The Importance of Traditions

Family traditions counter alienation and confusion. They help us define who we are; they provide something steady, reliable, and safe in a confusing world.
— Susan Lieberman

Tis the season for eggnog, Christmas trees, decorations, ugly sweaters, parties, candles… oh and traditions. The holidays have a way of descending upon us and bringing with them (sometimes much to our chagrin) reminders that we should be participating in something that we’ve repeatedly done before. Whether it’s putting up and decorating a Christmas tree, lighting a menorah, or gathering around the dinner table, traditions can come in many forms and can bring with them a variety of different feelings. Some people like the comfort and stability that traditions bring, while others find them constricting, wanting the freedom to try something new.  

I believe that traditions are good. In fact, my husband will tell you that I love traditions. He might even say that I get upset when I don’t participate in a tradition that I normally partake in every year (yikes!). I’ve tried telling him it’s important to me but I don’t think I’ve ever really expressed why.  

I enjoy having something to look forward to, the time spent with people I love, and creating memories that will keep me warm on a cold winter’s night. And now that I have two nieces, I enjoy sharing experiences I had as a child with them, a chance for me to re-live the magic of my youth and also a chance for me to provide them with a foundation for their future, hopefully giving them something that doesn’t waver even when the rest of the world seems like it’s on the brink.  

I understand that traditions are not for everyone. I know that for some they can bring up negative emotions, or bring them into contact with toxic people. But for these people, I still encourage you to participate in traditions that you feel comfortable with or to start new traditions for yourself that bring you happiness and joy.  

Here are my top three reasons why I love traditions and think they are worth having in your life:

They bring people together or closer. When my grandmother, the matriarch of our family, passed away, my family turned to one of her favorite pastimes to cope: card games. This brought a grieving family closer together and also provided comfort in a time of deep sadness and loss. And sometimes reviving an old or lost tradition is a great way to reconnect with loved ones and friends you haven’t seen in awhile.

They provide comfort, identity, and values. One of my favorite traditions growing up was helping my mom decorate for Halloween. She always went all-out with her creativity and spunk. I can honestly say it’s probably the biggest reason why Halloween is my favorite holiday. It’s contributed to my identity in so many ways: my love for ghost stories, pumpkins, and the month of October.  

They give you a chance to reflect and be grateful. In my last blog post, I talked about being grateful for struggles and challenges. Traditions can give you a space to reflect and be grateful for all that you have. They can also help you think about what your next move is. Every year for New Year’s I make a list of all the things my husband and I did that year. And before midnight we read the list out loud. It gives us a chance to remember all the good times from the past year and think about all of our adventures together for the year ahead.  

I’d love to hear about your favorite traditions! Let me know in the comments below or find me on instagram: @kcorey720

From my heart to yours, I wish each and every one of you a wonderful holiday season filled with happiness, gratefulness, and love. 

Letter From The Editor // Family

clarke-sanders-249797.jpg

This Thanksgiving, I brought my boyfriend to meet my family. I broke the news to my mother that I had a boyfriend the night before. We were both nervous for our own respective reasons. This was the first time I brought someone to meet my family in a long time. I don’t share my personal life much with my family so to have them meet my boyfriend is a really big deal. He not only met my family that day but he met two of my best friends’ families that day too. If you happen to know these two ladies then you know how close we are. I talk to them more than my biological family. I’ve gotten to know their families throughout the years so it was nice to be able to introduce my boyfriend to them as well.

As someone who isn’t terribly close to my biological family, my friends have become my chosen family. I’ve been selective about who gets into my circle. I’ve been burned in the past. I ride or die for my friends so I want to make sure these people are worth it. Someone once told that all my friends were awesome. That person was right. We should all be protective of ourselves and have people in our lives who lift us up and bring light into our lives. I only have time for people who are supportive and are pushing me to be a better person because I’m going to do the same for them. 

I consider myself an independent person but my family has supported me in ways I never thought was possible. When I had to leave my apartment in New York because I was leaving an abusive relationship, my aunt drove a U Haul to the city to help me move. A year ago I suddenly quit a job that was slowly destroying my spirit. One of my best friend's immediately came to be by my side as I cried hysterically on my bed. My boyfriend has challenged and motivated me and has got me thinking about our own family someday, and if you've read my Letter From The Editor for Motherhood, you know my thoughts on being a mother. These people have made me a better person, and I would be nothing without them.

This month on the blog we will be talking about families, the ones we were born into and the ones we created ourselves. We will also be sharing segments from The Lady Project 2017 Holiday Gift Guide so I hope you follow along this month and enjoy!

Warmly,
Brittanny Taylor
Editor-in-chief

A Quick Wrap Up On Grateful

light-sign-typography-lighting.jpg

Let me tell you something, working for yourself is hard. Really hard. Ok, you probably already knew that. Some months are better than others. November was a rough month for me. I had to get honest with myself and others about my situation. It was really scary and tears (a lot of them) were shed. But my support system kicked in and my friends had my back. Once I was open and honest with them, things immediately got better. I’m grateful to have people I can be vulnerable with. I don’t know what I did to deserve these amazing humans in my life, but I will hold on tight and I will be eternally thankful to have them.

I hope that you all had a great November and Thanksgiving holiday. As a Native American woman, Thanksgiving doesn’t do much for me (obviously). But I got to spend the day with friends and family which you will hear more about in my Letter From The Editor for December.

I am grateful for everyone who read this blog and contributes articles. This blog would be nothing without you.

Warmly,
Brittanny Taylor
Editor-in-chief

Lady Project Winter Marketplace & Holiday Guide Celebration!

22338993_1639094646133008_3931278039470477170_o.jpg

Join PVD Lady Project for our Lady Project Marketplace and Holiday Guide Celebration at the arcade providence for #WomenOwnedWednesday on tonight! 

This free event is open to the public -- visitors can shop from 15+ local, women-owned businesses, enjoy drinks by New Harvest Coffee & Spirits (which you can take with you as you shop inside the arcade, samplings by Fountain & Co. ice cream, take a pic in our photobooth by Alpha Creatives & Co., an info session with Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses at Community College of Rhode Island (CCRI), visit The LPO Lounge for mini acupuncture sessions with Zenkai Acupuncture- Hadley Clark, L.Ac., Lady Project merch specials and MORE!

#WomenOwnedWednesday is a national campaign led by The Lady Project and its chapters to support women-owned businesses on November 29 (and every day, if you ask us!).

This year, we will be taking Winter outerwear donations to go to the folks who run the Buy Nothing Day Coat Drive. Although our marketplace will occur after the actual Buy Nothing Day event, all donations will still (happily) be distributed to those in need!

This year's vendors include: 
THE HOUSE OF AMA, Crunchi, THE ART OF FATEBrick+Beam StudioAster CandleOverseasoned Editions, Listens To The Wind, Wage HouseALPHA studio- Amie Louise PlanteKrystan Saint CatZoraGraceE. Campanella Design StudiosThe Perfect Sweet MacaronsDOIZPEInfinity ApothecaryWildlife by Art CatAmericana Darlings

Catherine Kwolek, owner of Aster Candle, talks about her experience selling at The Lady Project Winter Marketplace.

"I started Aster Candle about a year and a half ago. Since then, I’ve participated in a ton of markets, pop-up shops, and shopping events. Looking back at 2016, I have to say that the Lady Project Winter Marketplace at The Arcade was one of the highlights of the year! First off – how cool is it to say you’re setting up shop in the oldest indoor shopping mall in the country? The building is gorgeous and makes a great backdrop for your goods. Plus, there is an all-star lineup of retail shops and restaurants that call The Arcade home. 

What makes the atmosphere at the Marketplace special, aside from the space, is that you’re in really great company. The Lady Project does an awesome job of selecting vendors who are super passionate about their craft. Whether you’re a vendor or a guest, you’re sure to meet people who are fun, engaging, and supportive. 

If you’re looking to cross a few names off your list, this year’s vendor line up does not disappoint. With everything from jewelry to apothecary goods to vintage, I am hoping I get a quick chance to shop! Be voted best gift-giver at your holiday party, all while supporting women-owned businesses. What’s better than that? Hope to see you all tonight!"

Carving Out Your Little Piece of the World... And Then Giving It Back

2014-03-12-10.22.27.jpg

Life is not a journey to the grave with intentions of arriving safely in a well-preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out and loudly proclaiming "Wow! What a ride!" - Anonymous I live by those words. Book me a flight to anywhere, strap a backpack on me and point your finger in the right direction (which I’ll probably ignore). I’ll find my purpose, don’t worry. The road never gets any shorter, and it might even get a little bumpy at times, but the ride is totally worth it.

My journey, just like yours, is still in its infancy. I graduated from massage school a few years ago and jumped right into my career. I built a practice of loyal clients and stayed on staff at the school… until I moved to Peru.

I’ll admit that was a pretty drastic decision. My life was great. My massage practice was thriving, I loved teaching, and I had a wonderful circle of friends, clients, and colleagues but something was missing. I finally had this skill to help people but I didn't feel like I was doing enough with it. I wanted to do more.

About six months earlier, I began looking for a volunteer opportunity abroad during the break between semesters teaching. I wanted to use my vocation as a massage therapist and work with a local population -- preferably in a developing country. The problem is, those are usually the countries that regard massage as sex, and as a result, there weren't a lot of volunteer opportunities for me.

But eventually an organization emailed me back with good news -- they offered me a chance to work with kids with spinal disabilities in Cusco, Peru. I'd never been to Peru before, so I shrugged my shoulders and said, "Looks like I'm going to Peru."

So I packed my bag and flew to Peru. I slept in the Lima airport that night and at 5:00 am I boarded my flight to Cusco, high in the Andes Mountains. My hosts met me at the airport and brought me home to rest and begin acclimating to the 11,000-foot altitude.

I hadn't traveled alone in years, and exploring Cusco on my own those first few days was really magical. By the time I began my volunteer work a few days later at the children's hospital, I had successfully maneuvered Peruvian taxis -- and taxi drivers -- figured out how to call home, and even began speaking and comprehending bits and pieces of Spanish. It was exhilarating and I already felt a new energy flowing through me.

And then on day three, I met the kids. Oh, man, they were cute. Flor, Diego, Yesmenia... there were kids everywhere and they all wanted attention. And they really didn't care that I was there to give them massages. They wanted to play.

And so that's what I did. For two weeks, I spent every morning at the hospital playing with the kids. We'd go for little walks around the park connected to the hospital, play on the swings, watch TV, make water balloons. It was wonderful. And after lunch it was naptime. We helped them brush their teeth and take off their shoes and went from bed to bed saying, “Chau, mi amorcita. Hasta manana.” See you tomorrow.

Some of them eventually let me massage them. Some just wanted to hold my hand. I had never been more in love with more people at one time than during those few weeks at the hospital.

I spent the final week of my month in Peru trekking through the Andes to a very special place called Choquequirao, which is the less-traveled, harder-to-get-to sister site of Machu Picchu. There's a special energy up there -- a sacred energy -- that is so palpable it's like walking through a prickly, electrical haze. I guess you could say that I had a "moment" while I was up there. I realized that I wasn't there by chance and I shouldn't squander this opportunity.

Ok, great, but now what? I was leaving Peru in two days. How was I supposed to take this message and turn it into action?

You see, Cusco is an interesting place. It's an ancient city. Q'osco means "navel" in Quechua, the ancient Incan language. The Incans believed Cusco was the center of the universe -- and, to this day, the energy vortex that pulls people there is very, very strong. It takes a hold of you and doesn't let go until it's ready. And when the plane took off at the end of that month to bring me home, I felt like part of my soul had been ripped out and left in Peru -- it was very clear to me that I had to go back and retrieve it.

And that's what I did. Four months later, I packed my entire life into one bag (and a carry-on) and moved to Peru. At the time, it seemed easy. Sure, I was giving up a lot to do this, but because it felt right it just wasn't complicated. I felt the same way when I started my massage practice a couple of years earlier. I set my intention to open a practice and connect with like-minded healers, work with people, and be happy. And that's just what happened.

But little more than a year after graduating from massage school, I became aware of a new energy surging through me. I wanted to save the world. I had never felt that way before. Becoming a massage therapist brought that out in me -- a desire I didn't even know I was capable of having. I hadn't forgotten about those other aspects of owning my own business like health insurance, earning income or marketing, but I just knew that there was a little voice in my head that told me that this was a priority.

So, to make a long story short, I moved to Peru for about 14 months, opened a practice there and worked with travelers and locals -- the travelers paid, the locals didn't. It balanced out very well and I was able to bring massage therapy to an underserved community of hard-working, never-rested-a-day-in-their-lives (let alone an hour on a massage table) people. I began to change their perception of massage -- it was no longer some hokey service hawked on the streets near the main square to hikers on their way to Machu Picchu. Their repeat visits told me that after a lifetime of thinking massage was just a silly service offered to tourists, they really might now think that massage therapy has the power to help and heal.

And my personal journey during that time was more profound than I ever imagined it could be. I spent time with a local shaman, drank ayahuasca (just a couple of times) and practiced a lot of yoga and meditation. I was able to see clearly enough that I had a long journey ahead of me and Peru was just a beautiful stop along the way.

My profession is an amazing vehicle for self-discovery, and it’s almost a requirement in my line of work if I want to be good at what I do.  Self-discovery is essential for anyone who wants to be good at LIFE. The more we learn about ourselves, the more we can help those around us.  And we can't forget that.

Give back. It doesn’t matter how, but it does matter why. You give back because you can. You have a tremendous toolbox of skills to share and I promise you this (and I really don't know how to explain how or why it works): The more you give -- openly, honestly give -- the more you get back. I kid you not. It works.

It's been a little over three years since I returned home from Peru. I decided to move back to my home state of Connecticut instead of returning to DC, which meant that I had to rebuild my business from scratch and I wasn't sure how long it would take.

I had some moments of anxiety but I never had doubt. I set my intentions and spent much of my first six months back setting up my studio, establishing a Web presence and creating new marketing materials. And volunteering -- both my skills and my time -- to friends, family and local businesses that I could give back to while they helped me grow my practice. And 18 months ago, I took a leap of faith (in myself) and opened Elm City Wellness, a practice that (currently, as the numbers keep growing) employs nine massage therapists, one acupuncturist, four yoga instructors and two full-time assistants. We love each other so much that we call ourselves a tribe. Three of them even joined me this year on a trip to Peru, where we volunteered our services. Care to join us on our next trip?

Marissa Gandelman is a licensed massage therapist and the owner of Elm City Wellness in New Haven, CT. She will be hosting an informational session about her March trip to The Healing House Cusco on October 29 and December 5 at Elm City Wellness. She is a founding member of this non-profit and hosts annual trips there, which include a visit to Machu Picchu, massage therapy and volunteer opportunities. If you are interested in joining her and her staff, please contact elmcitywellness@gmail.com.


Marissa Gandelman is a licensed massage therapist and the owner of Elm City Wellness in New Haven, CT. She will be hosting an informational session about her March trip to The Healing House Cusco on October 29 and December 5 at Elm City Wellness. She is a founding member of this non-profit and hosts annual trips there, which include a visit to Machu Picchu, massage therapy and volunteer opportunities. If you are interested in joining her and her staff, please contact elmcitywellness@gmail.com.

The 2017 Lady Project Holiday Gift Guide Is Here!

LP17-HolidayGuide-Cover.jpg

'Tis the season to make the holidays shine with The Lady Project! The 2017 #LPHolidayGuide is now live. Read about tips + tricks to make your holiday season amazing, try recipes and find gifts to give to the ones you love here: http://bit.ly/LPHolidayGuide17

Special shout out to our creative director Sarah Dillionaire on another amazing job! This guide would not exist without her hard work.

Grateful For The Journey

jiri-wagner-235753.jpg

I’m fortunate. I’m blessed with a good life - I’m healthy and loved by my friends and family. I have a stable roof over my head, a warm blanket to sleep under, and tasty food in my fridge. While I’m incredibly thankful for each of those, I’m most grateful for the journey.

From the time we’re born until the time we pass, we’re on a forward moving journey. It’s not a path on which we can backtrack, nor can we skip ahead. We have to climb the hills and hit the potholes. How we approach this journey paints the landscape around us and influences our experiences.

Unfortunately, many of us spend too much time wishing we could be something else - younger, smarter, prettier, thinner, etc. or that we could go back and fix our past mistakes. We waste our days and limit our ability to maximize the gift we receive each day - life.

The journey is our life. It presents us with an abundance of opportunities to learn and grow, but to reap the benefits, we have to be open to receive what the journey provides.

Recently, on a blustery Saturday afternoon, I attended a football game at the college I graduated from 20 years ago. Our seats were about ten rows up from the field, and the cheerleaders were directly in front of us; I couldn’t help but notice their beauty and youth.  

As I watched the cheerleaders dance and flip through the air, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel a little jealous. They have their entire lives ahead of them to mold into whatever they want it to be. Oh, to be that young and fresh-faced again! But, then a little voice whispered in my head - “They don’t know what you know. They haven’t had the chance to learn those lessons, yet.” With that in mind, my jealousy subsided as gratitude filled my heart.

As we celebrate birthdays or other milestones, it’s easy to feel resentful of what’s lost - youth, opportunities, love, etc. and it’s common to feel envious of those possessing those desires. If we allow ourselves to spend too long with those thoughts, we miss what’s happening on our journey.

When I think of those cheerleaders, I know their lives aren’t perfect simply because they’re young and beautiful. They have struggles, just like me. When I think back to being their age, my challenges were probably similar to some of theirs, but I overcame them years ago, and they paved the way to better equip me to handle the issues I encounter now.

This mindset allows me to respect the process of aging and the journey of life. When I look at older women, I’m in awe. What must they know that I haven’t had the chance to learn?

I’m grateful for all the twists and turns life throws my way because, with each one, I learn more about myself and my stories get richer.

I am who I am now because of the journey - not in spite of it. Every year, I welcome the additional candle on my cake because it represents another year of becoming more me. While I am continually amazed at how fast the years fly by, it has taught me to trust my instincts, believe in myself, and be open to what I don’t know.

We never stop learning. This journey allows us to be both the teacher and the student. We teach those on the path behind us, and we learn from those ahead of us - this is what makes life’s journey so beautiful.

I can’t wish to be the cuter, younger, fresher woman that’s half my age because to do so would devalue every hill I’ve climbed, every lesson I’ve learned, and every tear I’ve shed.

I can’t dread being the older, softer, slower woman because it would diminish the lessons I’ve yet to learn, the battles still to be fought and won, and the wisdom from a life of both, good and bad, experiences.

All I can do is be eternally grateful for the journey and my part in the process. Where I am right now may feel challenging, but it also feels right. There’s a turn ahead where I’ll discover a new path and a new version of me, but I can’t see it yet. I don’t know when I’ll stumble upon it, but I know it’s there because I’ve learned those turns are always ahead and I’m watching for it.

The beauty of trusting the journey is that I trust myself. I’ve stopped resisting life and instead, I’ve started embracing all the challenges and surprises life throws my way. By doing so, my roots have extended deeper into the soil, and I stand stronger and taller.

While I may be thankful for many things in my life, I will always be most grateful for the journey, because that’s where I find myself and my strength, time and time again.

Vicky Cook is a certified coach that helps high-achieving women feeling stuck to find what’s missing so they can rechart the course of their lives. She loves to write, travel, and spend time with her partner, family, and friends. She believes life isn’t meant to be endured, it’s meant to be embraced and loves encouraging other women to find their edge so they can feel alive and limit their regrets.

Gratitude And Looking Back On A Year Of Self-Care

caleb-frith-78995.jpg

The idea of gratitude is pretty simple. Our thoughts are natural pathways to the brain. The more positive our thoughts, the happier we are. Easier said than done. If I’ve learned anything though, in my year-long journey to find peace with anxiety, gratitude is the most important act of self-care there is.

In the world we live in, it’s all too easy to block out the details of every day, and forget about what we might be thankful for. You know you need to stop and take a moment for self-care and reflection, but in those moments, it’s even easier to find your mind spinning in negative thoughts, rather than practicing gratitude.

In the last year, I’ve tried a laundry list of things in the name of mental health and self-care, and my inner monologue hasn’t always been filled with gratitude, but I’m getting there…

The first 3 months…

Yoga

“Is it working out if I’m not sweating? Are everyone else’s eyes really closed during Savasana?”

Flotation Therapy

“Wait, what about my makeup? I should really have planned this on a hair wash day. An hour. I have to be in there an hour. I actually don’t know how to meditate (see below) or stop thinking entirely or think about really anything except my to-do list (no gratitude here) so this is just a challenge altogether.”

Bubble Baths

“I guess I can use this time to catch up on my professional development reading, that’s a good use of the time, right?”

Meditation

Yeah, I didn’t make it past the first 10 pages of the book about how to meditate

Massages

“Why am I not relaxing? I am literally paying to relax… a lot of money. I should be relaxing. When this is over I have a lot to do. What am I going to do first? Oh my god she wants me to flip over which means this is almost over which means oh my god I have NOT relaxed yet.”

Mani/Pedis

This is just another task on my to-do list now, isn’t it?

Cell Phone Free Runs

“I’ll just check in on work realllllly quick….”

“Technology Free Sundays”

Cue a mental breakdown on Mondays over unanswered texts, a full email inbox, and all of those social media notifications are really just too much. I’ll just hide my phone under my bed (seriously, I’ve hidden my phone under there more times than I wish to admit)

… Present Day

I won’t pretend I’ve got it all figured out. I won’t say that the entire 60 minutes of my latest float I was completely in tune with my own breathing and practicing mindfulness. I won’t say that the last time I got a massage I didn’t spend at least 10 minutes of the time thinking about an email I may or may not have sent at work. But I head into each experience thinking about gratitude first, last, and during…. And it helps!

The more you look for gratitude in your life, the more positive you will find in your life. And in the name of mental health and self care, that’s never a bad thing.

While it’s important to be mindful of your own needs and take a break every now and then, if your thoughts are toxic, none of it really matters, does it? So above all else, if I’ve learned anything in my year of “more me, less them” and “it’s OK to say no” it’s this: gratitude is the healthiest of human emotions. And when you start from the inside out with self care, it’s much easier.

Grateful For Change

0.jpg

This year has been a year of change. It has been one year since my move to Philly. This year has brought up many emotions. Some have been: excitement, fear, doubt, joy, and hesitation, though the pertinent emotion I have felt, besides hope, has been gratitude. 

I didn’t move for school, for a job, or for a family engagement. I simply moved to experience something different, to experience change. Personally, change can be challenging. I am a fairly easy going person, but the road less traveled induced a just amount of anxiety.

It is not that I didn’t love Providence (where I was living), I did. I made much creative headway there and surrounded myself with a wonderful circle, but it began to feel small. The fact that I had no commitments keeping me there, helped me realize I could pick up and move anywhere. So I decided to take an adventurous leap and let change enter my life, I am grateful I was lucky enough to take on my venture. And lucky enough to have remarkable friends and family who helped me along the way!

Philly is an interesting place and has the perks of most large metropolises’. There is a lively arts scene, much academia, and a diverse culture. These things are immeasurable and they fuel me. The people I have met in the last year are extremely positive, forward-thinking, and kind.

Though, there is a lot of poverty in Philadelphia, which can be distressing. I put my best foot forward and do what I can to stay positive. I reach out to the community, talk with friends, and pay attention to self-care, to lift my blues.

As I reach 38 next year, it becomes clearer every day, how life’s only constant is change. It can become abrupt and scary, but it is a loving place.

Without gratitude, I would never survive.

Who knows if Philly will be my forever home, all I know right now, is my present.

And I am grateful for that.

Ashley Ernest (City Manager of PHL Lady Project, Jewelry Artist & Arts Educator, A Different Kind of Fine is her jewelry line, www.adifferentkindoffine.com.)

Grateful for Early Detection

bryan-apen-407591.jpg

I didn't want to tell you guys this on the answering machine...

That's how it goes when you and your parents work opposite schedules. Your dad’s a cop working the midnight tour and your mom ends up on his sleep schedule as a result.

"Please," the fear in his voice, "...call me as soon as they call you with the results of the biopsy." My grandfather would urge me when I spoke to him after I'd had the surgery to have skin cancer removed from my stomach.

I'd lose him to cancer a year later.

It was a routine skin exam. I was getting older. My "late 20s" approaching, I figured it was time for a regular dermatologist appointment for my "ginger skin." I love the sun, I have freckles and blond hair. But I take care of my skin. I always use SPF 50. Heck, my bathroom looks like a Sephora counter.

I called the doctor’s office, I told them I wanted to come in and have a skin exam. They weren’t surprised by it. They scheduled me pretty quickly. I moved on with my day.

I honestly didn't expect it. But I really should have.

The entire skin exam lasted about 15 minutes. The discussion around next steps for what looked like an abnormal freckle on my stomach, one I’d always thought I had, but now that you mention it, it does look discolored compared to normal, seemed to last forever.

We’d start with a biopsy to determine if it was cancerous, pre-cancerous. What type of cancer? …It could just be nothing at all.

More than a million people in the United States are diagnosed with basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma every single year. These are non-melanoma skin cancers. “The kind of skin cancer you want to get, if you’re going to get it,” I’d tell my parents when explaining the basal cell carcinoma diagnosis the biopsy confirmed.

To be honest, looking back I have no idea why more people don’t “just chop things off.” The surgery was a breeze. Keeping my puppy away from the stitches was the hardest part.

The phone call to confirm that the margins were clear and I’d need no further treatment was the best part.

Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to detect most non-melanoma skin cancers early enough to cure them. Unfortunately, unless you are determined a “skin cancer risk” or have a family history of skin cancer, your doctor likely won’t ever recommend you get a routine skin cancer screening.

Mine never did.

The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends everyone performs monthly head-to-toe skin exams on themselves. Skin cancers found and removed early are almost always curable. You can even learn about the warning signs of skin cancer (your ABCDEs) and what to look for during a self-examination (if it looks or feels different, it is different) from their website.

Last month, I was back at the dermatologist because I noticed a “weird spot” on my neck. It was a few months following my annual skin exam, that came back clear for the year.

“I’m getting surgery on my collarbone,” was the text I sent to my boyfriend 10 minutes into the appointment.

Early detection saves lives. I’m grateful for it every time I walk through those dermatologist doors. This time, it was benign. “Just a cyst.” But of course, I still have not figured out how to keep the pup away from stitches…