BALTIMORE — Brittany Lietz has more than two dozen scars, including one that runs 7 inches across her back, to remind her of the horrors of skin cancer, “a totally preventable disease” about which she hopes to raise awareness as Miss Maryland 2006.
Miss Lietz, 21, a nursing student from Edgewater, was named Miss Maryland on Saturday night, besting 23 other competitors. She will represent Maryland at the Miss America pageant in January.
Miss Lietz was diagnosed with stage-two melanoma in April 2005. She had a cancerous mole removed in a 5-hour surgery just days after her diagnosis, and has had 25 other surgeries to remove potentially dangerous moles.
Although she uses cosmetics to cover her scars during pageants, they don’t make her self-conscious during the swimsuit competition.
“Those scars are a part of me, and they’re not going to go away, and I don’t want them to go away because I want to remind people of what I’ve gone through and what I have to say,” Miss Lietz said yesterday. “I stand proud knowing that what I’ve been through has made me stronger and more confident in myself.”
Miss Lietz, who now wears sunscreen every day and visits a dermatologist monthly, blames excessive use of tanning salons for her cancer. She said that she was never a big sunbather, but that she turned to tanning beds to prepare for the prom and turn her pale skin bronze.
“I was an avid user of the tanning bed for probably about 2years,” Miss Lietz said. “When I go out there and talk to these teenagers, I make sure that they realize there are so many myths about tanning and sunbathing and about having a tan as being healthy — that couldn’t be further from the truth.”
Miss Lietz competed as Miss Tidewater and performed a lyrical dance for the talent portion of the competition. As she moved through the preliminary rounds, she said, she could see that the pageant judges were responding to the passion and urgency of her message.
“I made it a point to have the judges realize that this is a very personal experience for me and that if I can share my story with people and save a single life by sharing that story, that’s what I’m going to go out and do,” she said.
Miss Lietz, who won a $10,000 scholarship with her crown, plans to reduce her course load at the University of Maryland School of Nursing this fall so she can concentrate on preparing for Miss America and honing her platform.
“I don’t want anyone to go through the same experience I have gone through,” Miss Lietz said. “Skin cancer is a totally preventable disease, but only if you take the precautions to make it preventable.”
By Douglas Holtz-Eakin
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