A gut feeling from her dermatologist uncle probably saved Florida native Mikki Kragelund from dying of skin cancer at the age of 24.

Now Queenstown-based, Kragelund and her friend, Nina Oosterveer, will spend eight weeks cycling from Cape Reinga to Bluff to raise awareness and $5000 for skin cancer.

Money raised during the journey, which begins on January 12, will go to the World Skin Cancer Foundation.

Kragelund was a month shy of graduating from university when her California-based uncle, William Heimer, urged her to get her skin checked.


He had treated a woman the same age as Kragelund for late-stage melanoma. The woman's prognosis was poor.

Uninsured, busy and ignorant about the risk, Kragelund kept putting off the check - to the point where Heimer made, and paid, for the appointment himself. "I went in, but I didn't think anything of it. I wasn't worried at all."

A few days later she checked her cellphone and discovered half a dozen missed calls from her dermatologist.

She was told she had stage-three melanoma, which meant the cancer could have spread to her lymph nodes.

Countless doctor appointments, 14 biopsies and one major surgery followed before she was declared cancer free, Kragelund said.

If the cancer had remained undetected for four more months her chance of survival would have plummeted to less than 10 per cent.

"I was really lucky. This is the kind of cancer that goes straight to the brain."

The 25-year-old hopes sharing her story will encourage others to get their skin checked every six months.


She also wants to prove you can still enjoy the outdoors.

"The first thing I do every morning is cover myself head to toe with SPF45 sunscreen. If you get five sunburns in your life you are two times more likely to get skin cancer.

"I was really ignorant before - who knows how many sunburns I've had?"

She cringed now whenever she saw people who had sunburn.

"It hurts me more than it hurts them. I just want to give them my hat and sunscreen."

Donations can be made at www.sunnycyclers.com