May is Melanoma Awareness Month
500 words inspired by the efforts in several states to ban the use of tanning salons by persons under 18 years of age
Good afternoon Mr. Chairman and members of the Committee.
My name is Lulu and I’m here to ask you to support State Senate bill 12345 banning the use of tanning salons by minors.
I was diagnosed with melanoma, the most deadly skin cancer, five years ago when I was 47. I used tanning salons for about a year in my late 20s. I didn’t tan outdoors very much, particularly after age 30.
I call myself a “patient”, not a “survivor”. Five years after diagnosis I’m still under the care of two oncologists and will be for the rest of my life. If you’ve survived something, the threat has passed. My threat of melanoma hasn’t passed.
I was surprised how many people I knew thought melanoma was no big deal. They couldn’t believe I missed 12 weeks of work and used up all my short-term disability leave to have a mole removed. A late-stage melanoma diagnosis is a life-changing event. The treatment is painful and scary.
Within a month after accidentally finding my melanoma on my scalp over my left ear, I had two major surgeries. There’s a wound at the primary site on my scalp that took a skin graft nearly 3-inches in diameter to close. The surgeon also took out almost 50 lymph nodes from my neck and left me with a 7-inch scar that starts just above my clavicle and curves up and around behind my left ear. There’s also a 5-inch scar on my torso where they took the skin graft. I have permanent nerve damage in my face, neck, chest and shoulder.
After my surgeries I started 12-months of Interferon treatment, which causes physical exhaustion, mental depression and cognitive impairment. The first month was at a chemo center. Then I had to learn to give myself shots 3 times a week… for 11 months. Hemorrhages from the Interferon almost caused me to loose my eyesight. Luckily my ophthalmologist caught it in time and saved my vision.
At the end of my treatment a scan showed a lesion in my throat. I had day-surgery so the surgeon could stick a scope down there to grab a sample to biopsy. It was negative. The year after that, there was a mole on my back that started looking strange. Another negative biopsy. This last October there was another “atypical” mole on my scalp. Another day-surgery and a third negative biopsy.
As I said, the threat has not passed. I’m still a patient.
Once melanoma gets into your bloodstream it can recur anywhere, striking vital organs including your brain. I live with this every day, wondering if today is the day a few melanoma cells somewhere in my body will start attacking without my even knowing it. I can’t give blood. I can’t be an organ donor.
I urge you to support this bill to ban minors from using indoor tanning devices. Help spare other families in our state the pain my family has suffered. Save some lives.
(c) copyright 2012, Lulubelle B