A woman's speech bubble, which is filled with a hat and sunscreen symbol, wraps around behind her head, shading her from the intense sun rays above.

Here Comes the Sun – Living in Fear of the Sun

Unlike a lot of cancer, melanoma is one of the few that is really cause and effect. If you don’t practice sun safety you could get skin cancer. It’s something that feels like your fault - I imagine smokers with lung cancer would have a similar thought process. But quitting smoking is very different from quitting the sun...there’s not a patch for that!

Coping with the fear of the sun after skin cancer

I would never have thought the sun would become a fear trigger for me, people associate the sun with a healthy glow, sun-kissed skin, and warmth on your face. But for me, it means death, which is not a healthy mental space to be in! So, here are a few of the key times I feel my sun fear triggers flare-up and how I manage that.

1. Exercise

Obviously, the easy solution is workout inside, but sometimes you want to get out in nature, walk on the beach or go for a hike, both of which are excellent for your mental health. So for me, it’s about timing and preparation. When I exercise I do it in the early hours of the day or late afternoon. I also make sure I have a long sleeve top on if I know I will be in direct sunlight. I ALWAYS apply sunscreen to my body and face and I also wear a hat and sunglasses.

2. Holidaying

This is the hardest one, unfortunately. My idea of the perfect holiday is sitting by the pool with a cocktail in my hand and the warmth of the sun on my skin. But it doesn’t look quite like that anymore. Instead, I opt for a chair under shade and when I go in the pool I wear long sleeve sun protective wear, hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen (make sure you wait 20 mins for it to sink in before getting in the water). I am also mindful of the UV index and I don’t lay by the pool all day, even if it is in the shade.

3. When you don't expect it

When you’re driving in your car, when your work colleague says ‘let’s go for a walk to get coffee’, or when you get to the restaurant and the only seats left are outside. It’s all of those times when you least expect it that can make your stress levels go through the roof. My contingency plan is to always have a spare hat and sunscreen in my car and at my desk at work. I am also honest with the people around me and I will say ‘I have skin cancer am I able to wait for a table inside’, or ‘can we go for our coffee in the afternoon when the sun isn’t as strong?' Don’t be ashamed to speak up, this is your life!

At the end of the day, all you can do is your best, we aren’t vampires, we do need a little vitamin D from time to time and hiding in the shadow’s isn’t always realistic. I apply sunscreen every single morning before leaving the house, to combat my fear of the sun after skin cancer. I like to think of myself as a ‘Sun Scout’ – always prepared!

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