Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Not me!

“Uh-oh. Look at this,” he motioned to his assistant. Face-down on the examination table in the oh-so-typical and not-so-cute little hospital gown, I realized my worst fears may have just come true.  As my dermatologist searched for signs of skin cancer on my back, I searched for the strength to face what might lie ahead.

“You have skin cancer,” was actually a familiar phrase. Been there, done that. However, my prior experience consisted of basal cell carcinoma – the less severe and slower growing type of skin cancer on my face and chest. My greatest fear had always been - melanoma – the very serious kind – the kind that can metastasize and spread like wildfire if you don’t catch it early. The kind that takes one life every hour.  
“Most likely it’s melanoma,” my dermatologist continued. “We’ll find out what stage when the biopsy comes back,” launching the longest five days of my life.

Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the U.S. More than 1 million cases of skin cancer are diagnosed each year. Yes, that’s scary. As with any cancer, early detection is the key. Prevention is even better.

Are you at risk? I’m aware that it is possible that you feel that this couldn’t happen to you. I felt certain that I was exempt. OTHER people get skin cancer. OTHER people need sunblock. OTHER people have to be concerned with the damaging rays. Besides that, it’s a pain in the pale-white-booty to apply this stuff.

But, we’ve gotta’ do it. We’ve got to take the time and effort to protect our skin – ours and our kids. In summation, everyone’s at risk.

The best ways to enjoy an active summer, but lower the risk of skin cancer are to:
  • Avoid the sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.  
  • Seek shade. If your shadow is shorter than you are, the sun’s rays are at their strongest.
  • Cover up with protective clothing (tightly woven fabrics you cannot see through).  
  • Use sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or higher. Apply a generous amount (about a palmful) and reapply after swimming, toweling dry, or perspiring (even on hazy or overcast days).
  • Cover your head with a wide-brimmed hat, shading your face, ears, and neck.  
  • Wear sunglasses with 99% to 100% UV absorption to provide optimal protection for the eyes.
  • Avoid tanning beds like the plague. They’re 15 times as intensive!
 As adults, we’re also responsible for protecting our children from overexposure to the sun. Kids don’t always “get it.” In fact, they usually complain that applying sunblock is a hassle and delays their fun. So, check out the new scents, fun colors, and cute shapes.

Fortunately, we caught the melanoma on my back early. Following surgery (and many prayers), I can say I’m “C” free again. But I will continuously go for check-ups (modeling the latest fashion in hospital gowns), experience the slice and dice of a biopsy, and anxiously await the results. It’s worth the effort. In fact, compared to the risk of skin cancer, it “pales” in comparison.

I’m passionate that you enjoy your summer – but more importantly – you are able to enjoy a long life to the fullest! 

Join with me in reminding your friends and family that the month of May is Skin Cancer Awareness month.