Archives

Parenting SunAWARE

Wiseheart Saves the Dawn – A Sun Protection Book for the Tablet Generation

“Wiseheart Saves the Dawn” is a new e-book geared toward children that teaches sun safe habits. Available on iTunes and Kindle for free, this collaboration between the Environmental Protection Agency’s SunWise Program and the Children’s Melanoma Prevention Foundation is an innovative way to reach the tablet generation.

Wiseheart is the story of a curious and courageous boy from the Cahto Indian tribe in the land now known as northern California, who dared to confront his tribe’s dark secret and in so doing made a remarkable discovery. This story has been adapted from traditional tales to teach another important lesson – sun protection.

Coolibar asked the founder of CMPF, Maryellen Maguire-Eisen RN, MSN, to tell us more about the book, where the idea stemmed from and what these two prestigious organizations hope results from publishing this new e-book.

Tell us about yourself and CMPF.

Every year over half of American children experience sunburn and millions more go tanning indoors.  Sun protection education is needed to teach children about the hazards of overexposure to ultraviolet radiation. 

I have been a nurse for over thirty years working in the area of oncology and dermatology.  In 2003, I founded the Children’s Melanoma Prevention Foundation because I was concerned about the rising rates of melanoma and the association with overexposure to UV rays.  Our mission is to teach children and their caretakers safe and proven methods of sun protection and skin cancer prevention.  Our vision is to prevent skin cancer one child at a time.  Our foundation endorsed the SunAWARE acronym in 2007 and developed the SunAWARE school curriculum in 2011. We provide classroom programming in Massachusetts teaching over 25,000 students annually.  We have developed multiple resources for students and teachers to use in conjunction with this curriculum including books and videos. 

Tell us about the EPA SunWise Program.

SunWise is a free environmental and health education program that teaches children and their caregivers how to protect themselves from overexposure to the sun. Through the use of classroom, school, and community components, SunWise seeks to develop sustained sun-safe behaviors. This book is one example of how SunWise partners with organizations in the community.

How did this partnership with the EPA SunWise Program come about? Are you working with them in other ways?

The EPA SunWise Program provides a toolkit, free-of-charge, for educators that includes lesson plans and resources for classroom teaching. I really liked the curriculum and used many elements of it in the development of our SunAWARE Program.  I have promoted the SunWise Curriculum to other nurses nationally by inviting the SunWise team to speak at nursing conventions and meetings that I chaired. The Children’s Melanoma Prevention Foundation and the EPA SunWise Program are members of the National Council on Skin Cancer Prevention.  We convene biannually to strategize with other members on educational, legislative, and research initiatives.  CMPF has always found the SunWise Team to be loyal partners in our mission to educate children about sun protection.  

Why was this book created? Who is the audience and what’s the key message?

I have been writing children’s books that teach children about sun safety, along with Mary Mills Barrow, for the past five years. Two of our publications, Lake Vacation and Pretty Prom, won the 2009 American Academy of Dermatology Gold Triangle Award.  I thought that the Wiseheart tale, from the SunWise toolkit, would be a wonderful story to expand into a new book.  I started writing the draft and then handed it over to our Advisory Board member, Jane Shanny, an English teacher and writer, to complete. We then contracted an artist to create lively illustrations that depict the key elements of the story.  Once the draft was close to completion, we contacted the SunWise Director, Linda Rutsch, to see if they might partner with us on the publication and distribution of the book.  As always, they were eager to partner on this educational endeavor.  The audience is children ages 8-12 and the objective is to educate and motivate readers about the importance of sun protection for all people.  We chose to publish it electronically because of ease of distribution and ability to provide it for free.

Is this book different than other sun protection books for kids? How?

I think that the book is different from other sun protection books in that it touches on the imagination of children and provides a frame of reference that sun protection is important for everyone.  The hero can be a role model for all children in that he is resourceful, independent, brave, caring, and imaginative.  He tries to make the world a better place for his people. 

How long has this been in the works?

The book has been in the works for over three years.  A final draft of the story was completed in August 2012 and the illustrations, by Laurie Sigmund of Sigmund Design, were completed later that same year.   We hired Ugly Dog Publishing in 2013 to develop the electronic publication and to arrange for distribution.  They worked with Amazon, Barnes and Nobles, Apple, and Kobo to distribute the book. 

What are your feelings now that “Wiseheart Saves the Dawn” is finally available?

I am really pleased that we have yet another resource available to teach children about the importance of sun protection.   It is incredibly gratifying to see the hundreds of books downloaded each month and realize that this project is truly getting into the hands and minds of children. We hope that this posting will further help publicize the availability of our latest sun protection educational resource. 

Is there anything else you wish to share with us?

We hope to continue to develop resources for children and their caretakers that promote sun safety and help prevent skin cancer.   Please visit us at www.melanomaprevention.org to find out more about our organization, download a book, or donate to the cause.

No Comments
Events Sun Protection Clothing Wellness Warriors

The Sunscreen Squad is Out to Save Tennis Fans

Excitement is building as the Western & Southern Tennis Open in Mason, OH wraps up this weekend, making way for the US Open! This tournament is the perfect venue to call attention to the number of hours both fans and players will be spending under the sun in the next few weeks. Coolibar has teamed up with the Andy Caress Melanoma Foundation Sunscreen Squad and outfitted volunteers with UPF 50+ clothing to distribute sunscreen samples to remind attendees they need sun protection.

The hours spent on the tennis court, under the sun, add up. Some of the best players on the court have dedicated themselves to promoting skin cancer awareness and sun protection, including tennis pro Andy Caress. Andy, also founder of the Andy Caress Melanoma Foundation (formerly Mela-KNOW-More), had one wish before his untimely passing from skin cancer at age 24, to tell people the message of his life – “People should know more about melanoma.” Andy’s family and volunteers continue to spread the message of early detection and sun protection, especially at events Andy was passionate about.

Andy Caress, Founder of Mela-KNOW-More

Last year, ACMF Sunscreen Squad volunteers passed out 45,000 sunscreen packets and distributed 10 gallons of sunscreen to spectators, athletes, ball kids and volunteers throughout the grounds at the 2012 Western & Southern Tennis Open. They, along with Coolibar, hope to knock last year’s record out of the court!

The Andy Caress Melanoma Foundation is dedicated to the prevention of melanoma, the most deadly form of skin cancer, through awareness, education and support of research to find a cure.

The Sunscreen Squad is a program designed to distribute sunscreen at public events and tennis and swim clubs around the country. Gallon sunscreen dispensers will be installed in as many locations as possible. Donations fund this effort directly.

Young ladies playing it sun safe the the Andy Caress booth by applying sunscreen!
A glimpse of Serena Williams at the Western & Southern Tennis Open

No Comments
Educate Others Parenting School sun safety

Adding sun safety into the school curriculum

Did you know one or more blistering sunburns before the age of 18 more than doubles your chances of getting melanoma? To promote sun safety, Lisa Richman, executive director of the Richard David Kann (RDK) Melanoma Foundation, presented this statistic as a part of their Sun Safety program to the 6th grade science classes at Independence Middle School.

RDK Melanoma Foundation was founded in honor of Richard David Kann. Kann was 44-years-old when he discovered a funny spot on his back. Like most people, he ignored it. By the time he found his way in to a dermatologist’s office, he realized he was fighting for his life. Sadly, he lost his battle with melanoma in only nine short months. Family and friends banded together knowing they must do something, so other families would not suffer the loss of a loved one from a disease that can be prevented with education.

The Sun Safety program at Independence Middle School was a huge success. “Students were well-behaved, bright and responsive. They knew their science regarding skin and UV Rays, and had already heard words like ‘dermatologist’ and some ‘melanoma’,” said Lisa Richman. After listening to an interactive presentation and viewing the YouTube video entitled “Dear 16 Year Old Me”, students were reluctant to look into the Dermaview machine (pictured to left) Lisa brought now knowing the freckles on their face were not “kisses from angels” but sun damage!

The students, eager to share their newfound knowledge with the rest of their school, even wrote a poem to read during daily announcements.

When going out on a sunny day,

Stay away from hot sun rays.

Cover your head with a wide brim hat,

Protect your eyes like a cool cat.

Putting balm on your lips goes a long way,

To keep them safe from ultra violet rays.

If you must go out between 10 and 4,

Don’t forget your umbrella when out the door.

This may be a lot to keep in your head,

But one last thing NO Tanning beds!

Sun smart rules keep you safe in the sun,

You can enjoy in the summer and have lots of fun!

The Richard David Kann Melanoma Foundation is a non-profit organization involved in skin cancer education – enlightening the community through SunSmart America™ K-12 Curriculum, which provides school-based learning on sun safety and skin cancer. SunSmart America™ meets existing requirements in science, health, physical education and language arts.

Considering a similar program for your school this year? Learn more about school sun safety programs at www.melanomafoundation.com

Learn about Coolibar’s School Sun Hat Discount Program.

 

No Comments
Routinely Check Skin Wellness Warriors

A Love Story From the Road to Healthy Skin Tour

On its sixth year, the Skin Cancer Foundation’s Road to Healthy Skin Tour continues to travel across the country providing free skin checks to the public. This mobile tour kicks off in the New York City area in May for Skin Cancer Awareness Month and concludes end of August on the West Coast.  Since the tours inception, volunteer dermatologist have performed over 16,000 skin checks, detected nearly 7,000 suspected cancers and precancers and 295 possible melanomas. Tour Event Managers Christie Farhat and Chris Alvarez have traveled with the Tour for five years and four years respectively.  Together, they are making a difference in the fight against skin cancer.

In 2009, Christie was in Miami for a screening event and was having difficulty finding parking for the Tour RV. A gentleman, who was a hotel manager where she was staying, stepped forward to help her out. It was Chris and they’ve been together ever since! Chris joined the Tour team the next season and the two of them have been making a difference together around the country year after year.

This year, Christie and Chris wore Coolibar UPF 50+ clothing for their nation-wide tour. Having to set up each of the 50 events around the country themselves, durability is important. Comfort is also a priority since they drive long distances often. “Christie and Chris like Coolibar fabrics, find they wash well and are very easy to wear,” said Whitney Potter, Director of Special Projects at the SCF. Christie’s favorite item is the lightweight Water Jacket and Chris loves the Plaid Shirts! “They’ve both received a lot of compliments on their attire — mainly from the volunteer dermatologists who recognize the brand and appreciate its protection from the sun’s damaging ultraviolet rays,” said Potter. In the spirit of skin cancer prevention, “covering up” with Coolibar is key for Christie and Chris since they spend a lot of time outside in the summer sun during the Tour season.

For more information on the Road to Healthy Skin Tour, visit www.SkinCancer.org/Tour

No Comments
Events SunAWARE

Tennis camp teaches sun safety on and off court

If you play tennis, you know it’s sometimes difficult to find shade on outdoor courts. So this summer, Twin City Tennis Camp, a local Minnesota business, is taking great strides to educate youth and their parents on the importance of using sun protection both on and off the court.

Since I started the organization in 1999, Twin City Tennis Camp has been committed to providing kids interested in tennis a healthy, fun and athletic atmosphere. Tennis is a lifetime sport, and we want campers to have fun and stay safe!

To promote sun safety on and off the court, I reached out to Coolibar- Sun Protection You Wear to help me educate parents and players on the importance of sun protection. Coolibar is a part of our local community and once I saw the superiority of the different fabrics, I knew we had to work together. I love the 3d dri pro SUNTECT® items for tennis!

Twin City Tennis Camp

This summer, we are providing sunscreen during tournaments and informationa to educate the importance of sun safety. I want to set an example for the kids and show that wearing UPF 50+ items and broad-spectrum sunscreen is not only cool (pun intended), it will keep me safe from the sun. I am excited to begin educating the kids, while still helping them perfect their tennis stroke.

– Dan Nabedrick

“Many have the will to win, but few have the will to PREPARE to win”

To learn more about Dan Nabedrick’s Twin City Tennis Camps and commitment to safety, visit http://www.twincitytenniscamps.com/

No Comments
Parenting SunAWARE

Summer Camp Sun Protection 101: Why the Cotton Shirt Your Kid Swims in Just Won’t Do

Summer camp is jam-packed with activities from sunrise to sunset. Counselors and camp staff make it a priority to ensure safety of all campers; however, with the rigorous reapplication routine sunscreen requires, sometimes sun protection may be overlooked in all the commotion. Sunburn and skin damage are easily preventable. Educating and equipping children with good sun protection habits prior to the start of camp is essential.

While sunscreen is a necessity, adding additional forms of sun protection may ease parental anxiety.

SUN PROTECTION STRATEGIES FOR SUMMER CAMP

1. Pack sun protective swimwear and clothing: The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends using sun protective clothing first, followed by sunscreen. A WHITE COTTON T-SHIRT WILL NOT PROTECT YOUR CHILD FROM THE SUN! In fact, it only offers an ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) of 7, and even less when wet. UPF and SPF ratings for sunscreens are similar, but UPF is the standard for clothing and accounts for both UVB and UVA rays. When shopping for UPF clothing, look for a UPF 50+ rating, the highest rating available. This means a garment will block 98% or more of UVA and UVB rays. Swim shirts (also known as rash guards), are great for extended water play since the sun protection will not wash out.

2. Remember a wide brim hat:  To be protective, a hat must have a 3” brim or greater (for toddlers this might be less) or a flap in the back to cover the ears and neck if it’s a baseball style cap. Hats also protects the scalp, especially along the part-line.

3. Wrap on UV sunglasses: Eyes are susceptible to sunburn too, and not all sunglasses protect against UV. Opt for a pair of wrap style sunglasses that fit closer to the face so UV rays don’t leak in the sides. Look for sunglasses labeled UV 400 or blocks 99% or greater of UVA and UVB rays. For younger kids, purchase sunglasses with straps to keep them secure.

4. Choose the right sunscreen: Most kids will be active, so look for brands that offer better protection in water or while sweating. Also remember the following:

  • Look at the label. Many parents assume the higher the SPF the better, which is not necessarily the case. Look for quality ingredients such as zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. These are physical sunscreen ingredients. Choose an SPF of 30 that’s labeled broad spectrum, which protects against both UVA and UVB rays.
  • Avoid aerosol sunscreens. The major drawback of a continuous spray sunscreen is that it could get into the eyes or inhaled by a child, long-term data on those effects are unknown.
  • Apply generous amounts on exposed skin. Start with the neck down, covering thick and evenly on all areas of the body, not forgetting the ears, backs of the hands, crease of the neck, underarms, between the fingers, underneath the bathing suit (if it’s not sun protective). After covering those major areas, do the face last. Even on a cloudy day, 80 percent of UV reaches the Earth’s surface.
  • Reapply. According to new Food and Drug Administration guidelines for sunscreens, labels must display a reapplication time of either 40 or 80 minutes and after swimming or sweating. Remember to do so.

5. Inquire about camp sunscreen application policies: Most camps are like schools, sunscreen is not allowed without written consent. Also, camp staff are often discouraged from helping kids apply sunscreen. Teach children to do their best applying sunscreen everywhere they can reach and ask for help on spots like their back.

Dr. Amy Brodsky, founder of the Pediatric Sun Protection Foundation is advocating a comprehensive sun protection strategy for her kids and hopes other parents will catch on. “I’m a dermatologist and a mom who has seen a lot of skin cancer and aging skin in my practice, so it’s only natural to want my own kids and others to think of wearing sun protection as the norm and sun protective shirts and sunscreen as cool,” said Dr. Brodsky. Dr. Brodsky often refers to the four-S’s to teach kids and parents alike the key skin cancer prevention measures — sunglasses, sunscreen, sun protective shirts, and sun hats.”

Additional Resources:

More about the Pediatric Sun Protection Foundation and sun protection advice for parents.

Read what the American Camping Association has to say about fun in the sun.

Follow SunAWARE for easy to remember steps for sun protection.

Shop Boys and Girls UPF 50+ clothing.

No Comments
Success Stories Wellness Warriors

Melanoma Survivor Timna

During Skin Cancer Awareness Month, Coolibar invites skin cancer survivors to share their stories in their own words. Hope, determination and drive to educate others play a major role in these individuals’ lives. Skin cancer doesn’t discriminate, it can happen to anyone. Prevention and early detection can be life saving! We hope you share these stories with your friends, family and colleagues. Be SunAWARE. Read Timna’s story.

I have been asked by many people about my story as it relates to melanoma, a disease that has changed me from the moment I got the call with my first diagnosis.

Here it is, in brief, with pictures to help…

I was born a baby with fair skin.

I grew up with hippie parents in the late 60s and early 70s. We lived in New Mexico and California, spending a LOT of time outside, dressed in minimal clothing.

I spent my time with my mom in Pacific Palisades, my dad in Venice, and my grandmother (Nonnie) in Marina Del Ray…on the beach.

Sunscreen was not a thing then…at lease that I knew of. It was all about just being outside, in nature.

(I know, weird that hippies let their kids play with toy guns…but they did)

Fast forward (but NOT to forget the 20+ years of sun loving, laying out, skin burning, beach going, roof-top pool visiting, and much more)……

At 38, I was sitting on my bed, studying the bottom of my right foot. Yes, I can see the bottom of my feet. Maybe it’s the yoga, but really I think it’s just my body…because below you will see me, at age 4, eating my foot…..

So, yeah…I was inspecting my right foot and saw a TINY black speck. I actually thought it was a baby tick, and with my fabulous surgical skills, I proceeded to remove the “tick” with a cuticle clipper…GROSS, I know. It was done. The “tick” was out and life went on….until a few weeks later while catching another good look at my foot, I noticed this black speck was back. Somewhere in the back of my head I remembered hearing the words, “If you have a freckle on the bottom of your foot, it is not a good thing.” And I knew I needed to get to my dermatologist ASAP.

I got in as soon as I could, seeing a physicians assistant, who removed the dot and told me to have a good weekend.

Over a week later, a nurse called me. She starts talking to me….about melanoma…my oncologist (I DON’T HAVE AN ONCOLOGIST)…my appointment for blood work and chest x-rays at UNC…surgery…cancer center. I left my body at those words. And when I came back, I told the nurse she needed to stop talking because I was not hearing her, and that I needed to get a pen and paper to write all of this down. This is not real! It’s JUST SKIN! Why x-rays and surgery and new doctors, etc? I mean, it is just about skin, right?

It was then I quickly became an expert on all things melanoma. I knew that when my oncologist LOUDLY stated to me, “THIS IS SERIOUS!” that my life was changing fast and forever.

Fast forward (but NOT to forget the dermatology visits every 3 months with multiple biopsies, most of which coming back severely atypical and needing further excision, the anxiety, fear, post traumatic stress, obsession with checking my moles all day long, 3 months for the hole in my foot to close after the wide excision, and the incision in my groin to heal after the lymph node biopsy, and more fear, and more terror, and, and, and……….oh, and practicing safe sun in all ways)

Three years later (no, I didn’t reach the 5 year mark. so bummed!) I have my second melanoma. This one is on my right forearm, found at one of my regularly scheduled dermatology visits. Back to fear, back to crazy, back to wide excisions.

And then, a few months ago, I started seeing flashes of light in my left eye. So I decide to study my eye ball, something I had never done in the past (surprising!). And sure enough, I see THE TINIEST dark fleck on the white on my eye, and I sink into melanoma fear knowing that tomorrow I will be in my eye doctor’s office no matter how booked and busy she is.

My eye doctor tells me that what I had found were just a few pigmented cells. Well, after you have had melanoma, the words PIGMENTED CELLS don’t jive well, no matter how few there are. She tells me it’s nothing, but that if I want to see an eye tumor specialist because I’m “so anxious”, she would make the call. OF COURSE I WANT HER TO MAKE THE CALL!

After weeks of waiting to get in with the eye tumor guy, and after a FIVE (yes, FIVE) hour appointment of dilation, pictures, exams, different residents, I finally got to see THE specialist, who tells me this: “The reason you came in here today is actually fine, but right next to it is something called Primary Acquired Melanosis, and because of your history with melanoma, we are not going to wait and watch, we need to biopsy it and freeze around the area.”

Um…with shock having taken over, I blurted out, “ARE YOU KIDDING ME?” The thought of a portion of my eye ball being cut and frozen and…It’s all just too much. I break. I break down right there with this nice eye tumor specialist and his nurse. I just sob.

When I went for my 6 week post-op visit I was overflowing with joy to be given the green light on returning to contact lenses. Ready to run out of the office and home to my little, delicate, disk-shaped, polymer wonders that I have missed so much. I was told that I would need to be refitted in my left eye for lenses…because my eye is forever changed.

A new set of eyes? Hmm. Yeah, I can see that. A piece of eye taken out = shape changed forever. And it was then I realize that not only is my eye changed forever, but I am.

And so it is with these experiences, and this new life, that I hope to raise awareness and help to educate others about what might just be something they can hear about rather than experience it firsthand.

As the summer is fast approaching, I am now in planning mode for a 7 week trip to Europe (to include MANY beaches)!  Here is how I do this with melanoma on my mind…I gather up loads of sunscreens, hats, UPF clothing, parasols, etc…and GO.  You can check out my packing list on Respect the Rays!
Wherever you go, you can do it with sun safety in mind!  Whether it’s the pool, the park, the beach, an island, whatever, always practice safe sun!

-Timna
Founder of Respect the Rays

“Out of difficulties grow miracles.”
~Jean De La Bruyere

A special thank you to Jen Jones and Cynthia Hornig of Women You Should Know who introduced us to Timna and her inspirational story of survival.

 

No Comments
Avoid UV & Seek Shade SunAWARE

Oregon joins the tanning bed “ban” wagon

On May 9, 2013, lawmakers passed a bill making Oregon the third state, following California and Vermont, to restrict indoor tanning for minors less than 18 years of age. The only exception is if a minor has a doctor’s note allowing him or her to tan for medical purposes.

Sen. Elizabeth Steiner Hayward, D-Portland, said the bill was aimed at reducing melanoma, the most lethal form of skin cancer, which studies show is linked to teen tanning. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Oregon women have the highest rate of death from melanoma in the country. “At the end of the day this is about protecting Oregon’s children. Something that we’re all committed to do,” Steiner Hayward said to Oregonian. “When 32 percent of high school girls are using tanning beds, parents aren’t doing their job.”

Tanning beds were also highlighted during Skin Cancer Awareness Month this May as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced their support of stronger warning labels on tanning beds, including a recommendation that people under the age of 18 abstain from using the devices. The FDA also hopes to reclassify tanning beds and sunlamps from Class 1 (low risk) to Class 2 (moderate risk) devices.

No Comments
Success Stories SunAWARE Wellness Warriors

Melanoma Survivor Tim

During Skin Cancer Awareness Month, Coolibar invites skin cancer survivors to share their stories with us in their own words. Hope, determination and drive to educate others play a major role in these individuals’ lives. Skin cancer doesn’t discriminate, it can happen to anyone. Prevention and early detection can be life saving! We hope you share these stories with your friends, family and colleagues. Be SunAWARE. Read Tim’s story.

Like the day my wife and I were married, and the days our children were born, Thursday, August 18, 2011 will forever be burned into my memory. We were on vacation in Maine. My wife, son and I were leaving to sneak in nine holes of golf before the day was over when I got the call from my doctor. He confirmed that the suspicious looking mole on my arm was melanoma. Melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, was on the top of my right forearm. Wow. The prognosis was good, the melanoma was .62mm in depth (generally if the melanoma is thicker than 1mm it is more likely to have spread) and therefore was considered an “early stage” and would require an excision surgery to remove surrounding tissue to check for spreading. I was scheduled for this surgery just five days later and although the surgery showed that all of the melanoma was removed, the pathologist suggested another surgery to obtain the proper margins; 1 cm of clean tissue around the melanoma is required to be removed and be clear of cancerous cells for a pathologist to consider it a clean excision. A month later, I had another excision surgery and this time the margins were met. My doctors determined that with these successful surgeries, no further treatment would be necessary at the time.

The physical healing is progressing well; the mental and emotional healing will take a bit more time. A cancer diagnosis is a very scary. This disease can strike at any time, to anybody without prejudice. It can take your world and turn it upside down. Support of friends and family is critical.

I am currently scheduled for full-skin examinations every three months for the next three years. If I am fortunate enough to not have a re-occurrence of melanoma, then I will move to six month examinations and eventually annual examinations.

My diagnosis not only came as a shock to me, but because melanoma can be hereditary, my family was impacted. They scheduled skin exams since their risk was now elevated. As a result, my older brother recently had a procedure to successfully remove a squamous cell carcinoma, a non-lethal form of skin cancer but alarming just the same. With a new outlook on skin protection for my family and myself, I am very thankful for my early detection and now am focused on keeping us all sun safe. There is an acronym being used now concerning the prevention and detection of skin cancers, SunAWARE. A=avoid unprotected exposure to the sun, W=wear protective clothing and hats, A=apply broad-spectrum sunscreens year-round, R=routinely check for changes in your skin and E=educate yourself and family about sun protection.

I have been working on farms and in the construction industry since I was 13 years old. The days of my youth were as many others, careless and carefree. I was never a lay around in sun kind of person but kind of lived my life with the motto “no shoes, no shirt, no problem”. Always outdoors and rarely protected! Eight years ago, with the passing of my friends father from cancer, a group of friends and I signed up for the Pan Mass Challenge to raise money and awareness for the fight against cancer. This event, which is the most successful cancer fundraiser in the nation, was started by a gentleman named Billy Starr after losing his mother to melanoma back in 1980. It is this event that had brought so much good in my life. It became an annual tradition my whole family took part in. The event was most likely caused the damage to those skin cells on my arm. The top of your forearm is 100% exposed while riding a bike. I am on my bike hundreds of hours a year riding over 2000 miles in preparation and before 2010 was completely unprotected from the sun. I have included a picture with my family form the 2012 ride (pictured above) and for the record; I removed my Coolibar Full Zip Bike Jacket a mile from the finish so I could cross the finish line with my team jersey.

Now, as a 42-year-old father of two and an outdoor enthusiast with activities that take me through all 12 months of the year, the protection of my family and myself has become a daily occurrence. Our leading defense against the suns damaging rays is with UV protective clothing and sun protective lotions for the exposed skin. I am similar to most, once I received my diagnosis I enveloped myself with what melanoma is, every aspect of it’s being and mostly how to prevent a re-occurrence, or in my families case an occurrence! That is how I found Coolibar — my leading defense against re-occurrence. I cannot be found outdoors with out a piece of clothing with that distinct logo on it. My other line of defense is sun protection lotion and I have found another ally in that battle, the Environmental Working Group (EWG). The EWG is the nation’s leading environmental health research and advocacy organization. Their mission is to serve as a watchdog to see that Americans get straight facts, unfiltered and unspun, so we can make healthier choices and enjoy a cleaner environment. I research different products on this site for me and my children, and then can usually find those products on the Coolibar website.

As previously mentioned, my diagnosis has rippled through my family and friends. My brother successfully had squamous cell carcinoma removed and is currently on a yearly check up. My children’s pediatrician is on heightened alert to anything that might be remotely suspicious. Most of my friends have gone to a dermatologist for a skin check and have also increased their protection levels. I am not one to soap box, but when it comes to skin cancer awareness, I will stump all day. So many cancers are not preventable and although melanoma might fall into this category we can all greatly diminish our risk. It is becoming increasingly easier in this country to protect yourself, your friends and loved ones, so why wouldn’t we? Awareness over the last five years has significantly skyrocketed. In 2011 the FDA issued new requirements for over-the-counter sunscreens concerning their labeling with regard to their protection levels, what type of UV protection they offer, the terminology used like “sunblock” and “waterproof”. The ability to be protected is ever-present. My hope is that everyone absorbs as much information as they can and use it to protect themselves and their families.

This year I will be adding another acronym to my list, the ABCDE’s of skin cancer. This acronym is concerning moles on your skin and what to look for: Asymmetry (each of the mole’s halves should be identical. Is the mole flat or raised)
; Border (an irregular border is abnormal)
; Color (dark and/or multiple colors signify a potentially dangerous change)
; Diameter (if the mole is larger than a pencil eraser, it may need evaluation)
; Evolution (a sudden change in the mole can indicate a problem).

Tim

“I’m not a dreamer, and I’m not saying this will initiate any kind of definitive answer or cure to cancer, but I believe in miracles. I have to.” …. Terry Fox, October 1979, in a letter requesting support for his run

1 Comment
Success Stories Wellness Warriors

Melanoma Survivor Vanessa

During Skin Cancer Awareness Month, Coolibar invites skin cancer survivors to share their stories with us in their own words. Hope, determination and drive to educate others play a major role in these individuals’ lives. Skin cancer doesn’t discriminate, it can happen to anyone. Prevention and early detection can be life saving! We hope you share these stories with your friends, family and colleagues. Be SunAWARE. Read Vanessa’s story.

I grew up in small town Idaho where life revolved around nature and the Great Outdoors. Any and all free time our family had was spent outside: camping, fishing, hiking, skiing, riding horses, and playing sports. I naturally excelled at athletics, and my family was amazingly supportive as I bounced around from court to court trying out the newest sport that inspired me. But eventually I picked up a volleyball, and it stuck.

Volleyball has guided me through life. I played DI collegiate volleyball, I coached DII collegiate volleyball, and within the last few years, I learned to love a new format of the game that was introduced to me while living on the east coast – beach volleyball. I quickly discovered that beach was a perfect match for my game as it enhances my speed, agility, smarts and well-roundedness on the court. So I threw myself into training and competing against the best beach athletes in the region, and nation. My career yielded great results and in summer 2012. I competed in18 tournaments in seven different states. I was, and am completely addicted to the game, so at the end of the year I decided to further pursue my dream and passion of playing professional beach volleyball at the top level. In January 2013 I relocated to Hermosa Beach, California – the hub of professional beach volleyball in the US – to start a new life. I am happy to be much closer to family, much closer to the mountains, and much closer to the best in beach volleyball athletes where I can train and continue to build upon a new and exciting career.

Summer 2011, I was enjoying a day of waterskiing with my family when my older sister (who is a doctor), noticed a mole on my stomach that she thought looked questionable. For precautionary purposes, she suggested that I have it removed. It was a mole I had seen every day of my life and I hadn’t ever thought twice about it; but trusting my sister’s advice, I agreed to do so. Within the next week we had removed the mole, sent it off to the labs, and returned to our normal lives. At the time, I was living across the nation from my family, so when the lab results came back, I received a phone call from my older sister with startling news – that small mole was in fact melanoma.

I have always been an active, outdoorsy person, and on top of that I am the perfect candidate for skin cancer as a pale, freckled, red head. But I had never in my life gone in for a skin check, and I most certainly did not have a doctor lined up in Washington D.C. where I was living when I received this news. It was a frightening moment, but I had comfort in talking with my sister and together we researched reputable doctors in the area and I was able to get an appointment not too long after.

The first day I visited Dr. Ali Hendi’s office was eye opening. I was alarmed to see the impact melanoma had on so many patients as they came and went from the office. Most of them were decades older than myself, and walked out of the operating room having lost parts of their face, their ears, their nose, and more. It was a huge reality check on how sun exposure adds up over time.

I was informed that my case of melanoma would require Moh’s surgery, which I knew nothing about, but I was quickly acquainted. Moh’s surgery involves cutting out layer upon layer of skin, and testing each layer, until the Doctors determine that they have gone deep enough and the Melanoma is no longer present in that part of the body. Assuming the Melanoma is caught early enough, Moh’s is the final step in removing the skin cancer.

In my first Moh’s appointment, I left with 21 stitches that went two layers deep into my stomach, and a precautionary removal of 2 other moles. But not too long after, I received another phone call with news that one of those moles came back positive with Melanoma as well. So I schedule to have my second round of Moh’s surgery and thankfully this one wasn’t as deep. I was lucky enough to have caught mine early and never had to undergo radiation or further treatments, but I witnessed hundreds of others that weren’t as fortunate as myself, and I immediately made substantial life changes.

I am the perfect candidate for Melanoma – a fair skinned red head. But unlike most red heads, I tan very well. Throughout my life, I’ve been told many times that I am lucky that I get color. But having had this experience, I would argue the opposite. Because I tanned more than your average red-head, growing up, I likely didn’t pay as much attention to sun exposure than most carrot tops that burn like crazy. But I am just as susceptible. In years past, I wore sunscreen if I was outside for long lengths at a time. But I also liked how I looked with a tan. I liked to get color. And like most young females, I went through a stage where I would visit tanning salons.

Since then my life and views on sun protection have taken a 180. My participation on the professional beach volleyball circuit, and my passion for the game, make sun an inevitable factor in my life; however I have made substantial changes to my training routines to ensure I am being as safe as possible. Not only am I paying more attention to my skin, and taking steps to stay protected, but I have also made skin care awareness my main mission for the 2013 season I have coming up. I am thankful to have incredible Sponsors that believe in me as an athlete, believe in me as a person, and believe in my mission as well which falls in line with what they do as well. KINeSYS Performance Sunscreen keeps me protected in the sun. They produce a variety of sun protection products including a Zinc based ointment, spray on sunblock, facial sunblock sticks, and more that I wear religiously. I will be incorporating Coolibar sun protection clothing to my volleyball wardrobe for a physical block. And the Dermatology team of Moy-Fincher-Chipps in the South Bay of California, also encourage me to be as proactive as possible with their medical support. Since my diagnoses, I have had regular skin checks in 3-month increments, and I have had two other pre-cancerous spots removed. I don’t plan on having any more issues with Melanoma and I will do everything I can to keep my skin cancer free, and educate others on what they can do as well.

I still love the outdoors, and I still love beach volleyball, so being in the sun is an inevitable for me. But if I am not willing to compromise time spent outside, then I have to be, and AM more cognizant of how I prepare to do so. I am a freak about sunscreen, I always have protective layers with me, and I wear a hat nearly everywhere I go. I have two substantial scars of my stomach that act as a reminder of what I went through, and what could easily happen again if I am not careful. Those scars not only act as a reminder for myself, but they act as a conversation starter for other beach volleyball players who spend too much time in the sun. Hopefully my stories inspire them to be more proactive as well.

My advice for everyone is get a skin check – even if you are dark skinned, or barely spend any time in the sun, or think you are fine. It is better to be safe than sorry and a quick skin check will give you peace of mind.

Know the characteristics of irregular moles, and pay attention to those that you have. It is too easy to not pay attention, and not all of us have Doctor sisters looking out for us on the ski boat. If something looks funny, or starts to change, see a Doctor immediately. Wear sunscreen, hats, UPF shirts, and be safe. It doesn’t matter what your skin tone, it isn’t worth the risk.

Photo credit: Scott Allison Photography

3 Comments