Monday, May 17, 2010

Melanoma Monday: SPF or Chemo?



Any Questions?

Five Years ago TODAY, I started my first round of Interferon Chemotherapy Infusions. I sat in that recliner for 5 hours a day, 5 days a week for 4 weeks. Then I graduated to giving myself "self-injections" of Interferon 3-days a week for the next 48 weeks.

Yep - that was 52 weeks of Chemotherapy.... ONE YEAR of my life spent doing CHEMO! memory of my 5-year Anniversary of Chemotherapy, let me share with you the following in honor of Melanoma Monday!

Remember Life is Good! Live STRONG!

SLIP, SLAP, SLOP on that Sunscreen!!

(More Info on this can be found HERE)

Proper Use and Application of Sunscreen:

Most people use sunscreen improperly by not applying enough. They apply only 25% to 50% of the recommended amount. Sunscreen should be applied liberally enough to all sun-exposed areas that it forms a film when initially applied. It takes 20-30 minutes for sunscreen to be absorbed by the skin, so it should be applied at least a half an hour before going out in the sun. Sunscreen should also be the last product applied especially on the face since some sunscreens can break down in the presence of water contained in water-based foundations and moisturizers.

Reapplying Sunscreen
Most instructions on sunscreen labels recommend reapplying sunscreen "frequently", but the definition of "frequently" is vague. A common instruction is to reapply sunscreen after 2-4 hours in the sun. However, one study has shown that reapplying sunscreen 20 to 30 minutes after being in the sun is more effective than waiting 2 hours. It is possible that this time period is more effective because most people do not apply enough sunscreen initially, and this second application approximates the actual amount needed. Sunscreen should also be reapplied after swimming, excessive sweating, or toweling.

Daily Sunscreen
Sunscreen should be applied daily. The daily use of a low-SPF sunscreen (15) has been shown to be more effective in preventing skin damage than the intermittent use of a higher SPF sunscreen.

Sunscreen and Insect Repellents
Insect repellents reduce the sunscreen's SPF by up to one-third. When using sunscreen and insect repellent together, a higher SPF should be used and reapplied more often.

Monday, May 10, 2010

You've Come a Long Way Baby....

Wow...I was looking back through my posts when I realized that 5 years ago today I was just getting my drains removed from my second round of surgery for Melanoma and spent the day meeting with my Oncologist to discuss the start of Chemotherapy the next week.

I'm definitely one of the LUCKY ONES, no doubt about that. To be here, happily married, racing in Triathlons again, around to meet my two beautiful nephews (who had not even been conceived yet...), to be able to do Team CANCER to 5K - all of this while having been diagnosed with Stage III Malignant Nodular Melanoma and give a 75% chance of reoccurrence within the first 2 years.

It's days like today that I realize how truly bless and lucky I am...Life is GOOD!

Have you bought fresh Sunscreen for this coming season yet?


2010 Kinetic SPRINT Report: What the watch can't tell you...

"Does anybody really know what time it is? Does anybody really care about time?" - Chicago

Time and Triathlon, intertwine deeply - my races are almost always about TIME.

What time is my swim wave?
Does this race have cut-off times?
Can I beat my previous time?
Did I have a good time?

The last race of my 2009 TRI season was "NOTHING BUT TIME" and it had to be, of course. In an Ironman-distance event there is only one time that matters 17:00:00. Anything under that time and "You are an Ironman" anything over that time and you may finish the race, you may go the distance but your not official.

Along the way in Ironman, time is always on your mind. Time to the Swim Cutoff (2:20:00) Time to the Bike Cuttoff (09:30:00) - miss those times and your day is over - no matter how long and hard you have trained. I should know, I missed the first loop Bike Cuttoff for IM USA in Lake Placid, NY in July 2009 which was why my last race of the season in Nov 2009 was Beach2Battleship Ironman-distance Triathlon in Wilmington,NC.

In Nov 2009 as I ended my season, time was on my side....I completed my 10-year goal of becoming an Ironman in 16:17:48.

So with that BIG GOAL behind me, I started the 2010 Season determined to race short, have fun and enjoy the sport of triathlon as much as I can. But as my first race of the 2010 season got closer and closer, again TIME took over my thoughts.

Can I race this event faster?
Can I race this event stronger?

Faster is a TIME driven denominator but Stronger is not necessarily all about time. Stronger has so many variables you can measure by....Power, Mindset, Pace....That idea had me intrigued and a little scared...

Could I race a SPRINT TRI, stronger?

In my 10 years of doing Triathlons, my goals have always been to finish, to finish longer, to finish faster, but never to finish stronger. I may not be a fast racer but as Coach Ed has said, "Holly won't quit until you pull her off the course..." I do have endurance but that endurance has always included a "little bit of walking" - Walking in Transitions because I saw it as a chance to recover before the next leg and walking during the Run because well "Hills are hard" and "I'm not a fast runner" and "I can still finish" and "I'm tired."

In 10 years, I'd never dared to challenge myself to truly push beyond my comfort zones - I think partly because I already knew I could FINISH doing what I always do (run/walking) but what if this time, on a SPRINT race course that I knew pretty well (racing it in 2005 & 2008) I took a big risk and set my goal for racing STRONGER than ever before?

What if I RAN it all this time? Run out of the water to transition, Run through T1, Run through T2, and (OMG!) RUN the entire 5K with just a few steps at the water stop so that I can actually drink the water and not wear it ...(my one concession...)

So I started out on Sunday @ Kinetic Sprint Tri but I only shared my big goal of "Running the whole thing" with about 5 people. A short list of folks, In part to be accountable and in part because I was scared of failure on a grand scale. Of course, I shared my PR swim goal with the world via FACEBOOK.

My goals: 1.) PR the swim - 750yds and 24:00 has been my fastest time. 2.) NO WALKING

People I told about Goal #2? My husband Jim, my teammates/friends: Keri, Leanne, Andrea H. (Cancer to 5K friend/teammate) and Coach Ed. Keri, Leanne and Coach Ed were told, If you see me walking for even a second "GIVE ME HELL!!"

SWIM- 750yd: 22:30 (Garmin 310XT time) - 2 minute PR at this distance!!!

The water was a balmy 72F and with just a little chop to make us rock and roll a little, I was nervous but had no fear. I think swimming 2.4 miles 4 times last year really built my confidence as has actually going to regular swim practice 2-3x a week for the last year.

I tried to find feet and "stick like velcro" but I never did find any. Instead I just counted and sighted and tried to remember to reach long and pull. I was on the first turn bouy very quickly and was surprised but happy. The next turn buoy took a bit as I was getting pushed around alot by the chop but I just told myself "rock and roll with it" and tried not to fight the water but move in it. Soon enough I was making the turn for shore and that last leg seem to take *forever* but I just "kept swimming" and soon enough I was on shore and jogging up the ramp to transition. I felt good, there were still bikes on the racks around me so I knew I had a good swim but I didn't dare look at my watch because while I wanted a PR, I knew that I had to stay focused on "No Walking" and any TIME on the watch could effect my MENTAL FOCUS so I would have to find out after all was said and done...

T1: 4:30 (Garmin 310XT time) - about the time I was putting on my bike helmet, I thought to myself, "What is this,Holly, a picnic? Get Going!" They added a bit more run to the "mount/dismount" line than in times past so that added some unexpected distance to Transition so I am happy with this time.

BIKE - 18 miles : 1:14:xx (Garmin 310XT time)

I *love* this particular race bike course. It is on low traffic roads and is a rolling bike course that is mostly rolling downhill. There are two things of note for my third time doing this course. NOTE 1.) I felt like *a lot* more people passed me on this course than normal. I can usually hold my own - during the race itself, I considered the possibility that "maybe I did PR my swim" and found myself in a new spot in terms of bike start." That thought made me SMILE even if I still was not that happy at being passed on the bike very much. NOTE 2.) I passed at least 6 people in the last 3 miles of the bike. It would seem that when we got to the park entrance, all the folks that I couldn't seem to catch on the bike course, decided that they were going to relax for a bit. I wonder if those people realized that we still have 3 miles of riding left? I took that opportunity to get in my aero bars, and push the pace and gain 6 places off the bike in the last 3 miles. I figured with 3 miles left, I still had time to spin down a little and if they pass me on the run, so be it BUT they will have to pass me....we are in a triathlon folks, you still have 5k to run!

T2: 2:10 (Garmin 310XT time) - Considering the extra running post dismount - this is okay. I ran through only stopping long enough to rack the bike, toss the helmet, changes shoes and grab my visor.

RUN - 5K: 40:00:xx (Garmin 310XT time)

Okay, here is was, my biggest challenge of the day, right in front of me - I only had one goal - Find a stride and pace that I could stick to all the way to the finish. Immediately, I told myself "THIS IS NOT ABOUT TIME" this was about being STRONG - physically strong enough to run the entire 5K - which I already have proven time and time again that I can do - and mentally strong enough to resist the usual tempation of walking when I felt tired or saw other triathletes around me walking. This was MY RACE, it did not matter what anybody around me did - that did not give me justification to "walk" - my goal was to RUN - at whatever pace that needed to be - for the ENTIRE 5K.

And that is what I did! I took my time up the big hill at the start - finding a steady pace and keeping my stride short - my reward - lots of love and good vibes from strangers and good friends alike. Andrea H. was there to cheer me on at the crest of the steepest part of the climb and she was like my own personal guardian angel, keeping me from focusing on the hill by making me smile with her enthusiasm. Then I settled into a nice easy stride and just rolled up and a over the rest of the gentle climb, past mile 1 and around the corner and down the hill to the turn around. Cheering on Teammates as I passed them and as they passed me, having fun and keeping my inner-dialog on "Run, just Run" & "Feeling Tired, Go ahead slow down a bit but Just RUN".

Soon enough I was at the turn around and running back up the hill. That was hard but I just kept my stride nice and easy and focused on getting to the Port-O-John since I needed a quick pit stop. I ran to the John, did what I needed to, popped back out, grabbed a handy wipe and a cup of water, took 3 walking strides (enough to drink the water) and then resumed running. Soon enough I was past 2 miles and turing left for that last rolling mile to the finish line.

I kept my eyes up and on the horizon, thinking about the lovely downhill run through the trail on the trees that would preceded the finish line. Knowing that I could have some free speed with that gentle downhill and could surge onto the beach to the finish. As I crossed the street, heading to the trail, the smile was big and wide - I was doing it! After 10-years of racing triathlons - every distance from Sprint to Ironman - I was racing STRONG!

The energy, the accomplishment, my determination and the cheers from Andrea H. and from my Team Z mates at the finish line just made the finish that much sweeter! While I'm not sure I was smiling at the finish (Keri said I looked and sounded Stern and Very Determined) I was SO PROUD of myself for pushing my boundaries that it didn't matter WHAT THE TIME was on the Race Clock or my Garmin 310XT.

I set a goal to Race STRONG and NOT WALK the Kinetic Sprint TRI on Sunday, May 9, 2010 and I MET MY GOAL. I also learned, post race, based on how I am feeling now as I recover, that I probably could have pushed the pace up as much as 30 seconds a mile and been able to hang on - so next time maybe TIME will be a goal again. As it turns out, I also PR'd my that swim distance by 2 minutes AND overall, came within 1 minute of my 2008 finish time at this event.

I may not have race faster BUT I am racing STRONGER than ever! And a heck of a way to start the 2010 season and my next 10-years as a Triathlete...

Life is Good! LiveSTRONG! Race STRONGER than your fears and make sure you have good friends and teammates on the course!

Holly S.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Today is MELANOMA Monday....

May is SKIN CANCER AWARENESS MONTH and every Monday this month is "Melanoma Monday."

As a Stage III, Nodular Melanoma Survivor, I do my best to give back and celebrate my survivorship (5 years ago in February) by raising awareness of Melanoma and Skin Cancer. With all the great resources available this month, I want to do my part to SPREAD THE WORD!

It only takes small habits to protect yourself from the sun and to catch skin cancer early by doing self checks and making a yearly check-up to a Dermatologist a part of your annual DR visits.

Melanoma Monday is also known as National Skin Self Examination day in the U.S. Starting in 1985 the American Academy of Dermatology has sponsored free skin cancer screenings in many cities on today:

More about MELANOMA
While only 4% of diagnosed skin cancer is melanoma, melanoma is the most serious form of skin cancer because of its ability to spread. This is why it is so important to catch melanoma early when the cure rate with dermatological surgery is about 95%.

Where Occurs
Melanoma can appear anywhere on the body — soles, palms, inside the mouth, genitalia, and underneath nails. However, it is most commonly found on the back, buttocks, legs, scalp, neck, and behind the ears.

Warning signs
Melanoma often develops in a pre-existing mole that begins to change or a new mole. It is estimated that 20% to 40% of melanomas arise from an atypical mole. This is why it is so important to be familiar with the moles on your body and perform regular self-examinations of your skin.

When looking at moles, keep in mind the ABCDEs of Melanoma Detection:

1.) Asymmetry. If you could fold the lesion in two, the two halves would not match.

2.) Border. Melanomas often have uneven or blurred borders.

3.) Color. Melanoma typically is not one solid color; rather it contains mixed shades of tan, brown, and black. It can also show traces of red, blue or white.

4.) Diameter. While melanomas are usually greater than 6 millimeters (about the size of a pencil eraser) when diagnosed, they can be smaller. If you notice a mole different from others, or which changes, itches, or bleeds even if it is smaller than 6 millimeters, you should see a dermatologist.

5.) Evolving. A mole or skin lesion that looks different from the rest or is changing in size, shape or color.

It is important to realize that a mole may have some of the characteristics described above and not be a melanoma. A biopsy is often necessary to distinguish an atypical mole from a melanoma.

Other warning signs of melanoma include:
  • Change in the appearance of a mole, such as the spreading of the pigment from the border of the mole into the surrounding skin

  • A mole that looks scaly, oozes, or bleeds

  • Itching, tenderness, or pain in a mole or lesion

  • Brown or black streak that appears underneath a nail or around the nail

  • Bruise on the foot that does not heal.