Melanoma Awareness Month

May is melanoma awareness month. I am, unfortunately, aware of melanoma every month. Around the age of 41 I noticed a new mole appear on the front of my left thigh. I had it checked at my annual skin exams and was reassured it was all normal. Last year, February 2015, my dermatologist decided to biopsy it. It came back as an in situ melanoma. I was shocked and horrified that a) my initial concerns had been ignored, and that it had taken 3 years to get a biopsy after naively believing my dermatologist that all was ok, and b) that I had cancer – a potentially lethal cancer if it had not been caught when it was.

Cancer of the skin is by far the most common of all cancers. Melanoma accounts for only 1% of skin cancer cases but causes a large majority of skin cancer deaths.

Here are the American Cancer Society’s estimates for melanoma in the United States for 2016:

  • About 76,380 new melanomas will be diagnosed (about 46,870 in men and 29,510 in women).
  • About 10,130 people are expected to die of melanoma (about 6,750 men and 3,380 women).

The rates of melanoma have been rising for at least 30 years.

Rates of skin cancer in the UK have risen by 360% since the 1970s.

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Much of this increased rate can be attributed to more vacations abroad to sunnier climates since the 1970s. I remember, as a teen, baking in Portugal and Tenerife with no spf, and even using baby oil to ‘intensify’ my tan. Two weeks in the sun each year meant making the most of it, and peeling shoulders were almost a badge of honor. As a young adult in the City I would lay on the sun bed at the gym after a work out. I know when the damage was done.

I am now fastidious about spf application – nothing less than factor 50 and I still have to be careful. I still love the sun, but now spend most of my time in the shade, where it is still possible to get too much sun! I really don’t want to preach – just raise the issue – especially as the UK is enjoying glorious sunshine right now. I expect there are many red faces in the office today. Wearing a facial sunscreen on your neck and face is also the best way to prevent aging – so there is really no reason not to!

This is how my thigh looked after having a tiny mole removed. They have to take a football shaped piece of skin off to ensure the margins were clear.

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Today I still have a scar about 2 inches long that is a constant reminder to use that spf.

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I thank my lucky stars that my mole was somewhere visible, even though it had none of the attributes of a melanoma – irregular shape, color or bleeding – my gut knew it was abnormal. If it had been on my back I may never have seen it to raise concerns. I am also thankful that when I moved to Atlanta friends told me how important an annual skin check is – never something that had even occurred to me in the UK.

These days I invest in a couple of rash guards each year, and wear them over my bikini in the sun. These from Athleta are my favorite as they have a zip a the neckline – making them easier on and off and more flattering. They come in lots of great colors too – I have the black and the purple in a medium.

athleta rash guard

On a final note – my 8 year old son recently had a mole removed for biopsy. It was clear, but I now take both children for annual skin checks too. Always better to be safe…melanoma doesn’t discriminate.

 

 

 

Starting 2016 the right way

I was reading Nikki over at Midlifechic.com the other day. Her Project Happier really struck a chord with me.

I am a naturally outgoing person, being a Leo, and mostly love being around other people. I would say 90% of the time I am naturally happy and I always tend to take things in my stride. Over the past couple of years though that remaining 10% has raised it’s ugly head more regularly than I’d like.

I think I’ve always felt a sense of loss since moving to Atlanta. As much as I love living here, grief at having ‘lost’ my life in the UK can occur. It’s a sense of ‘loss’ and ‘being lost’. In 2015 I think it was exacerbated by my melanoma diagnosis. As amazing as my husband and family are, it was trying going through something so traumatic away from ‘home’. I went on anti-depressants for a while which ultimately led to a 40lb weight gain in a very short period of time. At the end of the year I decided the pills weren’t really needed and that the weight gain was probably exacerbating any ‘sadness’ I was experiencing. So I am starting 2016 with my own ‘Project Happiness’. I’m going to tackle that troublesome 10% and flip it to HAPPY!

I’ve started with a clean eating program – Whole30. I’ve always exercised frequently – if you follow on Instagram myself and a few others still use #PSFitClub for motivation. It’s now time to fix my food intake. I yo-yo a lot and I LOVE food. Living in the South with fried grits, biscuits and fried chicken does not help! So instead of following a ‘diet’ I have immersed myself in what I hope will be a ‘lifestyle’ change. In fact I have just taken the kids to their favorite diner for breakfast before school resumes tomorrow, and as torturous as I knew it would be watching them consume pancakes and syrup and vanilla milkshakes, I actually really enjoyed my omelette with sliced tomato. Honest! Whole30 isn’t supposed to be about weight loss – more to do with resetting your digestive system and ridding yourself of sugar cravings, but I’m hoping with the workouts I will be on the right path to regaining my svelte figure in a healthy manner. It’s also supposed to help your mind too – it really is compelling reading. I’ll keep you posted and my Instagram will give you a glimpse of my daily eating and challenges if you are interested!

Screen Shot 2016-01-05 at 12.00.07 PMJumper – Everlane // Coat – Zara // Bag – Mansur Gavriel // Jeans – Zara (old) // Sneakers – Nike Air Max

Screen Shot 2016-01-05 at 12.00.20 PMSneakers – Nike Thea in Olive // Pants – Reebok (on sale here) // Jumper – H&M // Bag – Mansur Gavriel // Hat – Nordstrom (old but blue on sale here)

Spring footwear

Okay so by now you all know I have a special love affair (my only acknowledgement of Valentine’s Day!) with boots and sneakers. I’ve recently indulged in some new work out sneakers, as after my melanoma diagnosis I was spurred on to get fitter and healthier and nothing motivates more like a new pair of running shoes! I love them – they are the Nike Lunaracer and they are incredibly light and comfortable. Size up half a size though as they are quite snug.

lunaracerAfter my huge success with the Adidas Stan Smiths, which seem to go with everything, I got suckered into the Adidas Superstar. To be honest it is a shoe I have never really liked till now. I was put off by the huge rubber toe cap, preferring the sleeker look of the Adidas Samoa or Gazelles. Well after trying the Superstars I can officially say I am hooked – they look fabulous on and are as comfy as the Stans.

superstarsI wear boots all year round. I think an ankle boot can be really flattering with shorts or a dress in the summer. I love my Newbury tan canvas boots for that very reason. Here I am wearing them in a previous summer.

IMG_4087Well this spring I shall be getting my hands on these beauties. The Newbury boot in off white.

off white NewburyThey’re already selling out in a lot of stores so I better not procrastinate too long. I love the idea of these with cropped jeans and a jacket, or with denim shorts and a white t-shirt.

They are also available in a gorgeous tan leather – again their heel makes them incredibly leg lengthening and yet they are so comfortable.

tan newburyMy fellow cheer Mom and friend has these stunning Dolce Vita Haku boots that I am lusting after! I saw her wearing them the other week with white jeans and they looked amazing. The backless/mule design makes them perfect for spring and summer. Again just fabulous with shorts, which is probably why these are selling like hotcakes too! They come in tan, taupe and black.

Haku street style Haku tan

 

haku boot Haku blackI’m going in for the taupe as I already have these in tan from Zara:

fringe bootI think shoes are always worth the investment – I might not need new clothes but shoes can help an outfit switch gears immediately.

Finally I want to take the time to thank you all for your kind words and well wishes. I am healing nicely and the tenderness from the incision has gone. The healing body really is quite remarkable. Last night I was even able to wear my 4″ heels to dinner!

IMG_0492 IMG_0488Shoes – J.Crew // Jeans – Cigarette jeans from Zara // T-shirt – J.Crew (old) // Jacket – Lace blazer from Mango

On Thursday I headed to the mall to treat myself to some new lipsticks and skincare – perfect post surgery indulgence. This cheapo scarf from ASOS garnered so many compliments!

 

IMG_0478Boots – Rag & Bone Newbury in petrol (old) // Trousers – J.Crew // T-shirt – J.Crew // Jacket – AllSaints (old) // Scarf – ASOS

Loose pants have really been the order of the week to avoid aggravating my stitches. Here’s my outfit from Wednesday.

IMG_0472 IMG_0468Sneakers – Adidas Superstars // Trousers – J.Crew (on sale plus an additional 40% off with code WEEKENDMUST) // Jumper – Everlane // Jacket – Mango (similar here)

We have a long weekend for President’s Day so hopefully in between cheer competitions we’ll have some fun in the sun!

 

 

No more cancer

So the melanoma is gone! This morning I underwent a procedure under a local anesthetic where a large circumference of skin was removed. Pretty freakin’ freaky when you can see and hear him snipping away a massive area of skin and then the needle and thread pulling everything together again! My palms were sweaty and I kept focusing on the ceiling! I have to say my surgeon was amazing, and he reassured me that it was on the cusp i.e. just turning to Stage 0 melanoma, so my frustration over previous checks ignoring it was probably unfounded. I now have a good 4-5 inch long incision that will hopefully heal fast! Thank goodness I worked out like a banshee last week as I can’t do anything now till the stitches are removed. For updates and gory photos check me out on Instagram!

Needless to say I opted for comfy clothes today.

IMG_0463Sneakers – Nike Lunar Air Max // Pants – Nike Avant // Top – Mango // Glasses – Oliver Peoples Wacks

As I have been working out so much over the past week I have spent most days in workout gear. Saturday was one of the few days I ‘got dressed’ and we took the kids out for a ‘fancy lunch’ 🙂

mango CollageSneakers – Adidas Stan Smiths // Trousers – Mango leather (currently 50% off in sale) // Jumper – Zara (old) // Scarf – Asos

See you all soon! Off to recuperate on the sofa with a slice of pizza and Netflix!

 

A diagnosis

What a week! I am thoroughly relieved to get to Friday. After my skin check the other week at the dermatologists, I heard on Tuesday that the mole on my left thigh that I was concerned about is actually in situ melanoma. Thank goodness I persisted and kept getting it checked – though I am furious that after 3 years and 3 annual checks, where I repeatedly asked for this particular mole to be looked at, I was continually told it ‘looks fine’. Eventually my dermatologist biopsied it and my gut was right. So on Tuesday I will be heading in for a procedure done under a local where they remove a circle of skin from around the mole. I’ll have some scarring – but nothing a fun tattoo won’t cover up:) Please, please, please always persevere and get a second opinion if you think your concerns are being ignored. I daren’t even think what could have been if I hadn’t. I’m certainly a little shaken as cancer is always something that happens to other people not you, plus my brother has just had testicular cancer removed at Christmas. Fortunately his scans gave him the all clear though he has opted for a dose of chemo, which he gets on Monday, just to be safe. I am praying that these things come in twos not threes. I am determined that this diagnosis will only make me stronger, fitter and a better version of me.

boots CollageBoots – Stuart Weitzman Lowland in currant // Jeans – Zara // Jumper – Boden Off Duty jumper

cap CollageSneakers – Adidas (old – similar here) // Trousers – J.Crew (on sale with an extra 40% off with HELLOSALE) // Shirt – Mango (on sale 50% off) // Jumper – J.Crew (on sale with an extra 50% off with HELLOSALE) // Cap – J.Crew (old)