Judy Cloud, a legal assistant in Indianapolis, Indiana, has been battling skin cancer since 1995, and recently endured her fourth surgery to remove cancerous growths from her body. After the three-hour ordeal, the mother of two decided to post images of her cancer scars on Facebook in order to warn others about the dangers of tanning. Sharing photo after photo of stark, painful-looking scabs and scars, Cloud declares, “This Is Skin Cancer.”
“This is the result of using tanning beds when I was younger,” Cloud wrote in her Facebook post. “This is the result of having numerous sunburns as a child and teen, and not being religious about applying sunscreen, and staying out in the sun far too long as a teen and into my 20’s and even early 30’s.” Now 49, Cloud has been coping with skin cancer for more than two decades. Last September, she had her fourth surgery to remove cancerous spots. Cloud described it as “the most invasive skin cancer surgery I’ve had yet.” She had 23 different areas removed from her face, chest, arms, and legs.
According to the CDC, skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the U.S. Cloud primarily has basal cell carcinoma, a common form of skin cancer that doesn’t usually spread to other parts of the body, but that can be dangerous if it’s not treated. She told Self that she feels “lucky” that she doesn’t have melanoma, a highly dangerous form of skin cancer that kills 10,130 people in the U.S. every year, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation. Cloud recounts that, in addition to her scars, she has also experienced numbness and nerve damage because of her cancer. To remove cancerous cells, her doctor had to cut into the muscle above her mouth, causing numbness in her left cheek. He also had to move a nerve in her forehead, leaving a large section of her scalp completely without feeling.
These photos show Cloud before and after her surgery:
In an interview with BuzzFeed News, Cloud emphasizes that it’s not only sun-worshippers who need to be careful about preventing skin cancer — even moderate sun exposure can be dangerous to your health. “I was never a ‘heavy’ user of tanning beds…once a week for three to four weeks, three or four times a year prior to vacation,” she said. “It doesn’t take much to do a lifetime of damage.”
“I hear too many people say that they feel better about how they look after they go to a tanning bed or after they bake in the sun for hours on end,” Cloud wrote on Facebook. “Look at the pictures. This could be you. Anyone can get skin cancer, even people who have darker skin tones. … Skin cancer doesn’t discriminate.”
If concern for their health won’t get people to protect their skin, Cloud hopes that she can appeal to their wallets. She wrote, “Total billed for my outpatient procedure? $26,845.87. I know tanning salons advertise tanning packages that are cheap. Does a surgery to correct what the tanning bed does to you still make the tanning special sound cheap?”
To prevent skin cancer, the Skin Cancer Foundation recommends wearing SPF 15 or higher every day. If you’re going to be outside for a long time, bump up your SPF to 30 or higher, and reapply every two hours. Wear protective clothing, a hat, and UV-blocking sunglasses when you’re out in the sun, and seek the shade when possible. And don’t attempt to tan, either outside or in tanning beds. (If you’re looking for that bronze glow, check out the self-tanning products out there that can add color to your skin without compromising your health).
Cloud hopes that her struggle will encourage others to take action to stop cancer before it starts. “Many people think that skin cancer won’t happen to them,” she told BuzzFeed. “…I wanted to let people know that it could indeed happen to them, and while I can’t go back and undo the damage I did to my skin when I was younger, they can make better choices so they don’t do the damage to their skin. Their future self will thank them.”
Images courtesy of Judy Noble Cloud.