Keeping a photo diary is a fantastic way of showcasing a change. People tend to take before and after photos when embarking on a huge weight loss journey, or when they’re in the process of recovering from drug addiction.
39-year-old mom Bethany Gambardella-Greenway from Austin, Texas, however, decided to take a series of photos which depicted her appearance before becoming severely ill, and her appearance during the process of treatment for melanoma.
Why did she take these photos? Well, she wants to get as many people as possible to adopt an anti-tanning stance. She kept a number of photos showcasing her battle with melanoma, which was caused by too much time in the sun, and it revealed a lot about the horrors that can stem from tanning.
Bethany’s traumatic journey started in 2015 when she found a black spot on her forehead during her pregnancy with her youngest child. Because the spot appeared when she was pregnant, Bethany assumed it was the result of hormonal changes and didn’t think much of it.
But when the spot didn’t go away, she decided to ask a professional if she should be concerned. She paid a visit to her dermatologist who told her it was a liver spot and that she had absolutely nothing to worry about.
A year and a half later, she found something else on her body. It was a mole, however, she knew it was no ordinary mole as it caused her an extraordinary amount of pain. Bethany had a biopsy taken and soon learned that she had desmoplastic melanoma – a very severe form of skin cancer.
When the mole was surgically removed, it became clear that it was too late. Her skin cancer had spread to other parts of her body including her bones and her lymph nodes. In October 2016, she began immunotherapy.
”The radiation was absolutely the worst part. It was hell plain and simple,” Bethany revealed. ”It fried the inside of my mouth. My throat was so sore. My skin was covered in sores, I lost my ability to taste food, my voice was hoarse, at about week three my hair began to fall out on the treated area.”
”By the time I was done with treatment, I had lost about forty pounds because eating had become such a miserable chore. Now I am almost completely healed from the radiation which permanently damaged one saliva gland and altered my hairline.”
Melanoma runs in Bethany’s family. In fact, her mother was diagnosed with the illness when she was 39 too. Although it initially seemed like there was no hope, Bethany’s treatment was a success, and she’s now in remission.
Bethany is now determined to educate people on the reality of skin cancer in a bid to warn them against tanning. She also wants people to stop dismissing sunscreen as unnecessary.
”Please stop sun bathing and going to tanning salons. A tan isn’t a healthy glow — it’s damaged skin.”
In total, Bethany posted 350 photos featuring the process of her melanoma treatment and the effect it had on her body. Combating society’s obsession with tanning is something she ardently wants to fight, and she’s hoping that people listen to her message and, if they are frequent tanners, stop what’s nothing more than a bad habit.