A man with sunburned skin puts his hand in front of his face.

I Believed the Lies and Got Burned

I was diagnosed with malignant melanoma in 1988. I remember vividly that day in Pasadena, California when my dermatologist described my situation and talked about my need for multiple surgeries. I looked back, too. I recalled my endless hours in tanning booths and on beaches. It had become so clear to me. I had been lied to and because of those lies, I was completely ignorant as to what I had been doing to my skin. I believed the lies.

I thought getting a "base tan" would be good for me

I believed the lie that I needed a “base tan” before I went on vacation so that I would not burn on the beach or by the pool when I was away. For my fair skin, this usually meant that I would burn BEFORE my trip and hoped it would look tan after in preparation for the serious tanning (burning) opportunities, which lay ahead of me. I would show up at Catalina Island already beet red with sunburn and in pain. The truth-teller would have been that all tanning is actually evidence of damage, the “baseless” tan.

I thought being tan would make me more appealing

I believed the lie that being tan would make me more appealing to myself and others. I thought that my outward appearance was more important than my inward character. The lie told me that my natural skin tone was not good enough, that I was NOT good enough. The liar told me that my value and self-worth were tied up in my appearance. The truth-teller would have told me to work on my insides more than my outsides, that I was “fearfully and wonderfully made”.

I didn't think it was dangerous

I believed the lie that skin cancer just skin cancer, and was not dangerous like other cancers. I was duped into thinking that it was only “skin deep”. The lie went something like this: “Only older men who had been golfers, fishermen or farmers got skin cancer on their heads and it was more of a nuisance than anything else.” The truth-teller would have told me that skin cancer can kill and maim. It was so much easier to convince myself that tanning was healthy rather than the opposite.

I thought tanning salons were convenient

I believed the lie that tanning salons were safe. I found them convenient and on those few Southern California days without full sunshine, I could get all the rays I wanted. I wanted to believe that my gym would never put me at risk when it offered discounted tanning sessions in the back of the aerobics studio. The truth-teller would have told me that dangerous ultraviolet rays were emitted by those sunlamps and that those rays could be a killer.

I thought suntan oil protected me

I believed the lie that suntan oil would protect me from any sun damage. I put my full trust in that coconut concoction as I burned mercilessly at every beach in Los Angeles. Those billboards touting these products had me convinced that I was safe under their care. The truth-teller would have told me that SPF 2 would keep me safe for only 20 minutes or so before I would start basting and baking and that Madison Avenue ad campaigns may not be medically sound.

I could go on and on about all the lies I believed, but I believe them no more and that’s the truth.

What lies have you believed?

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