It's a common misconception that skin cancer can just be removed and the patient will easily go on after that. While that can happen, it isn’t always the case.
“I loved to be tan in my 20s, so I would visit the tanning bed quite often. Also, I would go out in the sun a lot,” said Wendy Phelps.
Wendy’s mom, Martha Floyd said back then, Wendy thought her fair skin looked better when she was tan.
“She was getting darker, she thought she looked great and she just kept going and going,” Martha said.
Two years ago, at 42, Wendy was diagnosed with stage three melanoma and learned she'd never be in remission.
“They told me I have a new normal. I don't want a new normal. I want what I had. My life will never be the same, it's not worth it,” Wendy said.
She can no longer live alone or even work because of complications connected to the melanoma. She has painful swelling from lymphedema and must wear compression garments 24 hours a day.
“It is hard to be told that your daughter has a 50 percent chance of living,” Martha said.
Wendy's dermatologist, Dr. Keeter Sechrist explains why she believes a spray tan is the only safe tan.
“The tanning facilities are using ultraviolet "A" radiation and it is actually much more intense than what you would get from the sun. It also penetrates deeper into the skin than the ultraviolet "B" radiation you would get from the sun,” Sechrist said.
When it comes to carcinogens, tanning beds have been put on the same level as tobacco, Sechrist said.
“It’s going down to your blood vessels and your collagen. It's damaging the collagen, it is irradiating your blood supply,” Sechrist said.
Wendy said her desire to look attractive destroyed her.
“I think a lot of females think guys will think we're prettier if we have a tan,” she said.
However, Dr. Sechrist said it's the deterioration of their "looks" that most commonly gets girls and women to get serious about protecting their skin.
“We’re finding that the idea that this could cause cancer isn't stopping people, not young people but the idea that it might cause them to look older prematurely is actually more effective,” Sechrist said.
Wendy and Martha just want you to learn from their story.
“It has been pure hell to see her and not be able to fix it,” Martha said.
Wendy thinks back on what she'd change if she had the chance.
“I would be secure in myself and what God gave me, the skin color God gave me and be happy with what I had because there was nothing wrong with it,” Wendy said.
Dr. Sechrist is also the President of “Outrun The Sun” in Indianapolis. They’re holding the “Outrun The Sun Race Against Melanoma” on June 2. For more information, visit http://www.outrunthesun.org/events/RAMINDY.htm
Since Wendy is no longer able to work, Little Red Door Cancer Agency has been assisting her with items she needs such as her compression garments. LRDCA is preparing for the Big Red Bash, a community festival on July 14. To register for that event, visit http://www.littlereddoor.org/big-red-bash