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Real Talk: Frustration vs. Protection

Real Talk: Frustration vs. Protection

You make reservations. Tickets are purchased. You and your friends start to research restaurant reviews. You make lists of all the things that need to be packed or grabbed on the next visit to Wal-mart, and you start counting the days–vacation time is almost here! A vacation involving outdoor activities, theme park visits, or beach and lake time take on a whole new meaning if you are battling skin cancer, reeling from the effects of a recent skin cancer surgery, or skin cancer has touched your life in any way. There exists a constant battle between wanting everyone in your group to be happy and free to enjoy the trip and the overwhelming desire to stay protected from the sun’s ultraviolet rays.

Reservations….and not the good kind

Lurking in the back of your mind as you prepare for your activities are a million and one questions about the sun. What’s the weather going to be like today? Sunny all day or cloudy? Shoot, even if it’s cloudy, I’ll need my sunscreen. How long will we be outside? Will I have to be out during peak hours? Are there going to be plenty of chances to reapply sunscreen? Are they going to get tired of me stopping to reapply? Should I just stay in the hotel room until evening?

Casting a cloud on vacation days

As someone who has dealt with melanoma, basal cell carcinoma, and the side effects of applying topical chemotherapy cream to treat actinic keratoses, I can tell you that you are far from alone in your worry. As much as a vacation should be about relaxation, time with family and friends, and a break from stress, it can quickly become a moment to moment fight to avoid what scares us most–the sunlight. I will be the first to admit that my recent trip to Orlando resulted in my spending an inordinate amount of time calculating when I would next need to reapply sunscreen on myself and my children. I was completely consumed with thoughts of finding shady spots as we walked from attraction to attraction at Universal Studios beneath the bright and beautiful Florida skies. Even as we boarded one of the most thrilling coasters in Florida, my thoughts went to the amount of time I would be in direct sunlight as we made our way around the track. Crazy? No. Frustrating? Without a doubt.

The urge to give in

Protecting our skin, like everything else we do to stay healthy, takes effort. I can’t say there aren’t times when it seems easier to stay inside and avoid the rays like a vampire. (There have been several days this year in the sweltering summer heat of Tennessee when I have wanted desperately to hide out and forego all suncare products, hole up on the couch, and skip the entire process of preparing for time outdoors.) The fear of the sun defeating my efforts can be almost incapacitating at times. Seldom do I voice my fears because I don’t want my children to become paranoid, and I don’t want friends to see me as a hindrance to activities. On I trudge–and not without my own list of resentments and regrets.

Finding your balance

I’m going to get raw and real with you right now, folks. At the end of the day, quite literally, it was the mirror that kept me grounded on that vacation. When all was said and done and I saw no red skin, no lines, and I was sporting the same alabaster shade I had stepped outdoors with that morning, I was proud of myself. Making it through each day with numerous reapplications, time in the shade, and activities planned to avoid the harshest part of the day, I conquered the beast. We don’t do it without planning and dedication, but we can indeed do it. If I can pull myself up and out and soldier on, you can too. It’s up to us, friends, to find that healthy balance between fear and protection. My mirror is my balance–my smack back to reality. What will yours be?

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.


  • jwbwater
    1 year ago

    This is a constant struggle. I’ve amassed a collection of items I refer to as my angry photon defense kit: cowboy hat, long sleeve summer shirts and pants, and of course a collection of what I call my bank robber masks. Some of these are just tubes of fabric used to cover my face when the sun is too low in the sky for my hat to be effective, one is a full on balaclava that replaces my hat entirely. I definitely get some funny looks wearing this stuff, but I can either look funny keeping my skin out of the sun or look funny from 5FU. I choose option numero uno.

  • April Pulliam moderator author
    1 year ago

    Oh, my gosh! You have no idea how much I love that you call it your angry photon defense kit! That is perfect! There’s really almost no way to explain accurately how frustrating it is to fight this battle and second guess yourself and the weather all day every day. It sounds like you have hit the point where you’ve developed the ideal attitude, though. For that, I’m sure you are thankful. I admire your dedication to keeping covered. Efudex is no joke, and anything you can do to avoid it is more than advisable. You keep on keeping on! April,, Moderator

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