Thursday, May 3, 2007

Protect Yourself!

Wear sunscreen.
If I could offer you only one tip for the future, sunscreen would be it.

~ Mary Schmich

May is
Skin Cancer Awareness Month. It's fairly well-known that too much time in the sun unprotected can lead to skin cancer. As gardeners, we love nothing better than to be out on a beautiful warm sunny day, digging in the dirt.

I've never been particularly diligent in using sunscreen or wearing protective clothing while outside, whether I'm working in the garden or lounging by the pool. I've always loved having a tan, and in my younger days, worked very hard at getting one. Now that I'm about to turn 50, I regret all those careless times when I got burned. I never gave it a thought back then that there might be consequences later in my life. Like wrinkles.

I have not only crow's feet, but lots of little crinkly lines below my eyes as well. I've lectured my girls about wearing sunscreen, avoiding tanning beds, and using moisturizer. They'll thank me later, if not now.

But wrinkles are nothing compared to melanoma. The most deadly of skin cancers, it's nearly 100% curable if caught in time, but if it's not, the curability rate goes down considerably. We all have moles and freckles, but if one starts changing or growing or a new one appears and doesn't look quite right, get it checked. Better safe than sorry.

About four years ago, my dad had a spot on the top of his head and my mom happened to notice it while he was bent over tying his shoes. She mentioned it and he passed it off, saying it didn't bother him and not to worry. A couple of months went by and it got bigger. She was insistent that he get it checked and when he did, the biopsy came back saying malignant melanoma. After two surgeries, one involving a skin graft, and being checked every four months, my dad is so far cancer free. If my mom hadn't insisted on him getting the spot looked at, my dad would undoubtedly not be with us today.

Romie too has had experience with skin cancer due to sun exposure. He is in the process right now of having treatment for squamous cell carcinoma on the side of his face. We were shocked when his biopsy came back positive for cancer and for a type that has potential for metastasis. But his was caught early, too.

The best way to help prevent skin cancer is to stay out of the sun, but that's not practical. So when you head out to spend time in the garden, wear protective clothing and wear sunscreen.

Kara and Jenna, are you listening?


Unknown said...

Amen! I was not very diligent in my younger years, either, but I've been good for at least the last 5 about this. My coworkers at the garden center laugh at my big brimmed hat and are incredulous that I plan to wear long pants and long sleeves all summer, but I don't much care. :)

Robin's Nesting Place said...

Very good warning. My mom had a melanoma removed from her face last year. She had to have a skin graft and it is still very noticeable. I am very fair complected and did burn severly several times during my childhood. I never tanned, just burned and freckled. Thankfully I've never been a sun lover, and I always try to wear protective clothing when I'm outdoors. So hopefully those terrible sunburns from my childhood won't come back to haunt me later.

Yolanda Elizabet Heuzen said...

Excellent post Kylee and good advice!

I'm sorry to read about your dad and now Romie too. Glad it was caught early though! Although a bit of snshine is good for you, too much of it is never good.

Anonymous said...

Kylee, great article. Only you would be found by - :>)

Isn't it great how we become wiser with age?? Instead of worshiping the sun, we can Worship the Son and all His Creation!!!
Keep His JOY, in trials, tears & triumphs. Love, Shelley

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