Confession. I used to work at a tanning salon. Albeit primarily a video store — the place had two piping hot, full-body, deluxe cancer boxes. And for the claustrophobic tanner: A standup version that gave you the same shade of light-bulb-burn-brown as the others in a quick 15 minutes. Ah, yes, accelerated skin damage for the low, low price of just $19.99 for 12 sessions. (13, if I liked you.)
I was 16 years old and stupid. I wish I could go back. I wish I could tell that teenaged cancer-dealing version of myself to unplug the beds, smash the bulbs and focus solely on hustling the movies. Enforce the late fees on “Cast Away.” Restock “Erin Brockovich.” And try to figure out why in the world anybody would rent “The Legend of Bagger Vance” more than once.
But I can’t change the past, so I’ll focus on the future instead.
After my wife had a melanoma scare in 2012, she found a great local charity called Melanoma Know More. She’s now on the organization’s Board of Directors and helps reduce the impact of melanoma through awareness, education, support of medical research and assistance for people affected by melanoma.
One of the ways the organization raises money is by putting together a team for Cincinnati’s Flying Pig Marathon. It’s been a longtime goal of mine to run a half marathon. I’ll finally realize that goal this spring. I’ll do it as a member of Team Melanoma Know More. The money I raise through donations will help Melanoma Know More provide free monthly skin cancer screening clinics, youth and community-based education programs and fund critical research for a cure.
My wife isn’t a tanner. And many who face melanoma aren’t either. But it is a huge factor. And the most preventable one. The folks at Melanoma Know More will tell you there is no such thing as a “safe tan.” Period. UV rays from the sun and tanning beds can be deadly. Nearly 10,000 adults are expected to die from the disease this year, according to the American Academy of Dermatology.
There are still more than 20,000 tanning salons across the United States — including the one I worked at as a teen. Just like the movie “Me, Myself and Irene,” my employment at the video store/tanning salon should never have happened. I can’t erase that. But I can run the half marathon in May with Melanoma Know More and support a group that promotes lifesaving efforts such as the No Tanning Promise.
And maybe then you can forgive me — and Jim Carrey — for being so dumb back in 2000.