Saturday, May 30, 2009

One Year Later


A message to my friends, family and everyone I care about:

            The end of May marked the one year anniversary of my diagnosis with skin cancer.  I wrote many of you soon after I first got the diagnosis, and now I write you again to tell you how my life has changed.  I write this because I don’t want you to ever forget how serious this disease is.  My intention is not to lecture you but to educate you and hopefully protect you from going through anything similar to my experience. I know many of you anticipate the summer—you can’t wait to get the dreary St. Louis winter over with.  I know the first chance you get, you’ll be outside with your tank tops on soaking up the sun!  Sounds great, doesn’t it!
            I, like many of you, loved to lay out in the sun.  I know most of you know me now as “Pasty White Cara”, but I used to brown up nicely back in the day.  When I was young, I rarely, if ever, wore sun screen.  The first few days in the sun I would burn, but by the end of the summer I was sporting my white-blonde hair and golden brown arms and legs. As I got older, it took longer to achieve that golden brown look I craved.  I have very vivid memories of lazy summer afternoons in the Ozarks, competing with my high school friends over who had the best tan.  In fact, I have pictures of us all showing off our tan/burn lines.  None of these times did I ever wear sun screen.  All my summers of playing softball, running around at school picnics, rolling up the sleeves on my tee shirts so I wouldn’t have a ‘hoosier tan’ – my skin would fry and peel over and over again. To me, that went hand in hand with summer.
            In fact, I am even guilty of laying in the occasional tanning bed.  I would do it for dances, prom, and I even tanned regularly for 3 whole months before my wedding in 2005.  I think the quickest tan I ever got was on my honeymoon, in Mexico.  Sun screen was worn, but rarely re-applied. 
            Now, as the summer is upon us, I have a totally different outlook on it.  I dread it…even fear it.  My diagnosis, though small, was still MELANOMA – the deadliest form of skin cancer.  Not taking me seriously yet? Read these statistics from The Skin Cancer Foundation Website: (
*      More than 20 Americans die each day from skin cancer, primarily melanoma. One person dies of melanoma almost every hour (every 62 minutes).
*      Melanoma is the second most common form of cancer for young adults 15-29 years old.

*      One in 55 people will be diagnosed with melanoma during their lifetime.

*      One blistering sunburn in childhood or adolescence more than doubles a person's chances of developing melanoma later in life.

*      A person's risk for melanoma doubles if he or she has had five or more sunburns at any age. 

Now, I want you to stop and think about how many sunburns you’ve had at any given age.  Scary, isn’t it?

Okay, so again…I’m not trying to lecture you.  I’m just trying to get you to understand how real this is.  Some of my closest friends roll their eyes when I talk about this, or they call me “Skin Patrol” whenever it comes up in conversation.  One of them even said to me about a month after I was diagnosed, “I understand what you went through and I hear what you are saying…but I’m not going to change anything unless something happens to me.”   This friend, in particular, is a big sun worshipper.  That comment didn’t offend me…it hurt me.  My heart broke because I know she’s telling the truth.  I know she won’t change.  So all I can do at this point is share my experience and hope others learn from it. 

Also, I wanted you to know that the dark spot I had removed was not what one would typically think of as cancer. It wasn’t 2 different colors, it wasn’t cracked open and bloody. It really didn’t look like any of the pictures you see. It wasn’t even raised at all. It was very small and very thin.  In fact, take a regular sized Sharpie marker and dot it on a piece of paper.  That’s how big mine was.  However, it was VERY dark.  Almost black…and that’s why it looked suspicious to my doctor.  This is why it’s important to get yourself examined by a professional at least once a year.  I would have never known to get this particular spot looked at.  Who knows how fast it would have spread if I’d have waited.

Here’s what I do:
1)     So when I know I am going to be outside for more than about 10 minutes, I cover my entire body with sunscreen.  (FYI: your clothes only give you protection of an SPF 4) And YES you should wear the highest level of SPF available.  It is a myth that anything over SPF 30 is a waste. 
2)     I wear sunscreen on my face every day.  Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry Touch Sunblock SPF 85 is a great one that is non-greasy and doesn’t clog pores.  It can also be worn under make up.
3)     Since I have had melanoma, I have to see my dermatologist every 3 months, and my oncologist twice a year.  Everyone else should see a dermatologist at least once a year to get looked over.  I really like my guy.  His name is Jason Amato.  I have referred so many people to him; I think I am going to see if he will hook me up with some free Botox injections next time I go in. J
4)     My children’s lives will be drastically affected by this.  Maria spent very little time outside last summer b/c I was so scared.  I know I can’t keep her out of the sun her whole life…I’m not an idiot.  But I will protect her.  She will wear sunscreen, like it or not.  She will also never wear cute little bikini swimming suits as long as I can control it.  She will be wearing full coverage tee-shirt style suits with SPF built in.  Oh yes!  What a terrible mother I am going to be.  How ridiculous she will look if I take her to a public pool.  You know what else looks ridiculous??? The multiple scars I have which I would never wish on her. Read this statistic about childhood diagnosis and family history: (
*      Melanoma is seven times more common between the ages of 10 and 20 than it is between 0 and 10 years.
*      If your mother, father, siblings or children have had a melanoma, you are in a melanoma-prone family. Each person with a first-degree relative diagnosed with melanoma has a 50 percent greater chance of developing the disease than people who do not have a family history.
*      First exposure to tanning beds in youth increases melanoma risk by 75 percent
*      Between 1973 and 2001, melanoma incidence in those under 20 rose 29 percent

To sum it up, here’s what I am saying to you- please think responsibly when making decisions regarding you and the sun.
Don’t go tanning. (Tanning beds emit from 50% to 100% the amount of UV rays than from natural sunlight; you would be safer lying out on the beach for a few hours.)
Wear Sunscreen!
See a dermatologist at least once a year!
And for God’s sake, put sunscreen on your kids! 
So many times I have heard people say to me “Well, I like to tan because it makes me feel skinny.” You know what else will make you feel skinny?     EXERCISE! 
Do I hate applying sunscreen every day?  YES! It sucks!  Do I hate the fact that I will never be tan again for the rest of my life? YES! Will I look like a dork when I finally break down and wear a wide brimmed hat to protect my scalp, face, ears and neck? YES! But you know what would be worse than all of these things combined?  Having my family watch me die from a disease that I could’ve prevented and leaving my two little babies and my husband to live their lives without me.  That’s something I am not ready to do. 

Since my initial diagnosis, I have had several suspicious spots removed.  One has come back “atypical”, but not cancerous. Overall, my skin is healthy, but I will probably have to have freckles and moles removed for the rest of my life and that is something I have to deal with. Please take this issue seriously and for more info!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

About Family of G's

Welcome to Family of G's! We are so glad you stopped by!

My name is Cara. My husband, Gerry, and I have been married since May 2005. We live in Missouri, in a city just south of St. Louis. We have 2 beautiful daughters - Maria, born July 2007, and Naomi, born May 2009.

This blog was created in order to keep our friends and family updated on our crazy lives. We have many friends and family that we just don't get to talk to often enough, so this is a way to keep in touch with all of them. It is also a way for our families to see pictures of our kids when they can't see them in person everyday.

I love being a stay at home mom, raising my kids, learning about photography, and discovering new recipes to cook for my family - and I love being able to share everything I love on my blog!


Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Naomi Hope Giammanco is here!

IT'S A GIRL!!!! Naomi Hope Giammanco was born May 8th, 2009 at 11:01 am. She was 7 pounds, 7 ounces, 20 inches long. We are very excited to welcome her to the world.

We started the day off bright and early by arriving at the hospital around 7:30. Gerry took some final pictures of me and my big pregnant belly. When I delivered Maria by C-Section almost 2 years ago, I had been through a very long and arduous journey. Needless to say, I looked horrible. I was swollen and exhausted. So, since I was going to have a C-Section again, I decided that I was going to look hot on that operating table. After, the surgery, I don't know if hot was the appropriate word to describe me, but I know I don't look as horrible in the pictures this time!!!

The surgery was scheduled for 9:30, but got bumped back an hour. My mom and dad waited with Gerry and I in the triage room as the rain started pouring down. The nurses told us that almost every labor room was full and almost every post partum room was full as well. They said something about it being a full moon. Anyway, the time came for me to say goodbye to everyone and walk myself into the operating room. The anesthesia I received was similar to an epidural, but it was just one big shot. I was scared as heck to get this b/c they wouldn't let Gerry in the room for this part. The nurses and anesthesiologists were awesome, but it just wasn't the same as having my husband there.

Several minutes later, Gerry was able to come in. As soon as he got there, they started and within minutes, they pulled Naomi out. I vaguely remember hearing her squeak a little, but I saw her arms and legs moving around. They said she swallowed some fluid so they had to suction her out really good. This was also why she wasn't crying a lot right away. They had to put a little oxygen mask on her face. I was a little scared when I saw that. The nurses reassured me that she was fine, but just needed a little help getting things going.

After they finished sewing me up, they handed my baby girl to me and wheeled me in to the recovery room. I was so excited to be able to hold her right away. I wasn't shaking like I did with Maria. My mom and dad got to see her for a little bit then they left so we could have some family time. I nursed her almost immediately and we snuggled for about an hour. The nurse came in to get her cleaned up and she did everything right in front of Gerry and I. The was also something we were unable to see with Maria, so I was happy about that.

After a bath and a good swaddling, they handed her back to me and we headed to my post partum room. Jeff, Kelly and Hailey came up to see us, then Bobb, Laura and Olivia came by as well. We had a peaceful evening hanging out, just the 3 of us.

On Saturday, Gerry's parents called to tell us that Maria had a runny nose and little cough so we decided it would be best for her not to come to the hospital to see her baby sister. I was pretty bummed because they were supposed to bring her on Sunday, which was Mother's Day.

Many other visitors came by over the weekend: Galen, Marc and John, my Grandma Bettlach, Erin, Laurie, Connie, Gerry's parents, and my mom's friend Sarah.

I decided to come home one day early, on Monday because I missed Maria...a lot. Things have been really crazy since we got home. Gerry and I are low on sleep but doing well. Naomi had a little jaundice, but is recovering. Maria doesn't really pay much attention to her new sister. She has kissed her on the head a few times and touched her feet and hair. She also tried to give her some milk from her sippy cup.

To view Naomi's newborn pictures, go to and click on the Baby Love Photography link. Hopefully you will be able to see a list of baby names and you will find Naomi.

Here are a lot of pictures that we took from the first days of Naomi's life:

Final Night as a Family of 3

The night before we went to the hospital to have the baby, we drove down to Gerry's parent's house to have dinner and to drop Maria off. They were kind enough to watch Maria for us while we were going to be in the hospital. We were also able to eat dinner one last time as a family before the new baby arrived. I must say that I was quite a bit more emotional than I had expected. I tried to put Maria to bed before we left and I just started crying. I knew that things would never be the same the next time we saw her and I just couldn't control my emotions. I finally gave up trying to get her to sleep and I asked if Gerry's parents could put her down after we left. This also just so happened to be the first night Maria figured out how to climb out of her pack and play. When Gerry's parents called to tell us that, I realized we were all in a for a very long weekend. All in all, we had a great time that night and we were able to take some fun pictures of the 3 of us.

My 30th Birthday Bar-B-Que

Since I was extremely pregnant and we were busy with the basement being remodeled, we decided to keep my birthday somewhat low key. Gerry initially wanted to bar-b-que but realized he wouldn't have time so he ordered Bandana's Bar-B-Que instead. Many of our friends and family came to celebrate and the food was awesome. There was definitely no shortage of Rice Krispy treats!!! Thanks to everyone who came.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Week 38 Doctor new changes :(

Last Thursday I went to the doctor for week 38. Everything looked great including baby's heart rate. I actually lost 2 pounds, which I thought was interesting. And my doctor also said the baby is still laying in a funny position. Other than that, nothing else had changed. I wasn't dilated any further. Since I normally have my appointments on Thursdays, my doctor gave me the option to come in for week 39 since I am scheduled for the C-Section on Friday, which would be the very next day. We already had a busy week trying to get everything prepared for Maria and the new baby so I decided not to go.

Friday, my wonderful and loving husband hired a cleaning company to clean our house so I wouldn't have to do it. We were long overdue for a good, thourough cleaning anyway, plus we were having my 30th birthday party on Saturday. This couldn't have happened at a better time. They cleaned the bathrooms top to bottom, including toilets (which I hate), they mopped the kitchen floor, cleaned all the cabinets, stove top, kitchen sink and microwave. They also vaccuumed and dusted in every room. It was so nice to walk in to a house that smelled spic and span!

The basement remodel is progressing nicely. All the trim is finished and the doors are hung. The painter came today and primed. He will be back tomorrow to finish up and put the color on. I am very excited to see how it looks! Hopefully they are scheduled to work through the weekend and finish up so no workers have to be here when we come home with the baby.

In other news, back in March I had a dark freckle removed from my left shoulder. The pathology reports came back saying it was atypical. Over the past 2 weeks, the scar from where it was removed has been itching and I recently noticed that the freckle was coming back up through the scar. The dermatologist was able to get me in yesterday and he decided to do a punch biopsy on it. So he basically just removed the little dark mark, but went in a little deeper to get it all. Please pray that this comes back normal. I am worried but optimistic that everything will be okay.

So...Friday, May 8th, is the big day!!! The C-Section is scheduled for 9:30 am. We have to be there at 7:30. Maria will be staying with Gerry's parents for a few days and Bobb and Laura for a few days. Gerry and I have been running around all week trying to get everything ready. It's crazy and we are exhausted but we can't wait!

I am not posting any pictures today because we are having some issues with our lap top. Our other computer is very outdated and I am unable to post the little slideshows like I normally do. However, I do have some pictures of my 30th b-day party and the basemet progress so I will post those as soon as the other computer gets up and running. Otherwise, the next time I write...we will have a new baby and I will be able to tell you all about him/her!
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