It is advice we hear often as parents, “Take care of yourself first so that you can take care of your family.”  I have always viewed the advice as permission to have some “me” time–soaking in a tub, reading a good book, going for a walk.  Today I realized there is more to the advice than just saving my sanity.  It is imperative that we take care of ourselves physically so that we will be healthy enough to take care of our loved ones.

Today I had a stark reminder about the importance of taking care of myself physically.  I finally got around to visiting a dermatologist to have a head-to-toe skin check.  Visiting a dermatologist has been one of those nagging items on my to-do list for quite some time, an item that kept getting moved to “another day.”  The reason for my visit was a dry patch of skin just above my upper lip.  I learned, to my surprise, that the patch was made up of actinic keratoses which are pre-cancerous cells that are considered the earliest stage in the development of skin cancer.  There was also a patch of the pre-cancerous cells just under my collar bone that I hadn’t even noticed. 

The treatment was simple.  Each spot was sprayed with liquid nitrogen, effectively freezing the cells.  I now have an unsightly red swelling above my lip and a blister under my collar bone, both of which may last up to eight weeks.  Though actinic keratoses are not considered serious, finding them has served as a reminder for me to have regular check-ups with my doctors.  My dad had to have malignant melanoma removed from his nose a year ago.  I am grateful I discovered my less serious cells early.  Hopefully I won’t ever have to go through what my dad did.  Skin cancer can be prevented.  Wearing appropriate clothing and sunscreen while outdoors is the best way to prevent it.  I am certainly going to set a better example for my family now.  I’m sure the kids will start calling me the “sunscreen Nazi” but it is too important to ignore.  Being vigilant with our health is one of the best things we can do for those we care about.  If we remain healthy we can take care of them.