Back in February, one of my favorite bloggers, Alyssa, was diagnosed with skin cancer. She thought she had been a “smart” tanner and in the end, had to have multiple surgeries to get it all out. Luckily, she’s OK now. But that’s not always the case.
I was even more lucky – I only had a scare. But it was enough to knock some sense into me.
Before I get into what happened, let me give you a bit of a back story. I’ve never been a tanner. Fortunately, my mom never allowed me to go to a tanning bed, even when I was sixteen and all of my friends were doing it. Some did it to prep for “super important” events like the prom, others because they said it helped with acne (which I had severe problems with), and some just went because it relaxed them.
Mom always said, “hell no.” For that, I’m extremely grateful. And I was a good kid, so I never went behind her back. After all, don’t ya think she’d catch on to the tan look after a bit?
But that doesn’t mean I was smart.
I played sports all year round and was in the sun for most of the day. Soccer consumed my life all summer and fall, and softball in the spring. Except for when I was at soccer camp and outside training for eight-plus hours a day, I don’t remember putting sunscreen on once. Not for regular practice, not for games, nothing. I didn’t get burns, so I never thought about it.
When I went to the beach, I’d put on sunscreen, but only after I’d already been out for a few hours. After all, I wanted at least a little bit of a tan. I didn’t go in the tanning bed, so I was being smart.
Once I went to college and got involved with Colleges Against Cancer, I started being smarter. I wore sunscreen when I knew I’d be outside for most of the day, and I even bought moisturizer that had SPF built in. But when people told me I should be wearing sunscreen every single day, I thought, “Come on, seriously? That’s a little much.”
I astound myself with my stupidity sometimes.
I even felt like a hypocrite. Here I was, passionately fighting cancer and yet I was sabotaging myself by not taking such a small step. It was that silly notion many of us have in the back of our minds. You know the one I’m talking about: that little voice that says we’re invincible. It won’t happen to us.
So when I graduated college, I vowed that I would be better. I started putting on SPF every single day. I researched and tried different products until I found ones that I really liked and didn’t feel gross on my acne-prone skin. Because if I felt like I was clogging my pores, there was no way I would put it on, willingly, every day. So I put in the work. And I felt really good about myself.
When I read Alyssa’s post, I knew I needed to get a skin check. I don’t have many freckles, but there was one that stood out. I still didn’t think it was anything life-altering, but I hadn’t gotten a skin check in a long time, so I told myself it was better to just get it over with.
I put it off until August. I wasn’t scared and I didn’t believe anything was wrong – I just let life get in the way. I told myself I was too busy, work was more important, I didn’t want to waste my time in a doctor’s office, etc.
But isn’t an hour in a doctor’s office a pretty measly amount of time if it’s going to save your life? Oh, right.
So I found myself at a new-to-me dermatologist’s office, in one of those paper-thin robes that nobody is ever comfortable in, ready for my full-body skin check. My derm said my skin looked great, but that it was clear I didn’t always wear sunscreen all the time. I explained my history and was secretly proud of my recent efforts. He acted content, until he saw the little mole on my right arm. He circled it with an ugly green marker, burrowed his frow and said, “That doesn’t look good at all.”
“You don’t have very many freckles and moles, which is why this concerns me. It really stands out. It’s darker than all the others you have, it has multiple shades and it has an irregular border – see how it’s shaped more like a star, not a circle?”
I silently nodded my head, terrified he was going to tell me I was dying.
“I don’t think it’s melanoma, but let’s take it out for a biopsy…just in case.”
Did you know that it can take a week before you find out the results of a biopsy? Talk about the longest. week. ever.
Luckily, my test came back negative. My dermatologist said everything came back normal, but again reminded me about the sunscreen. You can bet your bottom dollar I’ve been wearing it. Especially when I was outside all day on Saturday with Dustin’s family and friends.
So no, this isn’t a scary story where I found out I have cancer. I’m lucky that I don’t. But it was a scary-as-hell situation to be in. I’ve had cancer invade my life way too many times already. And I hate the damn thing. Please just do the little things that might prevent it. I can’t help but think about all of the times I screwed myself over when I was younger, and now I just pray that it never comes back to haunt me.
I know this video is really popular, but it really resonates. If you haven’t seen it yet, take the time to watch.
Last weekend was Relay for Life – I’ve participated in six Relays now, but this one just felt like it was going to be special. It was the first time I was spending the entire Relay with my mom, and it was the first time I’ve done a Relay that’s lasted 24 hours (college Relays are 12 hours).
I signed up while visiting home for Easter weekend, then worked my booty off fundraising online. My goal was to raise $500, but I honestly didn’t think I would raise that much in the shortened time span. With my work schedule, I knew I wouldn’t have time to plan an event.
But in the end, all of my friends, family members and co-workers really stepped it up and contributed to such an amazing cause that I hold near and dear to my heart. In the last day before Relay, I raised over $200! Not only did I reach my goal, but I went $75 over it
So I headed upstate Friday night and crashed at my parent’s house. Before I knew it, the high-pitched screeching noise of my alarm sounded and it was time to Relay!
I had to get a hair cut first
OK, so I got it cut after I helped set up the tent, but still. I hadn’t had one since January, so I think it was time to treat my tresses to some love. And I only paid $20 for it, versus the $80 I dropped when it was chopped in NYC. Quality haircut for an unbeatable price, if you ask me!
But back to Relay.
There were a ton of activities throughout the day and the music was pumping, but my legs felt the urge to walk. So I did lap after lap, and before I knew it, I was at 10 miles. Time flies when your family is walking with you, that’s for sure. We had so much to catch up on! My step-brother, Stephen, popped up for a few hours and walked five miles with me and I learned more about him during those laps than I ever would have if we were just sitting at home on the couch. Walkin’ leads to talkin’, I swear.
My high school buddy, Tim, stopped by for some late-night laps, too. I’m so grateful he did because otherwise there’s no way I would’ve stayed up so late. By the time he showed up at 11pm, I made it a personal goal of mine to walk the marathon distance. I didn’t care how long it took, I just wanted to cover the miles. Timmy definitely helped with that as we walked under the stars and chatted the night away. He stayed for six miles, so by the time he left I was at 16!
I walked a bit more by myself, reflecting on everywhere my life has taken me in the last year. It was nice to just look up at the stars and hear nothing but people walking and quietly chatting. Living in New York City is amazing, but escaping to the countryside is equally fantastic.
Soon it was 3:00am and in need of a cat nap. So I climbed into the tent I was sharing with my mom and step-dad, snuggled into my sleeping bag and slept for 2.5 hours. ‘Twas fabulous.
Waking up at 5:30am was easy, which always seems to happen when I’m camping – it’s just easier to wake up with the sun. So I crawled out of the tent, walked a few laps to wake up, and decided to run some miles to put me closer to my goal.
My step-dad clearly knows how to catch me with beautiful form.
I covered five miles, chatting with another Relayer who was putting in some early morning time on her feet. This was her first Relay and we chatted about everything surrounding the event, running and life here versus life in NYC. Great way to pass the time! But soon my tummy was rumbling, so I dropped her off at her campsite, finished another lap and stopped for an egg sandwich another team was cooking. Yum.
The rest of the event wrapped itself up rather quickly. I finished my miles with about an hour to spare! By then, my legs were pretty dang tired and i just wanted to sleep. But we stayed through the awards to find out how much money was raised.
One thing I never knew that I found rather interesting: Herkimer County, which is where this Relay was, is the fifth poorest county in New York State. Fifth. I had no idea. Yet everyone came together, worked hard and raised an impressive amount of money because it’s what matters to them. Blows me away.
Oh, you wanna know how much we raised? Last year, $75,000 was raised. In 2012, we went over…
We far exceeded our goals and did a great job fundraising. My mom’s team, the LFH Leap Frogs, made the Gold Level and raised over $6,000! We beat every goal we had set for ourselves and couldn’t be more pleased with the results. We’re already chatting about room for improvement though and have our sights set on the platinum level next year!
I had such a fantastic weekend, and this was a great bonding experience between my family and I. I loved spending Father’s Day with Ed, working together for a cause that means so much to us. And I loved chatting with my mom about everything going on in our lives now, while we fight something that tried to take her away from us. I’m so grateful for every single day I have with my family and this was another Relay that I’ll always remember <3
I also want to shout a huge THANK YOU to everyone who donated during my fundraising period. Your generosity means so, so much to me and I could not be more blessed. Family, friends, fellow bloggers and co-workers all contributed and I’m so grateful for all of the amazing people in my life. Sending thousands of hugs and kisses your way! xxoo
What about you? Have you participated in a Relay this year? Some of you have reached out saying you were doing one after reading my past Relay posts, so if you’re a blogger, please send me links!
Happy Monday! I had a looong weekend and am finally playing catch up! But the great news is that Relay for Life was AWESOME and we raised over $75,400 for the American Cancer Society! My mom’s team did an amazing job and raised just over $3,400! What an amazing weekend spent beating cancer
For those of you who don’t know, community Relays last 24 hours, which was a completely new experience for me because college Relays are 12 hours long. The whole day was fantastic and I really enjoyed walking around the track and participating in all of the fundraisers. I ended up completing 15 miles of walking in 11 hours, along with a few games of Kan Jam and an hour of Zumba (Fun Fact: I went to school and worked at the gym with the daughter of the guy who invented Kan Jam). It was scorching out, so I’m happy with the level of activity I had going on. I also had some delicious eats!
And the one that stole the show…
There was a tad too much barbecue sauce for my taste, but I still gobbled it right up.
I also split a funnel cake with strawberry glaze with my sister, but forgot to snap a photo before we dug in. You’ll just have to believe me when I tell you it both looked and tasted delicious. Multiple apples and packets of string cheese were consumed, and I had breakfast outside of the Relay, too. Yum!
Why I Relay
Instead of detailing every single thing that went down, I thought I would tell you about why exactly I Relay every year and then include some photos that I took at Saturday’s Relay. If you have any questions afterward, feel free to e-mail me or ask in the comments!
First and foremost, I Relay for my mom. My mom was diagnosed with muscle invasive bladder cancer when I was a freshman in college, and let me tell you, nothing hits you quite like hearing that your mother has cancer. After all, it’s MY MOM. I still remember exactly where I was, what I was doing, and who I was with when she called and gave me the news.
I remember breaking down multiple times throughout my mom’s battle, terrified that I was going to lose her. Even just typing this now makes me cry. Cancer is such a terrifying thing — it rips control away from the person dealing with it and turns their own body against them. My mom was literally fighting for her life every single day and I am so proud of her for the strength she showed through such a difficult time.
Luckily, I also remember exactly where I was, what I was doing, and who I was with when my mom called and told me that she was officially in remission! I was in the dining hall with my roommate, Meghan, who was there for me every step of the way and we were lovingly dubbed “Relay Roomies” ever since our freshman year.
I also Relay for the many other people in my life who have been affected by cancer and survived. Liz’s dad conquered lymphoma when I was a young girl, a faculty member I was close with at my school, Jay Button, beat stomach cancer, and one of my cinema and screen studies professors, Amy Shore, was diagnosed with melanoma multiple times and sent it packing each time. These people are all a symbol of hope and they remind us every day that cancer can be beaten.
I Relay in honor of those we have lost to cancer. Right after my mom was declared in remission, Meghan’s aunt passed away. It was unbelievably cruel to experience so many emotions on either end of the spectrum. Each year Meghan and I team up and Relay to celebrate my mom’s life and to fight back against cancer for her aunt. If we don’t fight, cancer wins.
But we also Relay to remember those who have passed away from cancer. The co-founder of Colleges Against Cancer at Oswego State is Ginny St. Onge, a dear friend of mine whom I’ve known since I was a young freshman in college. She is one of the nicest, smartest and kindest women that I’ve ever met — all qualities that she got from her mother, Nancy St. Onge. Ginny founded CAC in honor of Nancy, who battled with breast cancer for six years. Sadly, Nancy passed away in October 2010. However, she did not lose her battle to cancer. Cancer was never able to steal her spirit, her smile, or her hope. It couldn’t take away the love that she shared with everyone.
We always honor those who are no longer with us at Relay and are reminded that they are with us, in spirit, every single day.
I Relay to fight back with everyone else who wants to beat cancer. There are so many people I don’t know personally who are battling or have battled cancer, and my heart goes out to them every day. Julie’s mom beat breast cancer and Caitlin’s neighbor, Tonya, is currently fighting an inoperable brain cancer. If you think about it, everyone you know knows someone who has been affected by cancer. I Relay because I can’t wait for the day when people don’t have to constantly hear the words “you have cancer” or “my special someone has cancer.”
Finally, I Relay because without events like these, my loved ones may not have had the resources they needed to fight cancer and stay in my life. I can’t imagine living a life without my mother in it and I’m so grateful each and every day that I still get to see my mom’s beautiful smile.
If you haven’t participated in a Relay for Life yet, I strongly encourage you to at least check it out. We’re at the peak of community Relay season now, so look for one and consider joining. You don’t have to stay for the full 24 hours, but think about going and seeing what it’s all about. I promise, it’s not all about being sad and crying. In fact, most of the time everyone’s smiling and laughing! You get to decorate your campsite to try to win cool prizes…
And you can enter raffles to win sweet basket prizes…
And they always have live bands and entertainment going on throughout the day. Plus a bunch of teams sell delicious eats!
That about sums it up for me. I hope everyone else had a fantastic weekend!
Are you participating in a Relay for Life this year? Have you ever? What did you think?
First of all, thank you so much for your great comments and advice concerning my last post about getting back on track with food! It feels good to know I’m not the only one who has slip-ups here and there, plus y’all have some great tips!
I do want to clarify quickly though that I am not binge-eating when I talk about getting off track. I still eat proper portion sizes, I just haven’t made the best decisions when choosing which meals I’m going to have. For example, instead of having an adequate lunch during the last two weeks, I’d eat something super-small, be starving later, and go for whatever craving I saw first. Either way, I just thought I’d clear that up quickly because I’m proud of the portion control I’ve been able to instill in myself when it comes to indulgences. I fully believe in an “everything in moderation” policy when it comes to food, I just needed to scale back to proper moderation.
In other news, today has been a great Friday! I kicked things off with a delicious breakfast.
For some reason I was craving eggs today, but the thought of two didn’t sound appetizing. Weird, right? I went with it though and cooked up one egg to enjoy alongside a whole wheat English muffin (small smear of Smart Balance buttery spread) and a huge orange. Yum!
I perused the blog-o-sphere while I waited for my stomach to digest my breakfast, then laced up my sneaks and headed out for the run. The weather was perfect – not too hot or cold — because a thunderstorm was making its way into town. I love running right before and after a rain storm. The weather just always feels perfect to me.
Anyway, my run was phenomenal! I had my Garmin on but decided to ignore it after I hit the one-mile mark. My body felt amazing, my legs were fresh and my breathing was in a great pattern. I didn’t want to do anything to screw it up, so I just kept movin’ and groovin’ to the music pumping through my earbuds. I didn’t focus on running fast, I just wanted to run!
I ended up completing 4.2 miles. I would’ve liked to hit five miles, and I know my body was up for it, but well, nature called. I couldn’t wait any longer, so I took a short cut home. I was a little slower than I usually am on my runs, but like I said, I just wanted to keep moving and didn’t focus on time at all. I felt so great afterward!
After a long stretch, a quick shower and getting ready for work, it was time for lunch!
I had two pieces of leftover grilled chicken from last night’s dinner, a large banana and a bag of 15 pretzels. I ended up being full after the chicken and banana, so I saved the pretzels and noshed on them later in the day (hence the plastic baggie). I also ate an apple, which snuck by photography.
Hi ho, hi ho, it’s off to work I
go went. I’ve been working for Liz’s aunt the last two weeks to help get their house ready to sell. Which basically means I have become a painting pro. I painted their downstairs bathroom and am working on their upstairs bathroom. They had some pretty funky wallpaper in each room beforehand, so it’s taking awhile to make sure everything’s pretty. Not to toot my own horn, but the first bathroom came out pretty spiffy!
They were going for a beach theme. Cute, right?
If anyone needs a room painted, I’m your girl
This is what the upstairs bathroom looked like before I
started finished putting two coats of white primer on it.
And this is me after a long day of painting.
The lighting in this whole room is funky right now, but I can assure you that this room is now obnoxiously white! Don’t worry, it’ll be green after.
Did you know that painting can be an awesome workout? I’ve done a ton of calf raises in the last week, not to mention squats and plenty of work with my arms raised above my head. I was constantly moving every day for four to six hours at a time. Feel the burn!
Speaking of moving around for long spurts of time, tomorrow is another Relay for Life! I’m participating in the community Relay at a local high school track with my whole family. I’ve never been a part of a community Relay, only the ones at my college, so this will be interesting! I have to be there at 9 a.m. and will be there until noon on Sunday (yes, over 24 hours of walking), so I probably won’t be able to post. I’m walking for a cure, baby!
I will make sure to update you on the event though, as well as give you the full story about why Relay is so important to me. If you feel moved to donate to the American Cancer Society (for a tax-deductible donation), please feel free to access my mom’s fundraising page. I don’t have my own set up for this Relay because I raised $526 for my other Relay for Life and well, I think I’ve tapped everyone out this year. But if you’re feeling generous, my whole family really appreciates it! Fighting cancer is really important to all of us.
Have a great weekend!
What unconventional workouts do you love? Have you participated in a Relay for Life this year, or ever?
Today has been a crazy day, but in the end a lot of progress was made! Good news: I have an apartment in NYC!
Apartment hunting has been a tedious process, so I’m glad it’s almost over. I’m headed to the city Monday to meet up with my two roommates and get some paperwork signed, and then it’s officially ours! I’ll be sure to provide a tour once we’re all settled
To kick off my crazy day, I had a yummy breakfast. Two slices of cinnamon raisin toast with peanut butter and bananas. I was really hungry when I woke up and focused on devouring the deliciousness in front of me, so I didn’t remember to snap a photo until it was almost gone. Please forgive me.
Yes, I’m a Boston fan. Who will be living in New York. We’ll deal with it.
Besides figuring out apartment stuff, I counted a lot of cans and bottles so my parents can return them. The proceeds will go to our community Relay for Life, which is in two weeks. Have you signed up for a Relay yet? You totally should! I didn’t snap a picture, but it took all day because there were at least 1,000 cans and bottles. I was a busy girl!
Today was a rest day, but I wanted to share a workout I did on the treadmill the other day. Sometimes my body is not feeling a consistent run and intervals become the name of the game. They work my body into a sweat right away and I always feel really accomplished after. This one was a lot of fun because I incorporated both running and walking at a high incline. When I started, I decided I was going to do whatever my body said it wanted to do. It told me this:
Mins Incline Speed
- 0-5 1.0 6.0
- 5-10 1.0 6.5
- 10-13 1.0 6.3
- 13-15 1.0 6.7
- 15-16 7.0 4.5
- 16-17 8.0 4.5
- 17-18 9.0 4.5
- 18-20 10.0 4.5
- 20-23 1.0 4.5
- 23-25 1.0 6.5
- 25-30 1.0 6.0
Now I’m off to bed — I have another busy day planned for tomorrow, so I need some rest!
Do you have a favorite interval program?
Although race season is moving into full swing, it’s not the only event gaining a lot of momentum.
And no, I’m not talking about baseball, either.
Relay for Life is taking over college campuses and towns are gearing up for their Relays in the summer. This spring, colleges across the country are raising money for the American Cancer Society to fight for a world with more birthdays.
I’ve participated in Relay for Life every year since I was a freshman and my final one as a college student took place two weeks ago. I know I’m a little slow on the update (race training got in the way!), but I still think it’s an extremely important cause that deserves as much recognition as it can get.
Never heard of Relay? It’s an overnight fundraising event that usually lasts for 12 hours. Students (or community members) form teams and raise as much money as they can before the event.
Once you’re at the event, your team members take turns walking around a track for the entire twelve hours, which symbolizes the journey that a cancer patient endures. Teams also set up fundraisers at the event and participants often enjoy snacks, games, competitions and more to stay upbeat and entertained throughout the night while raising as much money as possible.
Every Relay usually follows a theme of some sort as well. Our theme this year: sports! Why? Well, this year’s Relay was extremely important to our Colleges Against Cancer (CAC) committee because our founder, Ginny St. Onge, suffered a terrible loss. Her mother passed away this year after an extremely long battle with breast cancer. Nancy St. Onge inspired so many of us and she was always incredibly positive in her outlook toward life, so we knew this year’s Relay was going to be in her memory and honor.
We asked Ginny what Nancy would’ve wanted the theme to be and she chose sports because Nancy loved them. My team was the CAC team, so we made sure our team name went along with Nancy’s favorite sport: football! Ladies and gentleman, meet team Catching A Cure!
Dustin, Ray and Kyle were also on our team, but for some reason we forgot to take a banner picture this year. Oops..
Either way, the night was a great success as we had over 400 students come out for the night and fight cancer one step at a time.
We weren’t afraid to bust out some dance moves, either.
The community also gets involved as many businesses donate gift cards, food and drinks to fuel fundraising efforts and keep us energized throughout the night. Guess who snagged the third highest fundraiser award? This girl!
When we began Relay at 6p.m. on Saturday, March 26, we had raised just over $21K. By the time 6a.m. rolled around, we had raised $27,148.65 for the American Cancer Society — about $6,000 in one night! We accept donations up until August too, so feel free to keep sharing the love!
Why do I Relay? For many reasons, but the most personal one is because my mom was diagnosed with muscle invasive bladder cancer during my first semester away at college. It was a terrifying experience; one I don’t wish on any other family or loved one. My mom is an extremely strong woman though, and after a long, grueling journey, my mom beat her cancer. She has been cancer-free for two years now and I pray that it stays that way.
But so many people in my life have been affected by cancer. Other family members of mine have been diagnosed and my best friend’s dad fought lymphoma when we were younger. I Relay simply because without events like this, my mother and best friend’s dad may not have had the resources they needed to fight cancer and stay in my life. I Relay because I can only hope that one day people won’t have to hear the words, “you have cancer.”
So have you participated in a Relay for Life yet? It’s not too late! Sign up for one in your community, or donate to someone who is participating. Every donation helps, no matter how big or small. I raised over $500 and all of my donations came in increments of $10, $20, $25 and $50. Little pieces add up to a big picture!
I want to send a big thank you to everyone who donated to my fundraising page. It really means the absolute world to me and I can’t ever thank you enough for being so generous! I love you all!
Fellow blogger Julie, over at Peanut Butter Fingers, posted a fun survey pertaining to things you’re passionate about. I decided to answer the survey, but make mine all about fitness! Drum roll, please…
Four TV shows I watch during cardio:
- The Biggest Loser
- The Bachelor/Bachelorette
- Dancing with the Stars or America’s Best Dance Crew
- America’s Next Top Model
Four things I’m passionate about:
- Testing new workouts.
- Outdoor activities (hiking is my favorite!).
- Training and helping others reach their fitness goals.
- Fighting cancer.
Four things I’ve learned in the past:
- Don’t let the past hold you back. Who you were back then doesn’t define who you are today.
- Always be open to change. You never know what amazing things will happen.
- Communication is key. You need to know your limits and clients need to communicate with me to help me determine theirs.
- Find your reason. No matter what it is or who it is that motivates you, your passion is what’s going to push you past what you thought was possible.
Four things I’m looking forward to:
- Graduating in May and looking for jobs to moonlight as a personal trainer.
- The half-marathon I’m going to run in April.
- The triathlon I’m going to compete in this spring.
- Relay for Life at Oswego State to raise money all night to fight cancer.
Four things I love about winter:
This one’s tough for me because I’m not a huge fan of winter, but here’s what comes to mind…
- Ice skating.
- No humidity.
- Snow shoeing.
- Kisses under the mistletoe. (Did you know kissing for one minute burns 26 calories?)
It’s your turn! What fitness things are you passionate about?