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Sunny Days and The Big C

Sunny Days and The Big C

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Sunny Days and The Big C

Page Type: Article

Object Title: Sunny Days and The Big C

Activities: Hiking, Mountaineering, Trad Climbing, Sport Climbing, Toprope, Bouldering, Ice Climbing, Aid Climbing, Big Wall, Mixed, Scrambling, Via Ferrata, Canyoneering, Skiing


Page By: splattski

Created/Edited: Feb 27, 2010 / Jun 23, 2011

Object ID: 600764

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Page Score: 97.19%  - 66 Votes 

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Sunny Days and the Great Outdoors

“It was a gorgeous, sunny day.”
How many trip reports have you read that said something similar? How many of your own trips included a day like that?  
Big hat AND a nose guard. Sun protection on Denali.
Big hats AND nose guards. Sunny day on Denali, 2009 (that's me in the middle)

If you have been lucky enough to be out in the mountains to enjoy as many gorgeous, sunny days as I have, then you should read this article and think seriously about how the sun affects your health.

I’ve been active in outdoor sports my entire life. I learned to ski at age 9. I summited my first glaciated peak at 14. I climbed Mt. Rainier at 17. I worked two years as a Field Technician for the Forest Service. By the age of 20, I was also a bike racer, riding 250-350 miles per week in the summer. During the winter I was a cross-country ski racer. I was and continue to be a mountaineer and an athlete (although these days, an old fat one), and I was outside a lot.

The Big C

I’m now 54. That may seem really old to you. Don’t let that fool you, because you might be lucky enough to be 54 someday yourself. But here’s the deal and why I’m telling you all this. I loved being outdoors, but that may have increased my risk of cancer because I seldom if ever used sunscreen. Yes, cancer. About two weeks ago, I was diagnosed with skin cancer, what doctors call a malignant melanoma.

Risk Factors

In his article A Climber’s Guide to Prevention of Sun Damage, SummitPost member FlatheadNative lists some of the things that might put you at higher risk of having skin cancer some day:
• Fair skin, red or blond hair
• Light-colored eyes
• Sunburns
• Many moles, freckles, or birthmarks
• Working or playing outside
• Lots of sun exposure, especially a lot as a child
• Serious sunburn
• Family members with skin cancer
• Tanning in the sun or with a sunlamp

In addition to these risk factors, the America Cancer Society's brochure on malignant melanoma mentions as additional risks:
• Being over 50
• Already had melanoma or another skin cancer,
• A weakened immune system

I had or have blue eyes, blistering sunburns as a child, a ton of moles, play outside, and am over 50. In my later years I’ve been more careful about big hats and sunscreen, but the damage was already done.

Getting the Word Out

Stitches after biopsy
What's left of an 1/8" (3mm) mole

Many of the people I have climbed with have either read about or heard about my good friend Brian Mahon. Brian is a Physician’s Assistant who’s best friend, Jeff, died of kidney cancer. As Jeff lay dying in the hospital, Brian made a promise to him to get the word out about cancer.
When later I met Brian, it was to participate in what we call the Celebration of Life. The point of the Celebration is to raise awareness of men's cancer. You can read the full story behind the Celebration here along with a story about the 2002 Celebration.

My Cancer

Through my association and friendship with Brian, I learned a lot about cancer. Fortunately, I learned the ABCDs of skin cancer detection, because in my annual physical I asked my doc about a suspicious mole on my shoulder (and as Brian would point out if he was here, it didn't look anything like Cindy Crawford's mole).
My doc removed the mole the next day and the biopsy report came back that afternoon: malignant melanoma.
So about a week later I had an appointment with a dermatologist, who did a more complete skin removal. Fortunately for me, we caught it really early and it is 100% gone. And chicks dig scars.
I'm not normally one to share this kind of thing, but if it can save you some grief, my shirt is off. The moral of the story: Learn how to take care of yourself and then do so.

What You Should Do

You might consider helping Brian fulfill his promise:
• First, by becoming informed and taking care of yourself. In this article we're discussing skin cancer, so learn the ABCDs and apply sun screen when you are outside. As the American Cancer Society points out, don't just dab a bit on. Fill the palm of your hand and paint it on. 
The right way to apply sunscreen
Don't dab. Fill your palm and paint it on. Early on a sunny day on Mt. Adams

• Second, spread the word- either by telling the Celebration story (and if you have one, add your personal tale), or helping directly. Check out Brian's free MANual and send one to a friend (Note: yes, there is a shipping and handling charge. You shouldn't expect the guy to pay when he is doing you a solid).


Big hat AND a nose guard. Sun protection on Denali.The right way to apply sunscreenStitches after biopsy


[ Post a Comment ]
Viewing: 21-40 of 47 « PREV 1 2 3 NEXT » 

splattskiRe: Thanks for writing this


Hasn't voted

Thanks for the comments. I'm with you.
Posted Mar 1, 2010 1:43 pm

MarmadukeThanks for the Info.


Voted 10/10

My Dad was a lifeguard in his high school and college days in the late 50's and early 60's. So far he has been very lucky, but this is so voidable. Thanks for your incite! A few bucks and 5 minutes to apply sunscreen can save your life or at the very least doctor bills.
Posted Mar 1, 2010 4:22 pm

Bill ReedYou have brought into the

Bill Reed

Voted 10/10

light an issue which will confront many of us. Thanks for taking the time and putting out the effort.
I've been using sunscreen ever since I first discovered it was available in the mid-70s. Unfortunately I'm a fair skinned guy who grew up on the Jersey Shore in the 50s, long before sunscreen. Had one about the same as yours a few years back, but like you, caught it early.
Had another that wasn't a skin cancer and lost a portion of my nose in that one. Sometimes, life can be a bitch. But if you're lucky, you get over it and get to go on.
I still go the the beach and spend as much time as I can outdoors in the mountains because I love it. I always use sunscreen and at this point in my life, more importantly, I get yearly check-ups at the dermatologist.
Melanoma can be a killer unless you catch it early. Glad you caught it splattski!!
Posted Mar 1, 2010 9:23 pm

splattskiRe: You have brought into the


Hasn't voted

Another great story.
I'm certainly not going to stop going outside. Without the mountains, I'd wilt.
Posted Mar 2, 2010 6:41 am

MlaskyDifferent Symptom


Voted 10/10

Hey Splatt...very glad your prog is good, was looking forward to more trips. I've used sunscreen for a long time, but had a lot of damaging burns in my younger years. I'm sure sunscreen helps, whether it can counter earlier sins...i don't know. But it doesn't hurt. I've had two basal cell forms removed and both were in places where the sun doesn't shine...seriously...how weird. Mine was also an unusual form...it was a boo boo that wouldn't heal. The acronym doesn't cover that. I literally overheard someone talking about their skin cancer in the store. They talked about a spot that just wouldn't heal. I don't know how long i would have ignored it if i hadn't heard that. So lessons learned...anything weird shouldn't be ignored. Slather Up and Climb On!
Posted Mar 1, 2010 11:02 pm

splattskiRe: Different Symptom


Hasn't voted

And as my friend Brian says, watch for "UFOs." His acronym is for Unidentified Funky Objects. Sounds like yours might have qualified?
Posted Mar 2, 2010 6:37 am

MlaskyRe: Different Symptom


Voted 10/10

yes...a UFO for sure.
Posted Mar 12, 2010 1:31 am

SpiderSavageNeeded to be said


Hasn't voted

My dad was a geologist. Worked outside a lot before the invention of sunscreen. The cancer got him before he was 65.
Posted Mar 2, 2010 9:50 am



Voted 10/10

From a young person
Posted Mar 2, 2010 5:58 pm

splattskiRe: Thanks


Hasn't voted

You're welcome, Hamik.
Being young and informed allows you a chance to do things right. Stay healthy.
Posted Mar 3, 2010 7:14 pm



Hasn't voted

I'm glad you caught it in time. Cancer is so terrible and prevalent. I just saw my friend and climbing partner who has stage 3-4 colon cancer. He has lost so much weight from chemotherapy. Cancer sucks.

Oh, and as for sunscreen I highly recommend the spray on sport formulas...much better than messy cream.
Posted Mar 2, 2010 8:25 pm

splattskiRe: Cancer


Hasn't voted

I feel bad for your friend. My mom died of colon cancer at 47. And you're right: it does suck.
Posted Mar 3, 2010 7:12 pm

dyusemI forgot to mention...


Voted 10/10

...that the NY Times recently ran a fascinating (three part) article about the first human trials of an experimental cancer drug targeted at melanoma:


For those of you that are skeptical regarding the use of sunscreen, read the article and see what melanoma can do if not caught early.
Posted Mar 2, 2010 9:40 pm

Deantoo close to home


Voted 10/10

I lost my sister in law at age 33 because she ignored her doctors advice to have a strange looking mole removed from her left shoulder. She was a blonde, very lightskinned but had only just a few moles. Had she followed her doctor's advice and had it removed as you did, she would probably still be with us today. I'm glad we'll be able to keep you around. My daughter is a breast cancer survivor, going on four years now. She was only 35 when she had to deal with it.
Posted Mar 3, 2010 7:36 am

splattskiRe: too close to home


Hasn't voted

Sorry to hear about your loss Dean.
As you know, early detection is key. In my case, I have my friend Brian to thank for that.
Posted Mar 3, 2010 8:19 am

splattskiRe: Went to the Dr today...


Hasn't voted

Surfnturf- Excellent!
Comments like your almost make it worth the embarrassment of being shirtless on SummitPost.
Posted Mar 3, 2010 7:10 pm

T SharpYeah, Mee Too

T Sharp

Hasn't voted

I too am a melanoma survivor! Stage II T3b, ulcerated and 3.5mm thick, but it had not spread to the lymph nodes, thank goodness!
It was excised in 1991, [I was 36] and I now sport an 8 inch scar on my lower back just above the belt line. Growing up in Boulder, CO I would get blistering sunburns every summer right after school let out, I lived in cut off jeans and no shirt or shoes. It was a simple life then. I go in for yearly check ups by a dermatologist, get stuff burned off, and 2 years ago had a basal cell carcinoma removed from my neck.

I am not particularly good about sunscreen I am a bit ashamed to admit. In fact I just returned from a ski trip to Canada, where ugly high pressure dominated the region, and I had to ski 3 days in bright sunshine. I did not apply sunscreen, but I also did not burn at all....strange. I imagine it will lead to the darkening of the next round of spots to be burned off this coming summer.
Good luck with your prognosis!
Posted Mar 4, 2010 10:51 pm

splattskiRe: Yeah, Mee Too


Hasn't voted

Ouch- that sounds like an uncomfortable spot: right on the waist belt of the pack?
Stay healthy.
Posted Mar 9, 2010 9:01 am

Ejnar FjerdingstadSorry to hear that,

Ejnar Fjerdingstad

Hasn't voted

and I wish you continued good health. But I think it is very good of you to warn others against the danger of being unprotected in the sun. My wife and I have always been using sunscreen when in the mountains from when we were young, and at 73 still have had no serious skin problems.

But I know that many people consider it too much of a bother to put on sunscreen. I have a brother who likes to sit outside in bathing trunks for hours in the sun when he visits us here. Although we literally beg him to do it, he won't use sunscreen. Five years or so ago he had an early state melanoma on his back removed, luckily in time it seems. Last year he complained of a small skin lesion in the face that wouldn't heal. We told him to see a doctor immediately, and of course it was skin cancer, but fortunately the less dangerous basal cell carcinoma, in a very early stage. It was removed and he should have no further problems with that. But he still won't use sunscreen!!

People who won't use sunscreen, and reject any fear of cancer caused by the sun, remind me of the smokers I used to hear telling me that they were so happy to smoke that they really didn't care about the cancer risk. Sadly, I have seen a couple of them die of lung cancer.
Posted Mar 6, 2010 7:00 am

splattskiRe: Sorry to hear that,


Hasn't voted

Thanks for the wishes and comments, Ejnar. Better safe than sorry.
I always kind of liked having some 'color' but now wonder if I should have been more careful.
I think it's awesome you and your wife are still out in the mountains, and hope I can also be out there in my 70s.
Posted Mar 9, 2010 9:04 am

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