Today I found myself even more frustrated than usual. I wasn't even talking to anyone about cancer, I was simply carrying around a heavy heart thinking about how Hillary Quinn Kind's family cannot celebrate her 26th birthday with her today. Why? She passed away two days ago from melanoma, skin cancer.
Even now, even with the research that is slowly getting out there in the media, folks don't see the importance of skin protection.
Your friendly reminder to wear sunscreen
When I was in New York City this month for my latest set of scans and treatment, I began reading Pale Girl Speaks, by Hillary Fogelson. Hillary discusses her anger with people who acted like she ought to be grateful that she only had skin cancer. Hillary writes:
"It's like Debra Winger in Terms of Endearment: "It's okay to talk about 'the cancer.'" My problem is, no one seems to know diddly squat about melanoma, so I end up defending my illness. "People die from melanoma, you know." "Melanoma spreads throughout the body faster than any other cancer." "Melanoma is the number one cancer among women twenty-five to twenty-nine." "Second to lung cancer, melanoma is the fastest-growing cancer in the world." "If not caught early, melanoma is almost always fatal." "Melanoma doesn't respond to traditional chemotherapy or radiation." Yeah, that's right. I've been doing some online research. So fu** you! Sorry. Like I said, bad day (40)."
What melanoma patient hasn't felt like Hillary? What family member of a melanoma patient hasn't fought the urge to slap the post office lady after she started to laugh while reading a melanoma t-shirt? (OK, maybe that was just my mom...) The point is, there are many people who don't know the seriousness of this cancer. I used to be one of them. It's frustrating. It's risky. And as the person who has had to defend her illness, it tends to piss me off when someone brushes it aside like it's nothing to stress. (Hey Khloe Kardashian and Bruce Jenner!)
This is when we have to try to ignore our own personal frustrations and find the opportunity to educate these people. Instead of getting pissy with the person like I'm often tempted to do, share a statistic with them. Mention why you have such a strong hate for tanning beds. Briefly tell them your own story. Whatever you have to do, force them to think twice. Most of them won't absorb the information you are sharing. But some? Some will go home to their friend Google and type in one word--melanoma--and begin to educate themselves and possibly change the way they live their lives.
Oh, the shock they will have when they realize that melanoma is so much more than just skin cancer.
*Happy birthday, Hillary. My thoughts are with your friends and family today.