Protect Yourself. Please.


Workout – cross training.  scary how responsible I am being as a runner.  there’s got to be some sort of accolade for that.  prize money?  award?  I am not running today.  although I feel better everyday, tightness is still there, but working itself out. I am smartly cross training.  there is no need to run 3 days in a row on my trek back to running faster.  I am simply getting back in the groove.  wherever the groove is.  for the next week and a half.  running every single day certainly won’t hurt me, but it isn’t going to necessarily help me right now either.  so I’m playing it safe and easing back in.  and spending lots of time on the stairmaster today. 

1 hour speed intervals/fat burner (that’s the program, I like the fat burner because of the variation in intensity.  it’s like rolling hills on the master)

Now, a little poem I made up to segway into the point of this post.  from the eency teency bit of creativeness that is somewhere in the recesses of my brain.  I will need a nap after the amount of mental energy it took for me to come up with this special little piece… (FYI, serious post…)

There once was a girl named Katie

Who was 35 weeks pregnant with her second baby

With a 13 month old at home

The doctor told her she was not alone

there was a little thing called melanoma keeping her company.


Quite possibly the scariest day of my life.  yep.  definitely the scariest day of my life.

I had no idea what melanoma really was before this.  before the PA at the dermatologist so kindly filled me in as she was removing my mole.  This is the exact converstation:

ME: “So, what could this be?”

PA: “Well, it’s either basal cell carcinoma, which is really no big deal.  Or it is melanoma, which is pretty bad and there’s not much we can do about it.  we’ll give you a call within two weeks after we get the results back from Yale”  That was on a Tuesday.

OK, fantastic.  well here’s to hoping it’s JUST basal cell.  that sounds fun.  note to PA – don’t EVER say, ‘there’s not much to be done for melanoma’ when you are not sure whether or not your patient has melanoma.  it will stick with that poor patient.  forever. 

I get a phone call on my way to playgroup with my one year old – 3 days later – a Friday. 

Hi Katie.  I never make these phone calls on a Friday, but this is really bad.  You have melanoma.  we need to get you in to a surgeon like a month ago.  He is booked today but I have an appointment for you on Monday.  All I can tell you is that it was over 1mm thick, which puts you at a higher risk category and I don’t really have much more information for you.  Again, I’m sorry to do this to you on a Friday, but we need to get things going.  you need to have surgery asap.

I am speechless.  I pull the car over.  tears flow.  baby girl in the back seat.  baby girl in my tummy.  melanoma on my thigh.  my head is spinning.  I hang up the phone because I don’t even know what to ask the doctor.  or which way is up.  I’m 25.  I have a small child.  and one on the way.

I cry.  a lot.  and I have 3 days to google the heck out of melanoma to learn my fate.  and that it doesn’t look good.  and that there’s no way I am going to survive this.  that’s how I interpret the crazy amount of information the internet provides.  not a smart move.  but I had no choice when I needed answers (spoiler alert – I’m obviously alive and well, the internet turned me a bit hysterical ;-)) 

I made myself sick that weekend.  literally, ill.  having no idea what was going to happen.  I had this mole as long as I could remember.  who knows how long this had been brewing.  who knows how far it could have possibly spread.  stuff like this does not happen to a 25 year old who has a 1 year old and is 35 weeks pregnant with #2.  but it does.

I had pulled myself together by Monday when we met with the surgeon.  This was the week of Thanksgiving, 2007.  My OB was ready to take me in to have the baby that night so that I could have surgery before the end of the week.

The surgeon said he would much prefer not do the surgery while I was pregnant if they were willing to deliver the baby early.  He said I could go no more than 3 weeks before having surgery.  that scared the heck out of me, waiting that long to get rid of this cancer.  I scheduled to be induced the following Monday, at 36 weeks, and have the surgery exactly one week after that.  2 weeks total I had to wait for surgery.  needless to say, the birth of my daughter was bittersweet.  I had crazy emotions going from this is beautiful, I’m having my daughter to oh my goodness, I’m forcing this poor little girl out of me 4 weeks early BECAUSE I have melanoma that I now have to go deal with.  and my fears extended to my family and my children.  if I can get cancer, what about my children.  no one is safe.  I became very afraid of the vulnerability of my children’s health to awful things like this.  tough.  I had a one week old at the hospital with me.  nursing her every chance I got, wearing my awkward hospital gown, before I had to go in to surgery.

Thirteen and a half month old

Perfectly healthy 5lb 12oz baby girl

Surgery.  get it out. 

Because of the size of the mole, they had to take a 2in. diameter mass out of my leg, down to the muscle.  and a lymph node out of my groin to see if it spread.  this left me with quite a scar on my thigh to enable the surgeon to get out what he needed and stitch it all back up.

iphone pics 803

BIG reminder to me everyday.  melanoma does not discriminate.  and it’s getting more and more ‘popular’. 

wear sunscreen

don’t use tanning beds

I run.  I run in the sun.  a lot.  I never used to wear sunscreen.  I wear it now.  The dermatologist would have me wear longsleeve protective clothing. and a sunhat when I run.  that’s not going to happen.  but I will wear spf 85 sunscreen.  and I will never lay out at the beach.  ever.

I had to meet with an oncologist after the surgery.  He did a PET scan.  everything was clear.  nothing spread.  I AM VERY LUCKY.

Had my OB not FORCED me into the dermatologists office to get this mole checked, I never would have had it looked at.  It was a part of me.  always there.  and it would have kept growing and growing.  melanoma is aggressive once it spreads.  everywhere.  My OB didn’t like how it looked.  she was right.  it was pretty nasty.  this could have turned out FAR worse.

Here are some stats:  SOURCE

The statistics:

  • One-in-50 Americans has a lifetime risk of developing melanoma.
  • In 2009 nearly 63,000 were diagnosed with melanoma in the United States, resulting in approximately 8,650 deaths. 
  • The projected numbers (according to the National Cancer Institute) for 2012 are even higher with 76,250 diagnosis and 9,180 deaths.

This means that every eight minutes, someone in the United States will be given a melanoma diagnosis and that every hour someone will die from the disease.   

Melanoma is the fastest growing cancer in the United States and worldwide.
  • The American Cancer Society estimates that the risk of developing invasive melanoma in the United States averages out to approximately a 1 in 50 chance of developing melanoma throughout your lifetime. 
  • The incidence of people under 30 developing melanoma is increasing faster than any other demographic group, soaring by 50 percent in young women since 1980. 
  • Melanoma primarily affects individuals in the prime years of life, is the most common form of cancer for young adults 25-29 years old and the second most common cancer in adolescents and young adults 15-29 years old. 
  • Although melanoma is most common in Caucasians, melanoma can strike men and women of all ages, all races and all skin types. The mean age for diagnosis of melanoma is 50, while for many other cancers it is 65-70 years old.


When you are out running, on a sunny day, or even a cloudy day – wear sunscreen.  Do yourself a favor and don’t go to a tanning salon.  Do yourself another favor and wear sunscreen when you go to the beach.  being tan is NOT worth the risk.  go buy some self tanner.  although I’m not sure that’s exactly great for you either.

This ‘event’ was probably the catalyst into being more aware of my body and what I put into it.  I read so much about cancer rates and how your diet can possibly play a big role in sickness, and health.  It was scary.  the statistics are scary.  they became scarier thinking about them in terms of my own children.  I have my health.  and I have the health of these three beautiful little people that I brought into this world – that I kind of want to stay with me here for a long time.  I alone am responsible for doing my best to make sure they are healthy and well.  I do believe a lot of that starts with what we put into our bodies.

10 months after I had Anna and my surgery, I ran my first marathon, which happened to be my first race.  And I qualified for Boston. 

I was healthy.  my kids were healthy.  and I want to keep it that way.

stuff to think about

Update on the Homefront

1. Wishes do come true.  so I better start wishing for things other than I hope my two year old has an ear infection.  he does have an ear infection.  a double one.  why have one when you can do both at the same time.  I am a bad mom.  that would explain the fever last week.  he’s got two doses of antibiotics in him and still spent 90% of his day screaming at me throwing tantrums.  if he had a full vocabulary, that screaming would probably be rated R obscenities.  since he can not speak so well yet, I’m choosing to believe he is screaming sweet nothings at me in a very angry, passionate tone – I LOVE YOU SO MUCH, YOU ARE SO AMAZING MOM, AND SO BEAUTIFUL!!!  I WORSHIP THE GROUND YOU WALK ON AND YOU ARE A SUPERFAST, SUPERFIT RUNNER!!!  things like that.

2. This would be the tiniest little food processor.  but I love it. 

iphone pics 804

perfect little kitchen accessory for perfect little amounts of chopping and mincing.  little magic bullet.  I bought when I was in the I will make all of my baby food phase.  nope.  never happened.  the cloth diapering phase lasted a little longer.  but it’s chopped it’s fair amount of garlic and carrots for crock pot chicken tortilla soup that I made tonight – that I will post the recipe for – I PROMISE!!!

3.  My bright little Anna noted that my peanut butter protein bars would taste delicious with some nutella (or other chocolatey substance) smothered over the top.  oh my child.  I have done something right.  I’ve passed on my love for chocolate.  her sister noted it would be equally delicious crumbled over ice cream.  many possibilities to turn a fairly healthy treat into a sinfully delicious one.  and I would have to agree.  go get some nutella and try it out. 

4.  I ate a whole package of tic tacs on the way home from the store.  what???  Luke snagged them in the checkout line and opened them before I could get them away.  I had to buy them.  then they were sitting next to me in the car.  I have no idea why I ate them.  I can’t remember the last time I had a tic tac.  I didn’t even enjoy it.

5.  All children were tucked in bed by 6:10 tonight.  because little boy was up at 5am today.  in a very pissy mood.  again.  for the umpteenth day in a row.  I almost cried.  I just couldn’t start my day like that.  it’s like starting a marathon at a full out sprint.  no warmup.  thank God for the hubs.  saved my day.

the end


Do you wear sunscreen when you run in the sun?

Do you go tanning?  Don’t answer that if you do.  just kindly stop doing it:-)

Have you ever used a magic bullet?  Pretty spiffy


32 responses »

  1. Wow, wow, wow. You have me speechless. This is one of your best posts. I admit I am lazy when it comes to daily sunscreen except on my face which sounds incredibly vain to me now. So relieved all ended well for you and those gorgeous kids.

  2. This is such an amazing post – thank you for sharing. It is wonderful how you took that scary experience and used it for positive transformation. My husband and I were just having a conversation about all of the things that require vigilance to keep them healthy – relationships, parenting, physical health, finances, exercise, mental health (you get the point). It can seem overwhelming and can be tempting to let “little” things like sunscreen or spending or whatever slide. You have given such an important reminder! It’s so important to maintain that vigilance and stay as informed as possible while recognizing the truly small stuff and let it go.

    Oh and I freaking love your interpretation of Luke’s tantrums – I am so using this awesome coping skill!

    • There is just soooo much that goes into keeping these little kids healthy – big responsibilities, but big rewards. You are such a good mom for being so aware of what goes into keeping “healthy” well balanced kids. good luck in your half this weekend!!!

  3. I had a spot on my back removed a couple of years ago, and it’s left me with a scar. Thanks for posting this. I think it’s so important that people are aware how dangerous the sun’s rays can be!

  4. I worked at a tanning salon for about 6 months when I was 18 years old (for the discounts, of course) and it terrifies me that even though I don’t go tanning now, those couple months that I spent part of nearly every day in a tanning bed will come back to haunt me! You’ll never catch me tanning again, and I get angry with someone if they tell me they tan. It’s just not worth it! Thanks for the reminder about wearing sunscreen while running, that is something I definitely need to do more often.

      • thanks for this post. I was 25 when i found out i had my melanoma too. drs aren’t always the most tactful in the way they handle the situation, mine stared at me with a puzzled look and said, wow 25? you are so young to have this. i was so scared. for me, tanning beds were a norm in college, I didn’t realize the lasting effects, but i do now. i try to reach out to kids in their teens because that seems to be a popular time for “tan skin” without really thinking about what the damage can be.

  5. I always, always wear sunscreen. I am very fair-skinned and where I live the sun is harsh, so my mother installed in me the importance of sunscreen. That habit is something I am very grateful for. I really do think too many people ignore the dangers of melanoma and the sun; good on you for posting about it!

  6. I’ve been thinking/worrying about this a lot lately. I’ve had to have two moles removed and checked for melanoma, but they were both benign.

    Before going to a music festival, almost all my friends were hitting the tanning salon for a “base” tan. They all told me I would burn without a “base” and laughed at the thought of me “remembering” to wear sunscreen during a 3 day weekend of drinking out in the desert. I’m proud to say I was one of the only people who did not burn. I also made sure to rub/spray sunscreen on all of my friends who would let me.

    I always wear sunscreen on my runs but I worry about sweating it off on my 2+ hour long runs. I’m a pretty heavy sweater. Ha.

  7. Wow…great post Katie. As someone who has had surgery twice to remove basal cells I thank you for sharing this. Sunscreen is soooo important. I stress the importance of it to my kids. Every time I go to Moes in town I am tempted to show the teenage girls (going into the tanning saloon next door) the scars on my face. Thank you for sharing this part of your life with us…I’m glad you are healthy and Anna is such a special little girl.

  8. Thanks for sharing this very personal story. It’s so easy to take good health for granted until the err of our ways comes to kick us in the butt. I never used to wart sunscreen until my early 20’s when my father in law, who never get ever is in the sun, had to have a large cancerous tumor on his chest removed that was skin cancer. Scared the mess out of me, enough to make me out on sunblock every day since then…rain or shine.

    • THAT is scary! But good for you for taking it to heart and protecting yourself! and good luck this weekend my friend!!!! You are going to rock it – give it your all:)

  9. I am very fair, and always wear some kind of SPF. I’ve still had to have a couple of pre-cancerous lesions frozen off, so I try to be extra careful.
    A girl I went to school with from elementary on through high school died from melanoma a couple of years ago. We were 34 at the time. She left behind a husband and 2 girls, 7 and 9 years old.
    Always wear sunscreen, and don’t forget your lips and ears!

  10. Such a great post! I’m fair skinned and freckled, so I worry so much about skin cancer. I don’t go to tanning beds or lay out, but I do have such a hard time being “safe” when it comes to running. I hate the way sunscreen feels (ugh, and how much worse it feels as I start to sweat it off), and how it gets all over my running clothes. So, I’m always bargaining with the weather, deciding if there’s enough cloud cover (or a short enough run) to skip the sunscreen. This post is a good reminder to me though, I just need to suck it up and wear the stuff! I’ve already had one mole removed, and thankfully it was benign!

    • I was and still am the same way about my feeling towards sunscreen, but I still do it. It’s a pain taking the time to put it on before a run and getting it all over everything – but worth it years down the road!

  11. I LOVE my sunscreen 🙂 And with BOTH of my parents having had basal cell carcinoma and being the parent of a red head, I daily wish I had taken stock on Coppertone 10 years ago. Have you seen any of the great studies about lycopene and skin cancer? I’m SUPER lucky that my fairest skinned child is obsessed with tomatoes and carries a tube of sunscreen in his backback & lunch box every day (you get my drift) so we cover ou bases.

  12. thanks for blog it.. because.. you know.. we have to reminder it again and again.. I wish all good for you!

  13. You probably already know this, but your post is very timely, because it is “melanoma awareness month.” –thanks for sharing your story & for the reminder to be safe in the sun!

  14. This was such a powerful post. Thanks for sharing your experience.

    I have rosacea on my face (blame it on my irish half) and have been wearing face sunscreen everyday for 10 years (before that, I absolutely never wore it, thinking I didn’t need it as I’m also half caribbean and thus naturally tanned). I like Neutrogena as it has never made me break out. But as a newish runner, I’ve been experimenting with different sunscreens for the body (trying to find a decent sporty, waterproof-ish one). Even though I slather the stuff on like nobody’s business, I STILL come home with tanned arms and legs, even after a short 30-40 min run. I know there are some which would kill for my ability to tan so easily without ever burning, but I know that every tan is actually just skin damage. I really don’t want blotchy, wrinkled skin – or worse – in my old age! I guess the secret is to keep reapplying the sunscreen? But who does this during a run??

    • I have the same problem! Well, I’m not half Caribbean (lots of Irish!), but when I go out for a long run the sunscreen just sweats off and I still end up building up a slight tan. It’s not very dark so I never thought much of it, but when my dermatologist saw it she totally chewed me out (in a nice way :). I haven’t found a solution either, other than running in the early morning or evenings.

      • My derm is not happy if she sees tan lines! I think if you are at least getting the sunscreen on, the tan isn’t as bad, maybe? I don’t know, it’s a tough one finding the right one that works.

    • It’s worth looking into, but getting some sun while you are wearing sunscreen over time, might not be as bad and damaging as getting a sunburn or even a tan without wearing sunscreen. You are getting some protection at least. I know I would not stop in the middle of my run to apply sunscreen!

  15. Hrm.. I’m kinda freaked out now.. my 13 yo son had a funky mole on his head when he was 8.. I thought it was butt ugly so I took him to the derma to get it removed.. turned out to be melanoma! The woman who called with the results told me I had to get him up to the PA children’s hospital asap.. blah blah blah.. I was hysterical!!! We eneded up staying in NJ and got it removed.. or so we thought.. I found 3 “freckles” growing on the scab about a year later.. another dr we go.. he removed it further and that’s it.. never been back.. never googled how bad it is/was.. I should schedule a check up..

  16. Pingback: 56 Miles « msfitrunner


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