When Nick Gelting runs the Charleston Half-Marathon next month, he says his mother Hope will be with him every step of the way.
Hope Gelting died of breast cancer in 2014, but her passing encouraged South Carolina legislators to pass Act 168 (Hope’s Law) two years later. The Columbia native said his mother’s death might have been avoided.
“Had she known that she had dense breast tissue, she would have been able to know if she needed additional screening,” he told South Carolina Radio Network.
Nick said although his mother was an avid runner, he did not get into the sport until after she died.
“She always pushed me to run more but I just never got into it,” he said. “So when she passed away I tried running more and it just became a way to keep her in my heart and remember her.”
Hope Gelting ran cross-country at San Diego State University and was the picture of health until learning she had breast cancer.
“She was so active and healthy, it really — it can really hit you at any time,” Nick said. “I mean, it was a shock for us. We really didn’t see it coming because of how healthy she was. So it can affect anyone.”
“I have a similar body type to her and she thought I would be a good runner,” he said. “Turns out, I am.”
He ran his first marathon last year.
“(She’s) the reason why I’m doing it, helped me push myself to keep going,” he said. “My mom is definitely a big reason that gets me through those longer runs.”
Nick hopes to inspire other women to get mammograms and — if they have dense breast tissue — request the test that might have caught his mother’s cancer. About 40 percent of women have dense breast tissue, which prevents tumors and cancer from showing up in a regular mammogram.
“They need to have more screening done,” he said. “Because dense breast tissue can hide their cancer if they do have some. It’s definitely an important thing to go along with mammograms.”
Hope worked with the organization Are You Dense, Inc., to pass Hope’s Law in South Carolina, requiring doctors to disclose information indicating if a mammogram shows dense breast tissue and giving women the option for further testing. Gov. Nikki Haley signed the law in May 2016 after legislators approved it overwhelmingly.
Women now have the opportunity to get a breast cancer diagnosis early on, earlier intervention and with it less intensive medical treatment and a stronger chance for survival. 31 states now have legislation on the books.
“Like many women who advocate for state reporting laws, Nick’s mom, Hope, found Are You Dense Inc, after her advanced breast cancer diagnosis,” AYD Founder Dr. Nancy M. Cappello said. “I mentored Hope as she advocated for the South Carolina bill. She called me when she found out that her cancer had metastasized to stage 4.
“Nick’s fundraising efforts for our breast health nonprofit supports our education and outreach efforts, giving women with dense breast tissue an opportunity to advocate for added screening to their mammogram for greater access to an early diagnosis,” she continued. “Sadly, Nick’s mom never had that opportunity. I am immensely touched by Nick’s desire to support Are You Dense Inc, by honoring his mom’s legacy. We both share the death of a parent in our teenage years.”
Nick’s Run for Hope is raising money to help women get the screening they need. You can click here for a link to his Crowdrise page to donate. His goal is $2,500.
“Now it is my turn to continue the work my mother has done,” he wrote on the page.
The Charleston Half-Marathon will be January 13.
“It’s been an extremely rewarding experience for me being able to do this,” he said.