The Last Day Of Melanoma Awareness Month

Some of you may know my story when it comes to melanoma. I wrote about it in detail here and I’ve shared stories of some special people in my life who died young from melanoma.

Marty and Jennifer both had an impact on my life well before cancer took them, but that they both died from melanoma connects me to them in ways deeper than just the good times we shared.

This video is one that has been making the rounds this month and I’ve seen it on a few blogs I visit. I almost skipped it thinking what else do I need to know about this dreadful disease, but I discovered a few facts I hadn’t known and it prompted me to write this post.

No matter if you’re 16 or past 70 like my friend Patrice’s mom, Marilyn, who died only seven months after her diagnosis, you need to know what melanoma looks like and how quickly it can take your life or the life of someone you love.

Spend a few minutes on The Skin Cancer Foundation’s site and forward this post or parts of it to people you love.

May is Melanoma Awareness Month and awareness can save your life. I know because it saved mine.

With my melanoma history, my daughter’s chances of skin cancer increase by 50%. Sunscreen and skin checks by a dermatologist are vital along with a good awareness of how her moles normally look so she can tell if they change in any way. She would likely say I was a bit of a nag as much as I talk to her about checkups and sunscreen, but watching people you love die from something that might  have been preventable is a horrible thing to witness.

Most people think they know enough about melanoma or they think it only affects you when you’re older, but sites like this one meant to educate a younger generation say that melanoma is the second leading cause of death in 15 to 30 year-olds. Facts like these are worth paying attention to so please listen and please talk to the people you love.

Don’t say goodbye to someone too soon.

A Last Goodbye - Patrice & Joe At Their Mother's Grave

Memorial Day Memories In 2011

For much of my life remembering the war dead on Memorial Day has been about those lost during WWII or the Vietnam War. It was easier when I was younger to balance a plate of barbecue while watching a parade of war veteran’s marching to honor fallen comrades. It was more distant then, less personal.

There were stories of course like those I heard about my great-uncle Hugh Lee, who died in France during WWII, but nothing close enough to affect me personally. Having died years before I was born, it was my father and my great-grandmother who talked about him the most and made him more to me than just a name on a gravestone in the family plot.

Gratefully, he was the last in our immediate family to die in service and while my father and I both spent time in the Army, neither of us were faced with military conflict.

At fifty, I struggle to read the news reports of war related deaths especially when I see that some of the people dying are my daughter’s age or younger. I can’t imagine their parent’s grief. I don’t want to know how that feels.

What I do know is how important the stories we share are no matter if they happen at the cemetery or over a plate of barbecue. I won’t be doing either today, no visits to war memorials and no family gatherings with food or conversation, but I will remember and not just my family.

I’ll spend some time today with the stories I usually can’t bear to read because this is a day for remembering and for acknowledging the loss that some people can never forget.

Here’s one of my stories from last year. If you have a link to one you’d like to share, feel free to leave it in a comment below.


‘Dear Madame’ Chapter 3

Sorry to have been gone for a while. It’s a long story and one I’ll likely share later, but today I’m back with another chapter of ‘Dear Madame’ for you. If you’ve forgotten what happened in the first two chapters, read here and here for chapters 1 and 2 before reading chapter 3 below. Let me know what you think if you feel like sharing and please feel free to pass it on to friends.

Patricia hardly knew what to think about the letter she’d just read. Could there really be a connection between a box of old letters her mother had here in the US and a French one found hidden in chair in England. She’d never heard her mother mention any letters, but clearly she had talked to someone. Well, maybe she hadn’t actually talked to anyone, but glancing from the photocopy she held in her left hand back to the letter she’d just read in her right, it looked as if her mother had certainly made contact with at least one man.

Leaving everything behind but the two letters, Patricia got up from the floor and moved to her study searching the letter for the man’s name as she walked down the hall. She walked quickly past the bathroom even though she’d been dying to go in the few minutes before she came through the front door. She couldn’t decide whether traffic in this city was helping her bladder or hurting it and often joked with her girlfriends that she’d be packing adult diapers in her sample case if they didn’t soon finish the never-ending road work that slowed her commute each day.

Easing into an oversized office chair, she sat down at the desk she had rescued after her parent’s divorce. It was one of those big partners desks for two and she’d grown up hearing them battle each other across it like the courtroom warriors they both wished to be. Unlike the news-making litigators that had inspired their law school dreams, neither had ever tried cases even though they’d argued for years as passionately as if they were before the Supreme Court justices instead of facing each other in the home office of the house where she’d grown up.

They hadn’t separated until Patricia had moved into her dorm at the university and she was glad she hadn’t been there for the final battles over the house and other stuff. She had grown weary of their daily dramas long before they seemed to tire of each other and the idea of separate houses for the holidays made going home more inviting even if home was a place she no longer recognized.

She’d learned early it wasn’t stuff that made a place a home and except for a few things like the desk neither parent had wanted, she tended to travel light during the years before she’d bought her condo.

Leaning forward, Patricia felt the edge of the desk push against her breastbone as she reached around the back of her iMac to find the on switch. She flipped it on with the practiced feel of someone who never left her computer on when she was away during the day. She’d owned it so long it wasn’t good for much more than research or email and she pushed a couple of stacks of paper out of her way readjusting what her Uncle Ed used to call her horizontal filing system. Patricia knew it affected her efficiency to always have to search for things as she did, but she was too tired at the end of the day to decide what to toss and she tended to hold on to more than she should.

While her computer booted up, she reread the letter pulling out the important information. She wondered how her mother had found this man, Trenton Molesworth, and checked her spelling as she typed his name into Google and added Bonhams as an after thought.

Bonhams sounded vaguely familiar to her and she realized why when she pressed the return key on her computer and saw the website come up. While she had remembered that Bonhams was an auction house of some sort, she hadn’t known how many locations there were worldwide and the range of items they offered for sale.

She expected to see Trenton Molesworth listed as someone who provided auction valuations and was surprised when his name came up as the editor of Bonhams Magazine. Patricia clicked on the link that opened into a recent article written by him where he was talking about the 200-year-old love letter and it’s possible significance to a historical event. He went on to say that it was a shame that there was only this one letter as he needed more evidence to support his theory. Ho Ho, she thought, don’t we all wish we had a little more than we do.

Saving the link to the Bonhams article by Molesworth, she quickly googled the words, 200-year-old-love letter and found a translation on the BBC news site.

‘ My dear small love, do not be worried, do you seriously believe I would tell anything to these people, who don’t understand anything about love?

If someone insists that I say something, it will be anything but the dear love acquired by you, which is the great treasure hidden in my heart.

I didn’t tell you to come yesterday because I didn’t have the opportunity, but do come every Tuesday around 5:30, and Fridays as well; I count/hope on you tomorrow.

At the moment I write this letter, I can hear my aunt yelling, who else annoys us all day long, today and tomorrow.

My dear, I cover you with kisses and caresses until… I need you in this moment of desire. I love you.’ *

Patricia read the translation several times and went back through the BBC reporter’s version of the story noting how the letter was discovered and by whom. Afterwards she thought it was certainly sweet, but could not see what made Molesworth think there was more here than just a few tender words between lovers.

Resting her eyes as she thought about what to do next, she brushed back a bit of strawberry blond hair that never seemed to stay put and picked up the photocopy of the letter from her mother that the Trenton fellow had mailed back with his note of interest. As she scanned the letter written in French, she noticed there were notes in the margins and parts of it were circled and highlighted.

It looked as if her mother’s photocopy had brought out the editor in Trenton Molesworth and she caught a word in English that made her look a bit closer at the notes he had scribbled along the edge of the page. Taking a breath, she held it without realizing as she thought about what he was suggesting … did he really believe that something like that might be possible …

* Love letter translation taken from BBC online story about a found 200-year-old Love Letter.

And Then There Were Two …

“Only love can be divided endlessly and still not diminish.”
Anne Morrow Lindbergh

There was a happy cause for celebration last Friday when John’s youngest daughter safely delivered a new little Jersey girl. I mention safely, as she was considered high risk and in the end had to have a Caesarean section several weeks before she was due. Both mother and child are doing well although they are still in the hospital.

This is John’s second grandchild and I am sure I’m going to love spoiling her just as much as the original Jersey Girl. As JG’s seventh birthday approaches it will be interesting to see her navigate the change involved in going from an only child to an older sister. Being the eldest of four girls, I may be a resource for her ‘older sister’ questions as well as retaining my role as the ‘chief fun planner’ of future stays at Bapa’s & E’s house in Cornwall.

I only have the one photo, but I’ll pop in more when I receive them. I’m struggling a bit with what to call this new little one when I write about her here. It may get a bit complicated … any suggestions for what to call the youngest Jersey girl?

An Update From The Edge

Where do I begin …

Let me first say how moved I have been by the messages of support and encouragement I have received since my last post. I have had weepy moments reading and rereading your kind words and your suggestions as to how I might find some peace have been a great help to me. As I’ve managed to move through panic and a mix of other palpitation inducing emotions, I find I am learning some unexpected lessons in letting go.

I spent time yesterday with two close friends who have been helping me enormously with some of the logistical issues I’m dealing with now. Their kindness, and generosity of time and resources have been such a gift to me and their support has made it possible me to move away from a temporary ‘ Chicken Little ‘ mentality that made me feel a bit crazy last week.

As important as their physical support has been, I also had two separate conversations with them that were illuminating and likely to be life changing. You know how people can say something over and over and you think you’ve heard it, well bless them both for their tenacity and willingness to keep repeating themselves because it finally got through my filter. By filter, I mean the voice in my head that wants to qualify, justify, or explain, instead of considering a different possibility.

This time, I think got it and I’m not sure that would have been possible with being so wide open emotionally from the unrelated issue I alluded to in my previous post.

Despite being in such a scary place of uncertainty last week I am managing well now day by day and doing what I need to wrap things up so I can go home to Cornwall and John. I have had so many offers of help and support so many that I am deliberately not naming names here for fear I might accidentally leave someone out.

To all of you who’ve left me such kind messages, I thank you. You helped me leap to the next place which turned out to be a better one. Not all the issues are resolved here, but I do feel better about what comes next.


The Hamster Wheel In My Head

Life is not a big party this trip. It’s certainly not a holiday and in fact has produced more stress than I could have imagined. For several weeks before I flew to Atlanta, I was struggling. I knew that this would be a busy trip with a great deal of things that needed to be crossed off the big list in my head, I knew there would be work involved.

I felt anxious and slightly blue not wanting to leave John even though I was really happy knowing I would see my daughter and my family and friends. I think now that my uneasiness about my visit to America was my intuitive sense trying to prepare me for some of what is happening now.

I don’t want to go into too much detail, but it appears as though I may be here for some time. There are things happening that I have little control over which is extremely difficult for me. No one is ill, and I have been blessed with strong support from friends and family, but I am struggling to let go of fear and worry. My husband John feels so far away right now and even though he is supportive from a distance, I miss him even more since I have no clear idea when I will be able to see him or go home again.

As you may well imagine, my position on the hamster wheel in my head is not especially conducive to my writing and posting.

I wish I could say more than I am almost sick with worry, but I can’t for now. I am trying to find something positive in these events, but even with my normal glass half-full nature, it is difficult to do. The only thing I can say is that when I come out on the other side, I will certainly have a new set of experiences to influence my writing.

It feels dark and scary not knowing when I will be done with all of this, I normally handle crisis well when there is something I can do to control the outcome. Much of this is beyond my control so I am trying to ” Stay Calm and Carry On” as they say in my adopted country.

Tips on letting go would be useful at this point as it feels like everything I every knew about adversity and loss seems to have left me. I thought I was well-practiced in handling tough challenges, but perhaps I’ve grown soft in Cornwall living a low stress life with John.

Let me say again, everyone is healthy and our homes are intact unlike the sad situations of many in the American south who were affected by the tornadoes, and I tell myself this over and over hoping to ease the feeling of anxiety that is with me all the time now.

I hope you’ll be patient with my posting. It’s likely to be sporadic and I have no idea what might show up here as things unfold. Send me some peace if you’ve got any extra and please, share with me how you deal with tough times.