Thursday, January 5, 2012

Warning: This Post Is Rated "R"

For "Real" content. No pictures to look at, but if you have an aversion to real life in the course of the day of someone who lugs a monster around with them, then, this post is not for you and you proceed at your own risk. Find something else to do with your time before it's too late.

Too late. Here you are and here we go. When I had my original melanoma mole cut out at a Duke Urgent Care in July 2008 by a wonderful PA, I knew when I went that afternoon that it had melanoma in it. I'd known for a while as it grew, became raised and black, but that day in July sealed it when it started bleeding that morning. I figured someone at DUC would cut it out, sew me up, and send a bandaged up me back to Duke campus where I'd resume my classes the next day and life forever the same as it was when I walked through the Urgent Care doors that day. Melanoma was in the mole and melanoma would be gone once the mole was removed.

For someone so smart I sure was so stupid and naive. NOTE: Melanoma preys on stupid and naive.

That's not how it turned out; that's not how it ever turns out with a mole that looked like mine did. But, hey, the PA said the tissue underneath looked good. That was good enough for me. She evidently forgot to send a memo to that effect to pathology along with the mole. Not only did a path report confirm the melanoma, but it presented numbers to the DUC staff doctor that prompted him to make an appointment for me with a Duke oncologist before ever telling me a thing. I'll spare you the rest of that particular episode, but if you want to and haven't already, you can read it here.

Fast forward over three years to today. To say I've learned a great deal about melanoma in this time span would be a gross understatement! But as I've learned a great deal, I've also remained NED (no evidence of disease). I like it that way. But I know the statistic I live under and with and it scares the mess out of me. Sorry, but the language only will get worse. That's how this day has been. Real.

I attended our district's pastors meeting this morning. It was a nice gathering and I met some new pastors to our district and all went well. We had a nice catered lunch. Most of the pastors left after lunch but some of us had to stay for a District Connectional Table meeting to discuss upcoming district events and ministries. I'm on the DCT so I stayed. All was going fine until we started discussing an event that will be made up of several workshops.

I could feel it happening. In a way. But I was managing it. I started getting ridiculously annoyed and antsy and more annoyed. Garden peas, I was a sitting time bomb and I could feel my fuse getting closer to going off. But I thought I was controlling myself. I thought I was being good. Then out of nowhere it happened. I showed myself. Or should I say, I showed someone who wasn't "me" at all.

I'm really not a witch. But to say I acted like a witch would be an insult to witches. I was a total *itch and there's no other way to say it. I was an out and out "have mercy!"

From the back of the room came a voice and it sounded like mine. And that voice, in a very irritated tone, informed the committee that the suggestion that was just put forward was unnecessary for a workshop because there was a better way to present that particular material, which I then heard that voice that sounded like mine go into detail explaining. It then informed the committee that we already had enough workshops being offered and if we kept adding on more that participation would get lower in the others. I tell you, I was a first class, A-One "goodness gracious!"

For the record, and not proudly, I did not catch myself and immediately apologize. The meeting went on and nobody knows me well enough on that committee to give me a call or shoot me an email and say, "are you OK?" To say I didn't leave a good impression would be another understatement.

And I couldn't have explained myself at the time if someone had asked me what was going on.

After the meeting was over I left. No schmoozing. I get in the car and immediately start rationalizing my behavior to God. God wasn't having any of my baloney though. So, I began telling God I was sorry I had acted that way; I was wrong. And before I knew it I was bawling and I cried half way home...35 minutes. Through traffic. I have to play the "C" card and I hate that. I hate the hell out of it and I wish my vocabulary could find a nicer word for this, but it can't. Hence, the "R" rating.

See, I have a dermatology appointment at Duke later in February with the top melanoma derm there. I also, for the first time, have some places I think she'll want to remove. And pathed. And I think some will come back as melanoma-positive. I have a gut feeling that it's returned. I hope I'm wrong, but I've had derm appts before since July 2008 and I never worried about any of them.

As I bawled and navigated, I gave voice to my fears. For the first time. I had not admitted to myself or to God that I'm scared. Petrified would be more like it. Garden peas and more garden peas. This time I'm not the same stupid, naive person I was three years ago. This time I know what I'm dealing with, if it has recurred. This time not only am I not a happy camper, I'm a scared camper. And I know "fear" is an enemy just like melanoma is an enemy. It can come on us, bury in deep, and then jump out and reveal itself at the worst moments.

We live with this permanent fear of recurrence. As long as things go well, we can hide it, put on our best adult games faces and move on. But we know what we live with. Fear is one of those things we can try to hide, avoid, pretend it isn't there, or act like other people may get scared but not me.  Not me. I can't get scared, admit to it, and let it show. Not me. People don't expect that from me. I'm the voice of hope and faith.

Today the voice of fear sounded forth at my meeting but it wore my face. Rats. Not good. But it is what it is and this is what it is and I am who I am.

People who live with melanoma will understand. There are times we simply are not ourselves and those times can come on us suddenly and from out of nowhere. We aren't crazy and we aren't looking for sympathy or odd looks or melodrama cracks about our behavior. We hate playing the "C" card. And worse, we hate playing the "M" card. Most people don't know how to play that hand.But that's the hand we have to play.

When I first started blogging about my melanoma and began Melanoma Prayer Center, and later Melanoma Grief Chapel, on Facebook, I promised myself I would be totally honest with people. And I have been. Honesty isn't always welcomed, but there are truths about our human existence and the world in which we live and the disease we fight that demand total truth.

This is what my day today looked like and while it was far from perfect, it's redeemable. Any talk about my outburst will eventually be replaced by other, more interesting events, in my colleagues' lives. At least that's what I'm hoping!

Something else happened on my drive home. With just me and God in the car and tears running down my face. I had my current favorite CD playing in the background, Chris Tomlin and Passion's "Here For You." Eventually, the songs began to cut through my voice and I was able to hear about and be reminded of God who IS my refuge and strength. God's love which is a sea without a shore that I can get lost in. An urgent plea to not be afraid but to set my sail and risk the ocean because it's only grace.

And I relaxed in that sea while feeling my fears drown in His grace. Whatever my February appointment holds in store is being held by God.

Do you know that "grace" come from the Greek word charis?

So does "gratitude."


  1. Oh, this is a wonderful post. It was exactly what you said, real. We cannot always be friendly, cheerful, and heck, sometimes we are rude. Things happen. Forgive yourself.

    I will be thinking and praying for you.

  2. I too am always worried about my next skin check. I love that you are honest and real! Prayers for you for peace and for your upcoming appointment.

  3. You are human...Yes, you are a Pastor, but you still have feelings like all of us who travel this road....and it's be scared, crying, even talking like it's not like you. Last weekend, over New Year's I was alone for 3 1/2 days...It was awful....I feel like all the progress I had made, well I stepped back about 6 steps. Jim and I were a couple, a team...we didn't let others in...and now , I am really alone. I have no close friends, except my God, which He always is staying with me....but I need close friends. I like it also that you are honest with us. My favorite song, is "God Will Make a Way for Me". Life is hard....I'll pray for you if you will continue to pray for me. Love, Sherron :>)

  4. Carol, i was just talking about the anger that I would have if I were in my mom's shoes with this melanoma crap hanging over her head all the time. It is scary for me too but not like it is for her. I imagine her body doesn't even feel like her own any many tests and prodding and poking. Praying for you. All the time.

  5. Just so you know, I am agnostic and usually shy away from religious people, but I like you because regardless of how you say things, you're still giving voice to things I feel and understand. And I feel the compassion in you, and it warms me. But just remember, sometimes YOU need to step back and allow others to be compassionate towards you too. And sometimes it's okay to play the cancer card... because it's not like we're making this stuff up, right? It's scary and it jumps out at you like people in a haunted house, but maybe the reason it does that is so that we can let others know why, and what Melanoma is, and what Melanoma does.
    Right now all I want to do is give you the biggest hug ever, and tell you that if it's okay with you, I'll be saying some agnostic prayers of my own on your behalf. :)

  6. I'm with you, feel your words as if they are my own and want to hug you until you are purple and well, maybe not that wouldn't be good would it ;-p Anyway, Being REAL and AUTHENTIC IS ALWAYS the way to go and frankly it's the only way. People listen when you are real. Melanoma stage 1,2,3,or 4 is nothing to sugar coat. Just found out today that a friend from High School just got diagnosed with the BEAST. I got so angry and it took me back to that dreadful day....June 30, 2006. We all have those memories. I can relate. MELANOMA CHANGES US FOREVER. I completely here you. big hugs

  7. You are making a world many of us felt alone in a very full and supportive one!

    Never stop being honest!


Thank you.