Remember when I had another dermatologist checkup a few weeks ago?
I wish I was reporting I’m in the clear, but even after a very sun-safe summer, I have another spot that needs to be cut out. When my dermatologist called with the news two weeks ago, my heart sank, remembering the all too fun process that’s going to have to happen all over again.
Right when my old scars are just starting to fade…
As you’re reading this, I’m gearing up to have a third surgery on Thursday.*
I don’t tell you guys this to earn your sympathy. As I’ve said before, I want to prevent this from happening to others.
One of my students asked me why I wouldn’t be in school today. “I have surgery,” I told her. She said “On what?” (this particular student is new this year, so she wasn’t present for my skin cancer awareness assembly).
When I replied “skin cancer,” her eyes grew 6 times their normal size.
“I go tanning all the time,” she said.
I pulled up my sleeve, showing her the scar on my arm, and curtly replied, “Don’t. It’s not worth it.”
I have developed this automatic bristle whenever someone tells me they lay in the tanning bed, whether they know about my history or not. I have friends who still lay in the tanning bed, having full knowledge of what I’ve been through. I honestly think this is just one of those things you don’t “get” until you’ve had to do it. And just like most illnesses, we fully believe “it won’t happen to me.”
Once again, I reiterate. It’s not worth it.
You want to be pretty and tan now? How about later when you’re wrinkly and, in my case, scarred?
Sure, I’ve been lucky. In the grand scheme of things, since they “got the cancer all out,” I’m really just inconvenienced. I need a caretaker for a little bit, I have to take a few days from work, I need to miss rehearsal the week before tech week begins (ugh!), I can’t shower or wash my hair without assistance, I can’t be active. I have yet another scar.
Every time I walk into the dermatologist’s office, the receptionist sighs and says, “You’re too young for this.” I hear that a lot.
When I sit in the waiting room, I’m generally the youngest person by about 30-40 years. And usually, I’m wondering if I’m the only one in there who is a sunscreen maniac, who doesn’t have skin cancer history in her family, and who was diagnosed with melanoma at 24.
Not everyone is lucky like I was; not everyone’s cancer is caught before it spreads.
It’s that time of year when everyone begins to visit the tanning salons. Don’t do it (and if you want a tan, there are so many safe alternative ways to get it). I’m beating a dead horse here, but I want to be heard. Don’t lay in the tanning bed. Reapply SPF 30+ when you’re in the sun. Go find a dermatologist and get a skin check. “I’m scared” or “I’m too busy” is not an excuse.
This time? I’m asking for a superman symbol scar. I want to feel invincible.