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The Skin I Live In

blur-body-care-161608Every so often I like to remind my readers to take care of their skin. Since I went for my annual full body scan this morning, today seemed like a good day for that reminder!

Several years ago, a group of women I worked with and I decided that we needed to go for a skin exam. We had seen an advertisement for free exams at a facility about 30 minutes or so from work and we all signed up. During that exam, an “atypical” mole was identified and it was suggested that I see a dermatologist for follow up. The suspect mole was ultimately removed without any issue, and thus began my commitment to annual full body scan. I never miss it.

Let’s face it, we’ve all done some stupid stuff — hot sun, no hat, no sunscreen, or worse yet, application of baby oil. I’ve had some super painful burns in my past and, given my cancer history, I think it’s prudent to get checked regularly. Even if you don’t have a history of cancer, it’s a smart move.

We all know that we should have our skin checked if we see a change in size, shape or color of a mole. But there are many parts we can’t see by ourselves! My problem mole was on the lower middle of my back; I would never have seen it on my own. And just because you may have burned your scalp, as an example, it doesn’t mean that’s where skin cancer would appear. It can show up anywhere. I have have peace of mind knowing that I was checked by a professional who knows what she’s looking for.

Today I learned that I should look at my toenails before reapplying polish. Not for the discoloration that may come from applying nail polish too often and without break, but to look for any spots that might show up under the nail! I would never have thought to look there. So next time you go for that pedi… take a look!

Another great suggestion I had heard previously (but have yet to implement…my bad…) is to have your spouse, best friend, significant other, mother… someone… take a picture of your back every six months and compare to the prior for any changes that might need a closer look.

If you don’t have insurance or don’t want to pay a co-payment, you can look for free screenings like my co-workers and I did all those years ago. Check out: https://www.aad.org/public/spot-skin-cancer/programs/screenings/find-a-screening

In the meantime, take care of your skin! It’s the only one you have to live in.

IMDb: The Skin I Live In (2011)

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The Strength of the Weak

I made the mistake of scheduling two doctors’ appointments on the same day. It happened because I had to go back for a follow up with my gynecologist for the lichen schlerosus. I scheduled that for after work, but didn’t realize at the time that I also had a mid-day appointment with my oncologist. I figured it would all be fine, although my oncologist is notoriously (and ridiculously) late every appointment. As it turns out, both doctors were really behind schedule and I spent 3 hours and 20 minutes just sitting — either in a waiting room or the exam room.

Both appointments, I am happy to say, went well.  First, my labs, tumor markers, vitals and physical exam were all perfect. Second, although they were ready to do a biopsy, with all equipment neatly laid out in the exam room, my lichen schlerosus has really cleared up (almost gone). I credit the frankincense, as I saw more improvements when I started using that than I did with the steroid cream.

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In other news, I am very excited (truly!) to start using estriol cream. Since the lichen sclerosus seems to be connected with low hormone levels, I was checking with my dear friend, Dr. Lisa, from Nowhere to Run. She indicated that she was using the estriol cream and recommended it for me.  I checked with a local doctor who specializes in treating hormone imbalances and he recommended it, saying it was low risk compared to taking other estrogens. My naturalist thought it was a great idea also.

I checked with my oncologist and, surprisingly, she said she thought it would be just fine to use. (I fully expected a “no” on this one, so it gave me a lot of comfort on the safety side when she said yes.)  My gynecologist was open to gathering more information, which he did, and today his office called to say my Rx was called in.

To give you a little background, estriol is highly recommended by Suzanne Somers (she swears by it in terms of safety, health restoration, and vitality). One of her doctors, Jonathan Wright, has done a lot of work and research on estriol.  It is the weakest of the three estrogens and was previously thought to be of no use to the medical community.  They are finding, however, that “it’s weakness is it’s strength” in that you get the benefits of an estrogen (relief of menopausal symptoms, improvements in vaginal dryness/atrophy, cardio health, bone density improvements, etc.), without the increased risk of hormone-dependent cancers.  It’s even been linked to improvements with MS.  Check out the above link for more information, if you are interested.

I’m so excited to be off work tomorrow so I can drive to the compounding center to pick up my estriol!

IMDb: The Strength of the Weak (1915)

The Toxic Avenger

My naturalist often talks to me about xenoestrogens. I understood these to be “fake” estrogens that mimic the real estrogen that your body makes.  Much of the xenoestrogen that your body picks up is from processed and hormone-laden foods, as well as from the environment. I found this list of xenoestrogens to avoid. It’s one of the most comprehensive lists I have seen and it’s probably impossible to avoid these things 100%. In fact, I’m not sure I agree with everything on the list.

However, there are many easy steps you can take to minimize your exposure, like switch from plastic to glass storage containers, never microwave food in plastic, use quality / natural cosmetics, soaps, etc. Don’t use chemical air fresheners. Look for quality, organic, healthy alternatives for anything that goes on your skin.

It’s really important to reduce your exposure as much as possible. I do my best and when I learn something new, I try to implement. For example, I read an article a few weeks ago about Tide laundry detergent and all the bad chemicals in it (and most laundry detergents).  It never really occurred to me to look at what’s in in, because I have been a loyal Tide user pretty much my entire life. I remember my mom trying an alternate brand back when I was a youngster and both my Dad and I broke out in a rash, so it’s been Tide forever.

Now that I know I’m exposing myself to toxins, it’s time to try something different… Enter Molly’s Suds! Their mission statement: “Our company uses the purest of ingredients to formulate products without carcinogens or known human toxins. We strive to be good stewards of the Earth and give back to our community and those in need.”  Definitely check out their story. It’s inspiring, and a it bit scary.

I ordered their laundry detergent and started using it this past week. It’s great knowing that I am not absorbing chemical residue from my clothing, and that my family is safe from toxins on their clothes as well. But as a side benefit, my clothes just seem softer and my towels fluffier. I’m not sure if it’s just my imagination, but I’m pretty excited just the same!

In case you are wondering why it’s so important to avoid xenoestrogens, read this article. It gives a great description of xenoestrogens and how they contribute to breast cancer, as well as other cancers. The article also talks about why it’s so important to try to be at a healthy weight. Personally, I know my risks went up when my weight went up, and I paid no attention to what I ate (non-organic, processed crap), or what I put on my skin. I didn’t think about the quality of the water I drank or the risk of taking any kind of prescription medication, including birth control and antibiotics. I used all sorts of toxic cleaning solutions, deodorants with chemicals, and sunscreens that heated chemicals into my skin. To paraphrase Maya Angelou: I know better now, so I do better.

Be mindful of what goes into your body.

IMDb: The Toxic Avenger (1984)

 

Weird Science

A few weeks ago, at my annual gynecologist appointment, I was diagnosed with a skin condition called “lichen sclerosus“. Considering the type of doctor, I’ll let you guess where this and will save the gory details. You can click on the link above if you are interested in more information.  This is not something I had ever heard of (if there’s something weird you can get, you can be sure I will get it), but my doctor explained that it occurs mostly in menopausal women and they surmise that it is due to low hormone levels. (Your hormones are important for SO many things… It’s things like this that make me happy I stopped taking the Femara, which made all my hormone levels about “zero”.)

At my appointment, and given my history, my doctor asked if I wanted him to do a biopsy…?!?!?  Hell, no!!!  I didn’t even have to think about this. Just the shot to numb the area would be unpleasant enough, as he admitted.  For some reason, the concern that it was something cancerous was only fleeting, and he seemed pretty confident that it was not cancer — having seen this before, obviously — so I was not ready to jump into the biopsy game.

So, wonderful man that he is, he agreed to first treat me with a steroidal cream for 4 weeks, and I have to go back to have it checked.  If not better, he will do a biopsy then. Oh yea. The good news is that I am noticing a big difference, so hopefully it’s all better by the time the appointment comes around. I don’t even want to think about a biopsy “there”.

I’ve also started using coconut oil and frankincense essential oil to help things along, after reading this article. Quite honestly, I’m inclined to think the frankincense is more responsible for the improvements, rather than the steroid cream.

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This past week was my quarterly appointment with my naturalist and she saw some things that could definitely be contributing to the lichen schlerosus, as well as to my sleep issues and my reduced energy levels. Here I was thinking it was all stress related, but “lead” came up as a key issue. As in “get the lead out”. We don’t tend to think of all the lead in our environment (from a variety of sources), or heavy metals in general, but they are there, and they are often the little mysteries of why we don’t feel well.

The lead can contribute to an overgrowth of yeast, which may then also contribute to the lichen sclerosus. So to detox from the lead, I’ll be taking Milk Thistle; to detox the yeast, I’ll be taking a Cancordistat homeopathic remedy. My estrogen levels were indeed low, so I’ll be adding Red Raspberry Blend to my daily regime of herbal hormones. (For the record, I thought this would taste yummy, but bleh…not so much.) I will also take Thyrodine to strengthen my thyroid after my CT scan from a few weeks ago, L-Lysine to help heal my skin, and Red Beet Root for energy. All of these new things are temporary (one month) until I’m back to normal.

As a reminder, if you have any exposure to radiation (airport security, x-rays, etc.), take an epsom salt and baking soda bath (enough salt to “float” in, and for 20 minutes), to help detox your body and protect your thyroid. I neglected to do this after my last CT scan, but I did it as soon as I got home from my naturalist appointment!

Next up… results of the CT scan tomorrow…

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IMDb: Weird Science (1985)

The Organizer

Tumor marker results were good — yay!!!  16.64 ~ consistent with where I’ve been since my treatment finished. I am typically between 15 & 17 against a “normal” range of 0-37. Always a relief to hear.

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I previously wrote about the Christmas present I got from my stepdaughter — a Gneiss Spice set with magnetic lids for storing on the refrigerator. I loved them so much that I ordered a make-your-own set of 24 jars and I spent the morning cleaning out my spice cabinet and transferring spices to my new set of jars.

I don’t know about you, but I find it’s really easy to lose my spices. They get buried in the cabinet behind all the other spices and it’s a pain to find them. I buy more, thinking I’m out, and then find the old one later. I had 4 cinnamons, 3 paprikas, and doubles of a lot of things. So I filled my Gneiss jars, labeled them, and put all the “extras” in a Tupperware bin for future use. So now, with the exception of the more frequently used items that are next to the stove, all my spices are nicely organized on my fridge. So handy… easy to find them and easy to see what I need more of. No more doubles and triples, and no more struggling to find what I need when I’m cooking. Given the variety of our diet, I never know what I might need on a given night. While these jars were a little pricey, I think it will be well worth it in terms of saved time and frustration! (I even have a few empty ones for new spices!)

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I’m on a roll with organizing since last weekend I purged and organized the kitchen pantry. Still more work to be done, but it feels good to be less cluttered. It drives me crazy when I can’t find what I need.

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The latest Oh She Glows recipe is Immunity-boosting Tomato Sauce with Mushrooms, served over pasta. I was about to ask the boys if they liked this recipe, but at that time, they were both reaching for their third helping, so the question seemed unnecessary. Ethan did pick out the chunks of tomatoes, but otherwise, everyone enjoyed this. We all love mushrooms and haven’t found a mushroom recipe yet that we didn’t like.

I look forward to trying a few more of Angela’s recipes in the coming week. It’s a super busy week and I’m looking to try a few of her quicker recipes, like the 15-minute creamy avocado pasta.  That one is contingent on finding avocados that are the right ripeness! Because we all know the window of opportunity is about two minutes long!

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IMDb: The Organizer (1963)