The C Word

Note: This post contains a graphic image.

I probably use this word at least 30 times a day. It simultaneously feels normal and horrible.


It’s my job. 

I work for a childhood cancer foundation where we provide financial assistance to families of children with cancer. I’m truly proud of what I do because I know that we are making a difference and maybe, just maybe, changing the world. 

Isn’t that what every little girl dreams of doing? I know I did. That’s quite a feeling to have at age 25. 

Pondering how to change the world. Or my hairstyle. No such luck, as the mullet lasted another 3 years.

I read lots of stories from families. How they found out their child had cancer. What tipped them off. How they just had a feeling that something wasn’t right. Or how things went wrong far too quickly. A bad day at my job means that we aren’t just paying for chemo or helping a family with their electric bill. It means we are helping a family to pay for their child’s funeral. 

It certainly puts things in my own life in perspective. 

[Childhood cancer absolutely needs more attention in the media and more importantly, more funding! But that’s another story for another day.]

And up until recently, everyone in my family was in good health and “the c word” was mostly said during working hours only.

Until this…

(warning, graphic image ahead)

If you can’t handle the surgery scenes on Grey’s Anatomy, this will do you in.

The person attached to this leg is 6’6″. That puts into perspective just how large this wound is. 

And what on earth is this a picture of? It’s where melanoma used to be. That’s cancer. The deadliest type of skin cancer. On my step-dad. The man who raised me. Who read every essay I ever wrote. Who made me eggs and toast before every 6am cheerleading practice. And who has loved me as his own. It’s effing terrifying.

And yet, in my position, should I be surprised? Cancer is what I do all day! But when it hits your family, you are surprised. Blown away no matter what.

Now you might ask, why did she show us that gross picture? Here’s why: Your tan is killing you. 

None of us are invincible. But the more time I spend in the world of childhood cancer the more all cancer seems like it’s another “c” word: a Crapshoot. 

One day you might be healthy and the next some cell mutates and tag! You’re it! Or maybe, like my great-grandmother, you could smoke a pack of Lucky Strike unfiltered cigarettes every day of your life and live well into your 90’s. Who the hell knows.

But I know one thing: I’m wearing sunscreen. 

A big thank you to Mike for letting me show the world this amazingly gross picture. 
Who knows, maybe we’ll save someones life, right?

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  • This is a great reminder.

  • I am so sorry for your Stepdad! And thank you for the reminder. I don’t do gore, so I scrolled very quickly past that picture, but my stomach still did a flop. I hope he gets better soon.

  • You do wonderful work, thank you for all your help and spreading awareness!

  • I hope your step-dad remains cancer-free, that is so scary. My grandmother went through this as well and I can’t, for the life of me, understand why people still go tanning. Sure, I did a couple times in college during that “invincible” phase and will be lucky if I don’t have to pay for it later. I’d rather be as pale as a ghost.

    That’s amazing work that you do!

  • You’re so right. It’s sad how many people think it will never happen to them. I live in the sailing capital of the world and my clients constantly come in with bandages or huge sunglasses because they had yet another something cut off “just to be safe.” sail all you want, but apply the darn sunblock!

  • This is so so scary. I just think back to my friends in college who went tanning every day. Or my old coworker (a teenager at the time) who would go tanning twice a day, every day. Sunscreen and shade (not just those in the form of sunglasses) are what I live by…and I have enough melanin in my skin for a tan year-round.

  • I work for a Hospice program, and although I’m in the corporate office and don’t interact with patients directly, I’ve seen one too many patients that are children come on hospice … it’s heart-breaking. And the C word … is so scary. It seems like it is taking over the world. I used to be in tanning beds ALL THE TIME. And I still to this day miss them terribly. But now I slather on sunscreen … and ya know what? Even WITH SPF on I can get some color, be happy AND healthy! I hope youe step-dad is ok! Cancer is scariest when it hits home, trust me, I’ve been there! xoxo

  • I love this post! My father had skin cancer (melanoma, aka the worst kind) for years and it was very hard to deal with. He is cancer-free now after surgeries, but it’s SO scary. I make sure to always wear sunscreen and go for check-ups to the derm when I can (since it can be hereditary). People think skin cancer is not a big deal and it can “just be removed”- but it’s the furthest thing from the truth. Thanks for shedding light on this!

  • I’m guessing/hoping they were able to catch it in time and he’s better now. Cancer is definitely scary. My grandmama got ovarian cancer and they didn’t catch it until it was stage 4. It’s awful how it changes people. By the end, she couldn’t even talk. I think your job is absolutely heroic and inspiring. I don’t think I could do it.

  • Pasty is the new tan in my book! Just call me Casper and I am happy. Skin cancer scares the bejesus out of me and you will not find me without some sunscreen at the beach!

  • my dad is a Dr, and he removes skin cancer ALL day long. It takes up most of his day. So, you can bet that we aren’t really a tanning family. Some of us are lightly bronzed, but we always wear sunscreen. I am not tan. I am milky white like the snow. It’s terrifying.

  • Amen girl. Take it from me, cancer is something they don’t tell you about at those tanning salons. BUT YOU’RE PAYING FOR PAIN DOWN THE ROAD!

  • This is such an important post. Like most people, I used to be less aware of skin protection growing up, but I’ve definitely smartened up. I’ve dealt with a lot of cancer in my family, and now I’m constantly aware of protecting myself against it. Thank you for YOUR work!

  • I didn’t know you worked with a childhood cancer foundation, that’s incredible. And this is a great post because I (STILL) don’t think people realize how dangerous tanning is!

  • AA

    Thank you for sharing. My mother and brother have both had questionable moles removed, so skin cancer has always been on my radar. I wish more people would listen to warnings like this. I knew girls in college who went tanning Not only will it make you look like a worn out leather shoe when you’re old, it could kill you!!!

  • You are now officially my hero. I come to this blog all the time because you’re hilarious and I think we should be best friends. But seeing what you do for a living is incredible and you must be very strong to deal with what you see around you every day. Props girl, and I hope your stepdad is doing well

  • i am sorry about your stepdad! cancer sucks. i know way too many people with it. :/

  • The C word totally sucks, but good for you for putting this out there. People need reminders. I’m tan-free and happy. 🙂

  • I wish I knew 15 years ago what I know now about tanning. I used to work in a tanning bed and tanned probably 3-4 times per week. Awful. We later found out that there is a family history of melanoma and I have a lot of freckles, moles, etc. I have had probably close to 30 moles removed and while none of have been cancerous, thank god, many have been precancerous. All this to say: my sister STILL goes into a tanning bed knowing all this. I want to kill her. I don’t even know how tanning salon owners can, in good conscious, make money off of people tanning.

  • Oh my goodness, I had no idea this is what you did!

    Sparkles and Shoes

  • This is why I don’t tan. I don’t see what makes looking darker better than the risk of skin cancer.

  • Thank you for this post, Nadine! You totally went there! As someone in the health care field, I feel like it’s my job to educate the community on these type of health issues. Sometimes I feel a little discouraged, no matter how many health promotions we do on UV rays and the importance of SPF, I still see so many young girls going to tanning beds! That stuff can kill! Maybe that photo will help. Thanks to you and your step dad for sharing!!

  • Thank you for sharing this post! I very recently stumbled upon your blog and began obsessing over your golden (I have one of my own!). I treat cancer for a living and deal with melanoma on a daily basis. This time of year, it’s very common to see bloggers writing about getting a tan for summer and I can’t help but cringe every time. Thanks for raising awareness and best of luck to your step dad!

  • Thank you for sharing something so personal. My family has also been touched by melanoma. I constantly find myself stressing sunscreen and faux tans to my friends and co-workers.

  • Sorry to hear about your stepdad, that’s so scary. 🙁 It’s stories like this that make me glad that I don’t go tanning. Also, your job sounds so rewarding, despite how difficult it must be sometimes. Go you!

  • Oh jeez I hope your stepdad is doing ok! Cancer free now? My mom had it too and it was very scary. She had it on the back of her left arm (doctor told her common from sun exposure from driving in the car and having your arm up on window). She is cancer free thank God! She still has nerve damage from the surgery. I’ll take a spray tan or being pale over cancer!!

  • i think that’s the scariest thing i’ve ever seen. i’m so sorry to hear about your stepdad, i hope everything goes well. it’s one of those things that you think will never happen to you and then one day you wake up and it does. i used to tan because i hated how pale i was. then i moved to korea here they all WANT to be pale and then i start to reevaluate. i don’t mind being my pale self that much anymore if it means less wrinkles and healthier skin!

  • before i moved back to canada, i worked for a skin cancer screening company in new zealand where they have what I believe to be the highest skin cancer rates in the world (the hole in the ozone layer is directly above NZ). i saw soo many melanomas and other non-fatal but still no good skin cancers and since then i wear sunscreen ALL. THE. TIME. people think they are invincible to skin cancer for some reason, but it’s so so common!

    • oh and i’m stopping by from jessica who 🙂

  • yes times one thousand. I think we all know by now that tanning and being in the sun without sunscreen is bad news bears. I am the one hiding in the shade at the beach and wearing 50 spf. I started using a self tanner to make myself less pale and now my issue of “but I look better with a tan” is solved in a safe way. I also pestered my family members to be safer when outside in the sun. this post is so important and hope it’ll convert some tanners.
    please vote! shoe styling contest

  • Just found your blog through the GCF blog hop!!
    Stopping by and now following!!
    Looking forward to keeping up with your blog!


  • my uncle died on melanoma. i completely understand this picture. its so saddening

  • Oh my gosh, that is awful. My mom has worked for a dermatologist since I was a child and is constantly telling me to watch my skin. I went through a phase for about 2 years where I just HAD to be tan. Tanning bed every day, tan tan tan. And then I realized that it was simply not worth it. Now, I am pale and proud and wear the highest sunscreen SPF I can find. I don’t care if I’m white as a ghost- my life is worth way much more than a tan. I’m so sorry about your step dad! That is scary.

  • I will seriously pay my child to get spray tans instead of fake and bakes (which I hope are outlawed by the time my kids are teenages). I am actually looking forward to my dermatologist appt so I can get a couple moles checked out and removed. Hopefully nothing is more serious, but just a reminder that a tan isn’t that important!! Great post!

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