January 01 '05
Volume 448

Skin Cancer Not Back Surgery

Mark Twain is credited with having first made the comment, "Rumors of my death are greatly exaggerated," but what he actually stated is, "The report of my death is an exaggeration." James Clemens, a cousin of Mark Twain, (Samuel Langhorne Clemens) had died following a long illness, and a rumor circulated that it was Mark Twain, himself, who had expired.

I can partly identify with the situation Mark Twain found himself in after a New York Times reporter found him alive and well in London, for I have recently had to quash a rumor that I was recovering from back surgery. On the Saturday before Christmas, Floyd McCullough stopped by to check on me, and I used the Twain quote in greeting him, when he commented that I was getting about quite well following surgery.

The next morning, several men at church inquired about my back surgery. I thanked each for his concern and affirmed I was having some back pain but explained I had not undergone surgery on my back. The confusion over my situation apparently arose from the fact that I had surgery to remove a skin cancer one day and the following day developed a back problem.

I had a small spot on my right shoulder for probably forty years, which didn’t look like a mole and was reddish in color. About eight years ago, I allowed a dermatologist in Greenville, MS, to remove several areas of pre-cancerous tissue on my face.

He looked at the spot on my shoulder and commented, "We’ll need to keep an eye on that."

I knew enough about moles to know if they changed color or began to grow, then it was time to get them checked. At the time, I could cover the spot on my shoulder with a nickel. A few months ago, I discovered a nickel wouldn’t quite cover the spot completely, but a quarter would. When I showed the area to Dr. Montgomery, about the time he scheduled me for a colonoscopy, he stated he didn’t know what it was, but he could get me an appointment with a dermatologist in Tupelo, who would know.

The dermatologist was reasonably certain the area was cancerous but performed a biopsy to be sure of the type. The report came back indicating basil cell carcinoma, a common form of skin cancer. Surgery was scheduled the following week.

"We’ll do the surgery, here in the office, using local anesthesia," he explained.

"Local anesthesia?" I considered, silently. "That means I’ll be awake for something I’d as soon not know about."

I may have felt the prick of the needle on the first of what seemed to be a hundred or more injections, but I felt nothing as he continued. Later, I was aware that I was being cut, but apart from the anxiousness of the moment, I felt nothing. Neither was there any pain when an area was cauterized, but the brief odor of burning flesh was not pleasant.

I spent the twenty or so minutes of the procedure, lying flat on my back, my left arm stretched out beside me with my right forearm midway across my chest, doing my best not to look at what was happening, and trying to filter out any technical jargon exchanged by the doctor and nurses, but listening to small talk unrelated to me and wondering if doctors can talk, slice, and sew with any greater ability than those who presume talking on a cell phone and driving are activities that mutually enhance each other when performed simultaneously.

I remember being tense the entire time and wasn’t made any better when the dermatologist asked, "Do you want to see what we cut out of you?"

"Heavens no!" I shot back, while thinking of a stronger expletive.

"Well, some people do, and that’s why I asked," he stated. "We’ll send it to pathology to make sure we got all of it."

"You have a pretty long incision there," he continued.

Turning my head slightly, so I could see the stitches, I made a guess as to the length of the incision, "Looks like about three inches."

"More like four," he responded matter-of-factly. "I don’t think you’ll want to be in any beauty contests."

"Those days are behind me, anyway," I replied, wondering why he thought someone my age would parade bare shouldered before an audience.

He went on to explain why the incision had to be so long when the diameter of the cancer was relatively small, "We can’t just cut out a circle and sew you up. We make an elongated football shaped incision in order to be able to close the wound properly."

While it made sense to me, I’d never given much thought to anything other than a circular cut.

Before leaving, a nurse bandaged me and instructed me to leave the bandage on until I showered the next morning. She also said to use peroxide and apply an antibacterial cream each day and keep the area covered with a Telfa pad or other bandage.

That night, I slept on my back with a small pillow supporting my right arm, because I could feel something pulling the skin on my shoulder whenever I lowered my arm. Since I have difficulty sleeping on my back, I made a few attempts during the night to sleep on my left side, but that seemed to produce discomfort involving the stitches or the bandage, so I returned to my back position. Whatever discomfort I experienced that night was mild compared to the nights that followed.

For the next two weeks, I was plagued with lower back pain. While I might fall asleep in bed, by three o’clock the next morning my back was hurting. I soon discovered it didn’t hurt quite as badly with me sitting in the recliner. I tried muscle relaxers, and I tried prescription pain medications, neither of which stopped the pain, but both enabled me to sleep a couple of hours between medications. I even tried muscle-stretching exercises, to no avail. Heat applications worked better than anything else, and I learned to keep a microwavable beanbag close at hand.

After a couple of days, I was more exhausted than anything else, probably from lack of rest. Mentally, I was not at my best, either, as I allowed my wife to contact a chiropractor on my behalf. However, I figured if the pain was related to my spine, perhaps a chiropractor could help. It’s probably unfair to say the chiropractor was of no help, but each time I went for a treatment, I didn’t feel any different than when I walked into the office.

After approximately ten days, I managed to stay in the bed until five o’clock each morning before getting up, heating the bean bag, and sitting in the recliner for a couple of hours. As I write this article (12/28/04), I'm doing better, but I’m not entirely free of pain.

I have long since concluded that my lower back condition is the result of a contracted muscle in my left hip. I base my diagnosis on the fact my condition is similar to that which sent me to an orthopedic doctor almost thirty years ago, who found no problems with my spine but treated me for a severely contracted muscle in my lower back.

Periodically, I experience similar pain, and after a few days of exercise and/or rest, I get better. Though, it’s taking longer than what I consider normal, based on my past experiences, I believe I shall soon be free of pain. If not, I’ll see a specialist. Meanwhile, please tell everyone that I’ve not had back surgery, at least not yet.

Dear Soldier…Book Of Children's Letters

Among the charitable endeavors to support the families of soldiers deployed overseas, Barbara Baldwin has taken the initiative to collect and publish, in book-form, letters written by school children to our men and women in uniform. The book, Dear Soldier, If you get hurt call my mama, consists of approximately 100 letters and a large number of full color patriotic illustrations contributed by elementary school children from Pontotoc City and Pontotoc County schools.

Barbara Baldwin is also part of a group of volunteers who need our support as they seek to provide plastic baggies of personal-need items to Pontotoc County’s deployed troops. Donations and supplies are accepted at the Chamber of Commerce and the Historical Society’s Museum located in the Town Square Post Office. Copies of the book are also available at these locations. To order a book by mail, send $15.00 (cash or check) for each copy desired to The Inner Sanctuary, Inc., 137 Oak Drive, Pontotoc, MS, 38863. Be sure to include your name, street address, city, state, and zip code information.

Having read the book, I heartily recommend it and encourage others to purchase a copy of the book and/or help with the volunteer group’s "Baggies For Troops" initiative. The baggies help affirm our support of our soldiers, and profits from the sale of the book go to the local chapter of the American Legion to be used to support deployed Mississippi Troops.

Christmas Rushed Christmas Eve - Christmas Day

It began years ago as a simple celebration. We always invited a few close friends to our house on Christmas Eve. The children of Jerry and Dot Bell were not too old to enjoy our own children, and Ken and Louise Prewett may not have begun their family at the time we conceived our first Christmas Eve party. We served a few simple refreshments and shared moments of quiet conversation as our children, excited over the prospects of a visit from Santa, ripped throughout the house, played video games, or watched TV, all with childlike abandon.

At some point the adults, the Bells and Carters and the Prewetts and Carters, began to exchange gifts on Christmas Eve, nothing expensive or extravagant, only a simple expression of love and friendship. I don’t recall why we started the gift exchange or even the year it was initiated. I only know that as recently as Christmas Eve 2003, we still did so.

This year, the Bells spent Christmas Eve with the family of their daughter, Leah Pair, in Tennessee, but the Prewetts came by right after attending a church service, as did Tommy and Patsy Patterson, our neighbors. Sarah and Felicia were also on hand, having earlier brought several "goodies" to be consumed by our Christmas Eve guests.

Our guests had hardly arrived when the phone rang. It was Rayanne calling to say she and her family were about to head our way to spend the night. Initially, I considered Rayanne’s last minute decision as mild insanity, and the image I conjured up of her loading the family van with children, presents, and bags of clothes to spend the night was blurred by the speed at which it played in my mind. However, the idea of seeing the grandchildren open presents on Christmas morning was appealing.

Anna, our oldest granddaughter, drove her car over, bringing along her half sisters, Merilese and Katherine. Rayanne and Anson arrived later, way later. In fact all of our Christmas Eve guests had left by the time any of Rayanne’s family arrived. Barbara and I bedded down shortly after midnight, and were up at six on Christmas Day. In what I consider an odd occurrence, adults were up and stirring well before any of the children. We even had our traditional breakfast of country sausage and buttered biscuits as well as cheddar cheese filled biscuits before the children awakened. But once they were awake, peace and quiet and tranquil moments were gone.

Sarah and Felicia came down to participate in the exchange of gifts. Once everyone had opened his or her gifts, it was time to start dinner. Sarah and Felicia went back home to finish their cooking chores. Our niece, Cheryl Radford of Southaven, MS, arrived shortly before noon, bringing still more food. Cheryl had to brave the icy roads in her neighborhood in order to get to the Interstate, but she made it without incident. Counting our great niece, Brigitte Rankin and her daughter, Christmas dinner was enjoyed by thirteen of us, and while I managed to avoid stuffing myself, I overate by eating throughout the rest of the day.

Visiting GrandmotherIn the early afternoon, several of us loaded up gifts and made our rounds to the nursing homes. First, we visited Barbara’s mom, taking her a food plate along with her gifts. Then, with Cheryl driving back to Southaven, the rest of us traveled to Sunshine Nursing Home to visit Aunt Jo. It was late afternoon by the time we got back home.

Rayanne’s family left for home after supper. Barbara and I didn’t know how exhausted we were until the next morning. Barbara managed to fulfill her responsibilities in Sunday School, but came back home to watch the worship service on TV in the comfort of our home. I managed to attend the worship service, but my energy level dropped drastically afterwards. I suppose it’s fair to say Barbara and I spent Sunday afternoon resting, but when folks rush through Christmas, relaxation is sure to follow. Still, we will remember Christmas 2004, not so much for the rushed schedule, as we will for it marking the first time all three of our granddaughters awoke on Christmas morning at our house.

RRN 2004 Ready For A Limited Time

The complete year of Ridge Rider News, 2004, is ready. We don’t print them except on a demand basis. To assure print quality, each issue is printed, not copied, using a laser printer and is bound in a quality ring binder. Included with the issues are a cover page, preface, and a table of contents.

It is not our desire to profit in this endeavor, only to break even. Therefore, copies of RRN 2004 will be sold for $9.95 each plus $5.00 for mailing and handling unless the buyer chooses to make other arrangements to pick up his or her copy.

There are dozens of entertaining and interesting articles in this publication, plus you will have the year's complete collection of humor from Bodock Beau. Beau claims his columns alone are worth the price of the publication.

Whether one simply wants to share an unusual gift with others, or have convenient access to all fifty-two issues of RRN 2004, this compilation is a bargain. Surely, there’s extra work on our part to make these copies available, but you’re worth it.

This offer void where prohibited, taxed, or restricted by law. Offer valid only in the US. Offer valid through February 28, 2005 and may be extended, modified, or revoked at any time during or after the introductory period.

Bodock Beau Drinking From My Saucer

To many folks, a new year is a time to make resolutions, establish objectives, and set new goals. To others, a new year provides the opportunity to be grateful for the blessings we've received.

Drinking From My Saucer

I've never made a fortune, and it's surely too late now,
But I don't worry 'bout that much, I'm happy anyhow.
As I go on life's journey, reaping better than I sowed;
I'm drinking from my saucer 'cause my cup has overflowed.

I don't have lots of riches, and sometimes the going's tough;
But there are kids who love me and that makes me rich enough.
I thank God for His blessings and the mercies He's bestowed;
I'm drinking from my saucer 'cause my cup has overflowed.

I remember bad times when my faith got awfully thin,
But all at once the dark clouds broke and sunshine poured right in.
So Lord, don't let me gripe about the tough rows that I hoed,
I'm drinking from my saucer 'cause my cup has overflowed.

And if God gives me courage when the way grows steep and rough,
I'll want no other blessings, I'm already blessed enough.
And may I always stop to help another bear his load;
Then I'll keep drinking from my saucer, "cause my cup has overflowed."

~ Anonymous ~ Shared by Shirley Lowry

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