Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Blast From the Past

 Y'all know I have never denied my past tanning bed use. In fact, I blame the tanning bed for putting me in this rather unfortunate predicament. Yes, I got sunburns growing up, but never anything major. I have no history of melanoma, I have dark hair, dark eyes, but I am fair skinned. Despite my infrequent use of the tanning bed, lack of family history, and lack of realllllly bad sunburns, I was diagnosed with stage III melanoma at the 23.

So, I guess you can see why I have a problem with someone arguing with me about how healthy tanning beds are for you. (She actually said, " EVERYTHING is dangerous days, even fruits and vegetables you have to be realistic!") You know, because they clear your skin, give you a nice glow, and give you a great source of vitamin D. Instead of arguing back with her, I sent her to my blog. Let's bet she didn't click the link....

 This interaction got me thinking about my past...back when I thought skin cancer was "just" skin cancer. I was the girl who believed everyone looked prettier with a tan. Oh, how that makes me cringe now. Last week the lovely woman from The Skin Cancer Foundation requested pictures of me during my tanning bed days. I thought I would show them and compare them to my new life....

Here I am in 2008 in St. John, USVI.
This is a pretty typical picture for me
prior to melanoma.
Relaxing on the beach
Relaxing before my full lymph node dissection
on the right side of neck & under left arm.

I'd much rather be on the beach, covered in sunscreen, under an umbrella,
and be SAFE.

Nothing like a white shirt to make a tan look darker.
I'm cringing as I look at this.

Wearing a similar white shirt while
hanging out during my 4th session
in the chemo suite

Before I worried about people staring at 
the sides of my neck...


 Crying in a Food Lion parking lot
when I was asked by a stranger
about the scars on my neck.

From feeding my baby niece...


finding out that the little mole located
on the left side of my back
will be the thing
that could possibly 
prevent me from watching her grow up.
(Pssh. I am going to continue to kick melanoma's ass
but STILL! We're sharing fears here.) 

So, yeah...Please excuse me for thinking that tanning beds are the opposite of healthy for you. I learned the hard way, I truly realize that. In fact, I will be the first to admit that I learned the hard way. That is why I try like hell to educate others. I share my pictures so people can see just how tough melanoma can be if not detected early. Lance Armstrong writes in his book It's Not About the Bike, "I wanted this picture so that when I got better, I would never forget how sick I've been, You have to fight." Good ol' Lance is right. Now that I am currently showing No Evidence of Disease, these pictures are reminders that melanoma wasn't some fluke thing I had to tackle. It changed every aspect of my life. Every. Aspect. Of. My. Life. 

Don't learn the hard way...If you can at least try to prevent something that can ruin your life, shouldn't you take advantage of that? 

And my goodness, if you can't get over the "ugliness" of being pale, at least use spray tans. 

Try to avoid this place: Hotel Melanoma.


Miss Gentry said...

Wow. How could anyone discount the seriousness of (just) skin cancer after reading THAT?!

Rich McDonald said...

Very effective. I sure hope you're reaching lots of young women who've yet to check into the Hotel. My thoughts and prayers are with you during scanxiety week. I'm betting you'll get the all clear.

Unknown said...

It disgusts me that some people feel that way! I've been in a tanning bed about 5-6 times my entire life, not too long ago for my friends wedding. It didn't get me too tan, and I'd rather be pale. I feel for you & I am now making my boyfriend go get his moles checked out! Oh and PS Im a new follower, nice to meet you!

Al said...

Wow Chelsea...perhaps one of your best postings ever. Very effective...in-your-face...and a realistic look at the dangers of tanning beds. And I have to admit that your lighter skin looks a whole lot better on you than the tan skin.

PrettyinPink said...
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Brittany said...

I think that teens need to know this message more than anyone. If you can get to them early enough, hopefully it will prevent tanning more often later on in life. I definitely tell my 10 year old students to wear sunscreen anytime their out!!

Kate said...

Hey Chelsea,
Thanks so much for posting this. It really is powerful to see the before and after images and to know how your priorities shifted so dramatically after melanoma. I am thinking of you as you approach your scans!!! Keep staying strong and positive....you are certainly kicking melanoma's ass! Thank you so much for educating us all on your journey and sharing your story with us. You are always in our prayers :)

Laura Bren said...

Crying in my kitchen again... One of your best posts ...I wanted to like your response to that dumb a$$ on Facebook. But it wouldn't let me. We can use this in the presentations... I was about to say my favorite post but I think your NED one is my favorite xo xo

Andrea Alexander said...

I truly love how you compared the photo's and the comments you had with them. Truly wonderful. If you have time could you share on the web site my daughter started for me. www.spferr.com. From one survivor to another, keep up the excellent work!!

Carolyn said...

I agree with everyone else. Also I want to tell you how brave I think you are when you are fighting this "Beast". I've had co-workers tell me "oh, it's only skin cancer. They'll cut it out and you'll be good as new." Yeah right. Even if you are "good as new" physically, it still does a number on you psychologically. Been a whole 4 months NED for me. Keep the faith and we'll all be there for you.

Caligirl1992 said...

I agree with you. Your story sound like mine, although I was diagnosed at 40. I have many pictures (for a longer period of time) of me on the beach and I occasionally used tannng beds... white shirts did look better and skin cancer was one of two things- "It's only skin cancer" or "Yea, yea, won't happen to me".
Here I am, finishing 15 mo of immunotherapy, then a horrible case of shingles! I went to Cabo recently, w/ 2 umbrellas making shade, sunscreen (100 spf) from head to toe and a hat/tshirt. I had a "resort" bracele band on all week and I could see a slight tan line... w/ all of that protection!! Imagine w/out it.... Love your blog, thank you.

Strong Steph said...

excellent post!

Hiness58 said...

Excellent Chelsea! Yes, I think all of us warriors are guilty of some tanning, and I'll tell you what, the few years I did tan i nthe tanning booth at 40 years of age, aged me greatly! The smart girls like you that are no longer tanning will have beautiful skin for a lifetime. Or as long as the beast will allow. I'm hopeful for a lifetime for all of us!!

Anonymous said...

I love the openness, the pictures, the scars. Scars are tattoos with better stories I believe. May others learn from our mistakes! And stupid people and their tanning beds. (yup, I was one of them, but I was 18! Not 33!)

Angela's Anxious Life said...

I totally know how you feel. I look back at my wedding pictures when I was very tan from the tanning beds. Sigh... I just had these ideas that I looked better tan. I really don't know why. It wasn't even like my husband cared. Love this post!

capybara said...

Tanning beds are killing machines pure and simple. And a Melanoma diagnosis is like the mafia once you are in there is no getting out. I wish you well Chelsea and thank you for helping to raise awareness.