Thursday, March 27, 2014

Taking Time....

After many prayers, much thought and consideration, I have decided to step back from social media for a while. My house has been sold, and we begin a new chapter in our lives.

 As we make the move to our new house in April, I need to place my focus on my family and the work involved with making our new house a home.

I will continue to work behind the scenes with the JillianHayes Foundation, and I will post our activities surrounding Melanoma Awareness.

The billboard for Caregivers has been paid for, thanks to all of your generous donations.THANK YOU for all of your help involved to make this happen! I will continue to accept photos through March 31. The billboard will be displayed sometime in May for Melanoma Awareness month. I'll post the dates and locations once I get that ironed out with the billboard company.

I’m not gone for long,  just taking some time needed to move through some important transitions. I can be reached via email at

Thank you everyone for your continued love and support.


Tuesday, March 11, 2014

I'm Tired. I Advocate. I Stand. Together....

I don’t know how this stuff happens, but it does. As I prepare for my day, God puts things in my head. My heart begins to race, my hands start to shake. I’m brought to a place that can’t be ignored. He won’t let it go.

Seriously, I’ve learned to listen.  

As I read though some of the posts on face book this morning, I discover that two more people have died from this disease. And this is just from people I’ve been in contact with though the melanoma community. One person dies in the US from melanoma every hour. Every hour! And lives are changed forever. Melanoma not only effects the person holding the cancer card, it effects those around them too. Their family, their friends. The caregivers. From that first heart stopping phone call forward, life switches gears abruptly for the rest of their lives. 

I am currently working on a billboard targeted toward young people that use tanning beds in preparation for spring break and prom. The nagging thought today was that I need to do a billboard that focuses on caregivers. People that didn’t know the dangers of tanning before their loved ones were diagnosed. People that know now, but wish they would have known before that dreaded call.

These billboards cost money. I have been funding these billboards with the jewelry I was making. With everything that has happened in the last year, I have taken a break from making anything. I’m currently in the process of finding a new home, and I’ll be moving in April. Something had to give. So…I am asking for help. If you think this is a good idea for a billboard, please donate. There is a “donate” button on this blog page, and every dollar helps. If you would like to show the world that melanoma touches everyone involved, please send your photo to

 Melanoma Awareness

We Know Now. Do YOU?

Thank you melanoma warriors. Thank you caregivers. Thank you family and friends. We WILL make a difference.


Friday, March 7, 2014

Standing United with the AAD.....

Last evening, several amazing people, along with myself, were invited to participate in a conference call with the American Academy of Dermatology to discuss their upcoming plans for May, Skin Cancer Awareness Month.

As some of you remember from last year, the Academy’s Spot Orange campaign evoked high emotion. Let me rephrase that. We were livid. Appalled that orange was promoted as the color for melanoma cancer, and not the traditional melanoma cancer color, black. We embrace black.

The Academy responded to our concerns last night with “flying colors”.

“We are proud to say that we will be dedicating Melanoma Monday and the first week of May to melanoma awareness. We will support the melanoma community’s efforts to raise awareness with the color black by looking for opportunities to retweet and “like” your social media posts. Our call to action will be promoting a potentially life-changing behavior of early detection- how to SPOT Skin Cancer. We look forward to being a united front in educating the public about melanoma and other skin cancers”.

We all have the same goal. We all want to save lives, and we all want a cure for this devastating disease. Together, we really DO make a difference.

I'm so blessed to be a part of this melanoma community. A place of passion, dedication, support and love. 


Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Siblings: The Forgotten Mourner.....

I love winter. I love the way the snow insulates and buffers my world. Today as I’m thinking about winter and the icy roads, the sidewalks filled with snow, I’m reminded of an old friend. I met Michael as I was working in my yard many years ago. I had just purchased my home and I was anxious to put my stamp on it. One summer day, while I was digging and clearing dirt for a pond, I stood up to admire my mess. I noticed a young man and his dog passing by. I must have smiled at him because he turned his wheelchair around and drove up my driveway. We started talking, his beautiful Golden being the ice breaker. His dog was still a pup, full of boundless energy. They didn’t stay long, they needed to finish their walk.

The next day, Michael and his dog were back. We talked about my pond and I told him how I was struggling to get it level. He lit right up, eager to help me.  He suggested places I could arrange the rocks around the outside of the pond. He helped me build up the waterfall. I loved having him around giving me his input and direction. We became fast friends, soon learning about each other’s lives. . He shared how he became paralyzed. At the age of 14, he dove into a neighbors pool and broke his neck.  He was around 30 or so when I met him.

One day it was particularly hot as we worked together. I suggested taking a break so we could get some water for the dog, and a glass of ice water for the two of us. I placed the dog dish on the ground, and handed him his water. He just looked at me. It never dawned on me that he couldn’t move his arms and grab the water for himself. I gently placed the glass to his lips, and waited for his direction. He tilted his head back, and I followed, waiting for him to swallow. Together, along with his beloved pup, we shared our glass of ice water. Michael ended up moving to Florida not long after that summer. He wanted to be in an environment where there wasn’t any snow. A place where he could move around easier. We lost contact after he moved, and I haven’t been able to locate him. I miss him.

My thoughts of winter, Michael and my children all intertwine. I’ve been learning a lot about the types of grieving, the processes and stages. I know what it’s like as a mother to lose her daughter. I needed to learn more about the impact on my children. What is it like to lose a sibling?

The Forgotten Mourner

The loss of a sibling is a devastating life event. When a sibling dies, the world changes in a heartbeat. Oftentimes when such a loss occurs, others fail to recognize that the surviving sibling faces emotional battles on many fronts while working through the loss. Largely ignored, surviving siblings are often referred to as the “forgotten mourners.”

Siblings who play a major part in each other's lives are essential to each other. Adult siblings eventually expect the loss of aging parents, the only other people who have been an integral part of their lives since birth, but they do not expect to lose their siblings early; as a result, when a sibling dies, the surviving sibling may experience a longer period of shock and disbelief.

The Loss of History

Each family has its own special history and the shared bonds that are a part of that history. When a sibling dies, the bonds are shattered, and the history forever has a void that cannot be filled. As they grow, children develop certain characteristics and talents. Brothers and sisters tend to complement each other by developing a balance of interests in different areas. However, surviving siblings will need to redefine their roles in the absence of this relationship.

The Loss of Future

When a sibling dies, all future special occasions will be forever changed. There will be no more shared birthday celebrations, anniversaries, or holidays. There will be no telephone calls telling of the birth of a new nephew or niece. The sharing of life’s unique and special events will never again take place.

Understanding from Others

Society often encourages bereaved individuals to feel guilty for grieving too long. This failure to receive validation of their grief can cause siblings to hide their feelings, causing a type of depression with which they may struggle for many years.
If the surviving sibling is married, stress may also be introduced into the spousal relationship. Individuals grieve differently, and the spouse may be bewildered and even unsympathetic that this loss is causing so much sorrow in their own family. This situation may provoke comments such as, “Why are you so upset? You haven’t been close to your family for years.” While this may sound reasonable, the emotions of grief and mourning are seldom reasonable—or even rational. Spouses may need to be told how they can be supportive. One woman simply asked her husband for a hug whenever she felt especially sad about the death of her sister.

When your sibling dies, you lose a part of your past, your present, and your future. Because of this tremendous loss, it is important that everyone work together to ease the path toward healing.

Grief is real. Grief has physical qualities. Don’t assume the griever is able to take that drink of ice water just because the oozing wound isn’t visible. It’s there.

 Jillian’s sister, Jenni, posted this on her face book yesterday. It says it all:

"the reality is you will grieve forever. you will not 'get over' the loss of a loved one; you will learn to live with it. you will heal and you will rebuild yourself around the loss you have suffered. you will be whole again but you will never be the same again. nor should you be the same nor should you want to

I love you, kids. And I’m real proud of you all.

~ Peace

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Door Number Three...

Turn off the TV. Shut down the computer, the IPad, your phone. Close your eyes.  Now breathe. In with the good, out with the bad. Free your mind of all distractions. Breathe. Again. Again……

My all- time favorite Bible verse: “ Be still and know that I am God”. Being still doesn’t just happen. I have to allow it to happen. I have to remember that I need create stillness. And when I do, I’m never disappointed. I hear you, God.

I’ve been busy these last few months. Busy grieving. Busy fighting for my grief. By allowing myself to grieve, I’ve put my awareness activities on the back burner. For a variety of reasons, really. Mainly because I have needed to give myself the time and the latitude to work and process through this dismal jungle. But now, I need to make a choice. Am I going to continue with my melanoma awareness involvement like I did while Jillian was still with us, or am I going to slow down, or possibly stop? By continuing my involvement with melanoma and all it entails, is this helping me, or hurting me? Good questions.

While pondering these questions after dinner last night, I came home to an email from a melanoma caregiver. This woman has become very special to me. It is scan week, and she needed to talk. I remember vividly scan week. Scan day. Result day. It’s awful. You try to be positive and tell yourself you can’t wait until you get to hear the good news. That works. For about two seconds.

Your heart is doing flip flops. Your hands shake. Your mouth is dry. You try and read the results from the doctors face as he walks in the room. If he smiles and jokes, it’s good news. If he beats around this bush and talks about everything other than why you’re sitting in that hard backed chair, it’s bad news. FEAR. I will never forget those days, and my heart hurts for my melanoma friends. They will be living with scan weeks forever.  I think about Jillian and her fears and emotions during scan week. What were her fears as she was faced with a melanoma cancer diagnosis? Did she run from life because of it, or did she run with life in spite of it? I already know the answer.

Staying away from the pulse of melanoma isn’t going to take the pain of losing Jillian away for me. It will always be there. You just wouldn’t hear about it as often. I’ve read somewhere that there are three ways people deal with their grief. Some talk about their loved ones often. Some don’t talk about their loss much at all. Others become activists and try to keep their loved ones memory alive. None of them are right, none of them are wrong. They just are. And I’ve decided. I’m door number three.

Life doesn’t necessarily have to be easy. But I believe it does need purpose. So bear with me as I stumble and fall, and laugh with Jillian when she hauls me up. Again and again.

Fall Seven Times, Stand Up Eight.

I hear you, God.


Saturday, February 1, 2014

At Least It's Not Raining.....

Today is my Mom’s birthday. We took her out for dinner last night to celebrate her years (she’d shoot me if I mentioned how many). We shared a great evening filled with much laughter and love.

 I was thinking about my mom as I woke up this morning and was filled with an overwhelming sense of gratitude. The older I get, the clearer I see how we are a product of our upbringing. I’ve been so blessed. I was raised as the middle child in a middle class family. We didn’t have a lot of money growing up, but I didn’t know it then. What I did know was that I was raised with an abundance of love. An overflowing amount of love.

My parents have always been deeply involved in my life, and the lives of my children. My mom was my travel buddy on soccer tournaments for Jillian, and gymnastic tournaments for Jennie.  She helped me tremendously when I was a single mom raising four kids alone. One adventure in particular has stuck with our family throughout the years.

While I stayed home with the other kids, my mom offered to drive Joshua to his evening gun safety class about 10 miles away. It was still light outside as they headed to the school where the class was held, but it had turned dark by the time class was over and they left for home. My mom wasn’t familiar with the route and they got lost. Those were the days before smart phones and GPS devices. So here’s my mom, driving on a dark country road in her sporty Mazda,  lost with a twelve year old kid sitting next to her.

I wasn’t there for the exchange between grandma and grandson as they made their way back safe and sound, giggling and in one piece. But I’ve been thankful ever since for the gift my mom gave Josh that night.

As they were trying to find their way home in the dark, lost, and perhaps a little scared,  my mom turned to Josh in reassurance and said, “At least it’s not raining”. That’s my mom. It never rains.

So the joke in our family when we are faced with difficult situations has become a mantra. At Least It's Not Raining.

Thank you Mom, for teaching me and my children that even if it does rain for us, an umbrella is always nearby. And if there is a storm…. shelter is but a prayer away.

Happy Birthday, Mom. I love you.


Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Reflecting On 2013...

It’s the last day of 2013. I don’t have the words to recap this year. I do have one word that jumps out though. Healing. This has been a year of healing. No. That isn’t true really. Hell is a better descriptor. Learning to live without Jillian has been by far, the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. It has taken a superhuman effort to engage in everyday activities and to stay present. Healing through Hell.

I prayed this morning for the right words for this blog post. I thought it was appropriate to write one last post for the year. I had no clue what to write about as my heart was full and the words wouldn’t come. This happens a lot. In those moments I just stop and pray.

 As I opened my Pandora, the song from Rascal Flatts was the first to play. “ I Won’t Let Go”. Wow. Well, that song took me back to over two years ago. Jillian had just texted me, “Look at your Facebook”  In the world of a young person, texting becomes a way of communication. You either join in this crazy form of communication, or you don’t. I’ll take it any way I can get it.

Steve had posted the song to her FB page. She told me later that they didn’t really talk about the song, he just played it for her. No words were necessary, they spoke through music. Just as much as Jillian needed to hear that song from Steve, I needed to hear it this morning.

It's like a storm 
That cuts a path 
It breaks your will 
It feels like that 
You think you're lost
But you're not lost on your own, 
You're not alone 

I will stand by you,
I will help you through
When you've done all you can do
and you can't cope
I will dry your eyes,
I will fight your fight
I will hold you tight 
and I won't let go

It hurts my heart to see you cry
I know its dark this part of life
Oh it find us all and we're to small
to stop the rain
Oh but when it rains

I will stand by you,
I will help you through
When you've done all you can do
and you can't cope
I will dry your eyes,
I will fight your fight
I will hold you tight
and I won't let you fall

Don't be afraid to fall
I'm right here to catch you
I won't let you down
It won't get you down 
You're gonna make it
I know you can make it

Cause I will stand by you,
I will help you through
When you've done all you can do
and you can't cope
I will dry your eyes,
I will fight your fight
I will hold you tight
and I won't let go

Oh I'm gonna hold you
and I won't let go
Won't let you go
No I won't

The road this last year has been long, dark and cold. The past few months have been extremely difficult as I’ve worked through all the tough memories of Jillian’s last year on earth. All the struggles as she started to go downhill. All the fear. All the pain. And her death. Her last breath on that dark December morning, holding her, loving her.

I’m reminded once again that even though I’ve had to work through my grief alone, in my own way, I’m not alone. I never was. It takes me but a second to realize I’ve got people out there supporting me, praying for me, praying for my family. I want to thank all of you for your unending support and love. Your kindness really has made a difference.

I’m not sure what next year will bring, but I’m moving forward. I’m standing, I’m fighting, and I’ll win. We’ll win.

~Peace and love for 2014!