Today I am going a little off topic and combining the two issues I am most passionate about these days, melanoma awareness and support and encouragement for the younger people in our lives. I dedicate this post to Rosemarie Oldhoff, who I believe is one of the many angels watching over me.
I always thought I would end up being an advocate for diabetes research and prevention and eventually, become a life coach to help young teens, especially females, to find their strength and self-confidence. These were the two things I wanted to see improve in my lifetime more than anything else. I still do, but I have added a few more to my list. I never expected that I would end up feeling so passionately about skin cancer, but of course, like most things, I never knew I would end up with it.
I found this picture of me the other day. I was about 4 or 5 years old. The first thing I noticed, was my sassy little look and huge smile. Clearly, this girl had it together. She knew she was something special and she wasn’t afraid to hide it.
Something happened to that girl between that picture and now. Life, childhood teasing, developing a curvy figure WAY too early, not having the newest clothes or a lot of money, family issues- all of these things contributed to a lot of self-doubt and self-hate. I struggled with self-esteem issues for the majority of my life. I wasn’t proud of my natural skin color. I wasn’t proud of much that I was given.
My feelings about my looks are the reason I spent so much time trying to get a tan. Besides comments about my weight, my nose, my clothes, I got comments like, “Oh my God! You look like a ghost.” Or, “You look sick. You need some sun.” I started to believe that being darker would allow me to be beautiful. I figured having a tan would give me a chance to look like all those models and celebrities I adored. Also, it was a pretty easy thing to do when you consider all you have to do is lay around to get some sun. My father ALWAYS got on me about getting too much sun. He told me it was bad. He told me I was fine just the way I was, but I didn’t believe him. I wanted to be beautiful, more than I wanted to be smart. I wanted to be beautiful more than I wanted to be popular. I wanted to be beautiful more than I wanted to be healthy and alive.
As a teen, I didn’t have any teachers or coaches that took an interest in me, or that I felt comfortable talking to about things that I struggled with. That is why, when I was a teacher in the classroom, I wanted so badly to be the type of adult role model I would want my children to talk to, when they felt they couldn’t talk to me.
Knowing logically that I can’t save every kid, but emotionally wanting to save them all, I did my best. But there were some I failed.
My biggest failure was my beautiful, beautiful Rose. She was on the dance team that I coached. She was an angel walking on this earth. Her outside beauty was almost unbelievable and her inside beauty was even greater. If you didn’t know her, you wouldn’t believe it was possible for anyone to be that kind and sweet. I don’t think she had any idea of how special she really was. Rose was the kind of beautiful I always wanted to be. No amount of tanning or dieting could have ever made me that beautiful.
Me and the beautiful Rosemarie.
Rose’s mother was killed by an old boyfriend while I was coaching her. I had no idea how to help or support anyone going through that, but I tried. I even offered for her to live with me if she needed, but she moved from Orlando to go live with her father in another state. I lost touch with her after that. I got married and instantly had my own teenage daughter to look out for. Then I had two babies within 4 years. During that time, I got on Facebook and my sweet Rosie found me. She sent me a message telling me how proud I would be of her (I was always proud of her) and how well she was doing. We spoke about her coming to visit me the next time she was in Orlando, and one night at a concert, she actually walked right past me, but I couldn’t catch up to her in the crowd. I wish I had tried harder, because that was the last time I saw her.
Two years ago today, Rose left this earth to be a real angel. She was struggling with far more than I could have imagined. I had no ideas. Her words gave a totally different story. I didn’t keep an eye on her. I didn’t reach out to her like I should have. I didn’t try hard enough. Maybe, just maybe, if I had been more involved, if I had been there for her, just maybe things would be different. At least that is what I keep telling myself.
Fortunately, as a teen when I got desperate thoughts, I felt that I had to stay around for my family, because they needed me more than I needed myself. Most of the “right” things I did were because I didn’t want to disappoint anyone or cause my family any more grief than what they were already going through. As a young adult, I was able to find some great mentors. Wonderful ladies who I met while working. They were always there to help me to get my head right and see what I really had going for me. But even with that support from my friends and family, it was still a struggle to truly believe it.
There are young people out there right now, boys and girls, young men and young women, who are going through FAR more than you will ever see in their face or hear in their words. Please remember that no matter who you are, your words and actions can have a tremendous effect on them. Thinking of them and letting them know that you are “there” could mean SO much.
To all the moms reading this, we need to set an example ourselves by first showing that who we are and what we look like is ENOUGH- more than enough, so our daughters will see firsthand what it is like to accept their looks, their natural skin tone. We need to teach them that no matter what we face in this life, we are here because we are special, because we have a purpose. We need to support them in their confidence and in their beliefs about their worth.
Let’s teach anyone younger or older than us, that there are things far more special about us than our looks. Let’s remind everyone that we love them and need them here, with us. We all have a purpose to fulfill. Let’s not interfere with our purpose by doing unhealthy things or thinking unhealthy thoughts.
And PLEASE encourage everyone to practice safe sun!!!
Thank you for reading this even though I went a little off topic today.