PhotoStory Friday
Hosted by Cecily and MamaGeek

Blogging  for UV Skinz has really been such a great adventure and learning experience for me. I have been able to find some amazing people during my time here. As apart of Skin Cancer Awareness Month I wanted to bring you real stories of people who have been affected or diagnosed with skin cancer. The first is a Mom, Wife, Blogger and Survivor of Stage 3 Melanoma. You can join Kerri on her journey as a Mom and cancer survivor at her blog, Life’s A Beach.

I wanted to get to know Kerri a little more, so I asked her a few questions…

How long have you been blogging? and why did you start?

I began blogging in April of 2008, one year after my diagnosis.  I had just shaved my head because I was losing so much of it from the Interferon.  I really wanted to share my story with others in hopes to save someone else from going through this horrible disease.

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Tell me why you chose Life’s A Beach as your blog name?

I have always loved the beach.  It gives me a certain sense of calm and peace.  But, really in my point of view, life is a beach.  There are periods of my life that have been calm and smooth and then parts where it seemed the waves were 10 feet high and showing no signs of stopping.  I know that eventually those storms will pass and the ocean will be smooth again, just like events in my life.

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Is there an inspirational quote or song that keeps you moving forward and gives you strength in your life?

I have two quotes that I love.  “Know thyself” has been a favorite of mine since high school.  I think it is so important to realize who you are as a person and never lose your sense of self.  The second quote that has become very inspirational to me is “Love the life you live and live the life you love.”  After my diagnosis, I had read this quote on a necklace and just had to have it.  I wear it everyday.  For me, I have to remind myself that I have to make the most of the life I have because in an instant it could change.

What is the best advice you can give to someone who thinks that skin cancer can’t happen to them?

Read my blog and read stories of other people diagnosed with melanoma.  It can happen to you – it can happen to anyone.  Melanoma does not discriminate!

I just want to Thank Kerri so much for sharing her personal story with us. Please read on and as always, you are more than welcome to comment or ask questions.

Here is her story:

I always had two major fears in my life – dying in a car wreck and being diagnosed with cancer.  Unfortunately, in 2007, one of those fears came true and I was diagnosed with Stage III Malignant Melanoma.  I had went to the dermatologist to get a ”cyst” removed just under my skin on my upper right arm.  It had been there for years, but during my pregnancy I got a blue tint on the top of my skin where the cyst was located.  Three weeks later I got a call from the doctor wanting to see me immediately.  He believed I had melanoma, but the pathology wasn’t completely able to diagnose that for sure.  He referred me to MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston and 10 days later I was seeing one of the best melanoma surgeons in the country.  My doctors at MD Anderson did their own biopsy and came up with the same conclusion.  It could be melanoma or maybe not.  To be on the safe side, since I did have a 9 month old and a 3 year old at the time, we decided to do a wide local excision and a sentinel node biopsy. Once the results came back, the diagnosis was definite for melanoma and it had spread to one lymph node in my neck and one in my axilla.  Not only had it spread, but it was very thick – 11 mm.  So, I had a second surgery to remove more tissue where the melanoma was and to remove all the lymph nodes in my neck and axilla on the right side.  I had more than 50 nodes removed and luckily they were all clear for melanoma.  I then began what was supposed to be a year long treatment of Interferon.  I made it through nine months of horrible side effects before my body just started rejecting it.  June 29, 2009 will mark my two-year anniversary of being NED (no evidence of disease).  For now, I must have skin checks every three months and CT and MRI scans every 6 months.  It has been such a long road, but I am by no means out of the woods.

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Before my diagnosis, I was a healthy 29-year-old. I had gotten really bad sunburns as a child and teenager and also was a frequent user of tanning beds.  I never really thought I would get skin cancer, much less melanoma.  I have to say that being diagnosed at such an early age really gave me a new perspective on life.  I don’t sweat the small the stuff.  I appreciate my husband, my children and my life in a way I never had before.  I am now a stay-at-home mom, because I want to be and also because I am unable to work right now.  I have lingering effects from the Interferon and effects from the two surgeries that impair the use of my right arm if I do too much.  Most melanomas can be prevented.  Just stay out of the sun and wear sunscreen and never use tanning beds.  It’s that easy.  Those measures can save your life.

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