Live Wisely

Mom Bloggers Educating Families About Sun Safety

Kelli Gillespie Richardson and I met when working in and around the media world. As our careers grew, so did our families.  Picture two career women literally wearing their babies to press junkets and TV stations, and frantically changing diapers before jumping on air. It sounds crazy, but we made it work!  Our friends suggested we share our crazy experiences with others so we took their advice and created Family Entourage—a place to celebrate and support growing families. We continue to juggle our careers, families and our growing blog network from sunny San Diego, which brings us to our need for sun protection…

Living in San Diego, we are outside year-round. We always prepare for sun exposure when we’re at the pool or beach, but the reality is that we are exposed as soon as we step outside the house. The easy solution…sunscreen! But picture this…every time you step out of your front door the sun is blazing and you need to cover your toddler or young kiddo in sunscreen. Whether you’re at the San Diego Zoo or La Jolla Beach, we have to chase down our kiddos every 1-2 hours and slather them down. This resulted in a lot of stress, sunscreen in the eyes, sand and mud sticking to our kiddos, sometimes for days. We needed a better solution for our kids, our readers and our sanity!

Kelli and I were first introduced to Coolibar when researching a TV segment on Pool Party Ideas. The amount of information available on water safety and teaching kids to swim was huge. But what we also discovered in our research was that one in five Americans will develop skin cancer in the course of a lifetime. We were blown away! This revelation really opened our eyes to the need for sun protection, and how best to use/wear it.

After that initial Pool Party Ideas segment where we tried out Coolibar, our families have been wearing it everywhere. We also make sure we’re ‘modeling’ it during any and all TV segments where we can recommend sun-protective clothing. It’s our way of using our voice to help local parents tackle sun safety. If our blog helps keep families sun-safe and cancer-free, we’ll keep spreading the word. Education and awareness is everything and we don’t want any families to be a part of the ‘1 in 5’ statistic.

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Together We Will

Dr. Patel: The Power of Observation

As physicians we have a unique ability to provide care, comfort and our expertise to patients on an individual basis. However, being able to partner with organizations dedicated to a particular disease or diseases is a way to make an impact for a larger group of people beyond our immediate patient population. It’s an important way to make sure our care extends as far as we can stretch it.

Since my days in high school, volunteering gave me an important understanding of the impact a medical provider can have beyond the classroom and exam room. Early on I got involved in a volunteer program at a brain tumor center. The program paired pediatric patients with medical students who acted as big brothers or sisters to observe how they were handling their care. Eventually, we were able to purchase disposable cameras that the patients used to document their emotions, thoughts, and lives outside the clinic and hospital as they underwent treatment. The scrapbooks acted as a form of therapeutic expression for them and allow others to observe what these pediatric patients were experiencing. That experience and value it added to patient care and education really taught me the importance of getting involved in volunteer programs.

Something I’ve carried with me from that opportunity is the power of observation. By pairing with these children and reviewing their scrapbooks, we were able to observe their experience, learn from it, and make more informed medical decisions. As I left medical school and started my career as a Dermatologist, the importance of observation became very apparent.

When detecting and treating skin cancer, it starts with what we see or observe. But dermatologists can only observe what is near them. We need help from friends, family members, and other individuals in observing and identifying potential trouble spots.

A great example of this is hair stylists. Just in the past few years, two separate hair stylists observed ‘funny moles’ on their clients. After sending those clients to our clinic we diagnosed and treated melanoma. For these patients, the early detection of their “funny moles” led to a simple removal with a complete recovery. But, had those stylists not observed their scalps and sent them our way, their diagnosis could have progressed into something more dangerous. Not all hairstylists are aware of the role they can play in early detection. It’s thanks – in part – to the awareness built by foundations like the Polka Dot Mama. Their community outreach helps educate more people about how to detect skin cancer and understand warning signs. 

When I first met Tracy Callahan (founder of Polka Dot Mama Melanoma Foundation), what caught my attention was her energy. She has always been very passionate about getting the word out about melanoma prevention and early detection. For medical professionals like myself, she’s able to raise funding for research, and create incredible events where we can get out of our clinic and observe and screen thousands of new patients.  

Our practice – North Carolina Dermatology Associates – continues to support Polka Dot Mama Melanoma Foundation at free monthly melanoma screenings. We also joined other medical providers in the area to support the world’s largest skin cancer screening, which broke the Guinness Book of World Records in 2019. Through these events, we have been able to detect melanoma earlier and improve patient outcomes. It’s all about connecting with people outside of our clinic to check their skin and teach them to observe and monitor any changes.

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Skin Diaries

Melanoma Warrior: “Avoid Tanning Beds!”

Growing up, I loved to be in the sun and rarely wore sunscreen. And I definitely didn’t know anything about sun-protective clothing – what was that? Then, like many young women idealizing tan skin, from the age of 16-24, I definitely visited the tanning booth way too often. I’m now 36 years old and I fully regret all of those decisions. 

My warrior story started pretty recently – in August 2019.  I had never been to a dermatologist for a full body skin check. My skin looked fine to me. I didn’t have any abnormal growing moles so, as far as I could tell, I was good to go.

I finally went to the dermatologist for two reasons 1. we had put a pool in our backyard and I was out in the sun even more and 2. I had a friend start working with a dermatologist who advised me to go. I am so thankful I went. The dermatologist walked in the exam room, we talked about my medical history and she asked if I had any concerning spots, which I did not. She checked me over, then asked me how long I had had a little brown spot on my leg near my knee. It was new, but it wasn’t raised or shaped abnormally. I had gotten lots of new spots on my body over the years, so I wasn’t alarmed.

After doing the full-body exam, she decided to take off the spot on my leg. Then the following Monday I received a call from the dermatologist. I had always assumed I would never get skin cancer. But here I was, on the phone listening to someone tell me I had Stage 1A melanoma. I had to ask her, “wait, is that cancer?”. It was a life-changing conversation that I never saw coming. 

Thankfully, I did not need chemotherapy or radiation. My diagnosis only required a wide local excision, however, recovery from that procedure wasn’t so quick and easy. Soon after surgery, my incision opened up after an accidental kick to the knee from my toddler. It took 3.5 long, painful months to heal.       

The next summer, in 2020, I knew so much more about sun safety and I was ready to be outdoors. I got serious about wearing sunscreen, started wearing UPF 50+ sun protective clothing and wide-brimmed hats. There was no way I was going to miss out on pool time with my family. One of the blessings of getting melanoma is that I now know enough to protect everyone around me. If you’re in our pool, you’re sun-safe.

After years of avoiding sunscreen, going to tanning beds, and assuming I was safe, I now go to the dermatologist every 3-5 months for skin checks. Thankfully, I haven’t had another diagnosis since.

I really hope that people young and old will learn from my mistakes. Especially young women who are going to tanning beds. Please care for your health and your skin by wearing sunscreen on exposed skin every day and cover up with UPF 50+ clothing and wide-brimmed hats when you’re out for a long period of time. Also, AVOID TANNING BEDS! Trust me, you’re beautiful as you are and will be grateful you skipped the salon later in life. And if you haven’t gone yet, or are hesitating, please just go to the dermatologist. Nobody is immune.

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Skin Diaries

A Melanoma Warrior’s Advice: Always Make Time to Take Care of Your Health

I found my melanoma through self-checks, but not the way you’d think. For a long time, I would notice a brown spot on my lower right leg every time I shaved my legs. Unless I was actually focusing on my leg, I never noticed it and it didn’t bother me, so it wasn’t a big deal.

I never would have dreamt that the spot was Melanoma. But I knew it wasn’t totally normal, so I had made appointments to get it removed. But, because everything else in my life was more important, I kept canceling them. Sound familiar to anyone?

I finally stopped canceling in 2007. It was January and I had been having night sweats and felt very fatigued. It inspired me to finally keep my appointment and the mole was finally removed. I moved on and never gave it another thought – until a few days later.

I was at work rushing to a meeting when I realized I’d forgotten a file I needed at my desk. I ran back to my office where my phone was ringing. It was an unknown number. I decided to answer it in the off chance they were canceling my meeting. As luck would have it, it was my Doctor telling me to come into her office. I realized this was probably bad news, but I still found myself telling her that I couldn’t just drop everything and leave work. Reluctantly, she told me I had melanoma and she wasn’t sure what stage (or how bad) it was. She was sending me to a surgeon, a dermatologist and an oncologist. At this point, I really hoped that the meeting was canceled.  

The surgeon I went to recommended a sentinel node biopsy to find out what stage my melanoma was. I had the biopsy on February 2nd, my 50th birthday. Ironically, a mole was found in one of my groin nodes, but it was completely benign. I was Stage One and I felt blessed. I made it through that scare and moved on to routine skin checks that I DIDN’T miss or reschedule.

Then, during a routine scan in 2011 my dermatologist found another suspicious spot. More melanoma. Same cell type. Stage One but I was told there were free floating cells – a nest of cells that were not condensed enough to be a big concern – and my immune system should take care of them. My dermatologist advised me to watch for any hard lumps behind my knee or in my groin and report them right away. I also had to get checked every three months.

One of the biggest things I took away was advice from my oncologist. They told me that our bodies let us know when something is wrong, much more than we realize. We just need to learn to pay attention. In my case, my night sweats were telling me something and I needed to pay attention.

My diagnosis has changed the way I view life. I do become somewhat afraid when I have a strange new symptom or spot, but I try not to let it consume me. I feel so very fortunate. With the use of sunscreen, shade, and sun-protective clothing I no longer hide from the sun. I am an extremely active person, so being able to get outside to run, walk, hike, paddleboard, golf or garden, is really important to me. I couldn’t imagine not being able to do those things or fearing for my health. Since my diagnosis, I always have SPF sunscreen and UPF clothing on. I even went to sunny Jamaica and added a great big sun hat to my wardrobe to stay safe.

My advice to you: Never put off taking care of yourself. Early detection saves lives, especially with melanoma. The earlier you find the cancer the better your result will be. So check your skin, go to the dermatologist, and get outside and be sun safe!

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Skin Diaries

A Mother’s Melanoma Wake-Up Call Comes from a Popular TV Series

For as long as I can remember, my mom has checked my skin for new or changed spots, even into adulthood she still will look at my arms or neck and check for changes. She found my very first ‘spot’ in a dressing room while I was trying on new school clothes for my 3rd grade year. It was a dark black mole on my shoulder that had suddenly popped up overnight it seemed. The doctor removed it months later. Thankfully, it was only an atypical mole with no sign of cancer.

In 2003, when my mother mentioned that she did not like a mole I had on my jaw/neck area, I brushed it off with, “it’s fine, mom. No, mom, it hasn’t changed”. At the time, I was a 31-year-old mother with an 18-month-old toddler and an elementary school-aged son. My husband was in the military and we had just moved to a new town, so I did not have time to go to the doctor and investigate a mole that was probably nothing.

Then, I found the photograph that changed everything. I was looking through a box of old photos and came across an image of me laughing with my head cocked back to the side. It wasn’t a great photo but for some reason it caught my attention. I looked at the side of my face and neck. There was no mole. I flipped the photo over and looked for the date. It taken was about 2 years prior. It seemed strange that the mole had grown so large in such a short amount of time. Perhaps my mom was right to be concerned.

I made an appointment with my doctor who sent me to a dermatologist to have it removed. I remember when he called to give me the results. I thought it was odd that he was calling me. No one ever called with results. Everything was always fine. He used the word melanoma and began talking about a referral to a MOHS office for another surgery. I recall telling my parents and my husband that it was no big deal. I had my second surgery and clean margins, then I’d have skin checks every 3 months for a year, followed by every 6 months for a year. I could do that. No big deal. It’s fine. Everything is fine.

I really believed that. I really thought it was all fine. And then—I saw the Grey’s Anatomy episode about Izzy being diagnosed with melanoma and a metastasis. Wait…this can kill me? An older woman at my church had a spot on her foot that wasn’t healing. She had surgery, it was melanoma that had metastasized and she died six months later. My dad was diagnosed with melanoma a year after me and had to have a lymph node removed. I was learning that everything was definitely NOT fine. This was and is a big deal.

This realization absolutely changed things for me. Like my mother, my drive to protect my children from skin cancer became much more important. We already knew that sunscreen was an important part of going outside, but now it was vital. I also started being aware of what time of day we should avoid being outside. We lived near the beach, so I became an early morning or evening beachgoer and always used an umbrella. When watching my kids play sports, I found shade or made my own. As my children grew, they knew that a sunburn was something they had to avoid. I expected them to take sun safety seriously. After all, their grandpa and their mom both had melanoma.

Most recently I’ve learned a lot more about sun-protective clothing through Polka Dot Mama and Coolibar. Anything I can add to my family’s routine to help keep them safe really helps me feel like they’re safe out in the sun.

What I want everyone else to learn from my story is to take it seriously! Never think that skin cancer is ‘no big deal’. Be diligent about your skin and listen to your friends, family, or even a stranger in the coffee line if they think something doesn’t look right. In my case my mother was always looking out for me and she hounded my dad about the mole on his arm which ended up being melanoma. Her skin checks likely saved our lives.

My other advice is to take care of yourself. I was a busy mom and I made the excuse that I didn’t have time to take care of myself. This is SO common in mothers. But please remember that you are always worth the care you give yourself—especially when it comes to your health. Early detection really can save your life when it comes to melanoma. Since my initial diagnosis, I have met so many other melanoma survivors. The one survivor that has inspired me the most is my friend, Tracy Callahan, of the Polka Dot Mama Melanoma Foundation. Her story is so different from mine, yet we have so much in common. She has taught me more about melanoma than anyone—how to live a full life with the diagnosis and how to make a difference in the world because of it. Education and information are key components to helping people recognize the need for sun safety and how to take care of their skin. Tracy does an amazing job both educating and providing free skin screenings. She is a living embodiment of taking a challenging personal journey and using it to positively impact the lives of others.

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Skin Diaries

College Basketball Coach Opens Up About Off-Court Battles

Joanne P. McCallie is known by most for the 28 years she spent as a head woman’s college basketball coach. In that time, she celebrated 646 wins, 22 seasons with over 20 wins, 21 NCAA Tournament appearances, and eight conference championships. Most recently, she was the head coach at Duke University and helped the Blue Devils to a 330-107 overall record and earned ACC Coach of the Year in 2010, 2012 and 2013.

While her achievements as ‘Coach P’ will live on the walls of Universities for decades to come, her legacy will also be that of a Melanoma Warrior. She was first diagnosed with Melanoma in 2007 when a spot was removed from her forehead. With this diagnosis she began to further understand and respect the need for a sun-safe lifestyle and started advocating for this amongst her friends, family, colleagues, and her athletes.

Then in 2016 she had a second, more serious diagnosis which resulted in 26 surgical stitches on her back where doctors had removed malignant cells with melanoma. That same year more cells were removed from the right side of her neck. As her early scars had finally started to fade, new ones emerged.

Like many people who share their stories in the hopes of saving lives, Joanne crossed paths with numerous other warriors over the years. Including her athletes, some of whom had experienced skin cancer in their families, and even lost immediate family. As a coach, she had always understood the power and importance of a player’s ‘mental game’. But the mental health of patients, survivors, family was an entirely different mental battle.

She recently released her latest book “Secret Warrior: A Coach and Fighter On and Off the Court”. It’s a memoir of the mental health journey she’s taken through all parts of her life. From the realities and challenges of the sports world, to navigating her personal health and battles with cancer and bipolar disorder. Her recurring theme is this:

FAITH OVER FEAR

Her aim with this book is to reduce the stigma associated with impaired mental health and encourage those suffering from mental health issues to reach out for help. Mental health is a vital part of everyone’s success, but it’s not something that is easy to navigate and manage along. In the book, she offers real direction, experiences and personal stories to teach and reassure those working through the dynamics of their mental and physical health.

“The only way we can be our best selves is to prioritize the health and strength of our minds,” says Joanne.

Joanne’s faith and authenticity have led to many meaningful connections along her journey. One of the most impactful is her friendship with Tracy Callahan of Polka Dot Mama Melanoma Foundation. Together they created Melanoma Awareness Games with Duke University as a way to increase awareness and conduct as many free skin cancer screenings as possible. Protection and early detection make all the difference, and Coach P and Tracy Callahan continue to work together to promote sun-safe habits and get people to the dermatologist! Most recently she volunteered her time for a Coolibar Warrior Photoshoot. All proceeds went to the Polka Dot Mama Foundation!

As she moves away from her coaching career Joanne plans to devote more time to mental health awareness, through her book and directly. As someone who dedicates a lot of their energy to helping and supporting others, we’re grateful for all she does.

To purchase Joanne’s book please visit: https://coachp.org/.

To help her support Polka Dot Mama Foundation, please visit: https://polkadotmama.org/

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Skin Diaries

Adjusting to Life After a Skin Cancer Diagnosis

Part of me wasn’t surprised when the biopsy results came back positive. Of the three bumps I felt on my scalp and had checked, one was squamous cell carcinoma. When I got the diagnosis, I thought about all the things I loved to do outside in the sun. I loved to spend long weekends hiking in New York’s Hudson Valley. I went jogging and cycling multiple times a week, and I spent summers at the beach. My most memorable travels were always outdoor adventures, like hiking the Path of the Gods in Amalfi, Italy, the Grand Canyon, and the Torres del Paine in Patagonia. I even had an outdoor wedding!

I had always thought I was pretty good about applying sunblock (usually SPF 30) to protect my skin. What I realize now is that I have been completely ignoring my scalp. It makes me angry thinking about it. It all makes sense now. My hair has always been cut short—and it’s not particularly thick—which leaves my crown completely vulnerable to sun damage.

I’m not sure I consider myself to be a “Skin Cancer Warrior” per se, but I’ll admit to wanting to ‘attack’ this problem head-on.  The good news in my diagnosis was that my cancer was considered ‘In situ’, meaning we caught it early enough. Regardless, I didn’t want to waste any time so I quickly scheduled my MOHS surgery with Dr. Vinelli in Morristown, NJ for June 9th, 2020 one month after the biopsy results.

The first thing I remember about that day was my conversation with the doctor. He told me that I had great skin for my age (50 at the time), but my scalp looked like “the skin of a 75-year-old”.  Food for thought…

I sat and made small talk with the surgery staff as they clipped the hair off my crown. Then a large section of my scalp was shaved with a straight razor. I nervously joked about looking like a monk, and not leaving the house until my hair grew back. Then a sheath was draped over the sides of my head and face.

The surgery was done under local anesthetic, but I could hear snipping, scraping, and feel the dabbing of gauze and tugging of the skin while it was being sewn closed. I wondered what the site would look like when the surgery was done and thought about all the types of hats I would buy to cover the scar. The more tugging I felt, the tighter the skin on my head and face felt. It was a strange sensation…Was I inadvertently getting a facelift? 

Then it was over. I was prescribed pain killers and an antibiotic cream and was told to remove the bandage the next morning. Additionally, I couldn’t exercise for at least two weeks and needed to avoid all strenuous activity. Hmm. 

The next morning, my husband helped me remove the bandage and the look on his face said it all. We both had underestimated the amount of damage I had, and size of the incision needed to get it all.   

Over the following months and with 2020 being what it was, I continued working from home while I healed. I took Zoom meetings and would carefully position the camera to be sure my coworkers couldn’t see the scar.

Eventually, I let my head tilt just enough and my boss saw the scar (and ‘monk cut’) and asked me what happened. As it turned out, he also had MOHS surgery on the bridge of his nose. We compared notes and lamented, saying things like, “If we could only go back and do things differently”. 

We talked about how we were dealing with our diagnosis. He’d started staying out of the sun entirely while I was hiding under hats. He doesn’t go to the beach anymore and I’ve started sitting under umbrellas and wearing sun shirts. We each have different approaches to how we’re handling our brush with skin cancer. Both of us are fully aware that we’re even more susceptible to more damage.  I think the most important thing is that we have both changed our habits and are in a position to help others.

As ‘skin cancer warriors’ we can tell people what happened. Not to scare them—or gross them out. But we get to share our stories with one another, and with everyone around us because this experience is entirely preventable. If we can teach people to protect their scalp, shield their faces, wear sunblock and sun-protective clothing, fewer and fewer people will experience this cancer. For that I’m grateful.

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Experts Say

Protecting My Family and Community From Skin Cancer

By: Dr. Chris G. Adigun, MD, FAAD

Educating people about skin cancer and skin cancer prevention is something I’m extremely passionate about. More people are diagnosed with skin cancer each year in the U.S. than all other cancers combined. This is a frightening statistic, but the good news is that 99 percent of all cases are curable if they are diagnosed and treated early enough. This is where education and screening can really make a difference.

Increasing public awareness of these life-altering statistics and providing education about skin cancer prevention through lifestyle changes can positively impact people’s skin health and overall well-being. Partnering with organizations like the Polka Dot Mama Melanoma Foundation and the American Academy of Dermatology’s SPOT me® Skin Cancer Screenings to offer free skin checks is one way for me to make a positive impact on public health.

Another way I try to make a difference in lowering future statistics is by encouraging people to instill sun safety habits in their children. Sun damage in childhood is one of the most significant causes of skin cancer in adults.  Having five or more sunburns doubles your risk for melanoma, the deadliest type of skin cancer.

Here are some sun safety tips I use with my own children:

  • Keep the sunscreen right next to the toothpaste. Make it part of their daily routine!
  • Utilize a mineral powder sunscreen for easy-to-use application
  • Wear shirts, hats, and other clothing with a UPF (ultraviolet protection factor) 50+ label for built-in sun protection during outside activities
  • Incorporate fun UPF 50+ umbrellas or tents during sporting events

As a busy dermatologist and working mother of four young children, I realize how challenging it can be to make sure your children are protected, especially when you are not with them. This is why I feel so strongly about developing sun safety behaviors in children. A sunburn does not have to be a rite of childhood! Building healthy habits early when children are more receptive can lead to increased sun protection into adulthood.

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Inside Coolibar

Giving Our Community a Voice

We’ve done it! Our Spring 2021 catalog is here and it’s our first ever to feature real-world people who are tackling skin cancer every day—they are warriors! In the past, we’ve been honored to include well-known warriors like Norah O’Donnell and Holly Rowe, as well as amazing professional models who have survived skin cancer, like Bradly Tomberlin. But this is the first time you’ll see everyday people within the greater skin cancer community represented throughout our catalog pages.  

It all started with a basic idea – celebrate skin cancer warriors and inspire others to dress sun-safe. But as is the case with most of our community outreach, it quickly evolved into something more. Every one of our real-world models lit up the camera with their hope, energy and passion for our shared mission. And their willingness to share their stories and support each other was just incredible!

Each individual who participated in our Spring 2021 catalog has written a blog detailing their unique experience with skin cancer. We have stories from warriors and the people supporting them…professionals, advocates, and caregivers. Everyone came together to help our first warrior-dedicated catalog shine. Based on our past experience, we were not surprised in the least.  If our mission has taught us one thing, it is that skin cancer warriors and advocates can move mountains. And if you spend enough time in their presence, you’ll realize that you can too. 

In our Spring 2021 catalog you will find….

  1. Warriors currently taking on skin cancer or living with other sun-sensitivities
  2. Survivors who are NED (No Evidence of Disease) or in remission
  3. Care givers supporting family or friends going through a diagnosis
  4. Advocates leading the charge to protect and prevent
  5. Medical Providers dedicating their time to keeping everyone safe

As you flip the pages of the catalog and go online and read their stories, we hope you’ll be as inspired as we were. And we welcome your help! If you, your family, or friends are interested in participating in our next catalog or blog please don’t hesitate to reach out. Every story, and every warrior makes a difference.

We are BEYOND grateful for our community’s involvement in our mission and everyone’s ongoing efforts to combat skin cancer.  Every day we’re dedicated to keeping yours safe.

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Skin Diaries

My Motto: Porcelain is Pretty

I was diagnosed with melanoma on my right arm at 26 years old. At the time, I was about to graduate as a Physician Assistant. I couldn’t believe it! As I was leaving my appointment, I pulled over the car and cried. I was about to start a career in medicine and I was getting married! How did I get skin cancer? I was terrified. 

Luckily, my melanoma was superficial, Stage 1, so it could be surgically removed without significant damage or scaring. I knew it could have been worse. Much worse. Melanoma is the leading cause of cancer death in women ages 25-30, and the second leading cause of cancer death in women ages 30-35. I was 26, and about to be a licensed medical professional and I was a part of a cancer statistic.

The one thing that saved me was my knowledge of medicine. I knew enough to go in and get a skin check when I noticed something was off. Early detection makes a big difference in someone’s diagnosis. Finding out at 26 that I had cancer also helped me reevaluate my relationship with the sun. I was born and raised in sunny Florida and loved being outside and sunbathing by the pool when I was younger. I rarely used sunblock because I tanned easily and therefore assumed I wasn’t susceptible to skin cancer.

It took my diagnosis and surgery to finally change my sun habits. It happened immediately. I started investing in sun protective clothing. I kept accessories like hats, sunglasses and umbrellas with me so I’d never be without shade or protection. I started wearing an SPF of at least 30 on my face and lips daily. I stopped all tanning right away, no tanning beds or sunbathing. And I do my best to avoid sun exposure between 10am – 2pm.

After my diagnosis, I also started working as a Dermatology PA. It is my job to educate, evaluate, diagnose and treat patients with skin cancer. The most rewarding part of my job is being able to empathize and understand what my patients are going through. Getting a cancer diagnosis is hard. I’ve been there! But thanks to that diagnosis I’m able to help and support others.

For some it can seem daunting to kick off a sun-safe lifestyle. But, there are small but significant things you can seamlessly weave into your daily routine.

  1. Keep a hat, umbrella and UPF 50+ elbow-length gloves in your car so you can grab extra protection when you need it.
  2. Switch out your lotions and chapsticks to make sure they have an SPF of 30+ 
  3. STOP tanning, whether it’s in a salon or at the beach. Just stop! Embrace your natural skin tone! Porcelain is pretty!
  4. Get yourself some quality sun protective clothing for sunny days. It’s made to block UVA/UVB rays while keeping you cooler out in the sun.

In addition to helping avoid skin cancer, all of these steps will help prevent early aging in your skin. If you ask any medical provider in a dermatology clinic what their #1 secret is to beautiful, healthy skin, we would say sun protection! 

Source: Melanoma Research Foundation

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