In light of our new company wellness program called “Save the Body,” and for the wellbeing of all of you, I want to share some personal information. I just learned that a close friend has Stage 1 melanoma, or skin cancer. The good news is, it’s operable and it was caught early enough. The more I read about melanoma, though, I see how narrowly he dodged a bullet.
He did what a lot of people do: He thought, I don’t have the kind of coloring susceptible to skin cancer (he’s dark haired, has dark eyes & dark skin). As a result, he was cavalier about using sunscreen. He also kept putting off going to the dermatologist because he’s so busy. When he went to see the dermatologist last Monday, she took one look at the big honkin’ mole on his chest, got in his face and said, “This could be serious. It has all the signs of melanoma.” Since Monday, while awaiting the results, he and I have been like Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz, staring feverishly at our hourglass running out of sand.
My intent is not to spread fear, but rather, to invite you to be cautious and to practice excellent self-care when you are out in the sun. Taking minor precautions can make a huge difference. I used to be a sun worshipper in my early 20’s but fortunately “lost faith” early. For years I’ve been really careful about regularly applying sunscreen. When I went to my dermatologist a couple weeks ago, he told me I had age spots consistent with someone in their late 30’s! (That decade of my life being a distant memory). He asked if I used sunscreen, and I said I did faithfully. I told him I didn’t think it was possible to reverse the sun-damage done in my youth. He told me, “Yes you can. And you did. Keep wearing sunscreen, a hat, and tightly woven clothing, to protect your skin. That stuff makes a difference.” Wearing sunscreen and protective clothing is not just about preventing aging; it’s also about protecting your skin from cancer.
Melanoma is the most common type of cancer in the US, and the most dangerous “form of skin cancer.” More than one million cases are diagnosed each year. I invite you to take the time to apply sunscreen before you go outside. Keep it in your car, by your back door—wherever it’s convenient—just keep it close.
As a result of this experience, our Wellness Program’s slogan, “Save the Body,” has taken on new significance. It reminds us that the littlest upticks in our habits can make a world of difference in our health. I’m amazed at how quickly I’ve made friends with my pedometer. May you forge the same kinship with your sunscreen.