Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Wake-up call

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.

36 comments:

coffeewithjulie said...

It was not until I lived in Australia that I really took sunprotection and the risk of skin cancer seriously. It is very scary, and people die from it. That's what I think about when I look at my pasty white skin in the mirror and feel tempted to tan it up -- it's not worth it, Julie! Such an important post as the sun season is just around the corner. Thanks!

JLA said...

Great post, Loukia. Happy to hear all is well.

That said, I think suggesting it's 'probably' ok to use tanning beds a few times a year is a dangerous suggestion that I'm sure your doctor would definitely not agree with.

Tanning beds and a bit of colour attained via natural sun are not at all the same thing. Using a tanning bed to prevent a burn before a vacation is also not any better. Furthermore, those few times are not 'just a few' - they are an intense dose added to your lifetime of sun exposure.

For all the reasons you plan to stop - and for your readers, I think you should consider confirming your suggestion with your dermatologist.

CalgaryDaddy said...

Whew! I think that people do need to be made more aware of the dangers of the tanning beds. Teens think that it must be safe....

Good post.

Shane
www.calgarydaddy.com

Denise Nielsen said...

My best friend died of this at 37. One of the last things she said to me was "Promise you'll always put sunscreen on your kids." My three fair-skinned kids never go out without it and a hat, and nor do I. It's a terrifying thing to have to wait to hear from a doctor. So glad it turned out ok for you, and thanks for the reminder.

skichik79 said...

happy to hear it wasn't dangerous. it always takes one scare to make us think ok I probably should not do this ... we learn from our mistakes .. better late then never ... My skin is transparent white right now and im going on vacation I was so tempted to go tanning but decided against it ...thanx for your post Lou

Chandra said...

I read another blog...her name is Heather and she has skin cancer, more then likely from tanning beds and she is fighting for her life and the life of her two little kids...its just awful.
I am still one of those people that use tanning beds, but only a few times a year..as I am right now..just trying to jump start the tanning...it is sooooo bad and I know its wrong but I cant stop myself. I have two young children to think about. Don't get me wrong I think about it EVERY single time I lay in the bed. In my defense I NEVER go the full 15 minutes...EVER.
It's still bad. I need to stop.

Lindsey said...

Good post! It really gets everyone thinking about what they need to change in their lives for the sake of the children.
Thanks for sharing :)

Sara @ Domestically Challenged said...

Very true, and so many of us see the same thing when we are younger. i am glad it was a false alarm.

T Rex Mom said...

Glad everything worked out - children do change perspective, don't they?

Kate Coveny Hood said...

That's very good news! I often think back with regret about the hours I spent sunning for my looks. Even if I didn't now care more about health, I'd be feeling the same regret because that sun damage is starting to show. I have two vertical lines next to one of my eyes (used to be just one - but it now has a friend - yeah!) It absolutely makes me look older and there is no simple plastic surgery fix for that kind of thing. Anyone who thinks they'll just deal with the consequences later with their plastic surgeon is kidding themself. You can almost always tell when someone has "had work done." So the best way to maintain your youth is to stay in the shade and use lots of sun block. Wish I had listened to that public service announcement when I was a teenager and figured 40 was old and I wouldn't care anymore.

Mommy Lisa said...

I am positive for the skin cancer gene and get suspicious moles taken off every year.

Never has it been anything yet.

Knock on wood.

But my doctor has done all of them right then and there - I have never had to go back.

Sarah said...

My father worked outside for 35 years and never used sunscreen. He would always just tan and never burn. He's 70 yrs old now and has to go for constant surgeries to remove suspicious moles which have all come back cancerous. It's very scary and makes me not want to be in the sun at all. I see how much he's had to go through. I am crazy with the sunblock now.

Kerry @ First Time Fancy said...

I hear ya - I had two removed on my back when I was only 19. It was scary stuff. Thankfully, I was the same as you, nothing to worry about. It really is a wake up call though... I stopped using tanning beds and was more careful to put on sunscreen more often. I could still do better, but I'm working on it!

Karma & Adam said...

Great post! I never tan, and if I happen to be reading my book in the sun I'm wearing a minimum of spf 30. I wear sunscreen every day on my face in the winter, and all over in the summer.
I'm a mom and a cancer survivor (non-hodgkin's lymphoma) and would never, ever sacrifice my life or that of my daughter's for a tan. Sure, you might feel "better" when you're tanned, but trust me, you feel a lot better without cancer. My advice? Get a good self tanner, or embrace your natural colour.

Jennifer said...

And people in the US wonder why there will be a tax on tanning. This is exactly why. I think they should put a special tax on fast food too. These are things that increase health risks.

Nikosmommy said...

I absolutely adore having a tan and I love the sun! (We holiday in Greece every summer but I load up myself and the kids with SPF 50, hats and t-shirts at the beach for the ENTIRE time we're there.) It's hard because we all tan well and just assume that b/c we can tan we'll be safe. Not true, I have to remember to be diligent!
I do admit that every early summer for about 3 weeks I'll go tanning to get a 'base' before we head to Greece. I just can't stand the thought of burning in the blazing hot sun (and I don't want to stand out as the whitey-Canadian girl!!) So vain I know!!

Rebecca said...

So happy things were ok.

Tiffany Lockette said...

So glad to hear that it wasn't anything serious.

hoobingfamilyadventures.com said...

I am so glad to hear everything is okay! I know, I have spent way too much time in the sun but after having a baby am planning to park it in the shade on our beach vacations!

Chelle said...

So scary, honey! I used to tan {haven't for almost 10 yrs now} and I cringe thinking of how often I would go. I get nervous thinking about it--a girl whose blog I read is battling skin cancer right now :(

Thanks for the post and reminder--I'm constantly telling my sister to stop and not to start again after she has her baby...let's hope she listens!

Happy everything was okay for you. {{hugs}}

anya said...

I'm with you on this one! Great post.

Shannon @ AnchorMommy said...

Omigosh, Loukia! Scary!!! I'm so happy to hear you're okay. I was the same way in my 20's -- I did stuff without thinking of the consequences, and as for tanning beds...I thought, how bad can it be? I didn't do it much and I haven't gone near a bed in years, but still. That damage is always there.

Finola said...

Great post and I'm glad everything was OK.

As a follow-up post, how about talking about some of the tanning lotions out there? I was considering trying one for my legs this spring, but I also worry about the chemicals that may be in those products. Is there any good information out there?

Hailey said...

Girl, I am an avid believer in the fact that tanning beds kill. I am also a believer in sunscreen. Lots of it.
I am only 25. In the past 18 months, I have had 5 basal cell carcinomas removed. If only I had listend to my Mom during my teenage years.
I am so glad that everything turned out ok.

Krystyn said...

Skin cancer is so scary and so serious. I fake baked before prom and my wedding and that's it. And, I know it wasn't smart. And, I've had tons of moles removed.

And, there is skin cancer in my family (not that I think it's hereditary).

Glad you got your wake up call...and glad your mole was okay.

Becca said...

Great post and I'm glad everything was okay. I had a mole removed last year.. same thing, I was totally freaked out, convinced I was going to die, etc. Thankfully, they removed it all and there was nothing to worry about. Still, it scared me and I realized how dangerous tanning beds and the sun in general are. I would totally be all for a ban of tanning beds at every age!

BeachMama said...

Whew, good news. I, like you spent may years baking. I went to the dermatologist last summer on my own to check out my skin. Thankfully he told me I was wasting his precious time, but I waited in fear for six months for that appointment wondering what I may have done to my skin. I am a little more careful now when I sit in the sun. And gave up the tanning beds when J was born.

CaraBee said...

I tanned a lot, both in tanning beds and the sun, when I was in my teens, but I took a trip to Costa Rica when I was 22 and saw all these women at the resort who were in their 40s and 50s who looked so OLD because they were super duper dark. Their skin looked like leather. I decided right then and there that my heavy tanning days were over.

I've had several moles removed and spots tested. I see a derm annually. Luckily, I've never had any positive result on the biopsies, but that doesn't mean I am less diligent with my sunscreen. So, yeah, I'm kinda pasty, but I would much rather be a young-looking, no cancer-having 50 than a tan 36 year old.

Chantal said...

I was so glad to read that tweet (when you got your results) and this post! Thank GOD!

Pres. Kathy said...

I am very happy to hear that everything turned out okay. When I was younger I remember tanning. It was so COOL to be darker. The funny thing is that I use to tan when I would go to Greece for the summer - I never tanned in Chicago. Weird huh? This is a good reminder for me to watch my little guy when he plays outside.

Christy said...

So glad everything worked out. I regret all my years laying out without any sunscreen at all! I cringe when I think of those days...

Chrissy MacCEO said...

I am so glad this wake up call was just that--a wake up call, and nothing more serious. Glad you are ok!!

Brittany at Mommy Words said...

I am so glad it came back okay. Holy crap that is scary. And being a mommy makes it so much more so! xoxo

p.s. I am white as a ghost. I might glow when you meet me and light shines on me. I am not an angel, I just have a nasty relationship with direct sunlight ;)

twinmomplusone said...

So sad to hear you had to go through this :( but so happy to hear all turned out OK :)
I, too, have used tanning beds and would lie in teh sun in the 70's with baking oil (gasp) on!
Last fall was my wake up call...had a suspicious mole biopsied and the results came back positive for a rare aggresive cancer. I remember not being able to breathe when he told me. Worrying about my kids endlessly. Freaking out at the hospital when they were about to put me under for my second most extensive surgery. They were able to remove it all, thank God. I've had to deal with a lengthy and nasty wound healing but that is nothing compared to what could have been. I'm a lucky one :)

Great post Loukia :)

Jessica said...

It's all about the spray tan!

T~T said...

oh dear 0 glad it was good news - get a spray tan!!

tiaras

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