When we are young, our looks are our top priority.
Teenagers will go through all sorts of exercises to look their best, and they will stick with strict regiments that allow them to look the way they want. One woman became obsessed with having tan skin, despite the fact that she was naturally very pale. She is now 42 years old, and she has had more surgeries than she ever would have cared to imagine.
Lisa Pace was once a teenager with pale skin and freckles. By the time she turned 18, she couldn’t resist the pull of the tanning bed. She loved the color that her skin became, and she fell in love with the continual supply of compliments she received. As she got older, however, Lisa learned that dark skin wasn’t all it was cracked up to be.
In her years of early adulthood, Lisa spent most of her free time in tanning beds. “I started tanning every day, or every other day,” she recalled. “It was addictive. People would say, ‘You look so good, you look tan,’ and it just encouraged me.”
At the time, this bronze beauty didn’t care about the health hazards associated with tanning. As the years went on, however, alarming occurrences started to change her perspective.
When Lisa turned 23, she was diagnosed with her first round of melanoma. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, this is “the most dangerous form of skin cancer.”
The growths that result from melanoma “develop when unrepaired DNA damage to skin cells (most often caused by ultraviolet radiation from sunshine or tanning beds) triggers mutations (genetic defects) that lead the skin cells to multiply rapidly and form malignant tumors.”
This diagnosis might have served as a wake-up call for more informed patients, but Lisa honestly thought it was no big deal. Believing that the doctors could “just scrape [it] off,” Lisa avoided the uncomfortable conversation with her physicians.
“I blew it off for weeks,” she shared. “They kept calling me and eventually, they said: ‘You need to get in here now.'”
In her young 20s, Lisa received her first treatment for skin cancer, but it wouldn’t be her last. Soon after she had recovered the woman was back in the tanning salon. She then fought another round of cancer – this time on her face.
Now that the surgery scar was right across her frame of view, Lisa realized the dangers of her long-term hobby. She became full of regret as she faced her new reality.
“It was gut-wrenching and heartbreaking,” Lisa recalled in an interview with TODAY. “This whole time I had been worried about how I looked, and now I have a huge scar on my face. It was a huge chunk out of my face.”
The light had turned on, and the horror stories about skin cancer that Lisa had once shrugged off were now a harsh reality. By the time she reached her mid-30s, the woman had already undergone around 50 surgeries.
As dreadful as this was, her story was nowhere near complete.
Lisa knew the damage had been done, and the effects could be found all over her body. Eventually, the woman didn’t even need a doctor to spot the problem areas on her skin.
“By this point, I started finding the spots myself … I had a high success rate of spotting them, I’d get it right about eight out of 10 times,” Lisa explained. “They were all over my arms, legs, back, chest, face and my nose.”
Lisa endured surgery after surgery, suffering through a life she had never wanted for herself. She has now suffered through 86 surgeries, and we can only hope there are none left in her future. As tough as it was to admit, the cause of this continual grief was likely Lisa’s own doing.
“I’ve never seen anyone with no genetic disorder, who had the number of skin cancers that Lisa had at her age,” observed her physician, Dr. Arielle Kauvar, who was the founding director of New York Laser & Skin Care in New York City. “The most important thing about Lisa’s story is that in her case, this was likely a result of indoor tanning.”
With the information she has now, Lisa wishes she could go back in time to prevent this devastation from ever occurring.
“If I could go back and talk to my 17-year-old self, I would tell (her) that skin cancer is avoidable,” Lisa shared. “(I’d say) don’t get in that tanning bed. Wear sunscreen. Wear protective clothing. People are going to love you for what you look like on the inside, not on the outside.”
Lisa’s harsh lesson serves as a powerful warning to tanning lovers everywhere. A little extra glow is not worth a lifetime of pain and health complications. Take preventative measures to protect your skin; it will be well worth it in the end.
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