“Dear 16 Year Old Me”

A friend of mine posted this message on Facebook. I’m wondering if the message it carries is mentioned yet in health classes. The message should start by the time kids are ten.

I was of the era where I copied my older sister. During the summer before I was even a teen, I would slather my body in baby oil and lay out in the sun hoping for the prized golden tan. I did not make the connection between baking a turkey and baking myself. As a child, I always had several sunburns during that three month respite from school.

The last time I lay out in the sun was in 1970 when I took a spring break road trip to Florida with a couple of friends. That first day there the temperature was so perfect it was unbelievable. We had come from the ice lands of Illinois where Winter refused to relinquish her iron hold of the season to mild, kinder Spring. In Florida I had reached Nirvana.

The breeze was gentle and warm enough to envelop me in a soothing cocoon of exquisite pleasure. The sand on the beach was as soft as a feather bed. The whole explosion of color of water, palm trees, sand, and beach towels tricked my mind into thinking I was in a fantasy world created by Disney. I lay on that beach for what seemed several hours. My two friends were only slightly tan. A couple more hours and I could have been served for Thanksgiving dinner.

That was the first and last time I appeared on the beach for the rest of the vacation. I had met a young man that day who loaned me a shirt. Even with just the covering of that over sized shirt, I was in agony. The cloth which felt so soft in my hands felt like sandpaper on my shoulders. I could not sit, stand, or recline without tremendous discomfort from being touched. Of course, as the days went by, my skin became even stiffer to bend, adding to my misery.

I was destined to spend the rest of the week indoors in absolute pain on every inch of my body not covered by my two piece suit. I was alone while my travel mates enjoyed themselves. I didn’t even ask them what they did during the time I was left alone in the house. Left to my absolute misery.

Something happened that week to change my sun habits the rest of my life. The sun poisoning  I received that day set me up for limited sun exposure the rest of my life. It takes very little time for me being in the sun for me to develop a rash. That had never occurred prior to that trip. Sunscreen helps, but I still must limit my exposure.

There was a period of history where I laughed at the sun. Now I must observe closely for the inevitable red dots and get out of the sun as soon as they begin to appear if not sooner. There was a time when the more pale a woman was, the more beautiful she appeared to be. Now I just look “washed up”. My paleness would give Queen Elizabeth I stiff competition without any white lead and vinegar make up. I have to take large doses of Vit. D because I avoid the sun.

Although the video stresses that melanoma is a cancer of the young, it can affect people of all ages. My father had a cousin who farmed. He was out in the sun every day. He wore a cap but didn’t use any sunscreen. His wife one day noticed a problem behind his ear. It was allowed to grow because it was not noticed. By the time it was discovered, there was very little that could be done.

I love boating, swimming, and yes, even sitting in the waves at the beach. But my time in the sun is so short it usually is not worth the effort. So, dear 16 year old me, will it be worth it to enjoy yourself so long in the sun when you are twenty four? Think about it. And when you are my age, never forget to get your skin checked often.

Namaste Attic Annie


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