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Updates

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 31-40

Update 31: December 4

Melody Raines

The fire alarm went off! Right in the middle of my heart test! Unsure if Blue Cross would pay for another retest, I didn't budge. The tech had left the radio on, so I lay perfectly still in the tube and listened to George Strait sing the "Christmas Cookies" song. Someone finally stuck his head in the door and assured me, "We're checking to see if it's a real fire. We'll come get you." Then I heard him tell the tech, "She has less than two minutes left. Let's let her finish." So I reminisced about all the false alarms we had when I taught high school. The best was when our administration, in its post 9/11 jitters, evacuated the whole school because a locker was ticking. It was a band metronome. Do bombs still tick? I'll have to ask Jack Bauer.
 
As soon as my two minutes were up, the tech yanked me out from under the camera and ripped all the monitors off of me. Ouch. I grabbed my bag and left, dodging wheelchairs and IV poles as I drove out of the garage. I'm so glad I wasn't in a hospital gown.
 
But I still failed. My heart is actually weaker than it was three weeks ago. My ejection fraction is now down to 43%. So I won't have any more chemo for the rest of this year. I'll have another heart test on January 7. Chemo man decided I won't make up all the doses I'm missing. He's hoping to resume treatments in January and then stop in February. Looks like I'll be done sooner than I thought.
 
And it looks like I'll have a chemo-free holiday. Hope yours is great too.
 
Thanks, everybody!
Melody

Some of you have asked how you can pray specifically for my heart. This is all I can come up with:
"So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity" (Colossians 3:12-14 NASB).

Update 32: January 22

Melody Raines

I haven't had a new year's resolution since 1994. I'm still working on that one. So when my friends asked about mine for this year, I had to come up with something quick. "Quit smoking," I decided. That'd be easy.
 
Charlotte piped up with a better one, "Melody's new year's resolution is to get off drugs." I accepted the challenge.
 
I had another MUGA scan (heart test) on January 7. My ejection fraction (output) had only risen one point in the last month. I failed again (44%). Chemo man has decided my risk of heart failure outweighs my risk of a cancer recurrence. I won't be getting anymore chemo. So tomorrow I'm going to see my surgeon and say good-bye to my port-a-bump. And because I'm losing my port, I no longer need to take blood thinners.
 
So with that, ladies and gentlemen, I am pleased to announce that I have already accomplished both of my new year's resolutions for the year. I'm Melody Raines, and I've been clean for eight days.
 
I met with a cardiologist last week. He decided not to prescribe anything for me. Anything he gave me would lower my blood pressure. I'm already touching the barely-alive zone (80's/50's), so no meds for me. I'll go back to see the heart doctor next Monday (January 28) for a stress test and an echo. And I'm meeting with a plastic surgeon on February 4. We'll see what happens after that.
 
Thanks for hanging in there with me for another year,
Melody
 
"Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me" (Psalm 51:10 NASB). 

Update 33: March 23

Melody Raines

I'm back on drugs again (I told you I had problems with New Year's resolutions). For the first time ever, I had to get prescription meds for my allergies. Cedar fever took me down. But steriods up my nose brought some relief. And I'm about to take more drugs. I'm going under the knife again. This time I'm starting the reconstructive process. My first surgery is Tuesday, March 25.
 
If you live in Austin, please hug gently.
 
Thanks,
Melody
 
"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!" (2 Corinthians 5:17)

Update 34: August 30

Melody Raines

Some of you know that I was scheduled to have my last reconstructive surgery this Tuesday. My plastic surgeon called this afternoon and postponed the surgery because I have the shingles. Yes, the shingles. My mom calls them Job's boils. After they clear up we can reschedule the surgery.
 
The good news is my parents will arrive any minute. Now I can spend the week playing with them here in Austin. Should be lots of fun. But if you see me out and about, please don't hug me. It will hurt. And if you're pregnant or you've never had the chicken pox, don't even touch me. 
http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/shingles/DS00098/DSECTION=symptoms
 
Some of you also know that I had a polyp removed on Thursday. I'm doing well and should get the biopsy results on Tuesday.
 
Thanks for praying. And thanks to those of you who had already signed up to bring me meals.
 
Y'all are the best!
Melody
 
"Many are the plans in a man's heart, but it is the LORD's purpose that prevails" (Proverbs 19:21).

Update 35: October 13

Melody Raines

I’ve recovered from the shingles and rescheduled my last reconstructive surgery. I’ll go in tomorrow (Tues). Today I’m working through my typical pre-op to-do list: laundry, bank, airport (Mom), pharmacy, phone calls, emails, bills, cleaning and anything else that will require arms or a brain for the next two weeks. Because tomorrow my arms and brain are going on vacation courtesy of Seton Hospital. 

Surgery feels like overseas travel. You wear yourself out preparing for it. When the day finally comes, you willingly submit yourself to an agonizing flight that leaves you barely able to function the next day. It can take a week to recover. But you know the exhaustion, brain fog and discomfort are worth it, so you press through it. Eventually you find yourself in a new normal. And yeah, it’s worth it. 

My Seton Hospital flight departs at 11 AM tomorrow. Thanks for praying.

Melody

“[God] doesn’t scrimp on his traveling companions. It’s smooth sailing all the way with God of the Angel Armies” (Psalm 84:11-12 The Message).

Update 36: December 8

Melody Raines

When I started taking seminary classes, I knew that with a full-time job and a long commute, it would take me ten years to graduate. But I figured I'd be ten years older anyway; I might as well be ten years older with a degree. Five years into this plan, I decided I needed to finish faster, because, by golly, God had a plan for me and I'd better get on with it. So I got a job with a more flexible schedule and finished my classes within the next two years. All I had to do now was write my thesis.
 
At that point, I moved to Austin, and life changed. Cancer became my teacher and taught me more about God than I could ever learn in seminary. In the middle of all the surgeries and chemo, many of you told me I should write a book about my life. My advisor agreed with you. He let me write my story for my thesis. I finished it this summer, and this Friday I'm graduating--half a year early.

You'd think that after 9½ years I'd know why I was getting this degree and how I planned to use it. I do have some plans, but none of them requires a master's degree in Communication. I'm helping LifeWay Christian Resources and the North American Mission Board do some research on working with immigrants. I'm doing some freelance editing, and I've enlisted some friends to help me edit my thesis so I can publish it next year. When I'm not working on any of those projects, I babysit, volunteer at my church's office, and, of all things, play hostess at a model home. What kind of degree do you need for that?

A few weeks ago, God did give me a specific directive on what He wanted me to do with my degree. "Trust Me," He said. Apparently that's a life-long job, a job I'm still learning how to do. But these last 9 ½ years have certainly helped prepare me. It sounds like God has a plan for me, so, by golly, I’d better get on with it. I hope to see you along the way.
 
Still learning,

Melody

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5-6). 

Update 37: April 15

Melody Raines

My church is amazing. You know that already, but I need to brag again. On Easter Sunday we watched a video of how the gospel is changing lives at The Austin Stone Community Church. I was honored to be included in it.
 

http://vimeo.com/moogaloop.swf?clip_id=4125092&server=vimeo.com&show_title=1&show_byline=1&show_portrait=0&color=&fullscreen=1

 
I'm grateful to be a part of this church and humbled to be loved by such an incredible God. His gospel heals everything that's broken.
 
Melody
 
"For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power" (1 Thessalonians 1:4-5). 

Update 38: December 14

Melody Raines

Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery, and he ended up in Egypt running Potiphar’s household. Potiphar’s wife accused Joseph of assaulting her, and he ended up running the jailhouse. He interpreted some dreams for his fellow inmates, and one of them recommended him to Pharaoh. Pharaoh promoted him from prisoner to the number two man in the country. And in the next few years, Joseph had two sons. “The second son he named Ephraim and said, ‘It is because God has made me fruitful in the land of my suffering’” (Genesis 41:52).

I came to Austin intending to be fruitful. I quickly discovered that a seed has to die before it bears fruit (John 12:24). I didn’t expect to see this much suffering—or bear this much fruit. The last 3 ½ years seem unreal. Did I really walk through that? And why did all these wonderful people chose to walk through it with me? How did I get to this amazing city in the first place? I can’t believe God planted me in such a remarkable church and surrounded me with a community of friends I never could have asked for. What an undeserved gift. God has made me fruitful in the land of my suffering.

He has made me so fruitful that I don’t even see this as the land of my suffering. I see Austin as my healing place. Here God has healed me physically, emotionally, spiritually, and socially—in places I didn’t even know I was broken. He has removed cancer and death from more places than you can see. God has gone deep into my heart to remove idols and fears, and He has replaced them with a joy that springs from faith in His love for me.

As I was reading the Joseph story a few months ago, I was also praying about where God wanted me to live next. My roommate got married last month, and our lease ends next month. That puts me in transition again. While I read about Joseph bringing his father and brothers to live near him in Egypt and I wondered about my own housing situation, God reminded me of something He’s been telling me for years now, “Love your parents.” Usually I ask him how. This time His answer was to move right into their lives—like He did to mine (John 1:14). And He’s made it easy for me to do that. My work-from-home job is mobile. Medically, I’m down to check-ups. And the seeds I’ve been planting are ready to be tended by others. It’s time to love my parents up close and personal.

So in a few days, I’ll throw some boxes in the back of their SUV and head to my new home. Before I do, though, I want to thank you for being a part of my growth here in Austin. Thank you for being a part of that wherever you live. I’m asking God to make you fruitful too, even in the land of your suffering.

 

Melody

 

“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit” (Jeremiah 17: 7-8).