Many people who don't protect themselves from the sun may never get skin cancer. And certainly, you can roll the dice if you wish. But there are things I now do regularly to protect myself from it. I don't have to remember to do them; they're automatic. I was never this careful before my husband died of the disease. That tragedy was my motivator. But maybe I could be your motivator -- if you know a little bit about what my husband, Jerry, went through and what I went through as his wife.
From the moment he was diagnosed to the day he died six years later, I had my heart in my mouth. I was in a quiet panic -- sometimes not so quiet. I did everything I could for him, researching doctors and hospitals and treatments and calling anyone I knew who had experience with skin cancer for advice. I was even careful that we didn't socialize with people who had a cold, which could have compromised his immune system.
The diagnosis was dire from the start. He had ignored what he had seen on his arm; I discovered it one day at a picnic. I knew that in the not-too-distant future, it would take his life. Everything he had to go through was hell for him -- and a different kind of hell for me. That included the false hope -- a new drug, in trials. Could that save him? He tried it. He tried everything.
But he died. And for what? Skin cancer -- a disease that can be prevented and, if not prevented, can be arrested if caught early.
I hope you check yourself once a month after reading this. I hope that, if you see a mole or something that doesn't look quite right, you'll make an appointment with your dermatologist and not let it wait. I hope you take the opportunity my husband didn't take -- to use sunscreen, reapplying it every two hours if you swim or sweat, and to wear a wide-brimmed hat. I hope you don't bake in the sun or at a tanning salon (he never saw the inside of a tanning salon but 3 million people a year do).
In short, I hope you choose to save yourself. Only you can do it.
Since her husband's death, Rosenberg, a resident of Los Angeles, has begun manufacturing and producing UV-protective hats and umbrellas. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
My Turn is a forum for readers to recount an experience related to health or fitness. Submissions should be no more than 500 words. They are subject to editing and condensation and become the property of The Times. Please e-mail email@example.com. Although we read every essay, we can't respond to every writer.