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Enjoy The Sun Safely

Years ago, I read a commencement speech by Chicago Tribune columnist Mary Schmich that began with the words, “Wear sunscreen. If I could offer you only one tip for the future, sunscreen would be it.”

My mother gave me the same advice many, many times, but I didn’t listen. After all, I was young and the one thing I could do better than any of my friends was get a tan. Each and every summer I lathered up with baby oil and sunned at the beach, the lake, or often in my back yard.

One night not too long ago, my husband walked up behind me while I was standing at the kitchen sink and asked about a bruise on the back of my thigh. I twisted around as best I could and realized that it wasn’t a bruise, it was a mole, and it looked different than I remembered it looking.

The next day I had it checked. The next week I had it removed. The doctor informed me it was pre-cancerous and that he would have to remove a larger section of tissue to determine if it had spread. Thankfully it hadn’t.

I am well aware that there are many people in the world who have had a closer encounter with cancer than I did. Every year I try to attend the Relay For Life ceremony that raises funds for the American Cancer Society. Most communities hold them in May, and if you’ve never been to one, I urge you to go.

This year when I walk the track I will say a prayer for my friend in Tennessee, who has just completed his treatment for prostate cancer. I will remember Jane, who found out this past Christmas that it wasn’t her vision that was her problem: it was a tumor behind her eye. I will think of a 2-year-old in a neighboring community, who was just diagnosed with leukemia. And I will light a candle for my cousin Martha, who is a breast cancer survivor, and for my mother, who died of colon cancer. And yes, I’ll think about myself and how foolish it was to fry my skin for so many years.

Attend the Relay For Life ceremony in your community. Who knows, if we all work hard enough, maybe someday our children and grandchildren won’t have to fear cancer.

Until then, wear sunscreen.

To read Mary Schmich’s full speech on sunscreen or to learn the signs of skin cancer and find out more about Relay For Life, click here: skin cancer

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