This is another guest post – and one that you need to read. It’s about you and will help you understand why you need to wear sunscreen EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.. even when it’s dark outside, overcast or raining. You can protect yourself from skin cancer easily by wearing sunscreen every day (face, hands, arms, and more in the summer). Learn from this 15-year-old girl- Kennedy- from Orange County, California. She had a melanoma and recognized it early? Would you? Probably not. Would I? Maybe! Read Kennedy’s smart piece here and put yourself into her shoes. Protect yourself, protect your family with sunscreen.
Kennedy tells the truth about this disease!
Power through Education: Block the Blaze
I’ve always been afraid of cancer. My mom had skin cancer in her 20s, so my childhood was filled with sunscreen, checkups at the dermatologist, and a rashguard at the beach. I was always smothered in sunscreen, the odor of “unscented” lotion heavy in the air. Even though I would reap the benefits of wearing sunscreen in the future, at the time, nothing said middle school popularity quite like Coppertone.
My name is Kennedy, and I am a 15-year-old high school sophomore living in Southern California. I love creative outlets such as reading, writing, drawing, and photography. I play soccer for three teams — club, school, and a recreational beach team. When I’m not playing soccer or in school, I can likely be found outside, hiking or at the beach with friends. During my summers in middle school, I participated in the California Junior Lifeguard’s 6-week program offered at a local beach.
Junior Guards is where I first learned about the John Wayne Cancer Foundation (JWCF). A representative from Block the Blaze, JWCF’s youth skin cancer education program, visited my beach to educate us on sun safety, skin cancer prevention, and self-screening. Each summer, Block the Blaze reaches 23,000 youth in California through the Junior Lifeguard program — totally more than 240,000 since the program started. Although the importance of sunscreen had been drilled into my brain since childhood, Block the Blaze taught me a new piece of information that turned out to be crucially important — melanomas can appear as pink or blue moles.
In the spring of eighth grade, a new mole on my forearm emerged and I noticed it was pink, not brown. As it grew, it became more red with a raised diameter. It made my stomach sink when I looked at it, but I shook off that feeling and focused on finishing junior high. Once a noticeable pink dome emerged, I insisted on an appointment with the dermatologist. The doctor didn’t think the mole was concerning, but since it bothered me, he offered to continue to keep an eye on it or remove it. Remembering what I learned from Block the Blaze, I opted for removal.
The mole was removed on a Friday afternoon in September, the same day as the “Welcome Frosh Dance” at school. My forearm was stitched up with a single thread, only a small ‘x’ marked the surgical spot. The doctor promised to call with the results the following week and assured me I would be fine. I left feeling relieved, the focus of so much anxiety and fear was finally gone.
That night, I danced in my Hawaiian shirt, generic white medical tape securing the piece of soft
gauze to my arm. That weekend, I played in two soccer games. I went to dinner with friends. I caught up on homework. I was a normal teenager.
Four days later, my mom sat in our car, waiting for me to finish an appointment. When I opened the door and climbed inside, I could tell instantly that something was wrong. She told me that I was lucky, over and over again. I was lucky that I had caught it early. I was lucky because the doctor said that there was a separate mass blocking the melanoma from spreading any faster. I was lucky that I knew to beware of pink moles.
At that moment, though, I did not feel lucky. I was thirteen, and I had cancer? Of course, my chance of survival was about 101%, but the word still scared me to death. Two weeks later, I had surgery to remove the melanoma, coincidentally at the John Wayne Cancer Institute in Santa Monica.
Since then, I regularly see three different dermatologists. From head to toe, my skin is examined and analyzed every other month. I’m more vigilant, but also much more worried that my other moles could be melanoma. I’ve had 37 moles biopsied over the past two years, four of which came back as “severely abnormal,” or potentially cancerous.
One of my dermatologists always reminds me that I cannot forget to live my life. For the time being, that means SPF 30+ sunscreen, whether or not I like the smell. At the beach, I always opt for a rash-guard on top of my two-piece. My hat collection, which started at zero, has grown.
I like to think of my experience with cancer as a hiccup, even though it is something that I’ll have to be mindful of for the rest of my life. My diagnosis taught me to never think twice about sunscreen, it’s always better to be safe than sorry. Thanks to JWCF
John Wayne Cancer Foundation
Block the Blaze:
● Website: JohnWayne.org/BlockTheBlaze
Kennedy’s Letter to Block the Blaze:
● Article: johnwayne.org/2016/12/19/block-blaze-saving-lives-education/
Tell a Friend, Tell the World: Block the Blaze!
Thank you to Kennedy and her very personal brush with skin cancer.
That’s downright scary for Kennedy and her entire family. It’s also true that if you don’t wear sunscreens and do body checks for moles, you too could get skin cancer. And that is nothing to sneeze about. I wear sunblock every single day- when I take my dog out for a walk before it’s light and when it is light out. It’s important to be aware of changes in your own body because things you think are “nothing” can easily turn into something deadly.
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