Melanoma Warrior Holds Virtual 5K Fundraiser
Adam Degi is no stranger to giving back. For the past decade, the professional stand-up comedian has participated in a comedy festival in his native Grand Rapids, MI, raising money for Gilda’s Club, a cancer support organization started in honor of comedian, Gilda Radner.
In 2019, when Adam was just 35, cancer became even more personal when he received the shocking diagnosis of stage III melanoma. After three surgeries to remove the cancer and nearby lymph nodes, Adam now gets immunotherapy treatments every three weeks, fighting his battle with humor and a new determination to educate people about the dangers of skin cancer.
“This year I wanted to raise money and spread awareness for skin cancer specifically and do it in May, during the awareness month,” he explained. “I know that there are a lot of misconceptions about skin cancer, and a lot of people aren’t informed about what to look for and why they should get skin checks. I want people to avoid my situation, or worse.”
Undeterred by the COVID-19 pandemic that had the entire country isolating in May, Adam and his wife, Nicole, set up a #GetOutandMoveforMelanoma virtual 5K fundraiser on SkinCancer.org and invited dozens of friends and family to join.
“We knew that gyms were closed and people were stuck inside struggling to exercise, so we came up with the idea to do a socially distant 5K,” Adam explained. “We said to our friends ‘We’ll give you a whole weekend to do a 5K run, walk, bike or roller skate, whatever you want to do with anyone you feel comfortable being around.’ Then we asked them to take a selfie afterwards and post it to social media with the hashtag #GetOutandMoveforMelanoma.”
Adam and Nicole also asked participants to donate to The Skin Cancer Foundation. “The Foundation provides educational information, pictures and facts to make it easy for people to share and spread awareness, and that’s exactly what we wanted to do. We set up a pretty reasonable fundraising goal of $500, and with the help of a lot of great people we ended up tripling that,” he said. “We were very pleased with the outcome. I also know that several of my friends have had or scheduled skin checks after hearing about me and doing the 5K. So that’s really cool.”
From diagnosis to treatment, Adam’s battle with melanoma was an eye-opener, as he discovered first-hand that skin cancer is no laughing matter.
“My thinking about melanoma was that it was something that just showed on your skin out of the blue,” Adam explained. “In my case, I had this mole on my back since I was a kid, so I really didn’t think it was a big deal.”
Then, the mole began to evolve.
“My wife and I noticed that it was changing in shape, color and size. It got to the point where I couldn’t ignore it any longer and went to the dermatologist,” Adam explained. “The biopsy came back, it was melanoma, and afterwards they also found cancer in my lymph nodes putting me at stage III.”
His experience has given Adam an education he’s determined to share. “I learned that if a mole is darker, that’s concerning, if it isn’t symmetrical, that’s also concerning and if it starts changing, that’s very concerning. I don’t want to scare people but I really want everyone to know the facts,” he explained. “People think they know how serious skin cancer is, but don’t really know what to look for and how many it affects, and that it does happen to young people like me,” he said.
Adam’s main message is simple: if you see something new, changing or unusual on your skin, or anything else that concerns you, get it checked out. “I wish would have had mine looked at earlier,” he added.
With one successful virtual 5K in the rearview mirror, Adam and Nicole are already thinking about future events. “We plan to do something again next May, when hopefully we will be able to all gather together for skin cancer awareness.”
Learn more about how to create a fundraiser to support The Skin Cancer Foundation.