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There's something good here . . .

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October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The disease has impacted both my mother and me. We’ve lived to tell the tale, but neither of us welcome another up close and personal encounter.

There’s a finding on your mammogram . . .

Seeing those words in a letter from a radiologist changed my life and the lives of an estimated 207,089 women who will also be diagnosed with breast cancer this year.

I don’t care to repeat the first five months of 2010. The whole business with a Stage II, Grade IIA diagnosis, lumpectomy and radiation took the wind right out of my sails.

But, along with the bad, a lot of good has come my way.

There’s something good here . . .

I spent a lot of time talking to God, who reminded me that this, too, shall pass. And it did.

There’s something good here . . .

Since they were successful in getting my mother through her breast cancer battle in the summer of 2009, I chose the same professionals she used at East Texas Medical Center.

Radiologist Michael J. Klouda, who found the tumor on a mammogram, is the embodiment of professionalism.

When he said, “We can handle this,” I believed him.

Surgeon Harris Fender is a tenacious bulldog when it comes to tracking down every single cancer cell and obliterating it. Plus he’s a great cheerleader.

His sweet secretary, Karen Foster, will have jewels in her crown when she gets to heaven. As she had done with my mother, Karen walked me through the confusing maze of paperwork that goes hand in hand with modern medicine.

The day surgery crew at ETMC was amazing. The nurses answered every question and kept my family appraised of my progress every step of the way.

I had one panicky moment prior to procedure. It occurred to me that I might not wake up, but anesthesiologist, Ronald Rudak, made me laugh when he said, “We don’t have any one-way trips here.”

The professionals who handled my radiation at ETMC’s Cancer Clinic were inspirational and upbeat, despite being surrounded by a such a hateful disease on a daily basis.

Oncologist Robert M. Droder is handling my after-care, and I’m comfortable in his capable hands. He’s also the one who decided there would be no need for chemotherapy because I had the right kind of genes to fight a recurrence.

Right now, Dr. Droder’s doing his best to crack the code and find the right combination of chemicals to knock out the radiation-induced hot flashes that plague my nights.

Jeff Smith, my general practitioner, was most helpful between the initial diagnosis and the lumpectomy. Sulphur Springs is quite lucky to have a physician with such compassion.

There’s something good here . . .

I didn’t go public with the news until after radiation, but several people at the newspaper knew what I was facing. They never once complained during the six weeks I came in late. I owe them – big time.

There’s something good here . . .

My son, who lives in Tennessee, came home for five weeks, thanks to the incredible kindness of his employer, and put his invaluable chauffeuring skills to work.

We drove to Quitman in separate vehicles, where he parked his truck and then drove me to and from the Cancer Center near ETMC. After the 15-minute treatment, we headed back to Quitman, where I dropped him off and drove to work. At 6 a.m. the next day, we did it again.

My mother went to every doctor’s appointment, MRI and X-ray I had prior to surgery, and she was in the parking lot at 7 a.m. each morning for the six weeks of radiation.

My mother-in-law came from Nacogdoches for the surgery, and then again at the end of the radiation when the will to fight had been burned out of me. I didn’t have to lift a finger. She did everything for me.

My practically perfect spouse was a rock. He cried with me, railed with me and then looked in my eyes and swore we’d beat this thing – together. We celebrated our 24th anniversary last month. I don’t know how I got so lucky, but I give thanks for him every single day.

There’s something good here . . .

My lovely friends never faltered. Jerrie Sutphin, Carol Allen, Alison DeMasters, Angie Wall, Linda Walker, Alice Parker, Rhonda Keller, Donna Washington, Barbara Chambers and my sister-in-hot-sweats, Sarah Smith, provided much-needed support – and laughter – during some of my darkest days. They just showed up on my doorstep with hot meals and a lot of hugs.

There’s something good here . . .

Life at work is pretty good, too. My blogs, along with those submitted by Luis Noble and Cindy Roller, won first place in the Texas Associated Press Managing Editors competition this spring. I placed third in both feature series and comments and criticism.

I’ve scored interviews with musicians and writers I admire, like Willis Alan Ramsey, Guy Clark, Scott Turow and Steve Martini.

Right after radiation, when I could barely put one foot in front of the other, I did a story about Elizabeth Young, the 89-year-old Reilly Springs farm girl who has discovered the secret to life and shares it with everyone she meets. She was the most perfect medicine for what ailed me.

There’s something good here . . .

For the first time I can remember, I missed seeing Jimmy Buffett in Dallas. His show came in the middle of radiation, when I was traveling to Tyler, back to work and then home to Winnsboro every day. I just didn’t have the energy or, more surprisingly, the desire.

The upside was that my friends at Buffett News.com kept me up to date on the tailgate party with their phone calls.

Plus, I was able to watch the show live on the Internet, at home in my pajamas and saw Jimmy sing Willis Alan Ramsey’s “Northeast Texas Women.”

There’s something good here . . .

At the tail end of the radiation, when I was exhausted and burned to a crisp, I got an interview with Ramsey, the reclusive Dallas musician who’s influenced so many artists and whose one 1972 album has been the soundtrack of my life.

We talked for about 45 minutes. It was good medicine for my ailing body and my sagging spirit. It almost made up for not being physically able to see his show at Poor David’s Pub in Dallas in mid-May.

Then, by some fabulous twist of fate, he decided to do another Dallas show on August 25. Nothing could have kept me away. Seeing him in a small, intimate venue and talking to him face to face put me over the moon.


There’s something good here . . .

Then, after almost a year of asking, Lyle Lovett's people said yes to my request for an interview. I saw him at Bass Hall last November before everything hit the fan. We’re set to talk soon.


There’s something good here . . .


Leon Russell, one of my all-time favorites, came to Dallas last month. Before Buffett and Willis Alan, there was Leon. For a while, it looked like I might get an interview,  as he’s promoting his new CD with Elton John, but I don’t think it’s going to happen. It’s OK because I saw him at the Granada Theater, and he sang all my favorites.

It was a special moment for the 16-year-old who still lives inside my heart.


There’s something good here . . .

In the past year, I’ve done articles on some of my favorite musicians – Guy Clark, Justin Townes Earle, Marcia Ball, Vince Bell, James McMurtry, Brandon Rhyder, Terri Hendrix, Rosie Flores and, of course, Willis Alan Ramsey.


There’s something good here . . .

With so much going on in the world, my trials and triumphs may not seem like much, but I’ve learned a thing or two so far this year – God answers prayers and loves good music.

Comments (2)Add Comment
written by a guest , October 02, 2010
How many times have you held me up and been there for me-I love you and thank you for the honor of being your friend. Great to have a friend who loves her husband ,like I do mine. Always Jerrie
doing fine
written by a guest , October 02, 2010
We are just so glad to see you doing fine again. We luv you! Thanks for all you do....

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