May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month. Unfortunately some of us are more aware than others. I am acutely aware of Squamous Cell Cancer, it stole a third of my bottom lip last year. Sadly I have plenty of company. Over 5 million people are diagnosed with skin cancer in the U.S. each year. Of those, more than 400,000 cases are directly linked to indoor tanning.
I was born and raised in Edmonton, Canada. In the depths of Canadian winters we measured snow in feet and rarely saw temperatures above freezing. The folks who were lucky to travel to warm destinations came back to the Great White North with dark tans and smiles. I wanted that tan. I wanted to smile and show off the teeth my parents dental plan had paid for. No passport necessary. No planes or hotels. Instead, a quick 20 minute nap…in a tanning bed. Unlimited tanning for just $29.99/month. It was as cheap as a pair of rubber boots. Seemed like a great idea. Get a tan, take a nap and look healthy. Looking back; it is likely my complete lack of sun safety and those 2 tanning bed naps every week that set into motion the events of the past 8 months. I remember my dermatology appointment. I remember looking at my shoes because I could not look up. That was the moment. It is etched into my memory. I will never forget it. That was the moment I joined 5 million people who are diagnosed with skin cancer each year in the U.S.
I always try to remember that many people are burdened by so much more than me. I am happy that so many have reached out to me. Some want Skin Cancer advice, others want to talk, while some want to listen and even to laugh. It is what we do. I say “we” because 8 months ago I started my journey. 8 months ago I joined this community. 8 months ago I joined this fight and I ain’t quittin.
Most of us have Skin Cancer from sun exposure and UV rays. The sun, the glorious sun. It is lovely, and it is dangerous. Could it be as simple as wearing sunblock, proper hats and sun safe clothing? Yes, it is that simple. It is THAT simple and yet Skin Cancer numbers continue to grow.
Click on the “let’s get gross” banner and read survivor stories, including mine. Click on surgery pictures, including mine. Be warned; These are graphic pictures, they are not suitable for children.
Those pictures are the truth. Skin Cancer is gross. Skin Cancer sucks. Skin Cancer kills.
Thanks for stopping by,
A quick recap; I was an idiot. An idiot who loved the sun too much. An idiot that thought a tan meant you were healthy. An idiot that believed a tan made you “honey bronzed and very very desirable”. This of course will make little sense to you if are a first time reader. Read my earlier posts, it will click.
I am a run of the mill ordinary guy. A husband, a father, a friend. I mow the lawn on Saturday, help my daughters with homework and love my wife more than anything in the world. I appear nightly on your television, work tirelessly for local charities and I am driven to help make our little corner of the world a little better than we found it. I am a run of the mill guy, with skin cancer.
Squamous cell cancer grew undetected inside my lower lip. 7 MOHS surgeries in one day was followed by plastic surgery and 42 stitches. I lost a third of my lower lip. Not great for a guy on TV. Most days it feels like I just left the dentist. Numb lips, mispronouncing the letter “s”; guilty. By the way, I am not drooling over your new sports car, I just drool.
My cancer was caused by exposure to the sun. The burning celestial orb that can overtake you at any moment and make you feel more alive, more energized than almost anything in the world. Resistance is futile. It is like trying to jump in a pool without getting wet. The sun is everywhere, even on a cloudy day. Avoiding the sun is impossible. I considered living in a cave but the damp, musty conditions would play havoc with my stylish hair. To go outside I have to protect myself. I now wear hats and use sunblock, everyday.
It is the end of April. The snow has long ago melted and the sun grows more powerful everyday. Cancer surgery was 8 months ago. Chemotherapy was 3 months ago. On ward to Spring and the marvelous month of May! Breaking news; May is skin cancer awareness month. More breaking news; Cancer sucks. Cancer is gross. A picture is worth a thousand words, so I have decided to share some of my surgery and chemotherapy pictures with you. My friends at http://www.coolibar.com will share them online. I will warn you now, the surgery pictures are gross. That is the message; Cancer IS gross.
Before you ask…I am not being compensated for my message with Coolibar. They are a local Minnesota company, I love their sun safety products and I love their message. Together our skin cancer message is louder. If my cancer journey can empower one person or inspire one family to practice better sun safety then my cancer journey can have a positive side.
As for me, I am not finished…next week I will be back at the doctor for another cancer checkup. I pray that I am clear. This journey is not one I would have chosen but it is one I must take. Thanks for taking it with me.
Thanks for stopping by.
Here I am with my marvelous wife…at US Bank Stadium where I emceed the Interfaith Outreach Gala last week.
It is a bitter sweet day. My skin cancer battle has passed but our friend Paula lost her battle with multiple myeloma. We were lucky to spend a couple of hours with her last week. She told stories of her youth, her loves and her already written obituary. She was amazing and strong until the end. Soothing those who came to visit with a calm grace. God bless you Paula.
Another reminder of this terrible disease. Call your family and friends. Keep them close. I am sad…
Sad day. Thanks for stopping by
Monday. Just another day. School buses come and go. I fill my coffee cup a few times and eventually head to the gym. Then it sinks in. Its not just another day. Its not just Monday. It is day 43. The end. Today I go back where I belong. My second home. My second family. I go back to television. I proudly put on a new suit. Pick out a pink tie. Sit for an early lunch with the love of my life. Then settle into my car. But wait. What song should I play for this drive. This drive that I have waited 43 days to make. I pick a few. It needs to be loud. It needs to be motivational. “Courage” from The Tragically Hip, “Something to live for” by Barney Bentall, “Keep on rolling” by REO Speedwagon, “Dr feel good” from Motley Crue and “Geronimo” by the band Shepard…perfect. It is a short drive. I turn it up to eleven.
Off to the office, my car seems to know the way. I park. Then I sit. Taking it all in. Walking through the door was like coming to my parents house at Christmas…like coming home. Then the tear and hugs. My second family. I am back home. It is late as I write this. I am emotionally exhausted but I feel wonderful. I feel like I can finally stop counting these days. Day 43 is done. Tomorrow is day one of the rest of forever. No more counting. Just living. Living a great and wonderful life with my wife and daughters. Making a difference in my friends lives…making a difference in strangers lives. Making a difference.
Try that tomorrow. Make a difference. We will all be better because you tried…
Day 43. Thanks for stopping by.
A few pics from today: a desk full of flowers, treats, cheeseburgers (thanks Kelcey) and Gaga cookies. The white tulips are from my wife and daughters…we love tulips and I love my chix 🙂
42 days have passed. The first day, Far off in the distance. The summit. The climb up and down was 42 days. Now the summit is behind me. I made it. Not by myself. I made it through spirit. I made it through prayer. I made it through my wife. I made it through my daughters. I made it through the help of my friends. We made it. Together. This was our journey. Thank you, I am eternally grateful.
Now to pay it forward. Day one I asked you to take a journey with me. I asked you to open up a dialogue about cancer with me. My journey is finished, now it is time for dialogue. Real dialogue. Real discussion about cancer. Cancer must not win. It has taken too much flesh. It has destroyed too many families. It has taken too many lives. To that end I am in the planning stages of a free public cancer expo. Not sure how it will work. I am Meteorologist, not an expo planner. I want to talk to you if you have an idea to help. I am sure that Education is the place to start. More on that later. Do me a favor; support the company that is helping me with the expo, hop over to http://www.coolibar.com and learn about sun safety, sun safety gear/clothes/sun block. They are a local company, in St. Louis Park, and they rock.
I will be back on the air Monday night. I do believe I am a tad nervous. Don’t tell anyone. 25 years of TV and I am nervous. Cool, kinda. Careful Monday…there might be a few tears. Our friends at Special Olympics call us “the crying Leonards”!
Day 42. Thanks for stopping by.
How about a day 42 pic…still some red 🙂
This incredible woman. This woman is everything. This woman is my morning, noon and night. This woman is the best part of me. This woman is the love of my life. This woman always looks up. My best friend. My love. My wife.
No blog today. I am busy being in love with my wife.
Happy Valentines weekend.
Day 41. Thanks for stopping by.
A pic from our wedding day when she said I do…and my heart skipped a beat.
Family. Friends. Neighbors. Acquaintances. Strangers. All with one thing in common. Kindness. It is an amazing trait. To give selflessly. To help others whenever, wherever. So many people have done so much for our family. I am truly blessed to know such kindness. To all of you I say thank you. I won’t forget. I promise to pay it forward. To pay it forward because cancer is brutal. Sadly it seems to be everywhere and it steals everything, including life. But cancer has another side. It brings out the best in others. Phone calls, visits, texts, meal deliveries, jokes and true compassion. I was lucky to have experienced it all. I have seen it. And because of that I have been truly blessed on this journey, cancer and all.
Please reach out and share some of your compassion with those that need it. Imagine our world if everyone started to pay it forward. Imagine how great it would be. We can do this, together. We can do it right here. My chemo journey is over but the blog will live on. I will keep writing and we can start planning. We have work to do, together.
My skin cancer journey started 7 months ago. My chemo journey started 40 days ago…my comeback starts Monday. I am excited to return to a place I love. To return to a job I love. Join me as I return to TV Monday night..on the air with my friends on FOX 9.
Day 40. Thanks for stopping by. Now onwards to the Polar Plunges and my friends at Special Olympics.
LL Cool J said it best “don’t call it a comeback, I’ve been here for years”