I know, I know, this has nothing to do with writing or publishing a book…so sue me! I want to share a little something near and dear to my heart…my skin. It’s approaching that time of year again…fun in the sun, tanning for that prom glow, and gearing up for the beach! Well, please read this before you whip out that credit card and pay for your “unlimited sessions” in the tanning salon. It could save your life.
I am of Irish/Mexican decent…quite a combo right? Unfortunately, I inherited more of the gene pool featuring the pale, freckled aspect of the Irish than the creamy olive tones of my Mexican heritage. Oddly though, studies show that it is more about the eye color than the skin tone that predisposes one to skin cancer. People with light colored eyes (green, blue, hazel, gray) seem to be more predisposed to the ravages of skin cancer than those with dark eyes.
I’m an avid sports fan and former participant. I coached travel, fast-pitch softball for seven years. Prior to that, I bathed myself in greasy concoctions (baby oil with iodine, sunflower oil, Crisco…oh, shut up, we didn’t have all the high-dollar tingle creams and lotions they have now) and laid myself out like a sacrificial lamb to cook my skin to a toasty golden brown.
Cloudy day…no problem! Tanning beds were all the rage. I locked the door to the sweltering hot-box bed chamber, shucked my clothes (let me just say, there really are parts of the body that have no business seeing sunlight) and usually awoke to find myself over-cooked on one side. That must have been a common problem because soon the double-sided beds came out. Now the only problem was the pin stripes on my sides.
I tanned my body like it was my day job, ignoring all the warnings about the potential for skin cancer, skin damage, and early signs of aging. I was invincible. It couldn’t happen to me. And sunscreen…how stupid is that I ask you? Why would I want to put on sunscreen when I was trying to get a tan?
Well…age and experience either kill us or make us wiser. I’m grateful I am the latter.
About seven years ago, I had some lesions (spots) on my face that wouldn’t go away. At first I thought God was playing a practical joke on me, letting me experience acne during adulthood since He had graciously let me skip it during puberty. I tried every cream, ointment, and topical medication on the market. Nothing helped.
I went to two different dermatologists, both with the personality of a rock, and skin as clear and smooth as porcelain. They gave me creams and said, “We’ll keep an eye on this.”
I had no luck and decided to find another doctor. WOW! The new doctor, young and all about the patient, checked every (and I mean every) inch of my body. She found a “suspicious” freckle on my thigh and said, “This has to come off today!” She took a two inch chunk out of my leg that later tested positive for Melanoma…a deadly skin cancer that just loves to metastasize to other parts of the body. She also told me that she had had three cases of melanoma she had found on the “female bitty parts” of her teenage patients, and expected more because teenage girls shave certain areas, then lay naked in the tanning beds. Something to think about girls…
The lesions on my cheek were Basal Cell Carcinoma, a common and curable skin cancer if treated when found. I went through topical chemotherapy on my face…can you say raw hamburger meat? Click here to see the full effect of topical chemo for skin cancer…yours truly has done this treatment five times to my face, nine times to my back, chest, and arms, and twice to my ears. I looked every bit as bad as the gentleman in the post. Kudos to him for sharing…ouch!
I want to say that I am truly grateful if this is the only cancer I ever have to deal with in my life. But having said that, make no mistake…this is six weeks of living hell. If you have ever had a sunburn…the prickly sunburn tingle that itches constantly…combine that with the intense pain of your skin swelling, cracking, and bleeding from open sores. At times it is…sheer agony!
Technology has come a long way. Self tanning lotions and spray tanning are the best way to get that lovely olive (no longer orange) glow we gringos seem to want so desperately. It is safer and by far healthier than the alternative pictured above…trust me on this.
Tell your children, your grandchildren, your nieces and nephews, friends of friends and neighbors. This can happen to anyone…even a warrior like me. If you have been exposed to long periods of damaging sun rays, see a dermatologist. Ask for a FULL BODY assessment. Use sunscreen diligently and often. Your skin is the largest organ of the body and protects what makes you…you.
Love and protect the skin you’re in…