Dotty Meltesen of Grimes never considered cancer to be a means to an end, but rather a blessing when she was diagnosed in October 2011.

Meltesen, who was 39 at the time, was told she had Stage III breast cancer.

“When you are first diagnosed with cancer, it’s like getting hit by a 2-by-4,” she said. “That’s when you realize that you aren’t going to live forever.”

Meltesen immediately underwent chemotherapy before having a single mastectomy to remove the three-inch tumor.

Now, over a year later, Meltesen is currently cancer-free and is partnering with Above+Beyond Cancer to run a 4,000 mile journey across the United States. Meltesen will carry the baton into Des Moines on July 16.

“I decided last year that I wanted to apply to participate in an event with Above+Beyond Cancer,” she said. “I’m not a runner, but I do exercise. I will try to run the entire marathon, but the whole point isn’t to see how fast you are…it’s the fact that 160 runners are showing courage and the ability to move forward in their lives as well as to raise money for cancer purposes. Cancer is really hard and difficult, but I thought this would be something neat to try and to give other people inspiration.”

The team will cross 15 states including going through the Great Salt Lake, the Rockies, the Great Plains and the Appalachians.

Meltesen is also dedicating her run to not only herself kicking cancer but to her best friend Stacey McNamar who is a bone cancer survivor.

“She had bone cancer when she was 13 years old and went through three years of chemotherapy,” she said. “She was one of the lucky ones because many other children died from the disease. So when I was diagnosed, she told me I would get through it and was my support system.”

Her other support system is her husband, Tom, and three children TJ, 9, Cody, 7, and Holly, 5.

“Cancer was devastating to my husband and kids, but being around them helped me out so much,” Meltesen said. “When you have cancer it puts you in perspective of what each day means…you develop a whole new element of compassion that you haven’t felt before.”

She also attributes her job at Pioneer in Johnston and Amazing Women, a group of 20 women cancer survivors, as her other support during her journey.

Along with training for the marathon, Meltesen is hoping for more donations to help her and her fellow runners along their journey. So far over $17,000 has been donated.

“Donations can be from businesses or just people in general,” she said. “Even if people want to donate and run it with me it would be a great help. I kicked cancer and want to help other people as well as raising money for cancer charities.

Without all those people and research, treatment wouldn’t be nearly where it’s at today.”

Those who would be interested in helping Meltesen reach her fundraising goal can go to http://coasttocoastforcancer.org/dotty/.

The Million Dollar Marathon baton will arrive at the Pappajohn Higher Education Center on Tuesday, July 16 at 7 p.m. A free concert, local food vendors, and an opportunity to meet local runners will be available at the event.