My Skin Cancer Diagnosis—And Why You Should Get Checked Too

A few weeks ago I was diagnosed with basal cell carcinoma, a common form of skin cancer. It was not something I ever expected to deal with. I don’t go to tanning beds, I don’t sun bathe, I cover up, and I always wear sunscreen. I thought I was doing everything right. I was doing everything right. Despite that, I still got skin cancer decades before the average person.

Before Skin Cancer Surgery

I first discovered the spot on my shoulder about two years ago after a day in the sun at Steeplechase. At the time, I thought it was just a rash or a scrape or some other innocuous weird human body thing and just ignored it (see below for a what-is-that-red-mark-on-my-shoulder-selfie). For the most part, it didn’t bother me, it didn’t seem to grow or change, and most of the time I barely noticed it. I assumed it was nothing.

Approximately a year later, I saw a Facebook post (caution: graphic photos) by a young woman named Tawny Willoughby. At just 21 years old Tawny got her first skin cancer diagnosis. After six years and several more occurrences, she shared her story to warn others. It was her post, and her description of her symptoms, that made me first suspect that the mysterious spot on my shoulder might actually be skin cancer.

I finally scheduled an appointment for myself a few months later. You might be asking yourself why it took me so long to go to a dermatologist to get checked out after I realized I might have skin cancer. The answer is simple: I am an idiot. I let things like work and fear and stubbornness get in the way of me taking care of myself. I don’t really have an excuse for it. Trust me, any excuses you have for not going aren’t very good either.

Skin Cancer Surgery

Basal cell carcinoma is caused by sun exposure. I used to think that skin cancer just appeared as oddly shaped moles. However, it can appear in many forms. Additional symptoms can include: rough or scaly red patches that do not heal or possibly bleed on and off or crust; patches with itchiness, tenderness, or pain; raised growths or lumps; pearly or waxy bumps; flat, flesh-colored or brown scar-like lesions; and a long long list of other possibilities. Essentially, if it looks different, go get it checked.

The spot on my shoulder was just a red patch that looked relatively normal unless I spent a day in the sun. When that occurred, it would become sore and raw. I committed the cardinal sin of looking up my symptoms online. It seemed like classic basal cell carcinoma. A trip to the dermatologist and a biopsy confirmed my suspicions. When the nurse called to tell me the news I responded by excitedly shouting “internet diagnosis for the win!”

The solution? Surgery.

Basal Cell Carcinoma

I am recovering nicely from my surgery. The first few days were a bit of a pain because my movement was rather limited. I have two layers of stitches (internal and external). But in a few weeks I’ll be good as new. Plus, I’ll have a fun new scar on my shoulder that will make me look dangerous.

I am lucky. Basal cell carcinoma is pretty treatable. It is malignant, but slow moving and rarely metastasizes. It is basically the pot head of the cancer world. However, studies show basal cell and other skin cancers are linked to higher risks of other forms of cancer (such as breast, colon, bladder, liver, lung, brain, prostate, stomach and pancreas). I already had a pretty high incidence of cancer in my family’s history. This is one more reason for me to be vigilant and get my annual checks.

I hope this post will motivate you to go get a screening. If my cancer had not been on my shoulder, I might not have seen it and could have let it grow for years unchecked. It would have turned a very treatable situation into a disastrous one. It doesn’t matter how young or “careful” you think you are, go see a dermatologist. It could save your life. (And please share this post to encourage your friends to do the same).

Easter Egg Hunt (And Petting A Kangaroo)

Before you are horrified that I’ve never been to an Easter egg hunt, don’t worry, I have. However, the last one I participated in was over 2 decades ago. That is long ago enough to make the list. What I haven’t done is participate in an Easter egg hunt as an adult. Easter egg hunts for adults are hard to come by, but they do exist.

Bunny Ears

Each year Rock Castle hosts an egg hunt for both kids and adults. The kid hunt is separated from the adult hunt, so there is no nonsense with parents pushing down kids or stealing eggs like what happened at the Pez Factory. (Unrelated: Egg hunts aside, the Pez Factory seems like the greatest place on Earth).

Easter Eggs

The ground was littered with brightly colored eggs. Most of them were laid out in the yard so it was more of an egg grab than an egg hunt.

Waiting for Easter Egg Hunt

All of the adults lined up ready for the signal to begin. The only rule was that you had to wear rabbit ears. If you didn’t have your own, you could make them there.

Adult Easter Egg Hunt

When the whistle blew everyone took off running to grab as many eggs as possible as the theme song from Benny Hill aptly played in the background.

Easter Egg in Tree

Everyone scrambled searching for eggs. One guy even climbed into a tree on his search.

Mad Hatter

The hunt had a Alice in Wonderland theme (hence the requisite white rabbit ears). We had to pose for pictures with the colorful characters.

Alice and Queen of Hearts

The Mad Hatter, the Queen of Hearts, and Alice were in attendance.

Easter Basket

After the hunt, I finally went through the loot. I made out with a good variety of candy, including two of my favorites: Starburst and Skittles. I tried to ration it out, but I still consumed enough to give myself a massive sugar high.

Next year I’d like to host my own Easter egg hunt for my friends at my house. Adults don’t get to have enough child-like fun and we definitely need the release.

Easter Egg Hunt Basket

Petting a Kangaroo

On a completely unrelated adventure, I visited the Nashville Zoo on Easter weekend. When I went a few years ago I noticed the Kangaroo Kickabout was opening soon. It took me a while to come back to see it, but I am glad I did.

Petting a Kangaroo

The Kangaroo Kickabout is an enclosed attraction with 18 adorable red kangaroos. You have to stay on a pathway, but can pet any kangaroo within reach. Only one was feeling friendly enough to say hello. The furry little creature was so snuggly I wanted to take it home with me. The kangaroo’s fur is the softest thing I’ve ever felt. Anyone think I can sneak it home in my purse?

Hooray for Hollywood: Hiking to the Hollywood Sign

I go to Los Angles for work every few months, but I rarely get to see any of it.  This trip, I got to sneak off for the afternoon with my brother and sister-in-law (who live there) for some touristy fun. I don’t like the typical tourist activities and wanted to do something a little off the beaten path, so to speak. When I found out that you can (legally) hike up to the Hollywood Sign I knew I had to do it.

View of Hollwood Sign

The Hollywood Sign originally read “Hollywoodland” and was erected in 1923 to advertise a new housing development in the Hollywood hills. It was only intended to last a year and a half, but has become one of the most recognizable images in the world.

There are several paths up to the sign, but I decided on Hollyridge Trail because the end of your hike actually takes you behind the sign! It is a 3.5 mile round-trip mike that ascends about 750 feet to the top of Mt. Lee. However, if you are visiting on a weekend or holiday you cannot park anywhere near the trailhead. The trail begins at the end of Beachwood Dr., which is residential parking only. (Plug 3400 N. Beachwood Drive into your GPS to get there). We ended up parking 1.3 miles from the trail, making our journey to the top and back over 6 miles. The extra walking was worth it. Beachwood is a beautiful street with unique homes and fragrant fauna. The shaded walk smelled of honeysuckle and lemon trees. Be sure to hit up Beachwood Cafe at the beginning of your hike for a snack and the worlds greatest basil mint lemonade.

Holly Ridge Trail Smokey the Bear

The trails are either dirt or paved road. There isn’t a lot of hiking involved, but it is almost all steep hills. However, the dirt paths are also horse paths so they smell a bit . . . manurey.

Horseback Riding Hollyridge Trail

A few minutes into the Hollywood Trail hike the path splits and intersects with Mulholland Trail. This is, of course, completely unmarked. We walked right past the turn off and continued straight for several minutes. So, if you visit, be sure to take a sharp left when you come upon the junction. (We should have followed these directions).

Hollyrdige Trail View

But the detour wasn’t all bad. The views were incredible and the foliage was extra green from recent rains.

Holly Ridge Trail view of Los Angeles

Every once in a while the city of Los Angles would peak out from behind the hills and remind us that it was there. The trail was serene compared to the bustling city below.

Trail Behind Hollywood Sign

As you reach the peak of Mt. Lee the legendary sign comes into view. The 45-foot-tall letters tower over the city below.

View Behind Hollywood Sign

Although it was a bit overcast (for LA) you could still see for miles. Downtown LA is off to the left and the Pacific Ocean is off to the right. (You can click on the images to enlarge them). At a peak of 1700 feet, the view of Los Angeles was incredible. However, it was also incredibly windy and cold.

DCIM101GOPROGOPR1027.

After we finished our picture taking we headed back down the hill to loop around to see what we were told was “the best view of the sign in the city.” The same trail that takes you to the peak also swings back down around in front of the sign. It was, of course, yet another incredible view.

Posing in front of Hollywood Sign

The whole trip took us about 3 hours, and it was well worth the time. I would happily do it again just to get another chance to see the view. It was a great way to do something touristy without dealing with the crowds and traffic. Above all else, it was perfect for some quality family time.

PS: Shout out to my buddy Brad for inspiring the hike, even if he is pissed at me for not telling him I was in LA.

Pearl Knotting: A Zen Night of Jewelry Making

A few months ago I took a metal stamping jewelry class. I really enjoyed my experience, so when I saw a class on pearl knotting I thought it would be a fun way to spend a few hours. Chandler Williams, a local jewelry designer, hosted the class at The University School of Nashville. (USN has a ton of fun evening classes, so check out their offerings if you live nearby).

Pearl Knotting Materials

Pearl knotting is the practice of making jewelry by hand tying thread knots between beads on a necklace or bracket. It is a pretty simple process, and you only need a few supplies: pearls (any size will do, but if you want a 20-inch stand you’ll need 65-70 6mm pearls), 2 clam shell knot covers, a clasp and jump ring, natural silk bead cord (size 4, .60mm), and some G-S Hypo Cement glue.

Pearls for Necklace

Before I started I neurotically laid out my pearls so the necklace would be symmetrical and the best and largest pearls would be in the front. I never miss an opportunity to be obnoxiously organized.

Pearl Necklace Begining

You begin by tying a knot at the end of the string and placing one of the clam shell knot covers at the base. The clasp is then attached and you have a start to your necklace.

Pearl Knotting

The knotting process can be pretty tedious. It took almost 2 hours to do a 20-inch necklace, but I enjoyed it. There was something calming about focusing on the knots. It took some concentration to avoid mistakes of having the knots too large or far apart. I was able to use the time to clear my mind and only focus on what was in front of me.

Homemade Pearl Necklace

Each time I tied a knot I used a corsage pin to move the knot as close to the pearl in front of it as possible. Then, I used the next pearl in line to tighten it. I repeated these steps approximately 70 times. The process was pretty mistake-free, except for when I got distracted by work texts and started getting the string tangled around itself.

Finished Pearl Necklace

Voila! After a little bit of effort the necklace was done! It ended up being a lot easier than I thought. I really enjoyed the class. There was something zen and relaxing about focusing on the knotting and not being distracted by the world around me (well, except temporarily by work).

Dining on Escargot

I was a vegetarian for approximately 15 years. About a year ago I expanded my dietary world to include fish, and now, apparently, I have thrown snails into the mix. When I starting eating fish is was a necessity during a busy trial; lots of long hours and few breaks for food meant I needed an easy way to up my protein intake. I never expected that it would lead to an ever-expanding world of new foods. My friend Tina, who is an endless source of good ideas, suggested I try the dish. We were both in need of a night off so we went to Nashville’s legendary Sperry’s Restaurant for a girls’ night out.

Escargot

Escargot has been served for centuries. We all know it is famous French cuisine, but it was also a delicacy in ancient Rome and may have been a part of the prehistoric diet. Who knew cavemen were so civilized. Believe it or not, it is also pretty healthy. Escargot is extremely high in protein and low in fat. Well, if you don’t count all the butter.

Eating Escargot

The escargot were served in a traditional dish with mushrooms and garlic-herb, seasoned butter. The taste and texture reminded me of a combination of mussels and cooked mushrooms. A squirt of lemon really brought out the flavor. They were chewy, but not tough. And no, they were not slimy or anything else you might expect from a snail.

I never expected that escargot would taste so, well, normal. I am glad I decided to branch out and add something new to my diet. I am all ready for my next trip to Paris.

A Night of Burlesque

What better way to spend Valentine’s weekend than a trip to a burlesque show. (Warning: While this post is safe for work, no promises that the links are. Click at your own risk and enjoyment.) Burlesque is an old school variety show filled with music, bawdy jokes, and sexy stripteases. The City Winery in Nashville is home to Wasabassco Burlesque, which is one of the best burlesque shows in the world. Lucky us!

Vintage Burlesque Costumes

The evening started with a number by the funny and campy host for the evening, GiGi La Femme. After her sassy striptease, she explained to the audience that Tennessee has specific laws regarding how much a performer can show at an establishment that serves alcohol. Essentially, in addition to pasties, women have to cover the “underboob” and “the vortex,” which GiGi LaFemme described as “where the flower meets the goods.” (It’s true, being a lawyer/nerd I looked up the statute when I got home.) This is the buckle of the Bible-belt, so I can’t say I am surprised.

There were 8 stripteases, with each dancer doing 1-2 retro-fabulous songs. The female performers for night were Gidget Bardot, Turvy TrollopDiletta Delight, Marie Merlot, and special guest from NYC, Gal Friday. We also got the added unexpected special treat of some “manlesque” with a performance from Masterblaster. (Yes, Masterblaster had pasties and his underboobs covered as well.)

I don’t know if something can simultaneously be tasteful and crude, but if it is possible, the result would be burlesque. The evening was filled with much tassel twirling and booty bouncing, and it was not for the prudish or faint of heart.

Vintage Burlesque

In addition to being totally jealous of their amazing hair and makeup, there were two things I loved about the evening. One, the dancers came in all shapes and sizes (all of whom were perfect and beautiful), and two, the audience was about 60% women. In fact, the majority of the cat calls came from women. It was definitely an evening of girl power. (Seriously though, Gidget Bardot is also a scientist which is pretty damn cool.)

If you want to enter the world of burlesque, believe it or not you can take lessons! I learned that you can take a variety of awesome burlesque classes at Delinquent Debutantes—which I am sure will be the setting for a future New Thing.

If you want a sample of what to expect, here is GiGi La Femme dancing to Elvis Presley’s “Tying to Get to You.”

60 Minutes with a Psychic Medium

It has been a while since I have had time to do something new, let alone blog about it. My lawyering gig keeps me busy 7 days a week, but this weekend I was able to sneak away for a few hours to cross something off of my To Do List.

I’ve wanted to visit a psychic for a while, just to see what it would be like. About a year ago I came across Krista Kaine‘s name when I was researching psychics in the area. She came with rave reviews so I decided to make an appointment. However, due to several factors, I could never connect with her when she had appointments available. This weekend I was aching to do something new and remembered Krista happened to be visiting Nashville for a few days. She was completely booked, but about an hour after I reached out to her and asked to be put on the wait list she had a cancellation for the next day.

I mentioned my pending visit to a friend, and much to my surprise she said that she visited Krista a few months ago to resolve some issues with her deceased mother. My friend had a very emotional experience and said Krista mentioned a few very detailed comments (such as a specific Christmas decoration my friend wanted to keep) that really blew her away.

I haven’t mentioned it on the blog before, but I lost my mother last year, my dad the year before, and a sister a year or so before that. I also lost a brother when I was about 11. I entered the session unconvinced, yet open to possibilities. I really had no expectations at the outset; I was just hoping for a new and unique experience.

The session had two parts, the first where Krista talked to “Spirit” and supposedly gave me messages from my parents, and the second where she talked about my path in life. I won’t get into our hour-long conversation in too much detail because it was very personal. The oddest moment was when she asked me if either my dad or I had a coin collection or whether there was something specific involving large coins or quarters. Krista said my dad was sending a message that I should pick up and hold onto coins I find. During the session I said that it didn’t really ring any bells, but it was poignant for two reasons. One, my dad always spotted coins on the ground for me to pick up when I was little, it was a bit of a game for us. I think he would even lay coins around for me to find. Two, because I have bag tucked away filled with $50 worth of bicentennial quarters, half-dollars, and silver dollars that I have had since I was a teen. My dad would always bring me bicentennial quarters to add to my collection. His message to me, through Krista, was to hold on to the coins.

Quarters

There was also some funny moments, like Krista saying that my dad said that no guy I’ve ever dated was good enough for me, which sounds pretty typical for him (or any father for that matter). She also told me that my parents’ dog was with them. She commented that she didn’t know where cats go, but dogs seem to always come through, which seemed appropriate since we already know all dogs go to heaven.

I am happy I had the session. I still don’t know if I am a beleiver, but, if nothing else, it was nice to have someone to talk to about my parents and my life. Who doesn’t like to talk about themselves for an hour? After our talk, Krista gave me a copy of her book Standing Between the Worlds, which I am looking forward to reading and learning more about what she does. I definitely got what I bargained for in a new experience and have broadened my horizons . . . which is exactly what this journey is all about.

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