I come from a family of sun worshipers.
My mother loved the sun. She grew up a block from the beach and spent all summer in the sand and water.
I too spent the majority of my time outside. No hats, no umbrellas, and definitely no sunscreen.
When I was a teen, my mother had it for the first time. Skin Cancer. Eventually, she got it so many times that I lost count. Basal Cell Carcinoma. Every six months she came home from the dermatologist with a bandage on some part of her body.
One day she asked me to check on a scab on her scalp. It was in the middle of the part in her hair. How often do we ever look at the top of our heads? I told her it looked weird. It was translucent. This time, it was a Malignant Melanoma. Major grafting surgery followed.
As I got older, I retreated into the shade. I have made a consistent effort to stay out of the sun and wear my sunscreen. I stay under the umbrella and keep the sunroof on my car closed.
Then last year I had an itch. I didn’t think much of it at first, it was just below my collarbone. I scratched it for a few days. I scratched so hard it bled and scabbed up. Then more itching, more scabbing. Sure enough, I went to the dermatologist and had it removed. Basil Cell. I was 10 years younger than my mother had been when she got skin cancer.
I had the Mohs surgery. First they numb you and remove a large area of surrounding skin. They check it while you wait, if they don’t get enough skin, they go back in and take some more. I was nervous about doing the procedure more than once (freaked out, really), so I told the doctor to take as much as he needed so he didn’t have to go back and do it again.
Now I am paranoid. I have a friend who had a melanoma on his big toe. My sister-in-law had one on the back of her calf. My dermatologist said it can even happen in the groin area.
I am now trying to be proactive, but it’s nerve racking. Every itch makes me wonder. Every scratch is cause for staring in the mirror. Magnifying glass. Scrutiny. Knocking on wood.
Ultimately, the sun damage is done. I just hope (and pray) that if I am careful I can catch things before they get out of control. Even better, I hope there will be nothing to catch!