One Step Forward, Five Steps Back

Today, I’m angry. Typically, I’m an even-keeled person. Usually I have a positive outlook. Today I’m not, and today I don’t.

My daughter, who is 20 and loves to go to the tanning salon, told me in May that she canceled her tanning bed membership. This was after many requests from me that she stop going to the tanning bed, which she had ignored.

A mother's wish comes true, then doesn't

One evening, I told her I’d received messages from three different women in the same week who had all lost their young (in their early 20s) daughters to melanoma, and I could tell she was contemplating what I had just said. My daughter told me the next day that she would be canceling her membership, and she did. I was so happy. So happy in fact that I wrote an article about it being the best gift she could have possibly given me for Mother’s Day.

But recently, she went back to the tanning salon. After only a few months of being away from tanning beds, she returned. When I asked why, she said she felt ugly without a tan, and that she feels better about herself when she has a tan, and that she thinks her clothes look better on her when she’s tan. And also that she was getting ready for a vacation so she wanted some color. She was going to Alaska, though. She didn’t need a tan in Alaska. There would be no tropical beaches, no hours upon hours of people sunbathing.

Why I'm angry

I’m angry because way too many people feel like we have to be tan to fit in. Like we have to be tan to look good. Like we can’t go on a vacation unless we have a “base tan.” I’m angry that going to the tanning bed can be addictive. Don’t believe that? Take a look online; there are more than a few articles about being addicted to tanning.

I’m angry that despite all the evidence of how harmful tanning beds are, and how people can indeed be addicted to them, the United States hasn’t yet followed the lead of other countries (Australia, Brazil, Belgium, Spain, and Germany, for instance) and banned tanning salons. Instead, tanning salons remain a big business in the U.S.

Tanning and skin cancer need to be taken seriously

I told my daughter it’s like she’s a drug addict who was clean for a short while and now she’s using again. Not quite the same, I know, but it feels a bit similar. She thinks I’m over-reacting. My 23+ year history with skin cancer begs to differ, though, about over-reacting. I’m angry that with each time she goes to the tanning bed, she’s increasing her chances of getting melanoma, or basal cell carcinoma, or squamous cell carcinoma.

I’m angry that far too many people don’t take skin cancer seriously. I’m angry that even after seeing what all I’ve been through with my skin cancer treatments and surgeries, it’s still not enough to dissuade my daughter from going. I’m angry because I don’t know what to do to convince her to stop using tanning beds.

Not giving up

I’m angry because it’s breaking my heart that she could end up dying from skin cancer some day. I wanted better for her. I still do. I’m angry that despite all the skin awareness efforts, it seems that it sometimes it’s just not enough. I’m not giving up though. I can’t give up, not on her, and not on continuing efforts to raise awareness. In the words of Marie Curie, “the way of progress is neither swift nor easy.” I’m feeling you, Madame Curie. I’m definitely feeling you.

By providing your email address, you are agreeing to our privacy policy.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Join the conversation

Please read our rules before commenting.