Saturday, January 14, 2012

The White Elephant

Do you ever have something on your heart that won't leave you alone? You go about your day to day activities, but that pesky, nagging little thing just keeps popping up? I've had this irritant for over a year now, and it's getting louder and louder, demanding my attention. 

Jillian was diagnosed a year ago, this past September, with stage IV melanoma. In October, that same year, Jillian had surgery to remove a tumor, along with half her liver. After a ten day stay at the hospital, Jillian came home to recover. She breezed through it all, with no complications. Soon after, she wanted to see her sister play Powder Puff football at the local high school. We made arrangements to borrow a wheelchair, and off we went. Her oldest brother, Jonathan, pushed the wheelchair, while I winced every time they went over a bump. For me, it was not a fun evening. My athletic daughter was being pushed in a wheelchair in front of a hundred familiar people. I tried to keep my mind on the game, and to watch my youngest daughter, Jennie play, but I may as well have been on another planet. Planet C. A whole other world. 

What was intended to be a fun family outing, ended up being very difficult. The White Elephant had arrived. I would see it on their faces. Some people hadn't heard about Jillian's melanoma, others had. Those people greeted us, asked how Jillian was doing, and wished her well. But it really felt as if some of them couldn't wait to hurry off, back to the safety of their own lives. Away from the White Elephant. 

We can forward a bit to November, the day after Thanksgiving. Jillian completed her first stereotactic radio surgery where three brain tumors were targeted. Again, she breezed through the treatment, and we settled in to wait the four weeks until her next scans. 

By this time I had already started Jillian's care page. It was just so much easier to update the care page, rather than having to answer phone calls and email. There are several nice things about the care page, but one of the things I love is to read the comments. So many posts of love, encouragement, support, and prayer. It felt so good to know so many people were supporting Jillian.  And I can see who is following her journey too. I like knowing that all of my family and friends are kept aware of what is going on. 

One evening, soon after the football game, I met several friends for dinner. We hadn't been in touch for awhile, and it felt great to connect with them again. Everyone wanted to know the details of Jillian's treatment plan, and her next steps. It was difficult to share everything without feeling that thick lump rise in my throat, and not to have my eyes well up in tears. ARRGGHHHHHH...stop it! I just want to sit here and have dinner, I just want to catch up with each of you. I don't want to be the center of attention. Just tell me about YOUR families, your lives. And so they did, and here comes my rub.

One of my friends had been talking about her daughter, what she was up to, where she was working, how she didn't see her much. How she would go to school, go to work, stop at the tanner, come home and...........................................................

My world stood still. I could hear loud noise all around me, but I couldn't hear any more words. All I could hear was my own inner voice screaming, "What did you just say? Have you been listening at all? Are you kidding me"???????

I cannot get that exchange out of my head. I recently told someone about it and she asked me, "Did you say anything"? And in my shame, I replied, "No". It felt like the White Elephant was in the room that night. I am ashamed of myself. I had an opportunity to raise melanoma awareness, and I blew it. 

Well, things have changed for me since that night a year ago. There is no longer a White Elephant in the room. Not in any room I enter. I realized then that if I had a hard time talking about cancer, how must it be for a 21 year old? 

I started Jilly's Jem's because I wanted the elephant out of the room. I wanted to make jewelry, raise awareness, and involve Jillian in it. Without shoving it in her face. It's always there, it's a part of our lives now, but good things have happened. I believe that is so important. The good things, and the rich, rich blessings. And I don't even want to say, "in spite of it", I want to say, "Because of it". 

I don't know where this road is taking me, but I know it revolves around raising melanoma awareness. I will try not to miss those opportunities like I did before.

I have complete faith that God will work out the details.



  1. Jilly is so fortunate to have a loving mother that wants to raise awareness right alongside her. Every post you make inspires me to fight harder and raise my voice louder, regardless if it makes people uncomfortable or not.

    1. Thank you Becca! We will ROAR!! Hugs to you :)

  2. Sue- I had an experience similar to this but it was a person MY age who was going to the tanner- for her 'base' tan- now here is the kicker! She is an RN and her husband is an internist in town!!

    1. Pammy, When the medical community is so uninformed, it just makes me more determined to spread awareness. :)

    2. No one ever thinks it's going to happen to them.

  3. I think I have taken the same approach as you. Were I once was either afraid or too stunned to speak up I now never pass up a chance to educate somebody. Great Post.

  4. Thank you Paul. If we've educated just one person, than it is worth any discomfort we may experience. :)

  5. I feel like I could have written this...I am learning to get rid of the white elephants myself...I feel like I want to hear other people's problems and not be such the focal point and then realized, well if I am the focal point I might as well talk from the heart with honesty without holding anything back...Good for you!