My boyfriend Maarten and I follow the Dutch series “Over Mijn Lijk” (“Over My Dead Body”), in which young people who will die from disease are followed until death. In the series we see 27-year old Mark die from skin cancer. Mark has motivated and inspired me. I’d like to tell you more about that.
Lees in het Nederlands
After the last show I’ve been staring into a black screen in silence for a while
FuneralThe series follows Mark and his girlfriend Anneleen closely. The viewer witnesses Mark going to the hospital, sometimes getting disappointing news about his disease and sometimes (relatively) positive news, finishing his bucket list which includes having a child and in the end the viewer whitnesses Mark’s funeral.
If you haven’t seen the series yet, you can watch it here (in Dutch, no subtitles).
After the last show I’ve been staring into a black screen in silence for a while. A guy in the middle of his life, still younger than me, grabbed away from life. And by what? Skin cancer; a disease I am often warned and have been advised about because I meet the risk factors. In fact, 15 years ago skin cancer had me and five years later I had it removed. Still, I ignore the warnings and do little with the advice. As such, by now I have used tanning beds regularly for 10 years in a row.
Cut and go
My cancer was in fact nothing compared to Mark’s skin cancer: my skin cancer was ‘happily’ classified as a basal cell carcinoma. This is a benign type of skin cancers, which means that there is no risk of death. My basal cell carcinoma was therefore very easily cut away; it was done with a blink of the eye. Easy peasy!
Of course, I did get the standard advice to avoid the sun and return to the dermatologist for a check-up regularly. I had to see my doctor every few months, never go into the sun uncovered, stay out of the sun between 12 and 3 and use a sunblock even on cloudy days. Sunny holidays and holidays at the beach should be a no-go from now on; UV radiation is the major cause of skin cancer and my light skin tone and eye color are risk factors for skin cancer. In addition, people with abnormal moles have an increased risk of developing a melanoma: malignant skin cancer which can be deadly. It should be clear that I had every reason to stick to the advice of my dermatologist.
Sure, on sunny summer days and in countries near the equator I used an SPF 30. Sometimes I moved into the shade between 1 and 3. Once every 5 years I let Maarten check my skin for weird spots.But that was it. This was all I did with my doctor’s advice. I have to admit that because cutting away the little tumor was so ridiculously easy, I did not listen very well to my dermatologist’s advice. To be honest: it was even worse …
Instead of visiting my dermatologist, I preferred growing freckles on a sun bed on a weekly base. Add a two-times-a-year intensive tanning bed treatment and holidays or work trips to sunny destinations and you understand that I haven’t been acting very wisely.
That’s what has become very clear to me by Mark’s death and the information that I consulted with the aim of writing this blog. For example: I found out that a basal cell carcinoma for sure doesn’t always stay on the surface, but can grow abnormally fast and can extensively damage the underlying tissue, such as bone tissue. Fortunately, no increased risk of death exists for this form of skin cancer, unless patient delay is the case. Wait, what? Do I read that correctly? Is there really a risk of death if the patient is not on time? Damage the underlying tissues?
I trigger the risk of another carcinoma and even melanoma by going using tanning beds, while I meet a number of risk factors (skin type 1, troubled moles and according to the dermatologist, a basal cell carcinoma is a risk factor for developing a melanoma). I have always been very relaxed about skin cancer: why would I be concerned about it if it is just a matter of cutting away some surface tissue? Honestly, this is the way I thought about carcinoma as well as about the more dangerous melanoma.
Carcinoma and melanoma excision are possible indeed, but what if you don’t discover the tumor in time? A carcinoma can apparently indeed lead to death, though the chance is small. The chances of dying from a melanoma is also there, and these chances are greater. I am not sure how it exactly works with a carcinoma, but besides cutting the tissue away, in many cases a melanoma needs radiation therapy as well. If the therapy doesn’t work, a melanoma can lead to death.
By watching the “Over My Dead Body” series, for the first time I understand what skin cancer really is about and what it can lead to. Skin cancer sounds like a skin-deep disease that manifests only on the skin and is easy to remove, but that is certainly not always the case. Cut and go certainly and unfortunately isn’t always the deal. Following the series and Mark’s road to death have acted as a wake-up call to my conscience.Skin cancer can be a life-threatening illness and if discovered too late, it may be that you can not escape death.
I therefore stop using tanning beds. In fact, I have stopped a number of weeks ago. I still have to get used to it, as I feel pale and miss the warmth of the solarium and a moment to relax. Sure, I hear you thinking “but a carcinoma is not a melanoma, aren’t you exaggerating a little?”. Personally I do not think so: malignant skin cancer is a factual threat if you meet a number of risk factors, especially if you use the solarium regularly: damage by UV radiation is the number one cause of skin cancer.
Avoiding the risk
Of course it is not said that if I use tanning beds, I will get skin cancer. Nor is said that if I stop using tanning beds, I will not get skin cancer anymore. It ìs a fact though that UV light from tanning beds is stronger than UV light from the sun and that if I keep using the solarium, I unnecessarily seek a risk. Why would I do that? Why would I value a nice skin color over my health?
And let’s be real: fair skin is in! Besides, being a model it is important for me to take good care of my skin and preserve its quality. Furthermore, fair skin photographs fantastic!
Just use a spray
For now I will just stop using tanning beds. I sometimes used to bake between 12 and 3, but I will probably (will try to!) not do so any longer. I won’t completely stay out of the sun; the sun is far too nice and the sun does have some health beneficial properties. Think of vitamin D synthesis, although real red heads don’t need the sun for that. When I want a tan (for example on my wedding day, hint, hint! Just kidding sweetheart, just kidding), I listen to my dermatologists advice and use just a tanning spray.
Finally, a message to Anneleen, the widow (the couple married shortly before his death) of Mark. I do not expect that Anneleen will ever read this, but in case it happens: I wish you a lot of strength in processing this terrible loss.
It sounds harsh, but the death of Mark has also brought good things. To me this means that Mark has motivated and inspired me to change my behavior. It has been a wake-up call, made me think about what is important in life, where I stand in life and where I want to be.
This article is purely intended to describe my feelings after following the series “Over My Dead Body”. It is absolutely not intended to provide information about skin cancer. I can not guarantee that the information in this article is suitable for the purpose for which you consult this information. I accept no liability for direct or indirect damages of any kind arising from or in any way connected with the use of this article.