Monday, April 14, 2008

Lovin' the skin I'm in

On vacation every year in Florida, I couldn't wait til my dutiful grandfather left my side at the pool so I could change into the "skimpier" bikini. I then proceeded to wipe off any remaining sunblock Grandpa strongly enforced while shooting a sly wink at the lifeguard. He was now my partner in crime

Glistening blisters on my skin from my sunburn reminded me that perhaps I took it too far, though my uncomfortable memories seemed to fade by the next vacation.

I proudly displayed my tan lines back home like A's on an elementary school report card. No longer the pasty, fair-skinned redhead, I was a goddess of sorts—at least in my own biased assessment. What do you expect? I was in my early 20s and unstoppable!

Two years later at age 23, my vocabulary would soon expand. Gifted to me by my dermatologist were the words "malignant melanoma," "large excision," "five-year survival rate" as well as "reoccurrence." Now visualize a dog tilting his head in confusion! What this meant was that I had a serious skin cancer—the deadliest kind that could spread if not treated immediately.

The melanoma was found in a very small mole that was dark in color. Had it not been for my old boyfriend urging me to go to the dermatologist, I might not be blogging this happy tune.

I passed my five-year survival rate with flying colors and wound up with a second melanoma ten years after my first one. This one was again successfully removed during surgery, and I have a clean bill of health as I blog here today.

So what gives? I do the right thing (kind of like eating oatmeal every day). I wear sun block SPF 30 and carry a bottle wherever I go. I avoid the sun during peak hours (10 a.m. – 4 p.m.) or wear long sleeves. I find shade when I can and wear sunglasses to protect my eyes. I visit my dermatologist every year and also check my skin monthly to look for changes.

I still wink at lifeguards whenever I get the chance, and have fond memories of the ten different bottles of sunblock lined up like proud soldiers in Grandpa's medicine cabinet. Grandpa, here's to looking at you, kid! As much as I hate to admit it, you were right!

Learn more about cancer—including living with cancer, managing the diagnosis, and cancer screening and prevention—later this week as MPT airs The Truth About Cancer Wednesday, April 16 at 9 p.m.

Jill R. Adler
Manager, Community Health Education
LifeBridge Health

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