Saturday, October 9, 2010

Starting a New Life....The Last Entry.

It's been a while since I updated this blog. So much has happened, it's almost overwhelming trying to figure out where to start. I do need to explain this much...this will be the last entry for this blog. When I started "Never Gonna Break My Faith", it was a way to keep our friends and family updated about Jeff's progress and what we believed would eventually be his story of overcoming the odds and beating his cancer.

After Jeff died, this blog morphed into a way for me to express my deep sadness and heartbreak, but also our gratitude for all the goodness we encountered. The gratitude grew into an idea of how we could create an Urgent Care Cancer Clinic to help those struggling with the side effects of cancer drugs and other health issues that were a direct result of the cancer. Things like fevers, infected PIC lines, blood transfusions, oxygen level checks, severe pain and nausea, rashes, bowel issues...the list could go on for days.

We tried to get the hospitals here in town to understand that we needed this clinic, as well as a dedicated ER room that is designed for the needs of cancer patients. The ER and ambulance staff would also be educated about how to handle cancer tumors could affect blood pressure cuffs, lower lighting and softer voices could help anxiety levels and how special airbeds could alleviate pressure points on sensitive skin that is inflamed from cancer tumors or suffering from severe rashes.

We had visitors from the Siteman 24/7 Cancer Clinic in St. Louis tour a local facility and agree that this idea was necessary and a very real possibility if the hospital could just see past it's self-imposed limits. We thought we were making huge progress. We thought the clinic and the ER room would be a reality.

We were wrong.

It's been a long three years since Jeff was diagnosed and we sat in the surgeon's office and heard the words, "there is nothing else that can be need to get your affairs in order and spend time with your family. You will die from this disease..." I have fought in Jeff's name to right some of the wrongs...I've planted the seeds for an idea that I do believe will happen in time. But it is time I remove myself from the picture. There comes a time when a person can become a hindrance to progress. This has never been about me, or getting Jeff's name on a room. This is about doing the right thing to make it better for cancer patients. The single mothers and fathers who want to live to see their children grow-up; the kindergärtner who just wants to play soccer and get to be a first grader; the husband or wife who just want to live to celebrate another year of life with their family.

The medical community here in Springfield, knows what needs to be done, how to do it and what it will take to make a clinic and dedicated ER a reality. There is nothing more I can do. I had a message to deliver and now that my part is over, I have to believe that the right thing will happen.

Jeff and I were witness to so much heart-felt goodness in his journey with cancer and in my journey since his passing. I know without a doubt that there are good people at work to see these ideas come to fruition.

There may be a brick wall in place right now, but if we are diligent and chip away at it with the right tools...find the chinks in the mortar...see the light that is trying to shine through, then we can remove the obstacles--tangible and intangible--and realize the answers have been there all along. It's just time to take a different approach.

Thank you to everyone who supported me in my efforts and gave me the strength and the drive to keep going when I didn't know how I'd move another step. Through this process I have had the great fortune to meet truly gracious and caring people. I have been surrounded by friends that brought a whole new definition to the meaning of friendship and loyalty.

One bright spot before I end this story--we have decided to establish two scholarships in Jeff's honor and memory. Our goal is to help single parents struggling to achieve academic goals, and also to help kids from families that have experienced economic difficulties. Jeff was a big believer in helping single mothers who were trying to improve life for their children. Education is a gift that should be available to all who have a desire to learn and improve their lives. We hope to be a part of the solution.

My love and deepest gratitude to all...

Holly Melton

Monday, July 19, 2010

Good Bye Jeff and Steph

It has been a little over two years since Jeff died. I recently realized that I have barely had time to completely feel the grief of losing him. Immediately after he passed, I found myself embroiled in a fight for our business that Jeff and I had built together. Over 20 years of Jeff's life and eventually mine, were spent sacrificing time, money, vacations with our kids and time with each other, in order to build our financial planning practice. In the blink of an eye it was gone--stolen by someone whom I thought could be trusted. It was done out of greed and it broke my heart, damaged my business reputation and took a source of income for my children and for me. I am still trying to forgive this person--It's really a hard thing to do. The odd thing is that I have been able to forgive those medically responsible for causing Jeff's late stage cancer diagnosis, but just can't seem to forgive this person--yet. I will get there--I have to--it is not for me to judge--never was. I know this person is perfect in God's eyes--His child that He loves unconditionally--the way I feel about my little ones. So, if God can love and forgive, I really don't have a choice. But it still hurts--and I hate that Jeff worked so hard and I failed to keep it all safe. Maybe I feel I failed to keep him safe--I guess that one's between God and me to figure out.

The point of this blog is to share a heartbreak that I am experiencing--the loss of a great friend, Stephanie Phillips. Steph passed on the 10th of July. It's like the hole Jeff left just got a lot bigger. I think what I miss so much about her isn't just the random stops to visit as she passed by on her way to or from the Giddens. It's not the phone calls or texts to see how I was doing. What I miss most about Steph are the times we'd just see each other and I knew she got it. She and I didn't have to talk about cancer--something we both shared--she got that there was more to life than cancer and she knew I got that too. We'd just share a smile and a hug--it meant life keeps going. It meant that all we could do was take it a day at a time and make that day the best we could. Even if that meant just saying hello, because you knew that person really just needed something that simple.

Steph's passing has made me feel Jeff's void again--only in a different sense. This time I am actually allowing myself to feel the sadness of losing him. There isn't a business to fight for, or legal issues to resolve, or family drama to deal with--there's just my thoughts of him and our life together and the emptiness. I guess this is a good thing--I'm starting to move forward--trying to start a new life. I just don't know what that looks like yet. I do know that I am more thankful than ever before for my daughters. They are my joy and my peace. God really knew what he was doing when he blessed us with those two angels. He knew I'd need them more than they need me--their sweetness, their humor, their intelligence all keep me thankful for the next day.

I miss my two friends Jeff and Steph--I want to live in a way that honors them. I hope we all can.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

A Message for Caregivers

This message is for all the caregivers...the loved ones who live one day at a time...sometimes one hour, one minute at a time.

You can do this. You have the strength. You have the patience. You have the grace. You can do this. There is nothing more important in the life of your loved one than to give him or her the comfort and peace that only you can share. You can do this. I know there are sleepless nights...multiple trips to the doctors...confusing medical terms to try and hassles...not to mention watching the pain of someone you love so deeply, and feeling so helpless.

We as the caregiver, want to take it all away. We want to see the person we knew before the cancer. Our hearts break daily. Our spirits feel broken. Our dreams fade. But we can do this....

Thank God for each day you get with your loved one. Each day is a gift, not a burden. Some live and get well. Others pass to a new experience. This cancer will not define your life and it can never define the life of those we see going through the illness.

Breathe deep...ask for help--which I know is so very hard to do. Find a moment to find your bearings...take one thing at a time...when you look at the big picture it can get overwhelming. Focus on one task and then the next and so on.

I remember every night that I was able to go to sleep hearing Jeff breathe and every morning I woke to see his chest rise and his eyes open, I knew God had given me one more blessing, one more opportunity to give Jeff all I could humanly and spiritually give. It was one more day as a family, one more day my girls had their Daddy, and one more day I shared with my husband.

Find the blessings. Talk to God. Yell at God--I did. He doesn't stop loving us. He just gave me more love and more strength. Even though I was convinced at times that God had left me, I know now, with absolute certainty, that God never left my side. God never left Jeff's side. God never left our girl's side. Love never fails...You can do this.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Enough is Enough

I am angry. I am frustrated. I am confused. As I've said before, Jeff always thought this blog was meant to help me express my emotions through his fight with cancer. Then it was meant to help me deal with my fears after his death. It then morphed into a pleas to the medical community to improve the medical services for cancer patients.

Now it is a place I write of my disdain and mistrust of how we are caring for those with cancer. Why aren't there more answers? Why does someone have to get really sick before anyone takes notice? Why do we have to research pages and pages of medical jargon and websites trying to find answers that the doctors don't have time to give? I'm overwhelmed by the number of those in my life--some that are new names to me and some that are dear names to me--who are trying to just find a way to have another week, month, year with their families. Some are children--so small and frail and frightened. Some are mothers--strong and loving and determined. Some are fathers--tough and caring and just want to shelter their family from their own fear. All are brave, all are fighters, all just want answers.

We want to know we've done our best to fight the cancer. The questions that float through our tired brains at night--"Did we do everything we could? Did we go everywhere we could go? Did we have the best doctors? Did we take the best course of treatment? Are there clinical trials we should have tried? When do we stop and just say let me rest and love my family?"

Where are the answers? "I don't know," is not good enough. It is not OK to hear these words when a person is dealing with cancer.

Why are there millions of dollars being poured into SuperBowl Ads, super salaries for superstars, $120 million baseball contracts, Avatar movies, HGTV Million Dollar Rooms, Wall Street bonuses, bank bailouts....Doesn't anyone who has the power to help get it? We need to find a cure! We need to make it easier to file claims! By all means, a cancer patient should not worry about how they are going to pay for their care. They should not worry if they are going to lose their house. They should not worry if they could possibly leave a mountain of debt for their loved ones. Our priorities are way out of line.

It would help to see some progress locally. I've been ranting like a crazy person about how we need to improve care from the oncology offices to the emergency rooms for cancer patients for the past two years--and nothing. I've seen money poured into more parking garages, some ideas on how to track medical care for the homeless, articles that describe more nursing classes. But we are still lacking an Urgent Care Cancer Facility--even the addition of a 24/7 on-call oncology nurse practitioner or oncologist for cancer patients in the ER. We are lacking a dedicated room in our ER's for cancer patients who need isolation and special care. We are lacking the access to and availability of research for clinical trials for ALL cancers--colon, melanoma, peritoneal, pancreatic. We are lacking the simple ability for a patient's scans to make it from one facility to another within a reasonable amount of time. We are lacking the simple ability to keep track of our patient's records.

I want better for the future. I want more from our medical facilities. I want faces of cancer patients--those still fighting and those who have finished their fight--posted to the walls of the administrative and executive offices of the hospitals. I want these executives to be the ones to tell the patients that they can't get well because the hospital chose to redecorate or build a parking garage instead of using those dollars to improve the oncology unit, or to train the ER staff on how to care for cancer patients in their care, or to pay for on call oncology staff to help with 24/7 urgent cancer care. I want them to sit down and comb through the websites and the clinical trial paper descriptions and sort it all out and make sense of it all. I want them to file the claims and figure out how to pay the bills. Then I want them to try to sleep at night.

I am angry. I am frustrated. I am disgusted.


Miracle: Any amazing or wonderful occurrence. (

"We need a miracle"—that is what we say as humans when an event happens in our lives that we can’t find an answer for medically, legally, environmentally—so we finally turn to the Spiritual and ask for a miracle. But we’ve already seen the miracle. It is there before us, as the definition states, “Any amazing and wonderful occurrence.”

My children are the miracle. Jeff’s life and passing were the miracle. Each breath we take is the miracle. My friend Steph and her family are the miracle. By definition all these people and their lives are amazing and wonderful occurrences. It all comes together to make my miracle.

The miracle is happening all around us. Take the time, just stop for a moment and recognize the miracles in your life. They aren’t the unbelievable—Miracles are right in front of you. In the crib down the hall, in the family room with the Disney Channel blasting from the TV, across the dinner table from you, across town sitting in a small house waiting for calls from her grown children…

Where would we be without our Miracles?

Monday, January 25, 2010

I have been reading the book by Mitch Albom, titled Have a Little Faith. The main character in the book is an elderly Rabbi, who has summoned Mr. Albom, and asked that he be the one to write his eulogy. Over a number of years, Albom visits the Rabbi, much in the same way he visited with his college professor, Morrie, in his book, Tuesdays with Morrie. These visits help in understanding the man Albom must eventually eulogize. This story is incredibly spiritual and very emotionally driven. I think I feel it more so with "Have a Little Faith", because of what I am experiencing in my life.

Since Jeff’s illness was diagnosed over two years ago, and then his death, it has been a constant barrage of adrenaline fed events. There has been so much to handle, to care for, to nurse, to nurture, to pray for, to fix, to pick-up, to clean-up, to repair, to fear, to fight for, and to love, that my life has been in a constant sense of urgency. I rarely eat sitting down, because I feel like if I don’t clean something or pay a bill or make a list, even while eating, that something will slip out of my grasp…my control…and my world will spin off its axis again.

It all feels very surreal sometimes. Like the times when you are about to say something that you feel is important, but something or someone interrupts you, and by the time it is your turn to speak again, you have completely forgotten that amazing idea you had wanted to share--one that you were certain was life changing. It makes you crazy trying to remember what you wanted to say and you know it’s right there at the edge of your memory, but then it just slips away out of your grasp, and you feel a sense of fallibility and frustration that you let such an important thing go. A sense of something left uncompleted, left unsaid.

This is how I describe my life. And perhaps, my life has been this way long before the words cancer were uttered.

My Faith could be described as little right now. My Faith that there isn’t anything out there to be scared of, as I tell my little girls when they hear an odd noise at night. My Faith that I can handle anything that comes my way because look at what I have had to handle and survived. My Faith that I can have peace and know that God is guiding us through the storm. I tell people I am close to, that I plan on having quite the talk with God when I pass through on my way to who knows where. I need to understand why children die at the hands of beasts; why cancer is allowed to run rampant through our midst; why money is what controls who gets what is needed in this life on this earth; why innocents are injured and the guilty go free; why people can be careless and make horrendous mistakes and not be sorry; why those who makes mistakes and are deeply sorry cannot be forgiven and are judged; why people cannot put themselves into the shoes of those they judge and see for an instant a pain never imagined.

But there is the good that is plentiful. It is overshadowed quite often by the fear and bitterness we are served. The good is there. The Faith is there. God is there. Not how we demand it, or expect it, or desire it. The good is just there. And we cannot see it until we can be humble enough to receive it in the simplest gifts. I know what my “good” is. I cannot tell you and expect you to feel it too, because my interpretation of good is going to vary from yours, and rightfully so. Each and every one of us needs to seek out what is good in his or her life and focus on that good. Soak it up, digest it, and take in every second of that good. That is what is life changing. That is the spectacular idea that you wanted to share. Look for your good, your faith, your peace—it’s there in the storm or the still of night when sleep evades or when fear keeps you from taking another breath. God gives the good—He gives you the faith you need, whether it’s little or big. And He is always there and does not slip out of your grasp….

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Father' Day

Tomorrow is Father's Day. Some folks are scrambling to buy last minute cards and gift--others have planned out a day full of events for his or her Dad--some fathers will be forgotten or overlooked. Father's are an incredible gift and far too often overlooked. My Dad was a huge force in forming the person I am today. I lost him when I was only 24 years old. It's been a void that I will never fill. My girls lost their Daddy when they were only 8 and 5 years old. Yet they are so strong, so brave--they have the best parts of their Daddy with them all the time. Ashtyn has his athletic prowess--being an ace at basketball and soccer. Lauren has his quick wit and intelligence. Both have a sassy streak that I am sure comes from Jeff, too.

I know you are proud of them, Jeff. They are your gifts to me and I cherish them everyday--even the loud screamy days! I want you to know that they love you, they miss you and they carry you with them in their little hearts everyday. I promised you to take the very best care of them and love them enough for us both. I think I am succeeding with that promise. I guess we'll know in about 15 more years when they begin lives of their own and have children of their own. I wish we were going out to buy you some cheesy tie that you would wear to please the girls--remember the SuperDad t-shirt and hat we bought one year? Yeah--that was a wardrobe malfunction! Sorry for that deserved the world. All we could give you was a card and a lot of hugs and kisses and a few hours to watch a Cardinals game on TV. But it was all you ever wanted.

You loved your girls madly while you were here with us on earth and I know you continue to love and cherish us. We will always, always love you, miss you, look for you in a gave us so much. I am so grateful that we had you--though for too short a time--in our lives.

Happy Father's Day our beloved and cherished Daddy....