Thursday, September 15, 2011

P.E.T. Scans & Kindegarten

I had a flash of insight this morning.  (Or maybe it was just a bad reaction to P.E.T. scan contrast solution.  Whichever...) 

If smiles show up on a P.E.T., the radiologist reading mine this afternoon saw a couple, because I let this analogy run unencumbered in my mind between naps while I was in the P.E.T. scan machine & also while walking back from MDA.  So here goes...

P.E.T. scans are actually very similar to Attending Kindergarten:
--For both, you're given a list of things you can't wear.
--Or eat.
--You can't have coffee right before either one.
--For both, you'll be required to write out a lot of your life story & talk with strangers about all that you've done lately.
--In both, you have to abide by someone else's rules, with NO input from you.
--Both kindergarten & P.E.T. scans include mandatory naps with no talking or moving around allowed during the naps.
--In both kindergarten & P.E.T. scan facilities, the people running the joint use lots of big words & concepts that you don't understand.
--At both, everyone tries to make you more comfy, which is only a little bit successful given that you'd rather be at home playing with the dog.
--Both require getting stuck with needles--before you show up @ kindergarten; after you show up for a P.E.T. scan.
--For both kindergarten and P.E.T. scans, you have to wear a goofy looking name tag with your picture on it.
--At both kindergarten & P.E.T. scan facilities, they bandage up your boo-boos.  (Of course, at a P.E.T. scan, they first cause the boo-boos; hopefully this is not true at kindergarten)
--At some point in both kindergarten and in a P.E.T. scan, you'll wish your Mommy would come pick you up & take you to get an Icee.
--For both kindergarten and P.E.T. scans, you're put into rooms with strangers such that you have to talk to them.

So, if you ever find yourself wondering what a P.E.T. scan's like, you can answer, "It's a lot like going to kindergarten."  Now you know...*grin*


p.s. - This is what happens when I have a block of time where (a) I'm tired, and (b) I can't do anything except sleep & think about such weirdness...

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Take Me Back to Texas...

It's a fascinating thing--and a great gift & blessing--to be forced to live life in 3-month increments. 

As both of my regular readers will know (*wink*), I have to journey out to Houston every three months for another P.E.T. scan & bloodwork.  When one has (had?) metastatic melanoma, long-range planning means "until my next P.E.T. scan."  This gives one a VERY unique situation, which while crushingly fearsome, is also a great blessing.

The current window of "clean" ends Wednesday when I roll out to Houston for Thursday's scan & bloodwork.  Followed, of course, by the latest most-important-Dr.-appt-of-my-life Friday morning to get the results of the scan & bloodwork.

Here's the thing: every single one of us is only around for a short time.  The gift & blessing of metastatic melanoma is that I am forced to deal with this reality.  (Very Important Note: I am not planning to punch out any time soon, and have had amazingly good treatment/surgery results these 3+ years, and so far have NO indications that the time of my departure is at hand.  Don't read more despair here than I intend!)

Do NOT misunderstand: I absolutely HATE metastatic melanoma & its accompanying scans & surgeries & fears & such.  But at the same time, I thank God for the great gift of realizing that my days are numbered.  Just like everyone else's days.  Because realizing that makes me often mindful of Moses' prayer in Psalm 90:12: "So teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom." 

"Numbering my days" means some things to me that took me a while to realize:
--I should turn off the cell phone & football game & computer & spend time chatting with my wife.
--And my children. 
--And my Mom.
--And my brother.
--And my friends.
--I should be prayerful about & mindful of ministry opportunities the Lord sends my way.
--I should spend time in Praise & Worship & Thanksgiving & in the Word, for those are things that will still be done in Heaven.
--I should be ever mindful that every one of us faces numbered days.  We are ALL under a death sentence.  Thus, I should endeavor mightily by the grace of God through the power of the Holy Spirit to impact lives for the Gospel's sake and for the eternal sake of others.

Again, the fear that will show up some time this afternoon around, oh, Lake Charles, LA would overpower, but for the grace of God.  But that same grace of God keeps the fear at bay (most of the time) between scans.  And thus, I'm free to celebrate the days, even while facing the reality that there aren't many of them.  For any of us.

Here's the sched for this trip, for your prayers:
Wed, 9/14 - Drive to Houston when class ends ~1:00
Thurs, 9:15 - P.E.T. scan ~ 8-10 a.m. (Prep, mandatory nap,scan itself,...)
Fri, 9/16 - Appt. w/ Dr. Homsi at 9:30 a.m. to get scan results; drive back to H'burg

On the plus side, I'll get to eat LOTS of wonderful Mediterranean food @ Dimassi's, one of our fave restaurants anywhere after the P.E.T. scan.  Also Thursday, I'll get to hang out w/ friends I knew when they were in jr. high & high school here in Hburg--now they're married w/ kids & in ministry (I'm getting old! *grin*)

Thankful for your prayers & for the grace of God that helps my "number my days,"
Romans 15:13

p.s. - I've had this great Jimmy Buffett lyric from "Nautical Wheelers" in my head for a week now: "Everyone here is just more than contented to be living and dying in three-quarter time..." Not sure what that means @ the moment, but I've been humming it & singing it...;-{)}

Thursday, September 01, 2011

It's Almost My Time of the Year which I mean Football Season!!  I can't wait!

(Note: I really enjoy watching all sports--with the possible exception of curling, which is easily the most bizarre sports spectacle ever--but there's just something about football that trips my trigger, God help me.)

I love the game.  My preference is a smothering, hard-hitting defense combined with a pro-set, power running offense, but I just love the game.  I love it at most any level, from NFL to college to HS & jr. high. 

But as much as I love football, football season brings out the absolute worst in a considerable portion of society.  And it has done so in me as well over the years.  I *hope* & *pray* that I've gotten better in recent years..

Precisely NOTHING that matters ultimately will be determined by the actions of a bunch of large, strong, fast, 18- to 23-year-old guys running into each other at high rates of speed for 3-4 hours at a time.  (Nor, for that matter, will anything ultimate be determined by the actions of any high-school football players.  Or any NFL players)  It's a game.  A game.  A GAME.  One that I happen to really enjoy watching live or on TV...but still a game.

To my fellow Christians, I offer the same challenge that I offer myself every year:  PLEASE, let's consider the reputation of our Lord & of the Gospel as we move into rabid-cheering time. 

An absolutely haunting question that came to me a few years back: Would you rather your team win, or would you rather others become more interested in the teachings of Christ because of how you conduct yourself during football season?  (Yeah, I didn't like the question either; haven't been able to get past it though.)  EVERY football fan genuinely believes that it's the OTHER school's fans who are jerks, but not "us."  With all the love I can muster, I'm telling you: t's "us" too, whomever "us" is for you...

Just so you know: my alma mater, for whose teams I have ferverently cheered since I was a toddler, is once again highly ranked pre-season, & is expected to have a good season.  My alma mater's cross-state rival won it all last year, including a great comeback from a serious 2nd-half deficit in my school's stadium.  Did I want my team to win?  Absolutely!  Was I able to congratulate my friends who support that cross-state rival?  Yes I was.  (I'm making progress...*smile*)

But what about the local school's team, you ask?  I've been at every single home game for the past few years, and will be again this year, Lord willing.  What about the other two major teams in the state?  Been to games at both, and enjoy doing so, & hope to do so again this year.

Here's how the challenge plays out in mmbeachbum's life this coming football season:  By the grace of God, I will do no public/online "woofing" if my team wins a particular game, nor whining if they don't.  I'm going to be proud of them, win or lose, as I have for as long as I can remember.  I will always be proud of the degrees I have from there, which explain why my tag is the "Crimson Tide" tag available in MS.  But I'm praying to be able to display grace toward others, win or lose.  Excuses & gloating are out.  Including the ever-popular "Well, see, they started it...there was that incident back in 1937 (or whenever) it's justified."  With all the love I can muster: No, it's NOT justified.  It's a GAME, for crying out loud! 

Also by the grace of God, I will enjoy watching teams other than my alma mater's team (OK, that's pretty easy for a devout lover of the game like myself), and will encourage fans of the other teams as I'm able.  FWIW, in my closet right now are shirts & hats from AL (of course), USM, Ole Miss, & MSU.  All will be worn as I'm able to attend games at those places this year.  And when I go to games at those schools' stadiums, I will enjoy those games and will enjoy the traditions each place has.  I will refuse to publicly badmouth anyone's coach, recognizing that every single D1 football coach in America knows more about football than I do.  (Or than you do...)

So, it's possible that I've gotten to the point in my spiritual journey where I can cheer for my school's team without cheering against or badmouthing the opponent.  I've seen this trait in a couple of friends of mine, and long to have it consistently myself.  I'm also going to actively enjoy watching games--including once again the big 3 MS universities--without having to become a jerk for or against any other team.  And without having to hammer anyone about their own allegiances.  (Yep...I've been hammered about mine for 22 years now since moving to MS; especially so when we won it all a couple of seasons ago.  Receiving the verbal abuse isn't fun.  But perhaps I'm reaching the point where I will no longer have to fire back.  I'm still a work in progress, but there is actual progress...*smile*)

Strap 'em up, boys!  It's football season!  I can't wait!

p.s. - Alabama's first opponent is Kent State U., which is cool for a couple of reasons.  1) One of Kent St.'s football alums is...*drum roll*...former defensive back Nick Saban, who is now the HC at Alabama.  2) Kent St.'s team has been in Tuscaloosa this week, working alongside Bama's team doing some home rebuilding projects in town from last April's devastating tornado.  The two teams worked alongside each other several weeks ago also.  THAT, ladies & gents, is FAR more significant & cool than the outcome of Saturday's game!