Thursday, June 28, 2007

The Ties that Bind

Many people know that it was my beloved mother who first inspired me to work with the cancer community. (I lost her to cancer when I was a teenager) Many people also know that my dear friend, and co-founder, Natalie Johnson-Hatch is another source of inspiration for me. Natalie lost her 21-year-old brother to melanoma—the deadliest form of skin cancer. Upon learning of this and realizing that skin cancer is 90-95% preventable (unlike breast cancer which claimed my mother), I have since been an enthusiastic skin cancer prevention education advocate!

Recently, when doing some genealogy work, I discovered that my Great Grandpa Drake (my mother’s grandfather) died of melanoma.

Now, I realize why I have felt so prompted to be involved with skin cancer prevention. While it first began as a sincere desire to help my dear friend Natalie achieve her dream of a universally accepted Skin Cancer Awareness ribbon, and then grew into a passion for spreading a message of hope—skin cancer is an unnecessary epidemic; it is the spirit of those who have gone before who are sending their love and support, and who are, along with Heavenly Father, guiding me along the path. I just never knew that one of those melanoma warriors was my own flesh-and-blood; my Great Grandpa “Gramps” Drake who died the year I was born.

In honor of him (and his wife); in honor of all those touched by this deadly yet very preventable disease—

I shall continue to fight the good fight.


Wednesday, June 20, 2007

SunSavvy Baby

Today is one of those days that made me smile.

First, as I was riding my bike to work I noticed a lady who cleans the bike path and cares for all the plants. In truth, I have seen this lady several times in the past couple of weeks. Each time I see her, I think to myself: Why doesn't she have a hat and any sunscreen? She's going to fry. So, I gave her a small tube of Blue Lizard Australian Sunscream, told her how important it was/is for her to protect her skin from the intense Utah sun, and thanked her for maintaining the bike path. The plants and treats always look so lovely.

Incidentally, several hours later, while at work, one of my co-workers sent me the following link:
"I saw this thing about sunburns and immediately thought 'this is something Danielle would enjoy'" It definitely drives the message home about the dangers of sunburns! Thanks, Tom!

A few minutes later my friend and fellow cancer crusader, Margaret, sent me an instant message that said "check out of friend Josh's blog." So, I logged into Josh's blog and read a fictional story about a scientist trying to save the world from sunburns by finding the miracle of SPF. I have not seen or talked to Josh in two years, so it was random that he wrote a blog entry about SPF and the dangers of the sun! Nevertheless, I got a good chuckle of out it!

And for the grand finale...

A few minutes ago I decided to surf the net and give my eyes a break from a long day of editing. I was looking to see if my old friend and former cancer crusader, John, had a family website. His daughter, Ruby, just turned one and I had been thinking about her for several days - wondering how the family was doing in Arizona. Behold, I found John's wife's blog and that is when I found a picture of Ruby in the sun protective swimsuit I gave her (before she was even born!) Ruby is the most darling SunSavvy Baby on the planet. Check Ruby out as she poses for her first public service announcement about the importance of protecting youngsters from the sun! Is she not the next Water Baby? (or should I say the next Baby Blue Lizard?)

Needless to say, though I am a "skin cancer geek" as Margaret would say (heck, I have been debating whether or not to send a box of sunscreen to Melissa's dad, since he runs a pool cleaning business and I know that he turns black from the Texas sun during this time of year!); it makes me smile to know that some of the preaching about sun safety makes a difference. (Too bad the guys at work still haven't touched the gallon pump of Blue Lizard sunscreen that I bought for the office!)

Be SunSavvy,

Friday, June 15, 2007

Truth in Sunscreen Advertising

Perhaps, I am growing increasingly irritable as I get older. I recently turned 28. So, I would still be considered young in the eyes of most people (except those who live in Utah County. It's okay - I can joke about that because I live in Utah County).

Yet, the past couple of weeks there have been a series of commercials that have caused my left eyebrow to arch and raise upward, and provoked me to verbal outbursts of immense annoyance.

First, let us begin with the sunscreen advertisements. Every one of these commercials make statements about a particular sunscreen product that either dangerously misleading or outright false. "Sunscreen that just won't quit"; "All day projection" ; "Sunscreen eliminates the signs of past sun damage and corrects past sun damage"; "Completely water proof." ALL of these statements are misleading, even false. I have to wonder how is it and why is it that these sunscreen companies can legally get a way with perpetuating such fallacious and potentially harmful statements? Why doesn't the FDA regulate sunscreens? Why doesn't the FCC require that advertisers tell the truth--completely and totally--all the time, about their product? Why aren't these companies accountable to their consumers?

Here are a fewfacts about sunscreens:

* Sunscreen, based on the mechanics of our skin, loses its protection efficacy after approximately two hours. Our skin absorbs the sunscreen, thus sunscreen must be reapplied at least every two hours. Period. No sunscreen can offer eight hours or "all day" protection against ultraviolet radiation.

* If you figure that a sun protection factor (SPF) of 20 is deflecting 95 out of every 100 UV protons from reaching your skin, than there really isn't anything more potent or effective than a SPF 30. Thusly, sunscreens labeled SPF 45 or 60 are essentially marketing ploys.

* Sunscreens, in order to provide effective broad-spectrum protection against both UV-B and UV-A rays, must have zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. These two organic ingredients reflect and deflect ultraviolet rays from being absorbed by the skin. Parasol 1789 (avobenzone) and oxybenzone are not sufficient. These tend to lose potency after about 30 minutes of being exposed to ultraviolet light, whereas zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, when combined together in proper amounts in a sunscreen (at least 5% of each) provide broad-spectrum protection and do not lose their efficacy.

* Sunscreen expires after about a year. Yet, if you are using sunscreen every day, all-year-round; reapplying it every two hours, you will not have to worry about expired sunscreen.

* Any sunscreen that is less than a SPF 15 is basically worthless. If you consider that a plain white 100% T-shirt is equivalent to a SPF 6, and that you can still get a sunburn (or tan) through a shirt than a sunscreen that is less than SPF 15 is bogus. (Though, I suppose it's better than nothing at all).

* No sunscreen can be entirely water-proof or sweat-proof. YOU MUST REAPPLY SUNSCREEN! Period.

* There are sunscreens available that are fragrance-free, non-greasy, hypoallergenic, that won't sting your eyes, turn you white, or promote acne break-outs and/or other skin reactions and conditions. In fact, if you have been diagnosed with ezcema or rosacea, your dermatologist probably explained the importance of sunscreen use to you.

* Sunscreen is not suitable for babies under the age of six months. In fact, infants this young should not be directly exposed to sunlight. Yet, babies six months and older should always have ample amount of sunscreen applied -- and reapplied -- because just one blistering sunburn before age 18 can almost triple your chances of having skin cancer as an adult.

* Everyone needs to wear sunscreen - whether you are a fair-skinned woman of Irish-German decent like me, or if you have olive skin or black skin -- everyone needs to wear sunscreen. Everyone is at risk for skin cancer.

Clearly, I have strong opinions about commercials (and other advertisements) that promote myths, misconceptions, distorted versions of the truth, or even outright falsehoods about sunscreens.

Research the facts. Talk to a board certified dermatologist. Contact the American Academy of Dermatology and ask for publications that detail the unbiased scientific research that has been done on sunscreens. And to learn more about how to maximize your sunscreen efficacy, pick up a copy of ONLY SKIN DEEP? An Essential Guide to Effective Skin Cancer Programs and Resources.

In sum, be sure you and your loved ones use a quality sunscreen -- every day, year-round, even on cloudy days! It is akin to an invisible forcefield; a shield of armor against harmful, and potentially deadly, ultraviolet radiation. Skin cancer is so preventable! If you could substantially reduce your risk for having cancer, why not do it?

Always bleeding Blue Lizard and being SunSavvy,

PS: Are any of your involved in a truth in advertising campaign regarding sunscreen commercials (and ads about tanning)? If so, I would enjoy hearing your story and learning about the work you are doing. I challenge everyone, when they see commercials and other advertisements that are incorrect, to call the companies on it. Let them know your concerns. Remind them of their responsibilities. Hold them accountable to you and all consumers!

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

10 years later

It occurred to me that, instead of taking a 15 minute break from work to write a blog entry, I should be spending the day at a high school reunion. After all, it was exactly 10 years ago today that I graduated high school.

I have gone from the boisterous Sparky the Red Devil Mascot sporting all things Red-n-White to promote school spirit, to the SunSavvy Geek sporting all things orange-n-yellow to promote Skin Cancer Awareness. From a would-be news reporter for the Washington Post, to the author of ONLY SKIN DEEP? An Essential Guide to Effective Skin Cancer Programs and Resources; my life has taken a slightly different route that I had initially planned 10 years ago. Yet, I am pleasantly surprised.

Life has a funny way of showing us what really matters most. It has a way of humbling us as we grow, and change. As I gradually evolve into a better version of myself, I realize and appreciate that [part of] our purpose as human beings is to serve and bless other human beings. We have been given this "unique gift called life", as Gabrielle Reece once said, to improve the lives of those around us.

I hope that you will enjoy me, and others, in helping save lives from this extremely preventable disease. There is still much to be done in conquering skin cancer, but it is possible to reduce the number of lives that it claims. With 90-95% of skin cancers being completely preventable, we can save lives as well as improve the quality of life. Doesn't that provide you with a shining glimmer of hope? Doesn't that inspire you? We have the power to change, improve, and save lives! What an amazing responsibility -- and opportunity -- this is for all of us! Out of something terrible and devastating, we have the ability to transform it into something positive that can bless countless numbers of people.

A month ago, my best friend reminded me, in the wake of a painful and terrible situation that "the Lord works in mysterious ways." At the time, I just shook my head. Yet, I apply that statement now and say, we have the ability to transform the tide of an unnecessary epidemic. In our pain, we can come together and unite and plant the seeds of hope. This is not foolishly optimistic hope; rather it is a real reason to look toward the future for a brighter, better day.

So, will you join us in this crusade to fight skin cancer (and ALL cancers)?

What have you been doing with this charge that He has entrusted us with; to live a life of service, and to bless those around us?

Here's to a cancer-free world, and to letting the people in our lives know how much we love and appreciate them!


Monday, June 11, 2007

Playing Catch Up

I have been meaning to post a new blog entry for weeks now. If only I could divide myself into multiple people - one of me would go to work, one of me would spend her time Cancer Crusading (and the myriad projects associated with that), one of me would take care of my loved ones and settle the "issues" that are currently pummeling me and my personal life, one of me would take care of my Church duties, one of me would go to San Diego or Hawaii or Ireland for a week for a vacation, and one of me would catch up on my sleep.

Alas, I am learning with each passing day that balance is not an art I have mastered, nor will it ever be... Perhaps, there is a reason why someone coined the term balancing act. It is a continual process. Melissa once told me, "Danielle, you take two steps forward, and sometimes one step back, but as long as you keep moving forward, you'll be okay. Everything will be okay." Unfortunately, when I feel asthough I have made progress, learned valuable lessons, improved, and that things are going well, something happens and reality smacks me in the face and kicks me in the shins. My knees buckle, I'm disoriented, and feel as though I'm stuck between a 100 foot wall and 100 foot cliff. I don't want to fall down nor go backward, but I just don't know how to climb the wall to reach what lies on the other side. How can my progress feel as though it is failure? How can I be growing and maturing emotionally and spiritually, and feel so weak, vulnerable, dissatisfied, and even empty? I think that I am taking steps in the right direction, but then reality pierces my heart and leaves gapping wounds that are so overwhelmingly painful that are likely to leave permanent scars.

But there is no need to worry - I will not make this blog be anything other than what it was intended to be, which is to discuss skin cancer-related topics. Forgive me for steering off topic, slightly. I'm now switching gears, and thinking of a few stories that I have been wanting to share with my readers.

On Memorial Day, my friend (and former room-mate) Amy and her husband Curt invited me to go swimming with their family. When Amy called me up to extend the invitation, her husband shouted out from the background "But you can't get mad at anyone if they don't put on sunscreen, Danielle!" To this, Amy's response was: "Danielle will simply bring a bunch of Blue Lizard Sunscreen samples, and that will take care of that problem!" I love that Amy, who was the one room-mate who refused to put on sunscreen, is now one of the most diligent. Needless to say, the crux of this story is that Curt and Amy decided to that we should go to indoor pool to enjoy a sun-safe day of swimming and friends! (Isn't that funny how all the "preaching" about sun safety does make a difference to people?)

Two weeks ago, my current room-mate (whom I rarely, if ever, see) knocked on my door to inquire about a sunburn. "I have been putting on sunscreen, because I'm outside most of the day at the hangar, and I know the sun is intense here in Utah, but I am still getting burnt. It's like I didn't even put any sunscreen on at all." I asked her to show me the bottle so that I could read the ingredients. "Well, this is why you're still getting burnt. First of all, there isn't any zinc oxide nor is there any titanium dioxide in this sunscreen." When I asked her how she put the sunscreen on, and how often she reapplied it, she then asked me "Does sunscreen expire?" I told her "After a year, the sunscreen does expire. Yet, if you put it on everyday like I told you - 20 minutes before leaving the house, 20 minutes after going outdoors, and then reapplying at least every 2 hours, then you won't have to worry about the sunscreen expiring because you will have used it before the year ends." I then gave her a fistfull of Blue Lizard sunscreen samples.

On Friday, one of my co-workers told me that he had read a recent Consumer Report on sunscreens and that Blue Lizard wasn't on there, to which my boss promptly intercepted and said "Are you going to believe Consumer Reports or a dermatologist? I bet the reason why it's not on the list is because it isn't as readily accessible in all grocery stores like the other ones are, but Blue Lizard is good stuff. It's got what you need." I didn't even have to explain the Australian Government's standards on sunscreen manufacturing and ingredients (which are know to be the strictest in the world), how the FDA here in the U.S. fails to regulate sunscreens, how zinc oxide and titanium dioxide work in protecting our skin from UV-B and UV-A, or how SPF works. My boss pretty much explained it for me by the statement above. It was a proud moment for me. While the other guys at work have yet to touch the one gallon pump of Blue Lizard that I bought for the office, at least my boss is a big sunscreen advocate and is helping me encourage the guys at work.

Today, while riding my bike to work, a young woman running and pushing a stroller asked me "I see you ride your bike to work everyday, but you don't look like you get any sun. What sunscreen do you use?" I was taken off guard by this, but nevertheless appreciated the opportunity of telling her about proper sunscreen usage and giving her a handful of samples.

So, yes, I confess: I carry sunscreen samples around with me in my backpack and in my purse and I distribute them liberally to any and all who give me the chance to share the message about sun safety/skin cancer prevention.

Whether you are my room-mate, my boss or co-worker, neighbor, or even Gary Coleman (see my blog about him), I will give you a sample of Blue Lizard Australian Sunscream, and a message about sun safety. I'm a free PSA that runs 24/7. I'm a SunSavvy Geek. And I'm proud of it.

Be SunSavvy,


To learn more about how sunscreens work, and how to maximize their efficacy, check out my book ONLY SKIN DEEP? AN ESSENTIAL GUIDE TO EFFECTIVE SKIN CANCER PROGRAMS AND RESOURCES available on or It's available in paperback or as an ebook. You can also a personalized autograph copy of it from The Cancer Crusaders Organization. Please send a tax-deductible check for $25.00 to us at:

The Cancer Crusaders Organization
PO BOX 2076 Provo, Utah 84603