Monday, January 21, 2013

My Skin Story- pt. II

(You can read part I here)

Now let me back up here.
(My friend S and I at the beach in NC, 2005?)

 I’ve had skin problems and a few scares since I was 10 years old with 2 different dermatologists. The first dermatologist I went to was cutting into my skin every time I visited her to remove any moles or freckles she thought even looked weird or abnormal. My parents wanted a second opinion to make sure all of these procedures were necessary. That’s when I went to the leading doctor for skin cancer in Illinois and was officially diagnosed with dysplastic nevus syndrome. I have had 7 removed surgically and 3 of those came back positive for atypical cells, which meant they had cancerous cells in them, but nothing more than that. My doctor had to go back in and cut out those 3 surrounding areas of the moles to make sure the bad and cancerous cells did not spread.
(Self tanner used in this picture-I'm on the far left)

Many people ask me how has your life been changed or different since your diagnosis? And honestly, my life since my diagnosis hasn’t been all that different, other than I’ve eliminated the tanning salon from my life. When I visited my (now) second doctor she asked, “how many times I’ve been tanning in a tanning bed?” I laughed and asked her, “do you want an exact number?” She’s sternly said, “yes, exact!” I had to look to my mom like, are you kidding me? I was that high school girl who went tanning before EVERY dance, every time there was a ‘big party’ or just when I felt pale in general. So, for my dermatologist to ask me for a specific number, I had to be honest and say, “at least 100 times.” The look on her face petrified me. I did tell her however, that since the removal of a big mole scare, I have not gone. When my doctor told me about my diagnoses, I was shocked, sad and upset. I was shocked because I had the mentality that it would never happen to me. Sad because I know how serious this is and upset at myself for being so naïve and thinking I was invincible. 
(Another self-tanner picture this past Christmas. My sister and I (on the left))

It has been difficult hearing the comments like, “Geez, Kristen do you get out in the sun much?” or, “Have you ever seen the sun? You need color!” I end up telling them I can’t go tanning and they usually pipe down, but nonetheless, it still hurts because I can’t do anything about the color of, or lack there of, my skin. I use sunless tanner, occasionally, but it smells bad, stains my clothes or runs down my face when I work out.
I would tell the younger me that being tan may be what’s popular or cute, but it’s not worth it. Sunless tanner does the same thing, without the dangers. When the leading doctor in skin cancer told me how serious my condition is and how careful I have to be, it really made me think how stupid I was to go tanning all those years. I wish I had embraced my pale skin and not be listen to what people said about me. It took me a long time (and many dermatologist appointments) to be comfortable in my own skin.
My dermatologist told me once, that I would also tell other people is that the chances of developing melanoma or dysplastic nevus syndrome goes up 40% just by going tanning once. Think about it…


  1. Wow - you are so brave to share your story. There is no shame in being pale skinned, many many people are (including myself!) You are beautiful just the way you are :-)

  2. Ugh ugh ugh. I used to tan (I actually tan really easily), starting at 16, maybe 15 times a year. Some years I didn't. The last time I went was well over a year ago but I know that part doesn't really matter. Any damage is already done.
    But, growing up in the early 2000s, "tan" was in. (Is it still? I have no idea what kids do these days!)

    Thanks for sharing.