Sunday, June 24, 2012

The Beauty in Devastation...

A fellow melanoma warrior, and the author of blog, Welcome to the Hotel Melanoma, Rich McDonald, posted the above picture. This photo was taken last night near Manitou Springs, Colorado. I’ve never lived in an area where there are wildfires, so it’s hard for me to imagine what it would be like living in the path of such destruction. But I can certainly imagine the fear and anxiety it would cause. Your family, your home, your loved ones are being threatened, and there isn’t a damn thing you can do about it. Sound familiar? Yeah…I’m making a parallel.

Melanoma is a beast. It’s a hot dragon that spews out fire and destruction in its path. It has no time table, it has no agenda. It just is. It strips you raw, and swallows up your whole family and everyone around it and then spits you out. It causes fear, and anxiety, and just like that wildfire, there is not a damn thing you can do about the devastation it causes.

This photo ties into the latest efforts in raising melanoma awareness. The face book page, The Faces of Melanoma. This page was created to reveal the Face of Melanoma. To show the world that melanoma cancer has a face, and to share those stories. It’s a place where one can go to post a message to a loved one battling the disease and add a word of encouragement. Or a place just to honor someone no longer with us. I have received several messages telling me that this has been healing for them. Knowing that people care and are supporting them in their journey IS healing.  

The Scars of Melanoma was started because there are those who may see the faces, realize that so and so has melanoma, but they don’t see what lies beneath the face. How can they? This isn’t something that is shared easily. How can they know how vulnerable it feels to the warrior when they step out of the shower and get a glimpse in the bathroom mirror of their scared belly? How can they know how it feels when the scar on your back has gotten three times the size of the original site due to stretching and an infection that set in while trying to heal? How about when our warrior puts on a pair of shorts, or what about the eye patch that is needed every single day?  But yet, these warriors post their scars for the world to see. Why? Because they want to share their stories in the hopes that maybe, just maybe, one person will see. Maybe one person will take this nasty black beast seriously. Perhaps save a life. It takes tremendous courage to push through the hesitation and uncertainty. 

So as I look at the fire, and I think about all the devastation it is causing, I cannot help but see beauty. There is beauty in the devastation. These faces, and these scars are beautiful. They are beautiful because they tell a story. Your story.

So while you are fighting your battle with courage and determination, O mighty Warrior, know that you are the beauty in devastation.

The above pages are part of a multi-pronged effort with Rev Carol Taylor. She has created a website called Faces and Scars of Melanoma. This site is dedicated to honor those battling melanoma, and to remember those no longer with us. It also has a page dedicated to acknowledge efforts being made to raise awareness. Please feel free to join us. No. I encourage you to join us. :)



Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Meandering with Melanoma....

Jillian continues to deal with the effects from the treatment of this disease, Melanoma Cancer.. Most recently, she has been having blurred vision. We think it is related to being in the sun without sunglasses. The drug she is on, Zelboraf, causes extreme sun sensitivity. So not only is it important to wear sun screen, and sunglasses, it is critical. She can be out in the sun for only 3 minutes and blister without protection. As her mother, mama bear, I have to juggle between being concerned and proactive, with being a ‘worry wart’, and hovering. I think, with Jillian’s help, I’ve pretty much mastered it. Finally. One of her eye flashing looks will tell me I’ve crossed the line. One of her grins tells me, I love you anyway mom. J

Recently I finished reading the book, Unbroken , by Laura Hillenbrand. This is a story of a World War II POW. A story of survival, resilience, and redemption. It’s one of those books that stay with you. I’ll find myself thinking about a particular chapter, and I can’t help but compare this man’s story with Jillian, and my fellow Melanoma Cancer warriors, and their stories.

 I stand in awe of the human instinct for survival. I am amazed at what the human body can endure. Oh, you hear the stories, so and so has melanoma and is undergoing chemo. So and so has melanoma and is in the hospital waiting for his T-Cells to grow. So and so just had surgery, so and so completed full brain radiation. Uh huh. You hear those stories, but do you? I think it’s normal to hear them, say a quick prayer, and then look at the “to do” list hanging on the refrigerator.  Do we really know what it means to have melanoma cancer?  These Faces of Melanoma are the hero’s, the true warriors. These faces are going through treatment, while trying to live a normal life. They have families, they go to work. They jog twice a day whether they feel like it or not. They have to remember their medications, have them refilled. They have to schedule time around their Dr. appointments and scans. They have to accommodate their schedules for feeling crappy and fatigued. Something I was reminded of today. These Faces of Melanoma undergo trials. Jillian did last summer. These Faces are at the forefront of new discoveries, and they endure the effects of the treatment, without knowing the outcome. They do it for themselves, and they do it for you.  And yet, through it all, these Faces of Melanoma thrive. They know how precious each day is. Rarely do they take those days for granted. They are loving and compassionate, and they always give of themselves to others in spite of their own challenges.

Last Sunday, I started the day feeling sorry for myself. Jenni moved into an apartment on Friday with friends, getting ready to begin college in the fall. I spent the day Saturday working in my yard. I was just plain weary. And I think my last cub leaving the den hit harder than I thought it would. So, while sitting in church that morning, I almost walked out the door. I could feel the lump forming in my throat, and the tears threatening to fall. But I stayed, and I’m glad I did. I needed to hear the message, because it was intended just for me. :) The pastor reminded me that while things don’t always make sense, He is with us while we meander, and that we pick up people along the way to meander with us. And this is so true for our family.

 The Faces of Melanoma. So happy to meet you, and to share in your journey. You have blessed my life far beyond my imagination. And I promise you. I will walk beside you, and I will fight for you. I will never stop.