Welcome to Part 2 of the Skin Cancer Series! If you haven’t read Part 1, where I discuss how I was diagnosed, I recommend giving that a read before diving into this one. Today will be all about the options I was given for getting rid of my basal cell carcinoma.

Curing Basal Cell Carcinoma: Finding A Doctor

Once my biopsy came back positive for basal cell carcinoma, I was immediately referred to a surgeon. My doctor referred me to Dr Adrian Sjarif. I made an appointment with Dr Sjarif and visited him soon after my diagnosis.

At my appointment, Dr Sjarif looked at my cancer and gave me a run down of the best options for me. He mentioned that surgery would give the best results, and we talked mainly about surgical options. He did mention that there were some other options, but none had as quick and as precise a cure rate. Surgery on basal cell carcinoma can yield up to 100% cure rate.

Dr Sjarif told me that because I am so young compared to most of his patients, it may be a bit more difficult to cut out all of the cancer and create the least amount of scarring. To remove the cancer involves two operations: the first will remove the cancer, and the second is considered a “reconstructive surgery,” which will stitch up the hole caused by cutting out the cancer.

To remove the cancer, I had two surgical options: the first would be a surgeon guesstimating the area of the cancer and cutting a bit extra around it, and the second option is called Mohs surgery. Mohs surgery is a type of surgery in which the doctor will cut out what they think is the cancer, plus 5-10 mm extra. They will then test the piece that has been cut out (on-site), and within an hour will give you a result as to whether the edges had cancer or not. If the edges of the cut test positive for cancer, you’d go in and get a second cut. You’d repeat the process until the edges of your sample no longer test positive for cancer.

Basal Cell Carcinoma & Mohs Surgery

When I told Dr Sjarif that I was interested in Mohs surgery, he referred me to Dr Yiasimedes, who is a Mohs specialist. She was the woman who would cure my cancer. I made an appointment with her to talk about Mohs surgery. In our consultation, she told me all about Mohs surgery and how it works. Mohs surgeons go through an extra year of medical school to be able to do what they do, and they are highly specialized. I knew after my first consultation with her that I wanted to do Mohs.

I decided to go with Mohs surgery because it has a 100% cure rate. The doctor told me that if I went with the standard option, there is a possibility that the cancer may not be all cut out. In my case, it was a very good decision to go with the Mohs surgery – you’ll read why in the next post.

The doctor gave me other options (aside from surgical options) as well, like radiation and special creams, but none of those options had a 100% cure rate. I decided to go with surgery because that would give me the peace of mind that the cancer was all out on the first go, instead of trying things like radiation or creams. I wanted that cancer out of my head as quickly as possible.

For the reconstruction surgery, I was also given a few options. The cancer was not small enough to just cut out and stitch up, so we had to look at what we could do.

The first option was a skin graft, in which a piece of skin from another part of my body would be cut and stitched into the hole caused by cutting out the cancer. The downside of this would be that the patch of skin would never match the skin on my face, and I would still have a scar around the patch of skin. Dr Sjarif told me this would not be his first option, because I would have this little patch on my forehead for the rest of my life. He recommended a “flap.” The flap involves a more intensive surgery, where there would be a cut across my head, and then around the cut from the cancer. This would then be used to create a mini face-lift, which would help close the gap from the cancer.

I thought about my options for a couple of weeks, and then made an appointment to see him and schedule the surgery. I told him that I wanted to try the flap and I would use Mohs surgery to get the cancer cut out.

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Welcome to the skin cancer series! If you follow me on Youtube or Instagram, you’ll have seen my diagnoses and following surgeries to cure my basal cell carcinoma. I’ve gotten tons of questions about my experience with skin cancer, and in this series I’ll take you through the diagnosis, my options to get rid of the cancer, and how I made my decisions. This post is going to be the first part of the series, all about how I was diagnosed with basal cell carcinoma.

My mom was the first to point out the little scab/scar on my forehead in 2015 and ask me how long that had been there. I hadn’t given it much thought, as it started off as a normal little spot that would bleed and then scab over. It had repeated the bleed/scab/bleed/scab cycle a few times, but I hadn’t thought it could be anything bad. I just figured it would need a bit of time to heal (and for me to stop picking at it). She asked me to get it looked at, but I brushed it off because I didn’t think it was anything major, and I didn’t have health insurance.

I had taken Oprah’s sun safety pledge in 2012, and had been sun safe since then, using hats and sunscreen whenever I was outside for long periods of time. Since I’d been safe in the sun, I never thought that skin cancer could happen to me.

I left to go traveling in November 2015, starting in Europe and then continuing on to Central and South America. I usually covered the spot up with makeup, so I don’t have a ton of photos of what it looked like. I did find one photo from Costa Rica with my family where you can see the spot well.

Every time I would see my mom, she would ask me to get the spot looked at and I would tell her it’s fine. After two and a half years of traveling, I came to Australia with Michael to build a home and a life in one place. In August 2018, I signed up for Medicare, and went in for a doctors check just to make sure everything was alright. At the last minute, I added on a skin check to make my mom happy.

During the skin check, doctor asked if I had anything specific that I was concerned about. I pointed out the spot on my forehead and told him that it had consistently grown over the last three years, and that it would just scab and bleed and scab over and bleed again. He had a look at it through his little microscope, then sat down, looked at me, and said “I think you have cancer.”

The doctor was vague and insensitive, and coupled with my little knowledge of skin cancer, I automatically assumed I had melanoma – that’s the only type of skin cancer I had heard of. He asked me to schedule a biopsy, which I did before heading home. As soon as I got home, I googled skin cancer and read horror stories of people who were diagnosed too late, and given only months to live. I thought that was going to be me. I got so angry with myself for not looking into this sooner and listening to my mom the first time.

When I went in for the biopsy, the skin doctor that I saw this time was much more helpful. He gave me some paperwork on basal cell carcinoma, which he was pretty sure was the type of skin cancer I had. I’d never heard of basal cell carcinoma (BCC for short) before, and I was grateful for his help.

The doctor told me a bit about this type of cancer. He told me about how BCC generally stays on the top of the skin and doesn’t go into the bones. It will slowly grow over years, and the only way to cure it is to cut it out completely. He told me that there is a high cure rate, and as long as this hadn’t gone deeper than the skin, it could be cured by a surgery in which it would be cut out.

The doctor also mentioned that once you get BCC, you have a 75% chance of getting it again. He recommended that I start taking vitamin B3 twice a day, which can help prevent future cases of basal cell carcinoma, and staying out of the sun as much as possible.

Needless to say, the biopsy came back testing positive for cancer. The doctor called me in to get my results, and told me I had basal cell carcinoma.

I’d always thought that going into the sun with sunblock was safe. I thought that as long as I wasn’t getting burnt, and I was wearing a high SPF, I’d be safe from cancer. I thought that wearing hats and not being in the sun for too long was healthy. Turns out, BCC is genetic, and being in the sun (even with sunblock) can be dangerous if BCC is in your genes. After I got diagnosed, my mom told me about a case of BCC in our family.

Once the doctor diagnosed me with basal cell carcinoma, we discussed what needs to happen next. He referred me to another doctor, a specialist in this area. I made an appointment with Dr Sjarif as soon as I left the medical centre. Stay tuned for Part 2 of the Skin Cancer Series, where I take you through my experience with Dr Sjarif and the options he gave me to get rid of my cancer.

 

 

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Ciao bellas! & Welcome to How to Spend One Day in Venice, Italy. I’m currently traveling through the beautiful country of Italy with @ablondeandherpassport, sponsored by Rail Plus. On this ten-day trip, we will cover a lottt of Italy, all traveling by train. There are so many places in our itinerary that are new to me, and I’m so excited to share all the tips and tricks and things that we get up to! This one is all about how to spend one day in Venice, Italy.

What to do for One Day in Venice, Italy

How to Spend One Day in Venice, Italy

Venice was one of my stops on my three month Euro trip back in 2016; I’d previously spent a week wandering through the canals and eating all the pizza and pasta. Coming back to Venice, I knew exactly where I wanted to eat and what I wanted to see.

We landed at the Marco Polo Venice International Airport at 12:45 pm on Monday. By 1:45, we were speeding through the water by boat en route to our hotel, Hotel Splendid. We checked in, showered, and by 4pm our tour guide was there to greet us.

How to Spend One Day in Venice, Italy

As the sun lowered in the sky, our boots clinked on the cobblestone streets while we passed bakeries and pizzerias, cafes and buildings that made our jaws drop. We learned about the history of Venice and why it’s bad luck to walk between the two columns in San Marco Square – it used to be an execution location! We took photos of the gondolas and watched as the sky turned pink and orange and finally faded to black.

How to Spend One Day in Venice, Italy

How to Spend One Day in Venice, Italy

Sprinkles started to fall from the sky just as our tour was wrapping up, so we headed to my favorite cozy restaurant in Venice: Rosso Pomodoro. We ordered pizzas and warmed ourselves up with a glass of red.

I’ve eaten at quite a few places in Venice, but none of the pizzas compare to those at Rosso Pomodoro. They do a slow rising pizza base, which makes for the most chewy, gooey, bubbly pizza dough. It is still the best pizza I’ve ever eaten in my life.

Post pizza, we were in food and wine comas and severely jetlagged. Dragging ourselves out of the restaurant, we went straight back to the heaven that is Hotel Splendid to call it an early night.

What to do for A Day In Venice, Italy

What to do for A Day In Venice, Italy

What to Do During the Day in Venice

The next morning, we were ready to get to work and see some more of this charming little city on water. We woke up early and started with a hearty breakfast at the hotel.  We headed out just as the sun was rising for the most beautiful views of canals.

How to Spend One Day in Venice, Italy

How to Spend One Day in Venice, Italy

Our first stop was an insta-famous bookstore, Acqua Alta. This bookstore is filled to the brim with books old and new, and tiny nooks and crannies filled with wondrous things. Go all the way back and you’ll find the staircase of books. Walk up the staircase to see the best views of canals and bridges.

How to Spend One Day in Venice, Italy

How to Spend One Day in Venice, Italy

How to Spend One Day in Venice, Italy

After sending some postcards from the bookstore, we headed to the Fondaco Dei Tedeschi for some epic views of Venice. This terrace is on top of a mall, and has absolutely stunning panoramic views of Venice. It’s free to go up and well worth a trip!

Pro tip: you have to book in a spot ahead of time, and the viewings are in 15 min increments. Book in your time slot here and don’t be late!  The building itself is also very cool and a great spot to have a hot chocolate or glass of wine.

What To Do For One Day in Venice, Italy

Il Fondaco Dei Tedeschi is located super close to the Rialto Bridge, so that was our next stop. This is a must-see viewpoint and a fun bridge to get a photo from (or in front of).

How to Spend One Day in Venice, Italy

How to Spend One Day in Venice, Italy

Post Rialto, it was getting to be our time to say goodbye to Venice. We grabbed a quick bite from another of my Venice favorites, Dal Moro’s Fresh Pasta to go. It’s changed since I last visited almost three years ago, but it still has amazing pasta and is the best for a quick bite to eat.

What to do for One Day in Venice, Italy

After devouring our pasta with a view, we took the public ferry from Rialto Bridge to the train station for our first train ride, heading to Milan for a couple of days.

How to Spend One Day in Venice, Italy

We got tickets for business class on the fast train using our Eurail Pass. It was an incredible experience. The cabin was super comfy, we had loads of room, and we were served refreshments and snacks on the ride. Only two hours later, we arrived in Milan! Stay tuned to see what we get up to in this beautiful city.

And don’t forget to check out my post from last time I was in Italy!

 

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Jervis Bay is the perfect weekend trip from Sydney. It’s far enough away to feel like you’re in a new place, but short enough of a drive to make it an easy weekend getaway. This is how I spent a weekend in Jervis Bay.

How to Spend a Weekend in Jervis Bay

Jervis Bay is all about:

  • insanely gorgeous beaches
  • loads of australian wildlife
  • lots of hiking and beautiful nature trails

Michael and I live in South Sydney, & it’s an easy drive further South. We got up early on a Saturday, grabbed takeaway coffees (in our keep cups of course!), and hit the road.

We drove for a little less than an hour before stopping at a viewpoint in Shoal Harbour. This is a great stop off point for some fresh air and a bathroom. The viewpoint isn’t bad either!

How to Spend a Weekend in Jervis Bay

When we arrived in Jervis Bay, it was still too early to check in to our airbnb, so we headed straight to the attraction that made me want to go to Jervis Bay in the first place – the beautiful Hyams Beach. This beach holds the Guinness World Record for Whitest Sand Beach in the world. It is absolutely beautiful, and wasn’t too crowded when we headed down at the end of September.

How to Spend a Weekend in Jervis Bay

How to Spend a Weekend in Jervis Bay

How to Spend a Weekend in Jervis Bay

How to Spend a Weekend in Jervis Bay

After a stroll along the beach, we hopped back into the car to grab some lunch. I was dying to try out Pilgrims, a vegetarian eatery with loads of vegan options. They are most known for their veggie burgers, and anyone who knows me knows that veggie burgers are my second favorite food.

Pilgrims Jervis Bay

Pilgrims is located in Huskisson in a nondescript little building – you’d have to be looking for it to find it. Though it’s a little hidden, it was still bustling with locals and tourists. The vibe is casual and chill. We grabbed a table, some menus, and a bottle of water with some cups, and picked out what we’d each have. We were pretty hungry from the long drive (and a tiny brekky), so we ordered a feast.

Pilrgrims Jervis Bay

Pilrgrims Jervis Bay

I ordered the Millenium burger (mine was the massive one with sprouts), and Michael ordered a vegetarian burger and a toastie. As soon as our food arrived, we dug in, and finished eating in record time – we were so hungry! The burgers were amazing and very filling – I’d highly recommend a stop here.

Next, we drove to our airbnb and checked in. How cute is it!

(Get $25 off your first stay with airbnb!)

After unpacking and freshening up, we picked out a few beach spots on google maps and set out for an adventure. I’ve since realized, google maps isn’t the best place to search for beaches. We stopped at a few places, but they didn’t even come close to Hyams Beach. We were mainly searching for some Australian wildlife, but so far hadn’t seen any.

While driving back toward our airbnb, we decided to pull in to a Holiday Park (aka a campsite for my Americans) and parked the van so we could take a short stroll to their beach. We had to register as visitors to enter, and while writing down our details, I asked the owner about kangaroos. He told us that there are tons of kangaroos living at the holiday park – and because there are tourists year round, the kangaroos are completely used to people, and are actually friendly with humans.

This weekend, dreams came true.

How to Spend a Weekend in Jervis Bay

How to Spend a Weekend in Jervis Bay

How to Spend a Weekend in Jervis Bay

How to Spend a Weekend in Jervis Bay

Next, we headed into town for a look around Huskisson. We watched the sunset from the Husky Pub, and then went for an Indian food dinner before calling it an early night.

How to Spend a Weekend in Jervis Bay

The next day, we had a little lie in before a big day of beach touring. We checked out of our airbnb and had a relaxed brekky at Hyams Beach Store & Cafe. It’s a super cute place with great coffee and lots of locals reading the Sunday paper (it filled up right after taking this photo, promise).

How to Spend a Weekend in Jervis Bay

After a big breakfast, we took the van out to our first stop of the day: Cave Beach. We saw even more kangaroos in the parking lot before taking the short walk to the beach.

Cave Beach is named after – you guessed it – the caves on the beach. There are a few, and they are big enough to walk into. We even saw a bat in one of them!

How to Spend a Weekend in Jervis Bay

How to Spend a Weekend in Jervis Bay

After a short time at Cave Beach, we got back into the van for our next stop: the Hole in The Wall.

How to Spend a Weekend in Jervis Bay

How to Spend a Weekend in Jervis Bay

After the Hole in the Wall, we started heading North back to Sydney. But before ending our weekend away, we made one more stop at Honeymoon Bay.

How to Spend a Weekend in Jervis Bay

How to Spend a Weekend in Jervis Bay

Jervis Bay has so many little gems, I’d highly recommend a trip from Sydney!

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I love city life – public transportation, the abundance of different styles of food, and the high energy vibes – it’s all good in my book. Still, sometimes it’s amazing to take a break from the city and escape for the day. This weekend, Michael and I hopped in the van and headed an hour south of Sydney to Wollongong. This little beach town is full of restaurants, shops, and a long stretch of yellow, sandy beach. This is what we did with a day in Wollongong. This is Day Trips from Sydney: Wollongong.

Day Trips from Sydney: Wollongong

The road to Wollongong is as scenic as the city itself. We took the Grand Pacific Drive – a bit longer of a drive, but 10x more beautiful. The Grand Pacific Drive goes along the beach, with opportunities to stop at ocean rock pools, adorable beaches, and the beautiful Sea Cliff Bridge.

Day Trips From Sydney: Wollongong

We stopped at a few photogenic places on the way to Wollongong. Sea Cliff Bridge, Bald Hill Lookout, and the Coalcliff rock pools are all places I’d recommend.

Day Trips From Sydney: Wollongong

Bald Hill Lookout

Day Trips From Sydney: Wollongong

Coalcliff Rocks

Once you make it to Wollongong, explore the lighthouses along the beach, take a dip in the ocean, or grab a bevvie at the Illawara Brewing Co.

Day Trips From Sydney: Wollongong

Day Trips From Sydney: Wollongong

craft beers at Illawara Brewing Co

Day Trips From Sydney: Wollongong

There are loads of places to eat in Wollongong. Some of the most recommended are Diggies, Lee & Me, Lower East Cafe, and Pepe’s on the Beach. We opted to stop at Scarborough Hotel, which is on the way back to Sydney, and offers endless ocean views from the top of a cliff.

Day Trips From Sydney: Wollongong

Day Trips From Sydney: Wollongong

A day in Wollongong is a great way to escape the busy city of Sydney. I’ll definitely be back to explore some more!

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