Melanoma death prompts family members to raise awareness of the deadly cancer
PHOENIX (KSAZ) - Phoenix is known as the "Valley of the Sun", because we get so many sunny days here. It's great for lifting moods, but it can be treacherous, and even deadly for our skin.
Stage 4 Melanoma, a type of skin cancer, claimed the life of a former employee at FOX 10.
Kristy Lake died earlier this year, and since her death, the people who loved Krista most have vowed to everything they can to stop other from getting this deadly disease.
Kind, beautiful, and full of life: it's what everyone who knew Krista saw in her. It's also why FOX 10 Sports Producer Jeff Lake married her 23 years ago.
"She was just such a bright positive person," said Jeff. "There's never a negative to her. She's always happy. Embraced life. Just wanted to go, go, go, and that's what I loved about her, and I'll miss that."
Krista's life was cut short this year by melanoma.
"This stuff is the most aggressive cancer there is," said Mick Davis, Krista's father. "Once it moves into your vital organs, you've got a 20% chance of survival."
Mick and Lin Davis know that statistic personally, after losing their daughter. They vowed to do everything they could to get the word out that skin cancer is a killer. Within days of Krista's death, billboards stated popping up with a simple and important message:
The photo of a vibrant Krista on the billboard serves as a stark reminder that melanoma will strike any age.
"It doesn't have to be 45, it doesn't have to be 65, it could be 15. I mean, get checked," said Jeff. "You don't want to go through this."
Lin has fought skin cancer for 13 years herself. She wishes heath care providers would ask every melanoma patient these important questions.
"Do you have any children? If so, has your your child ever had a sunburn? And if so, where was that sunburn located?" said Lin. "Those questions were never asked of me. II think I would have had my guard up much stronger than I had in terms of the urgency of this."
If she would have known that, Lin said she would have warned Krista.
"I would have been so urgent when we saw it that I would have said, 'We're jumping on a plane and heading home," said Lin. "We were in Hawaii"
Krista, like so many, was a bit of a sun worshipper.
"She always wanted to be tan," said Jeff.
On the beach in Hawaii is where the deadly spot was discovered.
"It wasn't overly big. About the size of eraser with a ring around it," said Jeff. "But when we were coming off the beach, I noticed that and I said we got to that checked when we get home."
They did that, and got the cancer diagnosis. Krista had surgery to remove it.
"It was very quick. They took it off, and they did say I think we got it all," said Jeff. "So you start living life normally, and then that was when she started having the really bad headaches. So we took her in, and that's when they found the golf ball sized tumor."
The cancer had spread. To the brain.
"She came firing back just like she always did, and she was strong," said Jeff. "She never wavered in any of her belief. She always thought she was going to be fine, and she fought all the way to the end. Way tougher than I would have ever been."
Three years, from discovering that small cancerous spot on the breach to planning Krista's funeral.
"Every day is hard," said Jeff, barely able to contain his emotions. "I wake up by myself. I go to sleep by myself. I come home to the dogs. They save me. It's hard, being in this house by yourself. It's a totally different life. Nothing can prepare you for this."
"I think what she would say is Jeff, Dad, Mom, let others know to save them from this horrid disease," said Lin.
That's exactly what they are doing, by starting a non-profit. Their message that may have already saved one life, that of a young mother who heard about Krista's story. She wrote a letter to Krista's loved ones.
"Your PSA about going to the dermatologist got me thinking," Lin read, crying at times. "I intended to get checked out, but got so busy with schedules, kids and work I put if off. Well, your post was good, reminding me and making an appointment with a doctor immediately. He found melanoma. I had surgery last week I just wanted to say thank you for the reminder."
"You never know the impact you make," said Mick. "You never know the impact you make."
Skin cancer information by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Melanoma information by the Skin Cancer Foundation
Melanoma information by the American Cancer Society
Melanoma information by the Mayo Clinic