Yesterday, my friend, and fellow cancer crusader, Margaret and I met up together to begin our pre-Pirates party in honor of the newly released Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End (one of my guiltless obsessions is Captain Jack Sparrow).
As we were driving to her place, after picking up some delicious Panda Express (another one of my guiltless obsessions), we drove past a popular apartment complex that had a sign that read "Unlimited Tanning".
We were both shocked and appalled. In truth, Margaret forewarned about this shocking advertisement. "Danielle, I drove past this yesterday and got so angry! I thought 'When Danielle sees this she's going to be angry, too!'"
It's good to know that my friends, as a result of their association with me and their involvement with Cancer Crusaders, are now on the prowl for such infractions as "Unlimited Tanning" signs to entice college students to rent apartments.
All morning, while editing mass quantities of documents here at work, I kept thinking "Should I call up the apartment manager and/or BYU Off-Campus Housing and express my grave concerns over this issue of offering unrestricted access to tanning beds to young adults?" I didn't want to come across as antagonistic or annoying, but there are two simple facts that remain: 1). The use of tanning beds does increase one's risk for melanoma--the deadliest form of skin cancer; 2). Melanoma is killing more women in their 20s than any other form of cancer.
So, I placed a call to the apartment manager.
I was calm, cool, and collected while offering statistics and facts about melanoma and young adults' risk for this deadly disease; how tanning beds do increase one's risk, etc. Imagine my surprise when the apartment manager told me that is a skin cancer survivor (not melanoma). "So, you are acutely aware of the fact that skin cancer is a serious issue, especially for our young adults who, like us, are in their 20s. You understand why I am so concerned about the fact that you provide unlimited access to tannings beds to your residents!" That is when she snapped. "The students who live here understand the risks and it's their option; it's their choice. They have the right to do what they want." "Ma'am, I don't think you realize that these young adults do not understand the risk involved; they do not understand the seriousness of melanoma. Who can I talk to about this, because this is serious. What can we do to protect these students."
For several years now, ever since I met my good friend and co-founder, Natalie, I have seen signs, billboards, and other advertisements about tanning that have upset me. I have been so tempted to call and voice my concerns, and/or run a letter-to-the-editor and/or PSA in the local newspaper. Yet, I have never actually spoke up to the tanning industry. I have helped fight for legislation regulating indoor tanning here in Utah, to which I received several pieces of "hate mail". I know of friends and colleagues in the skin cancer community who have received threatening letters, emails, and phone calls. In fact, my friend Robin Lawrence - a five time melanoma survivor who works at the Evansville Cancer Center - has even been threatened with legal action if she did not discontinue giving speeches saying that her addiction to tanning beds as a young woman contributed to the fact that she's battling melanoma in her 30s and 40s.
I do not enjoy stirring up controversy or ruffling feathers. On the whole, I get a long well with people. I, generally, prefer to please people. Yet, when it comes to an issue such as protecting people from deadly cancer, I am passionate. I'm emotionally-invested in this, because the health, safety, happiness, and well-being of individuals is extremely important to me. I was raised to speak the truth, to stick up for others, to serve and protect people especially my loved ones, and to fight for what is true and right.
And the irrefutable fact is that ultraviolet radiation, even from indoor tanning facilities, increases one's risk for melanoma skin cancer. It's scientifically true. Consider the surveys and studies conducted by the American Academy of Dermatology.
And if I can protect someone from having to suffer cancer, I will. I couldn't save my mother from cancer, but I can, perhaps, do something to help another individual; to save their life.
For more information about tanning beds - how they work and the relational link to skin cancer, get out www.aad.org and get your copy of ONLY SKIN DEEP? An Essential Guide to Skin Cancer Programs and Resources on Amazon.com today! (You can also learn more about Robin Lawrence, who I mention here in this Blog).
Remember, this about reducing and eliminating skin cancer. It is about saving lives. This not about attacking other people, their business, or an industry. It is not about ruffling feathers or stirring the pot, so to speak. I believe there is a way to work with each other, even if we are on opposing sides, to facilitate professional two-way (and honest) dialogue and thus create a solution to this epidemic. I believe that it will come when all parties involved are willing to address the facts, be honest, and work hard--together. It is hard work educating people. It is hard work protecting people. Yet, it is an important and vital work. THIS IS ABOUT EDUCATING AND PROTECTING YOUNG ADULTS FROM THE WORLD'S MOST COMMON AND PREVENTABLE CANCER!
That said, here's wishing health to you and yours!
United in the cause,