My Story: Jennifer Long

My name is Jennifer and I am 28 years old.

I grew up in Canada and moved to California eight years ago with my friend Kaitlin. From the day we moved here, all we wanted was to be tan, be near the ocean and live the California dream, everything else we would figure out as we went along. However, the idea of being a tan California girl came to a screeching halt when I got a rude awaking January of last year.

I was diagnosed with Melanoma skin cancer.

I had noticed a freckle on my right arm that seemed a little bigger (about the size of the top of a pencil eraser), a little darker and slightly misshapen.

I did some research on the Internet that said it could possibly be skin cancer. So I decided to have it looked at by a doctor. I think I got the runaround from doctors for over six months. They all kept telling me they thought it was nothing, and that if it changes they would look into it. When I told them it had, they still did nothing. Finally, I forced my doctor to get me a referral to a dermatologist and note possible skin cancer. I got approved and still, even the dermatologist looked at it and said they didn’t think it was skin cancer, but that they would take it off anyway and get a biopsy.

One week later the dermatologist called me and said, "I'm sorry to tell you this, but it's Melanoma. You know what that is right?" I said, "Yeah it's skin cancer."

I had it removed right away. At the time I thought there was only one type. It was scary at first, but the more I told people I had skin cancer, the less I was scared because so many of them were saying they had it and it was no big deal and they just got it removed.

I wasn't so scared anymore, until I finally did some more research and realized that I didn't have what everyone else I talked to had and there is more than one skin cancer and mine was the kind people die from every hour in the U.S. Learn more

It was scary, but also eye-opening, how little I and other people knew about skin cancer, especially melanoma. It is different and it is a big deal. From that day forward I did a lot of research so I could be well informed and be able to educate other people about this really scary but preventable cancer.

It has been a huge life change and I have had to make so many adjustments, like making sure I wear 30 and above sunscreen every day and reapply every two hours if I am outside. Also I’ve learned to stay out of the sun during peak hours and if I was going to be outside I needed to wear sun protective clothing (an average t-shirt only has a protection factor of about 5 UPF, it will block from the UVB rays that burn, but not the UVA rays that cause skin cancer).

I was hoping to find a silver lining in this scary life-altering thing that happened to me. I was determined to make some damn good lemonade out of these lemons life had dealt me and I did. I started by holding my first ever charity event called Martinis for Melanoma with the help of my boyfriend Ivan and my two best friends Kaitlin and Kelly. It was held at an amazing restaurant in Laguna Niguel called Bistro K, and helped me raise over $2000 for the Melanoma International Foundation - here's my silver lining.

I got the inspiration for holding the charity event after I met this amazing woman. Her name is Marina Arnold and she is a dermatology nurse and the owner of SPF ADDICT.

I came across her company in my search for more fashionable sun protective clothing. Everything I saw out there was either geared towards sports-related clothing or kids and older ladies.

I decided to look if there were any local companies. This is when I found my gem. I loved the look of the site and I loved the clothes. They were definitely more along the lines of what I was looking for.  I decided I wanted to learn more about this company and more about sun protective clothing in general.

So I sent an email, just asking to learn about them and maybe even a possibility to intern. I was open to anything even if it meant just an email back. I did get an email back with a chance to meet up and talk more. It was Marina who I got to meet with.

She said she liked that I had a story to tell and she saw a passion in me towards wanting more fashion-forward sun protective clothing. This is a huge part of what SPF ADDICT is about - where healthy skin and fashion meet.

So now I get to intern and learn so much about something I am so passionate about from two great women, Marina and her design manager Jonna Jurkovich. I also get to help out with sales for the west coast.

I can only see things going up from here and I am so happy and proud to be part of such an amazing company, as well as being around amazing people. One thing Marina said when I first met her was, she believes everything happens for a reason and I couldn't agree more. This is something I am going to have to deal with for the rest of my life, but with the support of my friends and family and now a future that looks filled with new and exciting adventures, something so scary doesn't seem as scary anymore.