Friday, February 24, 2012

Struggling Hard

We still live in a society where folks believe one must be tan in order to be beautiful. What woman does not want to look her prettiest on her wedding day? Right, I can't think of one either. As I have mentioned before, I track the sites that send folks to my blog every now and then. Today I noticed I received  a lot of blog hits from a site called the wedding bee. Confused and curious as to why a wedding blog would send so many people my way, I clicked on the link. It was a post titled "Tanning?"

This post was a response to a previous post where women discussed how many weeks/months they should start visiting tanning salons so that they can get the best glow. The first post even mentioned the "healthy" way to use tanning beds: "to stay healthy and to not overdose UV, you should tan once a week (12-15 min), start with low intensity (2-3 times, really depends on how quickly you can tan and what your skin tone) than switch to high intensity." Out of 19 responses to this original post, only 1 person spoke up and said that tanning is dangerous. This brave soul posted: "no, to stay healthy you shouldn't tan. there is no such thing as a "healthy glow." tanning is horrible for you."

Woo hoo! In the internet world where it is easy for people to attack you simply for disagreeing with what you believe, I find this person who stated the truth about tanning beds in a post filled with tanning bed lovers  to be very brave.

This same brave soul could not let the tanning bed discussion end even though backlash from the tanners was possible. The Bee writes, "i hope i don't get slayed for this, but guys why are you tanning??? it's so bad for you. as someone who works at a cancer hospital, i have a hard time grasping why people smoke or tan- both things that are 100% known to increase your risk of some really horrible cancers. no one leads a 100% perfect lifestyle, but there are some things that are pretty obvious. i suppose it's living in that "it will never happen to me bubble."

The determined Bee does not stop there... "I actually stumbled onto this girl's blog today and last year, she was all of us. 23, pretty and going about her happy life with her boyfriend. then she was diagnosed with stage III melanoma (with no history of bad burns, just tanning). and she's certainly still really beautiful, but she's had a rough road with multiple surgeries and chemo. and she freely admits that melanoma is terminal. as in, there's no cure. it's NOT WORTH IT."

The Bee is right. Just a little over a year ago, I was a normal 23 year old. I was enjoying life with my first live-in boyfriend, I was bonding with his child, and I was really in a happy place. Then I met Melanoma, and BOOM. What people do not realize is that even though my life is a lot less stressful these days, it will never be like it was before. Until an undetermined time, I will still have scans every 3 months to see if the melanoma has spread to my organs. If I am one of the lucky ones, I may reach a point in my life where I only have to receive CT scans once every 6 months. I will still go for treatment for the next 2 years. I will continue to hope and pray that I never advance to the next stage of Hotel Melanoma: The last and final stage---Stage IV. 

What were the responses from Brave Bee's post?

"I'm tanning for just a few weeks because I feel I'll look more healthy and I'll look nice and slim. I know this is completely ridiculous given the seriousness of what you just posted but I normally don't do it and I do get skin cancer screenings every year at the end of summer."
^At least this person is realizing how ridiculous she is being....AND at least she is visiting a dermatologist. Early detection is key. Melanoma IS curable when caught early.

"I actually just started tanning today, only because I do not want to burn to a crisp from being soo white on our cruise:) Gradual beats sudden exposure!"
Excuse me while I roll my eyes. Been there, girlfriend, look where I am now.

Brave Bee responded to these to posts: "i just ask that you read her story! i don't know her, but was just so taken by what's happened to her in the last year. limited exposure and sunscreen beats gradual." (Best response ever.)

Another response: "Definitely didn't tan before my wedding...and definitely don't plan on ever tanning! NOT worth it! Thanks OP! :)"
^This is what I like to hear!

"Its ok I To each its own when it comes to ones body :) Some people can tolerate it some can not. It is a risk.."
^I want to yell at this chic. I tolerated tanning just fine, missy, until I got diagnosed with melanoma at age 23--less than 2 years after I stopped visiting tanning salons! You may tolerate tanning beds just fine right now. How will you tolerate telling your new husband that his bride has melanoma? How will you tolerate listening to your mom cry because she can't help you? How will you tolerate the doctors looking at you and saying "We just don't know."? So, yes, you may tolerate tanning beds right now, true, but what happens when your body fights back?

Ah, another intelligent person: "OP - I don't get it either. I tanned a few times back in high school when I was young and dumb. Never since. My grandmother passed away from melanoma. She was 44 and I never knew her. I am pale and I don't care. I don't care if I look washed out or like a piece of white paper. I am supposed to be that way! Id much rather be pasty looking than get skin cancer! I, like you, cannot understand how/why people go tanning. There isn't such a thing as getting a base. It's called use more sunscreen, wear a hat and a long sleeve shirt and stay out of the sun. We went to Jamaica for our honeymoon and I was out in the sun for several hours in the middle of the day and never got burnt - because I am really good at reapplying sunscreen. Same thing for our cruise. I just can't wrap my head around it."

And another response:  "My dad had melanoma (which was luckily caught early and removed without any radiation or chemo, he was very lucky) so I am fully aware of the risks.  But I accept going to a tanning bed this one last time (honestly, I don't care about tan lines any other time, and I tan easily so I don't worry about burning on my honeymoon or vacations).  I get regular screenings and use preventative care 90% of the other times I'm in the sun. I don't think that me going to a tanning bed a handful of times is going to dramatically increase my risk anymore than it already is, I tanned a lot as a teenager, got bad burns from the sun, was outside constantly, never wore sunscreen etc... I'm already at high risk since my dad has had it and I have a lot of moles... It's a calculated risk I'm willing to take this one last time."
^ There are so many things I could say to this bride. Instead, I'm just going to say this: Everything that YOU described, YOUR dad's history of melanoma, YOUR severe burns, YOUR tanning bed use, etc, all put you at a HIGH risk for melanoma. I hope YOU don't live to regret your laid back attitude about the dangers of melanoma. Your dad was a lucky one. Will you be? (see uncontrollable risk factors here.)

(If you haven't noticed, I have a big problem with people who have been directly affected by ANY cancer--especially lung and melanoma--and continue to do the things that directly cause said cancers. I find it to be disrespectful and ignorant.)

 This post sent a lot of people my way today (Thank you, Brave Bee!) so I can only hope that some of these newly engaged females will think twice before signing up for a new membership at Free Skin Cancer Salon. It makes me so bitter and angry because these women want to look pretty on their wedding days. To look pretty, they believe they must be tan. I, and many of my fellow melanoma warriors, simply want to live in order to be a bride..and a mother...and an old lady. 

Ironically, I opened my fortune cookie tonight and it read, "Struggle as hard as you can for whatever you believe in." I believe in Melanoma Awareness and I will struggle against society until I can struggle no more. 

***A special thank you to the special member on Wedding Bee who took a chance and shared awareness. Who is to say how many lives you changed. Thank you.


Unknown said...

You are awesome and an inspiration. It is always great when you find out how your story has changed someone's mind and I am sure that those that took the time to visit your blog today, have had their eyes opened. If they really want to get some color, why not spray tan? It is much better than baking in a tanning bed. ((HUGS))
P.S I am a fellow stage 2 melanoma warrior and I used tanning beds.

Kisma said...

That is truley awesome! I wish I could get the gals in my office to ready this but they live in that "bubble" you refer too. A base tan at a tanning bed.

I myself was diagnosed 10 years ago with stage 1 melanoma and that started a very long and frustration road of doctors appointments, test and many, many surgeries. My checkup are every three months and I have yet to make one year without finding more cancer. I was not a tanning bed case... I grew up in a time when sunblock was an afterthought and indured many painful sunburns.

Come check out my blog for the full story when you have time.;postID=4159950626485722662

There are a few, but I just grabbed the first one I could find.

You are truly an inspiration and you are not alone. What you do matters and is so important. DO NOT STOP fighting!

Kristen said...

i was the one who posted on weddingbee. i was all worked up having just read your blog and then i was there and they were wondering how long they should tan before their wedding and it was making me crazy!

as for speaking, i would maybe start with your school and see if they have a speakers bureau of any sort. i will do some research on my end.

also, i was an AST! years and years ago (and my tenure was not as great as yours) but how funny!


C.V said...

I've just found this blog. As someone that was just 21 when she discovered she had melanoma, I thank you for writing this blog and chronicling your life, your stories, and your challenges.


RBS said...

Hi Chelsea - the other Chelsea's dad here. My Chelsea is 28, married for a couple of years, used to be a major suntanner as were all her gf's. I sent her a link to this site last fall and she's bugged all her beautiful girlfriends to read what you've written. Both she and I have "shared" your site on our FB pages. I can't thank you enough for your courage and your witty writing. I'm posted several of your "attitude" quotes about cancer on my bathroom mirror during my interferon treatments and before scans. I'm stage 3C and NED for now. next scans in May, right before we go to Kenya to visit our son/brother for a month. I'm pray you (and all of us) stay NED forever. rbs

Chelsea said...

The other Chelsea's dad, I love hearing from you! Thank you and your daughter for sharing my story. Like you, I pray that we all stay NED. Kenya?! How neat! I hope you have a wonderful trip come May. Again, thanks for checking in on me! :-) I always enjoy your comments.

Chelsea said...


THANK YOU! I know that some of those brides will reconsider tanning for their wedding because of you! How neat that you were in AST too! You never know when you'll meet a "Sister." :-)

Thank you again for sharing my story. XOXO!