Wife who lost husband to melanoma: “Don’t wait to get checked’

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. --  This year, 76,000 Americans will find out that have melanoma, the most dangerous form of skin cancer. And more importantly, an estimated 10,000 people will die from it.

FOX 4 News spoke with a Kansas City woman who lost her husband to melanoma last year.  Kelley Trammell said her husband, Dean, wanted her to share his story in hopes of saving others.

Trammell said she first noticed the small mole on Dean's back in 2005, years before they were married.

"The mole was asymmetrical.  It wasn't the same size all the way around, but it was dark," she said.  It was darker than any of the other moles what were on his back.

Trammell encouraged Dean to get it checked.  But he waited to see a doctor until after they were married in 2009.

"After we found it was diagnosed, she (the doctor) did confirm she knew what it was as soon as she saw it and that certainly scared us," she recalled.

The mole and the surrounding tissue were removed from Dean's back.  He followed up with regular skin checkups and there were no more signs of the disease.

Then in February of 2012, Dean was at home when he suffered a seizure.  A scan of his brain revealed the unthinkable.

"We were told he had two brain tumors.  So of course, we were very scared.  I immediately thought of the melanoma.  I was scared of that," Trammell recalled.

It was melanoma and it had spread to Dean's brain.  Doctors found 13 tumors there, five in his lung and three more in his liver.  Dean died just five months later at the age of 44.

Related: Royals' broadcaster Fred White dies of melanoma

High risk

Trammell said Dean worshipped the sun and didn't think he needed any protection.  He had used tanning beds, too.  All of the exposure to ultraviolet rays put him at high risk for melanoma.

"He knew before he passed away how wrong he was with that and wanted me to get the word out that you need to protect yourself. Always wear sunscreen," she told FOX 4 News.

Dean also regretted waiting to getting the mole checked out by a doctor.

"And of course my response back was, 'I wish I would have made you go earlier,'" Trammell said.

She also wishes Dean would have had follow-up scans of his organs after the melanoma was diagnosed.  Those scans could have detected the cancer's spread.

"And there's a big hole in your life now?," FOX 4 News asked Trammell.

"Extreme.  A huge hole.  Absolutely.  I know he's here.  His spirit is here.  I can feel it.  I know that he's happy.  He's proud of what I'm doing.  But I miss the physical.  There's a huge loss with that," she responded.

Trammell is in Washington, DC this week serving as a volunteer for the Melanoma Research Foundation.  She's pushing for more melanoma research and regulation of tanning beds.

The Food and Drug Administration has some new proposals and the agency is taking public comments for 90 days.

There would be new warnings required about the risks of using tanning beds.  Also, the beds would be classified as moderate risk medical devices and would require the same approval process as CT scanners.

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