· Elected officials are not the most intelligent people in the world…or the nation…or the state. You would think that we’d elect the brightest of our peers (no matter the political party) to represent us when it comes to establishing the laws of the land. But when I listened into the teen tanning debate over the North Carolina Legislative podcast, I felt like I was listening to a high school pep club arguing over which brand of tissue should cover the homecoming float. Many of the arguments were based on hearsay and not on any real factual evidence. Those who had no medical knowledge declared the health benefits of tanning beds. And even some who supported the ban seemed to be a little loose on their facts. I learned that public policy is based solely on gut feel and peer pressure and very little on fact and the common good.
· Politics can be…well, political. After the teen tanning ban bill died in committee, I was convinced we had lost a major battle. In fact, I learned that the bill’s status in limbo was expected by those who introduced the legislation. Apparently, this first run was to expose the strengths and weaknesses in the tanning ban legislation and to determine who would be the strongest allies and staunchest adversaries. Having had the expected results of the first run, I’m sure the next run at banning teen tanning in North Carolina will be met with better success.
· I can have a voice, even if I fall flat on my face the first time. I was given the opportunity to tell Jeff’s story at the Miles for Melanoma Raleigh walk in October (also known as the Amanda Wall – Corey Hadden Memorial Walk). I hate public speaking. I mean, I really hate it. But I really wanted to tell Jeff’s story despite my fears. A couple of weeks prior, I had the opportunity to speak at a West Virginia University Alumni gathering to announce the upcoming walk. I attempted to give a much abbreviated version of my speech and I froze. I mumbled a few words and somehow squeaked out the time and date of the walk, but that was it. So when the day of the real speech arrived, I was a nervous wreck. I had practiced in my head many times over, but I was still nervous. And yet when the time came, I felt as if I were in a trance…in “the zone.” I nailed the speech and said exactly what I wanted to say with the passion in which it intended to be conveyed. Fall seven times, stand up eight.
· People can be very giving. I already knew this of the melanoma community, but I have been reminded over and over throughout the year. When it comes to donating to melanoma awareness and fund-raising, those within the community are more than willing to give. The aforementioned Miles for Melanoma Raleigh Walk raised a record amount. At the same time, when someone in need of support asks for such on my Facebook page, others in the melanoma community flock to assist. It’s an amazing thing to witness and one of the main joys of keeping the BITNP Facebook page going. It’s helping other people.
· Melanoma awareness is increasing. There has been more press about the dangers of tanning and the importance of getting your skin checked. Articles and videos have popped up on television station websites. Great PSAs are also appearing from larger organizations…with the latest from the American Cancer Society making a statement that “tanning is really bad.” People ARE becoming aware.
I’ve learned these things and much more. I’m excited about 2014. While I won’t make any resolutions, I do have one hope. While I hope that melanoma awareness continues to rise, my real hope is that real KNOWLEDGE about melanoma and skin cancer will spread. It’s not enough to just be aware, it’s about being knowledgeable.
Happy New Year everyone!