There are days in our lives that stick out - for better for worse.

For me, one of those - definitely for the worse - is May 6, 2004.

That was the date that my fiancee Melody Kay Lakes was officially diagnosed with Stage 4 liver cancer.

Melody and I met online in summer 2003, and got engaged at Christmastime later that year.

Early in 2004, she began feeling fatigued, plagued with something she just couldn’t put her finger on. 

We were both busy: Me working two jobs, and her working a full-time job and serving as the primary caretaker for her father, who was battling bone cancer.

So, when I suggested she go to the doctor, she said she would when she got around to it.

By that time, it was too late.

I wasn’t anywhere near as cancer-savvy then as I am now. She made stage 4 cancer sound no more threatening than a cold. “I’m going to beat this, and I’m going to be fine,” she assured me on more than one occasion.

I now know that stage 4 liver cancer is basically a death sentence.

Melody died five weeks later, at 11:32 p.m. the night of June 14, 2004, with me by her side. She was 49.

Over the years, I’ve struggled to come to grips with her sudden, untimely passing … to make lemonade out of lemons, as the old cliche goes.

One of the ways I’ve done that has been throwing myself into cancer activism.

And a big part of that has been participating in the Relay for Life.

I had the chance to do that again last weekend here in our area, at the Gridley-Biggs Relay for Life.

I always enjoy not only covering this event, but participating in it as well. It’s a nice two-fer.

Every dollar raised, every lap walked, every luminary purchased, brings us one day closer to the day we can consign cancer to the ash heap of history.

This year’s Relay had a bit of an even more special significance for me, as I am currently in the midst of a prostate cancer scare. With an extensive family history of this particular kind of cancer, I started getting tested at 35, and my annual physical this year produced several red flags that have me pegged for further testing later this month.

So, I’m not just Relaying to honor Melody, or the numerous relatives and friends I’ve lost to this dreaded disease.

In a way, I’m fighting for my own life, I suppose.

Thanks to everyone in our area who came out to support this worthy cause last weekend.

Let’s do it again next year!

Contact Gridley Herald sports/news reporter David Vantress at 846-3661, ext. 123 or by email at Follow him on Twitter at @dvantressGH.