When I was in my twenties, I faked-and-baked a lot. As frequently as a few times a week in the summer, or before a vacation down south in the winter. It never crossed my mind how bad it was for my skin. Same thing with smoking - I smoked all through my teen years, and into my twenties, quitting when I got pregnant both times, and even blogged about it when I stopped. (I will admit, I do still smoke socially, sometimes, but I consider myself quit.)
A few months ago, I went to my dermatologist, and she noticed a suspicious looking mole on my back. A small dot, a black, flat dot, but still, it concernced her. "Hmm," she said, "Let me just get my special light and magnifying glass." She left the room, and I started to panic. All those years of me faking-and-baking had now come back to haunt me.
I was doomed. I was convinced that I had skin cancer. Why would I be one of the lucky ones? Not to mention the fact that I never wear sunscreen, and in fact, lather up on the oil (with an SPF of 8) when I'm on vacation somewhere hot. Not the best thing to do, right? However, I was naive. Young. Stupid. And in the need of a tan!
Now, as a mom of two young children, I see things differently. I do things differently - not thinking about myself only, but thinking about them first, and about their future.
They are the reason I quit smoking. They are the reason I started watching what I eat. They are the reason I work out. And now, I'm going to try to give up something else, too. Tanning in an indoor salon.
My surgery was scheduled. For one month, I had to wait to get the procedure done. The day of my surgery, I was nervous. I was convinced I was dying. Still afraid of what to tell my family, still thinking about how my children would live without their mommy. Skin cancer is no joke. Yes, it is one of the 'better' cancers to have, but still - it can be deadly. And the saddest part - it is preventable, for the most part.
Last July, the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer declared tanning beds "carcinogenic to humans', and reclassified tanning equipment to the highest cancer risk category. I was never under the impression that tanning beds were safer than the sun, but I also never truly believed how bad they were for us. Now, doctors in Ontario are trying to ban the use of tanning beds for people under the age of 18. I'm in full agreement.
And although I'm no doctor, I'm sure if tanning beds are used in moderation - a couple of times a year - you will likely be okay. Don't take my word for it, though.
After my suspicious mole was removed, I had to wait one week to get the results. One day after work, I came home to a message left for me from my doctor. "Hi Loukia, it's Dr. R. I just wanted to let you know that we have your results and your biopsy is back. I wanted you to know that the results show that you are okay - there is nothing to worry about and it is benign."
I breathed a huge sigh of relief. I hugged my children even tighter that night. And I was so, so thankful that I was so lucky.