Dearest Friends—old and new,
I just updated all my e-mail contacts and made this group list for personal
updates. If you do not want to receive my updates or you want to receive
them at another address, please let me know. You won't hurt my feelings at
all. And feel free to cancel your subscription at a later date.
Because I added some of you to my contacts only in the last hour, let me
make sure I have everyone updated to this point. Here's the stuff you need
to know. Are you sure you're ready for this? It's rather shocking.
Seriously, take a big breath before you read this.
I moved to Austin, TX.
My little sister died in a car accident.
I found out I have breast cancer.
You okay? Alright, here's what's going on today. I'm having a lumpectomy and
lymph node biopsy at 3:30 this afternoon. I'll be back home tonight. I
should receive the pathology reports by the end of the week. We'll determine
future treatments after that.
For those of you who are already on your knees . . . I'm not asking people
to pray for my healing. I'm certainly not asking you to stop praying for
that, though. Wouldn't that make a great God story? But when you lose your
little sister, you gain a whole new perspective of life and death. I used to
think I believed in Heaven. Now I know I do. I'm so glad I found out about
this cancer after Ashley died and not the other way around. I've realized
that test results and health conditions are really not that important. What
is important is that God loves me. So when you tell my story and ask your
friends to pray for me, don't ask them to pray for my healing. Ask them to
pray that I'll know God loves me.
Thanks for letting Him love me through you,
"May your unfailing love be my comfort" (Ps 119:76).
Read the story as it happened. Starting with the first e-mail I sent to my family and friends, I've compiled my updates I wrote as the story unfolded. Take a few minutes to experience More Great as those who love me did.
Filtering by Category: Updates 1-10
Dearest Friends—old and new,
Alright, who's praying? I've got joy all over me.
I need to clarify some things from Update 1.
I used a lot of medical jargon that I didn't explain. Sorry. The lumpectomy
was a surgical procedure to remove the lump and the surrounding tissue
("margins"). A lymph node biopsy involved surgically removing several lymph
nodes from right underneath my arm. The lump and the surrounding tissue went
to the lab along with the lymph nodes. I'm still waiting for test results
(the pathology report) to know if the margins or the lymph nodes have any
cancer cells in them. That information is what the doctor uses to "stage"
the cancer. Regardless of the results, I really feel like my chances of
survival at this point are, oh, about 100%. I'm just waiting for the test
results to tell me how hard of a journey I have ahead of me.
Please don't think that because I'm not asking people to pray for healing
I'm not expecting it. I'm asking people to pray that I'll know God loves me
because I think that's more important. Some have asked if the doctor has
given me a life expectancy. He hasn't. I'm expecting to live for a few more
decades. My future may be harder than I would have chosen, but I know God
isn't finished with this body. He still has plans for me.
"The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me; your love, O Lord, endures
forever--do not abandon the works of your hands" (Ps 138:8).
See how everything else is centered around His love? If you're really
confused about how to pray for me now, you can borrow Crystal's prayer. I'm
sure she won't mind.
"When I think of the wisdom and scope of your plan Lord, I fall to my knees
and pray to you Father, the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth.
I pray that from your glorious, unlimited resources You will give Melody
mighty inner strength through Your Holy Spirit. And I pray that Christ will
be more and more at home in her heart as she trusts in you. May Melody's
roots go down deep into the soil of your marvelous love. And may she have
the power to understand as all God's people should, how wide, how long, how
high, and how deep your love for her really is. May Melody experience the
Love of Christ, though it is so great that she will never fully understand
it. Then she will be filled with the fullness of LIFE and POWER that comes
from you God.
Now! glory be to You God! By your mighty power at work within Melody,
You are able to accomplish infinitely more than she would ever dare to ask
or hope. May You be given glory in the church and in Christ Jesus forever
and ever through her endless generations!" (Based on Ephesians 3:14-21)
I've dared to ask and hope for some amazing things. Gloria in excelsis Deo!
After I scheduled my first biopsy, I drove home, walked into my apartment,
pulled my cheeks down to my chin and told God, "I wanna cuss." But I
couldn't think of any cuss words (No, Uncle Tim, I do not want a list).
"Well, poop!" is the best thing I can come up with today. I'm going to have
another surgery, probably Tuesday, the 10th. The margin on one side of the
lump contained residual cancer cells. The good news is that these cells are
in situ (had to throw in some Latin for you), which means they're not
invasive. They're just sitting there. This should be the last of the
And here's even better news. The lymph nodes are clean. That means the
cancer hasn't spread to other parts of my body. I have a word for that:
"May your unfailing love rest upon us, O Lord, even as we put our hope in
you" (Ps 33:22)
It's been a wild week. Monday was my birthday (thank you to those who
celebrated with me). Tuesday I met my radiation and medical (chemo)
oncologists. Wednesday I had my pre-op appointment. Thursday I had an MRI. And Friday I met with my surgeon.
All the doctors agree that I need chemo followed by radiation treatments.
The surgeon will put in a port (catheter just under the skin, near my collar
bone) for the chemo during my next surgery.
I will also take a fairly new drug called Herceptin for a year or so because
I am "Her 2 overexpressed/amplified." I have no idea what that means. It
used to mean that my cure rate would be lower than the 80% of breast cancer patients who are not Her 2. But with the use of Herceptin, now my cure rate will be higher than the other 80%. Thank You, God, for Herceptin!
I got a little bad news this week, too. The MRI showed a suspicious
something on my left breast--we've been working on the right. My second
surgery is now postponed pending the results of the yet-to-be-scheduled
biopsy. So for the next few days I will wait and rest and enjoy using my
right arm again.
Thanks for waiting with me,
"The Lord delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his
unfailing love" (Ps 147:11).
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you for waiting and praying with me this week.
The left biopsy results were BENIGN. My surgery to clean out the residual
cancer on the right and put in the chemo port (catheter) is rescheduled for
Tuesday, October 17, at 3pm.
"Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you. I will
praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands"
I don't take hand lifting for granted any more.
I'm amazed at the friends God has given me near and far. Some I've known for years, some since I've come to Austin. Laura, a young lady I worked with for two days in September, came over to dust and vacuum for me. My neighbor Michelle has driven me around town and attended social events with me. Marissa, my roommate who didn't know me until I moved in two months ago, has become my Gaius (see 3 John). My small group at church (the best community group ever) has fed me for a week and accompanied me to doctor's appointments. I introduced myself to them the night before my first biopsy. John and Ruth Ann, friends from my church in Dallas, have fed me, driven me, flown me, and walked with me through one of the hardest days of my life. And there's my friend who's eating every pink ribbon bagel she can find at a Nashville area Panera Bread.
And so many of you have prayed for me. Thank you.
But for those of you who are still asking how you can help, I have an idea:
Race for the Cure.
My incredible friends at Dominican Joe, the coffee shop where I'm supposed
to be working, have made it easy for you. They're forming a team in my
honor. You can join the Dominican Joe team with your feet or with a
donation. If you can't run/walk with them, you can Sleep In for the Cure
(seriously). If you plan to Go To Church for the Cure (the race is on a
Sunday morning), you can choose the Sleep In option. I'm sure no one will
check to see if you're really sleeping (in your bed or in the pew). Or if
you want to keep it simple, you can make an online donation. Go to the
Dominican Joe team page
and click on my name to "Make a gift!" I hope to raise $479. That was the
price of my mammogram and first ultrasound. If I've already met my goal by
the time you donate, please donate under my teammates' names.
And, oh yeah, I'm home recovering from yesterday's surgery. I can still use
both arms. The chemo port is near my left collar bone. It hurts. I hope to
receive the test results from the right margin (where the residual cancer
cells were) by the end of the week.
Thanks for praying and for all those other things you do for me.
"Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love that we may sing for joy
and be glad all our days" (Ps 90:14).
Here's a note from Tasha, one of my former college students.
oh yeah, i wanted to tell you! i was in antioch's
prayer room. . . . i was praying for you & this lady came over to me & told
'i don't know the situation of your friend, but God
gave me a vision that there were two praying w/ her &
linked to them were more & more people. who ever she
is, she is covered in prayer by her fellow brothers &
sisters in Christ! God is holding her heart in His
hands' i was like wow! i thought that'd probably
encourage you =]
That's you, my friends! Thank you.
Now for the pathology report from the last surgery. . . . Bad. The cancer is
multi-focul, which means it's not coming from one source--makes me think of
mold spores. To get it all out, I need a mastectomy. Looks like I'll have
one on Nov 1. After recovery, I'll start chemo and then have reconstructive
Regardless of the bad news, today was a good day. Radiant Magazine posted an
article I wrote about breast cancer. They change the features every few
days, so check it out ASAP (www.radiantmag.com).
Thanks for being such a great support system.
"Unless the Lord had given me help, I would soon have dwelt in the silence
of death. When I said, 'My foot is slipping,' your love, O Lord, supported
me. When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought joy to my
soul. . . . the Lord has become my fortress, and my God the rock in whom I
take refuge" (Ps 94:17-19, 22).
Glossary of terms in this update:
1. chemo man -- my medical oncologist
2. HER2 -- a genetic protein that promotes growth. We should have 2 copies
of the HER2 gene in every cell. My cancer cells have more than 2, which
means they duplicate even faster than most other cancers.
3. port-a-catheter (port) -- a big plug for the chemo IV. Its about 1 inch
in diameter and sits maybe 2 inches below my left collar bone. It has a
catheter (tube) attached to it that runs over my collarbone and connects to
the jugular vein in my neck. Then it runs back down into my chest somewhere.
I can see the majority of this contraption bulging under my skin. I'll show
it to you if you want to see it.
Now for the update . . .
I found the perfect wig today. At first I told the saleslady I wasn't sure I
wanted a wig; I'm way too practical to spend so much money on something I
may not even wear. Then she put it on my head. I LOOKED GREAT! I'm going to
wear that thing all the time. I may even shave my head for a year or so just
so I can keep wearing it. Think of all the money I can save on haircuts.
Last Wednesday I met with chemo man, and on Thursday I went to chemo class.
My first chemo treatment will be on Nov 16 (I may have to debut the wig a
little early). I'll take 8 treatments--one every 3 weeks for 24 weeks (until
mid-May). Then I'll take Herceptin, the wonder drug for those of us who are
HER2 positive, once every 3 weeks for a year. So thanks to Herceptin, this
chemo port will be my bosom buddy for the next year and a half.
But I will have no bosom for a while. I'm having a double mastectomy on Nov
1. It's scheduled for 8:30 in the morning and should take only an hour or
two. It's a fairly simple surgery: slice, scoop, sew. Technically, it's an
outpatient surgery, but they want to observe me there at the hospital for 23
hours. That means I'm staying overnight. I hope they don't make me eat
Thanks for all your prayers,
"Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you" (1 Peter 5:7).
Next Halloween I'm going to be a mastectomy. For this year's dress
rehearsal, I'm hunched over a bandaged chest with drainage tubes coming out of each side. My left hand, arm, shoulder, and neck are swollen, and my
jugular vein is bulging. I look like half an angry Popeye. But the
port-a-bump is gone.
My surgeon removed my port this afternoon. I had a blood clot in the vein
it was using. That's why I swelled. Now I'm taking blood thinner injections
and pills (the meds begin). I'm mobile but trying not to bruise or bleed.
There are several infusion options (IV plugs) other than the port-a-catheter. Eventually I'll get whichever one chemo man recommends.
My surgeon informed me of a few things today. First, I'll Sleep In for the
Cure this year. I'll have to wear my pink survivor T-shirt over my pajama
top on race day. Good thing I ordered a size too big. Second, there was no
cancer in the left breast. The right breast did have more cancer, but the
margins were clean. That means we're pretty sure he got all of it out.
Yippee! I'm clean! Well, sort of. I can't bathe until Monday.
Thank you so much for your prayers and encouragement.
"A man with leprosy came to him and begged him on his knees, 'If you are
willing, you can make me clean.' Filled with compassion, Jesus reached out
his hand and touched the man. 'I am willing,' he said. 'Be clean!'" (Mark
Things I can reach again:
1. the coat hooks on the back of my door
2. the tupperware over the kitchen sink
3. the paper plates on top of the refrigerator
I can also walk to my mailbox now. It's a third of an uphill mile away. And
the other day I carried a gallon of milk up the stairs to my apartment. Glad
I didn't buy a Thanksgiving turkey.
I am cleared for chemo tomorrow (Thurs) morning at 8:45. I had an infection where my left drainage tube was, but it's getting better. The blood thinners have dissolved my clot, and my blood counts are now at a safe level. The safe level means I don't have to give myself shots anymore. Yay! The only dilemma now is deciding which arm gets poked in the morning. I lost a lymph node on the right but had the blood clot on the left. Both sides have a low risk of swelling. It's chemo man's call.
I've heard that when you have cancer you have good days and bad days. I've also heard that the reason mountain climbers tie themselves together is to keep the sane ones from going home. Thanks for climbing this mountain with me--especially you sane ones. Even the bad days aren't so difficult when I'm tied to you.
Taking one step at a time,
"And how blessed all those in whom you live, whose lives become roads you
travel; they wind through lonesome valleys, come upon brooks, discover cool springs and pools brimming with rain! God-traveled, these roads curve up the mountain, and at the last turn--Zion! God in full view!" (Psalm 84:5-7 The Message).