Make An Informed Choice

Posted in: Random ♦ Thursday, July 5th, 2012, 11:55 pm ♦ No Comments

July 5, 2012

MG is all about making her own decisions. The good and the bad. When I was younger, I made a lot of bad ones. I was very immature and naïve. Most of them only affected me, but there were some that hurt others, and I wish I could change that. But I can’t. That is the thing about choices. You make them and that is pretty much it. So you need to make as many smart ones as possible. If not, then you certainly need to learn from them, so you can make better ones in the future. This is where I am now. Really thinking about my choices. How do they affect me and the people in my life? Now that I am 40, hopefully I am older and wiser (at least most of the time).

When I was in my teens and twenties, I made the choice to spend a lot of time in the sun. I lived 15 minutes from the beach and made it a priority to go there as much as possible in the summer. If I couldn’t get to the beach, then I would put my beach chair in the backyard, deck or driveway. I loved the sun. I would sit and relax and read for hours. It felt great. I am not going to deny that and pretend that I didn’t like it, or that I thought I looked better with a tan. I definitely did.

I used a tanning bed a couple of times but ultimately decided against it. Why would I pay for something that I could get for free? Plus, I am slightly claustrophobic, so the whole idea of enclosing myself in a burning capsule did not appeal to me. They smelled funny too and kind of grossed me out.

This is the thing about tanning. I feel that most people are not making informed choices. The message has either not reached them yet, or they have not educated themselves about the risks, or they are just simply ignoring it. The fact is that tanning is bad for your skin. Period. End of story. It may give you a summery glow and make you feel prettier or more attractive, but it causes significant damage and can result in skin cancer. Oh, and it can happen to anyone regardless of race and skin color. Again – fact. (For a complete list of UV-related facts, please see the Melanoma Research Foundation’s website – www.melanoma.org).

Now some people will get lucky and tan all of their lives and not get skin cancer. Sure – that can certainly happen. Someone can smoke all of their lives too and never get lung cancer. Here is the difference though. Every single one of us knows that if we put a cigarette in our mouths that we are increasing our risk for cancer. It has taken 30 years or so, but we now know it. The companies who make the product know it as well. That is why they have to put warning labels on their packaging. This is where we need to be with tanning beds. Ban them for minors and put warning labels on them. For those of legal age, let them know about the risk, so they can make an informed choice. Give them that opportunity. If they still decide to get into the tanning bed, then fine. At least they know the risk.

We are lucky to live in a free country. We can’t force someone to do something that they don’t want to do. What we can do is help to educate and encourage. This is what MG is all about. Planting the seed about embracing your skin just the way it is. It may take 30 years, but hopefully we can start moving away from the idea that we look better when we are tan. It needs to be a change in mindset and behavior. And we need to do more than just ban tanning beds. Why? Because the 16 year old who is not able to go to a tanning bed, but still wants to be tan for her prom, can just go out in the backyard and lie in the sun. She may be out there for hours. In certain cases, especially if she burns, this can be even worse than using a tanning bed. Therefore, MG’s messages of SPF – Sexy Pale Female, Realize the Risk and Be Sun Savvy are meant to embrace an overall approach to being safe in the sun.

I realize that some may say that if I hadn’t had melanoma I would not be pushing this agenda. They might be right. I will be honest and admit that sometimes I do miss the feel of the sun on my skin and the long days on the beach. When I look at old pics of myself with my super summer tan, I get a little twinge of nostalgia. But was it worth it? Unequivocally NO (thank you significant scars for that constant reminder). If I had known the facts, I could have changed my behavior. I could have avoided surgeries and chemotherapy. This is why I share my story and try to educate and encourage others about the risk. So that you can make better choices than I did. Informed choices.

I am very optimistic that as awareness for melanoma increases, the amount of people who choose to tan will decrease. We can return to an age where pale skin is celebrated. Coco Chanel started the tan craze 90+ years ago. I think her time is up. Let’s start a new trend.

KNOW THE FACTS. MAKE A CHOICE. AN INFORMED ONE.

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