Choose You Blog
Introduction: Rhiannon caught my attention on Twitter when she opened up a conversation about her recent skin check, and why it’s so important. Tell me more, I asked her, and will you share it on Choose You? She graciously agreed and here is why she is a big advocate or the Mole Patrol:
I describe my mother and step-father as “granola kids.” They made me go outside to help in the garden, to hike, to canoe, to rock climb all the time, which probably sounds like fun unless you’re a bookworm – like me. While they cared a lot about what was filling my belly and moving my limbs, they didn’t spend much time thinking about my skin, which is pale and now covered in moles. Summer after summer my light skin would burn to a painful lobster red only to eventually fade into a dry bronze.
Then, in my mid-teens, my mother realized the error of her ways and began insisting that I cover up in a time when I was ready to flaunt my curvy assets. Worse, she wanted me to slather up with stinky sun lotions in a time when I cared too much about what other people thought. I wasn’t getting same amount of sun as I once did thanks to homework and non-sport extracurricular activities, but the appearance of freckles and moles over my entire body let us know the damage had already been done.
In my mid-twenties, Mom went into full-on guilt mode and nagged me until I went to a dermatologist for a mole check. My first mole removal surgeries were scheduled right away, and not long after I was the not-very-happy owner of two three-inch long scars – one on my left shoulder and another on my belly. Fortunately, the moles were classified as “pre-cancerous,” as have many of the others I’ve had removed since.
My dermatologist says he doesn’t worry about me, though, because I stop by every couple of years for a check-up and usually leave a few moles behind to be tested. He says the people he worries about are those who wait until their 50s and 60s to get their first skin cancer screening, sometimes after it’s already too late.
That’s what happened to my biological father. He died about a year and a half ago, in his early 50s, after melanoma spread to his brain. I got my pale skin from him. And, though I didn’t know him well, I know him well enough to know he wasn’t a sunscreen (or doctor) kinda guy. So he waited to get his moles checked, and he paid the ultimate price because of it.
Of course, now that he’s passed, my mother and doctor are calling for a full-body scan and more frequent check-ups. That’s appropriate, and I’ll comply without complaint. (I just scheduled my appointment yesterday.) I’ve got a lot to accomplish in this lifetime, and I’m going to need more way more than twenty years to check off everything on my to-do list.
That’s why, in-between mole checks, or the “mole patrol” as a Twitter pal says, I wear wide-brimmed hats, long-sleeve shirts and long pants – in addition to sunscreen – when I’m going to be outside for any length of time. I make sure to cover my neck, ears and hands, too. I also watch for mole and skin changes that may indicate that there’s a problem.
Now, these extra efforts don’t seem like a burden. Instead, I see them as easy ways to protect my health and proactively insure my (long, long) future.
About Rhiannon: Rhiannon Fionn-Bowman is a 34-year-old Charlotte, N.C., based independent journalist. She’s on Twitter @RhiBowman and @AngryFatWoman.