20 Years Since Melanoma Changed Everything

Darren and Rhonda

Today marks 20 years since we lost Darren to Melanoma.

He was 32 years old. Our boys were 1, 3 and 6. It was three days after our entire country was whirling from the shock of the infamous Sept 11th attacks. They were difficult days.

I remember after losing Darren the pain was so excruciating, often times unbearable to just get out of bed, brush my teeth and ‘live’ through a day. There was no joy. I wanted the pain to go away so badly.

A few months after Darren had passed, still fighting off the pain, a close friend of mine arranged for me to have lunch with a woman who had lost her husband 20 years earlier as he wanted me to have a glimpse of hope, of knowing what to expect in the future years. I yearned to know “will this pain ever end!?”. She shared with me that yes, after 20 years the acute pain does subside but that there will always be a piece of your heart that is missing, that belongs to the love and life of the past. She shared that the old cliche, ‘life goes on’, is real. She remarried and her boys, also young at the time of her first husband's passing, had gained an amazing stepdad and additional siblings, all unexpected gifts from the experience.

It was an incredibly poignant moment for me. I held onto her words as I wrestled through the early years of my grief. I am now ‘20 years out’ and so much of what was shared at that lunch date rings true. The acute pain has subsided. I am able to get out of bed every day and I have had numerous joys and heartbreaks along the way (yet nothing as severe as losing Darren). I still get melancholic and reflective at certain times of the year, this day being one of them, but ultimately, I am now able to lean into the feelings of pure gratitude and peace from the gifts that came from losing Darren.

I am so grateful for our three boys, who have grown to be such amazing, upright, and thoughtful young men (Darren would be so proud!). I am grateful for the perspective that came from experiencing such tremendous pain. It is so true that you can't know true LOVE without experiencing true HEARTBREAK. (The yin-yang of life.)

I now know how special our time together was and how never to take another person for granted. I am able to live with a genuine perspective of compassion and see the gifts that each of us bring to the world. I thank Darren for all of this.

So today, and every day, I encourage you all to count your blessings. Even when it feels like life is nothing but despair and darkness, the blessings will eventually bubble to the top. Lean in.

Darren, you will forever and always be loved and remembered. This day, every day. (6/25/69 - 9/14/01) 

Rhonda Sparks




Rhonda R. Sparks
UV Skinz Founder 

Read more about Darren's story.