Taking Charge

Okay, I admit it. As a mom of a cancer survivor, the sister of a cancer survivor, and the niece and grandaughter to cancer victims, it's hard for me to admit this. But, here it is... I don't wear sunscreen.

Predictably, some of you just gasped. Others of you just said, "WTF? That's it? That's the suspense? Psshawww." But, given that cancer seems to be my best friend, one would think that I would be more careful with one of the most preventable babyoilcancers out there - melanoma. I hit my teens mostly in the late 80s/early 90s and spent many 10am-2pm hours sitting in the sun with, yes, baby oil. I even remember taking tin foil and placing it strategically near my face in order to reflect the maximum amount of rays possible. Hawaiian vacations - no sunscreen. Trip to Jamaica - no sunscreen. I never really burned, mind you, and always got a deeper shade of brown than I already was.

When my oldest child was born, I did put sunscreen on her - mostly because other moms (white moms who I hung out with in our old neighborhood) liberally applied sunscreen to the glowing white skins of their children; so, naturally, I did the same to my brown skinned baby. After she was diagnosed with cancer, we really didn't go out at all, so no sunscreen issue.

Yet, today, I applied sunscreen. Liberally. SPF 50+ waterproof. I could hear my 14-year old-tin-foiled-self laughing hysterically on my shoulder. After I applied it to my children, I covered myself in it. Twice.

What I'm leaving out here is that I'm waiting for the results back from my skin cancer tests. This past week, I had a mole removed, and the stitches that continue to itch me is a physical reminder that I need to be more careful with both the health of my children and myself. I'm waiting in anxious anticipation for the results - cancer? No cancer? Given my odds and the way that the cards seem to be stacked against my cancer family, I'm holding my breath....

But, this all did get me thinking about race (what doesn't, right?). Before writing this article, I got on the internet and started learning more about the OTHER genetic disease with which I have been recently diagnosed. Cards. Stacked. See what I mean?

I'm trying to find out the answer about connections with melanoma, this other genetic condition, etc., and I'm hitting dead ends. With other things that peak my interest -- recipies, good places to take my kids, good movies -- I only read the first few Google entries. Now, with my health, I find myself digging for answers. I want to learn more. I want to understand more. I want to be so well versed in my disease that I can answer any question that comes at me. Frankly, most of what I read scares the shit out of me is difficult. Some of the posts I read from others living with this disease are vibrant and full of inspiration. Others are full of dispair and isolation. Some say that they just do whatever their doctors tell them. Others say they have learned how to take charge - to be active patients.

In the end, who benefits the most? The passive participants or the active patients?

It got me thinking about conversations in race. There are some who come to the realization that RACE and RACISM exist -- a diagnosis, if you will -- and who take charge of their learning process. There are others who come to the realization and wait for others to educate them.  For me, it took stitches and anxiety to come to the table and take charge. I needed physical scarring to wake me up. What does it take for people to engage in the conversation about race? What kind of emotional scars to people need to heal and to create in order to move forward?

Are there benefits to both? Is one "better" than another?