1 in 5 Americans will develop skin cancer by the age of 70. As May is National Skin Cancer Awareness month, we took the time to sit down with Katie, a Fake Bake customer, and hear her journey with skin cancer and ask her some questions.
1.What were your first signs of Skin Cancer?
I had Aggressive Squamous Cell Carcinoma with perineural invasion. ( which is a fancy way of saying my skin cancer grew very fast and it invaded my nerves and muscles in that area ) I first noticed a very small black dot on my upper lip. I thought it was blackhead. I messed with it a little but it never when away. In the course of about a month it grew from the size of a tiny blackhead, to the size of the point of a sharpie, and by the time I had my surgery it had grown to the size of an eraser head. It was rubber looking and crusty on the ends by that point.
I wait about a month before I went to the doctor and within 2 months I was having it removed with MOHS surgery. The tumor ended up being about the size of a penny and was at full thickness in one area.
2. What habits did you have prior to being diagnosed? (i.e. did you wear sunscreen?)
I did wear sunscreen. I wasn’t always in the habit of reapply or making sure my face/ lips were protected all the time.
3. Did you tan in a tanning bed?
Yes. I was a child of the 90’s. I started tanning when I was probably about 14 or 15.
4. Were you outside a lot?
We grew up with a pool so every summer was spent in our backyard swimming and laying out. I also had a convertible and know I didn’t protect myself with sunscreen or a hat when I had the top down.
5. How has skin cancer impacted your daily life?
Skin cancer has changed me in a lot of ways. My scar is constant daily reminder of how naïve I was about skin cancer. I never wore a daily sunscreen before I had skin cancer, and never used a lip balm with a SPF in it. I didn’t realize just how much you are actually exposed to the sun in daily life. We think about sunscreen a lot in the summer, when we’re at the pool, at the lake and at the beach, but do we think just driving in our car?? I didn’t! driving in our car we are exposed to 60% of the suns UV rays. I am constantly thinking about protecting my skin now. I never leave the house without apply sunscreen under my makeup, then I apply a powdered sunscreen once my make is on, and reapply though out the day. I also apply sunscreen to areas of my body that will be exposed to the sun. I never leave the house without a sun hat. I teach my kids that applying sunscreen before they leave the house is just as important as brushing their teeth. I never want them or anyone to ever have the painful experience of skin cancer like it did. I never want them to have to worry about if one of those little cancer cells caught a ride on a nerve and traveled somewhere else in my body and one day it’s going to show it’s ugly head again.
Before I had skin cancer I was one of those people who didn’t take skin cancer serious. I actually didn’t know anyone who had it before I was diagnosed. I learned a lot really quick and I am still constantly learning and advocating for skin cancer awareness. We hear a lot about melanoma, but not so much about other skin cancer like Squamous cell. I remember asking the doctor what Squamous Cell Carcinoma meant because I had never heard of it and she said you have skin cancer and not the kind you want to have if your going to get it. I quickly learned the type of skin cancer I had, has “ tentacles” or like roots on a tree. Image a tree or a plant. You can see the top of it. But you can’t see how the roots are growing and all directions the roots are going it. It’s like a spider web.
6. What made you choose Fake Bake as your sunless tanning option?
My friend Sam introduced me to fake bake. I got a spray tan from her before a baseball tournament one weekend. I was in love with how natural my spray tan looked. I was hooked.
7. What is your favorite self-tanner product from Fake Bake?
I love Fake Bake Flawless. I love that I can apply so easily at home with the mitt. I like to touchup my legs up between my actual spray tans and it’s so easy with Flawless. It’s like magic!!
8. What differences do you notice in your skin?
I think the biggest difference in my skin is the way I care for it now. Your skin is the largest organ on your body. You need to invest in it. Apply sunscreen to it, invest in good skincare , and pay attention to it when you see changes in it.
9. What is one piece of advice you’d give someone to reduce chances of skin cancer?
Besides wearing your sunscreen everyday and using a lip balm with a SPF in it, establish yourself with a dermatologist and get a yearly skin check. Skin cancer doesn’t care how old you are, and doesn’t care what color your skin is. It will happen to 1 in 5 of us in our lifetime. A huge goal I have is to teach our younger generations the importance of wearing your sunscreen to help prevent skin cancer. I believe , had I been more educated and I had been taught better habits at a younger age I may not of had to go through what I went through.