Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Time To Increase My Own Awareness

I grew up in a time and place where we dealt with sun damage relief rather than prevention.  We had plenty of Solarcaine in the medicine cabinet, but hardly a drop of sun block.  I remember many a night receiving a dose of the cold medicated spray on my back before bed, only to slide under the sheets in burning pain and stickiness.  It was a rite of passage…it was growing up in the summer.
I first encountered true sun BLOCK when my mom was diagnosed with Lupus.  She was pretty much “allergic to the sun” and was told to wear long sleeves and apply a prescription SPF-grade lotion to her exposed skin.  Yes, prescription-level.  So of course, I figured that sunscreen was for sick people…and I kept burning.
Skin cancer was an unknown to me.  Many things that are bad in this world were unknown to me, as were with many kids of my day.  We had no multichannel cable or internet to let us know what was going on in the world.  We simply went outside and played from dawn to dusk.  And when my family joined the local swim club, we spent the entire day there.  And each night, we slid into our sheets, sore and sticky.
I guess my first encounter with melanoma was when my brother told me he had one found on his back about 7 years ago.  I pictured a “bad mole” and when he mentioned it was successfully removed, I figured that was pretty typical…no big deal.  Then he showed me what they cut out.  It looked like a golfer took a divot off his back.  I was amazed by the size of what was cut.  This opened my eyes enough to start seeing a dermatologist every year to have myself checked.  But honestly, I still wasn’t fully aware of it all.
I’ve told the story of my brother several times here, so you know that the melanoma returned last spring, then metastasized in the summer and the took my brother in the autumn.  Now…now I was aware.  And scared.  I started to scan my skin almost daily.  I became intimately aware of every mole and freckle on my body…and I have a lot.  I started to read about melanoma and eventually started this blog and awareness campaign.  I wasn’t sure (still not) if I’ll ever pay for my days in the sun as a child, but I wanted to make sure other people were aware of the dangers.  One would probably think that I became overly aware.
This past weekend in North Carolina, we had temperatures in the mid-80’s and plenty of sun.  It was really the first “shorts and t-shirt” day we’ve had since this past winter.  It was a beautiful Easter morning and my daughter was anxious to go out and play.  Apparently our neighbor just installed a new trampoline, so immediately my parenting mode went into gear about being careful and making sure there was an adult around and blah, blah, blah.  She rolled her eyes and said she’d be extra careful, and out the door she went as I finished my morning coffee.  When my wife came into the room, I told her where our daughter had gone and that I hoped we wouldn’t have to venture to the hospital on this holiday.  She looked at me and asked, “Did you put sunscreen on her?”
So I got dressed and headed over after a short while, only to find that she had gone inside to play in her friend’s room.  She told me that it got too hot and, “besides Daddy, you forgot to put sunscreen on me.”
My lifelong habits still need fine tuning.  In fact, despite putting sunscreen on my arms and legs, and wearing a wide-brimmed hat during the Easter Egg hunt, I still found a small sunburn on my temple this morning where I forgot to apply some to my face.  But I don’t see this as a failure.  In all honesty, I’m just now starting this diet of awareness after gorging in ignorance for decades.  So having dipped into the cookie jar this once...and probably another time or two…won’t detour me from continuing my goal of increased awareness.  I need to work on my self-awareness of course.  But I still have to smile, because obviously, my message has made it to one very important little girl.

1 comment:

  1. She is learning a great lesson early on! Be proud. She has learned from you.