LINDALE (KYTX) - Colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States. Every year, about 140,000 Americans are diagnosed with colorectal cancer, and more than 50,000 people die from it.
Saturday, Lindale community members walked together, during colon cancer awareness month. They honored a loved neighbor who died last year of colon cancer.
The simple mention of Melissa Carstaphnur's name brings laughter and teary-eyed smiles from her loved ones:
"She had a heart of gold. She could make you laugh when you were in your worst."
"She had this way of making you laugh. She was just awesome."
"She was one of a kind. I really miss her."
Melissa was diagnosed with colon cancer in September of 2010.
"It was hard but we are really blessed because people with colon cancer, it's very aggressive so they usually pass on pretty quickly, but Melissa was able to live another year and 9 months," said her niece, Brandy Cooper.
Cooper helped organize a walk for her aunt and others fighting the same battle.
"We're not only honoring her, but all the cancer patients," she said.
Melissa died three months after last year's colon cancer walk.
"I took care of her until the end," said her husband, Franklin Carstaphnur, with tears in his eyes.
He knows how hard it is watching loved ones fight cancer and wants to help others in his shoes.
"I try to tell them It's going to be hard. you have to be patient, and most of all you have to do a lot of praying."
He's thankful for those who came out to support his wife, like her best friend Kayla Bass.
"It's a battle and its one that does have hope, and we don't want to forget that," Bass said. "That there is hope for all that have cancer. I hope that we can find a cure and find it soon."
She wants to spread that hope to cancer patients across the region. She hopes her walking will keep them fighting - just like Melissa always did.
Cooper says she has been encouraging the community to donate to the American Cancer Society.
More than 90 percent of cases occur in people who are 50 years old or older. Doctors say regular screenings could cut as many as 60 percent of deaths from this cancer.