Still having fun in the sun

By Jennifer Millar, SolSurvivors Oregon

A melanoma diagnosis is not a sentence to a life sans sun-filled vacations, but it is different than before. When I was a senior in college, my girlfriends and I had booked a trip to Oahu for a graduation present to ourselves. A few months before we were supposed to go, I had my first melanoma. I wasn’t sure at first if I should still go, but I had been looking forward to it for a year. We went and tried to come up with other non-laying out activities for us to do. Since that time, I have been to Hawaii at least a dozen times and while it’s different, I still find it enjoyable. Here are a few tips on how to have fun in the sun…safely.

  • SPF.  We all know about the importance, but when it’s you versus the strong UV rays, SPF now stands for your Super Pale Friend. Reapply religiously!
  • Find the shade or make your own. If you are with people who want to hang out on the beach all day and if you cannot find some shade, get an umbrella or rent a cabana. You can typically get an inexpensive beach umbrella at any of the touristy shops or rent one for the day. You can also get shade tents which work well anywhere you want to be outside for long periods of time. Grab your book or Kindle and enjoy the scenery without getting burned.
  • Get some UPF clothing. Fortunately these are getting more fashionable all the time. Although I’m not a surfer (I have tried it twice!), I do enjoy the look of the surfer rash guards and have several of those. I also swear that even though you are wearing more clothing; it keeps you cooler as your skin is protected from the rays. It takes a little getting used to but now I love the fact that I don’t have to reapply sunscreen all the time to my back, torso, and arms because they are completely covered up. Any actual UPF clothing will have a UPF rating on it, so look for that.
  • While rocking your SPF/UPF clothing, do something active OTHER than laying around outside. Put on your sunscreen and/or UPF clothing and go for a hike, rent a bike, kayak, stand up paddle board, check out local attractions, get a massage, or go snorkeling. There are plenty of things you can do in a sunny environment that don’t involve laying out in the sun.

It should be noted that none of this requires a “base tan” to avoid getting burned. In all my times going to Hawaii post my initial diagnosis I have never gotten burned and I have never preceded my trip by going tanning. My goal now post-sunny vacation is to come back as pale as a left. I consider it a compliment when someone says “oh I would have never known you were in Hawaii, you’re so pale.” Mission accomplished.