Preface: The following thoughts are intended to be politically neutral with no biased towards or against gay marriage. (I know I have readers that have strong opinions at either end of this discussion). While I have my personal opinions on such matters, I always try to maintain a neutral tone in my posts so as not to detract from the main message of melanoma awareness. With that being said, I share an analogy in which some may claim I’m comparing being gay to having an awful disease like melanoma. This is in no way the case. My thoughts merely compare one’s point of view when influenced by a loved one’s situation or life event…whether it be homosexuality, a cancer diagnosis, or possessing any other trait.
Senator Rob Portman of Ohio recently announced that he has changed his position against gay marriage. His history shows a very aggressive campaign to block any chance of any homosexual couple engaging in any formal, law-abiding union. However, today Senator Portman revealed that he now supports gay marriage. Why? His son has recently stated that he is gay.
The senator stated that he did a lot of research and consulted with his pastor before he had a change of heart. Obviously his love for his son inspired him to partake in such research, but this leads me to wonder if his previous stance was based solely on his personal opinion and not on any research at all.
I’ve seen this before. I’ve experienced this before.
Prior to 2004, I knew very little about skin cancer or melanoma and really had no clue about any such relationship to tanning. Sure, I knew that getting a lot of sunburns was probably a bad thing for one’s skin, but I also remember the tanning bed operator telling me that tanning beds emit “only the safe UV rays that don’t burn.” (Yes, I visited a tanning salon for about a one month period back in the late 1980’s. My distain for potentially laying in other people’s germ-laden sweat caused me to cease the practice more so than the potential for skin damage).
In 2004, my brother announced that he had melanoma removed from his back. He told us that the doctors determined that the cancer had not spread to his lymph nodes. Everyone sighed in relief and assumed that his melanoma was totally eradicated. Silly ol’ skin cancer…such an inconvenience and so easy to remove.
In 2010, Jeff’s melanoma returned and, as most of you know, he passed away in November of that year. Jeff never visited a tanning booth only because they didn’t exist in his youth. But he did aggressively “sunbathe” in the summer using only baby oil and iodine as his tanning oil. So did I. His illness and subsequent death prompted me to do some extensive research in melanoma.
There was evidence to suggest that tanning beds were safe and that they were a great tool in providing Vitamin D and treating seasonal affective disorder. However, there was overwhelmingly more evidence to suggest that tanning of any kind has a direct link to skin cancer and melanoma, and that tanning beds are even more dangerous. After such research, my stance was clear and I vowed to make others aware.
It took a loved one’s encounter with melanoma to inspire me to do the necessary research on melanoma and allow me to come to my own personal conclusion (some would agree…some would disagree). It took Senator Portman’s son coming out to inspire him to do his own research and come to his own personal conclusion (some would agree…some would disagree).
Several state legislative bodies across the country are considering proposed tanning ban bills. North Carolina is one such state. So far, House Bill HB8 has passed through two subcommittees, but not without some opposition. One representative (Marilyn Avila) has been on both committees and has voted against the bill each time. She has stated that she has done some research and has concluded that there is no strong scientific evidence of a link between melanoma and tanning. She also has stated that banning tanning beds would cause unsupervised teens to scamper into the sunlight to seek a tan that’s not properly regulated or monitored. She claims that she’s done her research, so I have to respect her opinion, even if it differs from mine.
I would never wish melanoma upon anyone. But I have to wonder…would her stance change if a close family member revealed that they had melanoma after using tanning beds?