A blog about us



May was a crazy month for our household.  Many of our family members decided to be born in May, including our two children who are separated by 2 years and one week and my brother and sister in law, in addition to many others that are near and dear to us.

One thing we enjoy doing each year is throwing a big double birthday party for the kids.  So we invited 60 of their classmates and had a “treasure hunt” at the lovely Junipero Serra County Park in San Bruno. Other than the violent wind and the end of the world prediction on the same day, it was a great day of fun.

Birthday invite

Jack and Aidan hunting for treasure hunt rocks

In addition to being Melanoma month,  May 4 was the Melanoma Research Foundation’s Wings of Hope gala in San Francisco.  I joined the event committee and helped them with a bit of marketing and PR in addition to the fun task of collecting bottles of gin, scotch and rum from my generous friends for the party.  The best part: Mike and I had the distinct pleasure of meeting a number of long term Stage IV melanoma survivors…. Erick Davis, Suzanne Lescure, and Kari Worth – all patients of Dr David Minor at Cal Pacific Medical Center. Suzanne and Kari were both recognized for their contributions at the event and it was so uplifting to meet them.   Here are some pics of the gala:

Mike and Emily and MRF event in San Francisco

May was fun, but I am looking forward to an event-less June!

Dear 16-year-old me

Earlier this year, we got an email from the David Cornfield Melanoma Fund asking if we knew young people with melanoma for a video they were making (Mike was considered too old at 43.. haha!).  David Cornfield was just 32 when he died of melanoma – his wife is featured in the video and has carried on his legacy.  Yesterday the producers contacted us with their completed video “Dear 16-year-old me”..but I had already seen it because it has become so popular on YouTube so quickly.  I am sharing it with everyone I know because it is so moving and they absolutely nail it….what I have been trying to communicate to people – that young people are not immune to cancer – especially melanoma – and that if you catch it early you could save your life.  I hope you will watch it and share it with your friends and family.

Thankful for the Roller Coaster

Last week Mike got the news that his scans were once again clear, 18 mos after diagnosis. And once again it was PURE TORTURE waiting for the call from the doc – and PURE RELIEF when we got the news.  Our life would have changed so drastically if we had gotten bad news.  But instead we celebrated in Vegas this past weekend with 3 other couples. We had a blast!

Someone asked me if the clear scans meant Mike had beaten melanoma.   I would love to say yes…but we really don’t know the answer to that because melanoma is different than most cancers.  Many people with other cancers can say they are “cured” 5 years out.  But Melanoma often comes back unexpectedly –  5-20 years later.   I don’t think we will ever live without the fear that it will return – unless they find a drug for this horrible disease.

So for now, we will just continue to live our lives as normal as possible and enjoy every moment.  Life is a roller coaster ride – some parts are scary and some parts are fun…

Vegas Roller Coaster

The New York, New York Roller Coaster in Vegas




6 Month Increments of Normalcy (kind of)

So another 6 months have passed and that means it’s PET scan time for Mike.  We are 18 mos out from a Stage IIIa melanoma diagnosis.  It seems our life is now broken into 6 month increments.  Waiting for the scan results is scary.  We know of multiple people who have gotten bad news from scans even though they felt completely normal.  That is how melanoma rolls.  But the the good news is that when Mike hits 2 years, he will only have PET scans once a year.

I have to say that we have enjoyed the past 6 months of normal life.  Life certainly isn’t the same as it was before a cancer diagnosis, but now we realize that it will never be.  And that is just fine with us.  So as we wait for scan results over the weekend, we will appreciate the past 6 months of health and normalcy.  The fact that we can pay our bills, go to work, school,  dinner, etc. is something we try to appreciate (well, most of the time).  There are so many others suffering from illness and they just can’t do the mundane tasks we all take for granted.  So please take a moment to appreciate your life, your health, your everyday mundane stuff because you are truly blessed to have these things.


Margaritas for Melanoma

Emily and Mike

Our first ever Cocktails for a Cure was so great!  Thanks to everyone who came.   We raised over $3000 for for the Melanoma Research Foundation and we are on our way to $10,000 by the end of 2011. 

My favorite part of the night was honoring Darren Farwell , my high school friend who lost his battle at age 32 to melanoma. Darren’s friend Devin helped me we give away some protective sunware items from UVSkinz.com  – a company that Darren’s wife started after he died. 

My other favorite part was when my 9 year old daughter stood in front of 50 people and told them to “check their buttocks” for melanoma.  It was hysterical, but so true!  And we ended up winning one of the raffle prizes – one week at a Florida condo – it wasnt rigged, I swear! 

All in all, it was so nice to see everyone and I hope more people will come to my next one – especially others with melanoma who live around the area. Margaritas for Melanoma is just the beginnning for us.  Our next event will be in the Spring so stay tuned!

Emily and Mike

Mike’s Firstgiving Page: http://www.firstgiving.com/mikemcauliffe

Join Us: Cocktails for a Cure

Margaritas for Melanoma

December 4, 2010 at 6pm

December: Margaritas for Melanoma

Please join us on Saturday, December 4, 2010 at Rosie’s Cantina in Millbrae where we will kick off the first in a series of FUN-raising events for melanoma charities.

Our December event, Margaritas for Melanoma, will benefit the Melanoma Research Foundation. Research is of the utmost importance because of the lack of treatment options available to those with this deadly cancer.  Every hour in the US, someone dies from melanoma – the most common form of cancer for young adults 25 to 29-years-old. Mike’s Stage 3 diagnosis at age 41 was devastating – but there are so many others who are worse off and need our help.  The Melanoma Research Foundation has been instrumental in bringing together patients, drug companies, and doctors so they can collaborate and beat ‘the beast’ together.

Margaritas for Melanoma will include margaritas, of course – plus a Mexican buffet, a “pick-a-prize” raffle, and karaoke!  Here are just a few of the items you could win in the raffle:

Children are welcome and we have various ticket options available – please visit the EventBrite ticket page for prices and options.


If you can’t make it to the event, you can also donate in any amount on Mike’s Firstgiving page for the Melanoma Research Foundation: http://www.firstgiving.com/mikemcauliffe


Mike and Emily McAuliffe

Our friend Christina…a “Complete Responder”

We got amazing news from our friend Christina. Her bio-chemotherapy treatment for melanoma is working and 5 of the 6 tumors in her lungs are gone. The tumor that is left looks dead on the PET scan.  Her doc thinks she might be a “complete responder”.  This is not an easy title to get when you have melanoma but it is the one you want.

Recently, I went to visit her at the California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco where she is hospitalized for 5 days every 3 weeks during each round of chemo. She flys to the Bay Area for treatment every month and her husband and children stay home in Idaho.  Her wonderful parents sit by her side at the hospital (they live in the Bay Area) and keep her company.

As you can see, Christina is a beautiful young mother of two adorable little boys.  Mike and I met her this year at a melanoma conference.  Back then, she was stage 3.  She had a mole removed when she was pregnant a few years ago which then spread to her lymph nodes in 2009.  We were shocked to learn that she had progressed to Stage 4 with lung mets this summer – after a routine scan and no symptoms.  She had to make a very hard decision to do this treatment because Biochemo is one of the toughest  regimes out there…but it is paying off – and we all so thrilled!

Please visit her blog


Disaster. Sept 9, 2010

San Bruno Disaster

We live in San Bruno, Ca – about 20 minutes from San Francisco.  Nothing much happens here.   But it did last night and it will live in our memories forever.  As I watered the garden last night at around 6pm, an eerie rumbling sound came over me.  It was like a plane was about to land on us.  I looked up and saw a huge fire ball erupt in the near distance and I ran inside to meet Mike and the kids and I screamed “fire ball”.  I thought it was coming towards us like a nuclear bomb.  I thought the world was ending right there.   I called 911, but it was busy.  And so began a very long night.  What they thought was a plane crash was said to be a gas station exploding up the hill – less than a mile from us.  But no, it was a gas line.  You could hear the gas roaring for hours.  The news didnt know what it was for a long time, but they were showing the devastation via helicopters.  This was just up the street.   We got calls to evacuate..  Then the entire neighborhood lost power.   We had a rough night of sleep not knowing what we would awake to find but we knew it wasnt going to be good.  And it isnt.  Lives have been lost and many homes leveled to the ground.  It is surreal and it reminds me of the images from Sept 11, 2001.  Except this time it was in my backyard.

We are fine.  But our hearts go out to the people of San Bruno who are affected by this nightmare.



My blog has been bugging me. Sometimes I feel its too negative.  I want to share stories of melanoma…..but I don’t want to scare.  Well, I kind of do.  Sadly I don’t see any other way to drive the point home.  The majority of people I meet just don’t understand how serious this type of skin cancer is (I was one of these people one year ago).  Even some people with melanoma don’t understand the seriousness.  But for all of the horrible stories about melanoma, there are as many good ones.  So in an attempt to get the right balance, I have updated the blog and separated the pages into two sections – the stories of devastation and the stories of survival... which include those who are surviving with Stage 3/4 melanoma.

For me, it’s really great to chat with those who understand… my “melanoma friends”.  Our friend Christina recently moved to Stage IV, which was devastating, but she is such resourceful person and went into major research mode.   After talking with the top docs and other survivors, she picked a very tough therapy (biochemo) and stood by it even though some people said not to do it.  This week she sent me a note from the hospital (where you stay for 5 days in intensive care while they administer the drugs): her tumors are shrinking after just one round!   I am so happy for her.

Last night we watched the newest episode of the Big C and I cried and laughed through the entire thing.  Its so great to have a show we can relate to.

And this week it was so cool to Sykpe with Andrea – aka “Melanoma Girl“.  She is a stage IIIa survivor just like Mike and she is starting a non profit organization.  She had just gotten her scan results and they were all clear.  So happy for her also!  We are trying to organize a charity event and she has some great ideas… so stayed tuned.  How cute are her t-shirts?  I am going to get one for myself:

Get your shirt at http://www.melanomagirl.com

Fun in the Sun

Yes, we can still have fun in the sun!  Last year at this time, I thought our days were over at the beach.  But I have realized its quite nice to sit under an umbrella in the sand.  The only problem is protecting your face and head in the water.  You can’t really wear a hat body surfing.  And the waterproof sunscreen doesn’t last.   I have to admit, Mike got a bit burnt on his nose. And I got burnt a little where the sunscreen didn’t cover.  I feel guilty.  Mike says I am not a good melanoma wife.  Oh well, what’s done is done.

Anyway, this was our first vacation since Melanoma came to visit and we were celebrating clear scans, and our birthdays.  We were supposed to go to Disneyland.  But we did one day of Lego Land and had enough of standing in line.  Instead, we hit the beach.  We stayed with our good friends at their beach house in San Clemente two blocks from the ocean.  What a great beach town!  Miles of beach, a pier and restaurants and a cute shopping downtown all in my favorite Spanish style architecture.  We ran in the morning, hit the beach, had cocktails, ate out, slept in, and repeated that for a week.

Aidan on San Clemente Pier, Aug 2010

We loved it!

Mike on the beach

Mike digging on the beach

Lego Land Caitlin Mike

Lego Land - Caitlin and Mike