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May is Melanoma Awareness Month which, for us sun care folk, is sort of like our Superbowl—except way less celebratory, minus the jazzy halftime show, and mainly in the sense that this our most important time of year for pre-summer sun care education. As a California company, nearly everyone we know has had some sort of skin scare—in fact, the whole genesis of Bare Republic came on the heels of our founder’s family brush with skin cancer. We figure if we can get just one more person to wear SPF this Melanoma Awareness Month, we’ll consider it a win. 

So imagine our delight when we ran into Terri Bright—a skin cancer survivor, boy mom, and everyday adventurer whose mission sounded eerily familiar. Coming off of her own experience with skin cancer, she’s dedicated her time to spreading awareness of and education about skin cancer—which we’re happy to help with. Below is an excerpt from our conversation with Terri, and a bit about her story:   

BR: Terri, hello! For those who haven’t been lucky enough to meet you yet, kick us off with a little intro. 

TB: Hi everyone! My name is Terri Bright, and I live in Edmond, Oklahoma. I’m a full time mom—I have an almost 10 year old, and a 3 and a half year old, both boys. We’re always outside; as long as it’s sunny, we’re outside … we go to the pool, we’re out and about at the park, and we vacation at the beach every single year. I basically grew up going to the beach every summer, and now we spend a lot of our weekend time on the water here in Oklahoma. We bought kayaks a couple of years ago and it’s like our version of surfing—we’re out on the water and it’s just where we all really enjoy being.  

BR: May is Melanoma Awareness month, and you mentioned your family has some history with the disease, is that right? 

TB: Well, I had a massive stroke and subsequent seizure that resulted in a series of brain surgeries starting when I was 29 … so I’ve been on kind of a wild health journey lately. But skin cancer unfortunately isn’t a foreign topic for me, either! My father had malignant melanoma on his side when I was an infant, and then my mom—both her and her sisters—have all had run-ins with skin cancer of various sorts. (They’re all fine now, thankfully!) 

I started going to the dermatologist in middle school because my parents wanted to be sure we were catching anything early. I have freckles from my mom and moles from my dad—I love the sun, but it doesn’t really love me!


BR: So skin cancer had been on your radar for awhile by the time you had to manage it firsthand. 

TB: Yes, we never found anything concerning when I was young, but that changed in my 30s. After I had a couple of pre-cancerous spots burned off, I went into my dermatologist with a spot on my chest that I’d been watching for awhile, and they tested it right away. And somehow, I just had a bad feeling about it, just kind of a sinking feeling. 
Sure enough, when I got the results back, it was basal cell carcinoma on my chest, and they found another cancerous spot on my shoulder. 


BR: And this was all pretty recent, right? How has the treatment and recovery been? 

TB: Yes, it was just a few months ago. I scheduled a Moh’s surgery, where they essentially numb the area and then they pretty much remove one layer of skin at a time, and test it to make sure there’s not any cancer. After the surgery, it looked unreal—kind of like they’d punched a hole in my chest the size of a big pendant necklace. 
It’s all looking good now that we got the concerning spots off, but I’m still going in to see the dermatologist every six months for checks. I also now really pay attention to scanning my own body, and I have a full watch list of spots that I keep an eye on. 


BR: When it comes to your skin scans, do you have specific criteria that you’re using to figure out what might be a troublesome spot? 

TB: Well, the spot on my chest first seemed odd because it was a weird texture—kind of dry and flaky. But then it kept changing. It would turn pink and sometimes flake off, and I’d think “oh, ok, it’s gone!” but then it would come back and keep evolving—it finally turned into a raised, kind of fleshy patch, and then started spreading. 
So what I’ve learned to look for, and what my doctors have told me, is to keep a special eye out for anything that’s a strange shape, a different texture, or changes often. (A note from us—we’ve also found that this guide is a good one to keep on hand for your own skin scans.)


BR: Are there any other key things you’ve learned through your skin cancer journey that you’d want to share?

TB: So many! A couple of things that I now live by are: 
  • I don’t ever go without sunscreen. Even though I’ve never been someone who likes the feel of sunscreen, I don’t go outside now without a minimum of SPF 50. 
  • We always cover up! We’re a family of fair folks, my kids included, so we always think about hat, glasses, and sleeves. 
  • Again, I’d say pay attention to your skin—those body scans are important!—and find a dermatologist who you trust. Even if you don’t have any spots that are worrying you now, it’s never too early to get a baseline. 
More broadly, though, the main thing I think about now is how important it is for all of us to listen to our bodies and be advocates for our own health. For example, before my stroke and seizure, I went through a period where I had really intense, unexpected headaches … and I can’t help but wonder if I had listened to those and followed up, if we would have been able to head those off earlier. The same goes for all of us, when dealing with any kind of health concern.


BR: How have you managed through such a crazy few years—and then 2020, on top of it all!—with your sunny energy and optimism intact?

TB: I’ll be 36 this year, and I’ve gone through so much in such a short amount of time… and not only me, but also my husband! For us, the years I went through with the stroke and seizure, then brain surgery, and now basal cell carcinoma has made us stronger … but I know it could have done the opposite. We’re both so appreciative of that, and have found that this whole journey has really changed our outlooks. For me, it’s the driving force as to why I’ve decided to share my story to help others, however I can. 

Stay tuned for more of Terri’s story through the month, including her top sun tips and favorite sun protection gear—and, as always, keep your skin protected with high SPF, water resistant, broad spectrum sunscreen like our Bare Republic Mineral Lotion.   

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