#hope

I Was 28 When I Found Out That I Had Skin Cancer. Here’s What It Taught Me

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Like many people, I grew up loving the sun, beach and being outdoors. I craved that feeling of being warmed by the sun and having it bronze my fair skin. As a teen, I never thought basking in the sun and tanning my skin could be so destructive. When I was younger, it was all about just being tan. For me, that meant not always wearing sunscreen. Little did I know how stupid I was being.

There is a very unsexy side of sunbathing and tanning beds. And I can tell you firsthand that not caring for your skin is a big mistake. I hope that you can learn from my lesson rather than go through it yourself.

My countless hours in the sun, many of which were unprotected, caught up with me eventually. What’s crazy, too, is that I didn’t even realize it at first. I had this dry, red, scaly patch on my forehead. Even though the spot had been developing for years, I didn’t think anything of it. I thought it was just from touching my face or adjusting my hair. I kept it hidden under makeup and would just go about my day. Then I was home over Thanksgiving with my family and wearing no makeup.

My brother, a physician, said, “What is that on your forehead?” I remember him examining me like doctors do, and he said very seriously, “I think you have skin cancer.” With a bit of attitude I said, “I don’t have skin cancer!”

I then went to my dermatologist the following week to find out for sure. They took a biopsy, and sure enough, I had skin cancer (basal cell carcinoma). I couldn’t believe it. I thought that only happened to people who were much older than me. I definitely was not prepared to have my head sliced open and cancer taken out of my face.

A week later, my dermatologist, Dr. Jaffe, performed Mohs surgery to remove the cancer. My forehead was cut open about the size of a quarter to remove the tumor. He told me that it was imperative that I had it taken care of right away.

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Riverchase Dermatology, Naples, Florida

Dr. Jaffe said that the jury is out on whether my skin cancer was due to sun exposure at a young age, a burn, or just chronic sun exposure over a number of years that made me predisposed. He performs about 10 Mohs surgeries a day and told me that this specialized treatment offers the highest cure rate but only if detected and treated early. His patients are normally in their mid-60s. I was 28.

The good news is that skin cancer is preventable and curable when caught early. Of course, we all want to be outside and enjoying ourselves, but you have to be smart about the exposure you get.

So, let me be your lesson. Don’t wait until you have skin cancer before you protect yourself and wear sunblock. Do it now!

I don’t like the scar on my forehead for vanity reasons and because I get my picture taken and appear on TV for a living. Sometimes, photographers ask me if I got into an accident and bumped my head because I have so much scar tissue in the area where I had surgery. Other people tell me they can’t even see it. On the flip side, my scar represents what I went through and definitely keeps me in check. Every day when I look in the mirror, it’s a reminder to put on my sunscreen.

I don’t want to scare people. I want to inspire them. Wearing sunscreen and protective clothing in the sun and limiting your exposure to the sun isn’t scary. It’s smart. It’s responsible. I wasn’t smart or responsible in the sun growing up. I hope others can learn from my mistakes and be inspired to protect their skin, make regular appointments with their doctors, and stay healthy.

Even if just one person benefits from reading my story, it makes my headaches from nerve damage during surgery and my scar worth it. I wish I could have read a story like this when I was a teenager. It probably would have hit home a lot harder than just my mother saying, “Wear your sunscreen.”

To help prevent skin cancer, take the following precautions:

Wear chemical-free sunblock containing zinc and titanium every day.
Wear a hat and protective clothing.
Avoid being outside during peak sun hours.
Seek shade if possible.
Get an annual skin check by a dermatologist.
Remember not to be afraid to go to the doctor if you notice something changing on your skin or that a mole has grown or changed in color. The sooner you see a doctor, the less likely it will be bad news.

Story originally published on mindbodygreen.com

Pennies From Heaven

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I’m a great believer in signs. I think they are always all around us, guiding us, and giving us the insight and inspiration we need in the moment.

A significant sign, to me, is noticing an increase of pennies, nickels and small coins in my path. I’ve learned that one of the most common signs that our deceased loved ones are visiting us is the use of small signs and symbols.

About a month after my dear friend Sam passed away, I started seeing coins in my path quite frequently. I would find pennies randomly and seemingly out of place. At first, I didn’t think much of it, but when I started finding coins staring straight back at me on a regular basis as I went about my day, I started paying more attention.

Like the day I was leaving a photo shoot at a pristine Wall Street building. I was feeling stressed and anxious about a work situation, and was rushing to another appointment. As I was speed walking and working up a sweat in my scarf and heavy winter coat, the shiniest penny I have ever seen was right in front of me on the immaculately kept marble floor. There literally wasn’t even a speck of dirt on the floor, but there in front of me, a penny.

After weeks of seeing coins in my path, I slowed down, smiled, looked right at the penny, and said, “Hi baby, I love you.”

I knew it was Sam. I knew he was telling me, “It’s ok. I’ve got you. Everything is going to be ok. Everything is going to work out. I am with you. You are supported. You are valuable. You are loved.”

Whatever tension I was holding onto was immediately let go. I relaxed. I knew it was all going to be ok.

I had gotten used to seeing pennies, sometimes nickels and dimes on my path, but it had been about a week, and I found nothing. I remember saying to Sam, “What’s up? Where have you been? I miss you.”

That same day, on the subway, I looked down, thinking I saw a penny, and it was just old gum stuck to the ground in a circular shape.

Now I was joking with Sam like we always did in person, asking him again, “What’s up? Oh, you think you’re funny. Ok.”

The very next day, I met my friend Melissa at a Thai restaurant in Jersey City. She was already seated, and waiting for me at the table. I sat down, ordered some food, started talking, and telling her about Sam and all the coins, and how I hadn’t seen any in a while.

About a minute later, I looked over to my left, and I was literally sitting next to about 200 coins spread out all over these Buddha statues. I literally laughed out loud and got the chills from head to toe.

Sam and his hilarious, very dramatic sense of humor! I could hear him laughing hysterically and saying, “I’ll show you, Kate, I’ll get your attention in a big way!” It was such a beautiful moment with my recently deceased friend. I felt so connected to him, and so silly for ever doubting he is always with me and loves and values me so very much.

Whether you have recently lost a loved one or not, finding coins is a major sign that we are highly valued. Please take this to heart, and when you notice a coin that seems out of place, take a moment to take in this important message.

I believe when our loved ones cross over, they want to let us know they are doing well, watching over us and sending their love. I also believe they send small signs and symbols by placing something like a penny in our path to point us in the right direction.

I continue to find comfort in these “pennies from heaven.” I see the significance of the number 1 as unity and a oneness. To me, it’s a sign that there is unity and Oneness in the afterlife, and also a unity and Oneness between my loved one and me. I feel his spirit move with and through me.

I know it also means my deceased loved ones are always visiting, guiding, protecting and loving me while showing me I am valued and never alone. The coins are a gentle reminder to slow down, enjoy the present moment and be thankful.

The next time you see a coin cross your path, allow yourself to pause and remember:

You are valued.

You are loved.

 

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