3. Rodan + Fields Lash Boost Yes, this is a shameless plug for my business… But the reason I became a consultant for R+F is because I am obsessed with their products, so this wouldn’t be a complete list without my favorite fun beauty buy! My lashes have become incredibly long and full (check out the way they were before I started using this product), and I couldn’t be happier with my results. I have like, six other products I’d love to ramble about, but one of the funnest ones is the Lash Boost. People are always asking what kind of mascara I use now, and it’s crazy, but it doesn’t even matter. They look great no matter what type I put on — or even if I decide to go makeup-free.
Shoot me a message on Facebook if you want to hear more about it and get a 60 day risk-free trial!
4. Pure Cosmetics Nude Collection Eyeshadow This is such a beautiful eyeshadow palette. It reminds me of a matte Urban Decay Naked palette. I — like every other girl in the world — mainly just use a couple of their colors, but they offer great options for a nice, clean everyday look.
5. Adesse New York Nail Polish I love my new cruelty-free nail polish. Everything on this list was cruelty free, as I am obsessed with little furry critters. This is such a beautiful color for fall, and it goes on smoothly and stays longer than most that I’ve used.
Tell me, what are some of your favorite products for fall? I am so excited that it’s October, and am trying to enjoy the fashion and weather while it’s still nice and crisp out. Sound off in the comments; I always love new beauty finds!
It’s been awhile since I’ve written little product reviews, so I figured it was about time I did a post about some of my favorite things for summertime. Since I have POTS and really need to focus on health and hydration, this is going to be all about healthy living this summer. Let me know in the comments if you have a great recommendation of things for me to try while it’s still hot out!
1. nuun Tablets
nuun tablets are my favorite thing to keep me hydrated when it’s hot out — and really throughout the year. I have a terribly off electrolyte and sodium balance in my body, so these little tablets are perfect to put in my Smart Water to keep me feeling good. My favorite flavor is watermelon, but I also like the lemon lime or strawberry lemonade nuuns!
2. Mission Towel
My mission towel has kept me from fainting a good handful of times. My body overheats really easily, which causes my heart to race and blood pressure to drop way too dramatically. This is a huge nuisance, so anytime I go someplace outdoors I take my towel in my purse and just add water to activate the cooling cloth. I put it on my neck to lower my body temperature, and it really does work wonders. I think even just normal people who hate the heat or athletes would really benefit from having one of these!
3. Cotton Candy Grapes
CC grapes are literally my favorite summer snack. I could eat an entire box of these in one sitting if they weren’t so filling! (Note: I’ve never known grapes to be a filling food, which just shows how much I must eat at snacktime.) Please, if you’ve never tried these, go to the store and get them before they’re out of season. They aren’t genetically modified; I don’t know how they get the grapes to taste like this, but it’s wild!
4. Rodan + Fields Foaming Sunless Tan
The products that initially drew me to Rodan + Fields were the Unblemish regimen and the Lash Boost, but I quickly discovered that their sunless tanner is incredible. I’ve never been someone who likes to sit out in the sun, but I love the way my skin looks with a nice brown glow. I had trouble finding a self tanner that wouldn’t streak or make my skin look orange (I’m looking at you, Tan Towel!), but somehow the foam makes it a lot easier to get full coverage and make the bottle last well into the summer. It was funny the first time I tried it because it was right after my beach trip, and Robert told me my tan looked really nice. I proceeded to lecture him about how I don’t get a really dark real tan, since I am careful to keep my skin protected from UV rays.
But not just any Greek yogurt — Maple Hill Creamery Greek yogurt! The cows are 100% grass-fed, and appear to live a pretty good life in their family-owned farms in New York. I am all about treating animals well, plus this yogurt is easily the best I’ve ever had. I got on the Greek yogurt bandwagon pretty early on, back when I was in high school and it was just becoming a popular thing. I’ve tried a lot of different types, and this is by far my favorite.
BONUS: Root Beer Floats
This was the float that started it all. I went to a Bachelorette party last month and one of the bars we ended up at had root beer floats. While everyone else got a nice glass of wine, I decided to go ahead and treat myself to an ice cold float. I’m not much of a soda drinker (And I know I promised this post would be healthy — which is why this is a bonus item!), but this is easily my new favorite splurge.
Here is something written by my lovely mother about getting diagnosed with skin cancer. I wanted to share her post because I think it’s really important for people to know more about the dangers of the sun. I hear so many of my friends say they are going to the pool to “tan,” and I understand wanting to have nice color, but it can come at a very high price. I’ll do another post soon about a few of my favorite products (self tanner, bronzer, vitamin D tablets, clothing items, and a few other things) that keep you healthy and make you feel like you have a nice, summery glow. Without further ado, though, here is my mom’s message about skin cancer.
One of the biggest fears most people have when getting a diagnosis from the doctor is hearing the “C” word, and in March that’s exactly what my dermatologist told me I had.
As a child I spent most of my summer days in our backyard pool or at the beach. My mother always insisted I wear a t-shirt over my swimsuit since I was fair-skinned, and thankfully she always kept me in a sun hat. As I got older I admired my sister and friends who could get a deep, golden tan, which is when I started using concoctions like baby oil mixed with iodine to attract as much sun as possible. My best friend and I would sit out in the midday sun when the rays were their brightest in hopes of looking like the model on the Coppertone ad.
As a young adult, I discovered that nearly anyone could get a “healthy” looking tan by going to the tanning booths that were popular in the early 80’s. It seemed like they were everywhere, and everyone was doing it. Looking back I am so happy that I only purchased one package, as I hated the strange smell and the claustrophobic feeling they gave. The beach was still my favorite place, so whenever I had an opportunity to travel I chose somewhere with lots of sun and sand.
I have always been interested in health and wellness, which is why I decided to become an esthetician many years ago. By then I knew that any kind of tan is considered sun damage. I did whatever I could to avoid having sun on my face and always used a good amount of sunscreen. My kids who were avid swimmers never left the house without being slathered with sunscreen and an SPF shirt. I lovingly nagged all of my clients about the danger of too much sun exposure and my “platform” was reinforced when a sweet young man treated his mom to a relaxing facial with me. He had driven her straight from the hospital. To my horror, when she removed her hat she had a giant scar from one side of her scalp to the other and had received the diagnosis of terminal melanoma. Her sweet son was treating her to something he hoped would make her feel better. That poor lady and her son will be forever ingrained in my mind, so you can see why this has always been one of my most important platforms when educating my clients.
This leads me to my doctor’s appointment this past March. I have always been diligent at getting my annual skin cancer screenings. It’s never fun sitting in the paper gown knowing that someone will be scanning every part of you from head to toe, but the alternative of not being checked could always be worse than the embarrassment, so I bit the bullet and went into the office. “No changes, you look fine,” the doctor said. I showed him a very tiny dry patch of skin just below my throat that I had been concerned about. “Oh that’s nothing,” he assured me, so I left feeling confident and proud of myself for being able to cross the annual appointment off my “to-do” list. A couple months later I accompanied my daughter to the same dermatologist for one of her appointments. Before the doctor left the room I asked him if he would mind taking a look at that tiny patch of dry skin again that he had dismissed as normal before, and told him I had tried exfoliating it but that it kept coming back. Again, he took a look with his doppler glasses and said casually, “Nothing!” I felt relief, because in the back of my mind I kept thinking of that poor lady and her sweet son who had visited my esthetics office some years back.
About three months passed and I went to my family doctor for my annual checkup. During the exam, I showed her the tiny patch below my throat and she said she wanted me to see the dermatologist she refers to, so I went to see him that Thursday. I showed him the dry patch and he biopsied it right then and there in the office. He told me if it was positive, someone would call me within 3 business days. Tuesday rolled around and no call. Great, I thought! I’m in the clear. Another week passed, then another. Several weeks later the phone rang. “I’m calling to tell you that your biopsy was positive for cancer,” I heard on the other end of my phone. Wait, didn’t they say they would call within three days? Now my mind was racing back to months before when I had first asked my dermatologist about the cancer I now realized had taken residence in my body! When I asked the bearer of my news why she didn’t call me sooner she simply said, “Ma’am, we have a stack of calls to make every day.” I asked her what my next step was and she said the doctor would do the surgery to remove an inch around the area. My first concern was getting these rogue cells the heck out of my body, but realizing this scar was going to be significant and unable to hide above any neckline outside of a turtleneck I said I would get back to her to make the appointment — I wanted to check with a skin surgeon I knew of who was also a plastic surgeon. Then she informed me that by law I needed to let her know within a few weeks that this procedure had been completed. Why then did it take the dermatologists’ staff three weeks to let me know I had cancer in the first place?!
Due to the busy demands of the doctor, yet another three weeks passed before I was able to reluctantly go in for the surgery. The surgeon performed what they call MOHS surgery, which is a procedure in which they take as little tissue as possible and test it for cancer cells right away. They continue to take more if necessary until it is all gone. I was so thankful that it only took one “pass” until I was told they had gotten it all. They stitched me up, put dressing on the wound, and told me they expected to see me again as most people who have these types of carcinoma become “repeat customers.” That was the last thing I wanted to hear.
Shortly after the procedure I was talking with my friend and described my cancer patch to her. She grew quiet and said she had the same kind of thing just above her eyebrow. “I’m sure you are just overly-concerned because of what I just went through,” I reassured her, but knew there was always a chance, so suggested to get it checked — just in case. She phoned me a couple of weeks later to let me know that her doctor had found bad cells!
My platform for maintaining healthy skin now feels even more important and I am asking you to thoroughly check yourself. Get on the phone and make that yearly dermatological appointment to get yourself checked head to toe. A good exam includes the doctor checking your scalp, behind your ears, between your toes and even inside your mouth. If you have a strange feeling about a mole or a freckle or a dry patch of skin that just won’t go away, get to the doctor as soon as possible. If you feel that someone might not be right about your diagnoses, it never hurts to get a second opinion. Early detection is your best friend.
My scar is healing well. A couple of weeks ago I knew that my incision was healed enough to use my needling roller to smooth out the scar. I honestly can’t believe how much that has helped! I’m guessing there will always be a small scar but I will wear it proudly as a reminder for myself and others to take precautions when outdoors, and to always get your annual dermatological skin screening.
My mom was diagnosed with skin cancer in March, and she has a really powerful story I want to share with you. Today I am going to be sharing a little piece of how I’ve felt about my mom’s journey, and tomorrow I will be posting the more important story that my mom wrote about her journey with skin cancer and her health.
Ever since I was a little kid my mom has emphasized the importance of wearing sunscreen. I remember going to the neighborhood pool flaunting my long, chubby toddler legs, a polka dot bikini, and a hat that covered all the way to the bottom of my neck. We would make tents out of chairs and towels to create forts of shade, and sat under them and applied sunscreen at every break.
My mom has always taken better care of me and my family than she has herself. She consistently puts us first and wants a better life for my brother and I than she ever had for herself. I grew up hearing about how she used to go to tanning beds and put on baby oil instead of sunscreen when she went to the beach in an attempt to get a deeper color. This was a funny thing to think about because the entire time I’ve been alive my mom has been one of the most careful people in the sun that I know. She puts sunscreen on every single day and invests in enormous wide-brimmed hats and expensive SPF umbrellas to stay out of the sun. We always took family beach trips to Bethany Beach in the summer, and dad was typically the one who would play in the water and beach volleyball in the sun with my brother and I. My mom would make appearances for a half hour at a time, but you could typically find her reading a book in the shade.
As a child my mom called me her little “brown bear” because despite putting 60 SPF sunscreen on the hour at every break I spent a lot of time at the pool for swim team and playing with friends. I would take little breaks to go in the shade, and was diligent about being careful in the sun and wearing pink zinc on my face.
Even when I was high school and being called “pale” was one of the biggest insults you could bear, I told my friends they needed to be careful in the sun whenever they’d mention going to the pool to get a tan. Even though sunburns might be the worst kind of sun exposure, any change in your coloring is sun damage, which can lead to negative lasting effects.
Although I did get a little too much sun from being on the swim team in my childhood years, thanks to my mother I have never in my life had a bad sunburn. Did you know if you have 5 blistering sunburns between the ages of 15 and 20 your risk of getting melanoma is 80% greater than it would have been? Your risk of getting another kind of skin cancer is increased by 68%.
This March when my mom came back from the doctor and told me she had skin cancer I was scared. It wasn’t melanoma — thank God — but the “C” word is just terrible in general. I know I complain about myself being sick sometimes, but I don’t want my mom to have anything wrong with her. She is literally an angel on this earth and the best person I’ve ever known. I know some of you might think I just say this because I’m her daughter, but it’s true.
This is the perfect example of how not being careful in your twenties can really catch up to you. It’s why we need to wear sunscreen, be careful about what kind of things we put into our bodies, and try to have a healthy and balanced lifestyle.
I am sharing more of her story tomorrow because I want to remind everyone the very real effects sun damage can have on your body in the future. When we’re in our twenties we often feel invincible like nothing can touch us, but sadly that’s just not true. When you go out this summer, please just make sure to be careful. Tan skin fades so quickly, but skin cancer can have a very real, lasting effect. If you want to be tan for an event, use self tanner. Think about all the beautiful people like Emma Stone and Anne Hathaway who totally rock red lips and pale skin. Ultimately, no matter what you look like it’s not the color or shade of your skin that makes you beautiful — it’s the inside that really matters.