Regular Skin Check Appointments Caught Melanoma

Feb 16, 2024

This Melanoma Survivor is Running Boston to Help Save Others

Derrick Williamson is running the 2024 Boston Marathon as part of Team IMPACT, running to help save others and share his story.

He is a melanoma survivor and is grateful for having been diligent about regular skin checks, motivated at first by a family history of skin cancer. With that history, a little over a decade ago, Derrick started having regular skin cancer screenings done with Dr. Jeffrey Miller at Hershey Medical Center in Pennsylvania.

Since then and as a result of that regular screening every 6-12 months, Derrick had two basal cell carcinomas removed, one from the bridge of his nose and the other above his upper lip. During that time, he developed a strong relationship with his dermatologist, Dr. Miller.

Some Background on Running

Derrick served our country in the military, and usually started his day with PT (physical training), which often included running. He ran a few races at that time, including the 12+ mile Arctic Valley Run in Alaska. After the military, Derrick went to college, on to law school, and started his private practice focused on energy law.

While raising their large, blended family, Derrick and his wife had little spare time, although Derrick would occasionally run a local 5K when he could focus a few weeks on training.

Fast forward to the pandemic, Derrick’s kids were now adults with only his youngest still at home. He bought a treadmill to see what he could do given he had more available time and wanted to get into shape. It was 2021 and he had an ‘aha’ moment: what if he stopped focusing on pace and just ran? He made that mental shift and took off one day and ran ten miles. From that point, he set his sights on a race and committed to a half marathon in May of 2021.

The Importance of Regular Skin Cancer Screenings

Just before the May half marathon, Derrick had one of his regular skin screenings. After the doctor completed his review, he asked Derrick if he had any concerns. Given his comfort level with Dr. Miller, Derrick mentioned he had noticed a small change in tone on the back of his neck just below a mole. Dr. Miller was not overly concerned but wanted to do a biopsy as a best practice. The next day he called Derrick to inform him it was melanoma – although apparently small, surgery was required.

Derrick was understandably a bit unsettled by the diagnosis, but he proceeded to run his first half marathon days after learning he had melanoma. Derrick was operated on shortly after and has a “righteous” scar to show for it, but fortunately the cancer was caught early (stage 1). Derrick is certain that without regular screening and the relationship with his doctor, his melanoma would never have been caught so early and critical time would have passed.

Back to Running

Since his initial half marathon in 2021, Derrick ran five more half marathons and completed his first marathon, creating his own training regimen incorporating various training plans. Last May, he completed an ultra-marathon (36 miles!) and was searching for what he would do next.

Online Search for Marathons Makes an IMPACTful Connection

As Derrick searched for his next running challenge, the Google gods were with him and IMPACT Melanoma. Boston was at the top of his list, but he knew he could not qualify based on time. As he researched charities to run for, boom there it was: IMPACT Melanoma and running as part of their Team IMPACT. Given the symmetry of his own melanoma diagnosis and the start of his later-in-life running journey, Derrick knew it was meant to be.

Stars Aligned for Derrick Williamson

As Derrick thinks about his melanoma diagnosis and history of skin cancer, he hopes he can impact at least a few people to take skin care seriously and get regular skin checks. He thinks about his own kids ranging in age from 16-31 and reflects on how melanoma is now the 2nd most common cancer among 15–29-year-olds – the age span of his own kids. Additionally, the incidence of skin cancer is increasing faster than any other cancer. It hits close to home, so Derrick is channeling his strength, motivation, and discipline to conquer Boston while increasing awareness of prevention and early detection via regular skin cancer skin checks.

Derrick is in week eight of his 16-week training block. The training is going well and, with the iFIT program, he has already run parts of the iconic Boston Marathon. He reflects on how important running Boston is to him as a veteran and an American; we react to tragedy with “Boston Strong” showing our Boston mentality of grit, resilience, community, and selflessness.

Derrick is an impressive person who speaks of discipline and motivation. He speaks to how discipline is what gets you through when you are not motivated, and that is clearly one of Derrick’s strengths.

He hopes to achieve a good time in April as he runs Boston, but as we speak, he is stoked to be part of this iconic race’s aura and history, to soak it in, and enjoy the course and the finish.

His message to all: be mindful of taking care of your body, especially your skin, and get regular skin checks.

Visit Derrick’s fundraising page and support his efforts to raise money for IMPACT Melanoma.

IMPACT Melanoma is a 501(c)(3) organization providing support services to melanoma patients, family members, and caregivers while also offering prevention education programs to promote prevention of skin cancer, early detection, and saving lives.

If you are interested in making a difference, learn more about the many ways you can volunteer to support Impact Melanoma.

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