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....

Monday, May 25, 2009

A Year Later

I was just cleaning up Lauren's room--making her bed, picking up dirty clothes--and my eye caught her bulletin board. A typical nine-year old would probably have a bulletin board with pictures of friends, posters of movie stars and singers, awards ribbons from soccer...Lauren does have some of these. What she also has is a bulletin board with her daddy's picture, his medical i.d. bracelets from his last visit to MD Anderson, his funeral program and two pins that say "Cancer Sucks".

This shocks me--that my nine-year old has had to experience this kind of pain and loss. How does this happen? Eleven years ago Jeff and I were married--we talked of the little children we wanted to bring into this world to love and care for and watch grow into beautiful adults.

I am watching the girls grow--they are amazing, resilient, brave, funny--my saving graces. My gifts from Jeff and God.

I am shocked at how fleeting it all was. From the time Jeff first asked me out, "I don't know what your deal is, but if you want to hang out sometime, that'd be great..." (a true poet) to our "I do's" in Hawaii, to "honey, can you get the baby this time" to "Mr. Melton, you have metastatic melanoma cancer, stage IV. You need to go home, get your affairs in order and just spend time with your family. If you are lucky you may have nine months to a year to live." How does that happen? I blinked and it changed. One night I went to bed, blissfully unaware of the changes about to rain down on us--then I woke up and Jeff had been gone over a year.

I kept thinking--well, after the first year, I will feel more normal, it will feel less raw. It is different--a different kind of rawness. I am stronger--that I do know. Maybe a bit braver--just a bit. But I am still unable to make sense of it all. I can remember people telling me--"God has a reason for this." I just can't make sense of that, though. Really? God takes your loved ones in order for the events of the universe to make sense?

There aren't any more answers today than there were a year a half ago, when Jeff and I heard those words from the doctors. There is life--it does go on. There are tears--they do keep coming--usually when least expected. There are happy times--Ashtyn shooting hoops, Lauren singing like an angel. The days turn to weeks and then to months--the time is passing. I talk with Jeff and tell him how much I hope his new experience is filled with all the good and peace and joy he so deserves. I try to live to make him proud--some days I succeed, some days I fail. Everything and nothing has changed.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Letter to the CEO

Dear Robert H. Bezanson, President and CEO of Cox Health
Kim Day, St. John's Health System President / CEO:

My Dad always told me that “the squeaky wheel gets the grease”. I remember thinking—oh Dad, how cliché! But I am willing to put this theory to work.

Squeak! Squeak! Squeak!

I have four words for Cox and St. John’s hospitals—Urgent Care Cancer Clinic. Yes, it’s me again—and I will keep this squeaking up until there is progress for cancer patients in Springfield.

I am very excited to see progress in constructing a new Emergency Room at Cox South, and it sounds like Cox hospital has given very serious thought about expanding and improving its ER facilities. The O’Reilly Cancer Center is a gift and a blessing. It appears that both organizations are addressing many needs in the new facilities, but there is still one glaring omission. We are still lacking a place for Cancer Patients to receive urgent and emergency care. Even a designated room in the ER area would be a step in the right direction.

This is not rocket science. An Urgent Care Cancer Center is feasible. Please don’t tell that cancer patient who needs urgent care at 2 a.m., or the cancer patient who has just been sent to the ER because the oncologist office is full, that a 24/7 cancer clinic isn’t needed. Please don’t tell them that the CEO is hard to get a hold of to discuss such needs. Please don’t tell them that it just isn’t in the budget. By all means, please don’t tell them that it will just take time.

We need Urgent Care for Cancer Patients. We need Urgent Care for Cancer Patients. We need Urgent Care for Cancer Patients. Squeak, Squeak, Squeak…

Very truly yours,

Holly L. Melton, Founder
Jeffrey A. Melton Urgent Care Cancer Foundation

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Happy Birthday, Jeff! January 22, 1959

Happy Birthday, Jeff--today you are the big Five-Oh! It's not the way I thought we would celebrate your 50th birthday--there will be no surprise party, no birthday cake, no presents. No smiles and well wishes from your friends--no jokes about being "over the hill." The day will be filled with quiet reflections of our years together, memories of your stories from your youth, I will see you in our children and wish you could hear them sing "Happy Birthday, Daddy." I still can't bring myself to visit your grave--I know you are not there. I created a headstone that captured your love of sports--it reads "Forever in Our Hearts." I think it is what you would have wanted. This is not your legacy--just a marker of where we laid your body after the fight with cancer was finished. You won by the way...

Your legacy is the gift that we will give other cancer patients. The Jeffrey A. Melton Urgent Care Cancer Foundation. It will take work and patience--like your journey through the cancer. It will happen, though--and life will get better for those fighting like you fought. It will be better for them because of what you experienced. It will be better because it has to be. It will be better because our community has a heart of gold and knows how to reach out to others to make the impossible possible. The goal of the foundation is simple really. Our mission is to bring a higher level of skilled care to the oncology medical community in the Ozarks. We plan to accomplish this by providing incentive to bring more nurses and doctors to Springfield that specialize in treating all cancers. Currently, our oncology specialists are few in number and their demand is great. We have a goal of starting with the educational process at the medical and nursing schools. To help guide new nurses and doctors that when caring for urgent care patients, they way we address, speak to, touch and help those dealing with and fighting the effects of cancer must be done with a special level of care. Improving technology to include one's list of medications and available cancer-specific protocols, enlarging and creating a more efficient Angel Network and helping to provide a financial network to ease the concerns of patients and family members are other areas of concentration for the organization. A mobile cancer care unit could provide a level of care unprecedented in the Midwest.

The Jeffrey A. Melton Urgent Care Cancer Foundation is the official name--I prefer to call it simply "Jeff's Hope." Our hope is to eliminate the external stresses created by ineffective care and unanswered questions. We need to bring attention to what a cancer patient experiences so that we can improve conditions and therefore improve survival rates. It's true--no one knows until they experience cancer. Not even the oncologists and nurses. I believe that our medical communities can accomplish the goals of the foundation. We must start by demanding the changes that will make it better for those in the fight for their life. Become a patient advocate--insist on changes--ask questions--nothing can ever improve if we don't speak up--how can we not do this for those we love?