Skin Cancer, My Five Biggest Mistakes

In the film and television industry, we have blooper reels. These are a compilation of the errors made on set during filming. They range from actors forgetting their lines, props falling or not working, bad lighting or sound, or a myriad of other issues. Since we are all human, these bloopers happen every day and are celebrated (after a while.)

My skin cancer blooper reel

When it comes to good skin care practices and prevention, skin cancer diagnoses, treatment and advocacy, I have my own blooper reel. Thank goodness nobody ever filmed these.

I have made plenty of mistakes. These were not necessarily one-time mistakes but were errors in judgment that became habitual issues. Here are the biggest mistakes, honest or otherwise, that I have made.

Learn from me, please.

  • Ignoring the voice inside me. In the back of my mind, I have known that sunburns are not good for me. I don’t just mean the actual pain and discomfort and the peeling. These are obviously negative consequences that are easily understood. I mean that I knew that burning my skin was going to lead to bigger problems at some point. I ignored that voice inside of me and burned anyway.
  • I let other’s opinions define me. I remember back in college having a crush on a girl named Beth. She had always had a boyfriend and I always felt that she was out of my league. I remember seeing her after going to the beach. I had fried myself, but she said she loved me in a tan. I kept that tan my entire junior just for Beth. We never went out once, but I always kept myself tan in the off chance that I might run into her on campus. Sad!
  • Boycotted the out-of-doors. After my melanoma diagnosis in 1988, I basically boycotted being outside. I was in Southern California and stopped enjoying everything that was fun for me. I made no effort to modify my behavior in ways so as to still enjoy being outside. It became all or nothing. This type of hermit lifestyle defined the last two years I lived in California and I haven’t lived there since. I would like to have those two years back.
  • I have been too preachy at times. I may have caused more harm than good in my approach to warning others about the dangers of the sun. It came from a good place within me, a desire to help others. But, as I learned, sometimes the carrot works better than the stick. I can have a strong personality at times and I hope that nobody missed the message because of the messenger. Be careful how you come across.
  • Sunscreen burn-out. At times, I have been too lax in protecting myself from the sun. I just got tired of taking so many precautions. I sort of overcompensated for those early years after my melanoma. I had skin cancer fatigue and allowed myself to get too much sun, especially when my children were little. They had ball games and I had other outdoor events in which I completely ignored sunscreen. I didn’t fry but I am sure that my sun exposure during those times affect how I am now. Don’t burn out (no pun intended) when it comes to sun care. The price is too high.

Those are my top five. I will post the next five soon. What are your top mistakes?

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