Friday, May 17, 2013

Skin Cancer = Not Good

This increasingly warm weather has me daydreaming about sunny beaches and rum-spiked frozen drinks.  Perhaps it’s because I just uncovered a folder on our computer of pictures from our honeymoon in St. Lucia, and after looking through them close to 100 times I have subconsciously scraped, “Shut up, skinny bitch” on our desk with my fingernail.  But that doesn’t concern you - back to our discussion about beaches.  Luckily, we have a preference for cities that are situated on large bodies of water, so we’re never a far subway ride and/or car trip to a sandy urban getaway.  Back in Brooklyn, it was as easy as packing our day bag and hopping on the Q train, and in 20 minutes flat we were arm wrestling “curvy” Russian men in speedos to plant our beach chairs in the last remaining strip of sand without any visible hypodermic needles.  God I miss Brooklyn.  Our last summer there, however, I was hugely pregnant.  HUGELY pregnant.  A fond memory comes to mind of our July 4th trip out to Brighton Beach: windblown and sunkissed, we had all packed our things and were assembling on the boardwalk as we each, one by one, rinsed our feet and shook the sand pebbles from our towels.  We decided it was a perfect time for a group shot, so we lined up prom-style while a stranger snapped the picture.  Then, the dear friend behind whom I was standing alerted me that I was “creeping him out” because I kept “putting my baby on him.”  I miss you guys.    

With so many upcoming hot days spent outside underneath the bright and burning sun, I implore you to please be sun-safe.  From someone whose skin is Swiss cheese from so many moles removed, I wish I had taken my own advice from a young age.  Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer, with 1 in 5 Americans developing it in the course of a lifetime (  And it so often effects young people - lots of them.  I cringe now thinking of the time I bought a membership to a tanning salon in college to “prepare” for vacation.  So. Dumb.  I have no doubt that those stupid mistakes, plus a large dose of heredity, have played a part in my current relationship with my dermatologist.  My former NYC doctor’s son is definitely going to college solely because of how much money I funneled into his practice.  Yep - that $29.99 membership to the Levee Laundry & Tan in West Lafayette was totally worth it...SYKE*! 
(*Yea, I’m still trying to bring that back...your support is appreciated.)

When we moved to Chicago, the first doctor I sought to find was a new dermatologist, knowing that I pretty much need to be in the constant care of a credible practitioner.  Also, believe it or not, having a baby does nutso things to your skin and many cases of skin cancer have been known to develop during and after pregnancy.  I found an awesome doctor associated with Northwestern hospital, and consider myself very lucky to have joined her practice.  However, to say she is “thorough” is an understatement.  You know that phrase, “where the sun don’t shine?”  Well she has obviously never heard that.  I’m no longer able to look her in the eyes, but I do feel...properly examined.  She decided that two spots on my body needed to be removed, “like...yesterday” so I bit another bullet and had that done.  Luckily, I got the call last night that the results from pathology were all clear (phew!), even though she said that of all the patients she saw last week, one of my moles was the one that she was sure was melanoma.  Damn.  Nothing will make you buy the family pack of sunscreen faster than a dermatologist dropping the ‘M’ word.  Thank the Lord it was ok.  

This doesn’t mean that I will stop playing outside at the park with my daughter or enjoying a leisurely afternoon in the sand, because those are some of my favorite things to do when the weather gets warm.  This does, however, mean that we should ALL be a little more sun-conscious, regardless of your family history.  If you take one of these tips to heart I will be a happy lady:

-Avoid tanning beds.  Seriously, this isn’t 2002.  They’re not cool anymore, so stop going. 

-Apply sunscreen 30 minutes before going out into the sun.  A lot of people wait until they’re on the pool deck to slather it on, but in order for it to be most effective and soak into your skin you need to do it before you leave the house.  This also helps you avoid that awkward leg-up-on-the-chair one needs to see you apply lotion to the back of your thigh.  Unless you’re David Beckham, and in that case - please, don’t stop.

-Find a dermatologist, and actually go see them once a year.  They’re not a bunch of weirdo freaks with a skin fetish (barf), they are highly trained and competent doctors who just might spot a spot (pun intended) that saves your life.  Trust me, the two days of soreness after having a mole removed is so worth it when you’re faced with one of the yuckiest cancers out there.  Real talk: having a hole cut out of you is less unattractive than having part of your leg removed because of an aggressive melanoma.  Scars fade, cancer kills.  Or I’ll be happy to remove any questionable lesions for a $25 gift card to Coldstone Creamery (PER MOLE).  Don’t worry, we have Wusthof knives and I’m handy with a sewing machine.

-No one is immune, regardless of skin color.  You’re probably saying, “Hey Jackie, quit killing my buzz.  I get really tan when I go in the sun, so there’s no way I’m going to get the melanoma that effects people like you, ghost face.”  First of all, rude.  Second of all, did you know that Bob Marley died of melanoma?  I didn’t either, I actually just learned that by Googling “melanoma”.  My point is that it can happen to anyone.  

-Finally, for God’s sake, if you see something “different” growing on your body don’t ignore it.  These here edumacated fisishans use a system called “ABCDE”.  A mole should be checked if it has one of the following:
A- Asymmetry
B- Border - uneven or notched
C- Color - two or more different pigments within the same mole
 D- Diameter - cancerous cells usually grow to be larger than a pencil eraser  
E- Evolving - any change at all

As you see, it’s really not hard to potentially save your own life.  Now go and frolic in the sun and sand (or clouds and concrete, because seriously, it’s only May.) And please stop sending me pictures of your moles.  That stuff grosses me out.  


  1. Thanks for the reminder, I am dark skinned (olive my italian family says) but I still lather up no matter what. However I never do it until outside or minutes before going out. And I think I am as sexy as David Beckham, am I not?!

    :) Anyways good info here, Jackie, keep in coming!!