Earlier this week I shared an article on my Black is the New Pink Facebook page. It was written by April Pulliam who shared her life-long experience with tanning which ultimately led to her diagnosis of melanoma. She admitted that her excessive tanning led to her skin cancers. “I worked so hard for this damage,” she wrote. “I paid big bucks for years, but it’s nothing compared to the price I am paying now and will continue to pay for years to come. A tan was never worth it.” Obviously this is wisdom based upon a difficult experience and poor decisions.
During the last 6+ years of reading and sharing thoughts about melanoma, I have been exposed to many such stories of tanning leading up to a diagnosis of skin cancer or melanoma. Some former tanners have died as a result. Some have survived with minimal scarring. Many experiences lay somewhere in between the two extremes. April’s story is not new, nor is it unique. But it’s a story that should be shared as often as possible so that people understand the impact of tanning. I applaud April sharing her story and for warning others to not make the same mistake.
The day after posting the article, I stumbled upon a video that April had appeared in which she shared her experience. Despite the same story, the video had much more impact. The skin on her face was raw due to the annual application of a chemo-cream that wards off pre-cancerous spots on her skin. (My brother had used the same cream with the same results at one time during his years-long fight). Not only was April sharing her story, her appearance conveyed the true struggle in living, red color. Once again, I decided to share her story on my Facebook page. The first comment posted to the video was this:
“This story pisses me off. She got what she deserved. Myself I NEVER EVER willingly went into the sun without sunblock and I got skin cancer.”
Needless to say, her comment inspired many to respond with angered tone. I’ll admit that I was quite shocked at the statement as well. Actually, I shouldn’t say I was shocked…I was disappointed. As social media becomes an engrained part of everyday life, negativity and insensitivity seems to grow by leaps and bounds. What people state online is often far more harsh than what one would say to a person to his or her face. With that in mind, this woman’s statement shouldn’t be shocking at all. But again, it’s disappointing.
My mom smoked. She died of lung cancer at the age of 70 years old. Her health suffered. But she lived a pretty good life. I’m biased because she was my mom, but I recall so many more good things about her than bad. She deserved a quiet, painless death at the end of a longer life. I wish she would have chosen not to smoke, but she didn’t deserve lung cancer even if she did.
My brother died of melanoma at the age of 55. He never visited a tanning bed that I know of, but he certainly tanned at the pool in the summers. Baby oil was his “lotion.” At the time, sunburns were the enemy which we treated with Solarcaine and aloe. Once the peeling and pain were gone, the issue of damaged skin was never thought of again. It’s just how it was. He led a very successful and happy life with his wife Debbie. He had a great job which made him happy and they had many good friends. He deserved to be alive today. He did not deserve melanoma even if he did get some dark tans.
It seems that the lady that responded to the video did everything that she could to not endure sun damage. Despite her efforts, she got skin cancer. Perhaps that’s where her anger grows. I have a cousin who had mouth cancer, despite never having smoked or chewed tobacco or any other “vices” associated with mouth cancer. He often questioned why chain smokers would live cancer-free yet he had to suffer. While most melanomas can be attributed to UV exposure, many cases cannot. It just happens. Redheads are predisposed to have a higher risk just because of who they are. It’s not fair. But redheads don’t “deserve” skin cancer any more than someone who tans. No one deserves cancer.
I’ve kept the woman’s comment on my page along with the rebuttals and her counter-arguments. I want there to be a voice…a dialogue. I seriously doubt that this lady will take back her words in that her anger seems pretty deep. I’m not a therapist, so perhaps my assumption about her anger is completely off the mark. Maybe there is some other reason for her anger. Or maybe she’s just an ass.
Regardless of who she is, she was diagnosed with skin cancer. I applaud her efforts to fight off the ill-effects of the sun with sunblock. I am sorry that she was diagnosed anyway. I hope she doesn’t have melanoma or that she doesn’t have to suffer as April has or as my brother did prior to his death. She may have pissed off a lot of people with her remarks, but even she doesn’t deserve the skin cancer she got.