Tuesday, December 6, 2016


I type. I hit delete. I type. I use the backspace button. I walk away from this page for a few more months.

The last time I wrote I shared the exciting news of my pregnancy. Hopefully if you follow me on Facebook or Instagram you've been introduced to my boy. I want to share my son with you all. I plan to write about the joys of motherhood. But I can't yet. I can't gloss over something that happened while experiencing the most incredible miracle of my life.

In the midst of our happiness, my sweet friends experienced the tragic loss of their girl. Julie passed away on April 30, 2016.

Julie is no stranger to this blog. With her permission, I often blogged about her, but I don't believe I ever shared with you how Julie and I got in touch with one another. My surgeon sent me this:

And sure enough, Julie reached out to me, and a friendship was born.
The first time meeting each other.

It is hard for me to accept that Julie was diagnosed after I was, did the same clinical trial, yet I get to experience things Julie wanted desperately. She wanted to grow old with her husband. She wanted to raise babies. She wanted to continue to take fun vacations with her mom. But melanoma was cruel. It was sneaky. And melanoma was unapologetic.

She fought a hard battle. She fought with a smile, a terrific sense of humor, and determination. Now she is at peace.

Why am I just now writing this? I have asked myself numerous times to sit down and give Julie the post she deserves. But how? While Julie's death caused me extreme sadness, in no way does it compare to the grief her family faces. How can I write about my own feelings when I don't have the slightest idea the pain they continue to experience? That seems so incredibly selfish.

I don't know how to write this post. This is all I can do.

So on the eve before I return to the city, I will share a few of my favorite pictures of Julie. Thank you for your friendship, girlfriend.

Hug your daughters. Kiss your babies. And protect your skin. 


Sunday, January 10, 2016

Five Years Later

January 10, 2011

I didn't cry when the dermatologist told me the mole was melanoma. I left that appointment, made the calls to my family, and reassured everyone that we would proceed with the surgery, and everything would be fine. I vaguely remember saying something about how they surgeon would remove a little bit more and that would be that.

No one corrected me.

I didn't cry as the oncologist told me that melanoma had spread to lymph nodes on both sides of my body, in 3 out of the 4 areas, and to prepare myself that the PET scan would show that it had already spread to my organs. I asked for the treatment options. I heard that Interferon would be "enough" and I left the appointment.

I sobbed in my dad's arms in the backseat of the car while my mom and stepdad cried as they drove me back to my apartment.

My mom was determined enough wasn't good enough for her 23 year old daughter. Off to Memorial Sloan Kettering we went where I met "The Wizard" and "Glinda, The Good Witch." 

Another surgery.

I was healing in my hospital bed when my surgeon came into my room, sat on my bed, and told me that the FDA had approved Yervoy for melanoma stage IV patients. This was breaking news for the melanoma world. 

I cried--alone in the middle of a busy waiting room--when the surgeon told me that there was zero melanoma detected in the remaining lymph nodes that were removed during that surgery. Finally, some good news.

As my doctors at Memorial Sloan Kettering agreed there was no point in doing Interferon, I entered a three year clinical trial in May 2011.

 Round one

 Round 2, 3 weeks later

 Round 3, 3 weeks later

Round 4, 3 weeks later.
Then I got a break for 3 months.

January 2012:

I was fortunate that minus a few hiccups here and there, and the trips to New York for scans and treatment every 3 months, I was able to live like a normal 24 year old girl. I started a new job, I continued to date "Mr. Spots" and I lived my life. Oh, and I celebrated my one year Cancerversary thanks to my special friends.

I really jumped into advocating for melanoma awareness in 2012. I blogged. I tweeted. I facebooked. I was on Dr. Drew and Headline News, and I worked on a great program with the Skin Cancer Foundation. I put a lot of time, effort, and heart into sharing exactly what I was going through with hopes that it would cause someone to cancel their tanning membership. I was shocked how many did.

A major highlight from 2012 was the opportunity to speak at the Skin Cancer Foundation's Gala held at The Plaza Hotel. I shared my story to lovely people like Brooke Shields, Sam Champion, and the Real Housewives of New York. Intimidating, yes, but it was a night I will never forget.


Melanoma decided to reappear this year in March; however, thanks to my fantastic doctors, we caught it in the earliest stages.

I continued on with my clinical trial every 3 months.

I got engaged to "Mr.Spots!"

...and then I married him!


Once again, melanoma decided to sneak back onto my body; however, once again, my fantastic doctors caught it in the earliest stages.

The major thing that happened in 2014 was I completed the 3 year clinical trial! No more infusions!


Thinking back to that day, January 10, 2011, the chief dermatologist asked me if I had children. When I replied no, the dermatologist made a comment that I would need to think about my family planning. I cried. Would I never have my own children? Would I never get the opportunity to feel the kicks and punches from the inside? Would my number one bucket item never be fulfilled?

Well, in July 2015, after many conversations with my oncology team, I found out the news: I am going to be a momma. 

30 weeks

I have 8 weeks left until I'm due to meet my precious baby boy, and I can already tell you, no child will be as loved.

Regarding my life with melanoma these days, celebrating my 5 year Cancerversary today is something I don't think I ever expected to do. I've lost so many friends in the last few years. I watch so many of my friends continue to struggle. I know firsthand how precious life is. Maybe that's why I'm determined to live to the best of my ability. I've backed off on advocating for melanoma awareness. I blogged once during 2015. I haven't shared the amazing advances in melanoma research. But I needed to live. For 4 years I lived and breathed melanoma. I enjoyed life, too, but I knew it was time for a break. I owed it to myself, my family and friends, and those no longer with us, to live life. Without melanoma.

No day is promised, there is no guarantee that the ugly beast won't reappear, but until it does, I'm going to keep on keepin' on.

And as always, thank you for your continued love, support, and friendship during this rollercoaster we call life.


Thursday, January 15, 2015

Time To Go

"It was her time to go."

Months ago with much help from the media, society decided to praise, bash, admire, and judge the young terminal brain cancer patient, Brittany Maynard, when she publicly shared her plan to end her life last fall. Many, myself included, praised Brittany for her courage in sharing such a controversial message to the world filled with varying (intense) opinions. Many, myself included, expressed admiration that Brittany could be so brave to end her own life, before cancer ended it for her. There was no getting better for Brittany. On October 9, 2014, Brittany said, "I'm not killing myself. Cancer is killing me. I'm choosing to go in a way that is less suffering and less pain."

I accepted it.

Fast forward to December 20, 2014. My phone rings, on Sunday morning around 8:20 AM, it's my boss. I could hear her crying before I put the phone up to my ear. My loyal co-worker and kind friend made the decision to end her life. I don't know why.

It's been almost 4 weeks and I am still having a hard time accepting it.

With Brittany, a stranger, I could understand why she would make the decision to end her life. She had researched her options, and the fact was, the cancer was going to take her slowly, painfully and surely. There was no one that could save her. Cancer was killing her. Brittany took control away from the cancer and died "with dignity" as she wished.

With Angela, I keep asking why. What did we miss? What made her pull the trigger? Why didn't we see she was in such pain? I know that is not fair of me to think. I know that mental illness and depression is a real thing, a thing like cancer, you sometimes can't see. But why can't I accept her death like I can Brittany's? That is not fair to Angela. It is selfish of me to need a reason why my lovely friend, the girl who was always ready to dance and laugh, ended her life. Quite frankly, why she decided to do it is none of my business. She had battles she kept perfectly hidden and she made a decision that we don't have to understand. Maybe, like Brittany, she decided to go in a way that was less suffering and less pain.

Brittany Maynard's husband said in the interview with TODAY, that Brittany spent her last day doing things she loved. According to my co-workers family, that's how Angela spent her last day. She went shopping with her mom, had dinner with her family, and watched a movie. Then, like Brittany, it was Angela's time to go.

It was her time to go...

And we have to accept it.

*Please, please, please, if you need help, please reach out to someone. 

There IS someone who will miss you tomorrow if you are no longer here.



Friday, September 26, 2014

Cancer Survivor

I couldn't sleep last night. I tossed. I turned. My husband probably thought a few times about pushing me out of the bed. I tossed and I turned some more. What would have me up at 2:30 A.M. in such a fit? The title "Cancer Survivor."

Some of you know that wearing the hat "Cancer Survivor" makes me cringe and quickly change the subject. To many people who have not battled melanoma, that probably seems ridiculous. After all, I've sat half naked on a cold exam room when the dermatologist mumbled those two words, "it's melanoma." I've seen the sympathy in the nuclear medicine tech's face as the radiologist informed me of the "hot spots" on a scan. I've looked an oncologist in the eyes as he told my then-boyfriend and I that melanoma would not kill me "right now." (And then I basically fired him.) I spent a month recovering from a brutal surgery only to have a more invasive surgery a month later that kept me in the hospital for 4 nights. I knowingly signed up for a 3 year clinical trial involving a placebo and a drug the doctors didn't know all that much about for stage 3 patients all because I didn't like my two other choices: "watch and wait" or Interferon.. I FINISHED the 3 year clinical trial with only a few bad memories. I've spent 3 and a half years of my time and effort sharing my story on every social media outlet in hopes of saving one person from making the poor decisions I've made. I've traveled to Richmond and met with committee members begging for them to protect Virginia's teens from the dangers of tanning beds. I went from having no scars on my body to having more than I can count. But I still cringe at being called a survivor. 


I am surviving. Every new mole, every swollen lymph node, every 3 months with the oncologist and dermatologist, we do what needs to be done to make sure we keep one step ahead of melanoma. And despite that, the sneaky beast has come back twice. So tonight, when I walk the stage with other cancer survivors at Cure By Design, I'm walking for all of my mole-mates who are no longer here to strut the stage. I'm walking in honor of my melanoma friends, many I've never met, as thanks for the love and support you continue to give me. I'm walking as a survivor because I know that's what they would want. I'm walking as a survivor because that's what I intend to do: survive.

To learn more about the Cure by Design event that sponsors the American Cancer Society or to donate in honor of your favorite cancer survivor, please click here.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Destination: Australia

You know how there are places on your bucket list that you want to see? Australia is on mine. Even before melanoma, I knew that I would need to be extremely careful in the Australian sun.

Australia is known for the highest rates of melanoma and they are also known as being way ahead of the United States in terms of sun safety. That's why when I received an email from Fiona  at http://truebluemigration.com/, I knew I wanted her to take over my blog for the day. We have a lot to learn here in the States! Read on... (And be sure to check out their infographic. It's SO good.)


Australia’s Biggest Killer

The land down under is kind of infamous for its menagerie of venomous creatures. We hear horror stories of giant jellyfish. We see gruesome images of lightning-fast snakes, and fear bathroom-dwelling black widow spiders.

Yet despite this cornucopia of poisonous fangs and stingers, there is one killer in the Land of Oz that trumps them all. It’s often invisible to those who don’t know how to find it, and can attack people before they’re even aware that it’s there.

That killer is skin cancer.

Some Like it Hot

Australia is a pretty sunny place. If it seems like an obvious statement, that’s because it is, and if you’re planning your vacation there, it’s probably one of the main selling points.

As this handy infographic shows, average number of sunshine hours every year is 3,200, consistently reaching some staggering temperatures. On the southern coast of Australia, the average temperature in cities like Sydney and Melbourne weighs in at a balmy 26ºC (79ºF).

Further inland, however, these temperatures can climb all the way up to the Australian record of 50.7ºC - that’s 123ºF - a temperature that ravaged Alice Springs back in January 1960.

With such a scorching climate, you would assume that residents would have the common sense to apply a healthy coating or two of sunscreen, right?

Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be the case.

The Facts

Doctors in Australia have more than one million patient consultations for skin cancers every single year. In fact, skin cancer accounts for 80 percent of new cancer cases in the country.

The collective quantity of incidences of cancers like Bowen’s disease, carcinomata and melanoma shows that the country has one of the highest skin cancer rates in the world. In 2011, over 2,000 people tragically died from skin cancer in Australia, most of which were preventable.

And the primary culprit? The sun. Up to 99 percent of all skin cancer cases are caused by exposure to the sun.

But, in the words of The Jackson 5, “don’t blame it on the sunshine”. You can - and should - enjoy the glorious weather of the South Pacific if you can, as long as you take the appropriate measures before doing so.

How You Can Stay Safe

So many people make a big deal out of the “effort” they have to make to stay safe in the sun. But it’s easy. Just remember these three important things:

Sunscreen - be sure to apply one ounce of high SPF sunscreen every time you apply, which should be three or four times a day in the summer.

Stay hydrated - and no, dipping in the pool doesn’t count. Drink plenty of water to stop your body and skin drying out, which could otherwise increase your risk of sunburn.

Get out of the sun every now and then - no matter how much water you drink and how much sunscreen you douse yourself in, you’ll still burn if you’re in the sun too long. If your skin feels hot, go inside until it cools down. If you’re at the beach, pack a hat or umbrella; statistics show that a wide-brimmed hat can reduce UV radiation exposure by 50 percent.

Staying safe in the sun does not ruin holidays; it makes them. If you’re protected and sensible, you and your family can enjoy Australia’s gorgeous weather care-free.


Thank you, Fiona, for educating us all. I hope to use these tips in mind when I get to cross Visiting Australia off of my non-existent bucket list! Until then, I know I can follow them here!  Be sure to view their Infographic and share it: http://blog.truebluemigration.com/cope-australian-sun-infographic/

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Chasing Life

"...I didn't see a wealthy businessman or a candidate seeking office standing before me. I saw a father and I recognized that look in his eyes, that terrible fear because I've seen that same fear in my own mother's eyes, in my grandma's eyes, in my baby sister's eyes, because I have cancer, too. And let me tell you, it's a bitch. And it's an equal opportunity offender. No amount of money, no amount of privilege can make you exempt. ...And when it chooses you, you're suddenly thrust into a club you didn't choose to join, you're shipped off to war even though you never enlisted in the army, but you have to put on your armor anyway, and know that if you are lucky, you'll discover new sides of yourself like a will you never knew you had. And you'll get to see new sides of the people who matter the most to you in the world as they wrap you in their warmth and lend you their strength when yours is running low. And then you go off, you fight, you fight like hell because, really, what other choice do you have?" 
-Chasing Life

...So did anyone else sob their way through the latest episode of Chasing Life? I needed to share this quote with you before I forget about it. I'm heading back to NYC on Thursday for updated scans and an oncologist visit. May was my last infusion so this will be the first set of scans I've had post completion of the 3 year clinical trial. Fingers crossed it's a completely boring visit.

Hope you're all well. I'll update soon, I promise.


Tuesday, July 29, 2014

No Turning Back

Dear Politicians,

I watched you roll your eyes last year. I heard you say there was no need to ban minors from using indoor tanning beds, that we should let parents be parents. I shot a dirty look in your direction when you laughed at us and stated, "You can't stop them from spending 7 hours at Virginia Beach, why should we ban this?" I cringed when you acted like you--the people we are supposed to trust to make the best decisions for us--should spend time worrying about other things, not something so silly as a machine that is responsible for the 400,000 cases of skin cancer, about 6,000 of them melanomas, that are estimated to be related to indoor tanning in the United States each year. (Source.)

Well, elected officials we are supposed to trust, the acting Surgeon General disagrees with you.

(l-r) Assistant Secretary for Health Dr. Howard Koh, Stacey--ACS CAN volunteer and skin cancer survivor and Acting Surgeon General Rear Admiral Boris D. Lushniak (source)

"I’ve got to, as acting surgeon general, call out the facts. And the facts are that indoor tanning is a source of ultraviolet radiation, period. Ultraviolet radiation is a known carcinogen, period. This is a needless exposure to ultraviolet radiation. According to research…we’re looking at about 400,000 cases of skin cancer, about 6,000 of them melanomas, that are estimated to be related to indoor tanning in the United States each year. So I have to look at this as being a major problem. We certainly know it’s something that’s become popular amongst youth. And much like the surgeon general comes out very vehemently against youth smoking, I am coming out quite vehemently against youth exposing their skin to ultraviolet radiation in tanning booths." 
-Acting Surgeon General Rear Admiral (RADM) Boris D. Lushniak, M.D

Today the acting Surgeon General released his Call to Action to Prevent Skin Cancer. The report says, "Despite efforts to address skin cancer risk factors, such as inadequate sun protection and intentional tanning behaviors, skin cancer rates, including rates of melanoma, have continued to increase in the United States and world wide." The report goes on to share other info that has been gathered and five goals that we need to aim for to solve the "major health problem" of skin cancer.

Acting Surgeon General Dr. Boris Lushniak told CNN, "Until today, the surgeon general has never said, 'UV radiation is bad for you; protect your skin."

This is a game changer, folks.

I also learned that this is the first Call to Action from the Surgeon General in 3 years. The last was regarding mothers and breast feeding.

I could summarize everything for you that the Call to Action stated, but I believe you should take the time to read it yourself. There's some good info there, folks. Info that I do not believe our elected officials can argue against.

To read the summary of The Surgeon General's Call to Action to Prevent Skin Cancer: click here.
To read what the American Suntanning Association has to say in response: click here.
To read what the American Cancer Society has to say in response: click here.
To read what the Melanoma Research Foundation has to say in response: click here.
To read what the Skin Cancer Foundation has to say in response: http://www.skincancer.org/news/surgeon
To read what the Melanoma Research Alliance has to say in response: click here.
Article on USA Today regarding this Call to Action: click here.
Article on CNN regarding this Call to Action: click here.
Article on MSN regarding the Surgeon General's report: click here.

I applaud you, Acting Surgeon General Dr. Boris Lushniak, for recognizing the need for this call to action. If states were slow to recognize their important role they have in helping decrease the amount of lives traumatized by skin cancer, this should help enforce why new policies have to be put in place. Too many lives depend on it.

Acting Surgeon General, you've made this melanoma diva a very happy girl.

A step in the right direction....Ah, it feels so good.