Saturday, 8 September 2012

Fun in the Sun

As a 7 year old my family  moved to Bendigo, Central Victoria. I loved being outdoors and playing till after dark. I loved going swimming. I couldn't swim, just pretended to be a seal alot and tried to pretend to be an exotic pearl diver and see how long I could hold my breath. My sister and I would peel each other's backs after the blisters had eased off from our sunburns. Getting the biggest piece of skin intact was always an ongoing competition!
  Around 1981 there was a skin cancer campaign going. Australia had the highest death rate from Melanoma in the world. Reason? Our typical skin type was Irish or English heritage. Only a few generations from having arrived in Australia, our skins were not tolerant of the higher latitude of piercing UV rays. Our lifestyles of being outdoors in the sun was ingrained into our very core of our nationality. However this was also our undoing.

This is the ad from 1980 which was catchy and got the point across!

Click the link above to watch the ad!

Slip Slop Slap

One of the most successful health campaigns in Australia’s history was launched by The Cancer Council Australia in 1981. Sid the seagull, wearing board shorts, t-shirt and a hat, tap-danced his way across our TV screens singing a catchy jingle to remind us of three easy ways of protecting against skin cancer.

Slip, Slop, Slap!
It sounds like a breeze when you say it like that
Slip, Slop, Slap!
In the sun we always say "Slip Slop Slap!"
Slip, Slop, Slap!
Slip on a shirt, slop on sunscreen and slap on a hat,
Slip, Slop, Slap!
You can stop skin cancer - say: "Slip, Slop, Slap!"
The Slip Slop Slap slogan has become institutionalised as the core message of The Cancer Council’s SunSmart program. The campaign is widely credited as playing a key role in the dramatic shift in sun protection attitudes and behaviour over the past two decades.
At about age 22 I realised I did not want to be one of the statistics to be dead from undiagnosed Melanoma. I was always burning and totally uncomfortable with my pale, pale skin. So I took myself to a dermatologist to have a look see at my sexy body (cough) to get my 'join the dots' moles seen too.  One was removed on my thigh just near the knee on my left leg. I have the scar which looks like a squashed bug. It amuses small children who truly believe I squished a bug one day and it got stuck there forever. Silly billies probably grew up and told their kids of the Crazy Lady with the Squashed Bug story and gave them nightmares. Hee hee.

 This one had no skin cancer at all. I was very relieved. However the dermatologist reminded me quite seriously of how prone to being burned earlier in life is proven to cause a cancer later in life. This worried me as I was only young (and vain, ok I admit it!) However the healing process was intensely difficult. It would itch and hurt and drive me insane. The scar swelled up and caused me grief. I went back and the doctor told me it was a Keloid scar where it had thickened. I had an injection of something or other, probably clear broth soup for all I know.  I don't recall. The itchiness and redness and pain went away after 2 more tries days apart. I begged him to cut my leg off. I couldn't stand it a minute longer! This was also another Red Flag which I had not seen a connection to till many years later.
  A few years later I worried more about the large black mole on my right calf. It was between two smaller ones. I called them my Traffic Light moles. This one had a Stage 1 cancer.(Basically as long as it is contained within the mole, you won't drop dead) Now THAT scared the begeebees out of me! So I took more care in the sun. I now refer to my paleness as something a Polar Bear would be jealous of!
 I had by now married and had 3 children and moved from the area where that original dermatologist was. I had watched my then husband's cousin die of a melanoma left too long on his ear, and even though they cut off half his ear he died. It was a sobering thing to know of someone who had had the silent killer.
   In the year after my husband left me and with my young baby son, and my two small children, I went on a holiday with my friend and her children. That same Traffic Light mole which had been removed only a few weeks prior had been over an inch wide with a dark centre surrounded by lighter colouring. Both colours were mostly almost black. No cancer. Phew! But my darling son, bless his little heart, stepped on my leg as we relaxed in bed and popped open the freshly removed stitched area and you could see in my leg all the fat and the muscle. Eeeeeeew! That day was spent trying to find a doctor to re-close the wound. It was just taped up and eventually healed on its own.

 Now I have been checked regularly every year without fail. I am lucky so far, no cancer. I have a largish one on my back on the left hip area that is weirdly shaped, has at least 3 or 4 different types of mole in it and is very black. Each time I am told it is ok. I am not so sure! I am seeing the dermatologist soon again and might just ask to have it removed, just to be sure.
 Sid Seagull has changed with the times and he now stands under an umbrella, and does some wonderful good for charity.  There is even a great online checker to follow the UV levels for the day. I use this religiously each time I need to be outdoors any time of the year. Not just summer you can get skin damage!
  That one time stage 1 was a worry, but keeping out of the harsh rays and covering up seemed to do the trick! Till many years later.
    Oh, no it wasn't a cancer. It was lack of Vitamin D!  
 That will be another story for you to listen to and perhaps learn from.