Friday, February 24, 2012

Storms. Rainbows. Melanoma.

Generally rainbows follow storms. Not all storms end with a rainbow and not all rainbows follow "storms." They can follow just a good rain. Where we find one we will not necessarily find the other. Life's like that, too. Rats. It would be so cool and totally wonderful to have all my life-storms followed by big, full, colorful rainbows with really bad life-hurricanes ending with full double-rainbows. Only in a perfect world, I suppose.

Except a perfect world would be storm-free. Would that, then, make it rainbow-free as well?
 

Since we're not in a perfect world, I won't spend time contemplating that one. We're in a world where diseases masquerade as storms. Or is it vice versa? We're in a world where our storms don't always have the rainbow ending we want ... on earth that is, because, we're also in a world where the very worst of storms is followed by a rainbow of such glorious proportions that there's an actual street of gold at the end of it and not just a pot!

Oh, but when we have the "perfect" storm followed by the perfect rainbow ... well, it just has to be shared. Especially when there are tons of little unexpected hints of the rainbow yet to come sprinkled in.

Yesterday, as I write, I got the bestest rainbow I've gotten to date since I've been on melanoma-road. Yesterday I had an appointment with the top melanoma specialist dermatologist at Duke and I had it with her on purpose. It was time to see her before I see my surgical oncologist next month for my check-up. But by the time I actually saw her, I was in full-blown-storm mode.

I had beau-coups of new places that were giving me cause for concern. Panic to be more precise.  Some were rough. They all interfered with sleep. They were everywhere! At the base of my neck, shoulders, back, up and down back, chest. I fully expected her to take a pound of flesh cutting them all out and leaving me with, oh say, 90 stitches or sew. (Smile, it won't kill ya). And I had attirude coming out ... I had attirude!

I was also smart enough, or perhaps desperate enough, the night before my appointment to post on my Facebook page and on Melanoma Prayer Center that I needed prayer and why. Here's what I pitifully posted:

"I don't come on here and ask for prayer for me often, and I know sooooooo many with melanoma are far worse off than me and this may sound petty, but for the first time since my diagnosis I'm dreading an appointment. I see the top melanoma specialist dermatologist at Duke tomorrow and I'm reasonably certain there are several places she'll want to cut off and have pathed. And I have a very real gut feeling that the melanoma is back. I'm not a happy camper right now because I don't know what that will ultimately mean. So, I can use prayer for my nerves and prayer for my attirude (no typo). And prayer that I'm still NED. I really am quite fond of NED and would prefer to stay as far away from Mel as possible. Thank you."

Fifty-six people left comments on my Rev's page that they were praying for me. Some left prayers. A few left pictures. I got a song. On Melanoma Prayer Center I received 35 more comments and prayers. Why didn't I see a bright rainbow coming? I don't know, but I didn't. What I did see were tears in my eyes. I cried off and on that night but they weren't tears of worry or fear. I felt those prayers. And they moved me to tears. I can never say "thank you" enough to the people who prayed for me. Did those prayers move God to change those places of concern from "somethings" into "nothings"? Again, I don't know. Maybe they were "nothings" to begin with but He wanted to teach me lessons. Who knows?

While I did feel those prayers, and feel them strongly, they didn't reduce my angst one little bit. But, they did strengthen my resolve to let the doctor do what she needed to do to rid me of all those places of consternation. I didn't like the thought of all those numbing shots, cut-outs, and stitches. I didn't like the thought of learning how to sleep ala Granpa on The Munsters. Remember how he hung upside-down in a wardrobe (I think it was) to sleep? But I was going to do what I had to do. That's what I tell other people. I was going to listen to me for once.

So yesterday gets here and I get there and do what people expecting a full-body exam do and I tell her my concerns and point them out. I tell her about how nervous I am and have been. And she does her job and a rainbow fills the room.

She tells me all my moles are perfectly healthy and that all the places I thought were "something" were "nothing" but inflammations. She couldn't explain how they got there, maybe my clothes, but they were, each and every one NOTHING!


And I teared up and I swear I thought I saw her get a little misty, too. NOTE: that's a good sign you've got the right doctor. When I wiped my eyes, she said, "I understand." Another good sign.


It actually took me a while to get myself together and leave. I was so stunned. I kept wiping my eyes. When the doctor came back in with my sign-out papers, I still wasn't ready to walk out into the hall (it would have been very embarrassing!) and I apologized, still wiping my eyes, and she said again, very gently, "I understand." And I think, for a doctor, she did.


Here's what I posted when I got home:


"I did it! I gave up melanoma for Lent and it feels GOOD! A real hallelujah moment! Thank you everyone for your prayers and thoughts. I honestly expected to leave behind a pound of flesh today and walk out with around 90 stitches...seriously, I had that many places...new...rough...that gave me great concern. They ARE ALL inflammations! Hydrocortisone twice a day for two weeks is sooooooooo manageable! So, the only stitches I'm sporting are on my clothes!"


The choir gave praises to God of thanks. I got another song (which was written while I was gone and also about others and not just me). I'm still pinching myself. The first application of hydrocortisone started helping almost immediately. I still see rainbows everywhere I look. Life is good. Today. I'm counting on it being good tomorrow, too.


Melanoma being what it is and life being what it is, I'm positive there will be other storms. Some will have rainbows after them and some won't. There will be a final storm one day and I'll walk that street of gold but in the meantime there are songs to sing and prayers to pray and storms to face and rainbows to witness.


And I am grateful that I do none of that alone.