When Kimmie Kemberling was 14 years old, she started seeking glamour by using tanning beds. “There was a lot of peer pressure and comments about my being so pale,” she says. “There were no sunless tanning lotions back then either.” For the next 11 years, she continued to seek bronze skin from tanning beds, even using “tan accelerator” to try to speed up the process.
Kemberling is now 41 years old and a two-time melanoma survivor. “It’s not glamorous at all,” she says. She first decided to see a dermatologist in 2005 due to a lesion that was “pink and angry.” “I had let it go for five or six months,” she says. But in August 2005, she was diagnosed with melanoma that was treated with surgery. Her second diagnosis came in May 2007, and again she was treated with surgery.
These days, Kemberling visits her dermatologist twice a year. Every couple of years, she will need a biopsy of a suspicious mole. Thankfully, she has now been cancer-free for seven years. But the guilt of using tanning beds hasn’t disappeared. “I always worried it would catch up with me,” she said. “But I didn’t think about that when I was young.”
Now Kemberling covers up as much skin as possible when she is out in the sun. She wears sun protective clothing from local company Coolibar and always has a sunhat and sunscreen handy. “I have been wrapped up like a mummy since my first diagnosis!” An advocate for sunscreen use, Kemberling advises that it is less about the SPF number than it is about reapplying liberally every two hours.
Kimberling has participated in several 5K running events and was excited to see a local event dedicated to cancer survivors. “I will be easily recognizable at the run,” she says. “I will be the only person running in a turtleneck!”