My name is Kelli Pedroia. Yes, my last name may sound familiar to you. My husband is Dustin Pedroia the 2nd baseman for the Red Sox. However, today I am not writing about the Red Sox or how they are doing. I want to discuss something much more important, skin cancer. Just a few short years ago I was in high school following along with what everyone else was doing. I had always loved the sun and loved the feeling of being tan. Growing up I had a pool in my backyard so we were always out in the sun and most of the time not protecting myself. When I was a sophomore in high school I went to a tanning salon for the first time. It was to be the first time of many. Throughout the course of high school, I continued to lie out in the sun without protection and continued to go to a tanning salon. After all many of my friends worked there after school so it was a fun place to be. The summer before my senior year a big group of my friends and I worked at an outdoor water park so we could achieve the best tan possible. I graduated high school in 2001 and thought that everything was perfect.
During my freshman year of college my family and I went away to the Caribbean for spring break. I came home with the best tan of anyone! I fried myself only using oil, not even thinking of the consequences that would haunt me a few months down the road. Spring break was over and back to school I went. Two and a half months later I went to the doctor for a routine visit. At the end of the appointment I casually mentioned to my doctor that I had a mole on my right thigh that had changed recently. Ever since spring break it had become asymmetrical, raised and red around the edges – three red flags for melanoma. We immediately made a follow up appointment. to get the mole cut off. I knew something wasn’t right but I never expected it to be what it was. A week later the doctor called my parent’s and me into her office. June 11, 2002 is a day I will never forget. She told me my results came back positive for melanoma. Mela-what I said? I had no idea what melanoma was but I knew it wasn’t good.
I learned quickly that melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer. At the young age of 18 I was the youngest patient my doctor had ever seen with it. I was ushered off to oncologists, dermatologists and surgeons all for this little mole that I got from laying out in the sun. When it was over and done I had a chunk taken out of my right thigh the size of a large egg and lymph nodes taken out of my groin area to make sure that the cancer hadn’t spread. Trust me, those scars that are permanently on my body were not worth the self image I felt I needed to live up to with a tan. My results came back perfectly clear, all the cancer was gone.
I was in the clear and thought that it was a fluke that I had the melanoma. I was young and thought that I was invincible and it would never come back. Guess what? I was wrong. After continuing to lie out in the sun two years later the cancer came back. I had to have more skin cut out, this time out of my clavicle – yet another scar to add to my growing list all for a desire to have a tan. A year after that I had to have more skin cancer removed from my neck. Now four bad scars later I have finally learned a lesson the hard way. Not a single one of those scars were worth my desire to follow what everyone else was doing and have a tan.
Fast forward to today. I am now 100% healthy. Cancer free and plan on staying that way. I am here to tell you ways to prevent yourself from the same mistakes that I made. I only wish I knew then what I know now.
Many people including my husband spend several hours outside a day. For all of you athletes out there this goes for you too. Applying sunscreen takes less than two minutes and trust me it is worth the time. Before a day game or during the hot days of spring training Dustin makes sure to apply sunscreen to protect himself from the bad UVA and UVB rays. Some easy sun safety tips to remember are to apply sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher. It is also important to know to re-apply every two hours. Along with sunscreen make sure to wear protective clothing. This would include long sleeved shirts, a hat and sunglasses. If possible it is best to avoid the peak sun hours which are between 10:00am and 2:00pm. If that is not possible your next best solution is to seek shade. Protecting yourself from skin cancer and its damaging effects start now not years down the road. The statistics of the age at which skin cancer and melanoma arise are alarming and getting younger and younger.
So now hopefully you are inspired to better yourselves by protecting your skin from the sun and tanning beds. I have teamed up with IMPACT Melanoma’s program called, “Your Skin Is In.” This program is geared at high school juniors and seniors to have students sign a No-Tanning pledge saying that before your prom you pledge to not go in a tanning bed or go outside for the purpose of getting a tan. By getting 70% of your class to sign the pledge you will be entered in a drawing to win money for your school. My wish for your school is that I will be able to visit your school with a $1,000 check to present to you for all of your efforts in protecting yourself from the sun. Remember the new trend these days is not to be tan, no matter what the color of your skin is.