Looking back there are a lot of things I wish I could take back. The countless days I spent in tanning beds is one thing I will regret for the rest of my life. It never dawned on me when I started tanning as a teenager that it could potentially cost me my life.
Whenever someone asked me why I tanned, my response would quickly be “I just want to look good and feel good with a ‘healthy glow.’” As I started to get into my early twenties, a number of individuals in my life would continuously warn me about the risks of tanning. I thought to myself, I have never heard of someone dying from tanning, and at that point I already had achieved the “red/brown” tan for a number of years, so there was no stopping me. It wasn’t until my (at the time) fiancé noticed an awkwardly shaped dark brown mole the size of my pinky finger nail on my stomach that was alarming. I brushed his concern off once again and simply pulled back and limited tanning to once maybe twice a week. After all, I thought that was better than my typical everyday ten minutes in the tanning bed.
All of those times I spent in the tanning bed now predicted what my future looked like, just six short months after I married my soul mate. We were still in the “honeymoon phase,” looking for a house, and talking about starting a family. Those ideas quickly came to a screeching halt when I heard the words “you have cancer.” I was 27 when I was diagnosed with Stage 3 melanoma. I was young and naïve, I never thought I could get cancer. Our first year of marriage was spent in hospitals, doctor’s offices, The Cancer Center, at chemo treatments and having numerous surgeries. But I’ve learned a lot and I hope others will be able to learn from my own experiences.
Don’t tan. I did and I wish I hadn’t. More and more young adults are diagnosed with melanoma on a daily basis due to their days spent in tanning beds. The recent FDA announcement
is colossally important for all melanoma survivors, but even more, for young people who have not yet started a potentially deadly habit. If only one person stops going to tanning salons based on this announcement, then we have succeeded.
Written by Stage III melanoma survivor, Danielle Russo. Read her patient story here.