Safe in the Sun: Heather Armstrong
From Health magazine
Heather Armstrong, 32, loves the sun but hates what its done to her body. Shes had three basal cell carcinomas—the most common type of skin cancer, with upwards of 1 million new cases every year—and she has the scars to prove it.
Armstrong blogs about her experiences at www.dooce.com and even posts pictures of her cancer and its aftermath, which has led some visitors to her site to get checked and discover that they, too, have cancer. “My crusade is to write about going back to the doctor every three to four months, so I can show that this is an ongoing problem. Now, every spot that pops up scares me,” she says.
Armstrong blames her cancer on sunbathing habits she had as a youngster in the South. “In the 80s, my sister and I routinely laid out in the backyard with baby oil on,” she says. Later, after moving to Los Angeles, Armstrong was a regular at tanning salons and rarely, if ever, wore sunblock. She figured that skin cancer, if it happened, was decades away. Unfortunately, she was off by a few decades.
Two years ago, after having her first cancerous spot burned off her upper left arm, Armstrong was so uncomfortable that she couldnt sleep for a week. “It looked like someone had taken a car lighter to my skin,” she says.
It wasnt long before she noticed a raw spot on her collarbone that she assumed was caused by a bra strap rubbing the area; it was another basal cell cancer. Now, on her forehead is a suspicious-looking spot that her derm plans to remove.
Armstrong is resigned to dealing with the problem for the rest of her life—and being more careful. On a recent trip to Florida, she hit the sand with SPF 70 sunscreen, a huge hat, and head-to-toe clothing. “I was the whitest person on that beach,” she says. “I may not be tan, but Im going to be healthy.”