Thursday, September 13, 2012

Remembering Sunscreen and Butterflies

This post ties in to my health communication goal. 

On the sidebar, you will see a graphic and link to a site called "Hands Free Mama".  It is an exceptional site, talking about realizing how much time we spend with our various electronic devices, Blackberrys, tablets, etc in our hands, and the impact it has on our lives. 

I love the message of the Hands Free Mama site so much, because it ties in with my career change to nursing.  In my case, changing careers goes way beyond simply changing what I do for a living. 

It is the privilege of being able to use one's talents to the fullest, to become a better person, wife, mother, daughter by being thoroughly satisfied with what I choose to do with my life, including career choice.  To feel that I am making something better in the world, that my day's work feels like it contributed to something good.  It is about becoming the best person I can be, to truly living my life fully and cultivating joyful experiences and memories with my beloved family and friends.  It is simply 'waking up' to living my life, not just going through the motions to get through each day.

And yes, I realize how extremely lucky and privileged I am to be able to have the choice to leave a secure, well-paying job to venture into this new medical adventure.  I am so grateful.

Getting back to Hands Free Mama, the blog's author, Rachel Macy Stafford, wrote an incredible piece a few days ago, about one woman's battle with melanoma.  There were two main messages in the piece: 1- the importance of using sunscreen/the dangers of UV rays, and 2- don't put off doing things you want to for "someday" when you can do them "now".

The dangers of young people using tanning beds has been in the news lately here in Canada.  The province of Ontario recently tabled legislation that would ban people under 18 from using tanning beds.  (And then there was the so-called "tanorexic" woman who made the news in the US, when she allegedly brought her young daughter to the tanning salon with her! But I digress, that was an extreme case...)

As a fair-skinned, blue-eyed, red-head, I know first hand the power of the sun in producing sun burns, and the importance of using sunscreen.  (And I also know how to seek out shade whenever/wherever possible!!!).  The risk of skin cancer has certainly been on my radar, and we use many bottles of the stuff year-round. 

Rachel writes beautifully about a beautiful woman, Christy, who recently lost her fierce battle with melanoma.  Please take a few minutes and read her story. Thank you.

I am posting the blog entry here in its entirety, as it is such an important message, and so powerfully written, to try to help, in my small way, to raise awareness about the risks and reality of melanoma. 

As mentioned, the link to Rachel's site is on my sidebar (, if you want to read more of her incredible blog posts.



Remembering Sunscreen and Butterflies

I think Christy would want us to remember sunscreen … but also everyday miracles like butterflies and the feeling of a child’s hand in our own.
When I decided to share my “Hands Free” journey with an online community, I had no idea what insight this would bring me. There I was striving to grasp what really matters and it appeared, what matters most in life, right in my inbox.

On January 20, 2011, I received a message from Christy.

A mutual friend had posted “Butterfly Part 2” and from that post Christy said she read entry after entry on my blog. She wanted to know if she could read the original, unpublished version of “Your Mother is a Butterfly.” She then added that she was going through treatment for cancer and had quite a bit of downtime with her recovery.

I sent her the butterfly poem and was pleasantly surprised when I heard from Christy a few months later. She needed to document her battle with cancer for a fundraising flyer but couldn’t seem to find the right words. Although I am uncertain about many things in life, I am certain of one thing; my purpose is to write difficult, beautiful words when someone else can’t.

As I worked on the wording for the flyer, I felt certain Christy’s story should be shared with as many people as possible. I asked Christy if she would allow me to write a blog post about her. Being a private person, Christy needed time to think about it. But ultimately she decided she would. I’ll never forget her selfless rationale: “If ten people use sunscreen this weekend because they read the post, or if a few more kids are lathered up because of me, how can I say no?”

Christy’s story became one of my most popular posts, and many people wrote to tell me Christy’s experience changed the sunscreen habits of their entire family. I completely understood what they meant. I, too, thought of Christy on a regular basis. I often felt compelled to drop her a line just to let her know I was thinking of her.

Once in awhile Christy would write back and let me know what treatment she was going through.

One thing was for sure; Christy was always fighting. Perhaps that is why the email message from one of Christy’s friends came so unexpectedly. I blinked back tears as I read her friend’s words, thinking surely there must be some mistake—not courageous, beautiful, strong, determined Christy … not the woman who had become a hero to me and so many … not the amazing mother of three who would defy the odds and outlive us all.

Christy passed away on September 1, 2012 in the presence of her loving family. For several days, I had no words, only heartache. But then inspiration came—I like to think from Christy herself—offering a chance to save one more.

The following pledge is how I will live out my days here on earth—inspired by Christy, the remarkable one whose life was the epitome of grasping what really matters.

In Your Honor

In your honor, I will wear sunscreen.
Even when it’s cloudy. Even when I’m in a hurry. Even I think a little color on my cheeks would be nice.

In your honor, I will smile at the surly cashier. I will smile at the grumpy school secretary. I will smile at those with no smile because I don’t know what battle their facing today.

In your honor, I will say yes to gumball machines and holding that big fat toad that will probably pee on my hand. Because this makes my kids happy—and one day they will remember I said yes to gumballs and toads.

In your honor, I will buy the pretty undergarments on the same day I say, “Yes, I’ll take extra hot fudge.”

In your honor, I will celebrate the rare occasion when my 9-year-old grabs my hand as we walk through a parking lot. And I will relish the unusual occurrence that she leaves her hand in mine far longer than necessary.

In your honor, I will let that agitated driver into the line of traffic even though I waited my turn. I will even wave and wish him well.

In your honor, I will pause for sunsets and butterflies that cross my path. I will acknowledge such things are miracles. Everyday miracles.

In your honor, I will take the stairs. I will take the scenic route. I will take a chance if it’s something worth fighting for.

In your honor, I will carry spare change just in case I see that man on the corner of Clairmont and 30th with a sign that says, “Can you spare some change?”
Because I always have a little hope to spare.

In your honor, I will schedule my mammogram and dermatologist appointments.
And I will pester my friends to do the same.

In your honor, I will slide my hand beneath the covers until I find my husband’s hand. Not for any reason, just because he’s there … thank God, just because he’s there.

In your honor, I will sing in the car. I will sing in the shower. Even though it sounds unpleasant. Even though I don’t know the words. I will sing.

In your honor, I will pick up live sand dollars washed ashore on Hilton Head Island and place them back in nourishing waters. Because you loved Hilton Head Island. And because you would save anyone, anything from pain and suffering if you could.

In your honor, I will stop prefacing sentences with “when I lose 5 pounds” and “when things slow down.”

In your honor, I will live life now, not “someday.”

In your honor, I will call my sister at least once a week. Even if it goes to voicemail. Even if all I say is, “Have you heard the new Citizen Cope album? I think you would love it.”

In your honor, I will listen to my child’s heartbeat at bedtime. I will let her listen to mine. Even if she does it to stall going to sleep.

In your honor, I will say, “I am sorry.” Even when it’s difficult to say. Even when I think the other person should say it first.

In your honor, I will visit my kids in the lunchroom until they say, “No more Mom. I am too old for that.” And then I will periodically ask—just in case they change their mind and need me to come one day.

In your honor, I will keep writing the stories providentially placed on my heart. For that is what brought you to me.

In your honor, I will bless the butterfly that crosses my path. For you taught me everyday miracles are abundant if we just open our eyes and look for them.

In your honor, I will not let life pass me by.

In your honor, I will wear sunscreen.


I leave you with Christy’s ultimate wish taken from her post, “Where The Sun Doesn’t Shine” …
“I would like to see awareness raised about melanoma. I would also like to see tanning beds banned. Teenagers are too young to understand the extensive damage that tanning beds can have on their skin.

People think that skin cancer can be easily removed, and then you just go on with life; I know I did.

People do not realize skin cancer can be deadly. It is the fastest growing cancer and affects more people than prostate, breast, colorectal and cervical cancers combined. One person dies every hour from skin cancer. I don’t understand why no one is talking about it.” – Christy B.

In honor of Christy, talk about skin cancer. Talk about sunscreen. Talk about living and loving like today matters, because it matters.

*Thank you for being a part of The Hands Free Revolution, a community of people striving to let go of distraction and grasp the moments that matter.

If you are interested in expressing love and support to Christy’s family, memorial contributions should be made to the Christy Barford Memorial Fund c/o any 5/3 Bank.


  1. I am truly grateful that you shared Christy's critical message. Your kind words about my blog and message are touching and greatly appreciated. Thank you!!!

  2. Thank YOU for taking the time to comment, and for all your writing on your blog. I love your blog, and my family life has changed so much, for the better, when I realized how much attention I was devoting to 'gadgets' over my children. The precious "now" is the priority in house.

    I am so looking forward to reading a book of yours, one day.

    Please keep writing!!!! :-)