Bahama Breezes and Skin Cancer

Over my daughter’s Christmas break from college, we went to the Bahamas for a week. Going on a beach vacation has been at the top of her want-to-do list for a while, but I had been putting it off. Why in the world would I want to put a vacation to a tropical location on the back burner? The answer is this: because I have skin cancer. And my skin cancer won’t go away. I’ve had it for over twenty years, and in 2015 I had a significant surgery for skin cancer removal (and several smaller surgeries since then).

Sun protection at a beach resort

Since my 2015 surgery, I’ve taken extra steps to protect my skin when I’m in the sun and to try to limit sun exposure during peak hours of the day. But how in the world was I supposed to stay vigilant for an entire week, when I’m at a resort that’s on a beach and has six swimming pools? That was the big question, and that made me nervous.

Packing the sunscreen and extra protection

My daughter was super excited for the trip, and it didn’t take long for her to pack her necessities for the week. My packing, however, required more thought and planning. Shorts, tops, dressier clothes for night and swimsuits, of course, but those wouldn’t protect my pale skin from the sun in a location that, on day we flew there, was 87 degrees warmer than it was at our house (the temperature at home was a balmy -11 as we left for the airport).

Into my suitcase also went coverups and hats for my daughter and me. The hats were large enough to shade our faces and necks from the sun. Also, we made a run to Target the night before vacation to stock up on sunscreen. I figured she’d be more likely to use it if she got the kind she wanted, instead of something I picked out for her.

We ended up getting sunscreen with SPF 30, SPF 50 and SPF 70, and also a sunscreen stick that she said she likes for her nose because it’s always the first to burn. I was happy she was planning on using sunscreen, because when she goes on vacation without me, I don’t think she uses it. This was progress!

Researching ahead of time for shade options

Something I did prior to our vacation which actually worked out great, at least with the resort where we stayed, was I researched whether the resort had pool/beach umbrellas. Photos on the website of the pool area showed that they have umbrellas and also cabanas, but having never been to this resort and knowing it has a large number of guest rooms, I wondered if it wouldn’t be possible to get an umbrella if the hotel was busier and people snagged them early.

So, I emailed the concierge at the resort and asked if pool umbrellas are available, and if so, if there would be a way to guarantee to get one. I explained that I am a skin cancer survivor and cannot be in the sun for long periods of time. I also included the link to my Facebook page in case they needed to confirm anything (if you want to take a peek at it). The concierge responded that they would make sure I was guaranteed an umbrella.

Raising awareness one story at a time

Once we arrived, I found out they took it a step further and actually reserved two chairs and an umbrella at one of the pools for my daughter and me, and resort’s activity director tracked me down after our arrival so he could personally introduce himself and let me know we had ‘reserved seating.’ (He also told me he had read my story on Facebook, which he said he found inspiring – yay for raising skin cancer awareness even when I’m on vacation!)

Between my hat, coverup, and lots of sunscreen, I did not get a sunburn, and we ended up having a wonderful vacation. Now that I’m a little more confident about being in a tropical location, I think it may be time to start planning our next trip!

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