Keeping Melanoma Away Begins With Prevention

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When I was a tween, my family took a vacation to Walt Disney World in Florida. During that trip, I got sun poisoning. I only remember two things about that experience. The first is being in the Christmas store at Downtown Disney and wanting to sit down because the backs of my legs hurt so much. The second was lying on my stomach back in the hotel room, with ice packs on my legs, trying to help ease the pain.

It was during that trip that I learned to respect the power of the sun. I understand now that we simply do not get along. I have very fair skin. When I spend too much time in the sun I turn red and burn. Then I turn back to pale. There is no tanning. There is no summer bronze glow, and I’ve learned to be OK with that.

When I became a parent, I was acutely aware of the importance of protecting my son’s skin from the sun. I decided to try my best to prevent my child from having the same issues with the sun that I had experienced in my youth. It’s easy when they are babies — wide brimmed hats and covers on strollers provide a lot of good protection, but once they get mobile it becomes more difficult. In the rush to get out the door and remember everything you need, it can be a challenge to remember the sunscreen, but I think it is something every parent should keep in his or her bag along with baby wipes and hand sanitizer. Children’s skin is especially susceptible to sun damage and, as parents, we need to protect it as best we can, not just at the beach but at the playground and soccer practice, and really anytime they are outside for extended periods of time. Personally, I’m a fan of the spray-on sunscreen that can be quickly and easily applied. However, as I was reminded, applying from a spray can be less effective because most of us don't rub the sunscreen in as is directed. Mental note — always rub in your sunscreen for maximum protection.

In an effort to be more pro-active about my health, and perhaps to set a good example for my son, I recently went to the dermatologist for the first time. I made my appointment after I learned that May is Melanoma Awareness month. Yes, it’s totally weird to have someone look over every inch of skin on your body, including between your toes, with a lighted magnifying lens, but it’s also 100 percent pain-free and easy to do and afterwards, you’ll feel better knowing what is going on with all of your particulars spots and moles. I'm happy to report that I'm in good shape, but I've learned that not protecting your skin from the sun can be quite dangerous … even deadly.

I have a friend who writes a blog about Melanoma Awareness called Black is the New Pink. (http://blackispink.blogspot.com/) He started his blog after losing his brother to this disease. The name of the blog comes from the hope that the success and recognition of the pink ribbon campaign for breast cancer will eventually transfer over to the black ribbon campaign for melanoma. He provides a lot of good information about what melanoma is and how it can be prevented.  Most people have a misconception that if it’s on your skin it can just be cut out and removed. But melanoma is much more pervasive and dangerous than that.

He led me to a local woman who blogs as Polka Dot Mama. (http://polkadotmama.org/). She puts together a gala each year to raise money for melanoma research called A Taste for a Cure and is just one many in our community who are are working hard to fight this preventable and mostly curable disease. It's so much more than just a sunburn or even sun poisoning. Take the time to have a dermatologist look at any suspicious spots or moles. The key to survival is early detection and action. And please keep your kids protected with proper sunscreen, hats and sun glasses when they are out in the sun.  This will help ensure that they have happy summer memories and healthy skin for years to come.

Maureen Churchill works full-time outside the home and is a mom to one wonderful little boy. Check in with her to see how she is searching for ways to balance her work and home responsibilities, as well as what she is doing to consciously slow down and pay more attention to the little moments that actually turn out to be the things that make parenthood magical.

Categories: Health, Searching for Balance

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