The Apple Shed is holding its third annual yard sale to raise money for cancer research.

On a recent afternoon Russ Simpson, owner of the Apple Shed in Nelson County, 14815 Thomas Nelson Hwy, rolled up his shirt sleeve to show a large scar on his left shoulder. In 2007, he explained, his primary care doctor noticed a lesion on his shoulder that looked suspicious and suggested he go to a dermatologist.

Two days later it was removed and a biopsy revealed Simpson had melanoma. Luckily for him, it was caught early enough that the removal was all it took for Simpson to be cancer free.

“I have my skin checked every six months now,” Simpson said.

Since then, he’s been heavily involved with raising money for Dr. Craig Slingluff and the Melanoma Research Program at the University of Virginia. Melanoma is a serious form of skin cancer that begins in cells called melanocytes. It’s more serious than two other forms of skin cancer, basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma, because of its ability to spread more quickly to other organs if it’s not caught and treated early. Simpson and Nelson County resident Marian Dixon, also a melanoma survivor, got together and formed the nonprofit Iron Dog Skin Cancer Awareness Research, and Recovery about 10 years ago.

“It’s a race against melanoma,” Dixon explained. “Every year, we try to raise a significant amount for Slingluff’s research.”

Year round, Simpson keeps a donation jar next to the cash register at the Apple Shed. Simpson is also a notary and encourages people to donate to melanoma research when they come to him for notarization purposes. Simpson said he raises most of the donation money that way. Dixon said Simpson will also host different events like a wood chopping competition one year and comes up with other ways of raising money.

“He’s always coming up with ideas. He’s a very creative person,” Dixon said.

Three years ago, Simpson and Dixon decided to host a community yard sale to raise funds. This year, they hope to raise $5,000 to beat their total of $3,000 last year.

“If you really want to make a difference, donate to cancer research,” Simpson said.

Simpson said the community can donate anything to be sold at the yard sale by dropping items off at the Apple Shed before Oct. 12. The yard sale will go from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Oct. 12 and 13. All proceeds, with the exception of a $25 state corporation commission fee nonprofits pay and the cost of their post office box, will benefit the research program. Simpson said for the yard sale this year, he is hoping to get more community involvement to raise funds and increase awareness.

“Think about it as an investment in someone’s life,” Simpson said.

Simpson said it’s hard to get people involved with something if they haven’t been directly affected, but he is always hoping that will change. Dixon said she was diagnosed with white melanoma, a rare form, in 1996. Since then, it’s come back twice.

“We are hoping people will pay more for items at the yard sale because of where the money will go,” Dixon said.

Dixon said Slingluff’s research saved her life as well as many others. His research, she said, benefits both melanoma patients as well as breast cancer patients.

“The two are related, actually. There is cell relationship between the two,” Dixon said.

According to Stanford University School of Medicine, people who develop abnormally frequent cases of basal cell carcinoma appear to be at significantly increased risk for developing other cancers, including blood, breast, colon and prostate cancers.

Simpson said even if people can’t make it to the yard sale, he encourages everyone to get annual checkups by a board certified dermatologist. Simpson said if someone has a mark on their body that changes shape and/or color, to get it looked at by a licensed physician as soon as possible.

“The most important thing you can do is screen at least once a year,” Simpson said.

Erin Conway covers Nelson County for The News & Advance. Reach her at (434) 385-5524.

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