I’ll admit that I’m a serial hobby quitter. You can ask my parents to see the home video of my one and only synchronized swimming performance (yep), or about the expensive tennis racket collecting dust in the garage, or even about the Fender Strat (long since bequeathed to my brother, who also has no clue how to play it) they gave me when I duped convinced them no, really, I was going to stick with guitar lessons. For about a year, I was a blogger. And then, in 2010, I quit that, too. But maybe if you’ve been around these parts of the Internet for a while, you might know me as Law School Wife.
Today I’m a happy wife of a law school graduate, and things are going pretty swimmingly if I do say so myself. But there’s another hobby long since quit that keeps on giving and I wish it wouldn’t. The spring and summer of my junior and senior years of high school, I tanned in a tanning bed. I might have even been a tanning bed addict, which is a real thing you guys. I know it’s stupid and vain, but I loved being tan. The bed took me to a whole new level of tan-ness in quick 20-minute doses- more than what I could achieve under the sun, and in my impressionable, not-fully-formed mind, that meant more hotness. Freshman year of college I found a couple more brain cells and never again set my size 9.5 foot in a tanning salon. But you know, you can’t drop your skin like a once (barely) loved tennis racket.
When I was 22, I suddenly had cystic acne, mostly on my face, sometimes on my back. It was embarrassing. Not quite pizza face embarrassing, but it was more than enough and could be physically painful. But, having been down Vanity Street before, I thought seeing a dermatologist for acne was vain—and 22-year-old me was above that. Eventually, though, having spent a ridiculous amount on ineffective drug store products, I decided I could reward myself for being a non-vain, very responsible 24-year-old woman by having my acne seen by a dermatologist only after having scheduled my first annual skin cancer check.
Funny aside: When I called to schedule a skin cancer check one day in early October, the receptionist told me “we don’t have a screening appointment available until January.” I said, “Ok…I’ll take it. I also want to see someone about my acne.” The receptionist then said, “How does next Tuesday sound?”
I’m not going to go into all of the scary details, but suffice it to say, had I listened to everyone (and there were a lot of people) who told me it was silly and paranoid and hypochondriac-ish of me to go in at my young age for a skin cancer screening, I could have full-blown skin cancer right now. What I really want you to know is that if you had asked me to show you my five most concerning moles, I would never, ever have thought to show you The One. It’s not enough to show your GP one or two moles you think are funny. It can’t be self-selected. You need an expert look over every last inch of you. Do yourself a favor—if you’ve never been, call up a dermatologist and schedule an annual skin cancer screening.
I’d apologize for being a little melodramatic, except that skin cancer is the most common cancer in the U.S., and melanoma is the #1 cancer in young adults 25-29. So think about it like this: that beats out cervical cancer, and you probably don’t make it a habit to miss your pap smears, do you? In my mind, an annual skin cancer check is just like a pap smear—it’s all about prevention. The chances are excellent that you are perfectly fine. But why not know for sure, or catch something before it’s something bad? Since my first skin cancer check, I’ve been religious about keeping my annual appointments, and have had to have several more biopsies. None have been as scary as The One, but all were atypical and I’m more than happy to have them (painlessly) sliced out before they have the chance to jeopardize my health. The good news—if you make that phone call—is the five-year survival rate for patients who catch and treat their melanoma early is almost 100 percent.
There are so many things most people don’t know about sunscreen—it is not proven to prevent skin cancer! for real–here’s a second source!—and skin cancer, and I only have the space to point you to a few good resources. Please take a few to check them out.
I hope my story stays one of prevention, and I hope you do yourself a favor.
Brittany is a former blogger and reformed tanning bed addict trying to decide when mid-twenties stop and late-twenties begin. She’s happily married to her high school sweetheart (and you can bet he’s had a skin cancer check) and is a new dog mom to a Sheltie—actually, her dog has a mole she thinks should be checked.