Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Foundation Progress

Merry Christmas--that is important for me to say. I believe Jeff would never want us to experience anything less. I see him every morning leaving the house at dawn to go Christmas shopping before work and before the crowds. It was his favorite thing to do--even last year when he was sick. Jeff loved Christmas. I feel his presence so much. Especially when I put up all the Christmas decorations. It was like he was right there saying, " now plug that one in there and stake the inflatable with extra stakes because the wind will take it out--now don't put everything into one socket or you'll blow fuses again!" Jeff's outdoor Christmas display was famous! He loved to put up as much as our electrical system would allow. Many nights I would try to use the treadmill only to find out that the Christmas lights could not in any way be unplugged for the use of the treadmill, as that would just be crazy--the lights had to stay on no matter what! The use of the treadmill AND the lights just resulted in a total blackout--so needless to say, December was declared a work-out free zone. Sometimes I would think to myself that people are going to mistake us for the parking lot for the floats from the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. We had more inflatables than the kiddie pool. I tried to live up to that as well as I could this year for the girls' sake and for Jeff.

I have also been looking for ways the foundation can help cancer patients and their families. There have been some opportunities to reach out and help with travel expenses for a couple of local families. I just feel a huge need to pay forward all of the support and kindness we received. In addition to trying to get the clinics to become a reality, I feel we need to make sure everyday life is bearable for cancer patients and their families. Travel can become a huge obstacle. We really need to work on making the Angel Network more accessible in the Ozarks. There are too many private jets just sitting on the runway out at the airport. We were blessed with a private flight once in all of our travels to Houston. I can't tell you what a remarkable difference that made in Jeff's life. He was safe, he was warm, we were certain to reach our destination and he was able to have his little girls with him. Stress levels play a huge role in how successful a cancer patient is in his or her treatments. Sometimes Jeff's stress was through the roof when we had to deal with uncaring and uncooperative airlines. There were a few times he was bumped because he had paid a slightly lower "compassionate" fare and a passenger who had paid full fare took precedence. Nice.

There is much to be done for those dealing with cancer. We have to help. It is not a question of whether or not to help, but how. There is so much to be done--clinics, equipment, research and data bases, help with travel and lodging--the list goes on. Please join us and help. Officially the title of the foundation is the Jeffrey A. Melton Urgent Care Cancer Foundation. For me I call it Jeff's Hope. If you can help please send your donations to the Jeffrey A. Melton Urgent Care Cancer Foundation c/o the Community Foundation of the Ozarks, 425 E Trafficway, Springfield, Missouri 65806. Messages left on this blog will reach me or email at jeffshope2008@gmail.com.

There are plans for fundraisers in 2009. We've got to do this. The goals of this foundation are not cancer specific. Cancer doesn't care if it is in the lungs or breast or skin or brain--it just hits and hits hard. We have to help--it is our responsibility to help--how can we look the other way--how can we not help?

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

24/7 Clinic Opening at Siteman Clinic at Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis

I wanted to get this posted to the blog. I haven't had permission from anyone to reprint this and for that I ask forgiveness. I am so excited about this clinic. There is a huge possibility that a group of us from the Jeffrey A. Melton Urgent Care Cancer Foundation will be going to perform a site visit in the spring. The target date for the clinic to open is March of 2009. Come on Springfield--let's do this! I would prefer for all cancer patients to be seen, regardless of where they are a patient. For example, when Jeff was home from MD Anderson, he needed help here locally, too, for urgent care situations. Please read-on...

Siteman to Open 24/7 Clinic for Patients Needing Urgent Care

Contact:Jason Merrill314-286-0302
Read aSt. Louis Post-Dispatch story on this subject.
Sept. 24, 2008 – Going to the emergency room can be stressful enough, but for cancer patients, an emergency-room visit takes on a different meaning.

For instance, cancer patients with lowered immune systems may wait in emergency-room lobbies near patients with infectious diseases such as the flu. In addition, given the complex nature of many cancer regimens and clinical trials, some emergency-room staffers may be treating patients who are taking medications they’ve never heard of.

To provide around-the-clock service for cancer patients in need of urgent care, the Siteman Cancer Center at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine will open a 24/7 Cancer Care Clinic inside the hospital's north campus. The clinic is scheduled to open in March.

“We’re trying to get oncology patients out of the emergency room because for cancer patients, being around sick people for eight hours can be deadly,” says registered nurse Amy Determann, manager of the 24/7 Cancer Care Clinic. “It’s a paradigm shift in care.”

The need for a 24/7 clinic was identified from records showing a number of Siteman patients in need of urgent care on a daily basis. For example, in 2006:

A total of 1,438 visits to the Barnes-Jewish Hospital emergency department among Siteman bone-marrow transplant patients and patients being treated by a Siteman medical oncologist resulted in a hospital admission (approximately four Siteman patients per day).

An average of five Siteman patients per day were either inside Barnes-Jewish or at other hospitals waiting for an inpatient bed.

An estimated 20 Siteman patients each week arrived at the Barnes-Jewish emergency department and were treated and released.

An estimated 15 Siteman patients were directed to local community hospital emergency rooms weekly.

Those cancer patients, who most often need fluids or infusion, can now be treated in the 24/7 center in an outpatient setting rather than a lengthy emergency-room visit or an admission to an area hospital. Nurse practitioners familiar with cancer treatments and Siteman’s clinical trials will work with Washington University hospitalists in staffing the clinic.

Barnes-Jewish is spending $994,000 to build the clinic, which will be comprised of seven infusion chairs, three private treatment rooms and one negative-pressure room. Siteman’s bone-marrow transplant weekend clinic will also relocate to the 24/7 clinic.

The clinic is not available to cancer patients seen by non-Siteman physicians. “Those patients may be on treatment regimens we are unfamiliar with, and it’s important for those patients to work with their oncologist if they need urgent care,” says Determann, who adds that the clinic is not a general emergency room but rather for Siteman patients with symptoms related to cancer. She says those with acute problems like heart attack or stroke need to visit an emergency room.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Time for Gratitude

They say, whoever “they” are, that time heals all wounds. I don’t think time will be able to heal all the wounds that we have endured this year. So many have lost so much—jobs, home, health. For our family it was my lovely husband. We had been married just shy of ten years when he passed this March. Melanoma cancer hit him hard. It was unforgiving and his experience was unfair and painful. Many nights I fell to my knees in fervent prayer to God to heal Jeff. I just knew in my heart of hearts that God would not take Jeff—not now—not when our girls are so young and our marriage becoming so strong. But the human miracle I expected, that I prayerfully demanded, did not come. He died and our hearts were broken.

The week after he passed I was filled with shock and filled with concern for my children—how was I supposed to do all I had to do and keep them safe and happy and secure. Not only did I have my little ones to care for, but I was experiencing a rude awakening in regards to the future of our business. I had huge decisions to make and regardless of the helpful advice I received, how I chose to handle the situations was on my shoulders.

There were many financial decisions to resolve; medical bills to pay; legal issues to handle. I plowed ahead, trying to make sure my girls were OK, but having to focus on so much at once.

Answers came—some answers I credit Jeff for giving me heavenly direction. The business and financial issues were overwhelming in stature, and there were times I just wanted to quit and move away and start over. But, as many of you know, when you have children you can’t always take the easy route. Your kids look to you for how they should be handling life. No matter what I felt on the inside, I had to remember that they needed me to be strong and honest and loving.

There were times I broke down in torrential tears in front of them. It couldn’t be helped. All of the love I tried to show them came back to me a thousand times—especially once when I just began to cry while sitting with our youngest daughter. She looked up at me and hugged me and gave me a kiss—then loudly announced to her big sister “to come here and hug mom—she’s having a daddy moment!”

Through all the haze of sadness and turmoil that has been the past year. I always managed to remember to be grateful. I thanked God—almost constantly for all the good in our lives—because there has been so much. But after Jeff died and up until the past few weeks, I forgot about gratitude. I mean the kind of gratitude that makes you fall to your knees trembling with awe at how much good there is in our lives.

Then one night we missed being involved in a near fatal accident by a few seconds at most. I witnessed the accident, waited for the impact and was shocked when the car kept moving unhindered. I pulled into the nearest parking lot and hung my head and cried and thanked God and Jeff for their protection. I felt so humbled—we were untouched. I am certain that we were shielded from the horror of that accident. I just sat there and thanked God over and over, and prayed that those involved were in His arms.

That night I remembered gratitude. I remembered the good in our life that was there before Jeff was sick, that was there when he was fighting the cancer, and the good that has been with us every step since he passed. Through it all we are blessed.

Time does heal most wounds. Our experience has taught me that gratitude is what truly heals. One day a time—one act of kindness at a time—one grateful thought at a time. With gratitude we can all heal--in time.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Six Months

September 26, 2008--six months. Six months have passed without Jeff. In some ways they have passed quickly and in others they have crawled by--minute by minute. Our girls have changed so much in six months. They are taller, sweeter, smarter, funnier, braver. I don't know how I have changed, but I do know that I am different. I know my face has become care worn and serious. I know I have dreams that I wake from and then I feel scared and worried. I know that every noise I hear at night keeps me from sleeping.

I am trying to feel God's presence again. I know He is there--I just have to be still and know that God is all. But sometimes that is a tall order. It's just me now with the girls--to keep them safe, to love them, to teach them. Tonight we had a very frightening experience. It was because of this experience that I had to write. You see, everyday--at least four or five times a day--I pray that God gives me at least 20 more years to live. I need at least 20 years to make sure the girls never have to be alone. I need 20 more years to make sure they are safe and happy. Please God--20 more years.

Tonight made me shake--tonight made me thankful--tonight reminded me that God is holding us--and I think Jeff is too. Tonight after soccer practice, we went to buy a birthday gift and then to have dinner at Panera Bread. Our big night out. On our way home at 7:35 p.m., we were heading south on Campbell. To my left I suddenly saw a flash of light and directly behind me, in my rearview mirror, I saw a mass of metal barely miss the back of our car. A horrible accident happened inches from us. A difference of five seconds and I would not have been able to avoid the mass of metal flying across both lanes.

I realized how close we were and immediately thanked God for His protection and prayed for the safety and protection of those in the cars involved. I was shaking and had to pull into a parking lot. I just bowed my head and cried and thanked God over and over that He and Jeff had their loving arms around us. They kept my babies safe. Twenty more years, God, please.

I am still in tears and shaking at how close we were. I have to shut out the thoughts because it is my biggest fear that just passed before me. My girls are my everything. I promised God the day they were born and I promised Jeff the day he left, that I would always keep them safe and love them. God kept his promise to me. I am so grateful--I am so very grateful--I get one more day with my girls.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

After the Benefit Concert

The Man of LaMancha--the heartbreak of a lost dream. In the end, the dream--the quest-- Don Quixote believed in, is carried on by those who loved him--"The Impossible Dream." The character Aldonza asks Don Quixote why does he pursue his quest? Don Quixote responds " I hope to add some measure of grace to the world."

That statement is the best one I can think of that describes Jeff's life and his approach to each day. Jeff was not a dreamer in the sense that he imagined something that he hoped would happen in his life. He saw a dream and worked with all of his heart and soul to see it come to reality. Jeff's dreams weren't of material wealth--he wasn't indulgent in that regard. Jeff indulged in kindness and hope and the dream that he would build a business that meant something to his clients and the community and that would give his daughters and wife a good life. He wanted to teach his daughters how to be kind and thoughtful and tolerant. He wanted to teach them to give of themselves--give from the heart. So, this is now my quest--this dream. Everyday I strive to teach our girls how to care about others, to see beyond their own wants and needs, and to see that no matter what the outward picture is, it is what we share inside that is true and lovely. Our grace, our kindness, our truth--to see another as God's child.

I will carry on Jeff's Hope to make it better for cancer patients. In the program for the concert, I wrote that "Tonight is the beginning..." It is the beginning. We will move forward and keep our goal before us. The Jeffrey A. Melton Urgent Care Cancer Foundation has many "quests" to accomplish--the Urgent Care Cancer Clinics, the Mobile Cancer Clinics, the data base that links diagnosis to available treatments, the Angel Flight Network. It will happen--one step at a time. It will help--one cancer patient at a time. We must take it one day at a time and be grateful we get to have one more day.

The concert was a blessing--the performances were beautiful and heart touching. I had tears when Betty sang Con Te Partiro--I Will Go With You. And more tears during the finale when the troupe performed "Dream the Impossible Dream." We were able to raise close to $1,500, in donations and pledges of support. Most importantly we were able to tell the story and get the word out. Joe and Christine Daues, Natalie Swallow and KSPR were so generous to get behind this to give the Foundation quite an inaugural. So many helped to make the night a reality and it never would have happened without the talents of Marvin Murphree, who came to me and offered the gift of music for the evening. Thank you to Julie and Paul, Sandy and Lee, Missi and BJ, Peggy, Eugenia and her gift of design. Thank you to all of the businesses that enthusiastically said "Yes" when I asked to place the event poster in their windows. Thank you to all the dear members of Campbell United Methodist Church who came to offer their support and took a large part of the work off my shoulders. Thank you to Kris Keller and Linda Merkling and Judy Bilyeu. Thank you to the Gillioz and Piano Craft. Thank you to everyone who attended and wanted to attend--sometimes life gets busy. That's the way it is supposed to be. My love and gratitude to all.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Benefit Concert for the Jeff Melton Cancer Fund

In May, the Springfield News-Leader published an article that appears as an entry on this website titled "The Heartbreak". In it I tried to explain where the idea came from to create Urgent Care Cancer Clinics. "Make It Happen" emphasizes the importance of taking care of those facing the challenges that cancer--all cancers--present. From this article came many offers to help get a clinic up and running. One offer--one blessing--in particular was given by a gentleman named Marvin Murphree. Mr. Murphree is a gifted vocal musician who has organized a vocal music concert to benefit The Jeff Melton Cancer Fund.

The concert is going to be held Tuesday, September 9, 2008, at 7:oopm, at the Gillioz Theater here in Springfield. The theme of the night will be "To Dream the Impossible Dream" from The Man of LaMancha. It is fitting, this theme, because at times it feels as though we have a mountain to scale to accomplish this goal. The evening will be hosted by Joe and Christine Daues and includes performers such as former Miss America, Debra Barnes Snodgrass, Marvin Murphree, Steve Ames, Cassandra Armstrong, Donna Donaldson, Janice Fulbright, Melanie Holt, Betty Salmon, Lendi Stirewalt and Shauna Storey.

This opportunity is a gift--and we have to get the word out about this concert. We need to show the medical community that Springfield wants this clinic. We need the community leaders to see that the goals of the Jeff Melton Cancer Fund are there to help all types of cancer patients--to make it better--to make it easier to get the help a cancer patient needs when they have a fever on a Saturday night and have no choice but to go to an emergency room where their immune systems are compromised even further. Or to get bumped for an extended number of hours because of an incoming trauma. A cancer patient needs to know that if they are too sick from chemo or too weak from the pain that a mobile unit will come to them for labs or to test their oxygen levels. A cancer patient needs to know that if they are alone that there is someone who will come to them to help--what does a single mother do who has no relatives close by--what does an elderly person do who just wants to remain in their home? This is not home health--this is not hospice, but it pulls from these concepts to get those struggling with cancer and the effects of their treatments a level of help that currently does not exist.

I wish it were different--but if you look around the face of cancer seems to be everywhere. We all know someone touched by this nightmare. If we could help--if we could make it better somehow--why shouldn't we? This isn't just for breast cancer or lung cancer or melanoma cancer--this clinic and the mobile clinic are there to help and bring comfort to anyone that cancer touches. Cancer doesn't discriminate--it is an equal opportunity evil. We can make it better--we can help fight cancer in this way. By lessening the stress--by lessening the exposure to other illnesses--by holding a hand when someone is frightened--by speaking gently when the world is too loud--by reaching out in the middle of the night when the fear is overwhelming. WE CAN DO THIS. THIS IS POSSIBLE. IT IS NOT AN IMPOSSIBLE DREAM.

Join us and we will scale this mountain together. Tickets for the event will be sold at the door for $7.00--but if you are moved to donate, tax-deductible contributions can be made to The Jeffrey A. Melton Urgent Care Cancer Foundation, c/o the Community Foundation of the Ozarks, 425 East Trafficway Street, Springfield, Missouri 65806. There are no administrative costs to this fund. 100% of the proceeds go to helping those with cancer--a flight to MD Anderson, a hotel room near the hospital, the creation of Urgent Care Cancer Clinics. For questions email Holly Melton at jeffshope2008@gmail.com.

Make it happen--the moment IS yours--define it.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

"I Know You'll Be Happy"

It is early in the morning on the 25th of May. Yesterday, was Jeff's and my 10 year wedding anniversary. I remember we had talked 10 years ago, as we soaked in the ocean views of Kauai, Hawaii, that we would come back on our 10 year anniversary. We knew it would be different--we'd hoped we would have children by then. We never dreamed what a difference 10 years would make. Read this entry and then please continue to the next which is what this website is all about. This morning I write this because, as Jeff said, writing is my therapy. Good or bad, it helps me get the thoughts and memories out that swirl in my head and keep me from sleep. Please read on about the clinic, just humor me every now and then when I need to talk, but there is no one there to hear.

The day we sat in the doctor's office at MD Anderson--right after we knew in our heads, but not in our hearts, that Jeff would not live much longer--Jeff told me he could see that one day the girls and I would be happy again. I cannot imagine when that will be. For Lauren and Ashtyn's sake, I want that to be true. That is why I get up every day, make breakfast, wake them gently and cuddle and love them as much as I possibly can manage. Some days I see a glimpse of the sun or Son, as my friend Betty put it. Some days I see a big fat brick wall in my way that blocks my path and I just don't know how to move. I don't know yet what kind of day today will be. I will really try to make it good. Maybe writing this will help. These words have been swimming in my head for weeks--it is time they get out.

"You need to tell him it's OK to go--he needs to hear that." It is what the hospice nurses told me the last day of Jeff's life here. Having lived through my father's death, I know that there is a place with God that allows my Dad to watch over us. But to tell Jeff it was "OK to go" was counter intuitive. It wasn't ok to go--I told him that I knew I had to let him go but I didn't want to. He is my history, my future, my moment. It wasn't ok that he had to go without being able to recognize his daughters and wife long enough to know our names and to kiss us goodbye. It wasn't ok that he was so confused he didn't know he was even at home. It wasn't ok that his life was cut short because of human error. I said it, though, because to try to keep him here was hugely selfish. I would have taken care of him for the rest of my life, but I knew that he needed to be free from the pain, the tumors, the fear, the deep sadness of knowing that he wouldn't be there to catch his daughters when they fell or hold them in the storm. He knew that I would be there for them, but being the Daddy he was, he really wanted to have more time with his "babies" as he called them.

Presently, I am faced with how to handle our business. I have to pack up his office--how do I do this? It is like severing one more tie to him--adding one more degree of separation. All of his baseball memorabilia, pictures of the girls over the years that he'd show all of his clients, his files about our past--taxes, seminars we gave together, business plans we created, credit card statements and files that have pages and pages of what it means to be diagnosed with stage IV metastatic melanoma.

I just watched P.S. I Love You. It's about a young woman, ironically named Holly, whose husband dies suddenly from a brain tumor. He leaves her notes and tape recordings that crop up over the first year of his death. His goal is to help her get on with her life by helping her to live each day. Small things like buying a lamp to big things like a trip to his homeland of Ireland. Each helping to confront something that holds her back, until she can fly on her own again.

I wish Jeff had left me something--I read every journal I could find. He started about five. Each one at a different phase in our marriage. Each journal has about 10 to 20 pages, then they end. One is from our wedding in Hawaii, one is about the impending birth of our first child Lauren and her first few hours on earth, one is filled with quotes from people he admired, one is about a time in our marriage when we were struggling with each other, one is about his diagnosis. In this journal he only makes entries through mid-December 2007, when he finished biochemo and we were preparing to come home. After this, he just was too tired and hurt so much that he couldn't even listen to his favorite music or read his cherished books because the pain kept him from focusing. At this point he couldn't hold me or his children because the tumors and the pain made it unbearable for him to be touched.

So--yes, he had to go. But it wasn't OK. I hate that I can't seem to remember him as healthy or with hair or smiling. Jeff would not want my thoughts to be filled with images of him and how he looked those last few moments after he passed. Sometimes I get a glimpse of him in the yard working on a landscaping idea or at the office sitting at his computer preparing for a client. I don't know if it will ever be" OK for him to go." I do know that I have to go on each day. I have to make sure that our little girls go on each day. I have to make sure that they grow-up secure in the knowledge that Daddy loves them, that I love them and that they make every day of my life a blessing. They are what Jeff left me--not tape recordings or letters or videos. He left me the best of who he is. He left me belly laughs, sweet kisses, soccer games, scooter rides, stinky feet and sticky fingers and the dearest angels God ever gave anyone. Thank you Jeff for all you did and continue to do for us. I love you with all of my heart and soul--Happy Anniversary Babe.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Make It Happen

The Moment is Yours--Define It. I keep this phrase in front of me all the time. This moment is what we have--we can make it count or we can let it slip away. All it takes is one small pebble tossed into the water to create ripples that expand across a waterway. Please, let's take this moment and turn ripples into tidal waves. As a community there are too many of us touched by cancer. I wish I had the magic wand to make it all go away. I know there are answers--I know we are on the edge of winning many of the battles. The war against cancer, to end it, to make it less than nothing, may take some time. What we can do is make it better for those who do have cancer and for those who take care of and love those cancer patients.

We must make the idea of an Urgent Care Cancer Clinic a reality. We need to care for those we love and cherish with the skill and knowledge of the large cancer clinics that dot the world. It is possible to make things better, more comfortable, more efficient, more kind right here in Springfield.

We need this clinic. It makes sense. It is the right thing to do. It will provide a place for urgent care needs of cancer patients; it will provide a place to meditate, pray or just regain focus for patients and caregivers; it will provide a research base that helps cancer patients find clinical trials. When Jeff was diagnosed he and I pored through websites trying to find protocols that would help. We had to go to page after page of websites and then we were stumped by the application process and the medical terminology. Did he qualify or not? This clinic and others like it can provide information that presents all the clinical trials available for a specific cancer diagnosis. This system should allow for information to be taken once and disseminated to every trial that is available. Time is a precious thing when one is trying to find a way through the maze of treatment options. If a single application could be used as the resource for all clinical trial program it would be possible for a patient to qualify for treatments and then decide with his or her oncologist which one makes sense for them. We had great opportunities at MD Anderson, but I was always searching for other break throughs at other clinics. Even when I found things that looked promising there was the paperwork nightmare to be addressed. Getting labs and MRI's in the right hands to see what the options were. Why can't we warehouse this basic information in a database. Jeff had more MRI's in six months than most households have in a lifetime.

Another goal of the foundation is to provide a mobile cancer clinic. It is a necessary treatment option. If hospice can provide end of life services in such a gracious, loving and complete manner, why can't we provide something similar for those who are fighting for their lives? Why shouldn't a clinic be available that can visit the patients who are too sick to get out of bed and wait at the doctor's office just to check oxygen levels or have blood drawn or to pick up prescriptions? When Jeff finished biochemo he was so nauseated that movement sent him into spirals of dizziness and vomiting that would bring a 49er's Linebacker to his knees and in tears. But he was expected to get up, get dressed and go to the doctor's office and wait endlessly so they could check how nauseated he was, what his blood counts were and how well he could breathe.

These ideas just touch the surface of what we could do as a community. Let's take the challenge--let's make it better--let's set the bar. We can show the rest of the country that this can be done. The only urgent care cancer clinics should not just be at an MD Anderson or John Wayne Cancer Clinic or the Mayo Clinic. It should be in our backyard.

Join Jeff's Hope. Help those with cancer focus on becoming well and whole. Help them keep their vision of health. The Urgent Care Cancer Clinic can be a reality. It is within reach--all you have to do is reach a little further, try a little harder, focus more clearly and you will see it too.

Email me at jeffshope2008@gmail.com . Thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

The Heartbreak

It has been over a month since my last post. It has been impossible to write this post. I cannot say the words. My throat is closing up and my eyes are filled with hot tears as I write this. Jeff once said that I created this blog as a way to feel better, to heal. I think that is true, but it will take more than this to heal. It has taken a few days, but here is the next posting. It is not the last, as Jeff's life continues and so does my mission. In the coming months this will be the place to read about the hope that is Jeff's Hope. The foundation that will bring changes to cancer patients in our community and perhaps others will follow our lead. Here is the first step into the future:

My husband passed away. There, I said it–words that are as foreign to me as if I were trying to speak ancient Greek. It’s like someone keeps yelling at me that two plus two equals seven and I keep thinking that’s impossible.

Jeff Melton was larger than life, but he never knew it. Jeff was the gentlest and kindest of souls and what happened to end his life is tragic and unforgivable. The pain, the agony, the heartbreak–he faced it all with the utmost grace and dignity. His biggest concern through his illness was that he never wanted it to define his daughters’ childhood. Jeff wanted them to just get to be kids.

Jeff passed away on March 26, of this year, after a very brief, but hard fought battle with Melanoma Cancer. When he was diagnosed in early November of 2007, we immediately chose not to listen to the doctor’s advice that Jeff "get his affairs in order" and prepare to die. Jeff planted both feet firmly on the ground and dug in, prepared to fight. He was told he was already stage IV, and although he never shared this with me, he was told he might have nine to 12 months left, if he was lucky.

The thing about our life together is that we never considered luck to be a part of our relationship. We weren’t "lucky" to have met. We weren’t "lucky" to have fallen in love. We weren’t "lucky" to have had our two beautiful, healthy children. And "luck" didn’t play a part in our almost 10 years of marriage. We weren’t lucky–we were blessed.

Through this horrific thing called cancer we saw the blessings. Our family was blessed by the love and kindness of an amazing community. We were supported in prayer by hundreds all through this area, Texas, Illinois, California, Oregon, Washington, Kansas, Virginia, Florida–God couldn’t help but know people down here loved Jeff and wanted to see him well. For whatever reasons, ones we will not be privy to in this life, the miracle we had hoped and prayer for and fought so hard for did not happen. I have considered that perhaps the miracle is to get to see God–to leave all this hardened human existence behind. It is hard to believe that fully when I look into my children’s eyes and see the sadness in their sweet faces. It is hard to believe that fully when it is 2:00 a.m. and I have once again awoken to a strangely quiet house. Even the dogs seem to sit and wait for their walks with Jeff, confident that he’ll come strolling in with their leashes. Still, I have to believe, have faith in, trust in the idea that as our five-year-old says, "Daddy is still here, he is just inbisible, like God and Jesus, and he keeps us safe."

My husband’s illness was incredibly heartbreaking. He said something to me about three weeks before he would pass. We were sitting in the oncologist’s office at MD Anderson, in Houston. Waiting to find out if he could possibly try another experimental drug. Jeff quietly, but firmly spoke to me and said, " I just want my life to have meant something." As I fought to speak through the multitude of tears, I assured him that his life did and always would have meaning and that it would continue through me and our children. And I made him a promise. I promised that his battle with this thing called cancer, his nightmare, the pain, the sadness would all be used to propel a plan to make the lives of future cancer patients better.

When Jeff’s body began to deteriorate and the pain from his bones disintegrating was overwhelming, he decided he wanted to start the end of life process. Even at this point, we never really believed he would die–we were convinced that he would keep living. I envisioned him being able to swing his legs out of the hospital bed that had become a permanent fixture in our home, standing up and saying "Let’s eat breakfast, and then go to Home Depot to get some landscaping stuff." It’s what he did every Saturday when the spring came. Instead he went through the kind of pain and suffering that is incomprehensible, and yet he still fought. He told me the Saturday before he died, when I asked if still felt like fighting, "Oh Yeah, I’ll continue the fight because I have too much to live for." He always made me feel better and stronger no matter what he was enduring.

It is for this reason–for Jeff and his all-too-brief life–that I have a promise to keep. I promised Jeff that I would honor his name and keep the fight alive by trying to help others with cancer. We never wanted anyone to experience what he went through. It is for this reason that I am issuing this challenge to our community leaders. I ask you, I urge you, I implore you to join me in making the Jeff Melton Urgent Care Cancer Clinic and Mobile Cancer Care Clinic a reality in this decade.

There is a need in our community to create an urgent care medical facility that is dedicated to only the special needs of cancer patients. When one is battling for his or her life, an urgent care clinic is needed that is specially designed to keep cancer patients free from the airborne illnesses found in a typical urgent or emergent care facility. A cancer patient’s immune system is already greatly compromised. A clinic is needed where a cancer patient’s wait won’t be extended because of an incoming car accident that takes the immediate attention. A clinic is needed where a cancer patient will be touched gently, spoken to softly–cancer patients are in great pain, not hard of hearing. Often the pain medication and the cancer treatments have left a cancer patient with a low tolerance for noise and light. The tumors and searing pain in their bodies make it absolutely necessary for gentle treatment, softer bedding, swift and expert bed transfers. A cancer patient doesn’t want to go through their litany of medications another time. Therefore, there is a need for a registry of medications.

There is a desperate need to care for those with cancer, no matter what stage of the disease. If you have ever witnessed someone who has just received a round of chemotherapy, or a cancer patient who is so weak and in desperate need of a blood transfusion, or a cancer patient whose pain is so intense that the thought alone of moving makes them vomit, then you can see the need exists for the Urgent Care Cancer Clinic and a Mobile Cancer Clinic.

Please join me. We can do this. The one thing I witnessed the past several months is that we are an amazing community and when we come together for a common goal the results are phenomenal. If you can volunteer, if you want to join the medical team, if you want to donate your time or ideas, if you can help financially then you can make a difference. Cancer touches so many lives–too many of us know the emotional and physical toll of the illness. Don’t think for one minute that you can’t make a difference– you can, we can and we will make a difference.
For more information please contact me, Holly Melton at the Jeff Melton Melanoma Cancer Foundation–Jeff’s Hope. The email is JeffsHope2008@gmail.com, Take the challenge–make a difference.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

"Jeff's Hope" Urgent Care Cancer Clinic

This experience is one that is teaching me so much about the needs--the very specific needs--of cancer patients. Jeff has endured many trips to the E.R. because he has not been given an alternative for urgent treatment at night or on weekends, or if the doctor is booked. As you can imagine, the E.R. is no place for cancer patients who are in pain and in need of specialized and compassionate care. The E.R. exposes a cancer patient's compromised immune system to illnesses that could complicate his/her recovery. If a trauma comes in, it is likely that the cancer patient's needs will become subordinate. Sometimes hospitalization is ordered for things like pain management because it is not something that can always be done in a doctor's office. When Jeff runs a high fever, we have to go to the E.R. and wait. When he has trouble with pain or breathing we are told to go to the E.R. These answers don't work for me.

One night, around two in the morning, when sleep was eluding me, I had a very clear thought. We provide Pediatric Urgent Care, General Urgent Care and Acute Urgent Care. But there is no Urgent Care Cancer Clinic. A place where cancer patients can be cared for in a way that is unique to what his/her needs are. The patient won't have to worry about a waiting room where there may be compromising illnesses. There won't be delays because they will be the priority. Hospitalizations for pain management and other urgent physical needs--like oxygen--won't be required. I have spoken to oncologists at M.D. Anderson, medical professionals in Springfield and in Columbia--who all agree that this need should be addressed.

So..this is my first public outcry for help. Anyone who has ever been touched by cancer knows what I am talking about. An Urgent Care Cancer Clinic needs to be a priority above all else. If you have an interest, if you can donate funds, if you have ideas or information, if you can contact those who can help, then you can be a vital part of this plan. There are many community leaders that I have made it my personal goal to communicate with about this plan. Join me--let me know how you can help make this hope and dream come true. WE CAN DO THIS! WE CAN HELP! WE CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE IN THE LIVES OF CANCER PATIENTS YOUNG AND OLD! Let's make "Jeff's Hope" Urgent Care Cancer Clinic a reality.

Mountain Climbing and Roller Coasters

I think God knows how much Jeff and I like roller coasters, and hiking the hills and mountains when we would visit Vail. This past week has been filled with mountains to climb and coasters that make your stomach drop. Jeff never takes the easy way--he fights and fights and climbs higher each day. He keeps his sense of humor--more like his sense of being a smart alec--he takes all the loops and twists and turns and comes out ready for more. I have never loved him more than I do now. I have never been more proud. He sets the bar pretty high for all of us to follow--faith, courage, love, forgiveness, integrity, goodness. He has always expressed these qualities. It was what drew us together--we worked on sponsoring a family for Christmas in 1995. He was so determined to make that Christmas special for these two little ones who truly had nothing. Year after year that was his specialty. He would leave the house very early on his way to work to search every store for just the right toys for the kids, or just the right furniture that the family needed, or the right bikes. We would shop for the food and clothes--coats were always big--he always made sure each child and parent had coats, boots and gloves and hats. We would host a Christmas open house and people would come all night with arm loads of gifts and food for the families. It would take three big cars at least--one year it took a U-Haul truck to deliver all the gifts, furniture and clothing. He always hoped it would give the children some hope--he wanted them to know that life can be good and that people are good and deserving of good. He always chose single mothers trying to get through school or working two jobs--it was a way of honoring what he saw his own mother struggle through. Jeff still believes in helping anyone he can. We made supply buckets for Katrina victims, we made care packages for the families at the Victim's Center, he contributes to the Flight 93 fundraiser, he coaches our daughters in soccer--one day a woman with a baby was being physically abused by her boyfriend in a parking lot at the mall. Jeff intervened and kept her safe until the police could arrive. Jeff is what God wants us all to be--compassionate, thoughtful, caring, aware of others needs. He is truly my blessing.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008


I sit here this morning in gratitude--overwhelmed by all the love and kindness that envelope us. Jeff and the girls are my blessings and I see how Jeff's strength, integrity and grace continue to help me grow. I pray everyday to hear God's voice and follow his direction. My miracle has already happened in the life that is my husband. Jeff's miracle is there--waiting to be unveiled to us when we are peaceful and trusting enough to see it. Today I just want to be grateful for the constant goodness that is around us. We are strong because of the strength of those around us. We are never separated from God's constant care and love.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Visit to MD Anderson 2/27-2/29

This is a difficult thing to write. Jeff has had a rough two weeks. We had an ER visit that resulted in a CT scan. From the scan we learned that the cancer is now in his spine and ribcage. Because of the progression, Jeff was dropped from the experimental study he was in at MD Anderson. On Wednesday, Feb 27, the girls and I joined Jeff on his journey to MD Anderson to discuss further options with his oncologist. We were blessed to be flown down and back by private jet, provided by Brian Allen's brother, Randy Allen. This was truly a gift, as Jeff was able to go literally door to door in three hours. No layovers, no canceled flights, no rude airline encounters--I can't tell you how rough the flights to Texas have been for him. We can never, never thank Brian and Randy enough.

When we arrived at MD Anderson, our first night was relaxing and we just tried to enjoy being together as a family. Jeff's pain was pretty severe--he truly is the strongest, bravest man I know. On Thursday, Kathy Carlisle--our Houston Angel--stayed with the girls so that we could attend a meeting with the Pain Management physician. Jeff was able to change meds to better endure the intolerable pain he experiences constantly. That night he ate dinner with us, sat with the girls on the couch and smiled. It was a huge relief. Friday morning, Kathy joined us again and took such loving, patient care of the girls all day. Jeff and I went to see his oncologist, where we learned of Jeff's options. It was a meeting no one ever wants to attend, but Jeff was amazing.

This week we will go over the options presented. There is one more study he may be accepted into. I am exploring options with the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda--I still believe. My mom said it's good to believe, now TRUST. So, I do trust that God is guiding us--I pray that we will be quiet enough to hear God's still small voice--to be able to hear his direction and humble enough to follow.

I am truly grateful for each day with my family. God brought us together--we are complete in God's eyes.

Love to you all...

Friday, February 8, 2008

Thank Yous from Jeff and Holly

On November 6, 2007, Jeff was diagnosed with stage IV melanoma cancer. He is brave, he is strong, we celebrate the good days, we (I) cry through the tough ones. We are blessed to have the prayers and support of so many--we look forward to the day when we can pay this all forward. We look for ways that we can help now. It all feels so small compared to what people are doing for us. We are grateful, we are in awe, we are thankful for the goodness in people. We have so many to thank--Julie and Paul, Sandy and Lee, Missi and BJ, The Boswells, Joan, Kathy and Tim Carlisle--our Houston Angels; Gail and Greg, The Aumans, The Gomezs, Steph, Chrissy, Cheryl and Kenneth, all the families that attend Kids First Preschool, the amazing teachers at Kids First Preschool--my place of refuge. My dear, patient mother--Carol Frank, my sisters Carrie, Bonnie, and Janice, my brother Richard and my amazing nephews and nieces--Jef, Chuck, Marty, Emmy, Holly, Jim. All of Jeff's sweet family--Shelley, Kelly and Eric, Travis. Jeff's amazing lifelong friends Jim Lohmeyer and Roddy Rogers--we both have dear friends that are by our side through all this. The list to thank grows daily. Our church--Campbell United Methodist--the pastors Jim and David, and Betty--so many church family that hold us up in prayer daily and support us through every step. Our business--Planvest Capital Management, Robin, Dean, Molly and Peggy--all of our dear clients who have become like family over the years. The staff and families of McBride Elementary. There are hundreds of names I could list here--some have chosen to remain anonymous--some we met briefly in our travels to MD Anderson. So many examples of what God wants us to be--blessings to each other. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

Please feel free to write a note of encouragement to
Jeff--just click below on "comments"!