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Eleven years ago, my parents sat me down and told me that my dad had melanoma, a severe form of skin cancer. Just 13 years old, I wasn’t truly sure how to handle this news. I remember being scared at first, then very confused, and finally hopeful, knowing that it might be possible to have all of the cancerous cells surgically removed so my dad could go back to life as it was before.

Thankfully, the cancer was removed, and my dad has been healthy and cancer-free ever since. However, I made a vow to myself that day when I sat down with my parents – one that I have pushed myself to recommit to every year on the anniversary of my dad’s surgery. I vow to always use sunscreen, to stay away from tanning beds, to get regular check ups, to monitor all aspects of the health of my own body, and to encourage and motivate others in any way possible to do all of the same things.

The Cancer Conquerors at the 2011 Prevent Cancer Foundation 5k

With the help of the Prevent Cancer Foundation, I have been able to stay true to the last part of my vow for the past four years. My dad was asked to join the Foundation’s board of directors in 2009, but our family first became familiar with the organization almost 10 years earlier. We increased our involvement after my dad’s cancer surgery, and we actively participated in all of their events and fundraisers. In 2010 I created my first 5k team. The team consisted of my dad, a family friend, two of my college roommates, and me. While our team may have been small, our message was big.

We spread the word to as many people as we could, talking about why we were running and why cancer prevention and education are essential to staying healthy and staying alive. I have continued these efforts with my dad over the years, and last fall, our team, the Cancer Conquerors, was able to raise almost $5,000 and ranked second in fundraising for the whole event.

Allison with her dad Don Hutchins

The annual 5k is a truly great way to bring family, coworkers, friends, and even strangers together for two incredibly important things: education and prevention. While it has always provided a great excuse for me to get in shape, it never fails to also be an inspiring and motivational experience that I look forward to every year. It is incredible to be a part of something so powerful, and to spend a morning surrounded by those that have either faced cancer themselves, or are there in support of those that have.

The 5k has made me realize how important and how easy it is to spread the word about education and prevention, and how much of a difference sharing knowledge about both can be. After all, thanks to early detection, every September I am able to watch my healthy dad complete 3.1 miles and cross the Prevent Cancer Foundation finish line with a contagious smile on his face.