Surfcasting on Fire Island.

Active Vs. Passive: Acquiring Cancer

Florida Sunrise
The sun rising over Boca Raton, Florida.

A great deal of the discussion regarding sun safety is in regards to people seeking a tan for a tan’s sake. It’s a bad idea, and I think that much is pretty clear to anybody that’s used the internet in the last twenty years. The rates at which skin cancers have grown and spread throughout our population is just mind-boggling. At this point anyone tanning, outside or in, is doing so at a known risk to their own health.

But with fishermen I’m talking more about acquiring the disease via a passive approach. Sunscreen, if we think about it at all, just isn’t something a lot of us, especially up north, are terribly concerned about.

That’s why skin cancer hits us so much harder if and when it does. I’ve talked to a few souls here, sadly, who’ve been affected by the disease and I remember my father’s exact reaction when he was diagnosed. It was as though he were looking at a clock going backward or snow falling on the 4th of July. He was running the information around and around in his head looking for some place, in keeping with the logic he understood to control such things in the world, where the diagnosis would fit.

Even when you’re hit by a truck running a red light or when car doesn’t start, there is some place in your mind where you’d allowed for that possibility.

And the reality we have to embrace as outdoorsmen and anglers especially (with sun reflecting off the water) is that it does and will take an active approach on our part to prevent the disease. If you spend enough time in the sun without adequate protection in the way of a high-SPF sunscreen, you’re in essence asking for this type of cancer.

And in that case we should accept it with at least a knowing nod or expecting shrug, because poor information is a lousy reason for anyone to get that sick in our information-rich era.

That’s neither fun nor terribly cool and I’m sure it won’t be internet friendly or going viral anytime soon, but that’s why I’m going to hit the water tomorrow, to hopefully bring some fish (knock on wood), tips, tricks and good pictures to this effort, because no one likes a preacher on his health pulpit, not even me. If I had ten hands I still couldn’t count all my unhealthy habits and I’m the last one to tell anybody how to live. But I won’t sit here either and say I didn’t offer the information to others after it was made so painfully available to me.

I try to look at the things in my life first in the way any of us might, be they good, bad or otherwise, but also in another sense: What can I take away from this and how can I make that thing positive? And I’ll grant you that there are things, and this for me is one of them, that that is very, very hard to do with. I can’t think of anything that it’d be harder to draw optimism and hope from than my Dad’s death. But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. That doesn’t mean it can’t be a light shed for others so that dangers are avoided, and it sure as hell doesn’t mean I shouldn’t try.

This trip’s been called everything from a waste of time to downright depressing and it’ll be what readers, or I, make of it in the end. But it won’t be a concession to something’s power over my family’s well-being, it won’t be a silenced voice in a room less one person because of cancer. It won’t be an admission of defeat. It won’t be me, or anyone I can inspire, looking at cancer, this or any kind, and giving up. If I learned one thing from him it was that: You don’t give up, not when it matters. You don’t ever give up.

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