My mom was diagnosed with skin cancer in March, and she has a really powerful story I want to share with you. Today I am going to be sharing a little piece of how I’ve felt about my mom’s journey, and tomorrow I will be posting the more important story that my mom wrote about her journey with skin cancer and her health.
Ever since I was a little kid my mom has emphasized the importance of wearing sunscreen. I remember going to the neighborhood pool flaunting my long, chubby toddler legs, a polka dot bikini, and a hat that covered all the way to the bottom of my neck. We would make tents out of chairs and towels to create forts of shade, and sat under them and applied sunscreen at every break.
My mom has always taken better care of me and my family than she has herself. She consistently puts us first and wants a better life for my brother and I than she ever had for herself. I grew up hearing about how she used to go to tanning beds and put on baby oil instead of sunscreen when she went to the beach in an attempt to get a deeper color. This was a funny thing to think about because the entire time I’ve been alive my mom has been one of the most careful people in the sun that I know. She puts sunscreen on every single day and invests in enormous wide-brimmed hats and expensive SPF umbrellas to stay out of the sun. We always took family beach trips to Bethany Beach in the summer, and dad was typically the one who would play in the water and beach volleyball in the sun with my brother and I. My mom would make appearances for a half hour at a time, but you could typically find her reading a book in the shade.
As a child my mom called me her little “brown bear” because despite putting 60 SPF sunscreen on the hour at every break I spent a lot of time at the pool for swim team and playing with friends. I would take little breaks to go in the shade, and was diligent about being careful in the sun and wearing pink zinc on my face.
Even when I was high school and being called “pale” was one of the biggest insults you could bear, I told my friends they needed to be careful in the sun whenever they’d mention going to the pool to get a tan. Even though sunburns might be the worst kind of sun exposure, any change in your coloring is sun damage, which can lead to negative lasting effects.
Although I did get a little too much sun from being on the swim team in my childhood years, thanks to my mother I have never in my life had a bad sunburn. Did you know if you have 5 blistering sunburns between the ages of 15 and 20 your risk of getting melanoma is 80% greater than it would have been? Your risk of getting another kind of skin cancer is increased by 68%.
This March when my mom came back from the doctor and told me she had skin cancer I was scared. It wasn’t melanoma — thank God — but the “C” word is just terrible in general. I know I complain about myself being sick sometimes, but I don’t want my mom to have anything wrong with her. She is literally an angel on this earth and the best person I’ve ever known. I know some of you might think I just say this because I’m her daughter, but it’s true.
This is the perfect example of how not being careful in your twenties can really catch up to you. It’s why we need to wear sunscreen, be careful about what kind of things we put into our bodies, and try to have a healthy and balanced lifestyle.
I am sharing more of her story tomorrow because I want to remind everyone the very real effects sun damage can have on your body in the future. When we’re in our twenties we often feel invincible like nothing can touch us, but sadly that’s just not true. When you go out this summer, please just make sure to be careful. Tan skin fades so quickly, but skin cancer can have a very real, lasting effect. If you want to be tan for an event, use self tanner. Think about all the beautiful people like Emma Stone and Anne Hathaway who totally rock red lips and pale skin. Ultimately, no matter what you look like it’s not the color or shade of your skin that makes you beautiful — it’s the inside that really matters.