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Shannon Bardwell: The sunshine vitamin


Shannon Bardwell



Even using 45spf suntan lotion and wearing a big floppy hat, us gardeners have a hard time avoiding the effects of the sun. Then lo and behold, one day the family doctor said, "You''re not getting enough vitamin D." Vitamin D comes from the sun.  


Discussing the "D" dilemma with my dermatologist, she said, "People don''t lose noses and ears from lack of vitamin D. You can take vitamins."  


So I visited the pharmacist and picked up the small bottle, "Fish Oil with D." I examined the even smaller print, "Cod Liver Oil." Cod livers? The fish oil comes from Robert''s Apothecary in a blue bottle that later finds its way to the bottle tree in the garden. I think the blue bottles are pretty and reason enough to swallow a little cod liver oil. Wear a hat, drink a little fish oil and wear sunscreen, they said. 


Nevertheless, undetectable to the naked eye, trouble was creeping. The dermatologist prescribed a topical cancer treatment; then warned, "Your face is going to look worse before it gets better."  


I told Sam I was going to look worse before I got better, and he said he would do the treatment with me. He said he was bound to have cancer spots from all those years of fishing, bush-hogging and taking care of the Prairie.  


The dermatologist was right: Soon we both looked like we''d been in a car wreck or had a "knock down, drag out." Slowly Sam''s skin started to look clear as a baby''s bottom and mine looked like a leper''s. There were terrible sores underlining my eyes like crescent moons. The dermatologist said, "Some people are more sensitive to the treatment." 


While we were looking "worse" not better, strangers would ask, "What happened?" A server at McDonald''s said, "I didn''t think y''all had a fight. Y''all are too nice to each other." That made me feel a little better about the miserable crescent moons underlining my eyes. 


To conceal the sores, Sam made me some big sunglasses. Against his wishes, I wore them day and night. I felt like Audrey Hepburn, wearing sunglasses at night. 


When I removed the sunglasses, people asked about my wounds; they heard my story and made appointments to have their own skin checked.  


"I had no problems visible on my face," I explained to Connie, my dental hygienist. She cleaned my teeth while looking into the crescent moons. 


Connie insisted her whole family get skin cancer check-ups. The implications were scary enough to make anyone get a check-up. Turns out some of Connie''s family members had problems, too. 


Dermatologists say use sunscreen, avoid the sun where possible, and get your skin checked once a year. I say, lather in lotion, create a beautiful bottle tree, garden in a big floppy hat and wear sunglasses like Audrey Hepburn. 



Shannon Rule Bardwell is a Southern writer living quietly in the Prairie.


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