Monday, November 7, 2011

Public Service Announcement: Wear Sunscreen

I'm pretty fair skinned. In fact, someone once called me the whitest woman in America. That may be pretty true. Unfortunately, despite my light hair, light eyes, light skin, I spent a good majority of my youth on a boat or at the pool, in the hot summer sun, not wearing sunscreen. Did sunscreen even exist in the 70s?

And then I chose the very inappropriate college years job of lifeguard. Again, not wearing sunscreen. Did anyone wear sunscreen in the late 80s?

So my life in the sun has netted me a bunch of freckles and moles, many of which I've had removed. Some of which were basal cell carcinomas, which isn't really that scary.

About two weeks ago I went in for yet another mole removal. I wasn't really worried, except that this time, I should have been worried. Yep, I had a freaking melanoma on my upper right arm.

So tomorrow I will go have a larger patch of skin removed. I'm a little worried, mostly because I have no pain threshold and what if I cry in the doctor's office over having a little patch of skin cut off? That would be embarrassing. I will try to soldier on. Maybe I'll post gruesome pictures.

Or not. I don't have a stomach for such things.

Mostly I'm telling you this because I almost waited too long to have this thing looked at, and actually my doctor saw it on my arm as a fluke when I had gone in for something else entirely.

Health care in this country (yes, we're not reduced to a diatribe about health care) is in a sorry state--that's obvious. When you don't go to the doctor because you're worried that something will then go in your health record that will then preclude you from getting health care (like I did), you can end up in a pretty serious situation. Don't do that.

So, wear your sunscreen, stay out of the sun, wear a big floppy hat and long sleeves, and for the love of all that is holy, stay out of tanning beds (which, in my defense, I have only ever used one once)--that whole "I'm just getting a base tan" is a total myth. You're fricking radiating your skin. It's no better than the sun--in fact, it's worse. Anything else you hear is brought to you directly by the people who own tanning beds. And what? You want to end up looking like a leather boot? Stop. Immediately.

And if you feel like something isn't right, go to the doctor. Get your annual pap smear (sorry, men). Get your mammogram. Go to the dermatologist. Hey, you could really have some fun and go for a colonoscopy when the time comes. There's something to look forward to!

I'm just asking you to take care of yourself so you don't wake up dead in the morning, OK?

End of diatribe.


Leeann said...

Hugs to you, girlfriend.

I too regret many, many years of broiling in the sun, in my case, in Houston, TX. Slathered in baby oil. And my mom even told me not to AND we had sunscreen. Sigh.

My dad has had melanoma four times and sees an oncologist every six months. I see a dermatologist yearly. Scary stuff. I worry about it.

Lots of love to you. xoxo

Anonymous said...

I hear you loud and clear, Natalie. I, too, am pale and freckled and did the baby oil routine religiously growing up. I had a mole on my upper arm removed in July that turned out to be melanoma. It was scary, but I'm so thankful it was caught. Don't worry about the pain -- it will be numbed up and over before you know it!!

Mary Z

M said...

Sunscreen? We used baby oil and baked on the So. Cal beaches all throughout our teenaged years...and then more in college in San Diego...I worry too- Good luck and keep us posted...sending some love from CA!

Paige said...

Me, too! Summers by the pool in Texas. I go to the dermatologist every year and happy happy joy joy I'm going for a colonoscopy next week.