Victoria Hebb

I have since learned that being beautiful is NOT about being tan.

My name is Victoria Hebb, and I am 20 years old and currently a junior at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) in the School of Nursing. I will be a registered nurse in two years and I plan to go to graduate school to become a nurse practitioner.

About a month ago, I was diagnosed with melanoma, one spot on my forehead and one on my abdomen. This shook my world. I didn't know what to expect and I was very afraid. My doctors said I was very predisposed to melanoma because I am a redhead with very fair skin and tons of freckles, but they believe it was the tanning beds that pushed it over the edge.

I am so thankful that the doctors were able to get both of the spots removed with surgery and that when they tested the lymph nodes they removed, it came back clear of melanoma. However, the doctors told me that there is a greater chance that I will develop melanoma again later in my life.

Tanning beds and lying out in the sun are huge in my age group. We’re constantly bombarded with images and messages in the media telling us that tan is attractive. I was one of the girls who got sucked into wanting to be "beautiful" by being tan and the tanning beds offered a pale girl like me the chance to be tan and pretty!

I only went tanning for two summers and developed stage II melanoma. I have since learned that being beautiful is NOT about being tan. But I had to suffer the consequences of melanoma to learn this lesson and now have the scars to prove that it just isn't worth it.

I want to advocate for melanoma awareness. I want to warn people about it and arm them with the information on how to prevent it! I want to be an advocate for skin health and sun awareness. I want to make sure that I have done my part to help prevent people from developing melanoma. I want to raise money to fund research so we can understand melanoma and beat it! I know that through the Melanoma Research Foundation I can make a difference.

Story submitted, September 2009