Education is Key to Skin Cancer Awareness
Getting ready to celebrate her 59th birthday in September, Kathy Jackson recalls growing up at a time when “there was no such thing as sunscreen.” Rather, she says it was common to slather on baby oil and iodine to get that sunkissed glow. And having a skin check by a dermatologist? Nope, they only dealt with pimples and acne, or so it seemed at the time.
Listening to Kathy talk, you can sense the frustration at the lack of education at the time that the sun, in fact, can be quite dangerous to the skin. She remembers, “I was never really tan, I would just burn and peel, on repeat.” She recalls one time specifically when she was on Spring Break in Florida as a 21-year-old and her eyes got burned severely, but it still didn’t convince her to change her habits.
It was until she was married and in her late 20s that she decided to go to a dermatologist for a skin check – and her journey through skin cancer began. Her first surgery was a punch biopsy of a spot on her back that showed it was a squamous cell, which is a type of skin cancer that falls between basal cells and melanoma.
Her dermatologist passed away and life got hectic with three kids, plus being pregnant with her youngest. But skin cancer, unfortunately, didn’t go away just because she didn’t have time for it. She had her first facial surgery at 32 on the side of her face. According to Kathy, “it all spiraled from there with six surgeries above my eyes, then arms, shoulders, neck, legs, … name it.”
When Kathy noticed a red mark on her face that wouldn’t go away, she ultimately had two biopsies and a punch biopsy to confirm that it was a basal cell that had three “legs” or extensions branching off of it. The result was stitches from her nose to her lips and the need to reconstruct the entire right side of her lip.
Even after all of this, Kathy can emphatically say, “No melanoma, thank God!” She does, however, have scars all over her body from the removal of cells. She points out that many of those are in places you simply don’t think to apply sunscreen – in the hairline, your part, your eyes below your eyebrows, your lips, hands, etc. “We see the things on the front of us, but we forget about our back and don’t think about other parts of our body that are exposed,” Kathy stresses.
Kathy has had a total of nine surgeries on her face, including three above each of her eyebrows. As a result, she and now is known to ALWAYS have sunglasses on. She understands, “I have to really protect my eyes, scalp, and face.” She is also “religious about sunscreen” and layers that with a primer that also has sunscreen. She says, “I’m big on hats and sunglasses, tinted windows for your car.”
Kathy has been dealing with and treating her skin cancer for 33 years – which is more than half of her life. It’s no surprise then that she is passionate about educating others about things she didn’t know all of those years ago. “If you choose to tan and not protect yourself after being educated, that is a choice,” Kathy says. “But is it my passion to make sure everyone knows what they need to know to make educated decisions.”
In maintenance mode, Kathy still sees the dermatologist every three months and is quick to have anything checked that just doesn’t look normal. “Don’t walk, run to a dermatologist!” She says, “Everyone says you should to the dentist twice per year and get an annual physical exam, so I don’t know we don’t say you should go to the dermatologist once per year.”
Even after 33 years of treatment, nine surgeries, and scars all over her body, Kathy is proud to say that most people would never know her history. “I consistently have Secret RF and MicroNeedling treatments done at Timeless. While these help with fine lines and wrinkles, they have also helped to soften every one of my scars. There are scars all over my body that are small and you can barely see them because of these treatments from Timeless.”
Kathy is also a big proponent of ColoreScience Sunforgettable Brush-On Sunscreen, because she says, “You can put it on your hands and face after your makeup and no one knows, and put it in hairline without it getting greasy.” She says you can find ColoreScience in every purse she carries, in her car, and even in her husband’s golf bag. “I’m taking care of my skin and can still be tan with a bronzer and look healthier than if my skin was subject to sun.”