A woman exercising in the water.

Regaining Control

We all want to feel like we are in control of our own lives, and I am certainly no exception. In fact, it is so important to me to maintain control that I work hard to be very organized, and I am a super planner. Spur-of-the-moment weekend getaways? Nope, not for me. Spontaneous plans? Well, no, not really. I make plans in advance to remain in control of the details. However, when you get a skin cancer diagnosis, everything feels out of control. The reason being, the rug is essentially pulled out from underneath your feet.

Life after a skin cancer diagnosis

My latest skin issue was a severely atypical dysplastic nevus in February 2022. The dermatologist told me to really limit my sun exposure going forward. He recommended that I wear a sun hat when I am outdoors, and he stated that a wide-brimmed sun hat provides the best protection for your face, neck, and ears. The dermatologist also recommended that I wear sunscreen, every day, on my entire body. Finally, he recommended that I use medical-grade sunscreen on my face. In 2018, I had squamous cell carcinoma on my lower lip that was surgically removed...four times. Now, a recurrence on my face was a big concern.

Struggling to embrace these recommendations

I would not think of knowingly going against a doctor’s express directions, but just to be totally honest, I really struggled with embracing the dermatologist’s recommendations. I thought "only guys wear hats, and they wear ball caps, right?" I am just not a hat person. I have never worn a hat, and for sure, I am not in favor of wearing a hat every day. And a wide-brimmed hat? Ugh, how will that look? What will people think? I am sure that will make me stand out. Also, I have never liked sunscreen. I do not like the way it feels on my skin. It is greasy, and it makes me feel dirty.

I'm no stranger to the sun

I have always enjoyed a life in the sun, and that life made me feel happy and very alive. I believe that is why so many people vacation regularly at the beach or go to the resorts in Mexico. Regardless, that was my former, misguided perspective.

Adjusting to a new life

So, how did I go about regaining control and taking my life back? Primarily, I tried to find things that remained in my control and then exert that control. For me, the pool in the summer has always been a popular activity. As both a child and a teenager, I spent endless summer days swimming at my family’s community pool. Where I live now, in Dallas, Texas, I have a pool on the roof of the building where I live. Unfortunately, the rooftop pool has almost no shade or other meaningful sun protection. Considering my skin issues, I decided that it was no longer a reasonable option for me to swim in the rooftop pool at my building. I also decided that any other outdoor pool in Dallas in the summer was not a good option. After giving it quite a bit of thought, I decided I could still swim at a pool in the summer in Dallas, and an indoor pool would be a wise option for me.

I found my perfect pool

In my search for the perfect indoor pool, I called all over Dallas to get information about indoor pools so I could compare and contrast the offerings. Was the pool chlorinated or salt water? Did the pool have sun coming in the windows? What hours was the pool open? Did the pool have designated lanes and expect you to swim laps? How close geographically was the pool to my house and job? How much did pool membership cost? Could I bring friends with me to the pool and make it a social thing? I made a big production out of my pool selection process, and I visited several pools. Eventually, I decided on the perfect indoor pool for me, and I joined it.

Exerting the little control I have

While it may sound like a simple, meaningless step that I took to join an indoor pool, it was really so much more. By taking that one step, I regained some control over my life. My skin cancer issues have imposed several restrictions on me and my daily life, but the most important thing for me to remember is that I still have options. I also have the control over my life to choose among those options. Hooray!

How do you exercise control over skin cancer?

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