Melanoma survivors invite you to have fun, while you Stay Out of the Sun
It was 1996. Tim Burriss was newly married and expecting his first child when his mother noticed a strange mole on his arm. After a series of testing, Burriss would come to learn that he had stage three metastatic melanoma. He underwent the removal of lymph nodes and intense interferon treatment to try and eradicate the cancer.
Burriss began his treatment process in West Virginia, but after improving relocated to Rochester and began follow-up appointments at the Mayo Clinic. It was there that he met Mayo’s compassionate care team and was struck by the innovation of the cancer center.
After his extensive treatment, relocation to Rochester, and unparalleled experience at Mayo, Tim felt lucky to be alive. “I had to do something to give back,” he told us. Now, 14 years later, Burriss has not simply given back to Mayo Clinic, but to the community as a whole.
The Stay Out of the Sun Run began as a way to raise awareness, and now with approximately 1,000 annual runners, it has brought families and friends together not only to learn about melanoma, but to support one another through the obstacles that cancer brings.
As the community and influence of the run continues to grow, so does the number of team members. Emily Benike, a survivor of melanoma herself, now works with Burriss to help give fresh eyes to a project she feels strongly about.
“It was just a normal mole… but it came back positive for melanoma, which was really scary,” she recalled of her experience.
Benike now takes better care of her skin, avoids peak hours of the sun, and puts sunscreen on her children diligently in order to do everything she can to prevent them from facing the same scare.
Her passion for preventing melanoma and spreading awareness, like Burriss, goes beyond herself and her family and into the Rochester community. The two are now part of an effort that has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for melanoma research and treatment.
“More and more people come because of the cause,” explained Benike. “Every year people become more aware of melanoma and know someone who was recently diagnosed with it and want to [offer] support.”
The Stay Out of the Sun Run will be held the evening of May 17 at Lourdes High School. There will be food trucks, live music, and a silent auction. Along with the fun activities, each year a survivor photo is taken, a visual statement that lets cancer survivors stand side by side in victory.
This family-friendly event may have started with one man and one life-threatening diagnosis, but it now has brought together thousands over the last 14 years, and continues to serve as an event of hope for the diagnosed, remembrance for the lost, awareness for the healthy, and celebration for those in remission. As summer approaches Tim and Emily remind us to wear sunscreen, avoid peak hours of the sun, and run for a cause.
Angelina Buffa is a freelance writer and health science student living in Rochester. She previously served as the editor-in-chief for RCTC's Echo newspaper, during which time she received a second-place award for column writing from the Minnesota Newspaper Association.
Photos courtesy event organizers