NEWPORT, R.I. – Meghan Rothschild is one of the lucky ones. Still making regular visits to her dermatologist and oncologist, it's been six years now that Rothschild has been cancer-free. But the 26-year-old takes nothing for granted anymore and has made it her mission to warn others about the risks of indoor tanning.
Rothschild, a skin cancer survivor, works with the Melanoma Foundation of New England in visiting high school and college students throughout the region to raise skin cancer awareness. She will share her story with the Salve Regina community at 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 3 in the Bazarsky Lecture Hall.
The Wilbraham, Mass., native started indoor tanning following a family trip to Florida at age 17. Just three years later, she was diagnosed with stage II melanoma, discovered when she showed an itchy, dark mole on her stomach to her doctor during a routine physical.
A surgeon removed the mole and put stitches in her stomach. But when the stitches were removed, the college sophomore learned she had skin cancer. Her diagnosis started a month of non-stop doctor's appointments, leading to a three-hour surgery on Valentine's Day 2004 in which a portion of the skin on her stomach and eight lymph nodes under both arms were removed. Thankfully, tests showed the cancer hadn't spread, but she still had to recover from the surgery that left her with 70 stitches in her stomach and a five-inch scar.
"There's no doubt in my mind that my indoor tanning caused my skin cancer," she said. "I wasn't a beach baby. I knew indoor tanning was bad for me. I knew what I was doing to my body, but I always thought it wouldn't happen to me.
Today, she shares some simple advice to teens and young adults: "Stay away from tanning beds. Don't live your life hibernating. You can have fun in the sun if you protect your skin by wearing sunscreen and covering up. And, be sure to visit a dermatologist once a year for a skin exam.
"I want people to understand how serious skin cancer is," she said. "I had drainage tubes in me. I couldn't lift anything over 20 pounds for six months. I'm fortunate my skin cancer was diagnosed before it was too late."
Rothschild has been featured in local and national media outlets such as Inside Edition, ABC's World News with Charles Gibson, Marie Claire and Fitness magazine. She holds a bachelor's degree from Roger Williams University.