Thursday, June 12, 2014

She Asked For It

So it was just this week that I blogged about how I don't pressure those around me--well, not co-workers or almost strangers--into protecting their skin. I post what I have to say online, I share my story once I'm comfortable with you, and that's that. I don't comment on your obvious sunburn. I don't let you know I notice your brand new tan in the month of January when you haven't been on vacation. I smile and treat you just like I treat every other person. I'm not going to let my personal feelings towards tanning change the way I treat a person. Point is, I keep my mouth shut. No lectures.

(But I do post stuff like this.

However, sometimes, situations just walk in to your office fall into your lap.

Today one of my co-workers began walking down the hallway, pushing one of the young X-RAY students towards my office. I knew, just by looking at which student he had by the shoulders shoving towards me, what was about to happen. "You need to talk to her, Chelsea." I started shaking my head, "No. I saw her tan. It's her body. I'm not going to lecture her." "You need to talk to her." He stood there, with his hands on her shoulders, preventing her from walking away. I was determined to be nice to this young girl who I don't even know by name and just give her the sweet smile, followed by the, "You really shouldn't tan" comment. But then she looked at me directly in my eyes and said, "I go to the tanning bed all the time."

I don't know what happened. I don't know why I let the poor girl have it like I did, but by the end of it, my hands and my voice were shaking. I don't have the slightest idea what I really said, but let's just say it went something like this:

Student: "I go to the tanning bed all the time."
Me, in a shitty voice: "You can go to my chemo sessions with me too."
Student: "No thanks."
Me: "And you're a RED HEAD! You're basically just asking for it!!!!!"
Student: "Stoooooooooooooop."
Co-Worker: "We've been telling her that she needs to stop. It's so bad for her!"
Me: "AND YOU'RE A RED HEAD!!!!!!! Statistically you're a walking melanoma patient!!!"
Student: "Stooooooooooooop."
Me: "Do you know that they said I had a 50% chance of being here in five years?"
Student: "Stooooooooooooooooooooooop."
Me: "If you don't catch it in time, it's not like you can just cut it out. There is no cure."
Student: "Stooooop."
Me: "The World Health Organization classifies UV rays from tanning beds as a class 1 carcinogen, just like tobacco. You might as well start smoking."
Student: "Guys, stooooooooooooop."
Me: "You have to know how bad it is for you. With all of the research that is available, every time you turn on the news they are talking about it. You have to know."
Student: "I obsess with sunscreen every time I'm outside!"
Me: "WHAT'S THE POINT?! 10 minutes in the tanning bed is just like spending 8 hours in the sunlight without sunscreen. What's the point in obsessing with sunscreen if you turn around and go to the tanning bed?"
Student: "I like the way it looks."
Me: "But that's the other thing! IT DOESN'T LOOK GOOD! It makes you look old!"
(This is when two of my co-workers chimed in with the changes they've seen in their skin after years in the sun.)
Student: "Stoooooooooooooooooooooooooooop."

And the convo went something like that. The student never said she would consider what I yelled said, but she did thank me. So while I doubt she'll cancel her tanning membership any time soon, I doubt there will be a time in the near future when she doesn't think about the mean girl in the scheduling office who told her that her tan isn't pretty.

(I swear, I wasn't trying to be mean. I realized right away that my tone of voice was abrupt, I was harsh, I said things that I usually only write because they are hard for people to hear, and I let her have it. I don't know why. It just came out! She is such a beautiful young girl with her whole future ahead of her and I hate to think about what she may face in her future.)

Maybe tomorrow, if she'll make eye contact with me, I will apologize for being a bully and encourage her to make better life decisions. Not only for her benefit, but because I don't want to be seen as the mean melanoma girl who throws scary info at the first tan girl that gets brought into her office.

Eh, whatever.

She asked for it.


(A big thanks to my co-worker who raised some serious melanoma awareness today! I appreciate you!)


Unknown said...

Well, I am proud of you, Chelsea! I know that wasn't easy for you to do. But there is NO way she won't think of your words the next time she goes tanning. I bet she won't stop right away, but she might...because of you. =)

Anonymous said...

I am, was a red headed person and have had 3 surgeries for skin cancer. It ain't easy but you gotta do what is right, if not for you, but for your loved ones.

The Anglesey Family said...

We need so many more people like you.