Originally Posted: 09/23/2015 12:33 pm EDT  at Huffington Post

I am still learning how to swim. I had taken a countless amount of swimming classes as a kid, only to be demoted to the group with 4-year-olds. Nowadays, my times at the pool are usually under an umbrella if I choose to go. This is what caused people watching to be one of my favorite sports. Why they choose to be outside in the torrid heat, I will never know. Every news station invariably does a segment on how the sun can cause extreme damage to one’s skin, and it completely engrosses me that people lay outside and cook themselves to get a golden brown skin color when they know the risks. Thirty-year-old women settle for the aged skin of a 60-year-old because of their relationship with the sun. I was determined to not have the skin texture of an alligator at a young age and the right clothing choice could make that goal a reality.

I was the little girl whose father dressed her until high school. I was outfitted in long, heavy, cotton sleeves, sweat pants, and a wide-brimmed hat for my entire childhood. The calefaction caused by my clothing did not bother me, but I never fully understood the function of my outfit; I just thought my father had a really bad taste in clothing. So as I grew into adolescenthood I wore long sleeve compression-type shirts under my normal t-shirts. In spite of this, I found out the real motive to my garments my sophomore year.

Skin cancer. Two horrifying words that my dermatologist told me. It may have been just an abnormal growth, but those turn much worse if not treated early. He removed it, but he also had to cut a little deeper because it was bigger than he thought. Now, I have a cicatrix about an inch long and a centimeter thick on my right arm. Since it is located just below where the bottom of a T-shirt sleeve hits, I get many people asking me about the origin of the scar when I don’t wear long sleeves. I tell them that it is what materializes if they do not protect their skin because of what they do in their teens, for instance tanning, can affect their health for a lifetime.

The lack of knowledge about skin cancer really consternates me, especially living in Arizona, where the highest number of skin cancer rates are found. When I learned that my family had a history skin cancer after having mine removed, I formed an organization called T’s K’s for Skin Cancer in conjunction with the Arizona Skin Cancer Foundation. Luckily enough in 2013, I helped the foundation close in at $55,000 for the year.

About 3.5 million cases of basal and squamous cell skin cancer are diagnosed in this country each year. Melanoma, a more dangerous type of skin cancer, will account for more than 73,000 cases of skin cancer in 2015.

All types of skin cancer are almost always curable when found in the early stages. There are various preventative measures that people can take like wearing a hat, sunglasses, sunscreen, and long sleeves/pants. As well as going to the dermatologist every six months to get checked.

I was so delighted to have created such an awareness that people not only donated to the cause but also started covering up their bodies more when going outside, even when it is cloudy. The monetary contribution helped assist people who could not otherwise pay for treatment and constructed an advertisement campaign about the disease, which cleared up public misinformation and ignorance about the sun and skin cancer. Now when I people watch at the pool, I can explain to people how my scar came to be a part of me. Going out to pools and lakes with my friends may still be a hindrance since I still am still learning how to swim at 18, but I would rather have my scar and be covered with clothing than not be here at all.

About Author

Student at the University of Arizona where she is studying political science with a minor in sports management and communication.

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