Illawarra resident Julia Szulerowski is urging locals to take part in a cheeky fun run next February.
Mrs Szulerowski is bringing the Cupid’s Undie Run to Wollongong for the first time to raise funds – and awareness – for a cause close to her heart.
The 1.5-kilometre run – which originated in the US in 2009 – shines the light on a genetic disorder called neurofibromatosis which affects more than 7000 Australians.
Mrs Szulerowski and her daughter Jessica have the most common form of the condition, which causes tumours to grow on nerves throughout the body.
It can also affect major organs, and lead to blindness, bone abnormalities, deafness, disfigurement and learning disabilities.
‘’There’s three different forms – NF1 which is the most common form as well as NF2 and schwannomatosis,’’ Mrs Szulerowski said.
‘’In my case it was a spontaneous gene mutation as there was no family history, though most people – including my daughter Jessica – inherit it.’’
Mrs Szulerowski was diagnosed with NF1 in her twenties, while Jessica was just 16 when diagnosed after specialists discovered she had a brain stem tumour.
‘’She had to undergo surgery to have the tumour debulked – it couldn’t be removed due to where it was – and then have six weeks of radiation,’’ Mrs Szulerowski said.
‘’Personally I’ve had spinal and adrenal gland tumours removed, and once a year I get dermal tumours removed.
‘’For most people with NF, the tumours are benign growths but they can sometimes turn malignant.
‘’And that’s the concern with NF – you never know what it’s going to do; it’s often described as a ticking time bomb just waiting to go off.’’
While living in the US, Mrs Szulerowski was heavily involved with the NF Endurance team.
Back home on the South Coast, she was excited with the introduction of the Cupid’s Undie Run in Sydney in recent years.
And she’s delighted to become the race director for the first Wollongong event which will be held on February 19, starting from the Illawarra Brewery.
‘’Runs will be held in 14 Australian cities including Wollongong in 2017, with the goal of raising $375,000 for the Children’s Tumour Foundation for research into, and to raise awareness of neurofibromatosis,’’ she said.
‘’Some people might think it’s awkward to wear their undies for a fun run, but the point is that people with NF often feel awkward due to the tumours on their body so this may give others an insight into that.’’