Sometimes I feel like we need to defend our pale skin. I explain reasons for why it's far prettier than the tan glow that so many desire. (Cough No-Tan-Is-A-Healthy-Tan!) However, reading the celebrity magazines about the Oscars this week made me realize that Hollywood is noticing how beautiful pale really is!
I know. I'm officially a blog failure. I kept you waiting 2 weeks for an update. I'll be honest, I was so bummed following my day in Richmond, I really needed a break from all things melanoma. So, I took it.
Back to that day with a group of mostly bow tie wearing politicians...
I grabbed my glasses, squeezed into a pencil skirt, dug out a blazer and headed to Richmond on Valentine's Day for my date with a group of politicians to discuss SB1274, which would have banned children under age 15 from tanning and would have required teens 15-17 to have written parental consent before using public tanning beds. Before I get into the details, I must say that I do not regret going to the meeting. I told my story, I met some great people, and I believe there will be opportunities in the future that are results of that trip.
The meeting was held in House Room D, located in the General Assembly building in Richmond, VA.
*I took notes while others were speaking, this may not be the best blog post, but I want to make sure to include all of the important comments.
I was lucky to be seated with Taylor, a high school student who created this bill with her classmate Emma, and presented it to Senator Barker. Taylor, her mom and Taylor's government teacher were all such sweet people. It was truly a great experience meeting them. This bill started as a project for their class and it went further than they could have imagined!
When it was time to discuss SB1274 Senator Barker quickly presented the outline of the bill to committee members. Taylor spoke on the behalf of minors and presented the committee with reasons why the bill is needed. She mentioned something that I found to be very interesting; Taylor said that many of her classmates are surprised that tanning for minors is not already outlawed! I mean, they outlaw smoking, right?! Following Taylor's speech, a pediatrician provided more research as to why this bill is needed. She stated that she believes a bill needs to be made that would prevent all minors from using tanning beds. Delegate Spruill asked the pediatrician, "Can an 18 year old get cancer as easily as a 17 year old?" *I thought for a minute that he was on our side, that he sees the need for a ban on tanning; however, I quickly realized my mistake. (More on that later.) Delegate Spruill stated that if a bill is placed, it should not be for teens who are 17 because of our inability to control them. Senator Barker politely told him that we are discussing minors, children, and he believes he did a great job controlling his own kids.
With the young lady who helped write SB1274.
Then it was my turn to speak. I had a general outline of a speech that I re-wrote in my head numerous times during that 2 hour and 45 minute drive to Richmond. What I really said was a version of this:
"Hello, my name is Chelsea & I'm here today to urge you to pass this bill. I was 14 years old when I began tanning because I wanted to be pretty in my prom dress. Although I was somewhat aware of the risks, I was far more concerned with being beautiful than the possibility of skin cancer. Imagine my shock when at 23 a dermatologist told me that I have an advanced stage of malignant melanoma, the deadliest type of skin cancer. Since then there have been multiple surgeries,numerous trips to the chemo suite, and an always present fear of this silent killer, melanoma. I remind you, UV rays from indoor tanning are classified by the World Health Organization as class 1 carcinogens, just like tobacco smoke. I ask that you pass this bill not as a way to take away rights, but as a way to save lives. I beg you to pass this bill with the hope that another young girl will not have to hear the words 'it's cancer' all because of a stupid habit she developed years ago. You have the opportunity to save lives. I ask that you use it."
Chairman Kilgore thanked me for coming to share my story & a representative from The American Cancer Society spoke following my speech. He gave the statistics, he presented the committee with the hard facts, and he reminded the members that this cancer is killing our young. (I found this article on their website while searching for something else. It's a great read.)
Once again, Delegate Spruill spoke up and asked, "What stops them from going to Virginia Beach and getting a sunburn?" He expressed his uncertainty about the bill and said that he would hate to put tanning salons out of business. Chairman Kilgore responded to Delegate Spruill with, "Get your own bill."
Then there was the moment I was dreading: the moment when I had to stay quiet in my seat and listen to someone--particularly a tanning salon owner--speak about how there is no need for this bill. I was quite shocked when Mrs. Woods began her speech with, "It has nothing to do with tanning. It has everything to do with taking parental authority away." Mrs. Woods, who owns Copa Cabana Tanning in Chesapeake, VA, said that in her 20 years of business, she has never had a 14 year old in her salon (I'm calling BS on that!) She brought a group of people with her--about 6--and had them stand up and raise their hands if they tan. Only one lady raised her hand. Mrs. Woods reinforced the fact that she was not opposing the bill that could possibly hurt her business. In fact, she made subtle jokes about the damage tanning has done to her skin. (She even walked by Taylor and I afterwards and said "Let me move. You don't want the tan lady in your picture!") She did say that because she realizes that tanning can be dangerous, she makes sure to take extra precautions. Everyone who is employed by her is Smart Tan Certified, customers must sign waivers stating that they know the risks, and parents can withdraw their consent at any time.
Mrs. Woods continued to insist that she has an issue that the bill would take away parental rights, she said it would take away parental authority. One committee member asked asked Mrs. Woods why this bill upsets her when we have laws that forbids minors from drinking, smoking, smoking pot, and forces parents to keep their kids in car seats. Mrs.Woods responds with the fact that minors can have abortions. (Honestly, the room went nuts after that comment. There was laughing, shaking of heads, and loud groans from committee members. Mrs. Woods had her moment & it was quickly over.)
(I have to say that Mrs. Woods was very polite. She came up following the meeting and shook our hands, and said she hoped she didn't say anything to offend me. I simply half-smiled and shook her hand. I wasn't going to get in a pissing contest with her. I respected her for never saying that tanning is safe and healthy. She didn't pull the vitamin D card. She didn't lie about the risks associated with tanning. (That being said, the group who came with her was not as polite. They made rude comments while we were speaking, yet they became very angry when I shook my head to disagree with something Mrs. Woods said. One lady said something rude to Taylor, a minor, and her teacher turned around and told her not to speak to her again. She didn't. It wasn't the classiest meeting. At all.)
Of course there was a representative from the American Sun Tanning Association. He was so insignificant that he really doesn't deserve to be mentioned. He was pretty much laughed off the stand. Seriously, I was in the first row and couldn't even hear his speech because everyone was talking/laughing/carrying on like he wasn't talking. (Like I said, it wasn't the classiest meeting.)
The main concerns committee members voiced:
1) What prevents teens from going to the beach and getting the same sunburn that they would get from a tanning bed? (This was only voiced once by one member.)
2) Delegate Bell asked, "What happens if they get it wrong?" Everyone was initially confused by his question, but he explained that he didn't understand what would happen if a tanning salon owner allowed a minor to tan. He wanted to know the penalty if the tanning salon guesses the wrong age of the patron? He said, "...looks 19, doesn't get written consent, tans." He, and others, wanted to know who would be held responsible: the salon for failing to get the appropriate information and consent or the patron for failing to give appropriate information? *The lack of penalty was a big conversation piece. This is definitely something that will have to be worked on before the bill goes in front of a committee again. Delegate Bill flat out said he opposed the bill because it would take away the rights of parents; however, he treated the bill in a fair manner by asking a lot of questions about the penalty. He stated that it was "commendable" of Senator Barker to present the bill; however, he didn't see why it was necessary. Chairman Kilgore responded, "...because he has a conscience." (If you didn't pick up on it, Chairman Kilgore tells it like it is. I liked him a lot.)
The committee did not vote on the bill, they tabled it. This means that the bill died this year; however, it can be presented again next year. Following the meeting, one delegate approached me and offered her support. She basically said that she knew I would be bummed, but she wanted to talk to me about certain reasons why the bill was tabled. She said that many of the committee members heard about the bill for the very first time that day. They were not expecting it. Secondly, the bill needs to be stronger. The unknowns need to be answered. The bill needs to sound solid. Third, there needs to be a penalty for those who do not obey the law. What's the point of saying tanning salons need to get written consent before their young patrons tan if no one is going to be held accountable if they fail to get that consent?
My gut tells me that this committee would not be opposed to an under 18 tanning ban if the bill is more defined, the penalties are outlined, and the members are made aware of the bill. I know it seems like a hassle to email your committee members, but I learned just how important it really is. They need to hear from us! The louder we are, the less likely they are to shove something aside for another year.
Here I am with Taylor & Senator Barker
Attending the meeting was an incredible learning experience. I realized just how much work we have ahead of us; however, I saw firsthand that maybe we should aim higher and protect ALL minors, not just some of them!
*I would like to thank Taylor and her classmate Emma for their work on this bill. Had they not created this bill for their lovely government teacher, I do not believe teens and tanning would have been discussed at the general assembly this year! I would also like to thank Senator Barker for bringing this bill to the committee. Although the bill was tabled this year, I believe we created an impact on the members. They will think of us when their daughter wants to begin tanning for prom season...Let's hope they make the right decision!
At the request of Virginia's Senator Barker, I am heading to our capitol today where bill SB1274 will be discussed once again. The bill has a "slim-to-none" chance of passing; however, they hope Virginia will make the right decision and protect our teenagers.
I'm going to do my part by sharing my story in a 2 minute version.
I'm nervous, excited, anxious, and thrilled. 2 years ago, I was a scared little girl fearing the man at the grocery store because he looked at my scars. Today I will speak in front of the general assembly and try to convince them just how damaging that tan really is.
It isn't about taking away the rights of minors, it's about protecting them.
Follow me on Facebook or Twitter. I will update often!
If you follow me on Facebook or Twitter you know that I was very upset on Friday night. I am a Virginia girl & I love my state. What I don't love is our lack of laws protecting our teenagers from tanning salons. There is currently a bill SB1274 that will hopefully pass that will prevent teenagers 14 and under from using public tanning beds & will cause kids 15-17 to need parental consent in order to use the coffin-like beds. While I truly wish this banned all minors from tanning like the law that forbids minors from smoking, I realize that this is a start in the right direction for my state.
On Friday RVA News posted an article that discusses SB1274. The author, Allison Landry, writes,
"For example, California banned teens under 18 from indoor tanning. Virginia is unlikely to go that far, state officials say. To many people, other environmental health concerns in Virginia that
take precedence over tanning, said Gary Hagy, director of food and
environmental health at the Virginia Department of Health."
Then I read the part of the article that interrupted my peaceful & lazy Friday evening:
“There is only so much you can do to protect the youth of an area,”
he said. For Virginia, “indoor tanning is not as much of an
environmental threat as it might be for California.” (Source.)
I was furious. So, I wrote a letter.
Dear Mr. Hagy,
My name is Chelsea Price. I'm a 25-year-old
Virginia native, a graduate of Radford University, and an employee of
the Department of Veterans Affairs. I am also battling malignant
I was 14-years-old the first time I used a tanning bed. I had been
invited to prom by a cute older guy and wanted to be sure to look my
prettiest. Tan was beautiful and I wanted to be beautiful. After those
first few sessions I began to tan before major event like
graduations, vacations, and weddings. I wanted to have that 'healthy
glow' people referred to. I was 23-years-old when an oncologist told me that malignant melanoma would not kill me "right now."
As you should expect, the statement that you gave to RVA News
recently has me quite upset. In case you have forgotten, you said,
"...indoor tanning is not as much of an environmental threat as it might
be for California.” Excuse me, sir, but how is indoor tanning more of a
threat to California than Virginia? Are the teenagers in Virginia less
important than California? Do you have a daughter you allow to absorb
the UV radiation that is classified as a class 1 carcinogen, just like
tobacco smoke and asbestos? Why are the tanning beds more of a threat in
California? I'm quite certain the beds are manufactured the same way.
(Please don't tell me they are more popular in Cali than in Virginia.
Have you seen the young girls lately, Mr. Hagy? What about the women who
look ten years older than what they are due to the leather-like skin?) While I am truly disgusted by your comment and your obvious lack of
interest in saving Virginia's minors, I understand that this may not be
your area of specialty. To give such an ignorant comment about a truly
important subject seems insensitive and dangerous. Do you realize that
melanoma in young adults is now considered an epidemic? You may think that we cannot control our youth; however, isn't that
what we attempt to do? Is a minor allowed to walk into a store and buy a
pack of cigarettes? We control
their inability to buy cigarettes. I will remind you once again that tobacco
smoke and UV radiation from tanning beds are both classified as class 1
carcinogens. Why is it OK to give them one and not the other?
cannot change your opinion. I cannot force you to retract your
statement. I am quite certain I will never hear back from you or have
the opportunity to speak to you in depth on this subject, but I can ask
you to do three things before you make another comment regarding tanning
beds and minors. I beg you to read my story. I ask you to take five
minutes out of your day and view my surgery pictures. Then I ask you to
dig deep and ask yourself if you would be OK with handing your teenager a
pack of smokes and sending her on her way. It's the same thing, Mr.
Hagy. I truly hope you never have to see firsthand how dangerous tanning beds really are...even for Virginians.
I wanted someone to know I was not OK with that type of attitude being shared at public levelso I sent a similar email to other members of Virginia's Department of Health. Simply put, I couldn't stay silent. I washed my hands of it Friday night & figured that would be the last of it all.
It wasn't even 10:00 AM this Monday morning when I received an email fromthe manager of Risk Communication & Public Health Information:
"Dear Ms. Price –
At your convenience, I would very much like to
speak with you about your email regarding a quote from Mr. Gary Hagy
that appeared in an article in RVA news."
You can imagine my shock.
I called, and shockingly enough, we had a pleasant conversation! According to Mrs. Brewster, the author of the article is a college student who interviewed Mr. Hagy last November regarding California's bill that banned minors from tanning. He has not spoken to her since then. Apparently the quote was taken out of context and twisted to fit this story. Mrs. Brewster said that Mr. Hagy was "touched" by my email as he has a 14-year-old daughter and that they would be responding to my emails; however, she wanted to speak to me on the phone for two reasons. First, she wanted to let me know how they were all "touched" by my heartfelt emails (I sent 3 separate types of emails to numerous people at the Department of Health), that they are truly sorry the twisted words of Mr. Hagy upset me, and to let me know that they have already contacted the student's faculty adviser regarding the article. She also stated that neither Mr. Hagy nor the Virginia Department of Health share the opinion that California's teenagers are more important than Virginia's.
Then they wanted a favor from me. They wanted permission to share my emails. They are going to use my emails to show the college student just what personal damage can be caused when you take things out of context. Not only was I upset, according to Mrs. Brewster, Mr. Hagy was visibly upset after reading my email. I gave them permission.
While I have no idea if this will change the minds of anyone within the Virginia Department of Health regarding teens and tanning, I do hope it will spark an interest to do more education for our teenagers. Too many lives depend on it...
Just Friday someone told me that no one would read my emails. I'm thrilled to say that they read them, they responded, and I feel certain that at the very least, they had an interesting conversation about teens & tanning today.
I am completely out of ink & my printer has not even been plugged in since we've moved so I am missing the opportunity to hold up my Stand Up To Cancer sign! Please know that I stand for anyone who has ever been touched by the big C in one way or another. I stand for my Grand Daddy who died from lung cancer. I stand for the precious children who are learning new types of chemo instead of new playground games. I stand for the beautiful girl who dances around the oncology suite singing Kelly Clarkson's "Stronger." I stand for my male melanoma warriors who wear tutus to 5K's.
I stand for us all.
Tonight I wish to honor a special friend. Tonight, and every other night, I stand for Julie.
Julie and I met in the Spring of 2011 when our mutual surgeon--our beautiful Dr. Charlotte Ariyan emailed me and asked if I would mind if she gave one of her other patients my email and blog address. Julie had recently been diagnosed with stage III malignant melanoma and was terrified. Knowing that Julie and I are close in age, both struggling to emotionally handle our new cancer diagnosis, Dr. Ariyan felt like we could be great resources to one another. She was right.
Julie and I have been enrolled in the same clinical trial at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center for the last year and a half. We compare experiences, we joke about the vampires who steal our blood, we cheer one another on.
Just 2 weeks ago I was cheering on Julie from Virginia as she married her best friend.
(Both photos legally stolen from Julie's Facebook.
On Wednesday while I was washing dishes I received the text I never wanted: "Chels, not good news at all. I have spots in my liver, spleen, and lymph node in lungs."
My melanoma twin, my melanoma friend, the girl who just got back from her honeymoon has advanced to stage IV melanoma.
How could it be, we wondered? She just had scans 2 and a half months ago where she showed no evidence of disease. Now, not even 3 months later, melanoma has spread to her internal organs.
They tell us that it can happen. They warn us that it is likely to happen. Melanoma is a silent beast, they claim. Yet, even when we're prepared, we don't expect it. Then it happens.
Tonight--on World Cancer Day--I felt it is important for you to hear Julie's story. A young girl, a former tanner, a brand new bride is beginning the battle of her life against Melanoma. Yes,Melanoma...that thing that people still believe is just skin cancer.
I stand for you, Julie. It's time to fight, girlfriend, and we're all holding your hand.
*I received Julie's permission to share her news days prior to writing this post.