Slip Slop Slap: Sun Safety

“Dear 16-year-old me” always seems to pass around the internet just as warmer weather starts to appear. In years past, I’ve watched and understood that I should go about the steps and wear sunscreen more often and visit a doctor. When I watched the video this time, after returning from a run out in the hot San Diego sun, I began to really hear what these men and women were saying. Tears streamed down my face as I understood their pain, the effects of skin cancer, and what it meant to lose someone to Melanoma.

Two years ago my grandfather was diagnosed with skin cancer. There was an off-putting mole that hung from his big toe. He waited until the holidays passed to see a doctor and when he came in, he learned the mole was cancerous. At the time, the cancer had not spread to the lymph nodes, but in only a few short months it did. It has been a year and a half since my grandfather passed away from malignant melanoma and I miss him every day.

During my senior year, I grappled with his loss. I channeled my emotions into writing poems about my grandfather, skin cancer, and the sun. I then channeled my energy into volunteering for Relay for Life. I fundraised for the American Cancer Society. My friend and fellow communications committee member, Ben, and I made posters with for the event, reading, “Slip on a shirt, slop on sunscreen, and slap on a hat.” I took grief and turned it around into a way that I could help others be more aware of the effects of the sun and skin cancer.

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Skin cancer can strike at any time. My grandfather was diagnosed with Melanoma at 82, but it was after years spent farming the earth in only overalls and tanning on the rooftops in Vietnam that affected him later on in life. So what can you do about Melanoma? Be aware of the sun’s effects and take preventative measures.

YOUR HISTORY
I sunburn very easily and always have. My shoulders are riddled with freckles from years of blistering sun poisoning. I burn with only the brief contact of sun and I know my history with the sun has me at high risk for skin cancer. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, “One blistering sunburn in childhood or adolescence more than doubles a person’s chances of developing melanoma later in life. A person’s risk for melanoma also doubles if he or she has had five or more sunburns at any age.” When I coach Girls on the Run, I always tell the girls to apply sunscreen because it is important to protect the skin at such an early age.

FAMILY HISTORY
Knowing that my grandfather had skin cancer and members on both sides of my family have biopsied pre-cancerous moles, has also spiked my risk for skin cancer. Get the full report from your family and encourage a healthy dialogue amongst family to be sun savvy together.

SUNSCREEN
I cannot urge this enough, but ALWAYS wear sunscreen. No matter who your ancestors were, what color your skin is, or how much you want that golden tan, just please apply some sunscreen. Whether you’re at the beach, park, or pool, you should continuously apply sunscreen every hour or every time you exit the water. Make sure to apply sunscreen even on a cloudy day. I find I burn on cloudy days especially because I’m not prepared for when the sun peeks out. You can also get burned when there’s snow on the ground because of the reflection of the sun on the ice, so make sure to apply on snow days and ski days as well.

HAT
My mother always brings a hat with her. She’ll wear it when she’s walking around the neighborhood, out on a boat, or working in the backyard. She has always been on my back about wearing one. Since moving out to sunny California, I spend a lot more time outdoors and subsequently have become a lot more freckled. Anytime I Facetime my parents, my mom reminds me to wear a hat so I protect the top of my head and face. I’ve slowly absorbed those words so that whenever you see me on a run, I always have my hat now.

DERMATOLOGIST
Make sure to visit your dermatologist for yearly check ups. Ask questions while you’re there and bring up anything you might want them to pay close attention to. Learn which moles you should keep an eye on as you perform a monthly self-check.

Please be aware of the effects of the sun while you’re running, hiking, biking, swimming, and laying out on the beach. Make a mental check to apply sunscreen before going out the door and you’ll thank yourself. All I ask is for you to respect your body and be safe in the sun.

If you’re feeling really motivated, stop by Sun Savvy and sign the sun pledge like I did. Sun Savvy is run by Alison {av} from Long Distance Loving, whom I had the pleasure of meeting almost three years ago at her Blogger Blitz. I support Sun Savvy, do you?

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