the importance of self-exams

I’m going out of my comfort zone today to bring you some information that I think is pertinent, relevant and potentially life-saving. As bad as I hate to admit this, it’s the truth and the purpose for this post:

I did not wear sunscreen when I was younger.

Summer is right around the corner and I doubt there’s anybody more excited than me to see this school year conclude…it’s been one helluva ride! Nonetheless, summertime usually involves reading a book on the porch, mowing the yard, watching the Husband team rope, trips to the pool or river, and hours picking corn and other produce from my parent’s garden in Kentucky. That’s a lot of time outdoors.

I played competitive junior golf for 12 years, including junior high and high school in Kentucky and collegiate golf in Texas. I spent countless hours on the golf course year-round. During the summer, I’d be on the course from dusk to dark. Before I was old enough to drive a car, Mom would drop me off at the country club on her way to work and she or Dad (or I’d bum a ride with somebody else) would pick me up after dark. During the competitive season, I’d stay on the driving range and practice green during the cool morning hours and then walk (yeah, the kind of golf that requires you to walk and carry your clubs) 36+ holes during the hottest part of the day. Stupid? Yes. Strange? Of course. Beneficial? You betcha.

Photo: The Journal Enterprise

If you saw my skin tone now, you’d think I was lying about my past. I’m fair-skinned and I’m perfectly satisfied with this. Being tanned is NOT a priority anymore. Honestly, the moment the dermatologist said she was “concerned” about a couple of places on my face, arm, and leg I immediately had this wave of regret rush over me. I used to have this great tan (the infamous “golfer’s tan” with the bright white feet) but the price I had to pay later was high. Before my 25th birthday, I had a skin cancer scare.

At 24, I had a mole removed from my back. This was eye-opening for me because my back did not get tanned, it rarely got exposed to the sun. Fortunately, the spot was lab-tested and the results were negative for melanoma.

Thank you, Lord.

However, my parents have had their own scares in recent years and two of my Dad’s tested positive. Luckily, they were removed and he had successful treatment procedures.

Thank you, Lord.

The days of being happy-go-lucky and going outside without ample amounts of sunscreen are over. DONE. I don’t play nearly as much golf as I used to and that has definitely influenced my lighter skin tone and skin-care regimen. I apply sunscreen with an SPF of 30 daily under my makeup, my powder foundation includes SPF 15, I constantly apply SPF 30 lip balm, and my sunglasses are always with me and they have UVB protection as well.

The invention of spray sunscreen is wonderful. I especially love Neutrogena’s Ultimate Sport with Helioplex. The SPF is really high and it definitely provides coverage. I first used this sunscreen when I went to Mexico two years ago. I was very satisfied. I’m terrible about reapplying sunscreen, but the spray can is very convenient and useful. Plus, your hands stay clean and dry. This has proven useful when I’m outside with Kevin and he’s got me working in all kinds of dirty conditions (i.e. building/welding a fence, mowing, etc).

I’m definitely not a doctor, but I’m familiar with the ABC’s of skin-care self-exams. You should familiarize yourself with them too:

  • Is it asymmetrical?

  • Is the border irregular?

  • Is there any color variation?

  • Is it larger than 6 millimeters in diameter?

  • Is it evolving?

If you’re curious or suspicious about a blemish, mole, bump, or other skin spot, don’t hesitate to be overly cautious or concerned. Get it checked out by a doctor. I’m sure you’ve heard before, “better safe than sorry.”

For more information, check out these articles recently published on MSN.com. They have additional tips and resources for skin self-checks and dermatology.

Scan Your Skin

Will I Look Like a Monster?

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Comments

  1. I can’t tell you enough of the importance of sunscreen and my sister and I learned the hard way. 6 years ago (the 29th of may to be exact) we lost our mom to melanoma. It was very sudden. We found out on a Thursday that something was wrong and the next day we were told that she was covered from head to toe with the evil cancer and she could be with us for 3 days or 3 months with a miracle. We lost her 2 days later on sunday. Melanoma when not detected is viscous. One of the meanest cancers out there because it spreads so quickly when it reaches a certain level. We lived in the sun, hell we grew up with a tanning bed in our home! We didn’t use it much, it was my moms and it helped clear up her psoriasis. Like I said we lived in the sun weather we were swimming at the country club to out on the boat every weekend. As we got older we followed in the footsteps of our mom and aunts and soaked up as much sun as we could get and never used sunscreen (as young adults, my mom always had sunscreen on us when we were little). Today we still love the outdoors and the sun but we are smart about it now. Always have sunscreen on, no more tanning beds, sun hats etc.
    So please to anyone that reads this post and comments…Check yourself, take it seriously. Melanoma is nothing to mess around with, take care of your skin, where the sunscreen, protect yourself.
    Great post Nicole!

    • Thank you. I have goosebumps reading about your Mom, I’m so sorry for your loss. We all can learn from this though, and take better care of ourselves. It’s a long holiday weekend and lots of people will be outside, but my Aussie blogger-friend Barb (see comment below) has a great tip:

      “Slip, Slop,Slap” – slip on a T-shirt,slop on sunscreen and slap on a hat.

      Blessings to all, and PLEASE wear sunscreen.

  2. We can never start too early to protect our skin, and your post has come at a good time as your summer starts. We have a saying in Australia “Slip, Slop,Slap” – slip on a T-shirt,slop on sunscreen and slap on a hat. It’s drummed into kids at school and we seem to be getting the message here at last. We have one of the highest incidences of skin cancer in the world over here, so we need to educate ourselves.
    A great post – hope it gets read by many.

    • Thank you, Barb – please share the good word with your friends, neighbors, and family. I’m going to remember this “slip, slop, slap” myself – I love catchy phrases like that. Have a great day!

I appreciate all comments and read every single one. (To avoid the spam garbage, I approve them.) Go ahead, share your thoughts - it makes me smile when you do that!

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