In case you don’t already know her, I’d like to introduce you all to an incredibly sweet and passionate melanoma survivor, Kristi Fry. Kristi reached out to our CEO, Rhonda Sparks, a while back to talk about their shared passion of melanoma awareness advocacy, and boy did she make an impression! Rhonda then reached out to me to make sure we got Kristi some educational (and fun!) goodies to share with her friends and customers. After sending the goodies, I reached out to Kristi to see if she’d like to share her passion with our readers…and she said yes 🙂

Here is Kristi’s Story.

How did you discover you had melanoma? What type or stage were you diagnosed with?

I had a mole on my neck for as long as I can remember, but it always was just a light color brown, and not very noticeable..When I got pregnant with my now 5 yr old at 38 years old, literally within that 10 month period my mole that was not even noticeable turned black. It did not get bigger really, nor did it really change in shape much, but turned black…I noticed it daily because it was on my neck right below my ear. I asked my GP {about the mole}, for a total of 3 times over a year visit and all times he assured me it was nothing, and that I was being silly…Then, after my son turned a little over a year, I visited a dermatologist for the first time to look into Botox and while I was there I asked her {about the mole and} she said that it did not look overly suspicious, however since I had noticed it change within a small amount of time she erred on the safe side and removed it. My mole came back stage 1A melanoma, and that is where my story begins.

What was the primary treatment facility involved in your care? What were your treatments like?

I had a surgery done the following month, and have not had any further treatments. I go in every 3-6 months for my skin checks, and just pray daily knowing there is high rate of a re-occurrence.

Do you believe tanning (indoor and/or outdoor) was a factor in your developing of melanoma?

I believe 100% that tanning played a part in my personal melanoma. I began indoor tanning at age 15, and continued every summer (for about 3 months), 2-3 times a week until about 6 weeks before my diagnosis. In between the tanning salon, I made sure that I was as dark as possible by tanning at the pool, the beach, in the backyard etc. I needed to be as TAN as I could get.

What would you say has been the most impactful experience since your diagnosis and/or treatment?

The most impactful experience that I have had since my diagnosis was finding melanoma on my customer at the barber shop I work at. That particular experience turned me into a high powered, loud, obnoxious and incredibly driven advocate in every aspect of my life…I realized how EASY it was to help someone catch this beast early, someone that can’t even see that part of their head, and it set me on fire..

Kristi’s Work Station

What organizations have been the most helpful to you?

The organizations that I have found myself going to the most would be Melanoma Research Foundation, Melanoma Research Foundation of New England, Addison’s Army Against Melanoma, as well as a few others, but equally as resourceful have been the many AMAZING groups through Facebook.

Kristi with Kimberly Rubio and Tracy Mehaffey Cockerham

Kristi with Kimberly Rubio and Tracy Mehaffey Cockerham at Surfboards on Paradise raising money for skin cancer awareness

What has been your biggest challenge through this life changing experience? And your greatest source of strength?

My biggest challenge through all of this is hard to pinpoint, first off it was difficult to get to a point personally in which I was comfortable in my own skin, however once I got there it felt AMAZING, beauty became something so different, yet more beautiful. The other thing that has been even more tough was learning how little support you can get on this journey through those closest to you, it makes you feel isolated, and even defeated at times because most people don’t want to change their habits, even more so they think “it’s just skin cancer, no biggie, chill out Kristi “…that has really hurt over the past 4 years. My greatest source of strength HANDS DOWN has been my Facebook Melanoma Family, I have never in my life seen such incredible, beautiful support of even complete strangers like I have through my new friends, it’s pretty remarkable.

How has your melanoma diagnosis changed your life?

Melanoma has changed my life in so many ways, I now will not leave the house without sunscreen, nor will my children. I will never choose the sunny spot over the shade, I will take seriously every spot on my body as well as my children, and I have learned to see the true beauty in real skin color.

Is there a quote, song, or book that inspires you that you would like to share with our readers?

There are many quotes that I love, some ware “Love the skin you’re in”, “When in doubt, cut it out”, “Pale is the new tan”, and many more. I am not a big reader but really was impacted by the book that Michael W. Brown wrote about his late wife Amanda called “Finding N-E-D”.

Tell us about “Hope & Faith”?

My car {Hope} was created out of total and complete heartbreak and frustration…I was endlessly searching for ways to get the word out as loudly as I could, but was feeling very defeated realizing that nobody seemed to want to hear, or take it {melanoma} seriously . What began as just an idea to create large magnets with facts and info, turned into an entire car wrap! A customer at work suggested that if I really want to make an impact that magnets will not be enough, and I thought that due to the cost it could never happen. He then suggested that I create a fundraiser, and that’s just what I did, raising almost $3000.00 within a 6-8 week period. Then the process of creating began, the whole project took about 4 months, and with my visions, as well as the AMAZING artistic visions of Speedpro Imaging Coastal OC , “HOPE” my Melanoma Mobile was born, and I could NOT be more proud. I ” introduced” her to Facebook last January, and just this past Thanksgiving she now has a SISTER!!!!! FAITH is the new Melanoma mobile that was created by my friend Paula who lost her 24 year old daughter Keegan this past August 🙁 Both of us live in Orange County Ca. and we literally live within 10 minutes from each other, so we are conquering the Oc together now.

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What advice would you give someone who thinks skin cancer won’t happen to them or a member of their family?

The advice that I would give to anyone and everyone who thinks that Melanoma will not happen to them, or a loved one is pure facts. Melanoma is the fastest growing cancer in the United States and worldwide, one person dies every hour from melanoma, the rate of Pediatric melanoma is rapidly on the rise, and while all other Cancer is on the decline, Melanoma continues to be rapidly on the incline. Melanoma is aggressive, ruthless, and follows no rules. It can show up in anyone and everyone, but is also one of the only cancers that can be passed from mother to unborn child. Melanoma CAN happen to you, and with the epidemic rates rising fast, chances are that it will touch your life in one way or another.