When did you start using tanning beds? and for what reasons?
The first time I was in a tanning bed was when I was 13. I used to go to my mom’s salon and get into one fully clothed and put a towel on my face and fall asleep. After, we put the tanning bed into our house. When we did that, I was using it very few times but I would use it. My tanning bed addiction did not come until I was in my late teens early twenties. By then I was using them sometimes twice or three times a week. Then I wouldn’t go again for weeks. I was very sporadic in my usage. Nothing like you see the kids do today. The reason I started using tanning beds is because I’m vain. I care what people think about me. I want to look good. In my eyes at that time, being tanned was the only look that was acceptable.
How did your experience change your life?
It was like doing 180 degrees. I completely changed my view of the sun and my views of skin cancer and tanning beds especially. I went through a dark depression for about a year after I was diagnosed. I didn’t want to go outside because people would always ask me, “what happened to you?” But there wasn’t one person who ever guessed that I had, had skin cancer. The day I started doing speeches, and trying to educate people about the dangers of tanning beds and skin cancer in general is the day I regained my life back. I became a survivor instead of a victim. I could finally make a difference in what had happened to me and not just wallow in my own misery.
Is there an inspirational quote or song that keeps you moving forward and gives you strength in your life?
I love the quote, “Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.” After facing my mortality I realized just how very precious our lives are and we should not take that for granted.
What is the best advice you can give to someone who thinks that skin cancer can’t happen to them?
Think again. Skin cancer can happen to anyone no matter what type of skin you have. People who have darker complexions may have a lower risk of getting skin cancer, but if they are diagnosed they also have a higher death rate because it is harder to catch the cancer early enough. Stay out of tanning beds, keep your sun block applied every two hours and be vigilant about your own skin. You are your first line of defense against skin cancer. Pay attention to your skin.