I’m interrupting my normal blogging for a public service announcement: Tanning beds are bad.  Don’t use them.  Get your moles checked out and don’t postpone the appointment.

I wish Jersey Shore had been around 10-15 years ago to make me realize tanning is trashy and gauche.  Instead, I thought tanning was awesome when I was a teenager and in my early 20’s….it was really cool to look like you’d been to Mexico even though it was the dead of winter in Toronto.  I used to go to this place called Extreme Tan in Burlington….their slogan was “Extreme Tan, Extreme Service.”  It should be “Extreme Tan, Extreme Risk of Melanoma and Permanent Scarring.”  (BTW, their service was brutal).  I’m really fair-skinned and I can recall getting badly burned several times after hitting the tanning beds – even when I was being really careful and not going in for very long.  I remember getting a burn so bad on my thighs that it was super painful to put on my pants.  I was also a lifeguard outside in the summer and had my fair share of burns.  And I’m a sun worshipper, so whenever I’m on vacation I’m baking for hours in the sun.  But the worst of my burns were from the tanning beds.  If I stayed in 30 seconds longer than I should have, it was lobster city for me.  I always laughed it off because it meant that it was turn into a dark glow in a couple of days.  I quit the tanning beds several years ago when I started to notice the leather-faces on the women who were getting their orange on.  Not hot.  Alas, the damage was already done…

A few weeks ago I had to have a mole removed because it was Severely Dyplastic – this means that it was NOT melanoma, but it looked similar to early stage Melanoma with a higher risk of turning into Melanoma.  It also meant that I had to have a chunk of my skin removed by a plastic surgeon around the area where the mole existed, leaving this really sexy scar on the back of my leg.

So what?  The point is that I had no idea that I had any troublesome moles.  After all, I’ve been eating Paleo and doing Crossfit for years so I’m invincible to disease, right? Wrong.  Here is how the story went down….

I had gone to my family doctor to get a referral to a dermatologist to get a mole on my chest checked out – My parents had urged me to get it examined.  I kept pushing back, telling them that the mole was fine and it had not changed since I was 2 years old.  My dad kept sending me emails titled “Mole Patrol” and my mom kept telling me horror stories of people who had to have chunks of their face removed from Melanoma.  FINALLY (after months of pressure), I made the appointment.  The dermatologist looked at my ‘mole of question’ and said, “That mole is fine….nothing to worry about there.”  I KNEW IT!  HA!  Why am I even here?  She then proceeded to scan the rest of my body and when she reached my thigh she said, “oh, I don’t like the looks of this one….I don’t like this one at all….we’ve got to remove this immediately….I’m not letting you leave here until this is taken out.”  It was a SMALL dark mole on the upper back portion of my thigh.  A place I don’t normally look at because that would just be weird.  Fast forward 2 weeks later and she called me back to see her for the results.  She told me that I was lucky and it was only Severely Dysplastic – explaining that this is the stage right before Melanoma.  She also told me that she had 10 other 30-ish female patients in the past few months who used tanning beds when they were younger who had Melanoma in the same spot as me.  She told me to stay out of the sun for good.  No more tanning.  Sad face.

Lessons Learned…

#1: If I could go back in time and talk to my 16-year-old self (great video), I’d show her pictures of Snooki and tell her that tanning won’t be cool in 10 years.  I’d show her the scar on the back of my leg and tell her that shorts will never look as hot on her legs as they used to.

#2: I had no idea what ‘bad’ moles look like.  The one on my leg was totally unassuming to the laymen – it wasn’t big or weird.  It was just really dark, asymmetrical and 2-tone.   My doctor NEVER said anything about this mole either….only the dermatologist noticed it was ‘questionable.’  Get mole smart and get yourself checked out….there is no harm in getting a scan from a dermatologist.

#3: Don’t postpone the appointment.   Things can turn from bad to worse quickly.

#4:  Vitamin D is amazing, but getting sun burnt is not.  Be sun smart.  It is actually OK to be outside without sunscreen as long as you don’t burn.  Build up your tolerance gradually by exposing yourself to the sun for 5-10 minutes and then cover yourself up.  Everyone’s tolerance is different.  For me, I’ll be wearing the SPF 50 from now on and staying under my umbrella-ella-eh-eh-eh.

I’m sure many people already know all of this stuff and this post might seem really obvious.  But if I can help a few more people by keeping them out of the tanning beds and getting their moles checked out, then it’s worth it.

Do you have a mole story to share?