Friday, February 27, 2009

It's Been a While...

I know it has been quite a while since I have posted...while I will not pass on all 0f my "excuses" for not writing, I can tell you all that I have had some interesting things happen physically in the past few weeks.

On Super Bowl Sunday, I had a major anxiety attack. I seriously thought I was dying of a heart attack. I had a few smaller ones throughout that day. I went to the doctors the next day and was prescribed Xanax and Zoloft. I'm also seeing a psychologist as well (on my own accord). I have had these things called PVCs (Premature Ventricular Contractions) where my heart skips a beat as well. I have had to wear a monitor for 24 hours this past week to make sure that they are related to stress and anxiety and not some other more serious physical problem.

I find that now, six weeks after Rachel's passing, I have been riding on a roller coaster of emotions. Sadness (of course); anger, guilt, lonesomeness, helplessness, and many others. I have tried moving on sometimes I think too fast. I am a very inquisitive and analytical person. I blame that one my almost 15 years in the Navy. While Rachel was sick I made sure I knew the defination and cause and effect of every single symptom and or diagnosis that the doctors or nurses gave to me. I now have continued to do that on myself; I knew what the PVCs were before I went to the doctor's office and had him tell me from looking at an EKG. The unfortunate thing here is my analytical ways have just been another way of inflating the internal balloon that is my anxiety level. I was not letting myself grieve. I was not letting myself release the emotions pent up inside of me; instead I was putting up a facade of I'm doing okay, everything is fine, etc. Well, the balloon burst.

For the last couple of weeks especially, I kept telling myself that I seriously needed a woman, friend or not, to do nothing but hold me all night. Someone to comfort me and plutonicly satisfy an urge I have come to know is called "skin hunger". Well after talking to more than a few women and realizing where I am at in my grieving process, I understand completely that this is my longing for Rachel to be here with me and my need for her to hold me (and the associated sadness in knowing that she cannot physically be here to do that). Among all of her beautiful ways; the smile, the sense of humor, the vivality; she had an amazing way of bringing us comfort by how she held us. Anyone who receieved a hug from Rach felt something from it. I don't just mean physically either. It was a hug, a hold, that went straight to your heart and soul. It was a way for her to give you something that she could not give to you verbally or visually. It was a way for you to enjoy her spiritual gift she was giving to you. Near the end of my eulogy for Rach at her funeral mass, one of the things I said was for every person (mind you the number of people there was approaching 1,000) to turn to each other and hug each other and tell them you loved them. This was something that only came to me as I knelt beside her body for the last time before they closed the casket. It was her way of channeling through me one last hug and I love you to each and every person there. She knew that out of the thousand people at her funeral mass, only a handful actually were able to get that from her before she passed; I felt like she succeded in ensuring everyone knew it was her; I watched in melancholy happiness as the entire church attendance gave each other what she wanted them to have.

I am not going to lecture or even post anything about melanoma in this entry. This entry is more related to love and love lost. Read how I am feeling. Read how you would feel. Take that emotion and use it to be a better husband, wife, girlfriend, boyfriend, son, daughter, brother, sister, cousin, or friend. Don't take love and emotions and feelings for granted. Don't be afraid to show your feelings, and when someone shows you theirs, take them and let them touch your heart and soul like Rachel was able to touch ours.

For those of you who need that someone; that friend, that someone to show you what I am describing, contact me. Part of my life's goals are not only to pass on education and awareness of Rachel's illness, but to pass on the love and joy she always brought to everyone she came into contact with. May God bless you all...and I know it may be off of the subject of this post in general, but please say some prayers for my friend Linda Ramirez, who is suffering from stage IV melanoma like Rachel did. Pray for all cancer patients. Pray for all widows and widowers, no matter what age they may be. Pray for your families and friends. Pray for thanks for what we have in our lives.
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Thursday, February 5, 2009

Lack of Knowledge (Why?)

What causes melanoma? Do you know?

I have heard many answers to these couple of questions. "Melanoma is caused by an unsanitary/dirty tanning bed, right"? "It's from them people that spend too much time in the sun" is another gem. Oh, I've also heard, "Oh you know if you go to those tanning salons and not lay out in the sun you protect your skin so when you do go out into the sun your skin is already used to it and you won't get burnt". Nice.

When is the last time you actually went to a dermatologist? Why?

Even more good ones from those questions. "My family doctor doesn't ever tell me I need to do it". "I'm only 29; only teenagers with acne and old people with moles need to go there". "Don't those guy do face lifts and nose jobs"? (I actually heard that at a mall while talking to a young girl at the food court; you could obviously tell she went tanning regularly).

Normally these would be funny. You would see stuff like that on Jay Leno's "Jay-Walking" segment on the Tonight Show.

These are in all reality NOT funny. These ignorant answers are a sign that not enough is being put out to the younger adults and children (most of whom are women) about the dangers of tanning beds and lack of knowledge of skin care (not just putting your Bath & Body Works Lotion on your legs silly).

Why is it that melanoma is the fastest growing cancer among women under the age of 30 IN AMERICA? Not only are we ignorant of the causes of melanoma and the ways of preventing it, but, we also have no idea how to ensure that we aren't "infected" or "inflicted" or whatever you want to call it.

Do you know what the ABCDE's of melanoma are? More than likely you don't (click on the link and it will take you to the Skin Cancer Foundation Website's explanation). They're not something you see on a carton or pack. They're not something you see in the places you go to tan. I have never seen anything on TV or heard anything on the radio concerning them. Again, this is the NUMBER ONE/NUMERO UNO growing CANCER in WOMEN under the age of 30 in the entire USA! Ya think we would hear, before I move on to some juicer stuff, here are the ABCDE's in order:

A - Asymmetrical. Is the mole asymmetrical, meaning perfectly round, or is one side small and the other oblong? In other words, if ya took a pen and drew a line in the middle, would each side look alike? If they don't, GET IT CHECKED OUT ASAP by a Dermatologist!

B- Border. Does the mole have irregular borders? Does it have smooth edges or is it ragged around the outside? If the borders are uneven, it is a good sign to go the the Dermatologist NOW!

C - Color. Has the mole changed colors lately? Is it multicolored? Has it turned blue or black, or is it two shades of brown? If so, you know what to do. DERMATOLOGIST!

D - Diameter. How big is the mole. Is it the size of a pinhead? Is it bigger, like let's say the size of a pencil eraser in circumference? Granted, some melanomas may be smaller when they are first developed, and even some larger, non-melanomic moles may be bigger; but if if the mole is bigger than that pencil eraser tip, and especially if it has some of the other characteristics mentioned in the ABCDE's, I would call my family doc and schedule an appointment with the Derm dude like right now.

E - Evolving. This is a not too much heard of and honestly a newer addition to the group of letters of warning of the beast we call melanoma. If the mole changes; any of the A's, B's, C's, or D' is time to be worried. Normally a mole that is a source of melanoma with change (or evolve) in color. It may itch. It may grow in elevation. It may itch. It may bleed. If any of these things happen, get it checked out, please?

Now, I want to share with you another point of view I have been shown by a special friend over these last few weeks. It revolves around something I hear quite often. I assume it is something people say because they are a little uncomfortable around a widow/widower, or they just don't know what to say. What can I say, talking to a widow can be weird to some folks. They will say: "Oh, honey/sweetie/kiddo/Ricky, etc., Everything will be okay. It will be okay. You will be okay. Just give it time". Well, ya know, this good friend of mine who lives near Charlotte, NC, who lost her husband at a young age said it best: "You know what? It will never be okay. Ever. It's not okay that someone we loved with all of our heart is gone from our life this early. It never will be okay. It will just always be different". When you think about those few sentences, most folks would be thinking that they come off as cynical or pessimistic. But think about it. Are you happy Rach is gone? Is it "okay" to you that she is not here with us anymore? Most if not all of you probably answered "no." So, is it different now that she isn't here? Has life changed? You're damn right it is and has. So, it isn't OKAY. It is DIFFERENT. Thank you, Pami.

This long road I have been traveling lately has brought me into contact with some very special people, not just in my family and circle of friends, but also a large group of folks who have gone through what I have; losing a spouse at a young age. I have found a bulletin board by way of a suggestion from a friend through Facebook (thanks, Anna!) called What an awesome group of supporters. This bulletin board is made up of all kinds of people like me. I have been saying consistently that the reason I am able to deal with this entire situation is because of the support I am getting. I am getting support from folks in person and online, and you all kick some serious butt.

Keep reading; next time I will try and pop some more vids and maybe a few songs in here, mixed of course with some scary tanning/melanoma stuff too! God bless you all!

(By the way, please all of you pray for Linda Ramirez and her family. Please click on her name to read her blog. I see her story as something very similar to what Rach went through. This is such a bad disease and it truly takes some very special people away from us. Many of you offered your prayers to Rach while she was very sick, and I ask you to do the same for Linda and her beautiful family. Thanks again for your prayers and support.)

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