Monthly Archives: May 2015

The Surfer Girl and Skin Cancer: Melanoma

“Do you have a moment to talk?” my doctor asked me over the phone. When I answered that I did, she said, “It’s melanoma.”

A few months before this, I had noticed a mole on my knee. I have a lot of moles, but this one seemed to come on fast and was starting to change colors. I asked my friend who is an ER doctor about it, and she said, “It doesn’t look like anything, but go see your dermatologist.” I also asked the primary physician I share with my daughter during a Well-Baby visit; she said the same thing and gave me a referral. I saw the dermatologist and she said, “It doesn’t look like anything, but we will biopsy it.” So with a small numbing shot and quick use of a knife, it was removed and went off to the lab.

Then I got the call. The good news was that we caught it early. It was only .5 mm deep, which is not very deep by melanoma standards.

The next step was to get it excised—removed along with a 1-cm circle of the skin around it. This I wasn’t thrilled about. When I went to the surgeon, he drew a circle around the mole to indicate the amount of skin he was going to take.  I freaked out. It looked huge. The procedure was relatively painless, but the surgery site is right where my knee bends so the healing process was a bit slow and unpleasant.

Well, when I went back to the dermatologist three months later (I have to go every three months now), I had another mole removed that intuitively felt “funny” to me. Everyone said the same thing again—that it doesn’t look like anything, but get it checked. Again, it was melanoma. This one was even more shallow—.2 mm—and it has healed well since it was on my leg in a non-bendy part.

Since this time, I have met with an oncologist and had a PET scan. Thankfully, the cancer hasn’t traveled into my body. Here is why I am so lucky. I went to see the doctor early. I didn’t wait. Every doctor I have met with said that I saved my life by coming in. It’s hard to imagine that this is all it took.

As a surfer girl, I have spent plenty of time in the sun, but I think of myself as somewhat responsible. I wear sunscreen, but I rarely (if ever) reapply and, often, I wouldn’t put sunscreen on my legs. As a Southern California surfer, I usually wear a full wet suit, and for years I have sat in the shade of an umbrella. I have not tanned in the sun. Okay, okay, when I was a teenager I wore baby oil and “laid out” for hours, but I have never been in a tanning bed. Melanoma doesn’t run in my family, and I tan easily and rarely burn. What I am saying is that I probably only get as much sun as the average Southern Californian beach-goer. If all this makes you nervous, that is my point. I want you to take the following precautions.

The Mayo Clinic and the American Academy of Dermatology suggest you avoid the sun during the middle of the day, wear sunscreen year-round (a broad-spectrum with an SPF of at least 30) and reapply every two hours, wear protective clothing along with sunglasses and hats, avoid tanning beds, and become familiar with your skin so you will notice changes. Go and see your dermatologist every year for an annual skin check, and go right away if you notice anything suspicious. I would encourage you to go even if you just have a “funny feeling” about something. Be well, surfer girls!



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You Can’t Handle the Cuteness!

We continue to celebrate mothers with this adorable video of Daize Shayne Goodwin and her son catching a giggle-filled wave at Waikiki.

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Ride: Film Review and Interview with Helen Hunt

Helen Hunt’s new film about motherhood and surfing, Ride, opens today in select theaters and is available for download on iTunes and Amazon. We had the pleasure of attending the premiere this week and, needless to say, fell madly in love with the film. What’s not to like? The film features one of our favorite actresses, the dreamy Luke Wilson, and Australian hottie Benton Thwaites. Hunt wrote, directed, and stars in the film about a dysfunctional mother-son relationship set against the backdrop of sunny Southern California surf.

The trailer sets you up for the plot: overprotective mother follows her son across the country after he drops out of college to pursue writing—and more immediately—surfing.  Hunt’s uptight character, Jackie, decides to get in the water herself to see what all the fuss is about. It should come as no surprise to surfers that the ocean becomes a transformative experience for both of them.

The story is sweet, funny, and truly touching at times (I cried), but it also shows just how hard it is to learn to surf. Most films show a few rough outings, then suddenly the main character is shredding like the pros. Poor Hunt takes some serious wipe-outs for her role of Jackie. It makes us remember our early days in the water. Another fun thing is that it is set in our ‘hood, featuring many of the surf spots and local shops we frequent in Venice Beach.

Hunt also explores the complexities of motherhood, and all that comes with it: love, attachment, guilt and, ultimately, the ability to let go.

We had the exciting opportunity to ask Helen Hunt a few questions about her new film.

Surf Like a Girl: What made you choose surfing as the film’s backdrop?
Helen Hunt: I created this cranky, uptight, controlling character and thought, Where would she be most miserable on earth?  Answer: On a surfboard.

Surf Like a Girl: Tell us about your first surfing experience.
Helen Hunt: My first surf lesson was such a misery.  I got out of the water with tears in my throat muttering, “Never again, never again.” Later I thought, anything that freaks me out this much is something I should do again and something I should write about.

Surf Like a Girl: What did you learn about surfing while filming?
Helen Hunt: That more hours in the water makes you braver.  That when you are in the ambitious head you need to be in to direct a movie, you are much less afraid of being smashed by big waves.

Surf Like a Girl: How have you integrated surfing into your lifestyle?
Helen Hunt: I just get in the water whenever I can.  I boogie board a lot. So fun.  So fun without nine feet of fiberglass near you.  I love to surf, stand-up paddle, boogie board, dog paddle… whatever I can do.

We highly recommend checking out Ride in theaters or download on iTunes or Amazon.

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Filed under General, Surf Movies, Surfing