Local mother loses battle with melanoma

Family hopes her message will live on

Sarah Brandes of Newport, Mich., was just 29 years old when she was diagnosed with melanoma, the most deadly form of skin cancer.

The mother of two shared her story on Local 4 last May in hopes of saving other people from the disease she was fighting.

Brandes lost her battle with the disease on Saturday, but her family hopes Sarah's message about the dangers of melanoma will live on.

"I was one of those people, you know, it wouldn't happen to me, and this and that, but it can happen to anybody," said Sarah in her interview with Local 4.  "I'll see all these teenage girls, and they're so dark, and it's so dangerous.  I just want them to know it can happen to them.  Tan is not important. Your life is important."

"She was so happy, she was so proud that she was able to help," said Mike Brandes, Sarah's older brother.  "Every day, she wanted to help spread the word."

Even as she was fighting melanoma, Brandes says Sarah never stopped trying to raise awareness and money to help find a cure.

"She really wanted to do anything she could to try to help everyone," said Brandes.

Sarah was shocked when she learned the suspicious spot on her leg was melanoma.  She blamed it on laying out when she was younger and using tanning beds before school dances.

Her brother wishes teenagers could understand that having a tan isn't worth the potential consequences.

"I just really hope that young people can change the way they view themselves and our culture.  And realize that life is more important than just looking better for a few moments," said Brandes.  "There's no reason why her life should have been taken.  She was the most energetic, funny, loving person in the world.  Melanoma cancer doesn't care what kind of person you are.  No matter how much you fight, it will win."

Sarah's children are just 10 and 13 years old.  In her interview last year, Sarah said "They're everything to me."

Brandes says it's Sarah's attitude her family will miss most.

"She was always smiling, always making jokes," said Brandes.  "She's the funniest person you'll ever meet in your life, and everyone loved her for it."

They hope Sarah's story will save lives.

"If this helps just one person," said Brandes.  "Makes them turn away from walking in one of those doors to a tanning bed or going outside without putting on sunscreen, I know it will make Sarah happy."

Sarah asked that donations in her memory be made to an organization called AIM at Melanoma to help fund research to find a cure. To learn how to donate, click here

To see Sarah's story, click here

To learn more about melanoma, click here

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