When Tim Burriss was 36, he was diagnosed with stage III metastatic malignant melanoma and was told the average life expectancy after diagnosis was just 17 to 19 months. That was 23 years ago. "I'm pretty lucky," he says.
A few years after his diagnosis, Tim decided to pay that luck forward. His doctor, Svetomir Markovic, M.D., Ph.D., has "dedicated his career to finding cures for melanoma," Tim tells us. He wanted to find a way to help Dr. Markovic, a Mayo Clinic oncologist and researcher, defeat the disease. So Tim and his wife, Susan, decided to organize a running event, with proceeds going to the Mayo Clinic Cancer Center.
"It was supposed to be a one-year thing," Tim says of the Stay Out of the Sun Run. But after 500 participants raised more than $32,000 for the cause, he decided to keep the fun — and the fundraising — going. The one-time event is now in its 14th year and has generated close to $500,000 for melanoma research and education, including the creation of a biennial Melanoma Education Symposium for patients and health care providers.
The funds and awareness raised by the race are "absolutely wonderful," Dr. Markovic tells us. "The best way to deal with cancer is never to get it. The only way to do that is if our friends and neighbors know about the things that can cause this form of cancer. All of us owe a debt of gratitude to Tim and his family for having the courage and energy to start this effort."
While Tim tells us that it feels "phenomenal" to have contributed so much to the cause, he's quick to point out he didn't do it alone. "I could not have started the race without Susan’s support," he says. The couple’s sons now help out, too. "It’s become a family affair," Tim says. As well as a community one. "This never would have happened without support from local businesses and volunteers from the community."
Many of those volunteers, as well as many of the participants, are Dr. Markovic's patients and their family members. He'll be on hand at this year's event, as he is each year, to dole out high fives to those crossing the finish line. "Seeing the smiles on the faces of those that we've been able to help gives meaning to what I try and do every day," Dr. Markovic tells us. His family will be there, too, selling lemonade to raise money for the cause. "Dealing with cancer is a challenge for entire families and entire communities," Dr. Markovic says. "Our family is just trying to lend a hand to those that need it. If we all did a little bit to help, many things in this world would be better."
If you're in the Rochester area and would like to do a little bit to help, there's still time to register for this year's race, which will take place at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, May 17, at Lourdes High School. In addition to chip-timed 5K and 10K runs and a walk, there will be free skin checks, a silent auction, snacks, music and inflatables. "It's a great way to start the weekend right," Tim says.
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