Mom, brother create run to fight melanoma
Ann Harris of Grapevine doesn't mince words when it comes to sun protection.
Always apply sunscreen, even on cloudy days. Wear sunglasses and a hat outdoors during the day. Stay away from tanning beds.
This is a mantra she repeats over and over again.
"One person dies of melanoma every hour of every day," she said, citing statistics from the American Cancer Society. "The truth is that it can be prevented."
Harris' advocacy about preventing melanoma, a deadly form of skin cancer, isn't just prudent advice. It is a personal mission and part of a promise made to her daughter, Tracy Harrison, who died of melanoma in November 2008.
Shortly before she died, she asked her brother, Lance Harris, to tell her story.
Since then, mother and son have labored to do just that. They established the nonprofit Tracy Harrison Foundation for Melanoma Awareness to encourage sun protection habits and draw attention to the urgency of early detection to avoid the deadly disease.
The foundation, which has already presented several awareness programs and fundraising events, is about to step out in a bigger way with the debut of Tracy's Race Against Melanoma on May 25 in Trinity Park in Fort Worth. The event will feature a 5K run and a 1K kid's run.
The Harrises intend to make Tracy's Race an annual event in May, which is Melanoma Awareness Month.
"It was baby steps to get this going," said Lance Harris, founder and president of the Tracy Harrison Foundation.
"But now we are moving forward and we are excited about the support we are getting for the run."
Tracy Harrison, a graduate of Arlington High School and a longtime Grapevine resident, was 40 when she passed away. A mole under her left breast metastasized to her lung.
Treatment, including surgery, couldn't stop the progression of the disease once the cancer was detected in her lung.
"Tracy was outdoors a lot," her mother said. "She played a lot of sports and liked working in the yard."
When Tracy and Lance were growing up, the military family moved around the country a lot.
They spent two years in Hawaii when Tracy was in middle school.
"She loved the beach," Ann said.
And Tracy used tanning beds to maintain a golden glow, her mother said.
"People think they look better and healthier with a tan," Ann Harris said. "But having a tan comes with a risk and that's what we need to make people understand."
Besides raising awareness of melanoma, Lance and Ann Harris hope to raise money for the Mary Crowley Cancer Research Centers, a partner of the foundation, to support research for a cure for melanoma.
More about the race
Tracy's Race Against Melanoma is May 25 in Trinity Park in Fort Worth, 2401 University Drive.
For more information about melanoma and to register for the race, visit www.awishfromtracy.org.
The Grapevine Chamber of Commerce also has a blog about the foundation at grapevinechamber.org/blog/meet-the-tracy-harrison-foundation.aspx