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Tanning addict who used sunbeds WHILE battling cancer details ‘excruciatingly painful’ treatment

 

A tanning addict who continued to use sunbeds even while she was battling skin cancer says she has now undergone 12 surgeries, and was forced to use a chemotherapy cream that made her feel like her body was being ‘burnt by a blow torch’ – leaving her with gruesome blotches all over her face and more than 700 stitches.

Julie Elrod, 56, from Tampa, Florida, said that she’d always felt ‘sexier’ and ‘more beautiful’ with a tan – so she started using sunbeds twice a week from the age of 24, and she soon became ‘addicted’ to tanning.

But around 12 years later, at age 36, the retired karate school owner noticed that a scabby spot had formed on her forehead and it wouldn’t go away, and she was eventually diagnosed with two different types of skin cancer – basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. 

She underwent emergency surgery to remove the cancer, and soon after, she went right back to using the tanning salons – something she now calls ‘the definition of absolutely stupidity.’

A tanning addict who continued to use sunbeds even while she was battling skin cancer says she was left with gruesome blotches all over her face A tanning addict who continued to use sunbeds even while she was battling skin cancer says she was left with gruesome blotches all over her face

A tanning addict who continued to use sunbeds even while she was battling skin cancer says she was left with gruesome blotches all over her face

Julie Elrod, 56, from Florida, said that she'd always felt 'sexier' and 'more beautiful' with a tan - so she started using sunbeds twice a week from the age of 24, and she soon became 'addicted' Julie Elrod, 56, from Florida, said that she'd always felt 'sexier' and 'more beautiful' with a tan - so she started using sunbeds twice a week from the age of 24, and she soon became 'addicted'

Julie Elrod, 56, from Florida, said that she’d always felt ‘sexier’ and ‘more beautiful’ with a tan – so she started using sunbeds twice a week from the age of 24, and she soon became ‘addicted’

But around 12 years later, at age 36, the retired karate school owner was diagnosed with two different types of skin cancer - basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma But around 12 years later, at age 36, the retired karate school owner was diagnosed with two different types of skin cancer - basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma

But around 12 years later, at age 36, the retired karate school owner was diagnosed with two different types of skin cancer – basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma

But when she was diagnosed with cancer a second time, she realized it was time to make a change.

She underwent emergency surgery to remove the cancer, and soon after, she went right back to using the tanning salons - something she now calls 'the definition of absolutely stupidity' She underwent emergency surgery to remove the cancer, and soon after, she went right back to using the tanning salons - something she now calls 'the definition of absolutely stupidity'

She underwent emergency surgery to remove the cancer, and soon after, she went right back to using the tanning salons – something she now calls ‘the definition of absolutely stupidity’

The 56-year-old now deems her tanning habits as the ‘biggest mistake of her life,’ and is speaking out in the hopes of urging other sunbed users to stop immediately – before it’s too late. 

‘I had a little spot on my forehead that wouldn’t go away. It was like a little scab and I’d try and scrape it off and it would pop back up so I got it checked out,’ she told Kennedy News recently.

‘I just remember thinking [during the diagnosis], it’s scary and that I was so stupid to do it. And then I went back to the spa because that’s how addictive it is.

‘I was certainly aware of the dangers after I had my first skin cancer removed and I still went [to use the sunbeds], which is the definition of absolutely stupidity.

‘But that’s how powerful and addictive they are. I had two surgeries and then kept going for about six months and had more skin cancer come out and then that’s when I was like, “OK, I’ve got to change my habits here.”‘

But when she was diagnosed with cancer a second time, she realized it was time to change. Julie (seen during treatment) now deems her tanning habits as the 'biggest mistake of her life' But when she was diagnosed with cancer a second time, she realized it was time to change. Julie (seen during treatment) now deems her tanning habits as the 'biggest mistake of her life'

But when she was diagnosed with cancer a second time, she realized it was time to change. Julie (seen during treatment) now deems her tanning habits as the ‘biggest mistake of her life’

In total, she had to undergo 12 surgeries - leaving her with more than 700 stitches - as well as skin grafts taken from her neck and shoulder for her forehead and ears In total, she had to undergo 12 surgeries - leaving her with more than 700 stitches - as well as skin grafts taken from her neck and shoulder for her forehead and ears

In total, she had to undergo 12 surgeries – leaving her with more than 700 stitches – as well as skin grafts taken from her neck and shoulder for her forehead and ears

But the most grueling part was the topical chemotherapy cream, which she described as akin to someone 'dumping acid on her face.' She is seen after two weeks of applying the cream But the most grueling part was the topical chemotherapy cream, which she described as akin to someone 'dumping acid on her face.' She is seen after two weeks of applying the cream

But the most grueling part was the topical chemotherapy cream, which she described as akin to someone ‘dumping acid on her face.’ She is seen after two weeks of applying the cream

The mom-of-two has now had 12 surgeries in total, with each needing up to 70 stitches, as well as skin grafts taken from her neck and shoulder for her forehead and ears.

She had to apply the painful treatment to the spots where the cancer had been removed for a torturous 27 days, and it left her covered in bright red and raw blotches all over face She had to apply the painful treatment to the spots where the cancer had been removed for a torturous 27 days, and it left her covered in bright red and raw blotches all over face

She had to apply the painful treatment to the spots where the cancer had been removed for a torturous 27 days, and it left her covered in bright red and raw blotches all over face

But the most grueling part was the topical chemotherapy cream, which she described as akin to someone ‘dumping acid on her face,’ and said that the pain was so excruciating it made her ‘want to die.’

She had to apply the gruesome treatment to the spots where the cancer had been removed for a torturous 27 days, and it left her covered in bright red and raw  blotches all over face. 

‘Nobody could have prepared me for what I was about to experience. It is so painful. You basically burn your face off every day for a month,’ she explained.

‘The pictures of me with a bright red face are not enhanced – they have no filter and they’re exactly how [it looked].

‘Every day I had to put cream on top of that. It was basically acid burning your face off and trying to kill the cancer cells and it was horrific.

‘I literally wanted to die, that’s not an exaggeration it was that excruciatingly painful. It would have been less painful to cut my arm off is what I think I told somebody at one point.

'Nobody could have prepared me for what I was about to experience. It is so painful. You basically burn your face off every day for a month,' Julie (seen with her kids) explained 'Nobody could have prepared me for what I was about to experience. It is so painful. You basically burn your face off every day for a month,' Julie (seen with her kids) explained

‘Nobody could have prepared me for what I was about to experience. It is so painful. You basically burn your face off every day for a month,’ Julie (seen with her kids) explained

She added: 'I literally wanted to die, that's not an exaggeration it was that excruciatingly painful. It would have been less painful to cut my arm off' She added: 'I literally wanted to die, that's not an exaggeration it was that excruciatingly painful. It would have been less painful to cut my arm off'

She added: ‘I literally wanted to die, that’s not an exaggeration it was that excruciatingly painful. It would have been less painful to cut my arm off’

Julie explained that her interest in tanning sparked in her 'late teens' because she 'loved the way she looked when she was tanned' Julie explained that her interest in tanning sparked in her 'late teens' because she 'loved the way she looked when she was tanned'

Julie explained that her interest in tanning sparked in her ‘late teens’ because she ‘loved the way she looked when she was tanned’

‘I thought it felt like someone dumping acid on my face and burning it off, sand blasting it right off or putting a blow torch to it.’

'I loved the way I looked when I was tanned, I didn't like being pale. I didn't really think about what I was doing to my skin and the hazards when I was younger,' she explained 'I loved the way I looked when I was tanned, I didn't like being pale. I didn't really think about what I was doing to my skin and the hazards when I was younger,' she explained

‘I loved the way I looked when I was tanned, I didn’t like being pale. I didn’t really think about what I was doing to my skin and the hazards when I was younger,’ she explained

Julie explained that her interest in tanning sparked in her ‘late teens’ because she ‘loved the way she looked when she was tanned.’ 

At first, she would ‘lay out in the sun excessively,’ but she eventually turned to sunbeds in her early 20s.

Then, for more than a decade, she visited the tanning salon twice a week for eight to 12 minute sessions each. 

‘I was in my late teens when I started thinking, “Hey, being tanned is being more beautiful or sexier,”‘ she revealed.

‘Until I started using tanning beds, I was lying out in the sun excessively and putting baby oil on for a couple of hours a day.

‘I loved the way I looked when I was tanned, I didn’t like being pale. I didn’t really think about what I was doing to my skin and the hazards when I was younger.

The former sunbed addict (seen recently) now lathers on sunscreen religiously and visits the dermatologist every six months to get checked out The former sunbed addict (seen recently) now lathers on sunscreen religiously and visits the dermatologist every six months to get checked out

The former sunbed addict (seen recently) now lathers on sunscreen religiously and visits the dermatologist every six months to get checked out

She is speaking out in the hopes of urging other sunbed users to stop immediately - before it's too late She is speaking out in the hopes of urging other sunbed users to stop immediately - before it's too late

She is speaking out in the hopes of urging other sunbed users to stop immediately – before it’s too late

'It was painful, it was probably one of the most painful thing I've ever been through and I would not wish that pain on anybody, that's why I try and warn people now,' she said 'It was painful, it was probably one of the most painful thing I've ever been through and I would not wish that pain on anybody, that's why I try and warn people now,' she said 'Wear sunscreen every time you go out - even if it's not particularly sunny out. Stop the tanning beds, they will kill you and ruin your life and your face,' she added 'Wear sunscreen every time you go out - even if it's not particularly sunny out. Stop the tanning beds, they will kill you and ruin your life and your face,' she added

‘It was painful, it was probably one of the most painful thing I’ve ever been through and I would not wish that pain on anybody, that’s why I try and warn people now,’ she said

‘I never wore sunscreen. Even after my first skin cancers, I still didn’t wear it. I spent every second I could in the sun and it was the biggest mistake of my life.’

The former sunbed addict now lathers on sunscreen religiously and visits the dermatologist every six months to get checked out. And if any lesions pop up, she goes straight to the doctors to get them tested too.

Julie concluded: ‘It cost me a lot of money financially but more importantly it cost me emotionally.

‘It was painful, it was probably one of the most painful thing I’ve ever been through and I would not wish that pain on anybody, that’s why I try and warn people now.

‘Now, the sun scares me actually because I associate it with pain. I’d tell others to wear sunscreen every time you go out – even if it’s not particularly sunny out.

‘[Also], absolutely stop the tanning beds, they will kill you and ruin your life and your face. Stop now because you can’t stop when the first one pops out – it’s too late then.

‘If I can get other people to stop and see that it’s not beautiful – you might think it’s beautiful looking all tanned but eventually there’s a darn good chance statistically that this is going to happen.

‘I’d say I’ve now embraced my paler complexion and I see tanned people now and just think it’s stupid, as I just look at the sun in a completely different way.’