With her fiancé's ashes by her bedside, Tressa Lindholm is still filled with grief. Dave Theisen died on Dec. 16, 2012, at just 46 years old.
"Good thing is: I was with him and he knew I was there. He fought," Lindholm said. "He was frustrated. He was mad. He was angry."
Theisen went to the doctor last March about a mole on his leg he had ignored for years.
"It was black," Lindholm recalled. "There was no change to it and he didn't think nothing of it. Being the joker, anytime anyone would say, 'You need to get that looked at,' he would say, 'Well, you just did.'"
When he did turn to a doctor, Theisen was diagnosed with stage-four melanoma. The cancer had spread to his lymph nodes and liver. He was given just eight months to live.
"I still wish, when I first saw that mole on his leg -- because it bothered me, why I didn't kick him in the butt and make him go in? I mean, he could still be her," said Lindholm.
Loren Wolfe, 62, caught his stage-three melanoma earlier. While playing catch with his grandson, a pain in his shoulder led doctors to a tumor nearly the size of a baseball. Wolfe is currently cancer free, but he is aware there is a chance the cancer could return.
"If, in fact, I survive for a period of time...I think it's also an opportunity to help get this cancer out of the shadows," said Wolfe. "I don't mean directly into the sun, but out of the shadows because I don't think this cancer gets a lot of air play."
Wolfe was given the all clear from the doctor who leads the Melanoma Research Team at the Mayo Clinic, Dr. Svetomir Markovic. Recently, Dr. Markovic's team was awarded a Stand Up To Cancer grant which allows them to pioneer gene-directed therapy like the kind seen for breast cancer.
"Melanoma comes in many sizes and shapes, and it is a disease that, when diagnosed early and removed early, is 100 percent curable," said Markovic. "But if it's allowed to grow, it's almost uniformly fatal."
According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, melanoma accounts for less than 5 percent of skin cancer cases -- but also the vast majority of skin cancer deaths. One in five Americans will develop skin cancer in the course of a lifetime. Each year, there are more new cases of skin cancer than the combined incidence of cancers of the breast, prostate, lung and colon.
Wolfe is now working with Mayo to help people become more aware about melanoma. Wolfe was recently featured in a Mayo Clinic newsletter and is helping host a Melanoma Research Benefit scheduled for Saturday, March 9. The benefit will include a social hour and silent auction, dinner, a performance by the Wolf Brothers Band and Markovic will speak at the event.
Lindholm told FOX 9 News she looks forward to attending the event and become an advocate. She also hopes others learn from her fiancé and the way his story ended.
"I'm dark complected, but I still have to be careful. It doesn't matter. Just get checked," she urged. "I want everyone to be aware because seeing someone go like this, so young… I'm still having a hard time dealing with it."
The Stay Out of the Sun Foundation is organizing the event and all proceeds will go to the Mayo for research.
Silent Auction for the benefit starts at 5 p.m. at the Turtle's 1890 Social Center in Shakopee. For more information, call 952-201-9022 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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