Thankful for Skin Cancer?

Although being thankful can (and should) be practiced year around, Thanksgiving is an especially good time for people to count their blessings. One thing I am thankful for is my skin cancer diagnosis. Before you think I’ve completely lost my mind, let me tell you why.

Former sun worshipper

In my younger days, when I was a child, a teenager, a young adult, and even into my late 20’s and early 30’s, I loved the sun. I loved the warmth of the sun on my skin. I loved how relaxing it felt to be in the sun. I have fair skin, freckles, lighter colored hair, and blue eyes. I was born with red hair. I will never be able to get a deep, dark tan, but I still loved being in the sun and I spent far more time in the sun than I should have.

Not taking skin cancer seriously

In 1995, I had my first skin cancer diagnosis, which resulted in my first skin cancer surgery. It was a relatively minor surgery, all things considered. Even though it was on my face, I had an excellent plastic surgeon perform the surgery, and I healed well. That was a blessing and a curse, because since the removal, surgery and healing went so smoothly, I didn’t take my diagnosis as seriously as I should have. I assumed that skin cancer was a ‘one and done’ deal, and I continued with my sun-loving ways.

Skin cancer recurrence

It wasn’t until my second skin cancer area appeared that I started taking skin cancer seriously. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I would have skin cancer for the rest of my life. I started being more aware of good sun habits, and my days of lounging on a beach for hours on end, without sunscreen (or with minimal sunscreen) were over.

What if?

This makes me have to wonder, what would have happened had I continued with my sun-loving ways? I’m pretty sure that one result would be that my skin would look more aged, but an even more serious consequence could have been that I might have had far more skin cancer areas by now than I have had. I’ve been ‘lucky’ enough that all but one of my cancerous areas have been basal cell, but what if I spent the last 20+ years with the same sun habits that I used to have? Would I now have melanoma? Would my skin cancer areas appear much more frequently?

I don’t know the answers to those questions, but I do know that my skin cancer diagnosis forced me to take better care of my skin. Granted, it took me awhile to realize that, and I am still a work in progress, but I am so much better now about sun awareness than I was years ago. And for that, I am very thankful.

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