Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

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May 23, 2013

Carrie Stambaugh: Summer fun with sunscreen: 05/24/13

ASHLAND — Summer vacation season is upon us. Many families across the area, including my own, are already counting down the minutes until their beach vacations. I admit, thoughts of white sand and blue-green waves, cold beer and raw oysters have been dominating my day dreams for the last few weeks.

A dog-friendly beach get away along Florida’s emerald coast, I hope, is in my summer future. I know most of you are thinking, “A vacation? Didn’t she just get home from France?” Yep, but as someone with an incurable case of wanderlust, I will be the first to admit I barely unpack my suitcases before I’m thinking about the next trip.  

I’ve already moved the beach chairs and umbrellas to the front of the garage in anticipation of a trip, but the hallmark sign of an upcoming beach excursion is that I’ve begun stocking up on sunscreen. Of course, I buy sunscreen in bulk pretty much all year round, but when heading to Florida, I need the expensive top shelf stuff.

The Florida sun is why most of us flock to the sunshine state for summer vacation, but it is my least favorite part of Florida, in all honesty. I’m simply too pale to spend my days lounging on the sand, baking in sun. Trust me, in my younger days I tried and it always ended badly. No one really should do it either.

Skin cancer is one of the most common cancers in America. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in five Americans will get cancer in their lifetime.

Melanoma is also one of the most common cancers among people ages 15 to 29. That is a startling statistic but one I can attest to. At 25, precancerous cells were found on my own face. I’ve since gone through two separate rounds of treatment to remove those and others that appeared behind them.

Years of unprotected sunning caught up to me earlier than I ever expected. I’ve learned my lesson though. I never leave home in any season without applying a broad spectrum sunbreak to my face, ears and neck.

In recent years, I’ve become even more diligent about my sun exposure when I migrate South.  It’s hard to stay out of the daylight between noon and 4 p.m., but it can be done.

And, when I just have to take a swim in the ocean at mid-day, I limit my time. I set a wrist watch timer to alert myself when it is time to get out of the water, usually after about 30 minutes. We all know the reflection of the sun on water can amplify exposure.

It’s tough for someone who swims better than they walk to leave the ocean swells, and I’ve been known to whine when the beeper chimes and often spend the next few minutes pouting. But, as I dry off in the shade and apply a new coat of sunscreen, I get over it. The absence of a sunburn the next day is all the reward I need.  

I have also gathered quite a collection of broad-rimmed hats to shelter my face and shoulders from the sun. They are fashionable and practical accessories for the beach, but after add a few silk flowers and some ribbon and — viola! — Derby hat.

Another favorite way to get in beach time without upping the burn risk factor is to be an early riser and a mid-day napper. There are significantly smaller crowds in the early hours and the views at sunrise can be spectacular.

Most of the time, I bribe myself away from the mid-day surf with oysters and cold beer. Restaurants are always less busy during peak beach time, meaning less wait until the shellfish on the half-shell can be served up with a frosty brew, again and again.

Back to the ocean I go in the evenings, when the crowds wane and the seascape is is even more beautiful as the sun starts lowering in the sky and the twinkling stars emerge.  

Those are the moments I share with Carl that are just too precious to take the extra risk of allowing an indiscriminate killerlike cancer an opportunity to strike.

Wear your sunscreen, please.  

CARRIE STAMBAUGH can be reached at (606) 326-2653 or by email at cstambaugh@dailyindependent.com

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