(Posted in honour of Roxanne Howse, 1965-2013)
This weekend marks one year since my sister died of melanoma. Many people have asked me how I am going to honour this event. This is what I would like to do: I would like to honour her, someone who loved life and only wanted more of it, by passing on the words I believe she herself would share so that we can have more of life than she did: Do whatever you can to not get skin cancer. (Warning: Rant coming).
Not all cancers are preventable, but melanoma (skin cancer) is one of the most preventable cancers. We can prevent it by protecting ourselves from the sun by wearing hats and sunscreen. A lot of us don’t do this because we believe a few melanoma myths:
Myth 1: Our hair protects our head from the sun, so we don’t need hats
First of all, most of us have parts in our hair (not covered by hair), and secondly, there is no SPF in hair, sorry to say.
This one gets to me because Roxanne’s cancer started on her head. The doctor said it could have been caused by one bad burn. People argue with me on this one. They say things like “But my head doesn’t burn!” (of course it does) or “I don’t like hats!” (I assure you, you will like cancer less). So go shopping and find a hat that you love to wear and wear it this summer. Preventing cancer is always in fashion! Remember, not wearing a hat in the sun can cause melanoma just as much as smoking can cause lung cancer. It’s that simple.
Myth 2: Melanoma is not a serious cancer. Just cut off the mole and be done with it.
It’s true that lots of people get small melanomas that, once removed, are all gone. That is called stage one, and that’s why getting those little moles checked out early is so important. Because after stage one, there are other stages. At stage two you need invasive surgery. At stage three you need invasive treatments. At stage four, people die.
Myth 3: “I just need a base tan.”
This one drives me to distraction. There is no such thing as safe skin damage. All skin discoloration is damage. Tans. Base tans. And don’t even get me started on tanning beds. All these things can cause melanoma. This is why when I see you with a tan I will never tell you that you look good. You know what I see when I see a tan? I see cancer. I assure you cancer is far less attractive than your “pale” skin. (And don’t forget – if you are fair, and especially if you are a red head, you are even more susceptible to melanoma). Can we stop telling people they have a “nice tan?” If you must say something, say what is true: “Nice potentially cancer causing skin damage!” (Hard to call it “nice” then, isn’t it?)
Would you like to honour my sister, and the many others who have lost their life to this terrible disease? You don’t need to walk, run, donate money or shave your head (although those things are wonderful). You can do something just by saying “I will learn from her loss.” And do this:
1. Wear hats
2. Wear sunscreen
3. Spread the word!
And, remember – if you need a buddy, I’m always up for hat shopping!
I have attached some pictures here of how easy it is to find great hats.
(I bought this hat at a little store in St. John’s – the great thing is that it actually is designed to have an SPF of 60. $30. The kids are also looking great in their hats)
(This is one of my favourite hats ever. I bought it 6 years ago at a little store while on vacation. Little stores are great for hats. Boutiques are the hat-lovers friends!)
(I couldn’t find a good picture of me with this hat, but it’s a great one. I bought it at Le Chateau for a mere $20 ! I also support Sharlene’s hat choice in this picture).
(And there’s always the good old baseball hat!! I believe this is an Old Navy special for only $5!)
Thrift Stores are also a great place for hats. Afraid of what the old owner left behind? The trick is to put the hat in the freezer for 24 hours to kill any bugs. Of course some hats are also washable!! Happy Hat Shopping!