Why I Step – Jeff Heaser

By Renee Orcione, MRA Digital Engagement & Communications Manager | 18 April 2024 | Allies & Partnerships, Events, Melanoma Stories, Prevention, Science, Treatment

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In the summer of 2017, Jeff Heaser's eldest son, Jake, received a devastating diagnosis: Stage 4 melanoma. Over the following several years to treat his melanoma, Jake underwent multiple surgeries, radiation treatment, BRAF targeted therapy, immunotherapy, and countless blood tests and scans through Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center. He also sought out a second opinion from MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas, to ensure he was doing all he could to combat his melanoma.

Miraculously, in December 2023, Jake's scans revealed no new cancer sites and minimal to no traces of cancer. 

From Jeff’s own words, Jake embodies resilience and compassion, cherishing his roles as a son, brother, and husband. Jake finds solace in his passions for music, animals, and travel - most recently returning from a joyful 10-day trip to Japan, radiating with happiness upon his homecoming.

Honoring His Son during Melanoma Awareness Month

In 2023, Jeff participated in MRA’s Step Up for Melanoma challenge for the first time, joining a nationwide movement to raise awareness and funds for melanoma research throughout May's Melanoma Awareness Month. Motivated by his family's personal journey and understanding the pivotal role of early detection and ongoing research in combating this disease, Jeff’s efforts far exceeded his initial fundraising goal. blog upright2

With the overwhelming support of his community, brought together by a mutual love for Jake, Jeff’s Step Up campaign raised over $36,000 for melanoma research. He raised the most of any participant in 2023 and was granted a travel scholarship to attend the 2024 Melanoma > Exchange Patient Forum hosted by MRA in Washington DC in February.

Reflecting on his advocacy and the success of his Step Up campaign, Jeff underscores the urgent need for melanoma research funding; believing that increased awareness can profoundly impact outcomes for those affected by this devastating disease, leading to more time with their loved ones. With unwavering determination, he pledges to continue his efforts in 2024 and beyond, honoring his son and any loved ones lost to melanoma and empowering others in their own fight against cancer.

Through Jeff's steadfast dedication, he exemplifies the transformative power of raising awareness and rallying support for melanoma research. As he embarks on another year of advocacy, he reminds us, “by sharing their stories, our loved ones live on, their legacies enduring through our collective commitment.”

Step Up for Melanoma Kicks Off May 1st

Step Up for Melanoma is an inspiring virtual community-building, fundraising, and awareness campaign that challenges participants to walk 10,000 steps a day, every day, to benefit the Melanoma Research Alliance throughout Melanoma Awareness Month in May. Best of all, 100% of every dollar raised will go directly to research, without any admin or other fees. Join the movement of MRA supporters by registering today!

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