Sunday, May 23, 2010


(Seems I was just writing a very similar post not that long ago...*sigh*)

Rough day yesterday @ Casa beachbum. (As of the initial writing of this) I'm just in & cleaned up from gravedigging duties in the back yard. Our next-door neighbor's pit bull killed Mollie, our small cat, this morning around 8:30. (Aside: I honestly think the dog was "playing" with Mollie...but it went horribly awry...)

So, once again--and for the final time--we are mourning the loss of an awesome cat.

Mollie was about 16 or so. All black, still w/ a bit of a sassy personality. She was very small; still looked & acted like a little kitten. She was mostly an inside cat, but ventured out now & then. Once too often, as it turns out...

Mollie came to us suddenly. 16 years ago, Lisa & I were teaching college Sunday School @ our church. Thus the phone call one night from a young lady in our group. "Hey, do y'all know anybody who wants a kitten? A guy gave me one, and my roommate is deathly allergic to them" She became cat #2 around here. (Cat #1 was Maggie, who died last year in a much more humane manner...)

I'm a dog guy. But I sure did love my two cats! I'm persuaded God made two great cats in all of creation. Both of them lived here and mightily blessed our lives, even while bossing us around like cats do. *smile* And I apologize to all of you cat people for being forced to tolerate lesser cats than our two awesome ones...*another smile*

Mollie loved to rest on top of someone, especially Lisa. She had this loud & awesome purr that made us refer to her as "crackling cat."
She also *loved* a box to climb into. Just recently, Lisa brought a long & skinny box home. Mollie *loved* it!
She also *dearly* loved this soft white rug we have. She would come knead it for a while & then go to sleep, crackling the whole time.
She became something of a co-belligerent with Maggie in the quest to keep Sam the dog under control. And eventually, after he was slapped upside the head (by Mollie!) several thousand times, Sam developed a sort of detante with Mollie. In fact, an oddly-treasured memory is one that happened several times over the last 16 years. Mollie--being a cat--came & went on her own terms, and thus would occasionally stay outside at night (her choice, of course). In the wee hours of some of those nights, we'd hear a ruckus of squealing & squalling, at which point Sam would go tearing out the door to protect his cat from bigger Tom cats or from whatever the pest was. Presently, Mollie would come strolling back in, followed a minute or two later by Sam. (Sam also did this with Maggie...Sam's a sweet dog!)

My morning routine has been to start the coffee while listening to Mollie telling me most insistently that the coffee could wait while I fed her. I missed getting fussed at this morning, and will miss it from now on. Another part of the morning routine was to give Sam & Beau (James' dog) a taste of catfood after feeding Mollie. They were a tad bit confused this morning; I'm more than a tad bit sad about that routine change...

Both of my children loved Mollie. James played with Mollie & got her to do things none of the rest of us could (or would!). Anne & Mollie were sleeping buddies. Anne said yesterday, "I can't even remember when Mollie wasn't around..."
(Yep...she laid on his head quite patiently, such that I have several shots of this from this past Christmas)

As I said, a tough day.

After considerable prayer, I knocked on the door at the dog's house yesterday. Introduced myself to the guy (he's new here), and told him about Mollie & his pit bull. He was very upset & apologetic, and said he'd get rid of the dog. It actually was a blessed conversation with a pretty good guy whose dog did a terrible thing. My pulse was probably 190, but I didn't feel anger (by the grace of God!), and he responded gracefully. In fact, within about a half-hour, the dog was in the back seat of the guy's truck, moving to a new home out in the country. This is a *much* better solution than my first instinct this morning, which involved a shotgun...God graciously calmed me down, and then providentially had me teaching on guarding the heart in Hebrews 3 & 4, followed by my pastor preaching an *awesome* message on persevering under trial from James 1. All within a couple of hours of the awful incident.

I'm a dog guy. And I try hard to be a good neighbor, and will continue to be so with the folks next door. But I was not, am not, and will not ever be a pit bull fan. (Pit Bull fans, don't even bother! Enjoy your animals, as is your right. And keep them the heck away from me and mine. Lisa & I have mental images now that will haunt us for some time, all because of a pit bull that had a rather sweet & pleasant disposition. That's all I have to say about that)

So, there are four people living here who are grieving a much-loved cat. She probably didn't have many more years left, but this is most assuredly NOT the end we had in mind.

We're fine, and will be more so. But we still miss our cat very badly...
I'm a dog guy...who is VERY sad about his cat's passing...

RIP, Mollie!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Approximate Sched for Mike for 5/17 @ MDA

7:30 - venture out into the *incredible* Houston rush-hour traffic
7:35 - vow to never gripe about Hardy St. traffic ever again; repeat this vow every 3.5 minutes until parked @ M.D. Anderson Cancer Center
8:30 - bloodwork (my personal record is 11 vials in one sitting...)
9:30 - P.E.T. Scan Prep
(basically, inserting an IV into my arm, pushing some nuclear waste through the IV, and making me take a 1-hour nap...really, they do make me nap! I'm OK with it though)
11:00 - P.E.T. scan (about 30 min in a tube where I'm velcroed on to the table...and yes, they really do velcro me on there...I usually add another nap, figuring (a) I have to be still, and (b) it's always quite cool in the P.E.T. scan room...)
12:00 - drink a gallon of long-overdue coffee & eat bad cafeteria food (OK, this is not on my official M.D. Anderson schedule for the day...but since I can't eat or drink anything until after the P.E.T. scan, it's on my *personal* schedule...*huge grin*)
1:00 - go whine @ brain MRI people in hopes that they'll move mine from 5:00 to, well, now. Repeat until they reschedule my MRI, or until 4:30, whichever comes first.
4:30 - Prep for Brain MRI
5:00 - Brain MRI (stick your head into a metal bucket & have someone periodically bang on it with a hammer...that's pretty close to what this is like. Luckily, I have mad napping skills, so...)
6:00 - venture back into the Houston rush-hour traffic
6:05 - vow to never again gripe about traffic on Helveston, near WCU
6:10 - be oh-so-thankful that my morning & evening "rush-hour" commute is about 25 minutes long
Sometime after that: commit serious gluttony @ a great Tex-Mex place with Lisa, aided by two HS classmates + the son of one of them (again, not on my official MDA schedule...)

Seriously, it'll be a full, busy day. Your prayers for accurate and clear test results are most appreciated, if you're a praying type.

Thanks much!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Looming Sword

I used to wonder what it was like for folks who had to face regular visits to cancer doctors and, well, M.D. Anderson, and such places.

I don't wonder any more. It feels a lot like the life Damocles lived when he swapped places with Dionysius in the ancient legend. The legendary/mythical "sword of Damocles" always hung over his head, suspended by a thin thread, symbolizing the ever-present threat Dionysius felt.

Now, the "sword of Damocles" analogy fails, because (a) I've not swapped lives with anyone, and (b) I'm *definitely* not in a position of power.

Those caveats aside, having a sword of destruction hanging over one's head suspended by a narrow thread is pretty much how it feels to be a melanoma survivor. (Related aside: that's also why you, insert your name here, should wear sunscreen!)

Oh, I don't live in fear, for my God is on His throne, and He was not surprised in Nov. 2005 when my cancer first appeared, nor was he surprised in May 2008 when it showed up again in both lungs.

And He will not be surprised by whatever next week's followup scans @ M.D. Anderson show.

Thus, most of the time, God graciously doesn't let me linger on cancer & on the likelihood of melanoma returning.

But as the return journey looms, the sword looms also.

We head back out to Houston Sunday afternoon.

Here's the schedule of all of the "fun":

Monday - bloodwork & P.E.T. scan & brain MRI
(stick your head & chest inside a small metal bucket & have someone bang on the bucket repeatedly with a hammer; that's pretty close to what a brain MRI is like...*grin*)
Tuesday - appt with Dr. Homsi (my main medical Dr. there)
Wed. - appt. with Dr. Mehran (my surgeon)

I'd call it 50-50 that I have another surgery this time. There's the one spot near my ribs on the wall of my chest near one of the previous surgery entry points. Not a new spot; been there all along. Last time we were out there, the P.E.T. scan showed that the spot had grown just a bit (although it's still very small). Hence the surgical consult this time.

I don't really mind surgery, but I *hate* the recovery time. Plus, anesthesia messes me up for the next couple of days after. Plus, it'd be groovy if we were rolling back home Wed. evening having been told "nothing to see here..."

So, the sword becomes visible again as I'm reminded of my medical history...which reminds me how gloriously dependent & *not* in charge I really am. And which drives me to prayer. And to ask for the prayers of others. And to be mindful that a day is coming for me (and a place) in which there will be no more cancer, no more need for surgery, no more recovery needed...I can't wait, though I do not seek to get there any time soon!

If you're a praying type, your prayers are *most* welcome, needed, and appreciated.

In His Grip,

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us...And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience...
Romans 8:18, 23-25

Thursday, May 06, 2010

I love college graduations...especially this one...

In May, 1983, I walked across a stage at the University of Alabama and received a degree & a handshake from the president of the University. In my case, it took 6 years and 3 different schools to get there, but that’s another story for another day.

A few years later, I received a M.A. degree. Then, in 1990, I received a Ph.D., which could well have been viewed as that year’s sign of the imminent return of our Lord.

Since then, I have attended numerous college graduations, and I actually love the ceremony. As a professor I get to don the robes & the hat and be part of the platform party w/ my colleagues. I dig the significance of the ceremony, the motivation of the speakers’ remarks (well, most of them…), and the general pomp & circumstance of it all.

But the coolest part to me is afterward, when I get to shake hands w/ my students who have just walked across the stage & received a degree. I *LOVE* this part of the day! “Mom, this is Dr. Madaris” etc. Utterly awesome, in the real sense of the word “awesome.”

And yet, in all of my goober-ish enjoyment of graduation, and all of the excitement of the new graduates, there’s a decided bittersweet feel. I really love my job, in large part because I really love college students. (well, most of them…) I like to think that over the course of battling with duration, net present value, market efficiency, supply & demand, futures contracts, gap, CAMEL ratings, and other goodies one covers in various econ & finance classes, at least some of those students become friends. Which means that graduation = saying goodbye to friends who are (mostly) moving away. I do NOT enjoy that part of graduation day. Even with the excitement of the day and of students/friends moving into career type jobs, I’m not very good at saying “goodbye.” I totally agree with C.S. Lewis, who said (paraphrased) “the reason saying goodbye is so hard is because we were never meant to do so.” One of my favorite descriptions of heaven is this: the land of the eternal hello. I can’t wait.

Well, all of that was background so that I could say this…Lisa, Anne & I won’t be at Temple Baptist Church this Sunday morning, and I won’t be eating my usual dose of catfish Friday @ WCU. We’ll be heading north to Oxford, MS, along with my Mom & her husband Leo. We’re attending a baseball game Friday night featuring the two teams that are tied for first in the SEC Western division, but that’s just the lagniappe. The real purpose of our trip happens Saturday on campus at the University of Mississippi.

James Madaris, my son, in whom I am VERY well-pleased, graduates from the School of Pharmacy with a Bachelor of Pharmaceutical Sciences degree.

At the risk of pride, there is no chance that I could ever get admitted to the Ole Miss School of Pharmacy, let alone get an actual degree from there. (I know a number of things, zero of which have to do with the natural sciences…)

I remember telling James during Christmas Break of his freshman year that this weekend would arrive with amazing speed. And so it has. What I under-estimated, was the speed at which it would arrive FOR ME.

Seems just a few weeks ago that James was dressing as our then-pediatrician Dr. Kent (who is one of my life mentors…), and playing teeball, and feeding the ducks with his Mother, and going to the zoo, and moving over to this new school setting called “PCS,” and learning how to strap on football pads, and helping me set up the tent for family camping trips…and going to prom, and laughing with me as we listened to the local rock radio station’s commercial while in MY car: “Not your father’s radio station…unless you have a really cool Dad…” And becoming a rather good all-district tackle, and graduating from high school, and getting accepted to the University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy’s Early-Entry program (which rejected something like 80% of those who applied that year), and moving into the dorm and commencing life as a UM student…

In case you’re wondering, Ole Miss has been an ABSOLUTELY INCREDIBLE experience for James. Regardless of your football team leanings, hear me say this—me, a lifelong Bama fan and three-time Bama grad: I find it very difficult to even imagine a better college experience than James has had at Ole Miss.

Pharmacy School has challenged the stew out of him, and he is a better man because of facing and overcoming those challenges…he has grown spiritually there…he has made some (I predict) lifelong friends who are the kind of friends parents want their kids to have…he has totally dug games from the student section at Vaught-Hemingway stadium (along with the last two Cotton Bowls), and in the ancient basketball arena, and @ the baseball stadium…he has lived on campus, near campus, and a ways away from campus…he—like his parents—has come to *really* love Oxford…all while becoming a man and being well on his way to an excellent career of serving others, which career path was decided on during high school.

I had a whole thing here about the visceral hatred many in our state have toward Ole Miss, but deleted it. Instead, let me just say this: James is NOT wealthy, he’s NOT particularly a partier, he’s NOT in a fraternity, and neither of his parents went to Ole Miss…and he dearly loves the university and the Rebel sports teams. Plus, his degree will come from one of the top pharmacy programs IN THE COUNTRY.

Why didn’t he go to Bama? Two reasons, out-of-state tuition (a surmountable challenge), but mostly because of the insurmountable fact that Bama doesn’t have a pharmacy program at all, let alone a top 10-20 program!

I couldn’t be happier with his school and career choice!

Note: James & I cheer for each other’s football teams to win almost all of their games every year…*another smile*

For those unfamiliar with pharmacy programs, James still has two more years to go. Next year, he’ll move to Jackson for the dreaded P-5 year of clinical at the Medical School. The following year will be a bunch of 5-week rotations. And then we’ll re-convene for another Ole Miss graduation, at which (Lord willing) he’ll receive a Doctorate of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.). And then off to practice his craft & begin his career.

As both of my regular readers will know, (*smile*) I dearly love my son and am very proud of his achievements and of who he has become. Hence, I’ll tell you when I decided he was going to make it to this point. 2nd semester, freshman year. A phone call, just to chat (which, just as an aside, is one of the GREAT blessings of my life…that my son sometimes calls for no particular reason). Here’s the paraphrase of part of the conversation: “Dad, don’t be offended, but I wish I could major in business…those guys have it so easy! They go to class, study about 10 minutes & then play the rest of the time. And frequently, they don’t even go to class!” I asked if he wanted to change majors. “No, I don’t; I really want to be a pharmacist!” I suggested that skipping class is not a good plan, even for business majors (remember, I’m a business school professor), but especially for early-entry pre-pharmacy students. His response: “Oh, don’t worry, Dad…I can’t afford to miss class, so I don’t!”

That’s when I knew he’d get to this Saturday.

That confidence has been confirmed through many chats & report cards & honors & such, but I’ll spare you.

So, this Saturday, I’ll don my suit—purchased this week for this very occasion—and head to Oxford with great pride and thanksgiving that God has granted me the amazing privilege of being James Madaris’ Dad, and watch him shake hands with school administrators & receive a degree that just boggles my mind to ponder.

And Friday and Sunday, we’ll watch the Rebels take on the Arkansas Razorbacks in what has shaped up to be a baseball clash of two powerhouse teams. Me? You bet! I’ll be wearing my Ole Miss hat & shirt, and hooting & hollering right there alongside this MAN who looks a bit like me…albeit a bigger, stronger, smarter, better-looking version of me. A *MAN* who, for Friday’s game, will be an Ole Miss undergraduate student, and for Sunday’s game, will be an Ole Miss ALUMNUS.

I have so many more thoughts about this event, but I'll just close with this, in loving honor of my son, and without any hint of apology.


Love you buddy!

p.s. – I doubt I’ll shed any tears this weekend. Except maybe on Friday. And of course, Saturday at graduation. Oh, and Sunday when we roll out of Oxford… *smile*