How to be sun safe

The warm weather is fast approaching which means shorts, t-shirts, tank tops, and bathing suits. The less clothing you wear means the more skin that is exposed to harmful UV rays, and take it from me, they can do some damage.
I've been having some major anxiety lately about the warmer weather. I don't want to be scared of the sun or going outside but I can't help it. Unfortunately for me Texas gets really hot, triple digit hot, so when I do have to go outside it's almost impossible to completely cover up with pants and long sleeves. A little bit of sun is good for you, you just have to make sure you get that sun safely.
First and foremost I want to urge my readers to not sit out in the sun for the purpose of tanning. Please, don't go to a tanning salon either. UV rays are dangerous. Most people don't think twice about it, I know I didn't really ever think that I might get cancer and how much my life would be turned upside down, but I did get cancer, and my life was turned upside down. I was never really a tanner either. Sure, I would sit out in the sun without sunscreen on hoping for that "healthy glow", but it turns out that glow is far from healthy.
Every day I wake up and worry about whether or not I am going to live to see my son grow up. It scares the shit out of me that I might miss his life all because of this disease that I can't control. I have to sit here and wait to see if it's going to come back or if it's going to stay away, and the scary thing is that if it does come back it can come back anywhere in my body. Anywhere. Brain, liver, kidneys, heart, stomach, breasts, uterus. ANYWHERE. Melanoma is a beast. It's a terribly dangerous cancer that people can do things to prevent! Some people are much more likely to develop a melanoma despite their best efforts, but some people develop melanomas that could have been prevented if they had just taken the proper precautions.
I found out I had melanoma when I was 36 weeks pregnant. It turned my entire world upside down. This joyous time in my life suddenly turned into this anxiety filled nightmare. I had trouble sleeping, thoughts racing, I cried a lot, and developed "cancer brain" (which I still have) which made me think that any bump, bruise, spot, pain, or itch was cancer. The worst part was that there was nothing I could do until I gave birth. That was the longest 4 weeks of my life. 4 weeks of not knowing exactly how bad it was or if it was anywhere else or what I was going to do.
FInally Elijah was born. I was able to forget cancer for a few days, but 12 days after I gave birth I went in for surgery. It sucked, but it could have been worse. I was feeling confident at that time that the cancer wasn't going to have spread, but it turns out I was wrong. A couple weeks later I got the dreaded news that they found a small amount of cancer in one of my lymph nodes. Small amount or not, because they found it in my lymph node I was automatically stage 3. There are only 4 stages to cancer.
I had surgery #2 in September and luckily that news was good news, they didn't find it anywhere else, but because I am stage 3 that puts me at a higher risk of the cancer coming back. Over 50%. I don't like those odds at all! Next month is my one year anniversary of being diagnosed, which means I have 4 more years until my chance of recurrence goes down to 1%. So, be as sun safe as you possibly can. I don't want anyone to have to go through what I went through, and continue to go through, if they can prevent it even a little bit. 

How to be sun safe

Always, always, always wear sunscreen. Even if you plan on being in the shade you will still be exposed to UV rays. Make sure you put sunscreen on your baby too, children are even more susceptible to skin cancers these days, especially if a parent or immediate family member has had any kind of skin cancer.

Make sure that you are wearing a safe sunscreen. I stay away from Octocrylene, Octinoxate, Oxybenzone, Octisalate, Homosalate, Avobenzone, and of course all PABA sunscreens. These sunscreens are harmful and some of the ingredients have been know to cause cancer. I'm trying to stay away from cancer, why would I use something that could cause it!? The best resource you can use to find safe sunscreens is the Skin Deep Cosmetic Database. I use that website to check out all of my beauty and skin care products for my family. You want to look for sunscreens with a rating of 0, that's the safest. 1 and 2 are acceptable, but I wouldn't use anything that has a higher rating than that. I have compiled a list of the 10 safest sunscreens for you and your family:

1. Badger Sunscreen for Face & Body, SPF 30, Unscented
3. Heiko Kids 40 SPF
4. thinkbaby Sunscreen, SPF 30+
5. Trukid Sunny Days Face & Body Stick, SPF 30+
6. Beyond Coastal Lip and Face Screen, SPF 30
7. Purple Prairie Botanicals Sun Stick, SPF 30
9. Soleo Organics All Natural Sunscreen, SPF 30+
10. All Terrain TerraSport Performance Sunscreen, SPF 30

 Wear sun hats! A sun hat with a 6" wide brim will offer the best protection. Make sure you are putting sun hats on your children too!

If possible, avoid the sun during it's peak hours between 10am and 4pm. I know this is really difficult, especially with children. If you can't avoid the sun during these times make sure you wear sunscreen and sun hats and spend as much time in the shade as you can.

Coolibar is a fabulous website that has all sorts of sun safe gear and clothing. I am looking into hopefully getting a sun tent and umbrella from there. There gear all has a sun protection factor of 50. I love the tents because you can bring them to the beach or just to sit outdoors with and you can actually enjoy the fresh air and be protected at the same time!

Agoo has children's clothing with sun protection, and UV Skinz has some great kids swim shirts, along with clothing for kids, adults, and some gear too!

And finally, keep an eye on your skin. Get in the habit of doing skin checks on yourself, especially if you have moles. Check for new growth and if you have a mole that is changing be sure to get it checked out immediately. The earlier these things are caught the better!



Sarah J. said...

I have always had olive skin and tanned easily (without trying) but since skin cancer runs in my family, my mom always preached that we wear it. I was a lifeguard, a competitive swimmer and swim instructor so I was outside 12+ hrs/ day and I almost always wore Coppertone sport SPF 45. (I have since switched to California Baby because it is the only thing I can find without oxybenzone in town.)
My dermatologist accused me of laying out because I would get so dark. I still see the same dermatologist and 6 months ago he found a mole that was melanoma. Luckily, he was able to remove it in the office.
My son has the same skin tones as I do and he always gets slathered in sunscreen before going outside for any length of time. It is in his diaper bag year round, just in case.

Mommy Bee said...

I have recently started selling a line of solarveil hats for babies--my kiddos are sensitive even to good sunscreens, so hats have been my preference. Solarveil is awesome stuff--although it's no longer made, there are a few people who still have some in stock. http://BrightBlack.etsy.com is where my hats are. :) We still have snow on the ground here in Alaska (actually it snowed more this morning!) but it's getting warm everywhere else so I'm stocking hats!

YogaMama said...

Thanks for posting this list!

Ida Mae said...

great post Jess!

Erin said...

wow what a story and great info you have shared. I just wanted to add one more very safe and effective sunscreen.


this came out 3 years ago and I don't know of one that is safer than this.

Emily McAuliffe said...

Thanks for sharing your Melanoma story - my husband is also Stage IIIa so we understand what you are going through. My blog shows the same surgery pics from last August. Best of luck to you in fighting this beast!


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