The "Hotel Melanoma" moniker is a metaphor for living with my particular brand of cancer. Except for those lucky few of us deemed "cured", all we cancer survivors are guests of one of the many, many branded hotels in the "Hotel Carcinoma" chain. We can check out any time we like, but we can never leave. Meanwhile, let's be livin' it up; and please support cancer education, prevention, and treatment research.

Tutu Brothers

Monday, January 3, 2011

Practicing Safe Sun

Sometime soon, my wife and I will embark on our annual pilgrimage to a sunny beach resort in Mexico, to briefly escape the rigors of winter in the Rockies. I know from experience that if I show up for my spring checkup at the melanoma clinic sporting a darker skin stone than that of a death row inmate on supermax lock-up, my butt will be serially kicked. First by a nurse, next by a resident, and finally by my faculty doc (f/k/a “Dr. Death”). A phosphorescent white skin stone is the preferred alternative. Consequently, frolicking on the beach at The Hotel Melanoma presents a challenge.

My first beach vacation a few months out of biochemotherapy was a learning experience. Having had most of the pigment (melanin) cells in my entire body (of mostly Celtic descent) eradicated by an effective attack by my stimulated immune system, a few minutes of sun exposure trekking from the hotel room to the beach or pool would turn any exposed skin some very unnatural colors. Massive applications of sunscreen didn’t much help. So here are a few ‘safe sun’ tips I’ve learned over the years.

Being a red-blooded American/Celtic guy of ‘boomer vintage, let me first make it abundantly clear that I sport long, baggy swim trunks. I wouldn’t even swim laps at dawn in a euro-trash styled man bikini. I usually complete my beachwear ensemble with at least a t-shirt (who really wants to view a scarred up guy my age topless?) and often a long-sleeved SPF 2K protective shirt. I’ve even gone sea kayaking in the latter, plus ball cap.

Beach walking and swimming at tropical latitudes are best done in the early morning or late afternoon hours. Plus, nobody really cares if you’re walking the beach swathed in sun-protective gear—and if you are a male over the age of 40 or so, you’ve already become invisible to junior members of the opposite sex anyway. Midday finds me hiding on the beach under a palapa hut, enjoying the sea breeze and the abundant ‘visual amenities’ of the resort. And swim-up pool bars often offer shady spots for swilling rum drinks whenever your personal cocktail hour arrives.

Please feel free to share your own tips. Have a Happy New Year and don’t stop frolicking on your personal beach, wherever and whatever that may be.

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