Saturday, June 21, 2014

A SUN Addict? Who ME?

Well. Yes. According to the latest thing being studied, mice and I just may have something in common. More than a love of peanut butter and a like of cheese, we may also have the capacity to be addicted to the sun!

I'll be 55 years old in September. I haven't sunned in a mighty long time. Hush and don't do the math. But, back when I was younger, starting when I was around 12 and on until I was around 16, I dearly loved, LOVED I tell you, grabbing my towel, the bottle of Johnson's Baby Oil, and going out in the back yard, or to the pool which was conveniently across the street from my house, and laying out. And falling asleep in the nice warm sun. And don't forget when my family went to Myrtle Beach for vacation every August. Laying out was a great way to meet beach bums! That's how I got my sunburns...and when I got my sunburns...that fired up and bit me in the form of melanoma when I was 48.

I truly did stop laying out before I graduated from high school. My maternal granddaddy had had many melanoma and skin cancers removed. He was a sawmill man and practically lived outdoors all his life. Somewhere around that time I heard family members talking about his melanomas and associating them with him being out in the sun. I really had no clue what "melanoma" really was all about, but I knew it was "cancer" and I knew that if he had it, I could get it and I knew I didn't want anything to do with any kind of cancer. So I stopped laying out. Whew. I sure thought I'd dodged that bullet!

I had no idea that I'd already done eternal damage to my skin, that my skin would never forget those burns...isn't it funny what we remember? I remember the good times associated with laying out, my skin, on the other hand, remembered I cooked it...and I certainly had no idea my skin would never forgive me. And I've been mighty good to my skin since those tanning years. Rats. Skin does not forgive. At all. 

I had no idea I may have been addicted to the sun. It felt good to lay out. It felt good to fall asleep in it. It felt good to feel good out there. It felt good to get a nice tan. See, I usually tanned. I didn't get as deeply browned as some people, but I rarely burned and I did get a nice color. I'm brunette and my skin tone has pinkish undertones, so my skin was enhanced, shall we say, by my time in the sun.

Here's a link to the recent study as it pertains to SUNtanning.

It's hard to believe that it's been so long ago (three years!) but before there was this study on the sun being addictive, there was a study on tanning beds being addictive. I have friends in the melanoma community who were tanners and who readily admit they were addicted.

For the life of me, I will never understand how those things have risen in popularity as they have. We call them tanning coffins. I don't care if David Cassidy had been in one waiting for me to join him, there's no way on God's green earth that I would ever have gotten in one and pulled the lid down over me. I'm far too claustrophobic for that. Even a bottom layer of cheese cake and the lid drizzling caramel and hot fudge on top of me when the lid was closed would never have gotten me into one. But people, too is too many...get in them everyday. No David Cassidy. No cheesecake. Just those blasted UV lights that can be addicting...

And I get it. I understand. I didn't until this study about suntanning came out. Tanning, of any kind, can be addicting. It can feel soooooooo good. It can be a mood elevator. And despite what we know about tanned skin being damaged skin and despite the skin cancer warnings from reformed tanners like me, people still engage in those behaviors because they've "got to have it."

And I understand now why we're having such a difficult time getting through to so many about the need to stop tanning. Many are addicted whether they know it or not. It's easy for them to put their fingers in their ears and tune us out or tell us where to go, because they enjoy what they're doing. It feels good and they really like how they look. They think any consequences either won't happen to them, or they think that if they do get melanoma or skin cancer they'll be able to cut it out and go big deal. They don't get it and they don't want to hear about any future problems. Right now life is good and they love who they are. Just like any addict, they cannot see or perceive the damage they are doing to themselves or grasp the damage that will be done to their families one day.

Addictions can be broken though. One way or another they can, and must, be broken. Go cold turkey. Wean yourself until you're completely done. Break the cycle. If you haven't started tanning in any form, don't start. Take care of your skin from the beginning.

Tanning is dangerous. It can, and will, be deadly for many. You won't know if you're in that number until you're bitten and then it will be too late. Smokers can stop smoking and reduce their chances of lung cancer. Tanners, in a way, can do the same thing. Some can stop tanning right now and never get melanoma or skin cancer. Some can stop tanning, but, like me, you will get melanoma or skin cancer at some point. I can't tell who will and who won't get it.

Don't be like me.

Listen to me, though. You really don't want to court melanoma.

No tan, no matter how it is gotten, is worth dying over.

No addiction is worth dying over. An addiction CAN be broken. It takes guts. It takes willpower. It takes time. Be addicted to LIFE! Be addicted to your SKIN and getting it healthy and keeping it healthy.

My brother is a recovering crack addict and recovering alcoholic. Though he has been doing great these past several years, he will always have to be mindful of his triggers and avoid them. He will always have to remember where he has been and look to the future and know what he wants, and needs, to do to stay clean. I've blogged about him and you're free to do a site search for those two posts.

I'm not ignorant about addictions. Is mine the same as his? Mine's not going to land me in prison like his almost did. But, both are life altering, both are very expensive to treat, both are deadly. Dead is dead.

Melanoma has changed my family just as surely as crack changed his. Different ways, different ramifications and consequences, but changed nonetheless.

If you tan, be it in the sun or in tanning beds, or in both, think of that as your "crack".

Say "no". Learn the facts. Make the necessary life changes. Appreciate the skin tone you were given by God. Take care of your skin. Don't bake it or broil it, either naturally or artificially.

My name is "Carol" and I was a sun addict.

And now I have melanoma. Stage 3b.

It wasn't worth it after all.