Wednesday, February 10, 2016

My feelings about the Sun

In the last few weeks my relationship with the Sun has come into question more publicly than usual.  Preparing for my photo and bio to be posted on the I' website, I searched through photos of myself and I came up with a few options that may have been outdated but were of me nonetheless.  I consider myself to be very UN-photogenic, plus I tend to be the body behind the lens in my family, so photos of me are few and far between.  I sent a couple:

The site coordinator at SYSF politely asked me if I had any other photos of myself, in NOT the Sun.  Hhhmmmm.... nope, not really!  

Until that day I had not admitted to anyone else that I could see why it may be inappropriate for a melanoma patient to be on a melanoma awareness project portrayed in sunglasses and a halter top.  

I had used these tanned happy photos several times over the years in my writing, facebook, friends' photos/albums, etc. and I was still using them, thumbing my nose at the idea of the Sun being solely responsible for my skin cancer.  

I toss it around in my mind every sunny day, especially in summer when I am sitting inside looking out - yes my lifetime of sun exposure may have contributed to the onset of disease, but yes it may have been a case of bad genetic "luck," as is also known to happen.  

Even during the video-shoot interview I attended in December I was stumped when asked how I now feel about the Sun?  What is my relationship with the Sun?   I was silent.  I couldn't put it into simple words that would make sense on camera.  I stuttered and fell silent again, and I desperately hope they cut out that part of the interview.
Almost two years since melanoma entered my life and I do not have a good answer to this question, or at least not one that I would comfortably share with young people looking for definitive advice on whether or not to spend time in the sun and be careless about sun protection.  Yes I am FOR sun protection, and yes I will be careful in future, but no I will not live the rest of my life in fear of sunlight.  

Not until working on my book have I been able to put into words how I feel about the Sun. I have been mulling it over as in posts last February and March, and I still stand behind the words I wrote last year...

In the article Skin, written February 2015, I couldn't help but say about my Dermatologist: 

"She intimidates me like no other, she is my least favourite of all of my medical appointments (no offense to her, it's just the nature of the beast:  she is the one to lay blame on my sun-loving habits and express little sympathy over my willingness to repent in darkness for the rest of my life in exchange for never having to visit a Dermatologists' office again)."    

And an excerpt I wrote in: The Sun, April 2015

"I have yet to put in writing my thoughts about the sun.  I am a melanoma patient, however that may pan out in the future, at this point in time it is what it is.  I have always loved the sun, it makes me feel good, I haven't spent any time in it for the last year, I miss it tremendously, and every single day in the back of my mind I mull over how to handle myself sun-wise this coming summer.  

The doctors said that I need to stay out of it, wear a hat, stay in the shade, wear sunscreen and UV-protective clothing, stay away from windows and even be careful in the warmth from inside the car windows - avoid it at all costs.  In the next breath, I was told that I have as much chance of developing a NEW melanoma as anyone else does, or at least as much chance as I had before developing the first melanoma. 

Either way, fact is, my being in the sun will not affect my current melanoma, it doesn't make it grow, or spread, it is not a tumour that feeds on UV rays... what I have now is a disease inside my lymph system. That's what I have.  

SO, what I take from this is that I still have to be safe in the sun, as everyone should be, but... I may occasionally improve my quality of life by not banning myself from the thing that makes me most content and warm.  I am a sun baby, through and through."

Clearly I am still struggling with this, repeating and re-wording my thoughts every time I think about it, as I suspect I will do for the rest of my life. 

An excerpt from my future book, if you please:

I was never in it for the vanity.  Yes I enjoyed my complexion most when it was a luminous tan, the golden highlight of my collarbones and naturally glowing cheeks.  But the largest draw for me was the life I felt when my eyelids were closed against that light.  I consistently thanked the rays warming my skin and relieving me of my despondency.  I was never compelled to analyze the reason or the cause...
Perhaps my childhood always near some body of water, or my lifelong trips to Florida and even farther south spending vacations basking.  Or maybe an innate paganism that made my existence entirely reliant on worship of the Sun?  

I cannot give just one answer or explanation, but I can say that even in the height of my fight against a potentially deadly diagnosis of metastatic melanoma I still longed for my time in the Sun.  I felt I had been robbed of the life for which I had been made.  
The loss I felt upon being told by my oncologists that I could - should - never again be exposed to sunlight made me wilt on the spot.  That grief rivaled even the fear and desperation I felt at the thought of losing my very life.  To never bask in the Sun again? For what other purpose was I expected to live?  And for what reason was I doomed this punishment?  

I argued and kicked and fought, I bought the SPF and the clothing.  I stared longingly through the window on countless summer days, but until today I could not define my relationship with the Sun.  Modern-day pale youths would interview me, in awe that I could still say I love the Sun.  And every time I have been asked if I could change anything would I have kept away from the Sun? Would I trade my deadly diagnosis for a lifetime of peace in cold, pale skin?
I could not answer.  
I could never explain what life-giving power the Sun has over me.  I was not laughing in the face of my diagnosis.  Admittedly, I have always had a problem with authority, but this is larger than that.  It is my nature, my need.  "Give me sunshine or give me death!"  I could not live in purgatory. 

Article © Natalie Richardson 2016

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