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, Take the challenge–make a difference.


Lynn and Mike said...

I have all summer- and any other time you need. What can I do?

...Mike and I love you all so much.

Chrissy said...

You know I'm in!

We love you!
-Chrissy, Brian, Claire and Cohen

Susan said...

It will get better. Not better really but maybe easier to get through the day. I lost my Gary to prostrate cancer 6 yrs ago. He was sick 18 months and the cancer spread to his bones. He couldn't even lay down for months. I wouldn't wish this on anyone but I wouldn't have missed it either. We saw God's hand in this and I was able to tell him "goodbye and that it was ok to go" and was with him at the end. Hang in there and hold on to the fact that someday you will be reunited!