Melanoma Warrior Holds 5K Fundraisers
Adam Degi believes in giving back. For a decade, the professional stand-up comedian participated in a comedy festival in his native Grand Rapids, MI to raise 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 with a shocking diagnosis of stage III melanoma. Adam had three surgeries to remove the cancer and nearby lymph nodes, along with immunotherapy treatments every three weeks for a year. He fought his battle with humor and a new determination to educate people about the dangers of skin cancer.
“I want to raise money and spread awareness for skin cancer specifically and do it in May, during the awareness month,” he explained. “There are a lot of misconceptions about skin cancer, and 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.”
A Pandemic Didn’t Stop Him
Undeterred by the COVID-19 pandemic that isolated the entire country in May, 2020, Adam and his wife, Nicole, set up a virtual 5K fundraiser on SkinCancer.org and invited friends and family to join.
“Gyms were closed and people stuck inside struggling to exercise. So we decided to do a socially distant 5K,” Adam explained. “We said to our friends ‘You have a whole weekend to do a 5K run, walk, bike or roller skate, whatever you want to do.’ Then, we asked everyone to take a selfie and post it to social media with the hashtag #MoveforMelanoma.”
Adam and Nicole also encouraged participants to donate to The Skin Cancer Foundation. “The Foundation makes 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. Many of my friends have had skin checks after hearing about me and doing the 5K. So that’s really cool.”
An Eye-Opening Education
From diagnosis to treatment, Adam’s discovered first-hand that skin cancer is no laughing matter.
“I thought melanoma was something that just showed up 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. Afterwards they also found cancer in my lymph nodes putting me at stage III.”
Sharing the Facts
Adam’s education is something 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 mean to scare people but I really want everyone to know the facts,” he explained. “People think they know how serious skin cancer is. But they don’t really know what to look for, 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, go get checked. “I wish had mine looked at earlier,” he added. “Because of the pandemic, less people are going to the doctor. But if you see something, get it looked at, the sooner the better.”
Spreading Awareness Every May
In May 2021, the Degis held the second annual virtual 5K #MoveforMelanoma event. And in May 2022, they held an in-person event, with about 20 attendees, including a new addition to the family — their son! Since 2020, the Degis have raised nearly $3,000. Even more importantly, they are raising awareness.
“Since I was diagnosed and started doing the 5Ks, I’ve had over a dozen people tell me they’ve gone to the dermatologist to have things on their skin checked,” he said. “It is definitely helping to spread awareness and educate people.”
Adam and his family are looking forward to another in-person event in May 2023. “We’re looking forward to gathering together each year to keep raising skin cancer awareness.”
Learn more about how to create a fundraiser to support The Skin Cancer Foundation.