Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Melanoma and Mommyhood Pt. 2

A fair-haired kiddo wearing UV Skinz.
Image: ABC's and Garden Peas
While I look forward to having kids (someday), I also dread the inevitable: Mom, can I borrow the car? Mom, can I get my nose pierced? Mom, can I go spend the night at Rachel's house? And the one I fear the most: Mom, can I go tanning?

I dread having the "tan talk" just as much as some parents must dread the birds and the bees. Since I've had a melanoma, my offspring as more likely to develop one, too. Plus, one study I found suggested that children of women who've had skin cancer are just as likely to use tanning beds than those whose moms hadn't. Ack!

After Cher forwarded me that email about tanning during pregnancy, I decided to ask her a few questions about being both a mommy and a melanoma survivor. Here's what she had to say:

You were diagnosed with melanoma as a young adult--now you're a parent. How has that experience impacted the way you think about sun safety and your family?
I was still pretty casual about my sun protection for the first six years post diagnosis. Young and dumb! But, I slowly started being more realistic and actually using the sunscreen I bought. As I look at my choices as a kid and young adult, I realize those choices left many scars on my body. Physical scars that everyone can see. Mostly biopsy scars, but also my melanoma scar. Looking at these scars, I realize that I don't want my kids to have scars like these on their bodies, marring their perfect skin, so we developed a ritual before we go out that I help my daughter put on sunscreen and she helps me put my sunscreen on. Makes it a fun time and now she asks for sunscreen before we leave the house!

How do you protect your family from the sun?
Our primary protection is, at minimum, SPF30. And it gets applied several times a day, especially when playing in or near the water. I also make sure we are covered up well with shirts and shorts before leaving the house. Now that my daughter is closing in on 3, she does better with sunglasses and will request them to help her from the sun. (And by this I mean she doesn't continually take them off and see just how far they bend until they break!) I laugh because she always tells me the sun is too bright without her sunglasses! I also like to seek out shade to sit in while outside. I know that this is not great sun protection, but it helps me not feel quite so overwhelmed by the heat/sun.

You're also expecting another baby. Are there any special precautions you take being pregnant and having a history of skin cancer? 
No special precautions. Unless you count the times I check my freckles and moles myself compared to not being pregnant. Since the hormones in my system can increase the chances of changes, I have paid closer attention to my freckles and moles to make sure and catch anything that may be changing. I just learned as well, from my new dermatologist, that they prefer to have women not get pregnant within the first 3 years after a melanoma diagnosis as the treatments and testing they may do can be harmful to a fetus.

How do you think you'll protect your children from sunburns and from using tanning beds even as they become teens and young adults?
I hope to use my own experience as a kid/teen that refused sunscreen, even with my family history of skin cancer, as a basis. I'm sure that vinegar baths as a threat are not going to work! I hope that I can remember what I thought during my "rebellious" and "immortal, nothing like that will happen to me" phase that I can use as proof that we are not immortal and this does happen to young people. One of my thoughts was always, "I'll think about that when I'm old!" Well, old turned out to be 23. Or, not so old… So, hopefully I can relay the "use sunscreen" talk in a way that doesn't sound like the mom forcing their kid to do things their way. My greatest wish is that tanning bed businesses go out of commission long before I have to have this talk. I doubt that will happen… I'm not really sure what to say about tanning beds overall especially since I was never into tanning salons and didn't have friends that were either. I won't be turning a blind eye to them, but will need to find the battle that will work for me if that comes up.

Other parents out there--feel free to chime in. I'd love to hear about your experiences.