Recently I learned that my skin cancer is back...yes, it has returned. I've dealt with this before and I kicked it's butt so I fully intend to do the same thing this time around. Fortunately I have Squamous Cell Carcinoma, which is the most common and most treatable form of skin cancer. And it was caught early, thanks to a routine blood test. After a brief procedure, my doctor expects me to make a full recovery with little change in lifestyle (except I HAVE to stay out of the tanning bed and that is an issue for me). The fact that my skin cancer has returned is still settling with me...naturally, I feel fear and regret (more to come on that last part). Yet I also feel a sense of overwhelming optimism that I am going to be okay. Perhaps it's because I am battle tested (ask me about the past 6 months of my life).
Each year some 800,000 Americans are diagnosed with skin cancer. Much of it is preventable if you take care to protect yourself from the sun's harmful rays. Like many, I pooh-poohed the warnings. These included both regular words of caution from the media and those close to me. One of my favorite pastimes is laying out by my neighbor's pool! However, I know for a fact that the first time (and second, and third and fourth) that I was diagnosed was due to my obsession with tanning beds. One would think that I would have learned my lesson, much less been scared to death to even go near another tanning bed. Not that this is an excuse...but I feel more confident and a little prettier when I have that beautiful golden glow. So, I've been back to the tanning beds. Now I am paying the price.
It's clear from the statistics that many people still don't take the risk of skin cancer seriously enough. Perhaps they need to hear more about it from someone they know, me. I recognize that I can help in this way (or at least try). So, if you think you won't or can't be affected...or if you think skin cancer isn't that serious...ask me. Ask me to show you the two inch (hideous) scar on my chest from my first round of chemo and radiation. Ask me how I'm feeling tomorrow when I have had my third dose of high level radiation. Ask me how many times I throw up during the day and how much energy I have after 10 treatments of radiation.
May is skin cancer awareness month...now would be a perfect time to schedule an appointment with your primary care physician or dermatologist for a skin exam. If you can't afford it, free screenings may be available at your local hospital.
Listen...I know it's difficult to stop habits like using a tanning bed or laying out by the pool basting in baby oil. Here's the deal...you DO need to quit the tanning beds...it's ridiculously dangerous no matter how good you feel...BUT...you can still lay out by the pool...just be smart and use sunscreen and certainly have any suspicious moles checked out by your doctor.
I'm sorry to be such a "Debbie Downer" in today's blog...but I just had my second dose of radiation this morning and I'm really starting to feel the effects. So, if that doesn't smack you upside the head and make you want to be sun safe then I'm not sure what will!