On the way to my appointment, I had the radio on the 90s station. (I almost always have the radio on the 90s station because I’m apparently old now and the 90s qualify as nostalgic oldies music. When did that happen? That’s a whole different post.)
Remember that song Baz Luhrmann addressed to the Class of ’99? Everybody’s Free (to Wear Sunscreen)? There are fantastic words of wisdom covering all aspects of life but the one piece he keeps coming back to—wear your sunscreen.
Hearing that song again now that I’m older and wiser (or maybe just older), I wanted to jump up and down and high-five that man about his sunscreen obsession. As I drove to my appointment, I couldn’t help but notice how the timing could not have been more appropriate for a “yesssssss” moment.
I had been dreading the next hour for weeks but it was finally here. I took off my clothes that day. In a room full of strangers, I took off all my clothes. In my worst nightmares, my mind doesn’t play out that level of humiliation.
This body that I love for the life it has birthed and I often hate for the way it refuses to cooperate with me was exposed for all to see. To have all the Too.Many.Inches not just glanced at, but really stared at and analyzed is one of the most uncomfortable experiences of my life.
And yet I’ve disrobed in front of strangers at least once a year for every single one of the last 13 years. Stretch marks, cellulite, and all.
My first scar came soon after I was doing a collage craft with my preschool students. As I flipped through someone’s old donated magazine, I came across an article about a young woman who had lost her life to melanoma. As I read about the warning signs (ABCDEs – asymmetry, borders, color, diameter, evolution), my stomach sank to the floor and I immediately thought of that “freckle” on my chest. I made an appointment with a dermatologist as soon as I got home.
One week later, I was sporting my first scar. As a 23-year-old newlywed, I got my first wake-up call that melanoma is no joke. I learned that taking your clothes off in front of strangers is not the scariest thing.
Did you know…
- Every hour of every day one American dies from melanoma. That’s approximately 10,000 per year.
- Melanoma does not discriminate against age, race, or gender.
- Melanoma is not just skin cancer. It can develop anywhere on the body (eyes, scalp, nails, feet, mouth, and more).
- Melanoma is the leading cause of cancer death in women ages 25-30 and the second leading cause of cancer death in women ages 30-35.
- Approximately 500 American children are diagnosed with melanoma each year.
When faced with the facts, having my insecurities exposed in front of my doctor and her staff is nothing.
That first scar is still very visible and has been joined by a few others over the last 13 years.
Eight in all. Some much worse than others but you know what? They do not embarrass me anymore. Not even the three on my arm that my 10-year-old noticed formed a “meh” emoji face. (Okay, well, maybe I do try to avoid revealing the emoji on my arm. Because seriously? An emoji? I just have to laugh.)
Each scar is a chance for me to tell others about the importance of that annual dermatology visit. Yep, the one where you have to go in a room and take off your clothes.
Ohhhh, how I hate it. Every single millisecond of it.
And yet every single year for the rest of my life, I will continue to do this. And so should you. Our lives may depend on it.
Get your skin checked, friends. Every year. Do not let your pride or your ego or fear rob you of your life. Melanoma does not care one bit about how old you are or how healthy you are. See your dermatologist annually. And as Baz said, “Wear sunscreen.”
The world wants you around as long as possible.
For more information on melanoma facts and prevention, please visit the Melanoma Research Foundation at http://melanoma.org.