Thoughts on a One Year Anniversary

(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!



Add Yours
  1. Ward3

    I have a big problem with this, but it’s only because I have had, and continue to to have, issue with my very fair skinned son about sunblock. Hats are fine, and the top of his head never sees the light of day since he wears a cap all the time. This is good since he recently got a job working outside. I have had a terrible time getting him to wear sunblock though, and he tends to be bright red for most of the summer. A true redneck. I will try again, but it’s not easy to convince a young adult.

    As for hats, when he was young, a friend brought him a legionnaires cap from Australia. I realize we have some decent hats here, but if you want great hat ideas, look to Australians. They really know sun hats. Some of the legionnaire style hats that fit under bike helmets are really quite clever. They are protective, but oh so stylish, and a great way to avoid the redneck look.


  2. friesenandfriesen

    You make a great point – doing it ourselves is one thing and convincing our kids is another!! I see so many young people who don’t care about sunblock, or won’t wear it, and realize that telling a young person “You may get cancer someday” rarely works, as we all think we are invincible at that age. I’ve talked to so many teens that I love – and I feel like the Charlie Brown teacher with them only hearing “wah wah wah wah….” At least he is wearing hats, which is excellent!!

    I think back to myself as a teenager and I LOVED the sun. I had that theory that I needed to burn first so that I would get a better tan later. And I tanned so much that one summer a kid at camp thought I was from India! Seriously I no longer even looked white! Makes me cringe to think about now how badly I treated my skin.

    And I LOVE legionaire’s hats!! Also, you can get t-shirts with SPF that maybe he would be willing to try?

    I believe it’s never too late to start making good choices, so hopefully as he gets older and, like all of us, realizes that our bodies are not indestructible he’ll give sunblock a try. In the meantime, I’m glad you look after your beautiful skin! 🙂


  3. Susan andrus

    Thank you for putting my lecture in your blog. I am usually pale all the time because, I stay out of the sun. I am often told that I look younger than my age. I believe that is due to protecting my face from the sun.
    My father died of melanoma at age 60. I still miss him. Guess what? He was a sun worshiper. He tanned from spring till fall. His cancer went to the form of brain cancer. It was very sad. I agree with you. When I see a person tanned after a trip, I am not sure what to say. all I see is skin damage. Many people still do not get that a tan is not healthy, but your skins effort to protect itself from damaging sun rays.


    • friesenandfriesen

      Susan, you point out another great benefit of sunblock – how great your skin will look! You DO have amazing skin! 🙂
      I’m sorry about the loss of your dad. He too went far too young.


  4. Vanessa

    Baseball hats are great, but don’t forget those ears if that is what you choose. I know of somebody who got melonoma on the tops of his ears because he always wore a baseball hat, but never put sunscreen on the tops of his ears so they were never protected. I try to get the sunscreen everywhere but the ears are one of those spots that are often forgotten.


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