Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Let The Sun Shine!

But don't be stupid about it!

It's that time of year again.  The birds are out of their nests early in the morning and chirping; the days are warmer, and people will be dressing accordingly.  I remember the year I was at Meredith College, 1977-78.  That February got up into the 50s and girls donned their bikinis and started laying out getting sun.  Those were the good old days and the days before tanning beds.  The days before "melanoma" really began climbing the cancer charts.

If you value your life, at all...if you love anyone and value them...please, PLEASE, keep reading!  The life you save may be your own, or theirs.

In case you don't know what "melanoma" is, it's skin cancer.  The deadliest of all skin cancers and projected to be the deadliest of ALL cancers by 2022.  The rate it is rising in younger people is alarming and that trend is directly related to the desire to be a youthful-looking, tanned person, and that person is probably female.  If detected, caught, and treated early enough, its survival rate is also among the highest.  Make no mistake though, melanoma really doesn't care if you're female, young, or sun-addicted.  It's an equal opportunity cancer and strikes all ages, races, and both genders.  You may not be a sun-worshiper, but if you've ever, ever, been sunburned, even once, you're at risk.  If you have an "odd" looking mole, you're at risk.  If you have a family history of any type of skin cancer, you're at risk.

Back to being smart, not stupid.  Do you really want to be totally hot looking in your casket?  Weigh: tanned...dead.  Bronzed and sexy...cold and dead.  Alive...dead.  I'm serious and so is melanoma.  I'm alarmed at the deaths of people in their 30s from this disease.  Their 30s!

I'm currently a melanoma patient and have blogged about it twice on this particular blog.  Read "The Big C Is Not Candy" and "Valentines Day 2011" for more of my story.  They don't tell my whole story.  I've had three sunburns, in my life, that I remember caused peeling.  An oncologist told me that was enough to do it.  I was in my teens at the time of the burns...the melanoma arose when I was 48...in an "odd" mole.  And I've got a family history.

I'm providing you with links to good, current information.  But in case you don't read them, let me please stress the importance of being smart.  Despite what the tanning bed industry tells you, if you use them or know someone who does, they are NOT safe.  Please don't go getting the owner's opinion or your best friend's opinion...get the facts.  If you MUST be in the sun, go out in the morning or late afternoon and ALWAYS wear strong sunblock...the highest you can get.  And, don't assume that if you aren't blond and fair-skin that you're safe.  I'm brunette and not fair-skin.  Avoid getting sun-burned at all costs!  Keep a check on your skin and moles and if you have an "odd" looking mole...get it removed.  NOW!!!!!  If it is raised or black, get it cut off and sent to a pathology lab to be on the safe side.  If it is bleeding, go straight to your local oncologist, preferably one specializing in melanoma.  Run and don't walk.

Here are three great places to get up-to-date information and connect with people who can answer questions or help you in other ways if needed:

http://www.aimatmelanoma.org/en/index.html Aim at Melanoma
http://www.melanoma.org/ Melanoma Research Foundation
http://www.cancer.gov/  National Cancer Institute

I've got a new friend from France who connected with me through the Melanoma Research Foundation.  This age of the Internet is wonderful for that and for dispensing information.  She's in her 30s and my prayers are with her.  Melanoma, like all cancers, doesn't care what country you live in either.  Like all cancers, it just doesn't care.  Period.

Don't buy the hype that tanned equals youthful.  Don't buy the hype that tanned equals sexy.  Don't buy the hype that you're going to live forever.  We're in a culture that's death-denying and forever-young-espousing.  Don't buy it and don't kill yourself in the process.  Be smart.

This has been my Public Service Announcement.  If you have read this far and learned something...

I am grateful.

Since posting this I've opened the Melanoma Prayer Center and Melanoma Grief Chapel on Facebook.  See upper right side of blog for links.  They are for spiritual and educational support. ALSO, the more I have learned since writing this, the more I am convinced we have got to stop calling this "skin cancer" and am leading my own little one-woman crusade against that term being applied to melanoma. I've blogged about that so please do a search here on the blog site. Thank you!