I Kissed Suntanning Good-bye
By: Kelly Morris
I come to you as a 28-year-old woman whose life has been changed by the word melanoma. If you spent any time with me it wouldn't take long to figure out that I love the summer and all that it entails. It has always been my favorite time of year and just the rays of the sun shining through my window in the morning bring a smile to my face. A little over one year ago the sun brought a completely different meaning into my world.
The first time I used a tanning bed was at the age of 16, thinking it was a safe way to get the sun that I loved. It was never an everyday experience, just a way to bring a little color to my skin in the winter or before a school dance. We live in a world that is drawn to that sun-kissed skin, and I would be lying if I said I wasn't one of them. Girls start seeing it at a young age as a part of being beautiful yet many do not know the repercussions that come from this kind of exposure and the effects it can have on the rest of their life. If I can bring light to just one person from my experience and what the Lord has so graciously brought me through, it will all be completely worth it.
In January 2009, I went in to my general doctor to just have a small mole removed. My doctor had no reason for concern but out of my persistent uneasy feeling about this very small freckle-like mole on my arm he decided to remove it. (Note: I have several moles all over my body that have never brought concern to me before.) I was in and out in a matter of minutes with no worry or concern, just feeling good that the little thing that seemed to make me stressed every time I saw it was finally gone.
Soon I received a call from my doctor. As I returned his call and waited for an answer fear rose up within me.... I held back tears as I stood alone listening to the results. With a very somber tone he expressed his apologies as he was surprised by the results. "You have melanoma," he stated. Flooded with many emotions, I did not know what to say. It didn't seem real. Are you kidding me? As he tried to be optimistic the word oncologist was not the type of doctor I ever saw myself going to see. Yet two days later I was sitting in his office as he told me I had stage 3 malignant melanoma. My whole life changed in a matter of a few days. Future dreams seemed unrealistic and my heart was shattered on the inside as I questioned why.
One week after the original phone call I was lying in a hospital bed awaiting surgery. I remember thinking "God this can't be it. There is so much I want to do for You. I have promised my life to You; to go wherever You call me to go. Is this really the end?" This went on for several hours as I tried to remain strong on the outside and as I began the painful preparations for surgery. When they finally wheeled me into the pre-op area, I was alone for the first time all day. I couldn't hold it in anymore. I allowed the first tears to fall as I prayed, "God, my life is Yours. If this is Your time, I'm ready and bring me home. If not, my healing is up to You because I cannot live the remainder of my life in this hospital." A sense of His overwhelming peace came to me as I drifted off under the anesthesia.
The next few days were a blur as I tried to recover. But I still remember that peace. I awoke Friday morning anticipating a phone call for the test results. I only remember bits of those few days but I will never forget that phone call. I again waited as the nurse went to find the paperwork. She finally came back on the line after what seemed like forever and said, "Well, they must have gotten everything the first time because there were no traces of melanoma in what they removed this week and it has not spread to your lymph nodes." I remember thinking "No, God got it all!"
Although God gave me a miraculous healing that I will never forget, this was just the beginning of my journey with melanoma. Since that week, I have had another surgery with two spots removed and will continue to have regular full body screenings and eye exams for the rest of my life. My days in the sun have come to being drenched in sunscreen and lots of shade.
Many may argue about the effects of tanning beds. However, from my experience alone, I contend it is not worth it. In my doctor's office alone they have said that every girl that comes in with melanoma used a tanning bed. It is not just a disease that effects the older generation. According to the American Cancer Society melanoma is one of the more common cancers in young adults. Melanoma Center states that "It is the second most common cancer in women between the ages of 20 and 35, and the leading cause of cancer death in women ages 25 to 30." NCI reports that women who use tanning beds more than once a month are 55 percent more likely to develop melanoma.
As a leader of young girls my hope is to make our upcoming generations more aware of this disease that is killing hundreds every year. I want to get to the core of each girl and teach her that with God we can be comfortable in our own skin and it is beautiful. It's not about the color, it's about living our lives to the fullest and protecting the body that God has blessed us with.
For more information and statistics on melanoma visit: http://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm186687.htm