A year ago, I introduced you to a new friend I had made, named Poppy. She suffers from a behavioral addiction, specifically the addiction to tanning, as well as tanorexia (click here to read Poppy’s story).
This morning I accompanied Poppy to her every-six-months full body skin check…….except it was not 6 months from the last appointment; it was one year later.
Here’s how the past year has looked for Poppy, in terms of changes (or lack there of) in her tanning behaviors:
~We meet. We become friends. I know she tans. I share my story with her about my 2 melanomas (foot and arm) and primary acquired melanosis of the left eye.
~She hears me. She becomes willing to go to a dermatologist….AND to quit the tanning beds.
~She tells her story….looks at her history…Admits to her addiction.
~She has her full-body check, with one biopsy taken, which comes back severely atypical, needing further excision. It is then the doctor recommends Poppy be seen every 6 months, because of her lengthy tanning bed history and her pathology report.
Poppy made changes. Some. She stopped visiting the tanning salons. She bought sunscreen. She borrowed my UPF clothing when she traveled to Mexico and Costa Rica.
Poppy, however, still engages in risky behaviors. Many. She sits in the sun whenever possible (see pic below).
Poppy’s “office” in full sun, mine in the shade.
She only uses sunscreen in foreign countries, with no reapplication taking place. She makes a concerted effort to get tan and to stay tan, most of the time claiming she is “not tan”.
In March, Poppy received a letter from her dermatology office, reminding her of the fact that she is due for her full-body check (6 months from the first visit). She ignored it. She told me, but she did not make the appointment. As C. Northcote Parkinson said, and feels very pertinent to this situation, “Delay is the deadliest form of denial.”
I can ask, remind, educate, pester, etc…but I can not make her make the appointment. I care about her deeply, and would love nothing more than for her to be spared the hell of melanoma, yet I know that with addiction, there is no forcing recovery. I do my part, the way I know how, and I wait for Poppy to make her appointment.
Well, yesterday, she made the appointment. But, guess why! Poppy had run out of her antibiotic she uses for acne, had tried to refill it, but the dermatologist would not refill it without her coming in to be seen. So, the fear of zits is what got her to make the call, and get the appointment that we went to this morning.
The appointment was extremely thorough (as it should be), with the doctor looking at all of Poppy’s moles, asking her if she has noticed anything new or changing, and stating more than once, “Because of your tanning history and your severely dysplastic mole, you really need to be seen every 6 months for the next 2 years. It is very important.” The doctor took pictures of 6 moles she wants to monitor. Poppy asked some questions. I asked some questions. Poppy got her antibiotic prescription refilled. It was a productive visit, overall.
Despite Poppy’s wrong motives for making the call, she did have her skin-check nonetheless.
So now what? The doctor instructed her to come back in 6 months…and I do what I do…continue to educate in hopes of change.
“Awareness is the greatest agent for change.”