I remember the day I got the call that I had skin cancer vividly. I was sitting on my couch and I knew when the phone rang from my dermatologist’s office that it wasn’t good news. And I had biopsies in the past and if they were non-cancerous, I was messaged in a portal to be told all was well.
Lessons Learned from Having Skin Cancer
So while I was not surprised to hear “it was indeed a form of skin cancer and we need to take next steps to remove it fully” I still felt like I had the wind taken out of me. My hand began shaking, my breath became uneasy.
I listened intently, trying to make sense of the options that were being laid out for me and then I hung up the phone and I cried.
Since that day in the summer of 2019 my life has changed forever. Today, in honor of Melanoma Monday and Skin Cancer Awareness Month I am sharing the important lessons I learned from my skin cancer diagnosis that I hope will serve as important reminders for you.
I was pretty good about SPF before my diagnosis but I am absolutely better now. I keep my bathroom stocked with so much sunscreen so I am never without it. And I also keep SPF near my keys so I am always reminded to bring SPF with me for the days I am going to be outdoors more.
Furthermore to SPF outdoors, SPF can actually help protect our skin from damage done from bluelight from our phones and computer and even exposure we get through airplane windows! All the more reason to remember to wear SPF every single day. And to be thorough with application.
My skin cancer was removed from my upper back – just below my neck. My doctor told me this is a really common area for cancer to appear because it is the part unprotected by clothing – the thin u-shaped sliver just below your neck – and often not covered by hair either when your hair is up as it so often is during sun exposure.
Following my diagnosis, my dermatologist instructed me to only wear mineral sunscreens which physically block the sun’s rays and are great for sensitive skin. This means I personally reach for sunscreens with zinc oxide and/or titanium oxide for wear on a daily basis.
A few of my favorite Supergoop! Mineral SPFs:
A lightweight 100% mineral SPF 30 face & body lotion. This blends out easily, is fast-absorbing and gentle on sensitive skin.
I generally try to steer clear of spray sunscreens because they can be less effective than creams but! I do keep one on hand for days where I am in a swimsuit because a spray can be the best way to get to hard to reach spots like the back of the legs and the back.
A translucent (or tinted if you’d prefer!) mineral powder SPF that is great to reapply sunscreen over makeup on your face. Bonus points for the fact that it is refillable!
One of my favorite and go-to SPFs for the face ever since my cancer diagnosis. It goes on well under makeup without causing any pilling. This SPF 40 is a non-nano, 100% mineral daily face lotion that’s lightweight and blendable.
This is my newest face SPF I love. This mineral SPF features bakuchiol to make skin look healthier with regular wear. It boosts collagen and targets fine lines, wrinkles and loss of elasticity. So skin is smoother, brighter and more rejuvenated, without redness or irritation. I like the formula that comes out in a dropper with a sheer tint that layers well under makeup.
Did you know it is common to get skin cancer on your scalp? It is why wearing hats is so important (and is why the scalp is often one of the first places a doctor will inspect during your skin scan!) I swear by this Part Powder from Supergoop! to puff onto my part for the times when I am not wearing a hat and want to ensure my scalp and part are protected. Better yet? It sort of acts like a dry shampoo so win/win.
While these Supergoop! formulas are personal favorites of mine, when you get your annual skin scan, check with your doctor and ask what SPFs they recommend for your personal skin type and lifestyle. Supgeroop! offers a wide variety of both mineral and clean chemical formulas you may like for every day protection.
Advocacy is key
Despite having had basal cell carcinoma removed, I still have to advocate for myself in doctor’s offices when it comes to skin scans. I go in annually for my skin scan and sometimes have to request (insist on!) a biopsy for a spot I am concerned about.
It is my sincere hope that our healthcare system will soon be better about helping us advocate for skin cancer checks and allow for better coverage when it comes to insurance covering these annual skin scans.
I recommend you add an annual calendar reminder to book your skin scan so you never go a year without it.
The anxiety doesn’t go away
Despite having my initial skin cancer removed several years ago, my anxiety about more skin cancer returning has remained. I get nervous every time a new spot shows up. I’ve had countless biopsies since 2019 to assuage my anxieties and thankfully they have all come back as benign. But I have spent weeks worrying over spots and weeks worrying about the results of biopsies coming back.
If you can avoid this anxiety in your life – trust me, it is worth being diligent about SPF application and annual skin scans.
There’s no such thing as low maintenance outdoor time anymore
I am now a high maintenance person when it comes to any time spent outdoors. I have to actively plan for SPF reapplication so I am always throwing SPF in my purse (The Supergoop! Re-Setting 100% Mineral Powder sunscreen is my go-to for face touch ups).
And I have to have a hat on hand for any longer exposure in the outdoors. Sitting by a pool or a beach for long periods of time without an umbrella or a hat or SPF clothing is not a possibility. I have to actively plan for and account for sun exposure to minimize it. It’s exhausting but it is necessary.
Look out for your loved ones
I may be annoying to those in my life now following my diagnosis but I am always offering up SPF and advocating for those in my life to get their annual skin scans. Sometimes a reminder can save a life. Speak up and share your story and promote sun safety with those around you!
Check for expiration dates
SPFs have active ingredients which means they are only good for a period of time. Every few months before you use the SPFs you have at home, make sure you are checking expiration dates and ordering more sunscreen so you’re never without!
My inch and a half scar across my back is a constant reminder now of the traumatic experience of the diagnosis and surgery to remove it. I am so, so grateful I have not had to endure additional diagnoses and it is my sincere hope you will never have to either.
May these reminders and Skin Cancer Awareness Month serve as friendly reminders as we head into sunny seasons and may this be a year of health and SPF for you and all your loved ones!
Shop My Favorite Supergoop! Sunscreens
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This post is in partnership with Supergoop! I’m honored they asked me to share my story and the advocacy they promote about sun safety. Thank you for supporting the brands I love!
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