Brittany’s personal story
Like many 17-year-old girls, I was getting ready for my prom. I had the perfect date and when I chose my long, white dress, I convinced myself that a deep, dark tan would be the perfect accessory.
To get this tan, I started indoor tanning regularly for prom and kept going after the event. My mom, however, warned me against using tanning beds and repeatedly asked me to stop. Like a typical teenager, I went against my mother's wishes and used tanning beds anyway—four times a week for three years. Reflecting back on that experience, I can say I was addicted to tanning. And I believe my addiction led to my fight against the deadliest form of skin cancer, melanoma, just three years later.
At the age of 20, my mom noticed a mole on my back and encouraged me to visit a dermatologist. I was convinced the mole wasn't a serious problem. I went tanning the week before my doctor's appointment.
The dermatologist cut out the mole and sent it away for testing. The results showed that I had stage II melanoma. I took time off from college to undergo surgery and complete a six-week recovery. The long surgery left me with a 7-inch scar. To find out if the cancer had spread, the surgeon also removed seven lymph nodes under my arm. I was in a lot of pain.
Teenagers just don't listen to their parents. That's why it's our job as skin cancer survivors to step up.
Just a year after the surgery, I competed for, and won, the title Miss Maryland 2006. Part of my motivation was to bring awareness to skin cancer detection and prevention.
The experience of battling cancer at such a young age has impacted my view on life. I don't want anyone to go through what I have. I keep reminding people that skin cancer can happen to you. This is such a preventable cancer. Wear sunscreen with an SPF of 30 every day. Avoid tanning beds and get screened by a dermatologist regularly.