Tuesday, November 29, 2011
Love is patient and kind; melanoma is intrusive and vicious. I need to remember to let love rule.
Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude; melanoma can lead me into a sense of thinking only about me. It can also make me depressed and cranky. I need to remember to let love rule.
Love does not demand its own way. Melanoma can make me very demanding. I need to remember to let love rule.
Love is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It's not my fault I have melanoma and it's not my family's fault either. I need not feel guilty or make them feel guilty when they do their best to look after me and I snap at their efforts. I need to remember to be appreciative and let love rule.
Love does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Melanoma is just plain wrong but it cannot win. It can only do so much. It is limited to what it can do to my body and though that is horrible beyond words, it cannot touch my soul. It cannot follow me to heaven. It cannot kill my faith. I will always win against melanoma because God has already won the ultimate victory.
Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. Therefore, neither will I give up, lose faith or lose hope, and I will endure everything melanoma throws my way because God is Love. I have God in my life and I know Love. Melanoma serves to make me a stronger person. It may weaken my body, but it will not weaken my perseverance or my resolve. No! It will make me all the more determined.
What is known today about cancer, and melanoma in particular, will give way to new discoveries. But love will last forever and it will not give way to anything! Now our medical knowledge is partial and incomplete, and even diagnoses and prognoses reveal only part of the whole picture! But when full understanding comes, these partial things will become useless.
When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. I didn't believe melanoma could happen to me. I did what I wanted to do and didn't listen.
But when I grew up, I put away childish attitudes. Melanoma has caught up with me and everything has changed.
Now we see things imperfectly as in a cloudy mirror, but one day we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.
Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.
Melanoma isn't on the "forever" list!
Hallelujah! I am forever grateful!
(NED: no evidence of disease)
Friday, November 25, 2011
This year, just yesterday, somehow, out of nowhere, in a mad rush to get more of the Black Friday dollars, a few stores began Black Friday on Thanksgiving Thursday.
And many shoppers happily complied. To garner big savings. I guess that was one more thing to add to the "What I'm Thankful For" list this year. My big fear is that Thanksgiving will get squeezed out of the picture as "Thankful Thursday" takes over the consumer landscape. And we'll complain when no one says "Happy Thanksgiving" anymore. Retailers will greet us with "Happy Thankful Thursday" and lure us into earlier shopping instead of spending time with out families. Eventually someone will complain that "no one said Happy Thanksgiving" to me. But still they'll shop and spend. Doing it for the ones they love, saving big bucks. Why spend time when you can spend money? Why waste time with loved ones you may never see again when you can waste money on stuff that won't matter once it's opened?
Thanksgiving will come to resemble Christmas. The "real" meaning of Christmas gets more and more lost in the shuffle as people rush to do more and more and spend more and more and none of it even begins to "look like Christmas." And then some people complain because no one says "Merry Christmas" anymore. "They've" taken Christ out of Christmas!
"Put Christ Back In Christmas" becomes the rallying cry for Christians. Don't let "them" keep taking Christ out of Christmas!
Well folks, the "they" is "us". We took Christ out of Christmas and we can put Christ back. How? We can find Christ in Christmas.
Putting Christ in Christmas is more than saying "Merry Christmas." If you tell someone "Merry Christmas" and then do nothing to ensure they have a Merry Christmas, what have you accomplished? Even non-Christians can say the words and they have no real meaning to them, it's just another paid holiday.
If you insist people greet you, whether they believe in Christ or not, with mere words and then do nothing to show them the Christ of Christmas or live the Christ of Christmas, what have you accomplished?
If you really want to put Christ in Christmas, then find the Christ of Christmas. Where is Christ? He's at the homes of the poor and hungry and lonely. Those who'll have nothing under the tree. You want Christ in Christmas? Then stop getting all up in arms about words and get your arms busy showing the love of the Word.
Get hung up on what matters and stop getting wound up about what doesn't.
Christ is going to go without a lot this Christmas and we can do something about that. But it will take more than saying "Merry Christmas" to do it. And, by the way, nobody is stopping you from saying it to anyone you want to. Nobody is stopping you from finding the Christ of Christmas either.
But to do that, we'll probably need to spend some of those dollars on the poor and spend some of that time helping those in need instead of lining cash registers. We won't find Christ in the rush of dizzy conspicuous consumers waiting to spend big to save big.
He'll be at home with those who can't even dream of doing that.
If Christ is out of Christmas, it's our fault. We can put Christ back in Christmas. First we may just have to find Christ in Christmas.
We can do it. He'll show us the way but that means we have to follow instead of run ahead. It means we need to read Matthew 25: 31-46 below and take it to heart.
In our family, we give Jesus a present every year. It's His birthday. Not ours.
And I am grateful!
(Matthew 25: 31-46 from The Message:
31-33"When he finally arrives, blazing in beauty and all his angels with him, the Son of Man will take his place on his glorious throne. Then all the nations will be arranged before him and he will sort the people out, much as a shepherd sorts out sheep and goats, putting sheep to his right and goats to his left.
34-36"Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Enter, you who are blessed by my Father! Take what's coming to you in this kingdom. It's been ready for you since the world's foundation. And here's why:
I was hungry and you fed me,
I was thirsty and you gave me a drink,
I was homeless and you gave me a room,
I was shivering and you gave me clothes,
I was sick and you stopped to visit,
I was in prison and you came to me.'
37-40"Then those 'sheep' are going to say, 'Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry and feed you, thirsty and give you a drink? And when did we ever see you sick or in prison and come to you?' Then the King will say, 'I'm telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.'
41-43"Then he will turn to the 'goats,' the ones on his left, and say, 'Get out, worthless goats! You're good for nothing but the fires of hell. And why? Because—
I was hungry and you gave me no meal,
I was thirsty and you gave me no drink,
I was homeless and you gave me no bed,
I was shivering and you gave me no clothes,
Sick and in prison, and you never visited.'
44"Then those 'goats' are going to say, 'Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or homeless or shivering or sick or in prison and didn't help?'
45"He will answer them, 'I'm telling the solemn truth: Whenever you failed to do one of these things to someone who was being overlooked or ignored, that was me—you failed to do it to me.'
46"Then those 'goats' will be herded to their eternal doom, but the 'sheep' to their eternal reward."
Wednesday, November 23, 2011
While there is much to be said for "standing out in a crowd" and "being yourself," sometimes it can be better to "follow the crowd," particularly if the crowd understands you and is your support system. Solomon eloquently reminds us that often it really isn't good to be alone and that we need each other. Those words are never truer than when cancer enters your world. Melanoma is a particularly vicious cancer, though none are "nice" by any stretch of the imagination. I'm not crazy about the term "molemates" but that's what we are. Kindred souls bound by moles. Thick and thin bound by skin. For better or worse, blessing and curse.
This being Thanksgiving Week, I'm joining fellow bloggers in saying "thank you for being here."
Thanks to the Internet there's a vast, worldwide melanoma community that connects every day. I'm part of several support groups, I also have several fellow-travelers I message and email privately, I have many who come together on Melanoma Prayer Center. We all have special connections. If for some reason, you're reading this and you aren't connected, we're here waiting for you. Please don't try and do this alone.
There are many who blog and have other melanoma awareness websites. They share their stories and information. There are actually millions of us melanoma warriors worldwide so while it would be impossible for us all to connect with each other, we do make those special connections. There are people I have to thank. Some have gone on and I will hunt each one down and give them big hugs when I finally meet them one glorious day.
Some are very much here and there are far too many to mention by name because like all those who receive Oscars, once you start naming names, someone will be inadvertently left out.
There is one, though, that I do have to let stand out because he's a special answer to a prayer I never thought would be answered. I have a younger brother and it's just the two of us. Growing up we bickered a lot and quite frankly, I often wondered why I couldn't have had a big brother instead of a baby brother. I always secretly thought my life would have been smoother that way. I was cut out to be the little sister, not the big sister. God, obviously, thought differently and since He's always right, my relationship with my baby brother has gotten good over time.
But God, in His infinite provision and with a sense of humor, has given me something of that big brother I've always wanted. He waited 52 years, gave me a Catholic big brother (I'm Protestant), a big brother who isn't southern, and one I've only met in cyberspace. He's a fellow molemate and I'll meet him next year, God willing. See, I'm already brushing up on my Catholicism. He's very much a kindred soul and being that perfect big brother, when I pick on him, which I do often, he takes it nicely...which he kinda has to since he can't reach out and slap me and also because he picks back.
Like my idealized big brother, he makes me laugh and is there when I need a brotherly "tut-tut." He began his melaroad travels way before me, has seen much, and generously shares from his limited fount of knowledge. I had to pick a little!
So, thanks to all who have a room with me in Hotel Melanoma. While we do need to talk to management about better accommodations, we're in good company and
I'm grateful you share your journey with the likes of me.
Tuesday, November 22, 2011
Halloween. Oh, I can't stand the scarier aspects; and, as "holidays" go, for me, this one really isn't one, but what I like about Halloween is the Halloween candy. This is the one time of year that I can indulge in ridiculous amounts of all my favorites and no one says a word. Not a word! And, hooray! Halloween, in Conway, NC, got rained out this year! I'm STILL enjoying York Peppermint Patties and Reese Cups. We just finished off the little 3 Musketeers, Milky Ways and Snickers. From the look of things, we do need to develop a like for Whoppers, Nestles Crunch, Kit Kats, and Heath. Thankfully, miracles do happen, so we'll see.
Court Shows. Can we say Judge Judy? Judge Alex? Judge Marilyn Milian? For good measure throw in Judge Matthis. I sure do miss Judge Jeanine Pirro. Not all day every day, to be sure, but I find these shows and the people on them fascinating. As a pastor, these shows are an invaluable insight into real lives of real people that I don't get elsewhere. Plus, all that free legal advice has come in mighty handy. TV Court Shows are a huge guilty pleasure that I am extremely grateful for. Halloween candy comes and goes; court shows go into reruns.
So do all the shows on Food Network. Tuesday nights are reserved for "Chopped." Wednesday nights for Restaurant Impossible and Sunday nights for The Next Iron Chef: Superstars (for now) and Iron Chef: America. Sigh. Who could ask for more? OK, I could.
HGTV does like to introduce fans to House Hunters every night, several times a night. National and international house hunters searching for that perfect home. Will they find it? What astoundingly high and unconscionable amount will they be willing to pay for a little bit of square footage in a prime location? My head gets a lot of exercise from all the shaking it does as I watch what people pay big bucks for and get next to nothing.
And paying big bucks and getting next to nothing brings me to the last guilty pleasure I'll confess to: politics. Anytime I want a laugh, I just tune in to who's promising what pie in the sky. Might as well laugh as cry.
Thank goodness for humor in this life! God is good and even when much in this world isn't...
I am still grateful to be here.
Tuesday, November 15, 2011
And For the Ignorant, the Arrogant, the Fearful, and the "It Can't Happen To Me Crowd"
What follows is the post as originally written. Yesterday as I write this in red, I wrote another post calling for us to stop using the "s word" when talking about melanoma. The information below is still accurate but please also read the post I've linked to here for a fuller understanding. Do a search for melanoma at this blog and you'll find even more info. If you are part of the melanoma world in any way, please feel free to connect with me at Melanoma Prayer Center on Facebook. Thank You and now, on to that post!
Yesterday, as I write this, I posted a one question poll on my Facebook page asking if people who don't have melanoma understand "melanoma" to be another word for "skin cancer" or if they know it to be a specific kind of skin cancer that's deadly. A few of my melanoma-smitten friends posted that on their FB wall also.
There's a lot of dangerous misconceptions out there about melanoma and, from what I've seen, about skin cancer in general. So, on behalf of all my fellow travelers in the greater Skin Cancer World, please sit back, put your reading glasses on if you need them, and become enlightened so maybe you don't join our ranks.
Please understand that no matter which skin cancer we're talking about...that word "cancer" is attached. CANCER. That's not a word people get happy having attached to them. We do not say, "Oh, they just have stomach cancer." Or, "I just have liver cancer." "It's just lung cancer." Why do we feel like we can say "just skin cancer"?
There are three major types of skin cancer: basal cell, squamous cell, and melanoma. A combined total of more than 3.5 million of these will be diagnosed in the USA alone this year making skin cancer much more prevalent than breast, colon, lung, and prostate COMBINED! Basal cell is more common and rarely fatal. Squamous cell is the next common and more than 2500 people WILL die from squamous cell this year. Melanoma is the most deadly of the three and over 8700 people die from it each year. It's on the rise worldwide and on target for being the deadliest of ALL cancers by 2022; eleven years from now. Pretty rough numbers for something that is "just" cancer.
While not all of these cancers are deadly, they are all scarring and disfiguring. None of them card or care. None of them care who you are, what you do for a living or how much money you make. They don't care if you're insured or not. They don't care where you went to school...or if you are still in school. They don't care how old or young you are or what color your skin is. They don't care what gender you are or what your sexuality is. They don't care if you exercise and eat a wholesome diet. They are looking for SKIN. Not the prettiest or the most flawless or the tannest; they just need skin to get started.
Or so we think, because they are called "skin" cancer. Melanoma can get started in your eye. Melanoma isn't necessarily an "out there where you can see it easily" cancer, either. It can start in your ear canal. Got a rectum? It can begin there. Women of any age, it can begin in your vagina. Folks, if you have nails on your hands and feet, it can grow under your nail beds. Not to be left out, there is even oral melanoma that begins in your mouth! It doesn't need the sun or tanning beds to provoke it as it likes the soles of feet and the palms of hands.
There are plenty of statistics out there regarding melanoma and ethnicities, genders, and ages. And while in some instances, some of those stats can appear pretty good, they can also lull certain groups of people into a false sense of security because they think it can't happen to them and it's a disease other people have to worry about. While it's true fewer African-Americans and Hispanics get melanoma than Caucasians; today African-Americans and Hispanics will be diagnosed and some will die from melanoma. While it's true more men get it more often than women; today, women will be diagnosed and some will die from it. While it's true people in their upper twenties and older get it more often; today, children and teenagers will be diagnosed and some will die from melanoma.
Statistics are numbers only on the surface. Scratch that surface and you'll find every stat is made up of real people. People like you and me. People who thought it couldn't and wouldn't happen to them. They didn't fit the profile. They didn't tan either in the sun or in tanning beds. People who thought it was really no big deal because it's just skin cancer.
One final word. Melanoma is particularly noted for having what we lovingly call "renegade cells." All it really takes is only one. You can get that mole, bump, or freckle removed, have it sent to a pathology lab, and it come back "stage 1" melanoma. You aren't cured. There isn't a cure. The best you can hope for is that it doesn't come back; that you don't have a renegade cell loose in your system waiting to surprise you and wreck havoc on you.
It can come back as other primary tumors in your skin or another mole. It can find a home in an organ and come back like gangbusters! You can be diagnosed at any stage at any time. I was initially diagnosed stage 3b as it had already spread to my lymph nodes under my left arm. When it comes back, if it comes back, it will either be in my brain or my lungs. And that will be melanoma that has spread...not brain cancer or lung cancer. People with melanoma that begins in their legs or groin have to worry about it returning in their liver.
Those returns are called "mets." They're nasty, aggressive tumors. Sometimes they can be controlled; sometimes they can be shrunk and killed; sometimes they do the killing. Research is improving and so are available treatments but like everything else in life, not every treatment works for everybody.
The best course of action is prevention to the best of your ability and education. Be aware and be vigilant. When you see something on your body, get it checked out pronto. Don't get sucked into waiting because you're scared or broke. Go to a dermatologist that knows about melanoma.
And a strong word here: you are your own best advocate. Not all dermatologists or general practitioners are up-to-date and knowledgeable about melanoma. If your concerns are not taken seriously, if you are told "it's nothing" but you feel differently...run, don't walk, to another doctor. If you want something removed and pathed, find someone who will take your concerns seriously and remove it and path it.
Another thing that probably has a stat somewhere: today people will die needlessly because their concerns weren't taken seriously; something that looked "OK" wasn't; and by the time that was realized, it was too late. Don't let that happen to you.
Be aware of your body. Be attune to your gut instincts and act on them. Take care of yourself and love the skin you're in.
For more info on all skin cancers, read this: (the info is updated as of Aug. 28, 2020
It's your life.
Wednesday, November 9, 2011
There are no Cowardly Lions, for all possess unbelievable courage.
There are no Scarecrows, for all possess more brainpower than you can imagine.
There are no Tinmen, for all possess heart in a God-sized capacity.
We may not have started off like that, but that is how we are transformed for this is truly a transformational journey. A journey none of us want, but the journey we are on nonetheless. It's a journey that requires getting our heads out of the sand and facing reality. It's a journey that compels us to want to travel this as a "road less taken" because we really do not want you traveling with us.
I've written about this before but there are aspects I haven't shared. Aspects, though, that I live with and you need to understand because I don't want you living them, one day, too. MelaBlack Road isn't "black" for nothing. It's paved with brokenness and death. In that pavement is grief, pain, financial ruin, and treatments that can kill the person before the cancer can. Above the tar is a rainbow. Absolutely there's a rainbow. It's colors are Resilience, Optimism, Yearning, Gratitude, Belief, Inspiration, and Vision. God is our pot of gold at both ends of it. The Beginning and the End.
When a person finds themselves on MelaBlack Road, it is a scary place. That Wicked Witch is called "the beast" and the beast has lots of cohorts it sends out to try and capture our thoughts, hearts, minds, souls, and bodies. Sometimes, they're successful. For a while. It may take a while, but we eventually get ourselves pulled together and our heads straight and get back on track.
See, one of the things we learn right off and that you really need to understand, is melanoma is NOT Just skin cancer. And it really shouldn't be referred to as "melanoma skin cancer" because that misleads people into thinking it is another skin cancer. It's not. Let me repeat that: It Is Not!
It's definitely scarring and disfiguring. It's also highly deadly. Once "melanoma" is attached to you, you are given two numbers: a stage and a statistic appropriate for your stage. And you also learn that, in a sense, you can throw all that out the window because once melanoma is a label you carry, your stage can change at any time. You can go from being stage 1 to stage 4 in a short matter of time.
I'll use myself as an example. Because I waited, prayed, hoped for a miracle, and was slow and fearful to act when my mole started changing, when I did get it removed and pathed, I was stage 3b right off the bat.
My lovely statistic: a 30-35 % chance of it coming back in ten years. When, or if, it does come back in those ten years, it WILL be in either my brain or my lungs. See, my mole was removed from my upper left arm and the cancer had already spread to my lymph nodes. ANY TIME someone has lymph nodes removed...it's not good. Other locations of melanoma, like on the leg, will mean the warrior is concerned with it spreading to their liver.
Oh, I may get other primaries in my skin or other moles, but I also live with the knowledge that I may have one, just one is all it takes, one renegade cell loose and traveling, waiting to land in and start growing in my brain. I'm three years into that stat and am still NED (no evidence of disease) and that can change tomorrow. "Just" skin cancer? NO!!!!
Now I know some of you are saying, "30-35% chance is pretty good. That means there's a 65-70% chance it won't." Yep. I know. That's what I'd like to bank on, too. The problem with that is that those numbers, on both sides of that stat are real, actual, breathing people. I've seen people on both sides of that stat. So far I'm on one side. Tomorrow I could find myself on the other. All stats, of anything, are made up of people living out that stat. They aren't just numbers.
If you're reading this, I'm pretty sure you have skin. It doesn't matter what color that skin is or how old or young it is. It does not matter. It doesn't matter if you have lots of moles or freckles or not. There are stats for all that, too, that can lull people into a false sense of security. If you have skin, get it checked once a year by a dermatologist that specializes in melanoma.
I don't want to meet you coming or going on MelaBlack Road. I have enough traveling companions and I love them dearly, but I have enough.
The trouble is, some of you will join me. Either the damage is already done and is just waiting to jump on you, or, you aren't listening. Smugness, while it may work in some social circles, is stupid, costly, and deadly. So is "denial." So is "fear and panic." So is "I can't afford to get checked."
You can't afford not to. Smugness doesn't cut it on this trip to Oz and it's not a destination to flaunt in your friends' faces. Get your head out of the sand and in a dermatologist's office before you find it in an oncologist's.
To all my friends on this journey, I love you and am grateful for your company. You inspire me and keep me going.
To all you others, do me a favor and make my journey worth it.
Make me grateful for it.
Friday, November 4, 2011
Wednesday, November 2, 2011
1) All we really need are our daily essentials: food, water, a bathroom of some sort, and someone to scratch our back. God does provide! Just look outside!
2) Get real people! If a dog can love unconditionally, why can't you folks get a long better?
3) Get over it! If someone won't play nice, bring them a slipper or share your bone. Bring out the big guns, your squeak toy, if they're really nasty. Who can resist that?
4) The spice of life is grease! Add a little to each meal and even the worse food becomes palatable.
5) Vets may mean well, but, let's get real here. You people really don't fool us. Give it to us straight! Remember, you don't like going to the doctor, why should we? And, for the record, needles aren't fun for us either!
6) Neither are those big pills that could choke a horse. Do you hear me neighing? Time for a reality check.
7) Be forgiving of others as your dog is forgiving of you.
8) Do you hear me complaining about every little thing? It doesn't take much for me to wag my tail. Why can't you be more like a dog?
9) Turn off the TV and computer. Put down the cell phone. Life's too short for all that. How about grab my leash and let's take a walk instead?
10) And when you don't turn off the TV, get off the computer, or put down the phone, just let me lay by your feet and I'll be truly happy and blissful.
11) Relish the simple stuff. I do. That's a dog's life!
12) Be grateful for the "good boy" and pat on the head. That's ample reward for being a good dog. I'm grateful. Why can't you be?
Buddy, you're a smart dog to be sure and you probably are a higher life form than me. You make a lot of sense.
And I am grateful!