Monday, April 25, 2016

[tanning] and why it makes me want to scream

Four inches doesn't seem like that much, does it? Looking at the small space between the zero and four really seems like just that, a small space. It's funny how when put it in a different context though, four inches can seem so much bigger. If you went to your hair stylist and asked for a trim and they accidentally cut off four inches, I'm sure most of us would end up in tears. If I were to help you hang a picture and you realized that I was actually four inches off from center, I imagine you would ask me to re-hang it. So when my doctor told me, "You have to have surgery but the scar should only be about four inches" you can imagine my dismay.

I have a large large to me, scar on my stomach. It's about four inches in length and about one fourth of an inch in width. I don't even want to begin to tell you how many one inch scars I have across my back and shoulders; it's easier to forget all the times I've been told by my dermatologist that they have to biopsy something leaving, yet again, another small scar.

I proudly went tanning for nearly five years of my life. There were times when I would even "double dip" and go to one salon in the morning and one at night to make sure that I was getting as tan as possible. I felt better when I was tan, I thought I looked better tan, and it seemed the various colors in my closet just looked even better against a tan canvas. Yes, I heard horror stories of people who had gone tanning. I knew it could cause cancer. I saw the god-awful videos in health class with people missing chunks of skin from their face. I also knew thought I knew, that it would never happen to me.

April of 2012 I was lying in bed watching Dr. Oz when they had a whole episode about skin cancer. I laid there lazily thinking to myself, "I've never even gone to a dermatologist before, I should probably go." So I made an appointment and went in with low expectations. That day my doctor biopsied five different spots from my stomach, to my shoulders, to my back. She told me they seemed like nothing but, "Better safe than sorry." I got a phone call one week later that said, "So all your test results came back and you're fine, except for that one we looked at on your stomach...That one came back as melanoma." This isn't real. "But it'll be fine, it's a simple surgery, and we'll make sure we get it all out."

I had surgery and it turns out my doctor was right and I was and still am fine. I see my dermatologist regularly to ensure that I nothing else comes up, but my dermatologist likes to remind me that my skin is just cancer waiting to happen given how badly I treated it.

So here's the deal. I am really, really, really pale and had I taken the health warnings seriously or maybe not had the mentality of "not me", I would probably still be pale but with a few less scars. It's like with every scar, you can see how many times I was stupid enough to go tanning.

When I'm perusing through Facebook and see pictures of my loved ones: cousins, siblings, friends, acquaintances, etc. with these obvious tanning bed tans, I want to scream. You are literally the person causing the harm to yourself.  I always thought that a mere four inches was a very small space, that was until it was in the form of a scar. From the time we're born to the time we die, this is the only body we have. Let's start by treating it right.


It' said...

I remember when tanning beds were a big can go several times (or more) a week instead of laying out in the sun with everyone looking at your cellulite (lol). I even went a few times, but figured if I wanted to tan so much, then I could at least go to the pool and swim. But knowing that as a young teenager I had received several bad sunburns, I decided not to. And not long after that all of the warnings came out about how much more damage is received in a tanning bed.
I am so sorry that you have to bear the scars..and glad you are getting the treatment you need.
Here in Albuquerque we are close to the sun, and sunburn occurs in less than half an hour...especially if you are pale. I now use self tanners for a bit of color. Skin cancer is a big deal here, and I know more than a few people who have had surgeries on their faces, arms, back, etc.

Stefanie said...

Thank you for your comment! I didn't ever think it would happen to me and tan skin was such a big deal!