About artfulbarb

I’m a teacher, artist, grandmother, mother, and wife, presently making my home in Lexington, Kentucky. Creating art and teaching it to others helps me deal effectively with life’s high points and challenges.

Basal Cell Carcinoma – The Most Common Form of Skin Cancer

Hear the word “cancer” from your doctor and you feel instant terror.  Visiting the internet to do research can turn the toughest person into a terrified child.  Especially when you look at the pictures.

Not a scary cancer picture

Not a scary cancer picture

15 years ago my Dad told me he had cancer, and my terrified inner child surfaced.  Two and a half years ago when my 29 year-old daughter called to share that she had melanoma, my inner protective mom rose up, mixed with that terrified inner child.  Thankfully my daughter is now cancer free.

My daughter, a melanoma survivor.

My daughter, a melanoma survivor.

Now it’s my turn.   I have several instances of basal cell carcinoma (BCC), with surgeries scheduled next month.

As a teacher I feel the need to educate others on the disease. Basal cell carcinoma is the most curable cancer.  It grows slowly and doesn’t spread to the blood stream or lymph nodes.  It is not generally life threatening, unlike melanoma.  What is a bit scary in this “looks conscious” world:   BCC damages tissue as it grows, leaving scars.  Surgery can exacerbate the scarring resulting in disfigurement.

This April I saw a dermatologist because a rash-like spot on my side began to hurt. This spot had been present for more than a decade.  Years ago a GP physician in Texas told me it was nothing to worry about.  I should have gotten a second opinion from a dermatologist.  Chalk it up to human nature… we often hear what we want to hear, and avoid investigating further.

The silver lining for me is this:  I finally got a diagnosis, and good information from a dermatologist.  I have a BCC above my eye, on my side, and on my back.  Also several pre-cancers around and about.  I thought the spot above my eye was a pimple.  Who knew?

The following information is not to scare anyone.  It is presented to educate those who, like me had no idea what BCC looks like.  This information is excerpted from a pamphlet on BCC provided by the American Academy of Dermatology (www.aad.org). I strongly suggest that you consult a medical professional for additional information.

What BCC looks like

BCC appears on the skin in many shapes and sizes.  You may see a:

  • Dome-shaped growth with visible blood vessels
  • Shiny, pinkish patch
  • Sore that heals, and then returns and can repeatedly heal and return
  • Brown or black growth
  • White or yellow waxy growth that looks like a scar

If you notice anything changing, growing, or bleeding on your skin, immediately make an appointment to see your dermatologist.  Tell the person who schedules the appointment why you want to see your dermatologist.

With skin cancer cases increasing every year, sunscreen and hats should be worn consistently as we enjoy the great outdoors.

I’m nervous for my upcoming surgeries.  I’m also confident that thanks to the support of my friends and family, and state-of-the-art Mohs surgery (see literature) I will ultimately be fine.

Thanks for listening!

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A friend living a healthy active life, taking precautions due to an incidence of Basal Cell Carcinoma

A friend living a healthy active life, taking precautions due to an incidence of Basal Cell Carcinoma

I Found My Prince

The two kissing bullfrogs you see on this year’s Valentine card were observed in Massachusetts.  I have never seen a more passionate pair of critters in my life!  Their courtship bordered on dangerous, a bit like “mating on steroids”.  They did however, finish with what really looked like a kiss.
Card from water color painting. Title is "Kissing Frogs". Text inside of card is "I Found My Prince"
I have always loved small creatures.  As a young girl I waded in a local creek catching frogs and observing the occasional muskrat.  I spent hours at Pauley’s pond with my brother.  We saw hundreds of baby turtles, toads, frogs, etc.  Even snakes intrigued me..

At some point birds became my passion, especially hawks and owls.  At age 21 my mother-in-law introduced me to the numerous songbirds which ate at the feeders stocked by the Bromleys all winter long.

… So it should come as no surprise that my children would be raised with wild critters.  Admittedly there were moments when I, an over-eager parent wanting to share joyful childhood experiences in Michigan, over reached a bit.  Probably it was wrong to take two Michigan frogs (a bullfrog and Leopard frog) on a road trip to Texas.  I did worry we’d get kicked out of a motel if anyone heard the noisy crickets we served up as the frog food.

Some months later the bullfrog died in a well-kept aquarium and the leopard frog was sold to a local Austin exotic pet store (Zookeepers).

A love of wildlife has been passed down to my children.  Stay tuned for some interesting Texas animal tales…

Thanks for listening!

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Music Begins Where Words End

I’ve always agreed with the sentiments expressed in Trisha Yearwoods’ hit The Song Remembers When.   For that reason, I’ve memorized hundreds of songs which bring up special memories and places.  Ironically I can’t sing in key at all!!  My mom and others have shared the notion that some people (meaning yours truly) should NOT sing out loud.  I agree.  Still, I have a very active mental music life and I do love to listen.
Recently I watched a 4-hour HBO special “Sinatra: All or Nothing at All”.  My dad Al Russell was an avid fan of Sinatra and his incredible musical timing.  Dad saw Sinatra in Chicago at numerous matinees during the 1940’s.  Whenever I listen to a Sinatra song, I see my dad:  his blue eyes filled with delight, recalling all the moments spent enjoying the magic of the Windy City.  

I recently painted a blue-eyed black kitten simply because his owner had named him Sinatra.  My husband Steve shares my dad’s blue eyes, and his love of muisic.  Currently Steve is enjoying his new audio system and celebrating the new year with music.

In celebration of music, here is a little something from the past:

Happy 2016 to all!

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Busy Holidays


November flew by!  I find myself working on holiday cards and enjoying my favorite season.  This year it’s extra special due to the success of my football and basketball teams at Michigan State.    MSU’s green and white are a perfect match for the Christmas season. Go Spartans!

I’ve added some new cards to the greeting card gallery.  Take a look and let me know what you think.

Happy holidays to all!

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Happy Halloween

Halloween has always been a very special holiday for my daughter, Becky.  She’s decorated , thrown parties, dressed up, and made sure loved ones took care of important Halloween business.  She even dressed as a pumpkin and took her eldest son trick-or-treating two days before her youngest was born.

"Happy Halloween" message hand-lettered, with three cats among the letters.

Oh wait… she didn’t dress as a pumpkin that night; it was her pregnant stomach that made me  think pumpkin.  I digress.  Sadly Becky’s parents and older brother were less invested in Halloween.  We all just hid in our rooms while she threw elaborate parties during her teen years.  We’d sneak out occasionally to check on “things” that sometimes happen at teenage parties!

I believe I contributed to Becky’s interest in Halloween.  The following story will demonstrate my helping nature:Pencil drawing of 4 year old girl in a Halloween witch costume, holding a pumpkin.

When Becky was 4, I had her pose in a witch costume, holding tightly to a pumpkin in her lap.  I was amazed at what a perfect, witchy expression she had on her frace.  Fine acting I thought!

As it turns out the pumpkin was moldy and stunk to high heaven.  Still,  Becky sat there for her mommy to get the perfect reference photos for a pencil drawing which became a Halloween card!

All I can say is “Becky you’re welcome!”

Thanks for listening.

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