Dozens of road races are held in and around Rochester and remain as popular as ever. That goes for walks, too.

Evidence? When you're out and about on a weekend morning, oftentimes you can see for yourself.

Besides a fun and adventurous way to exercise, most of these events also help raise money for some very good charitable causes.

So it's all good.

One of those charitable causes is the annual Stay Out of the Sun run and walk, held in mid-May at Lourdes High School, and which raises money for melanoma research. Not only that, but the event held in mid-May also brings awareness to this deadly disease.

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Starting last year, as a bonus, a free skin checkup was offered.

That skin checkup taken by Cindy Stenglein three months ago may have saved her life.

"I feel very fortunate," she said.

One good turn

Since 2010, Stenglein and a group of her friends have made it a date to run the Stay Out of the Sun race. No special reason other than "it gives us a good excuse to socialize, before, during and especially after the race," she said.

And?

"I like the bright, colorful T-shirts they give you as well."

This year, Stenglein was walking with a friend, Mandy Palmby, to the starting line and It just so happened that the walk took them past the spot where the free skin checkups were being offered.

At first, Stenglein thought, why bother.

"I had a full-body checkup a couple of years ago," she said, "and nothing was wrong. I was feeling fine."

Still, there was a nagging mole on her left arm.

"I wasn't too concerned," Stenglein said, "because my mole didn't match any of the typical moles that are often associated with melanoma. It looked nothing like the mole pictures I had ever seen before."

But something told her to get it checked anyway.

"I headed to the starting line," she said. "But after I took four steps, stopped and decided to turn around."

Life-saver

Destiny? You decide.

"I don't know about destiny," she said, "but I do know that the simple checkup may have saved my life."

Melanoma is the most deadly of skin cancers. Some 76,380 cases are diagnosed every year, with 10,130 deaths (6,750 male, 3,380 female).

Odds? According to Mayo Clinic dermatologist Dr.. Jerry Brewer, 1 in 43 will develop skin cancer, an alarming rate that has nearly doubled the last 10 years.

"It is, though, very treatable if caught in time," he said.

Stenglein had the skin checkup and subsequent biopsy, and then waited an eternity for the results.

"Actually," she said, "it was only a couple of weeks, but it felt like an eternity. I even went on vacation but knew when I got the call that it wasn't good. It was just a feeling I had."

The seriousness of the disease is measured by the size and thickness of the mole. Hers measured at 0.9, and patients are urged to get treatment for anything above a 1.0.

"I could have waited," she said, "but we didn't know how fast it was growing, and melanoma has a tendency to grow at a fast rate. The biggest concern was whether it had spread up my arm or into the lymph nodes. And, really, why wait?"

Her diagnosis — malignant melanoma — came back on July 20. Nine days later, Stenglein underwent surgery to have the mole removed.

Cancer-free

Earlier this month she received the good news that the cancer had not spread and she was cancer-free.

"I love the outdoors, and growing up as a kid was outside a lot. Back then we didn't take any precautions," said Stenglein, 53. "Really, who did?"

Stenglein knew all about melanoma even before this trying summer because her brother-in-law was diagnosed in 2003.

"I don't know how or why mine developed, but for the past several years I've worn a hat and have used all the sunblock protections that are out there," she said.

Melanoma is curable if caught in time. "I would urge everyone to protect themselves from the sun, and if you see anything unusual on your skin, by all means have it checked out," she said.

Brewer said Stenglein was fortunate.

"Her case is unusual in that her mole was not one you often see," he said. "And to her credit, she did the right thing In having it looked at. To offer a skin checkup like they did at this race was obviously a good thing."

Stenglein, a Plainview native and Mayo Clinic nurse for the past 33 years, said she was just in the right place at the right time.

"I'm thankful for the opportunity — I almost missed it," she said. "And you know what — there were a lot of prayers that were answered. A lot of God was involved."