Tuesday, September 29, 2009

How Do You Plead, Mrs. McClendon?

Minus Gray; Charlie, Buck & Elizabeth
With four children, it's extremely difficult to read anything other than menus, the entire label on the back of a bottle of adult cough medicine (usually at 2 am with an underweight, underage child hacking at the side of my bed) or stain remover instructions. I have magazines all over my house because I crave the feeling of reading something, anything, from start to finish. Yesterday proved to be different-- I had the opportunity to read a book, a short book albeit, in between all my tests at the hospital. The last time that happened, I had elected to fight a traffic ticket and read "A Girl named Zippy" while waiting for my name to be called from the docket. The judge kept looking at me because I would read a part that was so funny I would crack up and interrupt her questioning ("And did you not know your cousin had stolen your car while you were passed out?"). In an attempt to control my outbursts, I would cover my mouth with my hand and my shoulders would uncontrollably bounce up and down--you know, the kind of laugh that's usually reserved for church, weddings and funerals. I may have lost that $145 argument, but I won in spades with my stolen afternoon on that bench.

Since the day of my diagnosis, I have been consumed with the thoughts of where the cancer may have spread. I told myself repeatedly, "well heck Melinda, if it's in your lymph nodes, it's probably everywhere....it's covered your liver like creeping fig, your brain is speckled and your lungs, well it's a wonder you can still breathe." I imagined how I would break the news to my already-terrified babies, how my sweet Ted would handle it, and of course, how Daddy Frank would take the news. I began questioning every decision I was having to make; wondering if the hospital and doctor I had chosen would be able to help by cancer-ridden body. I went so far as to imagine David Johnston singing "I Can Only Imagine" at my funeral. Poor me. Poor pitiful me.

When the nurse called Monday morning to schedule the tests, I sat motionless on the side of my bed and wrote down all the necessary tests on an invoice from MORE magazine (Second Notice). This was a last-minute plan, luckily, so I didn't have time to contemplate all the possibilities. I dressed, picked up a few magazines and at the last second, grabbed a book that I bought several months ago, thinking I'd read it poolside this past summer. I never got to the pool, so the book held my coffee cup on my bedside table when I folded laundry.

A brain MRI, a full body MRI and a bone CT scan kept me busy for nearly 6 hours. The tests were just what you'd expect, but the time in between--waiting for syrup, dye and iodine-laced cherry water to enter my veins/bones/organs--took forever. If you've never had any of these tests at the Medical Center, you don't know what you're missing. Did you know that they have a machine that is designed specifically for warming blankets? They do. And they give you a new one every time you lay down on a different table. It's really quite nice. Anyway, the waiting allowed me to pull out that little "coaster" and start reading. And read I did!

Andy Andrews is a New York Times best selling author. He's a life coach of sorts. He motivates people to be better through a series of very successful books and international conferences. He's a pretty big deal. I've never read his stuff before, but I liked the subject matter on this one and thought I might give it a try. And he's from Dothan. Went to First Baptist where I think his daddy was the music minister years ago. "The Noticer," is a book about Perspective and if you've not noticed, that pretty much sums up my philosophy on life. Without giving away the premise, the main character in the book is a God-like figure who encounters every day people in Orange Beach, Alabama, with every day problems. "Jones" as he calls himself, counsels each of the characters and gives them a new perspective on their problems, and ultimately, their blessings. While elementary in presentation, the message is one we all need to be reminded of--if we are capable, even in the most extreme cases, to put our situation into a clear, unbridled perspective, we can walk through any fire, not only unscathed, but grateful for the experience.
As usual, I felt like the luckiest person in that hospital yesterday. Surrounding me were hurting parents of sick children, uninsured patients with chronic illnesses, and people drinking their third pot of coffee anxiously pacing the hallways. And there I sat, in my warm blanket, being reminded of my many blessings and reading a book (cover to cover) that I was confident my God had put in my bag. My perspective is clear. Eternal or otherwise.

My test results today proved Mr. Andrews correct:

40% of the things we worry about will never occur
30% of the things we worry about are things from the past that we can't change anyway
12% of the things we worry about concern needless health issues
10% of the things we worry about are what other people think about us
8% of the things we worry about are actually legitimate

In the past 2 weeks I've wasted a great deal of time and energy worrying about something that falls in 3 of the above categories. Eighty two percent of my thoughts were for naught. Thank you Mr. Andrews, for putting it in perspective for me.
And now that I know the beast hasn't spread all over me like kudzu, I hesitate to say that the battle ahead now seems like a cake walk. Sure, I have a fat-daddy year ahead of me with amazing challenges and dozens of needles (ugh) waiting for me. But trust me, it could be so much worse and that's how my awesome God has prepared my heart for this adventure. I now know who the enemy is and where it is. Ted and I are ready for this battle. So bring it on.

As they say in Geneva County, "I ain't scared." (David McCormick). Now that's perspective!

hugs and kisses!

appointment with Oncologist Scott McAllister here Wednesday a.m.
appointment with Surgical Oncologist Kirby Bland UAB next Wednesday a.m.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Say "Cheese"

This blog thing is very time consuming. I'm used to just writing a few notes to teachers and some checks. Spilling your guts, though cathartic, takes a lot of energy, creativity and time. So if some days you don't hear from me, just know that I'm either tired, have no information, or I'm busy writing bad checks all over town.

Like any cancer patient who is about to start their fight against the beast, I decided it was time to take care of the important things; determining the childcare issues, paying the bills (see above) and finishing any time-sensitive family tasks. I prioritized my list and set out to accomplish the first--I got my teeth whitened! I figured, heck, if I'm gonna be bald, I'm at least gonna have pretty white teeth--and my friend Courtney agreed with me, in fact, she really talked me into it. She said it would be a nice distraction. Not to mention, my sweet husband Ted can't hardly say no to me these days. So now, after a little chemo and radiation, I just may glow in the dark!

Speaking of radiating, I went to my first breast cancer event last night at Calvary and heard Birmingham television personality Brenda Ladun talk about her two-time battle with cancer. I'm sure she gave a wonderful presentation, but honestly, the only word I heard her say up on that stage was "SURRENDER." After that, everything else sounded like Charlie Brown's teacher. wawaaawaaawawaaawa. There it was, right in front of me. The solution to my problem: I'd not surrendered it all to God. I was talking the talk, but the walkin' part wasn't jiving. It was ok if God wanted me to have this cancer, but I wanted to take over at that point. A little power struggle was-a-brewin'. I've decided that He can have all the big stuff and I'll worry about sweeping up His crumbs. And I'm not even worthy of that!

Yesterday, I reread my last blog and boy, you could cut the anxiety with a butter knife. whew! The entry about the doctors and the coconut shells was perfectly descriptive of how I was feeling, (note to self: surrender) but low and behold if I didn't get an email from my sweet high school friend Traci Sprenger V. and she told me that God would be under all the shells, not just one!!!. duh. By telling me of her own experience, she reminded me that God doesn't operate that way and that he would never abandon me like that! So within an hour, I had received two incredible messages that not only put Satan back in his little red chair, but it re energized me to focus on my maker, not the taker. Boy, I feel better.

My doctors appt. went ok today. But I confirmed that my tumors are pretty darn big, so they are more than likely going to schedule chemo, heavy, heavy chemo before any surgery. I'm still in limbo--although my files, charts, etc., have all been rec'd by the docs at UAB, they can't see me any time real soon. So I'm making calls to PEOPLE WHO KNOW PEOPLE to pull any and all strings that I can. Kirby Bland is the man. To quote Norma Hanson, he's P.L.U. That's "People Like Us" for all of you outside the Houston County metro area. He's from Abbeville for gosh sakes.

I almost bought a blow dryer today. LOL

Surrender all people. Surrender all!

love bunches

p.s. Dona Stickler and Courtney Mann are organizing a team for the Breast Cancer Awareness walk/run on October 10 here in Dothan. Please go to Dona's blog @ www.thestickler7.blogspot.com if you would like to participate.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

You know when you go to a Chinese restaurant, the paper place mat has all the Chinese New Year's animals and the birth years that coincide? You remember, like if you were born in 1963 or 1976 or 1984 or whatever... you were born under the sign of the Pig. I don't know what that means exactly, maybe something to do with growing an abundance of grain... but I was certainly fascinated by the seemingly accurate predictions it made. I would neatly roll up the place mat and take it home for further study. And in my youth (at my age I can assign that description to my early-20's) I could hardly wait to read my horoscope to learn my destiny for the day. I took it so seriously that my girlfriend and I would call one another daily to discuss the "amazing similarities" of the Gemini and Scorpio prognostications. No wonder we were so compatible. It was in the stars......duh?

Heck, I even saw a palm reader one time (forgive me Lord) in Sweet Water, Alabama. I was in the midst of a shaky relationship and I needed the skinny on my man. She was very nice, but not very intuitive. Why, she never even mentioned a "Ted" and was waaaaay off about that career thing. And no, she didn't wear a turban and a bunch of fake Sarah Coventry jewelry. I remember she had long red nails with "real" diamonds glued on the tips. I'd never seen that before. Or since.

And just so you know, I read the last box of the comic strip before the first. What's up with that?

Anyway, the point I'm trying to make here is that I'm the kind of person who NEEDS TO KNOW. And for what appears to be the most important, LET'S FACE IT, life or death decision I've ever made, I'm totally confused and feel as though I have no control. I feel like I'm playing the shell game on Let's Make A Deal. Monty Hall has three coconut halves and under each one is a doctor's name and his/her plan for my cure. Of the three, there's only one that's effective, the other two, not so much. Carole Merrill, who of course is in a pink chiffon dress, is trying to distract and confuse me. She's spinning the shells and pushing them in and out and around one another. She's talking really fast and Monty Hall is behind her giving me a counter-point to every point she makes. The game clock is ticking very loud and fast, but in order to get any prize, booby or otherwise, I have to pick one right now, right this minute !!! Crazy, yes I know. But consider the frame of mind of the author..... (why did the guests on that show wear costumes?)

I say all this to tell you that I'm not the grounded, gifted woman of faith that you think I am. I am a wayward, sinful Christian who is struggling with letting go of control. I have a very nice comfort zone from which I operate. This cancer thing is messing up my charts and to do lists you see. Yes, I believe this whole ordeal is an opportunity to glorify God, and I know that it is God and only God who will heal me. But let's not get carried away. I'D RATHER LIVE AS AN UNPUBLISHED AUTHOR THAN DIE A POPULAR BLOGGING MARTYR. Did that sound bad? The anxiety is creeping in just a tad, but through my exhaustion and self doubt God (and good friends) are reminding me of Paul's words in Philippians, "I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances." Paul was one cool cucumber. Why just before they chopped off his head he publicly reaffirmed his faith.

When Buck was born with Down syndrome, I grieved the loss of the child I didn't have. What a big bunch of wasted time that was. Buck is the bomb. I can't imagine my life without him, or my other children for that matter. But had I been in the "word" instead of reading stale tea leaves, I would've known that a lot sooner. I suppose that anxiety and fear are symptoms of all hardships. That's why there are thousands of books written on the subject. (I have several myself.)I just need to be reminded that God is the only soothing balm for what ails me and that his book is filled with predictions that are worthy of betting on.

I sent all my film and results to Dr. Kirby Bland in B'ham today. He's going to review everything and make preliminary plans for my treatment. Hopefully they can squeeze me in next week. Pray specifically that he is the man that God would have me see and that somebody somewhere cancels their appointment with him so that I can have it :)

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with THANKSGIVING, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:6-7

love to all,


Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Never Say Never

first of all, just let me say, I AM NOT A BLOGGER. in fact, i don't even read blogs. (well, except for the political ones.) the fact that I have one is cracking me up. who in their right mind could possibly care about my daily activities??? my rote behavior is textbook stay-at-home-mom stuff; wash clothes, fold clothes, put up clothes. load dishwasher, unload dishwasher, cook, make beds, etc. you know the rewarding drill. but i suppose with my recent appointment as resident cancer patient, my "now" completely unpredictable life may well have just become fodder for beauty shop gossip. (hey kris and shelley)

this blog is the brainchild of my two great friends, Dona and Courtney. it just dawned on me that they are probably already tired of spreading my hourly and daily updates! and who can blame them? let's review the details to date:

1. knot under right arm--early summer (ignored it!)
2. lumpectomy on sept. 10--removed 2 lymph nodes
3. "the call" wednesday sept. 16 "Mrs. McClendon, it's not what we expected..."
4. breast mri--friday sept. 18
5. "the 2nd call" --monday sept. 21/a.m. "Mrs. McClendon, can you come in....?"
6. ultrasound, 2 needle biopsies(ouch) and mammogram--monday sept. 21/p.m.
7. 'the 3rd call" tuesday sept. 22/pm diagnosis--"Mrs. McClendon, do you have something to write with?"



well, you'd think with all that in my one boob that i'd atleast be a full C-cup. let me be living proof that flat-chested women can compete!

consider yourself up to date. but be confident and know that ted and i are prayerful and joyful about our options. there are some incredible people out there who have spent their entire lives studying nothing but the life-span of a mutated cell. who, unlike me, never skipped school.... God will surely put the right one in our path.

this blog is going to cover a broad range of subjects, some of which may interest you, others not so much. this blog will not have any delicious recipes, time-saving or otherwise; i'm pretty sure i won't show you any photos of my nasty house and i will most definitely not discuss fashion (you knew that though....) this blog is a public admission of my lazy and intermittent relationship with Almighty God and how his incredible Grace is going to love me unconditionally through this entire lousy ordeal. but i must confess right now and up front--i am keenly aware that this is God's battle, not mine, not the doctors, not ted's, not even my sweet daddy frank's. i'm praying only that God enlightens me with greater wisdom of his almighty power and then nourishes my soul with the contentment of an eternal perspective. so if that seems interesting enough to you, i'd love for you to take this journey with me.

i've already shared this with some of you, but i truly feel like God has tapped me on the shoulder to be in this very exclusive bible study that He is going to lead. for the next year, we're going to get deeper into His word, taking copious notes and memorizing text (yikes). i'll have some exams, a few field trips for good measure and maybe some pop quizzes to remind me who's really in charge....anyway, i woke up the morning after call number 1 (refer to #3 above) and told ted i felt like i needed to go shopping for school supplies. within the hour, 2 sweet friends brought to me spiral notebooks, beautiful journals and an inspirational book of prayer! now how awesome is that? can i get an amen from the girls in the balcony?!!

I have this incredible peace about this entire experience. (except for the part about who's gonna keep 4 kids while we're out.) God is awesome and i am truly blessed to be one of his children. He will walk with me through this ordeal and hopefully be proud of me on the other side of it.

"For I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, 'Do not fear; I will help you.' " Isaiah 41:13

Thanks for listening
Oh yea, I had a clear mammogram on May 8, 2009.


Welcome to Melinda's new blog. She will be posting as soon as the drugs wear off from her dental appointment this morning! She will be updating about all her "stuff", so please leave many comments. She wants to know how much we all love her! We are making a schedule for meals/help. We will be calling you...
Courtney and I will be updating when our sweet friend cannot. Dona Stickler