Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Newsflash: you get skin cancer from the sun

Well, the "spot" is gone. My hubby is now calling me a "cancer survivor". Hardly! He even tried to convince me to start wearing a pink ribbon. If I'm lucky he'll never learn what the pink ribbon is for. The surgery was easy & short. The result is going to be a much larger scar than I expected. It was a small "superficial" spot & is going to end up being a 1 1/4 inch scar. Scars = life experience, right?

In my teens & early 20s, life was all about the first few good burns of the season. I'm fair skinned, but once I establish a bit of tan, I get some good color. Don't we all look better with color? And, slather me in the baby oil! Off season, bring on the tanning bed.

Enter my friend JoAnn. She is single-handedly responsible for the change in my ways. She taught me how to properly use SPF during a Florida vacation about 10 years ago. Here's how this stuff works: use it and use a lot of it. Reapply & reapply often. When summer begins (or you visit someplace where the sun is stronger), start with a high SPF (at least 15). You will tan. You will not burn. As your tan builds you can gradually reduce the SPF. During that vacation we started with 15, moved to 8 after a few days & switched to 4 a few days after that. Think brown, not red. This way you also get to enjoy your entire vacation without being forced indoors or suffering in burn pain and the smell of aloe. And who can make friends when you smell like aloe? Also & perhaps the most important benefit of proper use of SPF is that YOUR TAN WILL LAST LONGER!!! Don't believe me? Try it!

Here's where I'm confused though: vitamin D or SPF? Vitamin D is all the rage. The stats are in & we don't get enough of it. How do we properly balance enough sun without too much? I see research in my future....

Monday, March 28, 2011

I have skin cancer

Once again, I am lucky. It's the most common skin cancer--basal cell carcinoma & it's one where you simply remove the "spot" and it's gone. Each time it reappears, they remove it again. No big deal though it's a nuisance. The few people I've told so far have all either had it or someone very close to them has.

Through the experience with my oldest's allergies I learned to essentially tell doctors what I want in the way of other specialists, second opinions, etc. I know when I can't handle something on my own and they should too. If their egos get in the way, I move on.

In August I asked my nurse practitioner (note my official doctor works P-T & I've never even met her) to look at a couple spots I thought were cysts. She told me to let her know if they change color. I told her one does, but since it's in a spot where my sports bra rubs, she determined it was just irritated. Months later something came up & I became fearful that the spot on my leg was a  type of lymphoma. I called the nurse & said I wanted a referral to a dermatologist. She said I'd have to come back in. What? If it's concerning enough to me to call & insist on a referral, go with it. And it is something she has already seen. I don't have time to monkey around with extra appointments & potentially arguing with my PCM. I switched PCMs. When I went to the new doc, she looked at the spot on my chest & gave me an "um hum" (read: no big deal). Then she looked at the spot on my leg & said "ohhhh" (read: big deal). I'm now trying not to cry & fake like I didn't "hear" this reaction. I am of course internally convinced I have lymphoma and that had it been diagnosed 6 months earlier I would be in a better situation for treatment.

When I see the dermatologist, she looks at my leg & says, "that's no big deal". Whew! What relief! "But, I think this thing on your chest is skin cancer." It's all relative. Skin cancer--whatever. I don't have lymphoma (internal dance party!!!)! I was so happy I didn't ask any questions. Fortunately before I left she told me what she thought it was. Otherwise when it sunk in I'm sure I would've researched it and decided I had melanoma. (Ever notice how if you diagnose yourself online, it's dire?) A week later the biopsy confirmed her thoughts. Tomorrow this thing will be removed.

The moral: if you know something is wrong, trust your gut. Ask for what you want & if your doctors aren't giving you satisfactory answers, move on. Ultimately it's your health & there are a lot of really good doctors out there. Listen to your instincts!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Stop the Screaming!

Picking up where I left off, we came home from the hospital and my child proceeded to mostly scream his head off. I read everything I could get my hands on. I learned all the soothing techniques & infant massage. It didn't stop. I literally spent all my time trying to sooth him & keep the crying at bay. I prayed for the 6 week mark (the experts all indicated that would be the 'peak'). Nothing changed so I focused on the 12 week mark. Still no change. The response from the doctor was "have you heard of colic?" I'm fairly certain I hit him. In addition to the screaming he was spitting up like crazy & we put him on acid reflux medicine which helped some, but it was still a lot. He also clearly turned to food for comfort. He was in the 95% for weight by 9 weeks & was gaining a 1/2 lb. a week.

After 5 months of screaming (I quit my job as I couldn't bare the thought of a sitter leaving my child to cry in the corner), I started talking to my friend Jen whose child had a milk allergy. He had all the same symptoms. So I went to a specialist. Since I was nursing, I had to cut foods that affected him out of my diet. It's all trial & error at that age and it takes 2 weeks to get things out of your system. First was milk (this includes butter & whey). The crying significantly improved, but he still wasn't the smiling angel I had pictured when I got pregnant. Next was soy. Just to clarify soy is in EVERYTHING! If it's fried, it's fried in soybean oil (aka vegetable oil). If it's in a box or bag it has soy or soybean oil in it. At this point I was keeping a journal. After week 1 of giving up soy I made a clear connection with wheat. So--no milk, soy or wheat. That leaves meat, veggies cooked in olive oil & rice. Let's just say I was the skinniest I've ever been in my life & I'm very thankful for my hubby who can cook anyone under the table.

We were lucky. It turns out the child was "hyper sensitive" vs. truly allergic. He outgrew wheat around 7 months. Soy around a year and milk at 16 months. What I found odd about the whole experience was the lack of knowledge. I worked in a department of 40 people. Eight of us had babies within a year. Three of those babies had food allergies. That's over 37%. Why wasn't it being talked about? I'm certain there were many other parents going through the same thing who didn't have a "Jen" to clue them in. That was almost 5 years ago & I know awareness of food allergies with babies has increased significantly.

So this is mostly how/why my journey begins.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Welcome to the world precious child!

Beginning from the beginning...

When I was pregnant, a girl who worked for me came into my office and essentially warned me to research vaccines before I gave them to my child. She had a 7-year-old child who was autistic and she was convinced MMR was the cause. Her "warning" was done in a passive, non-confrontational way. She mostly said, "just research them." I nodded and smiled, but didn't think much about it.

At some point (I must have been bored) I did research it. I discovered one vaccine with aluminum and another (Rotovirus which is really fun, but more about that later) had been introduced and then pulled due to bad reactions, but it was newly back & on the list to give.

Then I have my precious child. Cue the glorious music. Bring on the flowers. Check out my bundle of pure joy. Bring in the nurse who is ready to give my newborn a Hep B shot. Bring the music to a screeching halt. What? Don't you get Hep B from sex & drugs, as in needles? I'm fairly certain he's not at risk. Bring the music back on.

Ok, that's not exactly how it happened. My first night after having him, my precious newborn started screaming his head off. The nurses disappeared. After what felt like hours I finally got him to stop crying by putting him up on my shoulder, but I was so sleep deprived (I had him in the middle of the night, the night before) I was falling asleep & I was afraid of dropping him (being a first-time mom & all). So I called the hubby to come back so I could sleep. Once I did fall asleep the nurses reappeared to wake me up and take my blood pressure. Really? Then he wouldn't latch. I swear I tried to get anyone who walked in the room to help me get him to latch. The food delivery people were no exception. Then enter Hep B shot nurse. I wasn't prepared. As I recall I very politely told her that I needed to research that one before giving it to my newborn. In retrospect and based on all the stress alive & well in the room, I likely threw something at her & told her to get my baby to latch. Exit nurse. Enter forms & new nasty-nurse attitude. I was never so happy to leave anyplace in my life.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Changing the Conversation

I am starting this blog because of a few things I've discovered in my 5 short years of motherhood that I find downright scary. I have sometimes joked with friends about being a "crazy mom" because in some respects I go to great lengths to protect the health of my kids. The truth is, I'm not crazy. I'm educated and I've taken the time to research a few health-related issues. I want change. To achieve that change, I think the conversation needs to be altered.

There have been astronomical increases in autism, allergies, asthma, arthritis and diabetes in recent years. In my heart of hearts I believe these increases are due to vaccines and/or all the processing (and additives) in our food.

As it relates to vaccines, here's the deal: the conversation has been whether or not to vaccinate. If you vaccinate you are putting your child at risk of all the potential side effects (known & unknown) of the vaccine itself. If you don't vaccinate, you are putting your child at risk of contracting some nasty and sometimes life-threatening diseases. It's no-win and it's not a choice parents should have to make.

The conversation should be about the safety of vaccines. I'm no scientist, but surely toxin-free vaccines can be manufactured. Get rid of the carcinogens--the formaldehyde, mercury, aluminum, etc. Is that so impossible? Why have vaccine manufacturers even been allowed to put those ingredients in the vaccines to begin with? I don't get it. To achieve change I think we parents are going to have to stand up for the safety of our kids (and ourselves).

So that's where I start. Through this blog I plan to take readers (if I have any) through my journey and provide some of my learnings along the way. I'm not anti-vaccine or anti-food. I am about the safety of the things we are putting into our kids. And I want change.