I wouldn’t mourn the death of the sun. Even as the earth turns into a Popsicle, I will be filled with happiness. People will be disgusted with my spouts of the sun’s crimes and how she deserved to die, even if it means we all will along side her.
I’ve been battling the sun’s wrath my whole life. My pale, freckled complexion is her favorite target. When other children whined while their mom’s smeared sunscreen across their innocent faces, I wondered whether it would be more effective if I drank it. Greasy, chemical scented skin was my best defense, but she has all too often found a spot I forgot or caught me off guard without my protection.
For example, an early may morning promised a high of fifty degrees for my husband’s outdoor graduation ceremony years ago. The melting snow convinced me my daily moisturizer with SPF 15 would sufficiently protect my face for a couple hours. A nickel-sized blister across the top of my nose punished me for my negligence. My cherry red nose, temporarily scarred from my burn, is seen in pictures of my graduation six months later.
My sun wars are evident in other pictures. A tanned perfectly circular patch of skin on my chest is in our wedding photos. A mean joke she played on me. One strap of my bathing suit was connected with a decorative wood embellishment with a quartered-sized hole exposing my skin. An hour lounging by a pool resulted in a blistered red patch in the hole due to lazy sunscreen application. After my skin peeled, the circular piece of skin turned a dark brown, beautiful melanin I can only achieve through sunburns or spray tans.
Despite my misfortunes, I once loved being in the sun. I’d risk sunburn and be teased for my freckled face to feel her warm on my skin. My summers were filled with poolside days and beach vacations. Asking for the shaded table on the restaurant patio or crossing the street to walk in the shade never crossed my mind. Until I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS).
Sunscreen does not exist to prevent the sun’s attack against people with MS. As its heat penetrates my body, raising my internal body temperature, my gait wobbles. My body tingles. My speech slurs. My vision blurs.
White patches fill images of my brain and spinal cord, evidence that my immune system has been attacking my myelin, the nerves’ protective coating. Each demyelination scar has taken something from me for some time or forever. With patience and determination, I’ve adopted coping practices to manage my new normal.
But the sun’s cruel reminder haunts me every summer.
When the damage is new, like an open wound, our symptoms are far worse. As the injury heals and becomes a scar, our symptoms decrease as our body adapts. For example, one of my scars caused an intense tingling sensation in both of my legs, as if they fell asleep and were trying to wake up. It was miserable, causing me to walk like my feet were on fire. Over six months, the scar healed and the sensation decreased, becoming manageable.
Heat is like a knife reopening my old wounds.
Heat further impairs the ability of a demyelinated nerve to send information. Ten minutes in the sun on a hot July day will cause my feet to tingle like they did four years ago. The longer my body is engulfed by her rays, the more likely invisible weights will be strapped to each of my ankles, making each step more difficult. Fog will creep into my brain, stealing my thoughts and replacing them with confusion.
Before long, I descend to a dark place, returning to the mindset of an anxious, hopeless woman who just learned her life will never be the same. Tightness in my chest makes my stomach lurch. I fear that I am relapsing, that new lesions are stealing life from me.
Frantic, I search for an iceberg floating in the lava. My only objective is to cool my body. Embarrassment, disrespect, the consequences do not matter to me so long as I find proof in ice that this feeling is not permanent.
Once, I deemed myself an expert in the sun’s evil powers. After learning her ability to control my psyche and pour anxiety into me, I knew that her powers were beyond my comprehension.