Hi, I'm Nicole Serraiocco. I'm a wife, a mother of 3 children, and by October of this year I hope to also be an IRONMAN. Completing the 2.4 mile swim, followed by a 112 mile bike ride and finishing it off with a marathon will be the greatest physical undertaking of my life. But it pales in comparison with the real reason why I'm taking on this incredibly difficult challenge.
19 years ago my father was diagnosed with stage 4 melanoma. These were the days when people were just starting to consider that wearing sunscreen might be a worthwhile endeavor and my father's initial inquiries about the funny looking and ever-changing mole on his back were haughtily rebuffed by his doctor. One day, as a college student flipping through an issue of Seventeen Magazine, I stumbled across an article with photos of melanoma. Thinking the pictures were reminiscent of my dad's mole, I shared the article with my family. Eventually dad got a second opinion.
Here's the part where I tell you that it was too late. Despite the surgeons immediately removing over a pound of tissue from his back, the disease had spread to his lymph nodes and thus began the cat-and-mouse game of chasing the cancer around his body. It spread to his brain and ultimately his stomach. Interferon and chemotherapy treatments would seem to slow things down for a bit but cancer would pop up somewhere else. During treatments I would hear him wake in the night and run to the bathroom down the hall to be sick. It was a heartbreaking process but my dad fought through it, determined to do what he could to be here with us on earth for as long as he could.
Throughout everything, I was blessed to meet and fall in love with the man I would eventually marry. After Carlo's proposal we realized that my father - my hero - was not long for this earth and made the decision to move our wedding day up several months in the hopes that he could attend. By this time my father was so weak that he was bound to a wheelchair, but with my brother's help he was able to stand up and give me away. For our father/daughter dance, my brother spun him around in his chair while I sat in his lap, delighted, but trying unsuccessfully to hold back tears after he jokingly remarked "I'm sorry this is all I can do!" My father died less than a month after our wedding and I'm so very grateful he was there on that special day - truly an incredible blessing for me and the best wedding gift anyone could ever hope to receive.
Throughout the years, I've striven to take care of myself as best I can for my own quality of life and for the sake of my family, taking up running in 2012 and completing my first marathon in honor of a friend who has a child born with half a heart. I decided if she could deal with the pain and terror of having a sick child, it was the least I could do to challenge myself physically while raising awareness and doing some good in the process. What I found is that it's much more powerful to do something for someone other than yourself, to do something that makes a difference in someone else's life; to stand when others cannot. I want to tell you that in the instance of the upcoming IRONMAN, I didn't seek out the opportunity. It came to me by way of my coach Thad Beaty, an IRONMAN twice over, spokesperson for their Kona Inspires program, a musician, and head of the non-profit Music That Moves. He challenged me to take on this task, and after much thoughtful prayer with my family I realized that I couldn't turn it down. I feel I am not alone in this process and am surrounded by an incredible network of support. I also know I need to reach out and continue to ask for support from my community and my family and friends to help me through the daunting task ahead.
Melanoma continues to touch my life and the lives of so many around me. A dear friend was recently diagnosed with stage 3 melanoma at age 36, a mother of 3, just like me. I see so many people fighting this disease; a disease that is so treatable early on - and so deadly if not. A disease that is largely preventable when people are given the facts. That is why I've committed to raising $50,000 to be donated to the Melanoma Research Foundation to aid with the awareness and prevention of this disease. I ask that you help me raise what seems like an astronomical sum, competing in one of the most physically demanding races ever created, because I believe we can beat melanoma. I'm not participating in this race for myself, far from it. I'm terrified. But I know that when I put my mind to something, I can do it. And I'm doing this for people I love fiercely, people who can't stand and need someone to stand for them. Won't you stand with me in the fight to prevent this disease and help me cross the finish line at the IRONMAN World Championship? Together, we can put a stop to this disease. I truly believe it. And, I'm taking on this race to prove it.
I’m humbled by this chance to do what so many others haven’t been afforded the opportunity to do, and hopeful that I can help those who are still fighting their fight. Please join me with your support—together we can make a difference in the lives of others. Thank you for reading my story. Thank you for your continued support. Let's work to wipe out melanoma for ourselves, our friends and our family. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
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