Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Mailing Outrage

Imagine having lost a child to a killer.  Imagine having lost the child only a few months ago and her first birthday in heaven was approaching.  Imagine checking the mail one day, and you find a birthday present for your child…from the killer.

In essence, this just happened to Susan Hayes.  You may be familiar with her daughter Jillian’s story.  She was a young woman who was diagnosed with advanced melanoma at a far-too-young age.  She blamed tanning for her melanoma, being quoted as saying, “laying out in the sun and tanning beds pretty much screwed me.”  Yet, despite Jillian’s difficult illness and eventual passing, she and her mother worked diligently to raise awareness.  Erecting awareness billboards in Michigan and North Carolina, sharing their story on TV, and sharing the deepest feelings on Susan’s blog…I believe it’s safe to say that they have been responsible for saving the lives of many others with their efforts.  If ever there was a candidate for a Susan B. Komen of melanoma, Jillian would be near the top.

Today, Susan checked her mail and found the following:

Yes, it’s a free birthday gift from the very tanning salon that contributed to Jillian’s death…sent to Jillian.

I can’t imagine the range of emotions that Susan must have felt.  I felt outrage…and I’ve never met the family.  I have no doubt that Susan will turn this sick irony into a spin to raise awareness even more.  She’s good that way.

I understand that TropiTan had no malicious intent by sending this to the Hayes household.  I once worked for a company that dealt with mass mailing, and there’s no thought process at all.  Letters or postcards are sent to everyone in a database, period.  Jillian was probably in the database as a past customer or merely because she was listed as a local girl in her prime tanning years.  Regardless, I’m still mad at this mailing.  Just read the postcard! 

“Look amazing for your birthday with a head turning, jaw-dropping golden glow that is GUARANTEED to get you noticed.”

While mailing this to Jillian was an unfortunate and ironic mistake, there are hundreds of others that will receive this same “gift” in the mail with the intent of luring young image-conscious girls into the tanning world.  The industry will claim health benefits and safety measures, but will most likely never mention a word about the increased chance of a melanoma diagnosis by 75% or more.  They won’t mention the wrinkles and aging that occurs (perhaps a more effective message to these girls).  They won’t mention that tanning is banned for minors in several states and other countries.  No, they’ll merely offer a birthday “gift” from their new “friends” at TropiTan.

That is, assuming they’ll be around for the next birthday.


  1. Al,
    Thank you so much for writing this blog post. I was fine until I read this, but the support you and my fellow melanoma friends surround me with has brought me to tears.
    Thank you.

  2. Susan, thank you for being a wonderful advocate for this little talked about cancer. I am truly sorry for the loss of your daughter. I am a survivor of Melanoma and don't really go outside during the day unless I have to due to the fear. I can not even imagine what I would have done if I had received that "free gift". I am still in disbelief over that post card. Thank you for all you do in educating people on this terrible cancer. Terri

  3. Susan, I'm very sorry for your loss. I was very uneducated about Melanoma until I reconnected with my High School Sweetheat last year. She had been diagnosed with stage 3 Melanoma a couple years earlier, and is currently lucky enough to be getting clear scans today! That's after sickening Treatments, and many many surgerys. She, just like you Susan, is an advocate, and Warrior when it comes to raising awareness. Without people like the two of you, everyone would be ignorant to the seriousness of this disease. Keep your head up, and keep Jillian in your heart. You are saving lives, and by doing this, Jillians memory can live forever. Thank You!

  4. I got melanoma from my old tanning salon they sent me an email that they paid off my membership to come back! Smh

  5. I have melanoma, and I can completely understand your feelings. Even though Jillians name "probably" came from a database. You would think the tanning salon would/should have removed her name. How sad for her mother! My heart goes out to her and Jillian has probably recieved her Sainthood!