By Magen McCrarey
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
Over the course of more than two decades, little brown dots have voyaged their way across my ghostly pale skin, smeared like an array of leopard seals sunning along a northernly coast. Those harmless dots are freckles, and unlike seals, they can’t disappear whenever they like, but some, I fear, are not so benign.
For three summers as a teenager I was a lifeguard, and, before that, I took daily swimming lessons at an outdoor city pool. Exposing myself to sunlight was second nature while cool waters magnified the strong damaging rays. My face was always sun-kissed, and my sister gifted me a with a scorned nickname because of it, “freckle farm.”
My freckle farm and I grew fond of each other over time, because of its indicator towards my Irish heritage. The vast array of freckles made me unique, even if I had to do a double-take in the mirror to make sure my face was completely void of dirt. I suppose I had a viable excuse to play more in the mud as a kid.
As an adult, I learned more about a skin cancer called melanoma — the most serious form of skin cancer. My father began visiting a dermatologist and having freckle-like spots removed from his ears and nose, and worry set in. Like my father, I’ve spent an immense amount of time outdoors with no sun-protection.
Malignant melanoma is considered one of the most serious forms of skin cancer because it not only can sneak up on you and go unnoticed but it most likely will spread to lymph notes and internal organs. In addition, it accounts for 77 percent of all deaths from skin cancer. Through further research, I’m not becoming a hypochondriac but realizing that it may be a safe bet to visit a dermatologist myself.
So, for those of you with sons or daughters who think it’s cute to look sun-kissed without an Irish heritage, I hope you pull the plug on tanning bed addictions and be a sunscreen Nazi at the pool or lake. Looking “cute” isn’t worth your life. With early detection and treatment, the cure rate for melanoma is about 95 percent.