Dear 16 Year Old Me...

As summer nears, and we are all inevitably going to be outdoors enjoying the sunshine, I couldn’t think of a better time to have Emily from Le Quaintrelle guest post on my blog. Heed her warning; she is a survivor.

 

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Dear 16-year-old me,

Pay attention to the books you read in English class, I promise you’ll actually like them. Don’t count down the days for high school to be over, it will end sooner than you think. And please, please don’t take advantage of the free tanning you will receive while working at that tanning salon your junior year of high school. I know you want to be tan, you live in California where the sun shines 90% of the year and you can wear dresses in January, but it won’t be worth it. Because you will be diagnosed with melanoma when you’re 21, and you will have surgery that will leave a six inch scar going down your leg that not even a tan will cover.

 

scar

 

Actually I would go even further back and tell my 14-year-old self, please wear sunscreen when you go to the beach, and when you go swimming in the pool. Not only are those sunburns painful and uncomfortable, but they will more than double your chances of developing skin cancer. Start getting into good habits when you’re young. I know that you think you’re invincible, and that you don’t have to worry because you don’t have a family history of Melanoma, but it doesn’t matter, because you will be the first.

 

catalina

 

Unfortunately, it’s too late to give my younger self all this wise advice, because the damage has already been done. I have scars from surgery and numerous biopsies I’ve had to get because of Melanoma that shows how careless I was with my skin. But I look at being diagnosed young as a blessing. Now I can prevent any future damage that I would inevitably have done to my skin. It’s so easy to be lazy about sunscreen, but it’s so worth it in the end. Like the video says, get to know your skin. Know what moles you have so you know if they’ve changed or if you get a new one. Take a couple minutes a month to examine your skin, and don’t forget your scalp and the soles of your feet (I have a freckle on the bottom of my foot the dermatologist has to check every visit). Save yourself the trouble of needing surgery or chemotherapy and having doctor’s visits twice a year. Melanoma is one of the most common cancers and also one of the most preventable. I had to learn the hard way, but you don’t have to. Please learn from my mistakes and start being sun-smart today.

I will give up a lot of things for vanity. I will wear those painful shoes just because they’re cute, and will give up my ability to breath comfortably to fit into those skinny jeans, but I will not give up my life to be tan. Being tan isn’t the most important thing in the world (but there are sunless tanners just in case it is) but your health is. Share this video or my personal story and let people know how important wearing sunscreen, not going in tanning beds, and being diligent about your skin is. It could save someone’s life.

 

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Read how Emily’s cancer changed my mind about tanning here.

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