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Running to make a difference

Tuesday 10 November 2020

In what will be his third year of raising money for skin cancer research, Rod Leeuwendal will run 50kms in 7 days as part of Smiddy Fun Week during skin cancer action week 15-21 November.

Carina resident Rod will take on the Smiddy Fun Week Challenge alongside more than 40 other participants who will exercise and raise funds in memory of PA Hospital Physiotherapist Adam Smiddy.

Inspiring Rod, 53, to achieve his 66,000 steps is not only the knowledge that his brother has had a melanoma scare but the memory of a neighbour who, like Adam Smiddy, passed away from melanoma.

Smiddy participant and Rod Leeuwendal

"Where I used to live, we had a neighbour Garry who was only about 30-years-old, and I guess also had the same unfortunate similar parallel to Adam Smiddy.

"Garry was part of a young couple we met that moved into the house next door," he said.

"You'd see them, working in the garden together, doing all the things that a young married couple would do. We got to know them well. They had their whole life ahead of them.

"Next thing you know, he gets melanoma, and within, 12 to 18 months, he passed away, he was a brilliant guy.

"When I go up and visit my parents plot up at the Mount Gravatt Cemetery, and I'll always go drop past to see Garry's plaque. When I see the dates on the plaque, I just think, "Holy hell, how did that happen? That was so very unfair."

"Garry said to me that he did all the right things. He was a cricketer, he liked to be out and about. Slip, slop, slap, Hats and all that sort of stuff he'd say. But skin cancer is indiscriminate and pretty cruel when it happens, and it's so aggressive, his passing certainly raised my awareness of the need for skin cancer research."

Having run in the annual Smiddy Fun Run at the PA Hospital campus for the past two years, as part of Team SSB with his colleagues from the Statistical Services Branch of Queensland Health, Rod is now part of a wider bigger team known as Team HEALTHe, which seeks to incorporate people from Team SSB and also running colleagues from other Queensland Department of Health areas.

Rod amongst his Team Statistical Services Branch colleagues who dressed in Hawaiian theme for last year's run

Rod said the aim for having the larger HEALTHe team was an idea aimed at trying to top the fundraising efforts of Team SSB from the 2019 Smiddy Fun Run. He added that the team's enjoyment of the previous Smiddy events made recruiting much easier this year as everyone was looking forward to it.

"There was another guy in the team, Chris, who has come into our branch from eHealth, he said, "Rod, we've got to beat it. We've got to beat our target last year. We can't just sort of rest on our laurels, so to speak", I thought the idea of Team HEALTHe was a great idea too."

"We've got a lot of the young blokes and some who are runners, in our unit and others in the team, it's just something that we like doing, and here we are in year three of taking part.

"I don't have to say anything now, they're the ones saying, "Right Rod, are we doing it this year? Smiddy's coming up. Are you running? What are we doing?"

With 50kms ahead of him during Smiddy Fun Week, Rod said a number of his teammates are already discussing doing their usual 5km Smiddy Fun Run distance together, albeit from a Covid safe distance.

"We've got a plan brewing where at least one day during that week, we'll all assemble in the botanical gardens in Brisbane, in the city, or even New Farm and we might try and do our regulation 5K Smiddy run anyway, which will contribute to our challenges," he said.

After starting his career with Queensland health at the PA Hospital over 35 years ago, and having worked at other hospitals, and now part of Queensland Health's Statistical Services Branch, Rod said the story of Adam Smiddy is a reminder of the real people behind the statistics he and his colleagues work with.

"We work with health data. I've worked at hospitals, I've been a what they'd call the 'death clerk' (Interviewing Officer) at The Royal Brisbane Hospital, so I've seen the other side. I've done so many different admin jobs, so I know what the coalface of hospitals is like. I've been in the EDs as a worker and a patient. A lot of people that work in corporate office can get desensitised," he said.

"Signing up for Smiddy is something that reminds me that there's real people behind all the statistical information that we manage. It helps to give you that sense that our role managing statistical data is also very important as it's not just data that you're working with. You want to make use of the data to make a difference."

Donate to Rod's fundraising efforts here.

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