Angie Heidel has spent months training for her most challenging run yet – all for the cause of skin cancer awareness.
Heidel, a Michigan native who relocated to Tega Cay, will be running in the Boston Marathon April 18 with the Melanoma Foundation of New England, fulfilling a dream while spreading awareness of the deadliest type of skin cancer.
Heidel, who lost a friend in his 20s to melanoma, is hoping to raise $8,000 by the start of the race.
“Automatically I had a personal connection with it,” she said. “It’s rewarding to get more awareness and education out there.”
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According to the Melanoma Foundation, every hour, one person dies from skin cancer, primarily melanoma. It is also the fastest-growing cancer.
“Melanoma is the most deadly as it can move to your organs and lymph nodes,” Heidel said.
She said the biggest hurdle is making people aware of the seriousness of skin cancer.
“People think ‘it’s just skin cancer’ and if you have it, you will get it scraped off or removed, but sometimes it’s just not that easy,” Heidel said. “It’s something that definitely needs more awareness.”
Heidel has become passionate about the issue and has pushed the importance of monitoring skin changes.
“A yearly visit to your dermatologist can save your life,” she said. “It’s preventable.”
Heidel, a mother to a daughter, 12, and a 4-year-old son, said she wants to teach the younger generation about the dangers of the sun, but also the harm that can come from too much time in tanning beds.
According to the Melanoma Foundation, 20 minutes in a tanning bed is equal to spending one to three hours in the sun without any protection, something Heidel said many parents and teenagers aren’t aware of.
“When I was their age I didn’t know about the dangers of tanning beds,” she said. “They teach kids not to smoke because it causes cancer, but I think that we need to teach them that tanning beds cause cancer also.”
The Boston Marathon is Heidel’s chance to get that information out there.
A casual runner most of her life, Heidel decided to step up her game and train for her first marathon in Detroit four years ago. She has competed in numerous half marathons and ran a Charlotte marathon two years ago, but nothing will compare to the big stage of Boston.
“It’s something that only happens probably one time in your life,” she said.
The Melanoma Foundation of New England will be providing sunscreen and skin cancer education at the marathon, Heidel said. The Foundation is also dedicated to programs such as providing sunscreen dispensers to towns and cities that apply for them, helping families and individuals affected by skin cancer and educating teens and young adults on how to protect themselves.
“They’re doing great things nationwide,” Heidel said.
Tega Cay recently found out its application for public dispensers was approved. Once they are installed, it will be the city’s responsibility to keep them filled and maintained.
So far, Heidel has raised $5,770 toward her goal, with 100 percent of the donations supporting the Melanoma Foundation of New England. Heidel has been training since January, running 30 to 35 miles a week as she prepares to join nearly 30,000 runners in Boston.
“It’s going to be such an event,” she said.
While she hopes to match her fastest marathon time to date, 4 1/2 hours, Heidel said her main goals are to cross the finish line and bring awareness to the importance of skin safety.
“It’s not just skin cancer; It can be a big deal,” she said.
To donate, go to crowdrise.com/MFNEBoston2016.
Amanda Harris: firstname.lastname@example.org, @amanda_d_harris
Skin cancer prevention
Here are some quick tips on protecting yourself from excessive sun exposure:
▪ Avoid tanning booths
▪ Wear SPF of 30+ every day on exposed areas of your body
▪ Wear protective clothing, sunglasses and hats
▪ Get an annual skin exam
▪ Know your health history
More information: mfne.org