At high school, in the 80’s the best accessory for our truly vile summer school uniform was a tan. From September to December we sat outside on every sunny day, dripping cold water on our legs to attract the sun, rejoicing as winter white turned to pink. As the weather got warmer we would share around a bottle of baby oil and by December, the white bobby socks we wore with our brown roman sandals (told you it was a vile uniform), would reveal an adequate tan line when removed, to show just how far we’d come.
As the Christmas school holidays came around, we’d grab our baby oil, head to the lake and sizzle and burn the whole day long. Midday until mid afternoon was the best tanning sun and the paler girls would burn and peel and eventually emerge with a light golden sprinkling of freckles whilst the olive skinned girls would burn and darken, occasionally peeling but mostly just getting browner.
There began to emerge the “slip slop slap” ads, warnings of holes in the ozone layer and skin cancer. But cancer wasn’t something teenage girls got and so we carried on, applying the sickly coconut smelling Hawaiian Tropic, Le Tan for those of us who dreamed of Paris one day and Johnson’s baby oil when funds ran low.
When I moved to the UK in my early 20’s I hit the sun beds after a winter of zero sun and the shock of a fish belly complexion for the first time in my life. On my first trip home in two years, I spent a 2 day stop over in Bali burning by the pool (and subsequently suffering heat stroke) so I wouldn’t go home pale skinned.
Stupid really. All of this ran through my head when a week and a half ago I discovered a new, strange looking mole on my chest. Within 2 days it had increased markedly in size and I began to panic. I went to the doctor who took one look and said it had to be removed immediately. I asked him if he was worried, he said yes.
The mole was removed and sent for biopsy the next day. The doctor apologised that I would have a scar on my breast. I said “take the whole boob, I don’t care. Just get rid of it”. He reassured me that I could in fact keep my breast (I like my boobs, I just panicked, you know?)
I have spent the past 7 days in a strange sort of limbo. Alternating between an all encompassing dread of having to face a potential fight with cancer (what about my girls I thought as I cried), and telling myself I was being ridiculous, that I would be fine. It may sound like I was over-reacting but two deaths from cancer and a fight with it in my family in the past 4 years got the scares into me.
On Good Friday, I decided to just get on with Easter and enjoy the time off with my kids. I thought I was doing okay, but when I went to the doctor today and he said everything is fine, no cancer, just a mole, I sobbed with relief.
I am covered in moles, yet this is the first scare I’ve had. I guess that makes me pretty lucky. But it did make me re-evaluate. These things do I suppose. The message is… don’t tan. Spray tan may be smelly but it won’t kill you. Also, pale and interesting isn’t a saying for nothing. Check your moles. And do your best not to take life for granted.
Backing music: Raise Your Glass – Pink
Earrings: Silver and Amethyst three tier drops