It's All In The Family
Skin cancer is not just an individual and personal issue for me. It is a family issue and in a larger sense, a community issue. What happens to me affects my wife and my children in very real ways and what affects families affects communities. When I met my wife, Kathy, in 1990, she knew little about how my malignant melanoma two years prior would affect her and our future family. I will let her tell her side of the story:
A wife's story
When someone in your family has had skin cancer, it changes your perspective. When or if you think of your skin, although high school science class and trivia games tells you it’s the largest organ in the body, it’s about acne or wrinkles or winter dryness. You don’t think about vulnerability to cancer. My husband and brother have both had melanoma. It was our familiarity with the “mole ABC’s” that led to my brother’s diagnosis. We hadn’t seen him in a while. When he came to visit, our first words of joyous reunion were, “What’s that on your arm?!” When someone you love has had skin cancer, your priorities change. Different first things come first.
Protecting children from the sun
When my kids went out to play, my mantra became, “Sunscreen!” before, “Stay where I can see you!” Our New York laws for field trips don’t permit teachers to apply sunscreen. I get it. But what about their health safety? Can they apply the sprays themselves? Do they really need a doctor’s note? These are things you have to think about, ask about, now that skin cancer, the deadliest form, runs in both sides of their family.
Those are my legs!
We live in Buffalo. Once when I wore shorts for the first time of the season, my husband seriously asked me if I were wearing tights under them. I looked at him to make sure he was seriously asking that. “Those are my legs!!” They were pretty white, I guess! The days of baby oil and rooftop sunbathing were long gone! So, I have exchanged one vanity for another. I’m vain enough not to wrinkle prematurely. People can’t believe how old I am, even if I’m on the fairer side.
Coming to terms with putting sun safety first
So, my kids have grown up with bicycle helmets and sunscreen and letting me know where they are. We don’t take family vacations to the beach, at least not during peak sun, and the beach isn’t the whole vacation. We plan museums and theme parks and visits with family and friends. Our lives are full, and Lord willing and a little skin consideration, beautifully long!
Final thoughts from Scott
I have an understanding and thoughtful wife who has been understanding and helpful in so many ways. During this holiday season, I am reminded of all that I am thankful for and she is one. It is critical to have supportive family and friends around you after your diagnosis, during your treatment and for the many years of watchful and diligent monitoring. It is so much easier to make safe and sound decisions regarding sun protection if those around you are on the lookout as well.
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