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VIEWS Running through cancer while helping others
by Ross Forman, Windy City Times

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A simple, 60-minute training run in mid-July in preparation for the annual Chicago Marathon turned into a life-changing experience.

We ran from the Road Runner Sports store, 1435 N. Kingsbury St., to the lakefront, then headed north. At the North Avenue boathouse, I grabbed some water and Gatorade, and waited for other runners from my team to reach the area.

That's when I spotted a large white tent set up along the beach. The banner shouted, "Free Skin Cancer Screenings."

I had had a mark on my chest for some time and long thought it was just a pimple. But why on my chest and why wasn't it going away? I didn't have answers for either of those questions.

I walked into the tent and was given a clipboard with paperwork to fill out, but after having already run for about 20 minutes, I was sweaty, really sweaty—and sweat quickly ruined the papers. So I figured I'd just come back later.

As I was walking out, Dr. Rebecca Tung, the division director of Loyola University's Department of Dermatology, was walking back into the tent. She asked if I had been screened and I said no, but that I planned to stop back later. She looked at me with that look of "Really?' and then said, "There's no one here. I'll get you in and out in 90 seconds."

So we went back into the tent—and Tung looked at my legs, arms, the top of my head, my back and then my chest. She immediately said the mark on my chest looked like a basal cell carcinoma, the most common form of skin cancer.

Yeah—that's not what you ever want to hear.

But she said to relax and just set up an appointment to have the mark removed.

Two days later, she performed the biopsy, stitched me up and away I went—but certainly with a new attitude toward the sun.

Yes, I love the heat and humidity, and certainly love lounging around on the beach or running in the summer months. But now, without question, I know the importance of sunscreen. And I'm very appreciative to Tung and the crew that did the screenings for me and literally hundreds of others on that hot July day.

The Chicago Dermatological Society and the Illinois Dermatological Society in partnership with the Chicago Park District, Women's Dermatologic Society and La Roche-Posay have hosted a free public skin cancer screening at North Avenue Beach for three years to promote awareness about sun safety in addition to providing skin cancer screenings to anyone who wants one.

The North Avenue event was one of the largest free one-day skin cancer screening events.

Tung suggests to avoid running between noon and 2 p.m., when the sun's rays are strongest; I agree. She also advises the use of waterproof, sweatproof sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher—I certainly agree.

And, yes, I do plan to heed Tung's advice.

Ross Forman is a marathon coach for Team In Training, the official endurance-training program of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society ( LLS ). He has run 22 marathons over the past eight years and will be running the Honolulu Marathon on Dec. 13—and he definitely will be wearing sunscreen during that 26.2-mile run. Ross has written for the Windy City Times for more than 10 years, particularly about sports, along with business profiles, breaking news and more.

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