Monday, June 28, 2010

They are just words, right?

I am online alot.  Some would say I am a social media junkie.  It is the wave of the future.  During these times online I read blogs, articles, facebook posts, tweets about cancer.  I am an advocate and I try to keep up on the latest news and goings on to keep readers of my blog and my facebook pages informed.  Something I started doing a while ago.  Anytime I found an interesting article or news piece I would post it, figuring it may be of interest to someone, especially since most people don't pour over medical info like I do.

I read other survivors blogs, not just breast cancer survivors, but other cancer survivors too.  Different cancer, same battle as I like to think.  We are all in the same fight.

Words.  They help, they heal.  They convey feelings.   In a prior post I blogged about my feelings of "cured" vs "cancer free."

Another word that just drives me crazy when it comes to people describing their battle is suffer (for the Vic McCarty show we actually had an author who had that in the title of his book!)

I believe in a positive mindset.  The way you look at something can change your outlook, your perception of how it is going.  When I began to talk about cancer on the radio and people asked me if I suffer from cancer I would angrily say no (I am not a cancer victim either, but that is an older blog that I wrote some time ago)  I am a fighter, I am a survivor, I am not a sufferer.  Yes cancer has attacked my body, attacked my mind, depression is something I never thought I would have and yes it has even attacked my spirit.  But through all of that I can honestly say I didn't suffer.  I prevailed.  I triumphed.  Its all in the way you look at things.  Some days I would get so tired I could barely make it through a 3 hour workday.  Some days I couldn't eat, couldn't sleep, was disgusted at the lack of hair I had from the chemo making it fall out.  The radiation machine freaked me out so much I had to crank up music on the ipod so I wouldn't hear the noise of the machine or the sound of my breathing, thinking am I breathing too hard that this will radiate my lungs (one of the side effects they tell you you may have.)
Through all of that I still don't say I suffered.

I believe in positive thinking.

I fought.

I battled.

I didn't suffer

I am  a  Warrior. 

Mel is the producer/co-host of The Vic McCarty Show.  Listen Live Monday~Friday 10am-noon eastern time on also available as a  podcast.

Check out my podcast The Cancer Warrior on  Also available on itunes.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Sun Safety, Sunscreens & Cancer

By Keith I. Block, M.D.,
Author of Life Over Cancer: The Block Center Program for Integrative Cancer Treatment

As we reach the peak season of the summer sun, wisdom suggests that we pay greater attention to protecting our skin. Yet, there are questions about the best way to do this. Should we avoid the sun? Is all sun exposure bad for us? Are all sunscreens created equal? Does clothing afford any protection?

On one hand, we've all been warned of the dangers that lurk behind those healthy-looking tans; most notably, an increased risk of skin cancer and premature wrinkles. On the other hand, there is also reasonable evidence that sun exposure does not induce melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. In fact, there are several studies that demonstrate sun exposure can actually protect us from cancer! To be specific, the exposure to UVB sun radiation has been shown to reduce the risk of 19 major types of cancer through the production of vitamin D!

So what's a bikini to do?!

I think it's important we all try to get 20 minutes of unprotected sun-to-skin exposure every day. This is essential for meeting our most basic needs for Vitamin D. Once this is taken care of, I recommend both physical protection; i.e., hats, clothing and umbrellas, as well as chemical protection, sunscreens. However, it must be mentioned that many sunscreens on the market today have come under fire not only due to inaccurate labeling -- a product states it has an SPF (Sun Protection Factor) of 50 and it's actually a 4 -- but many have been found to contain a host of controversial chemicals that include potential carcinogens, cancer promoters, free radical generators, and hormone disruptors. In addition, the use of sunscreen is known to reduce the production of Vitamin D in the body.

Tip: Try and get 20 minutes of unprotected sun exposure daily. 

Recently, The Environmental Working Group (, a non-profit organization with the mission of using the power of public information to protect public health and the environment, came out with a fairly disconcerting report about sunscreens. EWG researchers recommended only 39 of 500 (that's only 8 percent!) beach and sport sunscreens for this season. The reason? As the word got out that the higher the SPF the better, there was a surge among manufacturers misrepresenting that their products contained an SPF over 50. Additionally, there have been new disclosures addressing potentially hazardous ingredients. In particular, recent government data has linked the common sunscreen ingredient vitamin A to accelerated development of skin tumors and lesions.

According to EWG, the best sunscreen is a hat and a shirt. No worries about chemicals that will be absorbed through the skin, and no question about their effectiveness. But if you choose to wear a "teenie weenie yellow polka dotted bikini," or any clothing that provides only partial skin coverage, EWG suggests using sunscreens that provide broad-spectrum (UVA and UVB-sunburn) protection, as well as those that contain fewer hazardous chemicals.  For a list of their recommendations, go to:

 Make every effort to avoid burning your skin.  There is sufficient data to know that sun burns cause serious, long-term damage.

In an effort to make a wise decision regarding which sunscreen to purchase, many consumers look for The Skin Cancer Foundation's "seal of approval."  However, this shouldn't be the sole criteria you use to make a purchasing decision. According to the EWG, The Skin Cancer Foundation (SCF) lends its logo to hundreds of sun protection products that have not necessarily been thoroughly scrutinized.

My Advice:

Get 20 minutes of unprotected sun exposure daily. Even on cloudy days, you can still get up to 80% UV rays and boost your production of vitamin D.

Make every effort to avoid sunburns. Be particularly cautious during mid-day sun exposure or near water where reflections can increase exposure and risk of burns. This can lead to skin damage and injury. Extensive research demonstrates that sunburns -- and particularly repeated burns -- cause serious, long-term damage.

Cover up! The use of hats, shirts and umbrellas offer safe and effective protection from the sun.

Buyer beware.  Before purchasing a sunscreen, consult with a website such as to ensure you are purchasing a product that is both safe and effective.
© 2010 Keith I. Block, M.D., author of Life Over Cancer: The Block Center Program for Integrative Cancer Treatment

Author Bio:

Keith I. Block, M.D. is Director of Integrative Medical Education at the University of Illinois College of Medicine; Medical Director of the Block Center for Integrative Cancer Treatment in Evanston, Illinois; and founder and Scientific Director of the nonprofit Institute for Integrative Cancer Research and Education. He is also editor in chief of the peer-reviewed professional journal Integrative Cancer Therapies and a member of the National Cancer Institute's Physician Data Query Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) Editorial Board.
For more information, please visit and Become a fan of Life Over Cancer and the Block Center for Integrative Cancer Treatment on Facebook. 

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Friday, June 18, 2010

The Race

I went to my first NASCAR race recently, one of the perks of where I work.  I got pit passes, got up close to the drivers pit crew, saw all the prep they do during the race and when the car comes into pit row (ok so if I get the names of things wrong sorry, I play hockey, watching NASCAR to me reminds me of when I lived by the 101 freeway in the San Fernando Valley)

I am always thinking of my next blog, or podcast, what inspiring survivor I can get on the podcast, what I should write next.  I was uploading my race photos to facebook and I thought this kind of reminds me of treatment.

The race was my cancer experience.  While I was in the race, time stands still, moves slow.  For others it is just another day, minutes are regular minutes hours are hours days are days. 

The noise of the race was deafening.  That reminds me of when the doc first tells you "It's cancer"  Suddenly words run together, people are talking but it doesn't make sense.  You can hear your own heartbeat in the sound of the race.

The docs, nurses medical staff are your pit crew. All of the pit crew around the car reminded me of surgery, you are almost out of it, there are people around that you don't know and they are all checking on you.

"Checking under the hood"  as I like to call it when they do a breast exam.  The adding of the oil, like a blood draw, well you get the analogies.  Although I do think a blood draw would be less upsetting to me if the needles made that whirr sound like the pneumatic drill does in the race.

Your caregiver is your pit boss.  Making sure everything goes smoothly.  Not that that is entirely possible.  No one can foresee nausea, insomnia or any of the other lovely side effects that go along with cancer, but if it wasn't for your pit boss, your race would be more difficult

Everyones race experience is different.  Some go through treatment with little side effects, no major crashes to speak of.  Others have their cars in pit row the whole time of the race.  I have to say I was somewhere in between. 

Once the treatment is over, some people think the race is over, but there could be more races, meaning, complications, more surgeries, recurrance, depression, entirely new cancers.  Different races, different tracks.

We are all just looking to cross the finish line.  Doesn't matter if we get the checkered flag.  Just matters that that we finish the race, that we beat cancer.

I am looking forward to the time when no one will have to race.

Mel is the co-host/producer of The Vic McCarty Show.  Listen live Monday~Friday 10am-Noon on  Also available as a podcast.

Check out my podcast The Cancer Warrior on

Thursday, June 10, 2010

How Cancer Survivors Can Stay Positive

                                Another guest blogger.  Enjoy.

It’s a dreaded disease whose very name is enough to paralyze people with fear simply because survival rates are very low. So if you’re a cancer survivor, you know you’re among the select few who have beaten this horrific disease that literally eats away at your body. Death comes quickly to some who are afflicted with cancer; to others, it comes after a long and painful struggle to survive. But to those who actually become cancer-free after coping with the rigors of chemotherapy and other forms of treatment, the news comes as more of a relief than something to be elated about. This is more because cancer is notorious for returning with a vengeance, even years after you’ve been cleared of the disease.

I’ve seen both sides of the coin – I lost an uncle to colorectal cancer nine months after it was diagnosed, and I saw my grandmother beat breast cancer and live for another 20 years before she died of natural causes. So I know how fickle cancer can be – it steals life in one breath and also allows you to beat death if you’re lucky enough.

The key to surviving cancer is luck – you need to be lucky enough to detect and diagnose it in the early stages, you need luck with finding the right and most aggressive form of treatment, and most of all, you must get lucky in being able to rid your body of every last cancerous cell. Once you achieve all this, you can start to look to a positive future, one that is untainted by cancer.

The problem with cancer is that it can come back with a vengeance, so you need to do your best to stay positive in the years following your successful treatment of the disease, and the best way to do this is to:

• Focus on all that is positive with your life: You may or may not suffer a relapse, but it’s not wise to spend your life worrying about one. Focus on the fact that you’re healthy now and that you have been given the gift of life a second time. Look forward to living life fully and doing all that you want to do. And be grateful for all that you have rather than regretting the time you’ve lost to battling the disease.

• Join a support group: You may still be overwhelmed by the intensity of your experience, and if family members and friends do not seem to understand your emotional turbulence, find a support group of survivors like yourself who are more in tune with your condition. When you’re able to give vent to your feelings and listen to the stories of other survivors, you feel positive and uplifted.

• Follow up on your medical checks: You may be cancer-free, but it’s best to continue to monitor your condition and ensure that the disease does not return. The earlier you spot any signs of cancer, the sooner it is to get rid of it. Also, you feel more confident when you get yourself checked and find that you’re still free of the disease.

About the guest blogger:
This guest post is contributed by Kathy Wilson, who writes on the topic of      X-Ray Technician Schools .     She welcomes your comments at her email id:

Monday, June 7, 2010

Five Time Cancer Survivor and Author Donald Wilhelm

About the author: Donald Wilhelm is a five time cancer survivor and author.  Check out his website

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Dear Cancer...

I started thinking about this on the eve of an oncology appointment.  If cancer was here, in this room, what I would say to it.

Dear  Cancer,

I go between being really pissed at you and being grateful.  Pissed?  You are wondering why I am pissed at you?  You stole almost two years from me,  where instead of having surgeries, chemo, radiation, nausea, constipation, insomnia, anger, having my pee turn red, having mouth sores, being bald, not being able to work as much as I used to when I should have been playing hockey, riding my bike, being outside enjoying the weather, not being so fucking tired I wanted to sleep, then not being able to sleep because of insomnia, making dinner then not being able to eat because I felt like shit.

You make it hard for me to think, because of chemobrain.  I used to know the answers to things, but some days I just struggle to put sentences together. 

I have scars, both emotional and physical because of you. You made it hard for me to look at myself for the longest time, that has passed, but I am still angry about it.

You are the reason my friend Nick Corea is no longer here.  You took him from us too soon.  I still remember that day when I found out he was gone.  It was like it was yesterday.  You robbed the world of a great man.  For that you will never be forgiven.

You wonder why I am grateful?  I am not grateful for you, lets make that clear.  I am grateful that I found you early, early enough to get treatment to stop you.  I am grateful that I found strength that I never knew I had, Grateful that I have an awesome support system of friends, family and co-workers.  The medical staff that I had was the best anyone could ask for.

Grateful I found a voice not only for myself, but because of you, I can speak for those who can't, who are too afraid, too sick, too weak or just too afraid.

Grateful for the network of people that I have found who hate you as much as I do.  Who want to eradicate you as much as I do.

Grateful I have found a purpose.  Ha, you think you did all this for me?  I realized strength and determination was in me all along, it just took something as vile as you to bring it to the surface.

Now you can leave.  You can leave all my friends alone.  You can leave people I never met alone.  You can go away.  Never come back.

If you do the last five things I ask I will be eternally grateful.

Mel is the producer/co~host of The Vic McCarty Show.  Listen Live Monday~Friday 10am-noon eastern standard time on

Check out my podcast The Cancer Warrior on available on demand now, and also available on itunes