By: Judy Cloud
This year marks the 25th year that I have had skin cancer. While it’s not a joyous occasion, nor am I planning any sort of festivity to celebrate my ‘anniversary,’ I am thankful. Why, you ask? Because I have survived 25 years of skin cancer. I have endured everything it has thrown at me so far. I’ve made it through twice-yearly (or more) exams, through biopsies, the anxiety of waiting for biopsy results, surgeries, stitches and recoveries.
I wouldn’t be truthful if I said I’m not tired of skin cancer. There are far too many days that I am weary of having skin cancer. I’m weary of the constant skin checks I do. I’m weary of the just-like-clockwork dermatologist appointments. I’m weary of the anxiety of a suspicious area being found on my skin and knowing there’s a good chance it will need some sort of treatment.
But thanks to my far too many years of over-exposure to the sun and the use of tanning beds (and a small part to genetics), this is the hand I’ve been dealt. The damage I did to my skin when I was younger continues to show up years later.
Words of advice: if you love to spend hours lying in the sun without sun protection or going to tanning beds and think this won’t happen to you, you might want to think again.
A definition of endurance is: “the ability or strength to continue, especially despite fatigue, stress or other adverse conditions.” And that is exactly what we, as skin cancer survivors, do. We endure.
I have endured every treatment up to this point. I will soon have surgery for an infiltrating basal cell carcinoma on my face. It’s not a huge area on the outside, but I have no idea how large it is under my skin. I’ve had to find a new surgical specialist, as my previous doctor retired. This new-to-me doctor will perform a procedure I’ve never had before. And honestly…I’m worried. I’m nervous. The new doctor comes highly recommended. I don’t question his capability to perform the surgery, but he also doesn’t know how far the roots have spread under my skin. It could be a small surgical area, or it could turn out to be a large area. There’s a chance that this could be the surgery that ends up permanently changing my facial features.
As a writer and moderator for HealthUnion’s SkinCancer.net, I interact almost daily with numerous people who are battling skin cancer or who are supporting a family member in their battle. Heartbreakingly, too many people have lost their lives to skin cancer. We must continue to increase awareness of the dangers of over-exposure to the sun and tanning beds. We need to make sure people know how to practice good sun safety habits. We need to make sure people realize that their inaction toward sun safety can cause skin cancer.
If you’re still staying in the sun for hours without protective clothing or sunscreen or if you visit the tanning bed because you think you look better with a tan, please change your ways. You can choose to stay out of tanning beds. You can choose to practice good sun habits. You can set a good example for your friends and family on practicing sun safety. You are worth it, and so are they.
To see Judy’s story with us from last year’s campaign, visit HERE.