Thursday, February 28, 2013


Since being diagnosed with melanoma, and especially since it progressed last summer, I read a lot about tanning, not because I seek it out, but because it's so central to the whole melanoma deal. I believe in moderation when it comes to a lot of things, and I'm pretty moderate in my opinion of tanning. I don't think it's the worst thing you can do, and I definitely don't think it's the best thing you can do. One of the reasons I didn't go get my mole checked out sooner was because I thought they were going to lecture me about tanning and doom me to a life in the darkness. My mom had a stage I melanoma and her dermatologist basically advised her to become a vampire - in my opinion anyway. Actually the first dermatologist I went to never really lectured me about tanning at all, she did her spiel about wearing sunscreen and avoiding the sun at the peak times (10am - 4pm), but that was about it. My Mayo Clinic derm also never lectures and has even less of a spiel about sunscreen - not because it doesn't matter, but because I pretty much know the spiel now. 

I know a lot of people don't want to listen to any melanoma awareness talk because they don't want to change their tanning habits, like me. Because I know this and understand it, I encourage you to take small steps in changing your habits. If you have a habit of letting yourself get burned in the summer, please be more careful this year! Wear more sunscreen than you think you need, and re-apply it more often than you think you need to. If you tan in the tanning bed, I'd like to say quit, but I know not everyone will, so at least cut back and supplement with self tanning lotion - that's what I did pre-melanoma and it helps boost the tan a lot (I feel like I'm doing something very wrong by offering any tanning tips, but I'm just working with the knowledge that not everyone will just quit tanning!). But understand this - tanning your skin is damage. It just is. We all have seen the stereotypical old lady who's tanned too much and has leathery skin, like this: 

I think we can all agree that it's not the most attractive thing ever, and if you continue to tan, you will look like some version of this when you're old! You'll have more wrinkles, and your skin will not look nice. So while you feel like you have a "healthy glow", you're really just damaging your skin, and your future self will regret it, skin cancer or not.

And if you're really worried about the way you look, scars from having skin cancer removed don't look pretty. It's not just melanoma, basal and squamous skin cancers also require a chunk o' skin to be removed. I've been fortunate to have my melanomas on my back/shoulder, where there's some extra skin, but if there's not enough extra skin where yours is, they could have to graft skin from somewhere else, and it's just not fun. Don't even get me started on the fear that skin cancer will show up on my face, and even though I have ALWAYS, even as a teenager, been very careful not to let my face get ANY sun, it could still happen. Plastic surgeons can do great things but who wants to go through that?! If you need a dose of the reality of living with advanced stage melanoma, go read the message boards at Melanoma Research Foundation and you will see personal accounts of what these people go through. Not what the doctors say, although that's elsewhere on the website, but real people, young, old, rich, poor, from all over the world, who have had their lives turned upside down by melanoma. Traveling to appointments, worrying about what insurance will or won't cover, having multiple surgeries and treatments, and sometimes planning for the loss of their lives or the lives of loved ones. If all you know about melanoma is me and what I've been through, you don't know a fraction of this world. I am thankful every day that so far, my situation has been pretty easy, at least compared to so many others'. 

The flip side of the tanning controversy are the claims of how good the sun is for you, the vitamin D exposure, etc. First of all, I laugh whenever I see the whole vitamin D thing used as a reason to tan in the tanning bed, not because it's actually funny, but because how many of these vitamin D proponents eat a healthy diet full of fruits and vegetables needed to get other important vitamins and minerals? Now, if someone does eat a healthy diet, and tries to get a little sunshine on a regular basis, I think that's great. But don't push tanning as something that's healthy for you, especially in a tanning bed. Getting a small amount of sunshine is a different story than baking yourself in the sun or tanning bed. If you're out enough to get "tan", you're probably overdoing it. It makes me a little sick to read articles that make it sound like tanning is good for you, and it's not like I'm totally anti-sun, I just think it's irresponsible to pretend that it's healthy to get inside a tanning bed for 20 minutes a few times a week. For 99% of tanners, I would be willing to bet that it's about the way they look and has nothing to do with vitamin D. 

So, the takeaway from this is, try to be moderate and work on changing some of your habits. Just like I tell personal training clients, or anyone who asks my advice on weight loss, making small changes to your existing habits is the key. I'd love to get all of you to quit the tanning bed, wear sunscreen on a daily basis, and really load up on sunscreen when you're out in the sun, but I can see you now, putting your fingers in your ears, saying "lalalalalala I can't hear you" at the first sign of a skin cancer lecture. So for yourself and those who love you, please just be more careful! 

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Happy Valentine's Day!

Just a quick post to say Happy Valentine's Day to everyone! Whether in a relationship or not, I've always felt like V-Day is a little silly and pointless, but I do have a lot of great people in my life who I love very dearly, from family to friends and family who are like friends and friends who are like family. I'm a really lucky girl to have so many people love me, and to have so many people to love! So whether you have a hot date for Valentine's Day, or a hot date with your couch and the TV, be thankful for the ones you love! And chocolate, be thankful for chocolate. 

How cute is this?! Found it here: Brick Artist

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Don't Do That!

I was watching TV last night and an awareness commercial for something came on, I can't remember what it was for, but it made me think about how we usually champion for a cause that has affected us in some way. No one really cares about texting and driving until someone they know has been in a car accident while reading or answering a text (well that's half true because my mom gets on to me about texting and driving all the time!). No one cares about cancer until they have been personally affected by it. The list could go on and on. I never thought much about melanoma until I had to go get a PET scan to see if it had spread to my internal organs, even though my mom had it and had a "shark bite" scar on her arm. Hers wasn't deep enough to warrant any further lymph node biopsies or PET scans, so even after she had it, it was still "just skin cancer" to me. 

So as I saw this commercial last night for whatever it was, I was thinking about how we're constantly being told what to do or not to do. In the melanoma world, it's don't tan, wear your sunscreen, etc. In other worlds, it's don't text and drive, don't drink and drive, don't smoke, etc. The anti-smoking commercials are probably the best example. They show people whose lives have been drastically altered due to smoking, whether they have to use a voice box thing to speak (I probably could've googled the name of that thing but I'm lazy and you know what I'm talking about!), or have had body parts amputated, or use an oxygen tank to breathe. I wonder how many smokers are actually affected by these ads? If you're a smoker and reading this, let me know in the comments! Melanoma obviously isn't as widely talked about, but I've seen some pictures that should make anyone put on sunscreen and visit their dermatologist, but I wonder if I'd seen those pictures pre-mel, would it have changed my behavior? I guess what I'm getting at is, I wonder if these awareness ads actually make a difference? Are they ignored by many, and maybe taken seriously by a few? Or are we all desensitized to anything we hear or see on TV?

I know that no one ever comments on my posts, but I'm really curious what other people think about this, and what you think does get through to others, so if you have an opinion, please share!