I recently had Mohs surgery to remove yet another basal cell carcinoma, a type of skin cancer. This one resulted in 8 stitches on the left side of my nose. The vain side of me is pretty upset that I now have a one-inch scar on the most prominent part of my face. The tiny, red spot appeared only a month or so before my annual skin exam, so that was the plus side. Since it was caught early, the size of the area removed is much smaller than it would have been a year from now.
Unfortunately, I have had many of these skin cancers over the last 25 years. I grew up at the beach, and with fair skin, blue eyes, and reddish brown hair, I was a magnet for sunburns. I have had more than my fair share of them. Sunscreen wasn’t really a known product when I was a child, only tanning oils. I do remember my mom slathering a blob of zinc oxide on my nose as a young child on occasion, but only on occasion. I have many memories of using lots of Noxema, and sometimes vinegar to help stop the pain from the inevitable sunburns I would get after a day at the beach.
After my first basal cell removal at age 20, I became more aware of protecting my skin. Since then, I use sunscreen and wear hats when I am outside for long periods of time. It was hard for me having grown up in an area where people regularly compare arms side-by-side to see who has the better tan. I have now lived in an area away from the beach for almost thirty years, so the pressure to have a tan is less than it was when I lived at the beach, but it still somewhat exists. I have decided that having healthier skin is more important than having temporary “color” in the warmer months. I know that the more I stay out of the sun, the fewer skin cancers I will have, and the lower my chances are of developing a melanoma, which can be life threatening. I understand that another benefit of staying out of the sun is that I will (hopefully) have fewer wrinkles when I am older– not a bad thing at all!
When my skin cancers started surfacing, I went through a period of being upset that my parents didn’t do more to protect my skin. I was mad that they let me spend long days at the beach without regard for my skin and the burns that would result. It took me a while to realize that they honestly didn’t know any better. Once I knew better about the hazards of sun exposure, I made better choices. I now wear sunscreen every single day, and I wear hats when I am outside for a period of time.
This is a good lesson for everyone, young and old– when you know better, you do better. Everyone makes mistakes. I know I have made many mistakes as a parent, but I hope that when I know better, I do better. I have tried to instill this lesson in my children since they were young, and hopefully they will do the same for their children.
Now I am going to put on my sunscreen, my hat, and enjoy the rest of this beautiful day.
What we are reading now:
Me: Wonder by R.J. Palacio
My son (14): Baseball Great by Tim Green (he has read this many times)
My daughter (11): The Penderwicks at Point Mouette by Jeanne Birdsall– she just HAD to reread this series 🙂