Letter: Remember the risks as you tan

For the past two years, I have been slowly dying of stage four melanoma skin cancer. I believe this makes me an expert on the value of getting a sun tan, as detailed in an Iowa State Daily story from Wednesday, Jan. 28.

When I was college age, I was a sun worshiper. I was proud of my great tans. Now, as a 59 year old man with a wife and three wonderful sons, I am dying because of those tans. Let me share what it is like before you make your decision to go into the sun.

Two years ago, while I was in the process of bicycling from Iowa to Washington, D.C., I got a call from my dermatologist telling me that I must come home as a small cyst I had removed was melanoma. Back in Iowa, scans showed I had tumors in my brain and lungs. I heard that I was going to die in six months or less, unless I had treatments. The very best treatments available help only 20 percent of patients. So if I was in the lucky 20 percent, I might live a year or two.

Imagine the tears you would have to shed telling your sons, daughters, wife, parents, grandparents and friends. Then come the treatments. We start with brain radiation, so there goes the hair and much of my brain is fried so I end up on Alzheimer drugs.

Next is Yervoy, at the time the only drug that has success with some melanomas. It costs $50,000 per infusion and I had it 11 times.

Unfortunately, one of the side effects of Yervoy is diarrhea and I finally got it for 10 days and had to stop taking the drug that was slowing my death march. During much of this time, I was on steroids to reduce brain inflammation. It caused me to gain 30 pounds and I lost all my strength to the point that I was exhausted just going up stairs.

A nice tan is not worth dying over, so please stay out of the sun and tanning parlors. You only live once.