Summer's here! And with it comes comes blessings - more natural vitamin D, fun outdoor activities and longer sunny days that provide mood-boosting chemicals. But myeloma patients need to take care when temperatures warm up.
During treatment, myeloma medications tend to interact with the sun which can make patients more prone to sunburns and/or lead to severe and dangerous side effects. This is especially true for those going through chemotherapy or radiation, or those who recently went through recent treatment.
So how do you protect yourself? Here are a few ways:
- Wear a hat
- Wear sunglasses to keep your eyes safe, as well as the sensitive skin beneath your eyes protected. Preferably buy glasses with maximum protection.
- Use sunscreen lip balm and apply it throughout the day
- Stay in the shade
- Consider walking under an umbrella or pitching an umbrella at the pool or beach and sit under it
- Stay out of the sun during peak hours (generally 11A-2P) as much as possible
- Cover your feet. If you’re wearing flip-flops or sandals, don’t forget sunscreen
- Apply sunscreen to your ears, nose, face and hands (fingers, too!)
- Wear proper clothes. If you’re going to be in the water for a long time, you may want to put on a T-shirt or rash-guard for maximum protection
- Stay hydrated
- Do whatever you can to NOT get burned!
Patient advocate Lizzy Smith said it best:
“Weeks after I did my first stem cell transplant, I went on vacation to Washington, DC and it was literally 100-degrees, sunny and humid. I never left my hotel room without a hat on my head and an umbrella. I also reapplied sunscreen multiple times throughout the day. I remember one afternoon standing an hour outside on a hot sidewalk under the blazing sun waiting to get into the National Archives. I purchased a small umbrella from a street vendor and it was a lifesaver!
In summary, make sure you get outdoors and enjoy the weather (this is good for you!) but stay in the shade and perhaps do your outdoor activities in the mornings or evenings when the sun is at its weakest. Also, consider wearing protective clothing, like swimsuits with rash-guards, hats, sunglasses and tops with sleeves. And never leave the house or hotel room without properly sunscreening.”
Proper Sunscreen Use
- Discover the best sunscreen for you. There are several types: spray-on (easy for reaching the back), lotion, face balms, and lip balms.
- Find one with an SPF of 15 or greater and one that protects against UV-A and UV-B rays.
- Remember that organic or chemical-free are always options.
- Waterproof sunscreens are also a good idea but know that they go on much thicker. If you have oily skin or acne, consider a water-based sunscreen.
- Put on sunscreen 30-minutes before sun exposure (if you forget, put it on as soon as possible!).
- Once you’ve been in the pool or working out, sunscreen wears off fast. Reapply sunscreen after sweating a lot or, if you’re in the water, get out every 30-minutes or so to reapply.
- Even if you’re not exercising or getting in the water, you should reapply sunscreen a few times per day.
- Look at expiration dates on your sunscreen. Keep them out of the sun. And when in doubt, toss them and start with a new bottle. Your skin and health are too important to risk.
- If possible, have someone help you apply your sunscreen so you don’t miss spots. Places that are easily forgotten are: scalp (especially down the part line), ears, nose, lips, tops of your feet, fingers and hands. Places that are hard to reach are your back and the backs of your legs. Really, aim to lather every area of skin exposure. Some patients first apply sunscreen before dressing in order to assure that all skin is protected. Make it part of a routine so you never forget.
Staying safe means more fun for you and your family. Get out and enjoy these warmer days
about the author
Myeloma Crowd Editorial Contributor, Nursing student, and cancer advocate.