Tuesday, July 31, 2012

I Can Do This! I Will Do This! A Word Of Encouragement

Everyday around the globe people are facing the unfaceable and attempting to do the impossible. What wasn't supposed to happen, was never even thought of as a possibility in a life, has happened and now must be tackled head-on and dealt with. Bravely. Courageously. Fearfully.

Failure is not an option and neither is doing nothing. There are, certainly, many life-events that fit this. What I'm thinking of is fighting cancer. Specifically, melanoma.

I've got a lot of melapals who need an in-your-face pep talk. They're scared of what they've got to do, but more scared of what will happen if they do not do it. I'm not talking about staying vigilant after the diagnosis. I'm not talking about knowing this disease and that emotional toll that must be faced.

No.. I'm talking to the one battling active disease at stage 4. I'm 3b so I do not speak from personal experience. What I do speak from, however, is the platform that my space in cyberspace has afforded me. I'm talking to my friends in the hospital with melanoma in their brain, liver, lungs, bone, spine, breast, anywhere you can think of. I'm talking to my friends undergoing surgeries and powerful toxic infusions and high dose radiation/gamma knife.

YOU CAN DO THIS!!! This is where you are. You've gotten this far in your fight against the beast and you've got to fight some more. YOU CAN DO THIS!!!!! Say to yourself, "I CAN DO THIS! I CAN DO THIS!" Pump yourself up. Tell those nay-saying voices to shut up and get out. No matter how scared you are, YOU CAN DO THIS!!!!!

You don't have a choice and you know it. The only option is do to nothing and you know what that means. DON'T GO THERE! Chin up, big girl or big boy pants on, shoulders back, look straight ahead and march forward. Fight the fight to win. Run the race to cross the finish line. Hold God's hand and trust He's holding yours and GO! God's got your back and people are there for you and lifting you in prayer! Feel the weight of those prayers press in on you. You've got the plan, you've got the medical team, you've got the best treatment available, you know people are getting great results from what you'll be doing...so go do it. Face it and see it through to completion. Worry about the outcome and next step when that time comes. For right now, though, YOU CAN DO THIS!!!!

You can do this because God can do this! Whatever you've got to do, God is bigger. Lean on Him. He has the strength to get you in the car and get you where you need to be. He has the strength the hold your nerves steady and keep your knees from buckling. But you have to want His strength and ask for it. Try and do this on your own power and it will be hard. Even if you've never prayed before in your life, YOU CAN DO THIS now! You can pray now. You can trust God loves you now and will be there for you now and see you through this now. YOU CAN DO THIS!!!!!

And because you CAN do this you WILL do this! That's the next, inevitable step. With every step you take, congratulate yourself and see how far you've come toward getting this done.

"I did it! I got out of bed. I WILL face this day!"
"I did it! I got in the car! We're on our way! I WILL get there and see this through!"
"I DID it! I'm at the hospital/doctor's! This is going as planned and I WILL do this!"
"I DID it! I made it through a slight bump in the road! Things are back on track now and I WILL do this! (we have to make allowances for those unforeseeable bumps that can happen...you'll hang in there and see them through).
"I DID it! I'm being prepped! This is happening and I AM seeing this through! I WILL DO THIS!"
"I DID it! It's over and I made it! I DID IT! I knew I COULD AND I DID!"

Again, just like you shut up those voices that tried to tell you "you cannot," shut up those voices that are now trying to tell you "you will not."

Failure is not an option and the only way to fail is to not try.

This is your fight; your race. And it is what it is and this is where it is. You've made it this far. You're in the fight. In the race. Hang in there and hang tough. You've already proven to yourself and to others that you're stronger than you ever imagined. Now you just have to keep proving it to melanoma. And you CAN do that, too. You WILL do that, too!

Acknowledge the fear and then push it aside. Let God rule...you CAN do it! Don't give in to fear or panic or pain ...deal with it but don't give in to it...you CAN do it! You WILL do it! You MUST do it.

And as you accomplish more than you ever thought you could, remember the One Who has empowered you for the fight, say a prayer of Thanks and be

grateful.

Monday, July 30, 2012

And I Ponder God's Love For The Likes Of Me

I'm preaching from Ephesians at church right now. Yesterday, as I write, was the third Sunday we tarried with Paul as he wrote to the church in Ephesus as he sat in a Roman prison. Three Sundays to go and we're covering the entire chapters and not just the lectionary passages from each.

I'm preaching it not just as an ancient letter to a long ago church, but as a modern letter to Warren Plains United Methodist Church. It's a wonderful letter of encouragement. There's one simple, single sentence in chapter 3 that stops me, gets to me, and makes me ponder. From the New Living Translation, Ephesians 3: 18...

And may you have the power to understand, as all God's people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is.

I pause and think of myself here. And I think what it must have been like to have been the recipients of those words from a man who was sitting in a prison cell. Dark, dank, rodent and vermin infested. Maybe chained to a dirt wall underground. And he wants ME to understand God's love for ME! Amazing grace that chains cannot bound!

I filter everything I read and sing through many lenses, my melanoma lens is one of the first filters things must pass through. So, too, this verse must pass.

It takes power. Do I have the power to understand? Do you? Do I understand? Can I even begin to understand the love God has for me? No, I can't understand it. I trust it's there, I've seen it at work in my life, I've witnessed its effects, I've felt it. But understand it? No. I don't think that's fully possible.

Yet Paul believes we should have the power to understand. To understand the enormity of God's love for me. For each of us. It's boundless. No matter which direction we go, up, down, east, west, there are no borders. No boundaries. No cut-offs. No "don't go beyond this point." And I have to consider that I've been loved mighty good in my life. But, I've never been loved like that.

But what about melanoma? Does God still love me even now? And I know the answer. Now. Will I remember that answer and apply it to me if and when this disease rears its ugly head again in my life? If it spreads to my brain, like I know it can and might, will I feel like God has deserted me? Left me high and dry? Decided to throw me under the bus and to the beast? Will I look my possible impending death in the eye and dare God to blink? Despite how strong my faith is now, will it be that strong then?

I travel melanoma road with many people who are younger than me and have more advanced and active disease than me and I look at them and while I don't want to walk in their shoes, I want to be like them when I grow up.  I look at parents walking with their children, and again, while I don't want to walk in their shoes, I want to be just like them. Am I already just like them but don't know it yet? Time will tell. Right now, time is what it is. And right now time is my friend.

And I ponder God's love. For me. For them. For all who live with the beast in some capacity. While the knowledge that it is borderless and endless is awesome, the good news doesn't stop there. There is more encouragement and it is found in Romans 8: 38...

And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God's love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow--not even the powers of hell can separate us from God's love.

Nor melanoma, nor hospitals, nor insurance companies, nor people who come against us, nor bad news that breaks our hearts, nothing that is thrown at us whether we catch it or not...nothing can separate me or anyone else or you from the power of God and God's love for each of us. For our families. For our friends.

It's a tough love though. And it's a tender love. It's a love that will not and cannot let us go but it's a love that doesn't always let us have our way. It's a love that sees a big complete picture that we can neither see nor accurately imagine or fathom.

We are limited. God's love is not. We have times and seasons. God's love does not. We are human and finitely mortal. God's love is neither. We have endings. God's love knows no end.

In this life and the next.

I'll never understand.

I'll always be grateful though.

Melanoma, eat your heart out. Oh, that's right. You don't have a heart.

Thanks be to God that HE does! Amen and Amen!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

The Four Ventricles Of My Heart

Every once in a while I like to tell folks on Melanoma Prayer Center about me. If they are going to "like" that community page and trust me with their stories and hearts, they should know who they are trusting. And it does me good, too, to remember how far God has brought me and since God's not through with me, how far He is still bringing me. My story is scattered throughout this blog but my melanoma journey is mainly in these four: http://letsgivethanks.blogspot.com/2010/12/big-c-is-not-candy.html and http://letsgivethanks.blogspot.com/2012/01/i-love-to-tell-story.html
and http://letsgivethanks.blogspot.com/2012/04/great-melanoma-crack-showdown-of-2008.html
and http://letsgivethanks.blogspot.com/2012/10/back-in-time-to-2008-surgeries-no.html

Lately I've been thinking about my heart. Life doesn't revolve around melanoma for me. I know there will be melahomies who won't believe that, but it's true. Hearts are big places that hold lots of people and loads of interests. For me, four ventricles work pretty well.

My first heart-place is for my family. I've been blessed. There is MUCH I do not share on Facebook or anywhere else. We are private people and the world doesn't deserve, or want, to know every breath we take and every move we make. One child is on FB and she shares what she wants to. She's adult and I'm proud of her and her family. One child is not on FB so I choose to honor him by keeping him (largely) out of my posts and out of this blog. He's adult and I'm proud of him also. Hubby has a FB page that he doesn't keep up with so I don't bring him into my online world either. We are who we are and those that know us know. I share about me and I only go so far. Maybe being 52 has something to do with that. I just don't understand the need to let every thought, impulse, and move be made common knowledge. There are some things I don't even discuss with my family because there are topics people really cannot discuss civilly, especially if there are opinions that run contrary to theirs.

My second heart-place is for my church. I've loved all my appointments. I love my home church where I spent the first 40 years of my life before being called into pulpit ministry. I've served as Interim on a two-point charge with a retired elder who was and still is a wonderful mentor. I've served two churches that were simultaneous appointments but not a charge. Now I'm at Warren Plains. I live in Northampton County and my church is two counties over and a drive that is an hour and ten minutes each way and I absolutely love them. We've come through a fire already and been found faithful. Fires come to all churches. We are now embracing a local Warren County school and will be supplying school supplies and uniforms AND what I'm really excited about, is we'll be volunteering to help students with their literacy. I've already filled out the form for my background check. This is an opportunity to make a difference in one of North Carolina's poorest counties and maybe be a stepping stone for some children out of poverty. In church literature, we're considered "micro-small," with under 20 in attendance (usually) and several of those are elderly widows, but we've got strong faith and beautiful hearts. We've got what we need.

(This, in red, was added October 4, 2012. I turned 53 in September and my church is now in active ministry to this elementary school. We've bought uniforms for students in TWO schools, bought school supplies, and we are actively volunteering. I'm working with a 3rd grade class helping with their phonics and reading. I go two mornings each week and have 4 students I call my own for the time I'm there. They actually seem to look forward to working with me and are VERY curious about my compression sleeve and glove).

My third ventricle is definitely for my melanoma family. Just like my family and church have my heart, so do the people who travel Melanoma Road with me. I stand in awe of the men and women of all ages and races who battle the beast. I stand in awe of their families. I stand in awe of their courage and strength and faith. I stand in awe of their willingness to share their stories and their vulnerability. It never ceases to amaze me when I'm allowed into a life and I get to walk with someone on their path. I stand in awe of how God takes my own melanoma and has blessed it, broken its hold over me, and used it. Me. Miss Private Who Likes Her Own Little World And Her Comfort Zone. Me. I no longer have a private little world when it comes to melanoma, nor do I have any comfort zones left. While I protect my family's privacy, I don't let melanoma have any privacy. I want it out there. As a person of faith and of the church, God already had "Truth" occupying a prime place in my life. I can deal with "truth" even when I don't like it; it's lies and deceit that are dangerous and deadly. We've GOT to have truth in melaworld. It's an absolute necessity and people's very lives depend on it. So, I do my best and use any forum available to speak truth. But also Hope. And Faith. And Trust. And anything else I feel God wants me to speak. Many share their stories and I encourage everyone to check out the growing list of blogs by fellow warriors.

My fourth ventricle is reserved for other ministries the Lord leads me to and I've been amazed at them and how they all fit together. It began with being the volunteer co-Chaplain to the women in the county jail for a few years. That segued into being a volunteer at the Edgecombe Youth Development Center. Interspersed with those I've also been a volunteer Hospice Chaplain and served in a rotation of volunteer Chaplains at a local hospital under the staff Chaplain. Now that Edgecombe is closing and that is drawing to an end, the opportunity to help students at an elementary school is opening. I'm excited at the possibilities. Melanoma Prayer Center, on Facebook, has been an unexpected ministry and I'm always stunned when someone else decides to "like" it, but more than that, I'm constantly astounded by the other numbers that people don't see.

God truly takes what we offer and blesses even something as hideous as melanoma. I'm seeing that over and over in the lives of others and not just my own.

God, prayer, faith, hope, love...blood that flows through my ventricles, brings everything together, and is my heart's food. There is life, and life in abundance in and beyond cancer. I'm a firm believer that we need to focus on more than cancer. Cancer would try and have us believe otherwise. It wants to suck us in and drain us of everything we need to hold onto. I know battles go through seasons of intensity. I know the fight can become the focus. And while that's natural and understandable, I also don't think that's wise. We all need outlets. Even if it's walking in the yard five minutes a day and praying. Even if it's picking up a book and getting lost in another world for a few minutes a day. Even if it's exercising as best as one can, be it in bed or wheelchair or able-bodied. We all need outlets for emotions. We all need to stay sane in a world of insanity.

We all have hearts and they all have four ventricles.

May God fill and use them ALL!

Charis

Thursday, July 26, 2012

We Melanoma-People Aren't The Easiest Bunch To Live With

Those with melanoma are thinking, "Who? Me? Nah. Somebody else maybe."

Those who love us are thinking, "Oh yeah! So true! Preach it, Sister!"

So. Sister will preach. Let me pull up my trusty soapbox for this one and a mirror. This is for me, too. Sigh.

I float around cyberspace and hang with my melahomies on a daily basis. And we're great people. I really do love us. Remember that. I really do love us!

I also float around cyberspace and hang with those who love us and are our care-givers on a daily basis. And they're great people. I really do love them. And they really do love us. Remember that. They really do love us!

But, melahomies, I'm finding out that while we're nice to everybody else on the planet, we aren't always the nicest to those who are nearest and dearest to us. We can have smiles for the people who draw blood and torture us with tests and procedures, we can be polite to doctors who make us wait and receptionists who mess up our appointments, but we can be downright nasty to those we share a house with. Or those who come on a regular basis to see about us. I'm talking about our spouses, our parents, our children, our siblings, our significant others...these people we really would die for, we can make their lives miserable...while they are trying to make ours better.

And we usually do NOT realize it. And when we do, we say we can't help it. They understand that we "can't help it." They understand we're miserable that life has taken this twist and turn and that life will never be straight again. They know we wish things could go back like before and we feel powerless in the face of this disease. They know the scanxiety that starts even a month or so before scans...they have scanxiety too! If we can't work like we did at one time, they know we wish we could provide for our families like before. They know disease can progress to where life revolves around appointments instead of around family. They know because they are part of it and they try and make it as easy for us as they can. They step up to the plate and take our place at bat and explain to the children why we can't play, they explain to friends why we can't go out, they explain to others what we cannot and often will not explain for ourselves. They are our buffer.They know we didn't ask for this disease.

They didn't ask for it either. Melanoma is just as much their disease as it is ours. It just attacks and works in a different way. They have the fears too. They have pain too. They watch us and they really can't take the pain away or change the situation and they feel helpless too. This affects their family too. Their finances are hurt too. And maybe they can have their crabby moments, but often (maybe usually) their less-than-best moments reflect what we give them.

Melahomies, have you ever stopped and considered ALL your loved one puts up with? Have you ever considered that they really do not have to, that they can choose to walk? Bolt? It happens. It happens.

I'm talking to me, too. Most of us, maybe all of us, need to pay close attention to our tones, our moods, our actions, our responses. I'm not saying be Little Miss or Mister Sunshine all the time. That's totally unrealistic. But as noon, suppertime, bedtime roll around, ask yourself at each interval if you've shared a smile with your loved one yet. Have you been pleasant? Said, "I love you," "Thank you." "That was a good meal." You get the point. Have you had a decent conversation without blowing up?

When scan time and appointments near, you know your routine; you know when you start getting attirude and edgy. Try and make a conscious effort to be kinder. We can be an angry lot and make life very unpleasant for those who choose to live with us. Melanoma isn't their fault. And it's not ours either.

We really don't need an advocate for our behavior. They understand and love us anyway. They choose to be there with and for us anyway. They know why we are as we are sometimes.

But they need an advocate to point out to us, and who better than one of us, that we need to give them some credit and kindness instead of anger. "Anger" is something I'm seeing mentioned over and over. We take our anger out on them and we're hurting the ones who love us the most and who we need the most. We need them. Don't make an already stressful situation worse.  Make it a point, a personal point, to become aware of how angry you speak or act and then take steps to do something about it.

Find your own support group, online or in your community. Don't do this without the support of others who can identify with what you're going through. Talk to your clergy or a therapist who specializes in working with people with cancer.

Be cognizant of who you smile at and are kind to. And who you do not smile at and are not kind to and then don't make excuses if you bite the heads off of the people who live with you. We all can bank on the old adage that we're often worse to those closest to us. Just because it's an old adage and it's true doesn't make it right.

Give those closest to you you best self. At least a smile for starters. Find other outlets for your anger and fears. Don't unleash them all on someone you love. Ask yourself, "If I heard someone talk to my ---- like I just did or saw someone do to my ---- what I just did, what would my reaction be?"

That little exercise might just prove to be eye-opening.

And it might just make your loved ones grateful.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Dawn Before The Morning

Churches have those times. So do families. Communities. Those of us with any type of cancer in general or melanoma in particular.

We've lived through the night, that really dark time when the hours are filled with hurt, pain, questions, loneliness, fear.  The dark seems interminable. Like it will last forever. Maybe we pray through all of it, some of it, maybe God never hears from us because we don't think we're hearing from God. And the night drags on.

But then, things start to change. The pitch black starts to give way to some color. Deep golds and yellows, rose and pink. Light peeps thru dispelling the dark. Hope is on the horizon. What needed to be dealt with has been faced and it's time to move forward. It's not morning yet. No blue skies with puffy white clouds. Yet. But they're coming and we know it. We can feel it in our bones. How do we know? Because we see the promise on the horizon in that glorious dawn before the morning.

When all seems lost, gone, forgotten, like you've hit rock bottom and even the rocks give way and you're free-falling into nothingness. When all hope is gone and help just doesn't seem to be heading your way, hold on. You're living in the nighttime. We all have those seasons and just like nature's seasons change, so too, will this. Dawn is coming.

How to get thru the night?  This holds true for individuals as well as for churches.
1. Pray.
2. Know God's Word and stand on it. Don't stand on what you hope He says in His Word. Don't make it up as you go along and expect God to bless promises He never made...read and meditate on His Word. There are a lot of great translations. You can go as formal or as informal as you like. Me, I'm very partial to the New Living Translation and to The Message. I think they work very well together. Biblegateway offers a wide variety of translations and languages if you'd prefer to read and compare online.
3. Understand this is normal and every life goes through a time like this sooner or later. At least once into every life a nighttime will fall. You'll move forward and dawn will come and dawn will be followed by morning. I can't make any promises beyond that though. I can't promise when the dark will break. I can't promise that the dawn or the morning will be here on earth. Sometimes God brings them into our lives with Heaven. I can only promise the night doesn't last forever.
4. Even in the night, do the right thing. Be honest. Speak and act with love. Discipline when and where necessary. Be vigilant and don't let your guard down. Let waiting for the dawn be an active wait. And wait so that you won't have regrets when light finally breaks thru. Just because life is in a dark time right now doesn't mean you need to live a dark life.
5. Make plans for the dawn, even though you may not even believe it will ever get here. Make plans for moving ahead in the light. Be motivated even if situations and circumstances want to pull you down. Deal with what you have on your plate and must deal with, yes, but also think ahead to better times. Visualize and dare to dream. And keep praying.
6. Don't dare leave the Lord out of this. He knows the cycle of night, dawn, and morning well. He's there in the midst anyway so draw on Him for strength, courage, hope, resilience, peace, anything and everything you need to get from one moment to the next.
7. And take this time one moment at a time when you need to. Five minutes at a time. A day at a time. When you see you can get through what seems to be the toughest thing you've ever dealt with, and you actually did it...you got through it...you'll see you can get through anything. That's huge! And that's a big sign that the dawn is on the horizon.

One step forward, two steps back. Fall seven times, get up eight. Night comes, followed by the dawn before the morning.

God, I'm grateful for that!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Wrestling With God

I just wrote about this in May. I feel compelled to tackle it again. Rats. I really, really don't want to. Despite all evidence to the contrary, I really am an introvert. I like my life that way. I don't particularly like sharing some of the stuff I am driven to share. I like my comfort zone. Or I did when I had one. I'm a red-blooded creature of comfort and I do not like being outside that limited border. Or I didn't like it. God took away my comfort zone long ago. Or did God simply erase the borders? I don't know. It is what it is and what it is is a life out in the open for all the world to see or to not see, whatever the world chooses. All I know is that I have to put a real face on being a human living in melanoma world. Better yet, a Methodist pastor, stage 3b, in melaland. I have to get a voice out there that says, "It's OK." And in this case, "It's OK to wrestle with God."

Yes, I trust, and I'm a huge advocate of trusting God, but usually blind trust doesn't come easy. For anybody. I don't care what people say. It's not easy to trust God in pain, disease, and death. That kind of unquestioning trust, when it's real, comes after a life of pushing the envelope with God and wrestling only to emerge finding God faithful and trustworthy. I've grown spiritually to the point that I'm often at that place. For now. I haven't faced the spread of disease or heard the words, "There's nothing left to try." I haven't been brought face-to-face with my own death though I have faced my own mortality. And while I do, indeed, know a growing, deepening trust, let's be honest here ...

I still wrestle. And God has yet to strike me dead with lightning or punish me, in any way, for my audacity. That's what some people fear. I may be "Carol Taylor," but I'm not so special as to think I'm getting special treatment. No. I find God is big enough not to be put off by the likes of me and He can handle anything I throw His way.

Do I get the answers I want or demand? Heck no. Do I always get any answer at all (on MY personal timetable at that)? Again, heck no. I've heard God's silence on a subject on far more than one occasion. That doesn't prevent me from bringing my wrestling mat to the Throne and throwing it down and challenging God.

So what if He always wins? That's fine with me. And it's as it should be. After all, He's God and I am not. I may not ever win, but I always grow. I'd say I come out a winner.

And so it is that I constantly struggle with God over life and death. Over people fighting melanoma hard. So hard. Damn it hard. And they seem to be FINALLY getting the upper hand, only after exhausting soooooo many options, only to be knocked down again. Intense pain. Blowing the lid off the Richter Scale of Pain, new symptoms or tumors overnight, fear unparalleled, families watching and there but can't do a dang thing to stop all this. They phone and they drive and they sit and they pray and they console but they cannot stop.

And we all cry out to God and we lean on each other. And we wrestle. Whether we call it "wrestling with God" or not, we do it. We question "Why?" even when we shrink from the answer. We demand relief even when we know it may not come in the manner we want it. We shake our fists and tell God to provide a miracle

And God listens to that one, but do we recognize the miracle when we get it?

God is in the miracle business, bringing something from nothing, order from chaos, peace from pain, hope from hopelessness, rescue from helplessness, life from death, cure from disease, healing from all that seeks to tear us down, pull us apart, chew us up and spit us out.

I've wrestled with God a mighty long time now. This isn't my first time. It never gets easier. Frankly, it gets harder and more painful. But it's the only way I now know to get through life's difficulties and trying times. I am just not someone who easily accepts from the Hand of God whatever may come my way or in the way of those I care about. People usually don't get to witness my wrestling, but I do it nonetheless.

When I write and ramble, I'm wrestling. When I speak and can't seem to concentrate, I'm wrestling. When I'm quiet, I'm wrestling. When my heart cries and my eyes leak, I'm wrestling. When I get a little too poetic, I'm wrestling. When I cuss a little too much (notice when I write/say "dang, hell, heck, darn, rats, garden peas, sucks"), I'm wrestling. And when I say, "Let's pray," I'm wrestling.

That's when I do my best wrestling. In prayer. Rarely is it a head bowed, hands folded prayer either. It's a pace the floor, talk out loud prayer. It's a crank up the volume of songs that see me through and belt loudly with them. It's an honest conversation with God Who already knows my heart, can handle my honest vocal rendition of that heart, and can let me have my say without saying a Word. Somehow, as I vent and give voice to the contents of my heart, I know God's at work. Situations have been known to change, though not always. But I change no matter what does or does not happen as a result of my time with the One Who creates me anew.

I grow. Deeper in trust of the One Who Is Trustworthy. Deeper in faith in the One Who Is Faithful. Deeper in hope in the One Who Is Hope Embodied. Deeper in love with the One Who Is Love Incarnate. Deeper in the Hands of the One Who Holds All Things and All Of Us.

I will wrestle again with God. I'm sure of it. Life being what it is and me being who I am.

That's OK because I will grow some more from it. I'm sure of it. That's how God and I roll.

And I am grateful.

Friday, July 20, 2012

A Service Of Hope And Healing

We all face circumstances in life where we need to draw from God's fountain of "Hope." We all, likewise, face times when we need healing. Emotional healing. Spiritual healing. Physical healing. Certainly there are times that God blesses our brokenness and makes us whole physically and we know a season of "healing" before leaving this place. But that doesn't always happen. And sometimes we confuse "healing" with "cure."

I live with one foot planted firmly in the world of the church which is planted in this world. My other foot is firmly planted in the world of melanoma. I travel roads in both worlds and sometimes they meet. This is one of those times.

The following is what I call A Service of Hope and Healing. There are built in links to the Scriptures and songs. The Scripture passages are linked to Biblegateway where you can change translations and even languages if you choose. Here is a link to Google Translate if you want to put any of my English into another language to make this more understandable. Blessings.

A Service of Hope and Healing

Healing Begins by Tenth Avenue North

O Lord, we come before Your gracious Throne trusting that in You we will know hope and find healing. We bring brokenness. We bring clay pots that are dried up and need Your Living Water to pour over us and well up in us. We bring tears and pain trusting that You will hold these fragile parts of us close to Your heart and that You will not turn away from us. We bring scarred bodies and scarred psyches and embattled emotions. We bring very real wounds. We bring ourselves. Such as we are. Flawed and imperfect. Many of us are riddled with disease. Many of us live, day to day, with health conditions. Many of us deal with family problems. We can know work related issues and financial challenges. We can be down, but we are not out. We have hope. We have faith. We have love. Love for each other, love for You, and we know You love us...even when we try to hide from it or doubt it. Hear our prayer, O Lord and bring Your healing touch into our broken and battered souls. We thank You, most gracious God. Amen and Amen!

 So be strong and courageous,
    all you who put your hope in the Lord!

As the deer longs for streams of water,
    so I long for you, O God. I thirst for God, the living God.
    When can I go and stand before him? 
 Day and night I have only tears for food,
    while my enemies continually taunt me, saying,
    “Where is this God of yours?”
 My heart is breaking
    as I remember how it used to be:
I walked among the crowds of worshipers,
    leading a great procession to the house of God,
singing for joy and giving thanks
    amid the sound of a great celebration!
 Why am I discouraged?
    Why is my heart so sad?
I will put my hope in God!
    I will praise him again—
    my Savior and  my God!
Now I am deeply discouraged,
    but I will remember you—
even from distant Mount Hermon, the source of the Jordan,
    from the land of Mount Mizar. 
 I hear the tumult of the raging seas
    as your waves and surging tides sweep over me. 
 But each day the Lord pours his unfailing love upon me,
    and through each night I sing his songs,
    praying to God who gives me life.
 “O God my rock,” I cry,
    “Why have you forgotten me?
Why must I wander around in grief,
    oppressed by my enemies?”  
Their taunts break my bones.
    They scoff, “Where is this God of yours?”
 Why am I discouraged?
    Why is my heart so sad?
I will put my hope in God!
    I will praise him again—
    my Savior and my God!

“But blessed are those who trust in the Lord
    and have made the Lord their hope and confidence."

Strong Enough by Matthew West

Lord, we are not strong enough to do this. To live this life, fight this fight, meet our challenges head on, face death when it comes for us or mourn the death of others. We aren't strong enough. But You are and You tell us when can do ALL things thru You for our strength comes from Your gracious hand. All means all. So, Lord, help us do this. Grant us Your divine strength and grace and enable to rise on wings of eagles. Empower us to soar to new heights on Your strong shoulders. Enable us to rely on You all the days of our lives and to put our faith and hope in Your abiding love and peace. Thank You, Lord God Almighty, world without end. Amen and Amen!

 If I speak with the eloquence of men and of angels, but have no love, I become no more than blaring brass or crashing cymbal. If I have the gift of foretelling the future and hold in my mind not only all human knowledge but the very secrets of God, and if I also have that absolute faith which can move mountains, but have no love, I amount to nothing at all. If I dispose of all that I possess, yes, even if I give my own body to be burned, but have no love, I achieve precisely nothing.
 This love of which I speak is slow to lose patience—it looks for a way of being constructive. It is not possessive: it is neither anxious to impress nor does it cherish inflated ideas of its own importance.
 Love has good manners and does not pursue selfish advantage. It is not touchy. It does not keep account of evil or gloat over the wickedness of other people. On the contrary, it is glad with all good men when truth prevails.
 Love knows no limit to its endurance, no end to its trust, no fading of its hope; it can outlast anything. It is, in fact, the one thing that still stands when all else has fallen.
For if there are prophecies they will be fulfilled and done with, if there are “tongues” the need for them will disappear, if there is knowledge it will be swallowed up in truth. For our knowledge is always incomplete and our prophecy is always incomplete, and when the complete comes, that is the end of the incomplete.
 When I was a little child I talked and felt and thought like a little child. Now that I am a man my childish speech and feeling and thought have no further significance for me.
 At present we are men looking at puzzling reflections in a mirror. The time will come when we shall see reality whole and face to face! At present all I know is a little fraction of the truth, but the time will come when I shall know it as fully as God now knows me!
 In this life we have three great lasting qualities—faith, hope and love. But the greatest of them is love.

We can know hope in this world because we have God's eternal, unfailing, faithful love to lean on for support and strength. When we slow down, He's going strong. When we are weak, He stays strong. And when our frail bodies and spirits need the hope of healing, God is there speaking what our souls need to hear and touching that in us that needs His power to get thru this.

 Whom have I in heaven but you?
    I desire you more than anything on earth.
 My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak,
    but God remains the strength of my heart;
    he is mine forever.
 Those who desert him will perish,
    for you destroy those who abandon you.
 But as for me, how good it is to be near God!
    I have made the Sovereign Lord my shelter,
    and I will tell everyone about the wonderful things you do.

There are mysteries we do not and cannot understand. There are things we are not meant to understand this side of Heaven. We are called to trust the One Who does understand though. That's not always easy. We want answers and we want them last week. Last year. Before the pain actually started. And now. Well, now it seems like life may just be starting to fall apart. Unravel at the seams. And it's not fair. We can hold on to hope and cry out for healing.

Sometimes the healing comes just like we cry out for. God is in the miracle business. And those seemingly impossible times are His opportunities to show off. Sometimes though the healing doesn't come in the form of an earthly cure but in the form of finding the courage to persevere in the face of staggering odds. Sometimes the healing comes in the letting go of our wants and grabbing hold of where God is even if it's a place we don't want to go. We will all go that way one day. Some of us at earlier ages than others, but we all get a lifetime. And we are all on a journey. This leg of it is mighty important, but this leg is just that...a leg. This isn't the entire journey. We're moving toward a destination.

Sometimes the hope is in the healing and sometimes the healing is in the hope. We always have hope but sometimes the hope becomes the hope of heaven. And that's OK, too.

The Reason for the World by Matthew West

He heals the brokenhearted
    and bandages their wounds.

 For everything there is a season,
    a time for every activity under heaven.
 A time to be born and a time to die.
    A time to plant and a time to harvest.  
A time to kill and a time to heal.
    A time to tear down and a time to build up.  
A time to cry and a time to laugh.
    A time to grieve and a time to dance.  
A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones.
    A time to embrace and a time to turn away.  
A time to search and a time to quit searching.
    A time to keep and a time to throw away.  
A time to tear and a time to mend.
    A time to be quiet and a time to speak. 
 A time to love and a time to hate.
    A time for war and a time for peace.

We all find ourselves in there somewhere. This is our time. For what? Some of us are at that time of dying, while others cry and grieve. Some of us are at that time of healing and others celebrate with us with song, dance, and laughter. And we are in those other times as well. Time comes together, marches on, and does not stand still. This is our time. This is our place. And there will come another time and there will be another place. Nothing stays the same. Life is always changing. For better, for worse, life changes. That's one constant we can count on.

But it's only one. It has been said that the only certain things in this life are death and taxes. There are others. Besides change, there is God's love. That's one thing we can count on no matter what.

More by Matthew West
 
Lord, no matter where we are on this journey right now, we can find our hope and our healing in You. For those of us that mourn, love us. Hold our hearts and our tears. Embrace those who hurt to the core of their being and who don't think they can take any more. For those of us who desperately need hope in trying and troubling times, love us. Embolden our souls to believe that Your word is true and that with You anything is possible for You are the God of the Impossible! For those of us who stand in need of healing, love us. You know the healing that is truly needed and not just the healing that is truly wanted. Help us separate our needs from our wants and to trust that You know the difference and that You will certainly supply all our needs as You see them and as You see fit and we thank You, Lord! Amen and Amen!

Our God by Chris Tomlin

As we go, let us go in the peace of God as only He can give. And let us light a candle for those who are feeling hopeless and helpless right now. Let us light a candle for those who mourn. And let us light a candle for those who have gone on before us and whom we mourn.

Hold out that candle and light our world. 

Go Light Your World by Chris Rice

Go in peace to love and serve the Lord. Go in hope to love and serve others. May love envelop it all. And may you know peace, love, and hope as you give peace, love, and hope. Be blessed and be a blessing.

Amen and Amen!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Pity Party? You Bring The Cheese, I'll Bring The Whine

 What follows was a note I wrote for Melanoma Prayer Center 9/27/11

I recently made mention about having had a pity party and that we people of faith can have them. That, apparently, struck a nerve as that was the most "liked" post I think MPC has had in its 6 month history! I'm not crazy about the term "pity party" but that's what those times and events in our lives are known as, we all host them, so lets be candid and deal with it. There seems to be a need.

People of faith, any faith, can have a tough time admitting to feeling helpless, hopeless, lonely, broken, and distressed. We don't like others to see that side of us and when we are caught in these moments, we almost universally have a need to apologize for them as if there's something sinful about these all too human feelings. We don't like admitting to ourselves that we have these feelings and can feel like we've "lost our religion" or we can think God's left us. Just like we have a hard time admitting to getting angry about melanoma and knowing fear, we just don't like thinking we have pity parties! There are just some things that people of faith are not supposed to do! Right?! Well, obviously, yes. There are some things that people of faith aren't supposed to do, but being "people" isn't on the list.

The Psalms deal with a wide range of human emotions and I always remind people that's a great place to turn when sorting through life's baggage. God isn't scared of our human emotions. He created them as part of our package, He can handle them...even the ones we can't handle. The emotions that get off track and become more than they should, those emotions that can move into dangerous territory...God knows how to capture them, redeem them, and restore them to what they need to be to reflect Him. Our anger is no match for God. Our fears are no problem either. Our self-pity is, likewise, manageable for Him. We may get embarrassed over it because people of faith aren't supposed to wallow in that sea, but hey, a really good wallow can move us closer to God. As long as we allow God to wallow with us.

While I do love the Psalms, I love a particular story about the prophet Elijah when it comes to "how to host a historic pity party."  Grab your favorite translation and read 1 Kings chapters 17-18 to gain an understanding of Elijah, his times, and all he was up against.

To set the table for his pity party: Elijah has just been part of a magnificent scene where he  goes up against 850 prophets of Baal and Asherah to prove whose God (god) is God (god). The 850 get to go first and even though this is happening in Israel, Israel's then king, Ahab and his wife Jezebel, are following Baal and Asherah...these 850 are their guys! The king and queen of Israel are rooting for 850 false prophets and are lethally against Elijah. Though Elijah goes last and seems to be acting alone (remember, God is with Elijah), in a contest of cosmic proportions, Elijah emerges victorious, the 850 are killed, God is God, and Ahab and Jezebel are not happy campers! They are so unhappy that they vow Elijah will be killed within 24 hours of their vow to kill him.

In 1 Kings 19: 3-4 we read:
 Elijah was afraid and fled for his life. He went to Beersheba, a town in Judah, and he left his servant there.  Then he went on alone into the wilderness, traveling all day. He sat down under a solitary broom tree and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life, for I am no better than my ancestors who have already died.”

Elijah's alone, he's scared, he's got a very real enemy who wants him dead and is actively seeking to kill him, he asks God to go ahead and take his life. And the party begins.

God, however, sends an angel to provide Elijah with bread and drink so he can keep going. And he goes for 40 days and 40 nights until he reaches Mount Sinai. Though this is packed with heavy symbolism, we're going to move on with the story.

1 Kings 19: 9-10
There he came to a cave, where he spent the night.   But the Lord said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”  Elijah replied, “I have zealously served the Lord God Almighty. But the people of Israel have broken their covenant with you, torn down your altars, and killed every one of your prophets. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me, too.”

Folks, does that sound a tad bit too familiar? God, I've tried to do my best with this beast called melanoma, but I'm tired, God. Nobody understands what I'm going through. I'm trying to fight but this enemy wants to kill me and I'm getting tired of the fight...just take me NOW God and let's get this over with! Or, just take this melanoma away NOW because I need a break God! I'm the only one with all these troubles, God, and there's a lot of troubles that come with melanoma and they're ALL my troubles and they're all MY troubles. Melanoma is serious God. It wants to kill me. Here I am, trying to hide from it for just a little while as I regroup and get ready to make another move against it God. But, God, I'm in this cave, all by myself, no one to talk to, no one really cares, people are deserting me God and You desert me too sometimes I think.

Maybe we put on our favorite movie. Maybe we get a cup of coffee to sulk over. Maybe we grab a box of tissues but don't actually touch them because we want the tears to fall and drench our faces and we want our noses to run. Dang it! If we're gonna party, we're gonna PARTY! Maybe we cry out to God expecting Him to be there and answer us and maybe we cry out to God hoping He leaves us alone so we can have a good wallow and maybe we cry out to God expecting Him...to what?

Do we expect Him to answer in the roar of the treatments? Do we expect Him to breathe on us and blow the cancer away? Do we expect Him to let us get right to death's door and then slam the door in death's face and we live? What do we expect? I love what happens next with Elijah.

1 Kings 19: 11-15:
“Go out and stand before me on the mountain,” the Lord told him. And as Elijah stood there, the Lord passed by, and a mighty windstorm hit the mountain. It was such a terrible blast that the rocks were torn loose, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake.  And after the earthquake there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire there was the sound of a gentle whisper.  When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave.
   And a voice said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
  He replied again, “I have zealously served the Lord God Almighty. But the people of Israel have broken their covenant with you, torn down your altars, and killed every one of your prophets. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me, too.”
 Then the Lord told him, “Go back the same way you came, and travel to the wilderness of Damascus. When you arrive there, anoint Hazael to be king of Aram."

God answers. Not in the strong, mighty way Elijah expected, but in the sound of a gentle whisper. God doesn't always enter our pity parties in the way we expect either or answer our prayers with mighty demonstrations anymore than He did Elijah. Often God's answer is in the silence of the moment, in a gentle whisper and we have to be quiet to hear. We have to be still and know that He is God. We aren't and melanoma isn't.

God asks us about our pity parties, too, "What are you doing here hiding out?" And He tells us that we still have places to go, people to see, and things to accomplish for Him. Things that He has for us to do. Enemies we have to face. We cannot defeat any enemy by hiding, and even if we do eventually leave this earth because of our enemy, it will be God that carries us through His gates and melanoma will not go with us. We will defeat our enemy one way or the other, but we have to leave our cave to do it.

Oh, and, one more thing. Maybe the best part. God tells Elijah as one last big surprise:
1 Kings 19: 18:
"Yet I will preserve 7,000 others in Israel who have never bowed down to Baal or kissed him!”

Elijah, you aren't alone in this! There are more standing with you than you can possibly know or imagine!

And so it is with us, friends. We are not alone either. Not only does God stand with us, but there are more than we can possibly know or imagine. Many we will never meet, but they are there. Though we throw our pity parties, we never party alone!

Lord, in Your mercy, You know how we children of Yours love a good party! You know how we can throw our pity parties and You know the feelings that are part of those parties. God, help us hear Your voice over our own. Help us hear You tell us that we aren't alone, that You are with us and that You've provided many more to stand with us. Help us hear You tell us to get up and get on with life that You have work for us to do and then give us Your strength to do it. Thank You Lord for helping us clean up after our parties and moving us back into life. Amen and Amen!

Monday, July 16, 2012

After A Death Etiquette: Please Read If Someone You Know Has Buried A Close Loved One

I've written on how to behave around those of us with cancer. Now it's time to address how to behave around people who have suffered a devastating loss. Truth be told, they still suffer and that suffering isn't going to go away. People who are, otherwise, well-meaning often don't know how to behave around them though. So, if you have a friend or family member who has buried a child, a spouse, a parent, or a sibling...especially if the person who died was young, and you don't know what to do or say, I want to help everyone out. Keep reading.

First, a caveat. I've never buried a child, spouse or sibling, and both my parents are still alive. College Kid should have been a twin but his twin never developed. I look forward to meeting Benjamin Daniel Taylor one day and I still think about the child who might have been twenty-two years later, but this is the closest to that kind of loss I've ever come. And that is as close as I want to get. (FYI: Benjamin Daniel never developed beyond an egg sac and that type of miscarriage often goes unnoticed when there's another baby developing fraternally).

I belong to several support groups on Facebook that revolve around melanoma and I "hang out" with several moms whose sons and daughters have died from melanoma. I base what follows on things they have written, their shared feelings.

Just like we can boil down to three words on how to behave around a person with cancer: talk to us, there are also three words to remember here:

Talk about them.

That's right. Let's flesh this out shall we?

Talk. About them. That's right. Talk! They lived and loved! They were loved and still are! Don't act as though they never existed! And don't treat their immediate family, particularly, as though they forgot about them the minute they were buried. The truth is, they will never forget them. This is especially true of parents who have buried a child. That's not to minimize other losses at all, but the loss of a child, of any age, carries with it a special devastation. Parents aren't supposed to bring a child into this world and see a child out of this world. But it happens.

What doesn't happen, though, is that they forget their child. THAT NEVER HAPPENS. Ever. Not a day goes by that they don't think about their son or daughter. Years later there will still be tears. They will learn to live with the pain. They will learn to carry on because that's the way life is. They will learn to survive and keep pushing on. There's a lot of pain you'll never see or hear about. Night panics. The dreams.

When you have a friend who has suffered a devastating loss of any kind, please don't keep that person "buried." Bring them out into the open. Talk about the person. Share stories and memories. Bring out the pictures and movies. Let the family know their loved one may be gone but he or she is not forgotten. They need that! People often feel like it will open wounds to talk about the person who died, or it will bring on tears so they stay quiet thinking they are doing the right thing.

Talking will bring tears possibly, it may also bring a needed smile or chuckle. It won't "open the wound" because the wound will always be open. Talking and remembering are necessary parts of whatever healing that will come. It is not talking and not remembering that is excruciating.

They know their loved one died. Every minute of every day reminds them of that painful fact. They know. Talking and sharing keeps them "alive" in a sense and says they mattered and they still matter. If, by chance, your friend is having a moment where they do not want to talk about their loved one right then, they'll tell you. People can have those times. But those times will pass usually. Let them know you'll be glad to talk and share when they are ready. And then do it.

NOTE: a few things not to say, at any time, particularly immediately after the death...
1. "He or she is in a better place." As a rule, people really often do not want to hear that. They want their loved one there with them, not somewhere else, even if you mean "Heaven." That may come in time. It may not. If your friend talks in terms of their loved one being in a better place, that's fine. Follow their lead and agree. But don't be the first to make that statement. It can cause more pain than help.
2. "Did he or she know the Lord?" Now is simply not the time for that question. God alone knows our hearts and God alone knows the work He is doing as people die. Likewise, don't make any vocal judgements of a person's eternal resting place. None of us have any power or right to decide where any soul goes.
3. "Do you know the Lord so you can be with him or her when you die?"  Again, uh-uh. Don't go there. Your friend may make their own statement about this or about the one immediately above this, but don't you.
4. "It was his or her time." I know there are theologies that have God watching His calendar. And I know where in Psalms that idea comes from. Whether or not God is watching a longevity calendar, down to the exact second, with each of our names in red on a particular day, or not, there are people, even people of faith, who do not find comfort in this. Even people who agree with this belief don't often find comfort in it when it is applied to their loved one. Again, follow your friend's lead here. If they state it, then feel free to agree if you wish. If they don't go there, then please refrain from it yourself. Be comforting.
5. Some sentiments, no matter how heartfelt, are best left unsaid. We live in a world where people think they should go around sharing everything they feel. Well, no. There are feelings that are best left unshared. This time isn't about your feelings.

Talk about them. That's right. Don't show up at your friend's door, visit, and talk about everything under the sun except their loved one who has died. Even if it's a simple "I was thinking about ___  just this morning when ___."

They don't have to be, nor should they be, the only topic of conversation, but by all means mention his or her name. If a birthday or anniversary is near, let your friend know you've remembered. That will be appreciated. Really. Send a card, make a phone call, "I'm thinking about you today. I know today is your anniversary." "Today would have been her or his birthday." If she or he died today a week ago, a month ago, ten years ago, remember. Your friend is. It will mean the world for you to acknowledge this and remember their loved one.

People often say, "I don't want to remind them...." Trust me here. You won't be reminding them of anything. They already know. This day has never left their hearts and minds. You'll be helping them remember! Big difference!

Talk about them. That's right. If you're read this far then there's no need for me to be redundant. Talk about the person your dear friend misses. Sure it may bring a tear. For both of you. That's OK.

The long and short of it is talk about the person your friend or family member misses. If you truly do not know what to say or are scared of saying the wrong thing say:

"I've been thinking about you."
"How are you doing?"
"I've been praying for you."

You can't go wrong with those.

If you're still not sure, just show up. Be there for and with your friend. Pitch in, bring some food. BE a shoulder to cry on or lean on.

In the Biblical Book Job, Job loses his wealth and then all ten of his children are killed. Job's own health is in jeopardy and it's just him and his wife. Friends of Job come to visit. They sit with him for seven days before speaking. They sit silently with their friend in his pain and grief. For seven days. They watch him. They listen to him. They are there. Often they are remembered for all the wrong things they finally utter as they try to be helpful. And they really were trying to be helpful and console Job. They were trying to say the right things and help him "snap out of it" as if that were possible. The thing that often goes overlooked is they were there. Quietly. For seven day sitting with their grieving, aching friend. I've never gone and sat with anyone for seven days and just sat quietly for and with them. They may not have always said the right thing, but they sure did the best thing.

When someone suffers a devastating loss their life changes. More than likely, we will all, at some point, suffer a loss that leaves us beyond anything that can be adequately put into words. We will all walk with friends and loved ones as they face these times. This is, sadly, part of life.

While there are parts of life and things we endure that we certainly are not grateful for, we can be people that others are grateful to have in their lives.

Be that person for someone you care about.

Friday, July 13, 2012

skin cancer from planet tan

Thank You, Lord and thank you searcher! That simple search phrase, "skin cancer from planet tan" prompted me to do a little homework. From what I see plenty of people will continue getting skin cancer from Planet Tan and other places in the Tanning Idiotstry Universe. Far too many will get melanoma and many of those will die because they bought well-crafted lies. Lies that really DO sound honest and sincere. Planet Tan actually has the endorsement of...drum roll please...The Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders! This is copied/pasted off Planet Tan's company page: "Planet Tan is the Official Tanning Center of the Dallas Mavericks Dancers, Dallas Stars Ice Girls, and the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders and has been featured in CMT's top rated reality show "Making the Team."" Oh, and Mark Cuban is also a member.

If you go to their page and click on "Company" two lower choices appear: About Us and TV Ads. There are five short spots to watch; one, "Beach" literally brought tears to my eye. A beautiful pale blonde is strolling the beach as these words scroll across the screen, "There are worse things than showing up to the beach looking pale & pasty. You could be really hairy too. Planet Tan. Feed your ego." Of course we go from seeing the beautiful blonde to seeing a big hairy man's chest.

Feed your melanoma would have been more accurate. But they made their point. And that "point" is at the end of a poisonous thorn.

I hate to give them press, but we really need to be aware of the lies these places are feeding, because people are still pulling up to their tables and feasting but instead of being pleasantly full they are pulling away from the table with, as my searcher has probably found, skin cancer. Possibly melanoma.

Copied and pasted from their own About Us Company page:

We're Dallas' largest tanning Super Center

Welcome to Planet Tan. We're Dallas' largest tanning Super Center.
Since 1995 Planet Tan has been a leader in indoor tanning with a brand based on fun, honesty and style.
Planet Tan was awarded the "Best Places To Work in Dallas-Ft. Worth" by the Dallas Business Journal, "Dallas 100" by SMU's Cox School of Business, "Top 250" tanning centers in nation by Looking Fit magazine, and Inc. Magazines "Inc. 5000".
Planet Tan is the Official Tanning Center of the Dallas Mavericks Dancers, Dallas Stars Ice Girls, and the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders and has been featured in CMT's top rated reality show "Making the Team."

Our purpose

Helping every body feel better about themselves by providing a remarkable tanning experience.

Our work values

Work hard. Have fun. Make history.

Our views on Life

WEAR SUNSCREEN. We agree with doctors and scientists: When you are outside, protect your skin from the sun by wearing appropriate protection. Having a Base Tan helps reduce your risk of sunburn.

Take care of your body

It's the only one you've got. Do what you can to keep it healthy and improve it. Whether you work out regularly or not at all, you'll find that you look toner, slimmer and healthier with a tan. When you look good, you feel better about yourself. And nothing's more attractive than confidence.

Ask questions

There are no stupid questions, just stupid answers. So feel free to ask our staff members anything. We love to tan just like you, so we can always offer tips and advice, as well as answer your questions.

Don't waste your time

It's the one thing in life you never get more of. Take the time to enjoy life. Every Planet Tan offers over 30 tanning machines, so you don't have to wait to tan. You never have to make an appointment, just walk in. Tanning with us takes minutes, not hours.

Have fun

'Nuff said.
"Feed your ego!"

And, from their own Tanning page...we have the "Tanning Truth":

How do we tan?

Tanning takes place in the skin's outermost layer, the epidermis, with special cells called melanocytes. When exposed to UV-B light (short wave ultraviolet), melanocytes produce the pigment, melanin. The pinkish melanin travels up through the epidermis and is absorbed by other skin cells. When exposed to UV-A light (longer wave), melanin oxidizes or darkens. This is your skin's way of protecting itself against too much UV light.

Why does a tan fade?

Cells in the epidermis are constantly reproducing and pushing older cells upward toward the surface of your skin, where they are sloughed off in about one month. As your skin replaces its cells, the cells laden with melanin are removed. So the tanning process must continue with the new cells.

Why Indoor Tanning is Better

Speed

It doesn't take all day to get a tan indoors. Depending on your skin type, just a few minutes, not hours. Maintain your tan for as little as 60 minutes a month.

Control

Our state-of-the-art equipment allow us to monitor and scientifically control your ultraviolet UV-A and UV-B exposure. We make sure you tan and not burn.

Climate

Overcast, rainy, or 109 in the shade, you never have to worry about the weather with our pleasant, climate-controlled environment. Not to mention 'skeeters.

Be Safe. Tan Smart*

Lip and Eye Protection

Lips don't produce melanin and eyelids are too thin to block UV. That's why it's important to wear lip balms with sunscreen and protective goggles. Eyewear must be certified '21CFR'. We offer a selection of goggles that meet these Federal standards. You can avoid "Raccoon Eyes" by gently adjusting your goggles while you tan, but never remove them completely.

Outdoors

When you tan outdoors, you are exposed to uncontrolled and often excessive amounts of multi-frequency UV that can cause "sunburn" and permanent damage. When you are outside wear appropriate protection.

Medication

Some medications can cause reactions with UV light. If you are taking any medications, please let your doctor know you're tanning.
* Planet tan is a proud member of the International Smart Tan Networks ® - dedication to teaching you how to maximize your benefits of sun exposure while minimizing the risks of either too much or too little sunlight.
** After Base Tan: 3-5 sessions within 7-10 days


Me again. Frankly, I'm a lot sick right now. The out and out lies abound and those of us in the world of melanoma can spot them easily. Those outside our world buy them. Those knocking on our doors will learn. Too late. 

We have got to be aware of what the lies really are so we can expose them before more people die from them.

Please read:    Dangers of Indoor Tanning https://www.aimatmelanoma.org/prevention/indoor-tanning/

Aim isn't selling anything. And neither is the CDC:
https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/skin/basic_info/indoor_tanning.htm

Planet Tan is. It's selling leather: you. It's selling melanoma: yours. It's selling death: yours, too. All businesses in the Tanning Industry are doing this.

Instead of following the example set by the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders, I'll pray for them.
Hope they're grateful!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Myths And Realities Of Melanoma And Skin Cancer

Other people get skin cancer. Other people get melanoma. It's just skin cancer! No big deal! After all, it's just skin! Shoot! They have plenty of that and it grows back and heals really fast. Something pops up just cut it off, maybe use a stitch or two. Bing, bang, boom and it's all over and done with and their life goes on. No big deal! I mean, what's the worst that can happen to them? A little scar? Who me? Me get melanoma or skin cancer? Me, nah. That happens to other people. People who sun or tan. They asked for it. I've never done any of that.

I hope you enjoyed that little stab at writing a piece of malignant neoplasmic mythology. Let's unpack the popular myths found in it, for they abound!

Myth: Other people get skin cancer or melanoma.
Reality: We are all "other people"! I am the only person in the whole wide world that does not consider me to be other people! The same is true of each of us. We are all "other people" or "somebody else" to everybody else on the face of the planet. Since "other people" get melanoma or skin cancer, that means any of us can get it. Any. Of. Us.
Reality: According to the Skin Cancer Foundation:
  • Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States. More than 3.5 million skin cancers in over two million people are diagnosed annually.
  • Each year there are more new cases of skin cancer than the combined incidence of cancers of the breast, prostate, lung and colon.
  • One in five Americans will develop skin cancer in the course of a lifetime.
  • Over the past 31 years, more people have had skin cancer than all other cancers combined.
  • Nearly 800,000 Americans are living with a history of melanoma and 13 million are living with a history of nonmelanoma skin cancer, typically diagnosed as basal cell carcinoma or squamous cell carcinoma
  • One in 50 men and women will be diagnosed with melanoma of the skin during their lifetime.
  • An estimated 76,250 new cases of invasive melanoma will be diagnosed in the US in 2012, with an estimated 9,180 to result in death.
  • One person dies of melanoma every hour (every 62 minutes).
  • Melanoma is the most common form of cancer for young adults 25-29 years old and the second most common form of cancer for young people 15-29 years old.
For more statistics, facts, and figures; more realities, go here.

Myth: It's just skin cancer!
Reality: While it's true that basal cell and squamous cell skin cancers begin on the surface, in the skin, that's not always true of melanoma...which is why I don't lump it in with other skin cancers. But organizations and medicine still do, so, here I am and I'm saying melanoma is NOT "just" skin cancer. It can begin in the eye, the mouth, an ear canal, the rectum, the vagina, under nail beds, there are many people with melanoma but with no known primary and it's already in their major organs (not skin) when they are diagnosed. Even when melanoma does begin in the skin or moles, it can spread to major organs easily once it hits either the lymphatic system or blood stream. It is not just skin cancer. Even skin cancer is not just skin cancer. It's disfiguring and scarring. Other kinds, like squamous cell, can still be fatal.  (Note to self: self, get off soapbox).

Myth: No big deal! It's just skin and there's plenty of that to go around. Cut whatever it is off, stitch it up and we're good to go.
Reality: Our skin is our largest organ. It's a big deal. Squamous cell skin cancer can be fatal. Melanoma is deadly. Then there's Merkel Cell Carcinoma. Any skin cancer, or potential skin cancer, has to be removed and that means scarring. Any kind can recur. And a history of either basal cell or squamous cell increases the risk of getting melanoma.

Myth: It heals really fast!
Reality: Ha! A full millimeter of tissue has to be removed under a suspected melanoma and inches up, down, and around the site. My little mole left about a 6 inch long scar. They have to remove enough that the skin must be pulled together so that the incision is TIGHT. And down to the bone. Can we say concave? Hole? My tissue was removed in two separate procedures, to get the required full mm, back in July and then August 2008. Almost four years ago, and the place hasn't completely filled in YET! But, on the bright side, it's not noticeable because my compression sleeve hides the dent in my arm. Lymphedema set in very fast for me.

Myth: Melanoma or skin cancer happens only to people who sun or tan, which usually means that we tend to think in terms of Caucasians as the only people who get it.
Reality: Tanning in the sun and/or tanning bed definitely increases the risk of melanoma and skin cancer dramatically, BUT, huge "but" here, there are people with these cancers that have never tanned or been burned. It happens. And while the number of cases is definitely higher in the Caucasian population, ALL races and ethnicities are at risk. All of them. Have skin, eyes, a mouth, a rectum, major organs? Well, if you do, and that IS all of us, you're at risk. Stay alert to your body and get changes checked out. For further reading about other races getting these cancers, read this.

Myth: People who engage in skin damaging behaviors ask for melanoma. Even worse, they deserve it.
Reality: That's a very hurtful judgement to make about anyone. Nobody asks for, or deserves any type of cancer. People who tan are often still under the false assumption that tanning is good for you and therefore, healthy. They don't understand that the "tan" glow is actually a sign of damaged skin, not healthy skin. People who tan, either in the sun or in tanning coffins, uh, beds, have bought  a pack of lies and are investing their health and life in activities that reap dire consequences. I've blogged about that plenty here, though, feel free to search my posts.

Myth: Not me.
Reality: Read the above.

And be grateful that you can. Now, go and make all proper life and attitude adjustments.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Mr. P: Where Faith And Science Met

Mr. P was probably better known as Mr. Pellam back in the day at Northampton County High School. Back before it was East. He's retired now but he was the Physical Science, Biology, and Advanced Biology teacher. To the best of my knowledge, he was the only one on the faculty to have his Masters at the time (if there were others, forgive me, I didn't know). I graduated from there in 1977, so it has been a while!

While I may not remember everyone or everything, sometimes someone just makes such an impact on your life that you carry them through it. Mr. P. has been carried through mine.

So why am I thinking about him? Well, I've recently become friends with his daughter on Facebook and she made a comment on my page to the effect that "we'll have to talk." Did she really mean...

Expound and elucidate? Surely she did! She's a Pellam! Surely her Daddy taught her that phrase and tossed it around home just as much as he did in the classroom. "Dad, can we discuss...?" "Sure! Sit down and expound and elucidate." Father-child talks must have begun like that!

Back then we knew what he meant. I tell folks, today, to expound and elucidate and I get some really strange looks. And "huh?"s. That's still one of my favorite phrases. Thanks, Mr. P.

It was Mr. P. that instilled a love of science in me, particularly Biology. Particularly genetics. Oh, I didn't like Physical Science at all. Loved him, hated it. That was in the 9th grade. But 10th grade Biology, followed by Advanced Biology in the 12th grade, put me on the trajectory I've been on ever since. Can we say "Punnett Square"?

He pushed us. And we learned. Me? I fell in love with Biology. When we hit genetics the world opened up to me and at just the right time. I needed hope in my life and I found it in this man's classes. It wasn't just genetics and expound and elucidate. It was how he mixed his faith with his science. He could do that then. And did. Thank you, Mr. P.

I was still inwardly reeling from the death of my favorite aunt who had died at age 31 of brain cancer. In genetics I began to see there was a hope that by studying that I could, one day, find the cure for cancer. To this day, I still believe the study of genetics will unlock that door and is the key. That became my goal and my declared major when I enrolled at Meredith College after graduation.

And in Mr. P. I saw that faith and science worked together. God gave us all the sciences and science is a great tool. He talked about his faith and would encourage us to go to church. He could do that then in public school. He taught Sunday school and he lived what he taught. He loved us. Even the jerks we could be. We were teenagers. We could be know-it-alls, and he knew how to get through to us and command our respect.

This was back before I was aware that some people were against mixing God and science. I didn't know there was an issue and when I became aware of the issue, it wasn't one for me. Mr. P. had already solved that in my life. The two worked Hand-in-hand and science couldn't unfold a thing that caught God by surprise.

When I left the study of Biology in favor of Religion, for me it was a natural lateral move. Largely due to the seeds Mr. P. had already planted and watered. I never saw it as a step up or down depending on one's point of view.

I love science and technology. I'm the recipient of advances in both as I live with melanoma. As I take a picture with my cell phone (which I can put in my pocket!) and talk to other people who use theirs to surf the Internet. As I put my clothes in one machine and they get washed and I put in another and they get dried. As I drive my car with music playing and if I turn on Onstar, it will talk to me. As my mail will travel around the world for 45 cents even if I can't. As I can send other mail through wireless laptops as I...enjoy the benefits of science and technology.

Gifts from God's hand into our lives. The bones and fossils, the caves and ancient texts, the faith of our fathers, the galaxies and expanding spaces, the subatomic particles, the medicines, the research, the tried and true, DVDs and popcorn, transplants, and infusions. Babies and growing up and growing old and entering eternity.

Life and death. Faith and science. Expound and elucidate.

Thanks, Mr. P.

I'm not the only grateful student you ever had.

Friday, July 6, 2012

What's Nov 17th All About? Sit Right Back And You'll Hear A Tale

NOTE: What you'll read below, in black, was written about our 2012 Walk. The Walk for 2013 in Charlotte, NC is November 16th. The official link to our Walk has been updated for 2013).

A tale of a coming trip
That started when some minds got tossed
Without na'ry a blip.
Without na'ry a blip.

OK, so there was a blip or two on the screen. But the song sounds better that way. It all started last year when Al Estep, better known in melaworld as Black Is The New Pink, and I (Melanoma Prayer Center and Melanoma Grief Chapel) realized that our great minds were thinking alike and since we weren't horrified by the thought but intrigued, we corralled Chelsea Price (Adventures With My Enemy...Melanoma) and Rich McDonald (Hotel Melanoma) into dog-paddling into uncharted waters with us. We were gonna raise big bucks for melanoma research.

That was the plan. Raise big bucks for melanoma research. And we were cool. We're always cool, but we outdid ourselves when we decided to call ourselves The Power Rangers! We set up a group page on Facebook. And we were going to raise big bucks. For melanoma research. That was our plan.

I said that though, didn't I? That was as far as we got before getting stymied. Al and I are in North Carolina. Chelsea's in Virginia, and Rich is in Colorado, so logistics became an issue. We didn't know the first thing about running an event, which proved to be something of a problem, too. All we had was a plan, a name, and a page. And four spirits unwilling to cave to having nothing else.

Or so it may have seemed to the untrained eye. What we had going for us was we wanted to meet each other! That was behind our original plan all along. We wanted to get together and accomplish something toward a uniting goal and we are all united by melanoma.

Well, as we were beginning to wring our hands and the proverbial towel before throwing it in, God stepped in. Some would call God "fate," but not me. Chelsea was going to participate in an Aim at Melanoma Walk in Charlotte, NC in November 2011 and report back to us on how it went. We had, as a group, decided that was the type of event we wanted to pull together but couldn't. But now, Chelsea could participate in this one and tell us what we needed to know and do.

What we needed to do was join forces with Anne Bowman who is the Charlotte, NC Aim Chapter President and coordinator of the walk. She was who we needed to know. Turned out the wheel had already been invented! Can we say, "YAY!!!"?

With the wheel invented and Anne's "OK" we climbed aboard and promised our support, enthusiasm, and occasional blog getting the word out there. I've blogged three times already about this walk. Blog post number one. Blog post number two. Blog post number three.

The really cool, fun, and exciting thing is this really isn't about the walk anymore for many of us. Oh, raising money for melanoma research is still important, but this has become to be about what it was when Al and I first met minds: meeting each other.

In the time that we've been booking hotel rooms and making plans, we've also been growing as a community. We've grown deeper together and our bonds have toughened and tightened. We've become something of a highly dysfunctional functional family. We'll be having something of a two-to-three day family reunion with a walk thrown in. We've got family flying in from many of the 50 states, others driving. Every section of the continental USA will be well-represented. It started off as a "bloggers" event. And there will many more than us four present and that's in other posts. But what's more exciting is that as we've grown tighter, as a community and family, it's not a "bloggers convention" anymore! Warriors we've come to know, rejoice with and cry with, are coming!

Many, maybe most of us, will be arriving in Charlotte Friday November 16th. I know I will. The walk is Saturday morning and we've been making our own plans for an after-party that night...also previously blogged about. Many, maybe most, of us will be leaving some time Sunday. I know I will.

This kind of event may never happen again. Or, it may be so wonderful we do it every year. Who knows right now?! What we do know is, it's about gathering together in love and support of each other and of those who have died from melanoma. It's about the hugs and kisses, laughter and tears. It's about singing our songs and about being who we are and have been all along.

We're people, brought together by a common enemy, and bound together by a common love of God, life, a belief in a coming cure, and deep love and appreciation of each other. We understand each other and our walk along this melaroad.

Our walk will take a turn into Charlotte, NC Saturday November 17th. Here's the link to the official page for our particular walk. You can find a list of all registered walkers. Please throw some support to any one of us, or more. It all goes to the same place, so if you'd rather support someone besides me that will be great. But I'm registered, too, if you'll please help me meet my goal.

Truth be told, I've already met my goal. My goal is to know that I'm going to be meeting people I've come to cherish online in support groups and as friends online. People I've prayed for. People I've turned to myself and know I can count on.

So join us there that day my freinds, 
It sure will be a lark,
For all us way cool melapals, 
There at Freedom Park!

Hope to meet you there! We'll all be grateful if we do!