Thanksgiving and Giving Tuesday have passed but we continue to think about the nature of Gratitude and what it means in our daily lives.
To continue our Gratitude Series, today, I am honored to share a Melanoma story from inside the Colorescience family. Corey Plummer’s tale is actually a classic story within a story. The first story is about the expression of true friendship, and the story within the story is one of self-discovery and revelation.
But first, let’s begin with a few words about gratitude & personal relationships. Scientists have studied the effects of gratitude on relationships, and indeed, proven that ‘gratitude’ is essential to successful ‘relationship maintenance’ behavior. Sound obvious? Well, let’s take a closer look.
In real life, people feel gratitude when they perceive that someone’s behavior is directly responsive to their unique and specific needs.
Why? Because the feeling of gratitude that someone feels often motivates behavior in return that is reflective of your own needs. And when you notice that reciprocal action, you in turn get a sense of gratitude, of being appreciated … of being noticed. Some call it being ‘seen’ and thus, a positive cycle is formed. One that goes back and forth, day in and day out - it’s not just good – it’s important and necessary relationship maintenance.
In a nutshell, gratitude offers 2 constructive influences on relationship behavior.
- - When we EXPRESS GRATITUDE we significantly increase the chance that the other person will behave nicely to us in the future.
- - When we FEEL GRATITUDE coming our way, we are subconsciously more likely to behave well or do something nice in return.
This works with significant others, with parents, children, colleagues, bosses, friends and acquaintances. Give it a whirl and then some. Don’t expect, just do.
Last thought, before we meet the extraordinary Corey, is to think about making that subconscious good behavior more conscious. What can you actively do or say today, tomorrow and this holiday season to be deliberately thoughtful, consciously giving, to your partner, to your family, to your friends, to your co-workers?
On that note, we now meet Corey Plummer, who works with Colorescience at their Carlsbad headquarters as the Director of Human Resources.
Celeste:I heard that you had a recent experience with Melanoma in your life and was hoping you could share it with us today.
Corey: My husband’s best friend, Dave, passed away from Melanoma last October, just a few days after turning 50. They were close friends for over 30 years. It was a battle, and he fought hard. My husband went with him to every appointment, treatment and test for the 27 months of it so that his wife Holly could save her time off for when … well … they most needed it.
Celeste: I understand that what was especially tough was the story behind the story. Do you mind if we share that?
Corey: Yes. I think it’s important. Ten years previously, Dave had had a mole removed. It was done correctly - it was pre-cancerous so they were careful to remove tissue from all around. The margins were tested afterwards and were very clear. But 10 years later, he was having acid reflux. A scope found 9 tumors including some in his stomach and esophagus. That original mole had metastasized into the blood and gone to different organs and all the while, Dave had no idea and had not been tested in quite some time. By the time, he died, there were over 30 tumors, and they were literally fracturing his bones internally.
Dave’s story should remind everyone, that you must get tested, especially after having had something removed – consistently and throughout one’s life.
Celeste: I know Dave’s story is particularly meaningful, because in a very real sense, it ties into your own melanoma story. Please tell us what happened in your case.
Corey: Being adopted, I have no medical history. So beginning at age 30, I started getting a complete physical every year on or near my November birthday, so I could create my own medical history … my own set of baselines. This includes mammograms, EKG, lab work and even extra lab work.
Like Dave, I have moles, lots of them. They are looked at every year. But last year, partially because of Dave, I told my husband that I thought ‘my moles were having babies’ (top picture below). I was also getting ready to speak at work about Open Enrollment and one of our initiatives was to encourage that everyone get skin cancer checks, so to lead by example, I moved my November appointment up to July. The moles were biopsied. And long story short is that I was diagnosed with Stage 2 Melanoma. Now, I have a 3 inch survivor scar on my hip – it’s ugly but I don’t care. I love my scar.
Celeste: Oh my. Thank goodness you moved your appointment forward from November to July.
Corey: If I had waited until my annual in November, the cancer would have been Stage 3, and I would have had to go through chemo. But it was caught and I am so grateful for that.
I think the learning is that it’s not just about ongoing testing, it’s about being AWARE of change on your body. And also to know that there are many kinds of Melanoma cancers. Many can penetrate through the 4 layers of skin and go into the muscle and then your bloodstream. This is so different than basal cell carcinoma which is oftentimes more superficial. Many people do not understand the fundamental difference between melanoma and basal cell skin cancers.
I’ve told my story to everyone here in the office, and of course, all my friends. People who have never had a single screening have gone for skin screenings - even people who work here at Colorescience, who see the facts and figures about skin cancer every day.
Celeste: I am impressed by your idea of using your birthday as a signal to get an annual checkup – it’s like a birthday present to the self. Better than changing smoke alarm batteries on New Year’s Day!
Corey: You have nothing to lose but a little time to do a screening. It’s one of the things that the ACA [Affordable Care Act aka ObamaCare ] gives to everyone cost-free. For me, I now have a standing 3 month appointment. I think of it as preventative medicine.
Celeste: It’s abundantly clear that you are keenly aware of your good fortune. By the way, I hear you write yourself, tell me about how writing fits into your life…
Corey: I get up every morning early, take a walk in the crisp cool air and watch the sun come up quietly. I then do 3 sun salutations and write my intentions for the day in my journal.
Celeste: What a beautiful way to greet the day. Would it be too much to ask what today’s 3 intentions are?
- Positivity for my (missing) kitty and her survival and well-being.
- Positivity for my husband (who has early onset dementia at age 55.)
- Positivity for myself to be productive today.
Celeste: Thank you so much for sharing that. Setting daily intentions is a compelling way to create positivity for the day. I sometimes personally believe that just by setting intentions, one has already accomplished something in the day. Lastly, do you mind to tell me what you are grateful for this year?
Corey: Every year I am grateful for my Adoption Anniversary.
Thank you, Corey, for sharing yours and Dave’s stories. And thank you to your husband for exemplifying the true meaning of friendship to Dave and his wife. I think we have all learned something here. If anyone reading this has any moles or has a family member with moles, that are changing size, scale, color or ‘growing babies’, please get to a good dermatologist as soon as possible.
Please click here to find a qualified Medical Professional near you or go to skincancer.org to learn more about skin cancer.