It's Summer and I Have Skin Cancer

I have a basal cell carcinoma and am having Moh's surgery. I'm scared and I'm upset and I just want the surgery to be over. But in the meanwhile, I recently got a bad sunburn while riding in a bike event. I was riding with my daughter and my friend in a Farm to Fork Fondo, 38 miles across farmland in New York. It was beautiful and it was a challenging ride because of the heat and the hills, and the last thing I was thinking about was getting sunburned on my back. I know that the upcoming surgery and the fact that I had another basal cell carcinoma were on my mind, and I was even talking about it with my friend before the ride, as we were waiting in line to check in. But I was also hoping to put the surgery out of my mind for several hours during the ride.

Missing a spot

Both my friend and my daughter put sunscreen on as we waited to get our map, t-shirt, and other goodie bag samples before embarking on the ride. I put plenty of sunscreen on my face, shoulders, arms, and legs before heading out on our ride, but I forgot that my tank top was cut out on the sides in the back. And that's where I got the sunburn. I didn't notice it when we first got home, but after I took a shower, my back was hurting, and I looked and saw the red marks of a sunburn and felt the heat. I felt stupid. How could I let this happen when I already had a basal cell carcinoma and was waiting to have surgery? I realized that in order to maintain my outdoor lifestyle I would have to make some changes to my attitude and behavior in the sun, or actually, during all the daytime hours, since I know in the back of my head that the sun is always out, even when it’s cloudy.

Being thorough with sunscreen

I know I need to be more vigilant about applying sunscreen, and to think about the fact that while it feels so good to be outside in the beautiful weather, it's also somewhat dangerous and I need to remember to reapply sunscreen throughout the day. All of that seems so simple as I think about it now, but it's so easy to forget. I want to feel in control of what I do in terms of when I go to the beach, go bike riding, or even go for a walk, but I also want to have some control over what happens to me health-wise. So my next task is to figure out how best to remember to not just rush outside and do whatever it is I'm doing that day, but to also remember to take precautions. You would think that having had two basal cell carcinomas, and as a person who exercises daily and follows a healthy diet, that this would be easy to do. But it's not. I am very concerned about my heart health, given my family history of heart disease, and I do everything I can to minimize my risk of heart attack and stroke. But when it comes to protecting myself against skin cancer, why is it a little difficult for me to remember to wear sunscreen and to make sure I apply it to every exposed area of my body?

Making adjustments

I think the difficulty lies in the fact that I love being outside, and that walking and running and biking outside help me deal with stress in a healthy way. I walk with friends to catch up, I try to walk with coworkers to get out of the office and get some exercise during the day. So to me, being outside is associated with freedom and stress reduction, and it's also healthy. And I don't want a diagnosis of skin cancer to change my perception of being outside. I guess I just want to go, to run out the door for a run, or to grab a friend when I have a break from work to take a quick walk. But, I also don’t want to have another skin cancer, so I'm going to work on trying to remember to take precautions. I am going to keep sunscreen handy to put on every time I head out the door. And maybe I’ll throw some in my purse.

How do you remember to wear sunscreen during all of your regular daily activities? What do you do if and when you sit outside at a restaurant, and the only tables are in the sun? Do you ask to be moved inside? What if you decide to take a walk after leaving a museum or some other indoor activity? Let me know what you do.

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