Friday, December 27, 2013

As 2013 Draws To A Close...

I ponder.

2013 has seen some monumental events unfold! My grandson, Damon, was born July 25th just two days before my son, and his uncle's, birthday. The same son who began his graduate studies in math this year. I still shake my head in awe and disbelief over that one. Yes. 2013 is one for the books.

My husband and I celebrated our 34th anniversary in November. Who knew there was someone on this planet who could, and would, willingly and happily live with me for so long? God. OK. God knew. But I bet it has surprised more than one person! Ha! I bet my parents and brother still shake their heads over that one...and they're all here to celebrate 2013 ringing out.

And 2014 ringing in in a few day. Both my parents are 83 and are in great shape for the shape they're in. They live at home and still do pretty much what they want to do. Slower. But they're kicking old age's patootie! And my brother was able to come home for Christmas, along with his two sons. Time flies! His sons and mine son sat at the card table for Christmas lunch at our parents' home...just like they did when they were little. Some things never change. Thank God! But many do change...including these three. Taller with driver's licenses and college educations. Grown up voices with little boy eyes.

Since 2013 saw the birth of my grandson, that means my daughter and her husband now have TWO children! She really shouldn't be that old...I know I'm not that old...but calendars say otherwise. Did you know calendars lie? They're juggling an almost 4 year old and a 5 month old. Something I didn't choose to do. Mine are 9 years apart, much to my mother-in-law's chagrin. Insert annoying smiley face here. Micaylah has my heart. She helped me preach the Christmas Eve Candle Lighting Service this year...she ran circles around me. Literally. Almost ran into the stand with the Advent Candles on it. And they were lit at the time, too. God's moving her into the pulpit at an early age. Her Pop-Pop moved her out of the pulpit.

Though disaster was averted and there was no burning down the church...we are a church on fire. I know. Looks can be deceiving. Little country church, off a by-pass. That's OK. God's got us right where He wants us. He's at work, has been very busy, and continues to mold, shape, and use us. Quietly. We're becoming known for giving away Recovery Bibles for anyone who wants one. We hear of a local need and we fill it to the best of our ability and if we need help, we get help. We really cannot out-give God. We've got a Circle of Life going. God gives to us and we give to others and God gives us more and...2013 turns into 2014 and God is still on His Throne and we're still off the by-pass going about God's work. And absolutely loving it. We've got a unique place in the Kingdom. It's hard to describe and people who aren't there probably wouldn't understand if I tried to explain it. There are people who wonder how we're even open. We're a tiny congregation that God has lit a Spark in. He's growing us spiritually and we know it. Slowly, but surely, He's bringing others through our doors. But the main thing is, right now, He's tending His Garden. We're loved by God and we know it. We have an inner Peace and genuine love and respect for each other that many congregations, of any size, sadly, don't have. When God's at work and when He's blessing, you know it. We know it.

And, as you know, I also live with a foot in the melanoma community. Our world saw some truly wonderful things unfold in 2013 and these things herald even more promising treatments in 2014. Click on that link and read all about it. And I share this knowing that not everything, even these things, will work for everybody. 2014 will be a year of much sadness and heartbreak, just like 2013 has been for so many. That's the nature of melanoma, and any cancer, and many other diseases. Of this world. But there is HOPE and there is PROMISE and there are ADVANCES...more now than ever.

2013, you've been quite a year. But you are passing and almost over now. You won't be coming back and we have to live with the memories you leave and continue to face any situations that you ushered in. And that's life. We take the good and we take the bad. And God is in the midst. That is the Hope and that is the Promise. are that great unknown. While we don't know what you will bring with you, we do know that we will rejoice in some of it and weep over some of it. We will be challenged, changed, and charged during the next year. We're ready for some of it and dreading the rest of it. While you, 2014, are the great unknown, we will hold on tightly to

The Great I AM and we'll get through. We'll soar. We'll crawl. We'll muddle. We'll leap. We'll be on our knees. We'll stand tall. We'll stand united.

Bring it on 2014! In God we trust.


Wednesday, December 18, 2013

I Really, Freakin' HATE Melanoma!

And the choir sang, "Amen!"

I know.

One of the things about being on Facebook and being something of the "Chaplain" to some of my melahomies is that I get close to many of them. More than people probably realize. Some message me once-in-a-while and others on a regular basis. I learn what's happening with their disease, their hopes and dreams and fears, their families. I receive their prayer requests and offer up the best I can in hopes and faith that God will take what I place before Him, that others agree with and like and add their own prayers to, and will bring about some type of blessing in the life of the requester-friend. I want miracles, dang it and I want them yesterday.

And miracles come in all shapes and sizes. So do answers and non-answers. Yes, no, not now, wait.

And I might not make sense right now, and that's OK. God knows what I trying to say even if I don't get it out well.

We come to be family on Facebook. Me and my melahomies. Every day of every week of every year 178 people die from melanoma...people around the world, not just in the USA. Some of them I knew thanks to Facebook. It's hard knowing so many die from this disease daily. It's really hard when it's someone you've come to love. Whose faith touched your heart. Who turned to you for hope, prayer, advice, comfort.

So, tonight I see a post on a dear friend's wall...a wall in my dining room on my laptop but that originates halfway around the world from me...that she's not expected to last another 24 hours...her husband wrote the post.

We just messaged Friday! I had no idea. NO clue. Did she? I'll never know. But I know this: she is 31 and beautiful and full of life and faith and love for her husband and her family and was full of hope even when it looked bleak...options we take for granted in the USA simply aren't available in her country. Dammit. They aren't available in a lot of countries. And I mixed the present tense with the past...she's still here...or is she? She's running her race through God's Gates of Praise. And it hurts.

So tonight I cry. I cry for her and her family who have to say good-bye way too soon.

I cry for all the people who think melanoma is a game and think a tan is worth the risk (don't read into that that she was a tanner...I don't know if she was or not...I DO know there are young people who don't get the seriousness of this disease and are courting disaster. Disaster is an awful partner).

I cry because I need to. This disease causes a lot of anguish and heart-rending pain. For all of us.

I cry because I can. Don't ever get so used to all the pain that you become hardened by it.

I cry because it hurts.

I don't cry alone.

Do I, God?


Wednesday, December 11, 2013

If This Was My Last Christmas

A dear friend sent me this message (he was starting to feel the effects of his pain meds, so disregard the spelling. I copied/pasted it):

"food for you to think on...if you knew this was oribably your last Christmas....hwo wiould you reflwct on it???"

The last thing I want is for this post to be morbid, but I will be honest. This is an easy reflection to write because, truth be told, I do think about that every Christmas. Every birthday. Every anniversary. What if this is the last one? The LAST one! These thoughts started the Christmas after I was in a wreck in October 1999. I realized then how quickly my life can end. The thoughts intensified with the Christmas of 2008...the first Christmas after my stage 3b melanoma diagnosis. It seemed pretty certain, after I survived two surgeries, that I would see that Christmas. It's all the ones since then that I knew I might not see.

As Christmas 2013 nears, I'm relatively certain that I'll see this one. I'm still doing well with my melanoma. But I know this disease and I know how quickly things can change and I know how fast accidents can happen. Lightning can strike twice. Know what I mean? This may be my last.

So. How do I reflect? What thoughts cross my mind?

That this could be the last. Ever. Not just for me, but every celebration would not only be minus me but that fact would stare my family in the face. My two children and son-in-law will remember me. But what about my grandchildren? And hopefully there are grandchildren yet to be born. Hopefully I will one day have a daughter-in-law. What will she learn of me? Will my son look for a girl just like the girl that married his dear ol' dad? Or was I such an embarrassment that that will be the last thought on his mind? 

It's this thought that this might be my last and I want my grandkids to know me that lets people take more pictures of me. There really aren't many because I'm not photogenic. Now I don't care about that. I want them to know what I looked like. I want them to have something to point at and know "that's Granny."

My daughter has her PharmD. My son has just begun working on his masters in Math. I think I may never know what he eventually does with his brain. That thought kills me. I think I haven't paid down loans enough to leave Mitch without my income. I think I want him to find love again.

I think about the fact that there were millenniums when the world had no idea I would ever occupy a short time on this planet. And there will be millenniums when the world will not remember me. Not even my little corner. Eventually I'll be forgotten. Not even a name etched on stone because I want to be cremated and my ashes scattered over Mount Pisgah.

Though the world won't remember me, I want to leave my mark. Even if it only lasts a short while. Is a vapor. A flower quickly fading. Like me. I want to leave this place, at least thinking that I left it a little better than when I found it. I want the preacher who preaches my eulogy to postulate to the bereaved that God welcomed me with a "You did okay, Carol." If God can look me in the face and tell me that much, I'll breathe a huge sigh of relief and be tickled for all eternity. "Well done good and faithful servant" is too lofty a goal for me.

If this is the last Christmas Eve Candle Lighting Service I preach, I want to preach it so God smiles and the worshipers feel worshipful, even as they leave to enter back into the world of Santa Claus is Coming to Town. 

If this is my last Christmas, I want to spend it like I want to spend it and that's to spend it like my family wants to. I want them to know I was there with them. It all comes back to them. Them and God. They're my biggest blessings. And they are, each, gifts from God. Stick them under my tree, with a bow on their heads, and I'll be happy, happy, happy. And I'll grab the camera and take their pictures. So they'll remember.

My dear friend who originally asked how I'd reflect if this was probably my last Christmas...well, this may well be his last one and he knows it. 

It may well be mine too. I just don't know it yet.

I think those of us who live with any life-threatening condition know this may be the last and I think we reflect. I really don't think I'm alone in this.

But I'll tell you something: I think facing the fact that this may be the last always makes this the best Christmas ever. Here's to Christmas 2013!

Live it. Love it. With abundance. Your way. Include those you love. Remember Who it's all about.

And live every day as if it's your last. And I'm not being morbid.

I'm being honest.  Make it count.

Do OK. Do more than OK.

Live so that at the end of your time here, you hear "Well done good and faithful servant."

Merry Christmas!


Tuesday, December 10, 2013

What Christmas Means To Me

I'm listening to Mandisa's Christmas Album and the first song is What Christmas Means To Me and it gets me thinking. I ponder what Christmas means to me. Oh, I know all the theological things it means to me. Jesus is the Reason for the season. Tell me "Happy Holidays" and I'll reply with "Merry Christmas." I love Christmas but I love Advent, too.

Christmas doesn't mean shop 'til I drop and see how deep in debt I can go. Ho ho ho!

It doesn't mean fighting crowds and traffic. I'm no fighter. Not against people, anyway.

It doesn't mean pulling out the decorations in October, or even in November. Heck. It's December 10th as I write and they're still nowhere in sight! The tree may not even be pulled down from the attic until December 24th, after the Christmas Eve Candle Lighting Service. And I'm fine with that. But you know what? When it's up it will stay up for MONTHS! Seriously and truly. MONTHS! Our granddaughter loves the lights. And I love not tying Christmas to one day. For me, Christmas is a heart thing and as long as my heart is beating it will be that way. Now my neighbors might understand me better!

Christmas will come no matter when the tree is decorated and the house is lit and the presents are wrapped...if they are wrapped! And unfilled stockings will not stop Christmas from coming either.

And I'm no Grinch! I love Christmas! But I don't like what it has become.

I used to though. I was the person who had ALL her shopping done by the end of July and if I didn't, something was seriously wrong!

All that changed with the Christmas of 2008. My melanoma-diagnosed year. Ironically, I was diagnosed in July...the month I liked to be finished Christmas shopping.

I learned that year that Christmas is every day of every year. Christmas is a heart thing and not a glitz thing. Christmas is all about what you can give, any time, to anybody. Christmas is about watching God take the ordinary and the forgotten and the downtrodden and lifting them up and raising them to the heights. New heights. Heights of the soul.

Christmas is about miracles. Big and small. Life and death. Miracles.

We've lost sight of the fact that we are all miracles. Each day we see is another miracle. Sure, perfect health, ideal families, and storybook endings are fabulous...but they are also figments of our imaginations.

But if you want real miracles and not Hollywood fabrications...look around you. Open your heart and spirit. Let your soul soar above the doom and gloom and let the Lord set you free from all that would seek to hold you down...and you'll know miracles. You'll witness what's around us and see it with fresh eyes. Sure you'll see the bad and the ugly. It's there. But we choose whether we focus on that or if we look for good and focus on that.

I choose not to just look for the good, I choose to focus on God in the good and in the bad. "Good" in and of itself can be a miracle...but to see God at work in the bad and redeeming it and transforming's a miracle!

And that's Christmas.


Tuesday, November 26, 2013

What I'm Thankful For in 2013

"Families" come to mind this year and I am blessed with many.

I have my biological family, both immediate and extended. Both my parents are alive and thriving at 83 years of life on this planet. They remind me of a Dr. Seuss book. They're in good shape for the shape they're in. My brother just turned age none of us probably thought he'd ever live to see, but see it he has! Despite what crack and alcohol tried to do, he is clean and sober, has been holding down a full-time job at a major furniture-making company for a few years now, and, he, too, is thriving! My husband and I just celebrated 34 years of marriage and are now working on the next 34. We've successfully raised two children to adulthood. The older one is happily married, a full-time pharmacist with two young children who are our delights on this earth. Her younger was just born in July and her older is blossoming, so we are truly thankful. Our younger child has started work on his Masters in math and has truly got in touch with his inner Geek. Who knew, in high school, that he even had an inner Geek waiting to get out? We have a son-in-law, aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, and nephews. A great-niece. While it's true that we're scattered and all leading busy lives, and it's true that we may not see each other as much as we'd like, we know each other is there. And we are truly blessed.

I have my church family. I've been blessed to have been raised in a wonderful Methodist church, serve a two-point charge as an Interim co-pastor when I was just beginning, serve two independent churches as a part-time appointment, and now I'm at Warren Plains UMC.Not only are we bound by faith, which is huge, but we're also bound by blood. Both of my parents are "transplants" to Conway, NC, and growing up, we just weren't kin to everybody like everybody else is. It was the four of us. My husband is kin to everybody. He'd meet new kin when I'd get a new appointment. Not me. But when I was appointed to Warren Plains, a cousin in Franklin County told me that I'm kin to "every Stegall, Harris, and Davis in Warren County." Guess who's in my congregation?! I haven't sat down and discussed family trees with anyone. But I don't need to. The connection is there. I'm at home at Warren Plains. I get to go at least once a week, take the most beautiful hour and ten minute drive in God's country, be with the most beautiful people, preach the most beautiful Word, sing the most beautiful hymns, and be part of making a difference where we are planted. And I am beautifully blessed.

I have my melanoma family. We are bound by a common disease, many of us share a common faith, but we're all in this together. We get it because we've got it. We come together online and we come together at events. I've had the pleasure of hugging many and meeting more. It is actually because of this disease that I've learned the importance of people over things, and God over all. It took learning that I really will die one day to teach me lessons about life that I otherwise would not have learned. My mortality was only theoretical until I was diagnosed with stage 3b melanoma in July 2008. I "knew" I would die one day but lived as if that just wasn't so. It was a theory that really hadn't reached into my soul. My priorities were skewed. I liked things...a nice house, my car, lots of books. I'm not who I was in July 2008 and I have melanoma to thank for that. I'm a better, improved Carol and I have God to thank for that. He has taken this disease and used it in ways I never could have imagined in 2008. Good ways. And they are ways that spill over into every part of my life. Life is good and every day is a gift. No matter what happens, I've learned that God can deal with anything. And I am wonderfully blessed.

I am thankful. I am truly, beautifully, and wonderfully blessed. My cup runneth over. Even on the not-so-great days, I have much to be grateful for.


Monday, November 18, 2013

Looking Back on November 16, 2013

And our Aim at Melanoma Walk for the Cure that was held in Charlotte. Last year, I felt like a roving reporter, writing all about our every move. This year I was on the quiet side.

Absorbing. Processing.

Don't get me wrong. It was wonderful seeing old friends and hugging new ones. And they came in from around the country to be here. For us all to get together and spend the weekend getting acquainted and reacquainted. Not to mention that the day was gorgeous. The weather beautiful. The people smiling, even through some tears. It was, all-in-all, a spectacular weekend.

And I got to hug and spend quality time with Crabby. My better half in our melanoma community. Susan Hayes, mama of Jillian who died from melanoma in December at the age of 23.

Jillian should have been here, on this earth, and not Susan at a walk. None of us should have been at that walk. And if life had gone differently, you know what? Probably none of us would have been. But, we were where we needed to be because life is what it is and this is where we are and what we live with.

Melanoma is part of our lives, in some form or fashion. Some of us live with it in our bodies. Some live with it seared in their memories. Some live with it up close and personal as they love and care for one with it. We ALL see what it really means to have this disease. To fight the fight and battle the battles. To die from it. We see it. We live it. We know what it means.

Susan and I got to have a long talk about all this. She's the person behind a growing series of billboards that feature melanoma warriors. Her latest billboard is dedicated to those, like Jillian, who are no longer with us on this planet...but who SHOULD be! She shouldn't be staring down at her mama, forever young with her dog, and her life now pictures, boxes and memories. Her mama shouldn't have been in Charlotte, and she wouldn't have been had Jillian been alive. Again, none of us would probably have been there if we weren't directly affected by this disease.

Susan and I talked about the progression of this disease. The Jillian on the billboard isn't the Jillian who a way. Cancer changed her looks, her abilities. It changed everything about the life she lived. Jillian was beautiful and vibrant. She took center stage. She was athletic. She tanned. She got melanoma. She died. And between all those periods her dashes changed too. And all of that is Susan's to tell and share in her own way, in her own time, if she ever does. If a billboard is ever created that shows what warriors are like at the end of their will look VERY different from the billboards as they now are.

The world probably isn't ready for that. And neither, frankly, are the families with images of their loved ones final days permanently tattooed in their brains and souls.

We know the reality of this disease. And we walk to end it so it doesn't become the reality of other families. Other people so much like ourselves. There was a time that WE didn't get it. WE didn't know. WE didn't understand. WE ignored and looked the other way. WE didn't listen.

WE didn't walk.

WE do now because we get it.


Melanoma. It isn't what you may think it is.


Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Forget Santa! Crabby Hayes Is Comin' To Town!

Crabby Hayes, better known as Susan or as Mama Bear or as Jillian's mama, will be coming to the Aim at Melanoma Walk in Charlotte, NC this Saturday, November 16th! There are many people in this world that I love but haven't met yet, and she ranks at the top. She was supposed to come to the walk last year but couldn't. Her daughter, Jillian, took a turn for the worse and Susan could not, would not, leave her side. She did what any of us would have done. But she was missed.

We have a special relationship, Crabby and I. She calls me Bossy, which I am. I call her Crabby. Which she is. She has a right to be Crabby, especially when it comes to melanoma. I have being Bossy in my DNA. We complement each other.

In honor of FINALLY getting to meet my old chum and give her a great big bear hug...OK, many hugs...I took a page out of Hotel Melanoma's book and redid a Christmas classic, "Santa Claus Is Comin' To Town."

"Crabby Hayes Is Comin' To Town"
I really can’t wait
I’m ready to hug
I will not be late
My heart feels a tug
Crabby Hayes is coming to town
Crabby Hayes is coming to town
Crabby Hayes is coming to town

She's comin’ to walk,
Put faces to names;
Gonna take pics and fill up some frames.
Crabby Hayes is coming to town
Crabby Hayes is coming to town
Crabby Hayes is coming to town

She has a billboard waiting
She wants us all to see
She’s seen the worst of this disease
And wants people Black C free

With Bossy in black and Rich in tutu
We’ll come from afar and all go WooHoo
Crabby Hayes is coming to town
Crabby Hayes is coming to town
Crabby Hayes is coming to town

She’s gonna join us walking
She’s gonna hug new friends
She’s gonna connect with all us there
Friendships that will never end
Never end

I’d better get ready
She’s gonna get here
I’m excited already
I want to be clear
Crabby Hayes is coming to town
Crabby Hayes is coming to town
Crabby Hayes is coming
Crabby Hayes is coming
Crabby Hayes is coming to town

Monday, November 11, 2013

There Are More Than 921,780 Reasons To Take Melanoma Seriously

And I'm one of them. That number. That "921,780" represents real people in the USA who, according to the National Cancer Institute, are currently living with melanoma. Stage of disease is irrelevant in this count, for those whose melanoma was in situ (stage 0) live with melanoma...not in the same way as those in the 3-4 range, but we all live with it. The fears. The stats. The not knowing what our own disease is silently doing...or not doing.

And that's just people in the USA! And that's just the person with the disease. That doesn't take into consideration the person/people living with and loving the one with. So...there are millions of people worldwide living with melanoma in some way or other. Millions.

And that number is growing. Worldwide. There are some impending cases that we can't prevent. The sad fact is, that even if everyone stopped going to tanning beds and we destroyed every single tanning bed on the face of this planet; if everyone stopped baking in the sun; if everyone used high, broad-spectrum SPF sunscreen correctly; and if everyone started getting a full-body skin check annually by a dermatologist who specializes in melanoma and skin cancer...there would still be an increase in melanoma diagnoses...for now. Damaged skin is skin that doesn't forgive or forget. Even if everyone, from this moment forward, took their skin-health seriously, the sins of the past will still reach out and bite many. They will pay the consequences for poor choices of their tanning past. Plus there are those cases that will happen because of genetics. There will be those cases that will happen because...because. There's much about the onset of this disease that isn't known.

But there is much about the onset that IS known! And if people will act on what we know, we can prevent many, countless, deaths in the future. We can prevent a lot of suffering and anguish. This is one cancer that we can actually prevent many cases from ever happening.

Raise your children to NEVER get in a tanning bed. If you have never tanned in one, DO NOT START! That decision and action will lower your chances of getting and, possibly, dying from melanoma dramatically.

Raise your children to NEVER lay out in the sun all day. And raise them that when they ARE outside to use broad-spectrum SPF sunscreen, use it correctly, and reapply according to directions. And you do the same. Teach them how to dress when outside to block the sun's rays. Teach them to respect the sun but not to fear the sun. We need the sun. We need the warmth it provides and the vitamin D. We need it. What we do not need, however, is to get burned by it. And when we DO get burned, that's OUR fault...not the sun's. Therefore, it behooves us to be out in the sun, and to teach our children to be out in the sun responsibly!

Back in the day, when I was a preteen and teen, back in the 60s and 70s, and before then, nothing was known about sun-safety. Suntan lotion was the thing in my day. It all smelled like coconut and it's purpose was to help us tan without burning. I hated it and didn't use it. I, and many of my peers, used Baby Oil (some even added iodine!). We didn't know. We know now.

I've never even seen a tanning bed up close and personal...have no intentions to, but I know the dangers of them and have witnessed deaths caused by them. When they first came out, people didn't really grasp their dangers. Parents gave permission for their teens to tan. They didn't know. They do now. And many so regret it but they cannot change history. However, they are doing everything in their power to change the future...YOUR future! Your children's future. There is so much we didn't know. We know now.

We didn't know that tanned skin is damaged skin. We thought it was sexy. We thought tanned equaled healthy. We thought pale was sickly and to be avoided at all costs. Many still do think that. We didn't know that we had it all wrong. We know now.

We didn't go to dermatologists to get full-body skin checks either. If I had done that, more than likely the doctor would have insisted on removing my mole that my Mama hated and wanted removed. Mama was right. It bit me. It gave me trouble. A dermatologist would have caught it and spared me a lot. Yeah, very few of us have bodies we love putting through that. Our bodies can embarrass us. And, yeah, full-body means full-body. But it's worth it and possibly life-saving. For everybody with a body regardless of skin tone. Melanoma strikes people of all ethnicities. We didn't know the value of being proactive and seeing a dermatologist every year, whether we think we need to or not. We know now.

There are millions of reasons to take melanoma seriously. Seriously. And I'm one of them. Listen to me. Listen to those of us in the melanoma community. Learn the facts about this disease.

And maybe, just maybe, you won't become reason 921,781.


Saturday, November 2, 2013

Hey, Hey, We're STILL The Monkees!

Last year I did my own rewrite of this classic by The Monkees in anticipation of our Aim At Melanoma Walk in Charlotte, NC. This year's walk is on Saturday November 16th, same Bat Place, same Bat Time. But this year, as last (but not in time to make this rendition of my song), there will be TWO tutu guys! Hotel Melanoma's very own Rich McDonald will, also, strut his stuff along with Mark Williams. Yes. Giggles are in order and cameras will be called into action!

Now, without further ado or adon't:

Here we come
Walking ‘round the Park
We got guys in tutus
They're Rich and Mark.

Hey, hey we're the Walkers,
and people say we’re gaining ground.
But we're raising money,
to put melanoma down.

We just wanna advocate,
Come join us on the sixteenth.
We're the Black C nation,
And we've got people strength.

Hey, hey we're the Walkers,
You never know when we'll be ‘round.
So you'd better find money,
We may come walking in your town.

In Praise of Caregivers: Our Unsung Heroes

The following is a note from Melanoma Prayer Center:

There are two groups of people who deal intimately with melanoma: the patient and the patient's caregiver(s).  While "caregivers" technically may include the medical team looking after the patient, it more commonly refers to the dedicated people who attend to the patient's basic & personal needs that the patient can't tend to themselves and it's also the people who provide that needed intense support through the journey called "melanoma" or any other cancer. Usually these angels are spouses, parents, children, or the significant other of the patient and share a household.

Simply put, we can't do it without you. You are our rock, our strength, our shoulders, and our hankies. You absorb our fears and frustrations. You give us joy and keep us laughing when there seems to be so little to be joyful about or to laugh at. You help us throw our pity parties but you're the ones who know when it's time to clean up the party and get on with life. You change, clean, and do things you never thought you'd ever be doing for us and you do it with dignity, letting us keep ours. You do it with love and grace, reminding us minute-by-minute why we love you so. You give legs to "in sickness and in health" in ways you never imagined when you uttered those words.  Who knew one day you'd need to breathe live into that phrase? Yet you never left my side even when my side was messy.

You refuse to let us refuse. You keep us going. And, we keep you going. We kind of feed off each other: we need you and you need us.

You need us to beat the beast and win the fight so it becomes your fight too. In your own ways, you fight as hard as we do. It's just that your plan of attack looks a little different from ours. Both are necessary.

When we win, you win and we have to acknowledge that we didn't win alone. Our "normal" looks different and we have a new normal. We become stronger. Life and priorities change. Forever. And....

When we lay our battle down, you must carry on. Our fight ends but you can keep going for us, knowing that you did everything you possibly could and we saw superhuman abilities in you we didn't know you possessed and were sorry to be the one bringing that out in you but mighty grateful, at the same time, that you rose to the occasion.  You earned your crown! You now know better than many just how precious & short life is, so live your life to the absolute fullest and make the most of every moment.

At the risk of elevating you and making you sound like "God," please realize how much we see God in you. You reflect him beautifully. Paul's letter to the church in Corinth contains a passage that is often lifted out of context and read at weddings...and it fits. It is also used to help us understand God's nature because "God is Love," so we can substitute "God" where we read "love" and walk away with a somewhat clearer picture of him.

We can also read it and see you, our caregiver(s), shining through the words. You embody LOVE and we are grateful.

Because I like how The Message paraphrases this passage that's what I have here.

As you, dear caregiver, read this, hear profound "Thank yous!" As you, dear patient, read this, pause and give thanks for and to your caregiver. God's angel given to you. Amen.

1 Corinthians 13 (The Message)
The Way of Love
  If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don't love, I'm nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate. If I speak God's Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, "Jump," and it jumps, but I don't love, I'm nothing. If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don't love, I've gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I'm bankrupt without love.

   Love never gives up.
   Love cares more for others than for self.
   Love doesn't want what it doesn't have.
   Love doesn't strut,
   Doesn't have a swelled head,
   Doesn't force itself on others,
   Isn't always "me first,"
   Doesn't fly off the handle,
   Doesn't keep score of the sins of others,
   Doesn't revel when others grovel,
   Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
   Puts up with anything,
   Trusts God always,
   Always looks for the best,
   Never looks back,
   But keeps going to the end.

 Love never dies. Inspired speech will be over some day; praying in tongues will end; understanding will reach its limit. We know only a portion of the truth, and what we say about God is always incomplete. But when the Complete arrives, our incompletes will be canceled.
 When I was an infant at my mother's breast, I gurgled and cooed like any infant. When I grew up, I left those infant ways for good.
 We don't yet see things clearly. We're squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won't be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We'll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!
 But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love.

And I am forever grateful!


Wednesday, October 30, 2013

What Is "Lymphedema"?

That was my question back in November 2008. In two surgeries I had had all 27 lymph nodes removed under my left arm. While I still had my drainage tubing in, I began to notice something weird going on with my arm. It was getting "puffy" to put it nicely and it kept "growing." In less than two weeks, my whole arm and hand looked like a balloon that would pop if someone pricked me with a pin. It was annoying and uncomfortable. And it would start hurting after being awake several hours. I had no clue what was going on but I didn't like it. No one had told me that whatever was happening...might.

So, I called my melanoma specialist surgical oncologist at Duke and spoke to his wonderful nurse, Karen, with all sorts of initials after her name. I told her about my arm. Her reaction? "I wonder..." and she put me on hold while she consulted whoever she consulted. When she returned she told me that it sounded like lymphedema had started, but if that starts in someone it's usually not so soon after surgery. It can take yeaeaeaeaears, up to 20, for it to set in. So I made an unexpected return visit to Duke for Dr. Tyler to look at my arm and then he sent me straight to the Physical Therapy Department at Duke...they had already made me an appointment to be seen. Sure enough, it was lymphedema. Because Duke is over 2 hours away, the physical therapist I saw got online and found me a PT who was certified in lymphedema an hour closer to me. She was in Chesapeake, Virgina. I've written a little bit about my experience with her.

I learned a lot about what lymphedema is. When lymph nodes are removed, most people's lymphatic system will kick in, adjust, and pick up the slack. It will compensate for the missing nodes and they really aren't "missed" because the fluid will reroute to nodes close to the missing ones.

Then there are people like me and those missing lymph nodes are missed! Nothing kicks in and lymphatic fluid builds up. Mine was in my arm. It can happen in a leg if lymph nodes were removed from the groin area.

If this is you, my advice is to contact your surgical oncologist or oncologist and let them see your limb. The facility you go to should have a physical therapy department and your doc can get you an appointment to see a PT knowledgeable about lymphedema.

This is a condition that can be brought under control with proper exercising, massage, wrapping/compression, and other treatments a PT might consider necessary. If it's not too bad of a case, you'll be able to manage it on your own with massage and exercise. If it's worse, like mine, you may need compression. I will wear compression, everyday, for the rest of my life. And that's OK. I'm here. BTW, my physical therapist specialized in lymphedema and she told me that once in compression, always in compression...don't think "it's better" and stop wearing it or you'll balloon back up and it will have to be brought back under control again.

A bit of bright news amongst the bleak: I've discovered Lymphedivas which is where I now get my sleeves and gloves. No more BEIGE!

I've learned what works for me when it comes to managing this. Five years down the road and I STILL sleep with a small pillow under my arm. I keep it elevated as much as I can when I'm awake and always drive with my arm propped in the window. I stretch and move my arm around a lot. Ibuprofen and I are close friends come nighttime. I don't like being in the hot or in the cold. Comfortable can still be uncomfortable in that arm, but again, that's OK. I'm here.

It's just one of those bumps in the road, but it can be dealt with. And I really do advise dealing with it with the help of someone who knows how to help you. Don't try to deal with it alone.

But's that me. I was blessed to be handed to the Physical Therapy Department at Duke on a silver platter. I'm just passing along what I benefited from. Hope this helps.


Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Psalm 91 In The Face Of Cancer

I find great hope and solace in the Psalms and they have taken on a deeper, richer meaning for me ever since 2008 when melanoma ripped into my life. Psalm 23, particularly, spoke to my soul in ways that reach far beyond the normal "funeral" rendering. But I must admit, Psalm 91 gave me troubles.

I had a wonderful melahomey who used to sign off his Facebook posts/comments with "Psalm 91." And every time he did, I would go back and read this and shake my head. Here he was, living with stage 4 melanoma, and clinging to Psalm 91. I hate to say that it took me, ME!, a while to get it.

I had fallen into the somewhat modern trap of, temporarily, forgetting what David, and all the Psalmists knew. What the Israelites knew and took for granted: God's promises stand. And they stand in the present and in the future and because God always keeps His promises, they were quite comfortable, and happy, to mix them up. Take for instance verse 3. They trusted that God would protect them from deadly disease. And yet, they, like us, got/get deadly diseases. That just didn't sound like "protection" to my ears. My friend cherished that verse. My friend with deadly stage 4 melanoma. That killed him. Why didn't God protect him?

But you know what? He's protected from deadly disease now. My friend knew in his soul what I needed to remember, and that is that God keeps His promises. God has all eternity. We're the ones who think in terms of a "lifetime". We live in a fallen world inhabited by deadly viruses, bacteria, diseases, wars, pestilence, etc. But a world awaits us where those things don't exist. They aren't merely "absent." They do not exist. They aren't part of the vocabulary.

My friend, and many, many others around the world, suffered from, lived with, and thrived in spite of, melanoma, cancer, deadly disease. He looked forward, without fear, to a time when suffering would not be part of his life. He trusted God to keep His promise and let him find rest, refuge, and safety. He knew that when his time came and death was at the door that God would protect him from its final ravages and send for him and protect his journey. He knew he would be rescued. And he would be rewarded.

You know what? Melanoma got his body. True enough. It never, never, not once touched his soul.

I leave you with Psalm 91 from the New Living Translation. God's promises stand. And they are for the present and they are for the future. Bless the Lord, o my soul. O my soul.


Psalm 91 (New Living Translation)

Those who live in the shelter of the Most High
    will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
This I declare about the Lord:
He alone is my refuge, my place of safety;
    he is my God, and I trust him.
For he will rescue you from every trap
    and protect you from deadly disease.
He will cover you with his feathers.
    He will shelter you with his wings.
    His faithful promises are your armor and protection.
Do not be afraid of the terrors of the night,
    nor the arrow that flies in the day.
Do not dread the disease that stalks in darkness,
    nor the disaster that strikes at midday.
Though a thousand fall at your side,
    though ten thousand are dying around you,
    these evils will not touch you.
Just open your eyes,
    and see how the wicked are punished.
If you make the Lord your refuge,
    if you make the Most High your shelter,
10 no evil will conquer you;
    no plague will come near your home.
11 For he will order his angels
    to protect you wherever you go.
12 They will hold you up with their hands
    so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone.
13 You will trample upon lions and cobras;
    you will crush fierce lions and serpents under your feet!
14 The Lord says, “I will rescue those who love me.
    I will protect those who trust in my name.
15 When they call on me, I will answer;
    I will be with them in trouble.
    I will rescue and honor them.
16 I will reward them with a long life
    and give them my salvation.”

Friday, September 27, 2013

And Now A Word From A Slacker

Yes. That would be me. While I admit to preferring my "Hotel Melanoma Chaplain Boss Queen" hat, I'll be honest enough to wear any hat that fits. And, right now, I'm a slacker. I have that on good authority...namely the HM proprietor. And since he's my boss and in charge of my dinky, almost non-existent office space, I'll agree with him, write a new post, and not call him a "jerk". Insert annoying smiley face here.

Yes. I am having an attirude kinda day! It's not about me though. It's about life and changes that are coming and not completely pleasant changes, at that. Nothing to do with melanoma. But it is what it is and we'll roll with the punches and find blessings. And we'll be thankful. Even in the unpleasantness that is sure to come eventually. We will live out our faith. Faith demands to be lived out and put on display in the trying times or it has no powerful voice when all is well.

My heart is full right now. It just is. I don't like watching golden years take on a little tarnish. I don't like watching vibrant oldsters slowing down and not because they choose to but because this is life.

And they teach us younger ones grace. Grace and faith in abundance. And hope. Don't forget hope. They teach us to embrace true living, in the good times and in the bad. In all seasons for there truly IS a time and a season for everything. If we're blessed enough to live long enough to see ALL the seasons.

And they teach us always to be



Thursday, September 12, 2013

Things Your Dr. May Not Tell You With A Melanoma Diagnosis

But you need to know. And, frankly so may your doctor. So, if you're a doctor and you're reading this, please take notes and make any necessary adjustments. Your patients will have even more reasons to rise up and call you blessed! Note: these are in no certain order; just as they come to mind.

When given that melanoma diagnosis, you may not be told that...

1). You need to be in the hands of a melanoma specialist. This is particularly true if your melanoma is invasive as opposed to in situ. This is Aim at Melanoma's link to melanoma specialist oncologists in the USA and in Canada. If you are in another country, please either contact me and I'll help you, or, do an Internet search for a melanoma organization in your country and contact them. They should be able to help you. Where you find oncologists who are melanoma specialists, you'll also find surgical oncologists and dermatologists who are melanoma specialists. About dermatologists in general: ALL should know at least the basics about melanoma and skin cancer, but not ALL make it the focus of their practice. We are in a specialized world and that is their right. You need to be in the hands of one who HAS made melanoma and skin cancer their focus and you need FULL-BODY skin checks twice a year (some advocate for one if you're lower staged).

2). Doing an Internet search on melanoma is a bad idea. OK, you may actually be told not to turn to Dr. Internet. But, let's face it, you probably WILL. So, what you won't be told are the best sites to read. The following are my preferred sites. Look over them carefully as they each offer special helps and resources for us. Aim at Melanoma, Melanoma Research Foundation, Melanoma Research Alliance, The Skin Cancer Foundation, and the American Academy of Dermatology.

3). You are going to change. And it won't just be visible scars from biopsies and any surgeries that may follow. It will be those invisible scars that can be the worst. The more you learn about this disease, the more scared, and maybe angry, you'll get...particularly as appointments near...and these mood swings can kick in months prior to the appointment and get worse as the date nears. You won't calm down until the appointment is over and any results are in. I call this "attirude" and you can do a blog-site search for the term.You'll probably find your priorities changing also.

4). Some of your relationships may change. There are still a lot of misconceptions and downright ignorance about this disease. I can't tell you exactly what to expect or who to expect it from. I can't tell you that it definitely WILL happen, but I can tell you the possibility exists, so be prepared. But don't look for ugly attitudes under every rock either. Take support where you can get it and if you're on Facebook, look me up. While some relationships may change, do your part to cherish those you love and let them know you appreciate them. You cannot control other people and how they react to your diagnosis, but you CAN control how YOU behave and react to the people in your life.

5). You may want to talk with a therapist who is trained to talk with people who have been given a cancer diagnosis. If I ruled Melanoma World this is one thing I would make sure happens with every diagnosis no matter what the stage. If you want to know others things I'd do read this post.

6). There's a LOT of HOPE on this road you've just found yourself on. While you're on it for life, this is no longer the automatic death sentence that it once was. But that reiterates why you now need to be in the hands of a melanoma specialist because they are the ones who are up on all the advancements going on in our world. Give yourself every fighting chance.

7). You are not alone. Connect. Pray. Do something that is therapeutic for you: write/blog, advocate and educate, paint, do something you've always wanted to do. You have now faced your mortality but you are ALIVE, so LIVE! None of us, with or without melanoma, have any guarantees in this life. Make the most of the life you have. No regrets.

8). Look for miracles and blessings. They really are all around you. Make it a point to find at least five a day and be



Thursday, August 29, 2013

Learn More About Your Melanoma Drug

I get asked about various melanoma drugs a lot. Though I've never used any and cannot speak from experience, I do have access to a lot of people who have either tried, or are currently using, the treatments that are available. Not everybody, though, has access to advice about how to handle side effects or what to watch for. You can, and should, talk with your doctor, but I've noticed that when side effects start, people want to know if theirs is "normal" and they want to know what to do about it right then...not call the doctor's office. Also, not all my melahomies are in groups where they can pick the finest and kindest minds around for info.

That's where this post may come in handy. I'll be the first to admit that this will not be an exhaustive list of resources by any means, but hopefully it will be helpful.

All drug manufacturers have websites, and often an individual drug will have its own site. Here are three drug sites where you'll find patient resources of various kinds. You'll also find possible side effects that are associated with the drug and possible remedies. You'll learn when to call your doctor. Scour the website of your drug. NOTE: I'm using the more common names and not the scientific name.




Temodar has a site but it's only for "health professionals." If you click on "not a health professional" you will get Merck's website. Which, be sure to look at the website of your drug's manufacturer as that is where you may also find info for patient assist programs, etc.

Information for  Interferon alfa 2-b and all the Interferons, as well as the above drugs and more, can be plugged into which is the go-to site for pharmacists.

The information at can also be easier to understand for laypeople. Information is out there. Do an Internet search and see if your drug has a website. If it doesn't, its manufacturer certainly will. And do check out what says about your drug.

Information from reliable sources is out there and at our fingertips. And, by all means, plug into support groups if at all possible. There are excellent ones online, particularly on Facebook.

We're in this together.


Monday, August 12, 2013

HM CBQ Tsk-Tsks Fellow Clergy Regarding Melanoma

I'm on a roll, I guess. My melahomies need me to put on my Hotel Melanoma Chaplain Boss Queen hat, again, and issue a tsk-tsk that I regret having to make. This one goes out to some of my fellow clergy. I know there are many who do, indeed, know what melanoma is. They have it themselves or have seen it up close and personal in loved ones. I am not the only person standing behind a pulpit who also lives with this diagnosis. Nor am I the only one with an understanding of this disease. But I know there is one clergyperson who is ignorant, and where there is one, there are more. This post is for the clergyperson whose attitude toward melanoma is...

"not a big deal, people have that all the time, and they will just cut it out." The full context of this is in a comment that was left under my last post. Here's the relevant part, "Honestly, I have not been to church all summer because of the response I got from our pastor when I called to tell her about my melanoma diagnosis. Her response was that it was not a big deal, people have that all the time, and they will just cut it out. I'm tempted to send her a photo of my scar."

If that sounds familiar and is your attitude, please read this post Skin Cancer and Melanoma for Dummies. Read about the different stages at Aim at Melanoma.

And understand this and understand it well: a lack of understanding and compassion for your parishioner who has a melanoma diagnosis, at any stage, may cost you a parishioner, maybe even a whole family. It may cost you your reputation if they bad-mouth you to others and talk about how unfeeling you are. And understand your parishioner may die from this disease. Even if the person first calls you and tells you they are stage 0 or 1a. That can progress to stage 4 within a year. It's rare, but that happens. And once it progresses to stage 4, depending on where it spreads, how aggressive it is, and how well your parishioner responds to treatment(s), your parishioner could die within months from that stage 4 progression. Prayerfully that scenario won't happen. But it can. It does.

Melanoma is NOT the same as basal cell or squamous cell carcinomas. Both of which, by the way are scarring, disfiguring, and can be fatal...though rarely, particularly it's rare for basal cell to lead to death but it can happen. Read that post I linked to a couple of paragraphs up and do a blog site search about melanoma. Melanoma is not "just" skin cancer. It shouldn't even be still called "skin cancer" and the more you learn about basal cell and squamous cell...well, they aren't "just" skin cancer either.

I hope that when anyone in the clergy hears that a parishioner has cancer of any kind and any stage that "it's no big deal" is not the response. And frankly, I cannot imagine that it will be. Why is it the response, for some, towards melanoma?

Learn about this disease.

Oh, and by the way, if you're old enough to be in the pulpit, you're old enough to have had a sunburn or two in your past. You may have been in a tanning bed. And since you're human, you have a body. This disease doesn't need skin to start or spread in. A body works well. Got a mouth? Eyes? Ear canals? A rectum? Nails? This disease can literally start anywhere. Any race, age, or gender. And you know another horrible truth about this disease? People who have never had a sunburn, been in a tanning bed, or have a family history of this disease...get it.

So...from one preacher to another...listen to this Southern Mama Preacher with stage 3b melanoma.

I'll be grateful.


Saturday, August 10, 2013

HM CBQ Rises Up and Sounds Off

Man. I haven't had reason, or just cause, to don my tri-cornered HM CBQ hat in quite a while now. For the unenlightened, I'm the appointed Hotel Melanoma Chaplain Boss Queen. Before that I was, and still am, a Southern Mama Preacher. Mix that all together, stir or shake well, and I'm whatcha get. And right now, I'm plenty fired up. Watch out.

While I have one foot firmly rooted in the church, I also have the other foot firmly entrenched in the melanoma community. My melahomies have my heart, soul, and undying devotion. By "melahomies" I mean those with melanoma and those who battle alongside them...usually their spouse, child, parent, or sibling. Those closest to the warrior who knows all the details of the battle. And those, ahem, who are well aware of the attitudes of others toward their loved one.

Let me grab my trusty soapbox because I am rising up. If you have a complacent attitude towards melanoma, you might want to sit down. Or tune out. Or go into denial and think I can't possibly mean you.

"Denial" is what I want to think many people are into. But maybe not. Everyone's different.

I'm hearing over-and-over and over-again from melahomies who are growing increasingly frustrated by family and friends' flippant, and downright appallingly arrogant/ignorant attitudes about this disease. Flaunting tanning bed usage and sunburns is bad enough. But to hear of a loved one who has multiple surgeries in their battle against melanoma...a loved one...not a mere acquaintance...and shrug it off. To hear of a loved one undergoing a clinical trial and react with, "meh,"...well, we need to talk.

You need to understand how serious this is and what your loved one is up against and battling and how much they need your support. A text will not cut it.

If your loved one is undergoing multiple surgeries...the kind where they have to be put to sleep...then your loved one is in the stage 3-4 range. They are having lymph nodes removed at best and parts of major organs removed at worst. They are having tumors removed. If your loved one is undergoing any type of radiation, same thing. They are fighting mets and are in the later stage 3-4 range. If they are undergoing clinical trials, they are in the stage 3-4 range. And just so you know, stage 4 is as high as it goes. There is no stage 5.

This is serious. The disease can progress. They may die. They are doing everything they can to stop their melanoma and beat it back. They can use your support. They need you to understand, or at least try to understand. They need you to learn, ask questions, pray. They need a hug now and then. They need you to get your head out of the sand if you're in denial. This is real. Being put to sleep for surgery is risky. Getting infused with toxic chemicals that are being STUDIED is risky. Not fighting melanoma is riskier. Your loved one doesn't have much of a choice. It's either fight or die. Really.

I invite you to do a blog site search and learn about this disease. Especially since it's in your family tree. It really may behoove you to learn something, become vigilant and proactive, and maybe, just maybe, you won't be the next one in your family receiving a melanoma diagnosis and needing your family to rally around you!

Oh, and stop posting about going tanning and getting burned. That isn't good for your skin. At all. That's the sign of damaged skin. Your skin won't forgive and it won't forget. It just may rise up and bite you one day.

And I'll be your HM CBQ and I'll love you as my melahomey.

I'm pretty sure, though, that we'd both rather be grateful that that not happen.


Monday, August 5, 2013

Addison...Melanoma World's Youngest Warrior

Read her story. She's our two year old melanoma warrior princess who today learned, or rather her family and friends learned, her battle is coming to a close. At two years of age, she won't be able to really comprehend what's happening in her tiny body.

But we comprehend.

She has fought an adult-sized battle with adult-sized weapons--weapons that were never meant for a baby/toddler-sized body--and done it with a larger-than-life grace and strength. She has bounced back every time--until now.  She has taught us adults much in her short time. And now she will teach us how to stomp all over melanoma as she leaves it in the dust as she prepares to run her short race through Heaven's Gates of Praise and into her mama's waiting arms and her Lord's cancer-free Eternity.

She is, and always will be, our Addison.

Thank You, Lord, for the hope and miracle that is Addison. Unless You perform another miracle on her behalf, we're going to trust her into Your Loving Care. But You know what, Lord? That's where she has been all along, hasn't she? In Your Loving Care. And I, and all who inhabit Melanoma World are forever grateful.

Note: Little Addison died August 8, 2013. And we weep.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

what is the tutu walk charlotte nc

A real search term that led Google to lead someone to this blog and I have to simply laugh out loud! This is so cool and awesome! OK. The good folks at Aim at Melanoma may not find it too amusing, but not many of them saw Rich McDonald and Mark Williams last year. And many from Aim probably won't be seeing them this year either.

Following Bob Carey's example, they donned black tutus. Bob is the man in the pink tutu and head of The Tutu Project which raises awareness and funds centered around breast cancer. True, Rich and Mark won't quite go to the lengths of tutu-wearing that Bob does, but they still made, and will make, quite a fashion statement. And let's face it, Rich is a recovering lawyer. A black tutu over sweat pants is pretty daring for him. It was all in fun and they probably gained a new respect for Bob and for any man who wears a tutu out in public.

(Laugh, laugh, giggle) The Tutu Walk, aka "Aim at Melanoma Walk", will be at the Freedom Park in Charlotte, NC on Saturday November 16th. Here's where to find the official info and walkers to support and how to register to walk. A quick check, as of right now, reveals that neither Rich nor Mark have registered for this year's Tutu walk though they WILL be there in full regalia. Keep a check on Aim's page though and throw some support their way. Throw some my way...I've registered. Throw some on any of us as it all goes to the same place.

And come join us. Have a great laugh at Rich and Mark and laugh with the rest of us about any and every thing. Get your fair share of hugs and be greedy if you wish...get all the hugs you want!

It's not just about raising money for melanoma research. It's about meeting each other and reuniting with those we already have hugged. It's a weekend that begins on Friday, walks on Saturday, and says good bye on Sunday.

It's the Great Tutu Walk of Charlotte, NC and it's the place to be November 16th!

See ya then and there!


Saturday, July 20, 2013

Time to Talk The Walk. The Charlotte, NC Aim Walk, That Is!

Can I just say "Ditto!" to all my posts last year about our Aim At Melanoma Walk in Charlotte, NC? Do a blog search and be astounded, amazed, and amused at my posts and song renditions. No barfing, please.

The only change, this year, is the date. November 16th. Still at Freedom Park. Still guys in tutus. Still people flying and driving in from all over...but only MORE people!

Here's the official link to all the info you need.

Here's the official link to my fundraising page on Aim's site. But you can also feel free to give to any of my fellow walkers. It all goes to the same place.

OK, here's the lowdown for all who follow our blogs. Chelsea Price, Adventures With My Enemy, Melanoma; Rich McDonald, Hotel Melanoma; Al Estep, Black Is The New Pink; Susan Visch Hayes, Jillian's Journey With Melanoma-A Mother's Story; Timna Understein, Respect The Rays; Anjannette Figueroa-Bess, Light Skinned Mother; Melissa Collins, Melissa-Melanoma Sucks!; Jennifer and Steven Martin, Just Another Bump in the Road; Donna Piunt, The Cancer Spot; Alicia Bowling, The Skin I'm In; Erin Youngerberger, Melanoma and the City...and I hope I haven't forgotten anybody. Let me know if I have! But all these wonderful people will be there! That's the plan as of RIGHT NOW! Jean Schlipmann, from Aim at Melanoma, will come up from Texas. Our favorite "Don't Stop Believin" stage 4 warrior, Mark Williams, will be flying in with his little buddy and three tutus. Anne Bowman is doing her fabulous job as Aim's Charlotte Chair in getting this all together. As you can tell, with us all traveling, we'll be getting there on the 15th and many will be staying through to the 17th.

So. Make your plans and mark your calendars and join us in Charlotte, NC on November 16th in Freedom Park! Let's come together and do our part to say "buh-bye" to this nasty disease.

Won't we ALL be grateful when that day comes?!


Friday, July 5, 2013

Psalm 6

From the New Living Translation

O Lord, don’t rebuke me in your anger
    or discipline me in your rage.
Have compassion on me, Lord, for I am weak.
    Heal me, Lord, for my bones are in agony.
I am sick at heart.
    How long, O Lord, until you restore me?
Return, O Lord, and rescue me.
    Save me because of your unfailing love.
For the dead do not remember you.
    Who can praise you from the grave?

I am worn out from sobbing.
    All night I flood my bed with weeping,
    drenching it with my tears.
My vision is blurred by grief;
    my eyes are worn out because of all my enemies.

Go away, all you who do evil,
    for the Lord has heard my weeping.
The Lord has heard my plea;
    the Lord will answer my prayer.
May all my enemies be disgraced and terrified.
    May they suddenly turn back in shame.

As I continue my look back at how the Psalms spoke to my heart after my melanoma stage 3b diagnosis and apply them to all of life's calamities, I am reminded, by this one, of something I felt at the time.

I never felt like God was angry at me and that melanoma was a divine punishment for some grave sin. Some people do and I realize that. I didn't and never have. I did, however, feel like God was disappointed in me. Again, this is me. He had nagged me for decades to get my mole removed and I refused. I didn't like needles or medical procedures and I sure didn't go around volunteering for any. Especially since I didn't have 20/20 foresight. My mama's idea that my mole would, one day, give me trouble was asinine to me. It was a mole for crying out loud. She just liked to see me at the doctor's office and was using that mole as an excuse to get me there (that was in the back of my rebellious mind). I couldn't remember ever not having that mole and it was going to be on me when I died. I tell ya, that sure sounded good and feasible to my teenage mind and to my twenty-something mind. Shoot. Even my thirty-something mind liked it. That thought pleased me until I was almost 49!

It never, ever, never crossed my mind that that thing could literally be the death of me. It made me weak-kneed and it hurt all over when I received my diagnosis. Catastrophes can make us ache all over. They just can. And we cry out to God for compassion and restoration.

And we know we'll never be restored to where we were before. We'll never be the same and our lives are forever altered. That's the nature of calamity. It just is. And that sucks, doesn't it? So we cry and we cry out. Loud. That's our nature.

And God hears and answers. That's God's nature. We know God is at work in our troubles and He will rescue us from our storms. We may not know when. We may not know how. But we know He will. Our diseases can, and do, do much damage and bring death. Our other types of catastrophes can also. But at some point they will go away. That is the hope and the promise. 

We may experience relief in this lifetime. That happens. While life and health are never what they were, they can actually be better as we re-prioritize and learn to savor life and treasure the gift that it is and the people who are in it in a whole new way. 

We can know seasons of NED (no evidence of disease). Finances can straighten out. Jobs can be gotten. Pain can eventually subside to a degree, or at least become manageable. We may even smile again. We can know relief from pain.

All relief, in this lifetime, will be temporary. Even if it lasts until the end of my life, that relief will end when I do.  

BUT, God's rescue is eternal. My enemies will be dealt with. For good. It will happen.

That is the hope. That is the promise.