Did that title grab your attention? Good!
When Joel and I were growing up in Imperial Beach back in the 70s we didn’t worry much about how the sun was affecting us. We were out in the sun every day and most of us thought getting ‘tanned’ was cool. Since we’re both fair skinned we often got burned. Sure, once in a while my mom put sunscreen on us. But there wasn’t the education back then we have now on the effects of sun and skin cancer.
Fast forward 20 years to 2001. I was 36. The large freckle on my neck that everyone remembers me always having got noticed by my youngest sister one day. She hadn’t seen me in a couple of months. She told me she thought the spot looked bigger. I looked in a mirror and felt around and realized that I could now ‘feel’ it whereas before it was always just a flat surface.
I immediately went to the dermatologist and had it biopsied. Sure enough I had melanoma. I remember sitting at work and getting this news. My boss and co-workers were all very supportive. The doctor said we caught it early and he thought they could completely remove it. So I went in one morning and had a 4-inch long section of my neck cut open and the melanoma removed. They got it all! It’s been 10 years and never have I had a recurrence. I actually have quite a nice face lift! :)
A few years later in 2007 Joel’s doctor said that some bumps on his face were basal cell carcinoma. His was a bit more wide spread and the surgery was very extensive. They pulled and tugged and moved some skin around. He too is now cancer free. Our children have a higher risk I’m told of getting skin cancer now though.
So here in the hot New Mexico sun I’m slathering sunscreen on my face and neck before I go out. I need to get in the habit of doing it for Fiona as well. I wear my sunglasses, Joel has his always, and now Fiona has a pair in the van. She and I both wear hats a lot when we go out.
Recently an acquaintance posted on Facebook that she was sunburned but that it was the only way to get a tan. Please, please, please don’t think you need to get sunburned to get a tan. You don’t need the tan that badly. They have this great self-tanning lotion you can use now. It’s not worth the scare when in 20 years you find out you have cancer. It’s not worth having your child wonder if you’re going to be okay when they find out you have skin cancer. Sure we’re all fine now. But it could have ended differently.
Wear your sunscreen and hats!