This I Believe

Megan - Epping, New Hampshire
Entered on August 8, 2007
Age Group: Under 18
Themes: family, illness

This I Believe.

I believe in sunscreen, wide brimmed hats, high SPF, large beach umbrellas, mole check-ups, and people with healthy skin, enough vitamin D and scar-free bodies.

Being a family consisting of an abundance of red hair, pale skin and freckles, skin cancer wasn’t in the category of the ‘unexpected’. In fact, skin cancer has run in my family since around the 1980’s starting with my Great Aunt. In 2005, it affected my immediate family when my Mom was diagnosed with one of the only deadly kinds of skin cancer, Melanoma.

Shortly after, my brothers and I found ourselves stark naked in front of an Albert Einstein look alike dermatologist with a purple marker. He circled all of our disagreeable moles and freckles for further examination. This has now become one of our yearly traditions considering our risks of becoming another statistic in the world of cancer. Ultimately, this explains why I happen to be so passionate about the education of this cancer.

I say this all while being the ghostly pale girl at prom amongst a bunch of girls with half burnt skin, being comparable to Casper the ghost, and constantly being reminded of my glowing skin while laying out by the pool or on the beach. I say this while my brothers and I lather up in what our close friends call, ‘SPF vampire’ and still get burnt. On top of all of that, we’re burdened with the symptoms and risks of having skin cancer at any point in our live time. Some of those risks are as general as having light eyes, skin or even hair.

I believe in all of this because I go to family reunions and see my family members with scars in random places on their bodies, lathering their children in their own ‘SPF vampire’ and even adding the second coat after a swim in the pool, or at least every two hours following. At the same time I hear friends comment on saving their pay checks to purchase another month of endless tanning at the local salon, or even being as brave as to tan twice a day, at different salons of course. These friends not realizing that tanning twice a day at the same salon isn’t allowed for a reason. These friends also not realizing the scars my Mom hides under her clothing, the scars she received after only a few times of using a tanning booth.

One of the things I dread the most since my Mom has been diagnosed with skin cancer would be shopping. It breaks my heart to watch her struggle to buy clothing that hides the two scars that she’s most ashamed of, the one above her belly button stretching across the width of her waist, and the one on her side, located underneath her armpit. I would hope that if there’s any reason for people to stop tanning and start wearing sun screen, I think the scars would be the reason. Because yes, being tan may look very attractive now but scars aren’t attractive and cancer doesn’t care what age you are.