The worst sunburn I ever had came one Sunday during an outing
on Perche Creek. I rowed a heavy, homemade boat downstream alone
and turned back to discover that the current had helped me go
down, but it would take twice as long to row back to meet my
friends. That was at least 60 years ago, and we treated the burn
ROW UPSTREAM FIRST!
The worst-sunburned person I ever knew was a blond student who
missed my swimming class at Christian College. "She was in
the sun three hours," her friends said, "and
didn’t feel burned when she went in." Several hours
after her shower, she went to the infirmary with chills, high
fever and upset stomach. According to the American Academy of
Dermatology, "If the skin is exposed to sunlight too long,
redness may develop and increase for up to 24 hours."
That’s what kept my student in the infirmary with pain,
swelling and blistering for 10 days!
I was introduced to sunscreen 24 years ago when I helped
direct "Missouri Bikation," a five-day bicycle tour
across Missouri. Thirty-five riders started from near Kansas City
and rode to Lexington the first day.
The next morning, Edie Pepper, a premed student at UMC, handed
me her Pre-Sun to spread on her back and shoulders because she
was wearing a low-back blouse on the second day’s ride. As I
spread the sunscreen on, I noticed that she was not burned on the
first day’s ride. After lunch, we applied more sun screen.
That night, her back was normal in streaks where my fingers
spread the sun screen, but I could see that there were tiny red
streaks between some of my finger marks.
USE SUNSCREEN WITH A PROTECTION FACTOR OF AT LEAST 15 SPF,
EVEN ON CLOUDY DAYS.
In spite of these experiences, I didn’t recognize the
skin cancer on my nose about four months ago. The sun’s
harmful ultraviolet rays are most intense in midday, and I had
taught children’s swimming classes outdoors, for up to four
hours a day, several summers. Classes were between 11 a.m. and 5
p.m. I sometimes taught, in the water, wearing a wide-brim straw
hat, but harmful rays were reflecting from the water onto my
face. I usually forgot to reapply sunscreen between classes.
According to the brochure dermatologist John DeSpain handed me, I
was most vulnerable.
In spite of the many times I discussed sunburn and its ill
effects with children’s parents and with my college
students, I thought the red warty bump on my nose would go away.
When it stood up about the size and color of a pencil eraser I
sought professional help. DeSpain said, "You were a swimming
teacher?" Yes. "This is a cancer caused by long
exposure to the sun." He discussed surgery, saying,
"Fortunately it has a high cure rate ... when treated
early." The American Academy of Dermatology put it bluntly,
"In rare cases, if not treated, it can be deadly." It
had been bothering me for six weeks. Was that early enough? Or
was it a rare case? I dashed to the pharmacy and immediately
began applying the prescription medicine twice a day for several
weeks. It was early enough. The cancer is gone!
DeSpain said that I had a close call. I’m forever
grateful and expect to protect my skin as never before.
WHEN IN DOUBT, SEE THE DERMATOLOGIST AT ONCE!