Jessica Bedell's Story of Melanoma Survival

May 21, 2019

How many times have you heard the phrases, l need the vitamin D during the long Maine
winter, I hate how I look when l’m pale or, it won’t happen to me?" I am writing this testimony for
you today because I also used to say those things.

Two years ago, I was diagnosed with melanoma and a pre-cancerous lesion on the back of my
right leg. I was 30 years old at the time and otherwise in good health. I took vitamins, exercised,
generally ate well and took care of myself. How could this be possible?

Did you know that melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer? Did you also know that using
indoor tanning beds before the age of 35 increases a person’s chance of developing melanoma
by 59%? I started tanning well before the age of 18, before I was wise enough to listen to the
information that is given to us about the dangers of tanning beds and UV Rays because, it won’t
happen to me, right? I’m young and seemingly invincible and tanning makes me feel good and
live up to societal beauty pressures. I tanned for years, going almost every day at one point.

2 weeks after my diagnosis I had mohs surgery to ensure that all the melanoma and pre-
cancerous lesion was removed. Standard procedure is to take 5cm margins from each side of
the lesion. Since I had the two spots side by side, I had roughly 9cm across taken from the back
of my leg. To put that in perspective for you, that is about 4 inches long and took 20 stitches or
so to close. I haven't used a tanning bed regularly in over 8 years, but the damage has already
been done. To look over at the table next to you and see a massive chunk of your leg just sitting
there, is one of the most frightening and humbling experiences I have had. And to also know
that I am most certainly at risk to develop other melanoma spots is terrifying. Since my initial
diagnosis I have also had 2 other cancerous lesions removed from my leg and back.

There is nothing I can do to change my past; hopefully with continued regular screenings and
taking proactive steps for sun protection, I will have a healthy cancer free future. I ask you to
take my story into careful consideration and hope that it will find you with all the proof you will
need to make the right decision about LD 1297. With so many other safe alternatives such as
lotions and spray tans, I feel this act a necessary step in helping to protect this next generation
of Maine’s youth. Thank you for your time.

          - Jessica Bedell, Wells, Maine