Thursday, April 29, 2010

It’s Me Again, Jesus!

Last week, careful readers will have noticed, Yours Truly skipped his weekly assignment of penning this little column, which is something I try to accomplish each Monday morning. (Careless readers may not have noticed, because the usual space was filled in with a “re-run” from months gone by… just like the TV networks do!)

It was the first time I missed my deadline in over three years. I do not have a good excuse.

I guess, if I was a “dream-up-excuses” sort of guy, I could come up one. I was, after all, strapped down to an operating table, undergoing a bit of brain surgery.
But that’s really no excuse. I’ve undergone similar surgeries two other times in the last couple of years, and I managed to meet the deadline for my column both of those times!

So no excuses. I’ll try to do better in the future, although there admittedly may be some new challenges ahead.

Back in August of 2008, when I first underwent surgery to remove a malignant brain tumor, I promised to keep you posted of my progress, much as my friend Jerry Fowler had done during his illness a couple of years earlier. He shared his personal battle with cancer each week, and helped a lot of people along the way.

I guess I’m just not as disciplined as Jerry was, because, try as I might, I can’t seem to work my health picture into my column but once or twice a year. There have, however, been some recent developments, and I thought I’d share them with you.

I won’t try to give you all the background on the melanoma that I was first diagnosed with in 1983, or the recurrence in the summer of 2008 that briefly impacted my communication skills. I will instead refer you to this column, which is now posted online as a blog at (Just go back to August, 2008, and you can read all about it.)

When we last updated my condition here (last November), I mentioned that I had chosen the treatment route of “clinical trials”… still-experimental treatments which have not yet been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Although the my first round of trials -- an experimental vaccine designed to boost my immune system -- officially showed no response, there is some evidence that a partial response was achieved. In other words, some success, perhaps.

While searching for the next clinical trial, however, I was delayed by what appears to be multiple new recurrences of the melanoma in various areas: several spots in the lungs, where we already knew there was at least one large tumor; nine lesions in the brain, which were treated by gamma-knife last Monday at MUSC; and a number of brand new melanoma tumors in areas which do not appear to threaten any organs.
A biopsy of the large tumor in the lung, however, which had tested positive for cancer last June, suddenly came back negative, just a couple weeks ago. Hence, the possible partial success, perhaps.

As of now, I am scheduled to begin a new round of clinical trials next week. I’ll try to keep you posted better than I have been doing.

In the meantime, I am blessed to have no real side effects or disabilities, and am able to continue to work my normal schedule… with the obvious exception of last Monday, when I missed my deadline.

It’s also a good time for me to reflect a bit.

Given my several brushes with cancer, my odds of still being here are not good. In 1983, I was given a 35% chance of surviving five years. In 2008, my odds of making it through were described as maybe one in a thousand. And the couple of recurrences since then have been…well, let’s just say alarming to the technicians reading my scans. (You can always see it in their eyes!)

Still, here I am, starting on my next streak of writing a column every week for three years without missing a single one. I hope.

There are a few things I’ve learned through these experiences of the last two years.

First, none of the medical professionals and researchers can tell us what makes these cures and treatments work sometimes and not work other times. They’re striving to find out, but they just don’t know.

Secondly, a lot of really smart people – doctors, scientists, researchers – seem to think the “power of prayer” has a lot to do with it. I’m glad, because I think it has everything to do with it. When word of my diagnosis was revealed two years ago,

I was humbled by the number of prayer groups who helped me – friends and acquaintances, and total strangers alike. They prayed for me, and I assume that’s why I’m still here.

Although I’ve personally never stopped talking to Jesus about it, I do notice that our chats become a little more fervent and frequent each time I get a diagnosis with a new set of challenges. I’m praying as hard as I can, but I sure do appreciate those extra prayer-words from others (because yours might be the one that works!)

Thirdly, whatever my future holds is okay with me. It’s a great life, and I love this life, but I’ve certainly had my fair share of it -- probably more than my share -- so when my time comes, it comes. In my prayers, incidentally, I always address that exact point: I simply ask Jesus to use me as is His will. If that means going to Heaven sooner rather than later, then that’s what I’m ready for. After all, it’s not this life that really counts… it’s the next one. I believe. I am saved. And I am ready.

If I’m sounding a little more prayerful than usual in my column this week, I hope you’ll understand. Skipping my column last week gave me extra time to reflect on this week’s message… and I decided to talk to a larger audience this week.


You’re always welcome to let me know you agree, disagree, can’t make sense of, or simply don’t care about anything I’ve written here… or about any other topic that happens to be on your mind. You can email me directly at:

And, if reading it once just wasn’t enough for you, read it again online – along with previous columns -- at my modern-technology Electronic Internet blog:

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Sing-along with Rod-Boy

Never let it be said that this little newspaper is a slave to tradition. Nay, far from it.

This little-ol’ community newspaper pushes the envelope on a regular basis. This little newspaper – specifically, yours truly, in this weekly column, the very one you are reading right now – is perfectly willing to take you places you have never been…. to seek out new worlds and new journalistic adventures… to boldly go where no man has gone before!

So buckle up. This week, I’m taking you on one of those newspaper joyrides, as we embark on the history-making, World’s-First-Ever, newspaper Sing-along!

Most of my closest of my friends recognize that I’m a big fan of sing-alongs. I’m inclined, on a moments notice, to whip out my trusty guitar any place, any time, and commence to crooning. Sometimes a modest crowd gathers around and joins in. Other times, they scatter like flies, and I’m left with my sing-along of one: my sing-along becomes a sing-alone!

So this is a big moment: We’re having a sing-along right here in the newspaper. First time ever. A history-making event. I think it can be done.

If this were radio, or television, or even the Internet, it wouldn’t be quite so ground-breaking of an undertaking. Heck, Mitch Miller did it every week when I was a kid. But not inside the pages of a newspaper.

Okay, here’s how it’s gonna work…

I’ll name the song, and you’ll be able to hear the tune in you mind. (We’re going to use very familiar songs that I’m sure you’ll recognize. From many years of actual, live and in person sing-alongs, I happen to know which songs most people know the best.) All you’ve got to do participate is nod your head back and forth in rhythm as you’re reading the lyrics to the song. (Finger wagging or foot tapping will also work.)

Or, if you want, you can move your lips. If you’re ready for the next step, go ahead and hum. And if you’re really out there, just let yourself go and belt it out… LOUD, so the other people in the office, waiting room, or restaurant can join in!

Now, put on your Happy Faces, and Sing-Along With Rod-Boy!

We’ll start with an old favorite that I’m sure you know, because everybody does:

“You Are My Sunshine!”
key of E for you folks with perfect pitch

“You are my sunshine, my only sunshine,
You make me happy, when skies are gray.
You’ll never know dear, how much I love you,
Please don’t take my sunshine away!”

Okay, we’ll stop with just one chorus. We don’t want to create any disruptions in the workplace. How did you do? Did anyone join in with you?

Okay, next, let’s move to a song actually from the most recent half-century. A little ditty by the Beatles:

“I Saw Her Standing There”
key of E

“Well, she was just 17, if you know what I mean,
And the way she looked was way beyond compare,
Well, how could I dance with another….. WOOOOOO…
When I saw her standing there?”

Tell the truth, did you shake your head when you got to the “WOOOOO”?

From the hit movie “Shrek”…. (and a few decades before that, from the “Monkees”)…. here’s a little ditty called:

“I’m a Believer”
key of E
(This time we’ll try the verse and the chorus!)

“I thought love was only true in fairy tales,
And for someone else but not for me,
Love was out to get me, that’s the way it seemed,
Disappointment haunted all my dreams…
Then I saw her face…. Now I’m a believer,
Not a trace…. Of doubt in my mind,
I’m in love… oooooooooh, I’m a believer,
And I couldn’t leave her if I tried.

If that one didn’t get your toes tapping, I’m pretty sure this next one will. It’s from the 1960’s, and if you were there, you’ll definitely remember it:

“The Ballad of Jed Clampett”
(also known as the theme to the “Beverly Hillbillies”)
key of E

“Come and listen to my story ‘bout a man named Jed,
A poor mountaineer, barely kept his family fed,
And then one day he was shooting at some food,
When up through the ground came a bubbling crude…
(Oil, that is. Black Gold. Texas Tea.)

Now tell the truth. Even if you didn’t participate in any of the other songs, you had to at least say that last line to yourself, didn’t you? (Oil, that is…)

I could go on all day long with songs you would chime in to, but you really need to be getting back to work, instead of spending your whole day nodding, tapping, and moving your lips. But it was fun, wasn’t it? Maybe some other time we’ll sing a few more.

By the way, if you simply could not move yourself to tune in to a newspaper sing-along, you can perhaps visit my Electronic Internet blog ( where, with luck, you can actually sing along with me. I’ll be the one with the guitar, playing in the key of E… which, you may have noticed, is the only key I know!

And I you don’t sing-along, it will be a sing-alone.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Springtime in the Good Old Days

Since it was Easter Sunday, I went to church, as I always TRY to do… but especially on Easter.

Another thing I TRY to do when I go to church is NOT let my mind wander, which is pretty hard for me because: (a) my mind wanders pretty much all the time, and (b) I’m a Lutheran, which means our church service includes lots of chants and so forth, which provide extra opportunities for my mind to wander, no matter how hard I try to stay focused on the content of those chants.

This past Sunday, my mind did wander a bit, but at least it stayed on Easter stuff. For some reason, I found myself thinking about Dogwood trees, and the legend I remember from my childhood that the flower of the dogwood represents the Crucifixion. (If you look at a dogwood flower, you can see a cross, as well as four rusty indentions, which symbolize the nails.)

After church, my mind kept wandering. First, I recalled how as a young kid, in my tree-climbing years, dogwoods were my favorite, because they were easy, being low to the ground, and also have trunks that were twisted just exactly right for climbing upon by a six or seven year old.

Then, my mind drifted over to the other iconic flower of springtime in the South, the azalea bush, which seemed to grow everywhere when I was a kid. Next thing I knew, I was absorbed in full-fledged mind-wandering, daydreaming about Springtime in the Good Old Days.

From azaleas, I somehow jumped to the Sunday afternoons I knew as a kid. On the ride home from church, one of the three kids would always have the foresight to “call” the comics: “I got the funnies!” Somehow, it was as if calling for that section of the Sunday newspaper had the force of law. The caller, would, indeed, always be granted the right to choose from among the two sections of the comics that existed back then.

While we glanced at various sections of the newspaper, Mom would be in the kitchen getting Sunday dinner ready. It wasn’t until I was older that I ever realized other people called the noontime meal “lunch”, and “dinner” was the meal served in the evening, which I called “supper”.

Looking back, I realize that regular Sunday dinner at our house was an extravaganza: usually roast beef or chicken or cubed steak or pork chops, with more sides than you can imagine, including either mashed potatoes or rice with gravy, macaroni, rolls, iced tea, and usually three or four different vegetables.

I was never a big fan of the vegetables.

On one memorable occasion – possibly the most storied Sunday dinner in Shealy family history – Mom and Dad decided to exert their parental authority and insist that I not leave the table until I had consumed a portion of – YUCK – English Peas.

Hours after the rest of the family had left the dinner table, I was still sitting their, stubbornly refusing to budge.

Finally, after it occurred to me that my daylight/outside playtime was slipping away, I ate the dreaded peas: one at a time, swallowed like a pill, with a giant gulp of iced tea to wash it down. It took another half hour or so. I ate them all. But I didn’t taste them.

After daydreaming about Sunday dinners of years gone by, my mind somehow jumped to “catching fireflies”, which we did in the early evenings of the spring.

From there, my thoughts raced willy-nilly from image to image, recalling bits and pieces of springtime memories from circa-1965 – 1967, which would be approximately ages 12 to 14 for me. Here are a few of those glimpses I recall:

-- Counting down the days til summertime! School was bearable because the end was within sight: SUMMERTIME!!! So I sat in school during those springtime countdown days with my mind wandering… not unlike present day.

-- Walking to the drive-in movie. I was too young to drive. But on Wednesday nights, there were free coupons, and they didn’t care if you had a car or not.

-- Atlanta Braves baseball. In the mid-to-late 60’s, I was a big fan. I could recite batting orders and recount scores of games, and I kept up with how many games out of first place the Braves were. I knew the names like they were family: Hank Aaron, Clete Boyer, Joe Torre, Felipe Alou, Rico Carty, Phil Neikro… I knew ‘em all, and listened to every game on my transistor radio.

-- Walking to the corner store for a soda. In the springtime, as it started to get warm, investing 10-cents in a cold drink seemed like a good idea. Back then, the drinks were in bottles, in a cooler with a lift up lid and a bottle opener. Coke came up with the idea to put a contest under the bottle caps. Under each cap was a letter, printed either in red or black. If you collected enough caps to spell out “things go better” in red letters, you won $1,000. I remember digging through a lot of used bottle caps.

-- The Attic Fan! Air conditioning existed back then… but not at our house! However, we had a giant attic fan, which kept the whole house cool during the spring a summer nights. (Well, maybe by August it wasn’t quite getting it done anymore.) The good thing about the Spring was that the gnats and flies weren’t out in full force yet.

-- I think it was also along the same time – the mid-to-late sixties, in the Springtime – that I first discovered “girls”. Actually, I knew girls before, but previously, had viewed them mostly as just nuisances while us guys were trying to build a fort, ride our bikes, or play a game of baseball. Suddenly, however, I seem to have discovered girls in a whole new light. (Unfortunately, I simultaneously discovered that I was apparently the shyest boy in about five states.)

So, I spent part of my Easter afternoon daydreaming about Springtime in the Good Old Days. I hope you had a good Easter, too.