Margaret McClure – Oncology Parking Part 2

Margaret McClure is a gifted songwriter who can write in multiple genres.  I have always been a fan and recently heard of her battle with cancer.  Below is part 2 of the story. Here is part 1.

Margaret McClure 6So for the next eight weeks, five days a week, I would come in to that place I loathed and at 10:15 am, I would lay on a narrow hospital bed right under this massive metal monstrosity that was straight out an alien movie. Small, thick, square glass windows would open with a screech and invisible radiation beams would penetrate my flesh. I have always had claustrophobia and this was a five day a week claustrophobic nightmare. Being unable to handle the reality of it all, I pretended that I was going to the spa instead of thinking about how this machine could easily crush me. When the creepy little windows opened to emit the radiation. I would close my eyes and pretended to be holding my two daughters hands or surfing perfect crystal blue waves.

Every day I got a little bit weaker and everyday my skin got a little bit more burned until I could practically see the heat waves rising from my chest. It felt like I weighed 300 pounds and I was walking on Jupiter. This was the kind of tired that doesn’t go away with a nap. Half the time I couldn’t even remember where I parked. Those oncology parking spaces started looking really tempting. I had to walk by them twice a day and I watched other patients park in them. One day I kind of lost it and I spit on one of those spots. But not once in those eight weeks did I ever park in one.

Sometimes I would be a few minutes late and Debbie would give me Margaret McClure 2a huge lecture. “It really messes us up when your late” she would snap out. Since when do people expect a mother of two young children whose being treated for cancer to be on time every day for 8 weeks? I would think to myself. I wondered what she would say if I told her I was late because I couldn’t find a parking spot. Some days I would sit in the freezing lobby half naked, wearing my lovely gown, waiting for 45 minutes, doing jigsaw puzzles with the old folks because they were running behind. I started to get to know the other patients. Lucy had the 10:00 slot and Shelly the10:30 slot. Sometimes I would bring my seven year old daughter and Lucy would watch her while I got my radiation. Shelly was having esophageal radiation and couldn’t talk much but she talked with her eyes and she was really nice.I really liked Lucy. She was 70 years old, about one hundred pounds over weight, diabetic and was on her third bout with breast cancer. She was a brave lady and funny too. We would high five each other to celebrate the fact that we were able to fit a piece or two into the jigsaw puzzle once in a while. She was better at it than I was. She had had more practice. I don’t know if we ever finished one while I was there. I guess it didn’t matter, It was just an easy way for tired patients to pass the time when they had to wait. And we had to wait a lot. Not once did Debbie or anyone else ever apologize when they were running late. One day I called her on it and said “Hey, when I’m two minutes late ya’ll freak out, but we’ve been sitting here today for 45 minutes waiting. I think you owe us a pass next time one of us is late”. She actually agreed and never mentioned lateness again. I’m sure she had personal issues going on that I had no idea about and I sort of felt bad for her that day.

Margaret McClure 4I’ll never forget the last day. My hair had started to grow back, it was at least an eighth of an inch of fuzz. I was very excited about that little sign of life returning. So I came in a little early without my usual beanie. I couldn’t wait to show Lucy. But for the first time that day she was not there.I asked about her and they said she had changed her appointment time. I thought maybe she didn’t want to say good bye and I respected that. But I was sad when I went back to get my robe. To make matters worse Debbie looked at my head and said “OMG! Your hair” I said “yeah It’s coming back!”. Then she said “Its orange!”. I was to tired and upset to respond. Plus I was struggling to untie the secret knot I had tied the day before in my gown. She yelled to the other nurse “Look at Margaret’s hair, Can you believe she is dying it already?”. I told them that that I did not dye it. She said that everyones hair always grows back grey. “Debbie! If I had enough energy to dye my hair it wouldn’t be this weird orange color” I said. She just laughed at me and rolled her eyes. “Wow…I’m so glad I never have to come back in here again” I said out loud for everyone to hear.

When I was done being cooked for the last time they all lined up in the hall and gave me a half hearted little graduation ceremony complete with a diploma. It was kind of nice but I was much more excited about finally being able to toss my gown in the laundry bin. I did not like the staff much, but I sincerely thanked them all because they had helped to save my life, just like I had done to every nurse, surgeon, doctor and technician who had helped before them. Without them I knew I would have been six feet under and I was thankful. With the hideous months of cancer treatment officially completed and without looking back, I walked straight out the VIP exit and felt the sunlight shining down on my orange fuzzy hair.

The last time I saw those Oncology Parking spots I had tears in my Margaret McClure 7eyes. But not for the reason that you would think. These tears were happy tears. I was free and I was done with this horrible chapter of my life. I had defied the oncology parking spots and suffered because of it. But I was proud of my minor accomplishment. Although I could barely make it back to my car on the other side of that crowded parking lot that day ….I remember thinking about how I would be back surfing and singing soon, maybe taking my girls on a trip, and how I would find a place to get those ugly black tattoos removed. ….I decided this would be a good time to smile.

written by Margaret McClure

We all have tough times and face difficult challenges.  Reading Margaret’s story brings life into perspective.  So often, we worry about trivial things that are really meaningless in the bigger picture. Thanks to Mags for sharing this.

Roy Elkins

Press & educational links – Hangout June 6, 2014, “Blanket” Music Licensing, Examiner, Isthmus Rock The Vote, Broadjam 6-Pack, Celebrating Sonic Foundry, Some Of The Best, Getting Your Music Into Film, Project Famous – Great Photographer, Models of Opportunity: How Entrepreneurs Design Firms

Margaret McClure – Oncology Parking Part 1

Margaret McClure – Songwriter and Survivor

Margaret McClureMargaret McClure is one of the most respected songwriters on  She is a gifted, creative and unique writer.  An expert at writing current Pop-Rock songs, but can stretch into other genres as well. Her most recent collaboration, The Unconditionals, with Liz Miller is one of the best I have ever heard from a Broadjam member.

A few years after meeting her, I learned of her successful battle with breast cancer.  I say that lightly as I am sure that success can only be defined by the patient.  What I mean to say is that she lived to tell her story and does so below.

Roy Elkins

Oncology Parking by Margaret McClure

The first time I saw those three Oncology Parking spots I had tears in my eyes, but not for the reason you would think. I was rushing my youngest daughter, who was eight months old, to the pediatrician because she had a high fever. I also had my two year old along for the ride. I had asked my ‘now’ ex-husband, if he could watch the older one. But he had a meeting to attend. On the way the pediatricians office I was driving as fast as I could because my baby seemed to be getting sicker by the minute. There is nothing worse than that helpless feeling you get when you cant comfort your crying child. Unfortunately I was pulled over in one of those group pull overs with four other cars at the same time for speeding. When the officer came up to my window I begged him to let me go. It was obvious that my baby was very sick and I was driving her to the doctor. Just then she projectile vomited in the back seat and my two year old began to scream. So the officer said “Ok I’ll write your ticket first”. Seriously?

Margaret McClure 1By the time I made it to the parking lot with my sick baby and barf all over the back seat all three of us were crying. The large parking lot was full. It always was. Like usual I knew it was gonna take forever to find a spot but as I drove behind one of the buildings I saw some open spots very close to the entrance. I couldn’t believe my luck and I started to pull in. But then I saw the signs…. Oncology Parking Only. I remember clearly the sound of the screaming babies, the smell of vomit, the sight of the speeding ticket on the dash board and my sudden realization that “it could be worse”. And I said out loud to myself “Well, at least I’m never gonna have to park in one of those spots”. I’m sure I found a spot in the very back of that huge messed up parking lot that day, I’m sure I somehow managed to carry the two babies into the office and I’m sure I was late to the doctors appointment but I don’t think they cared and I don’t really remember. My girl got better, I paid the damn speeding ticket and life went on.

Fast forward to 7 years later I was being treated for stage 3 invasive ductal carcinoma (breast cancer). You can see where I’m going with this oncology parking story now. My girls were 7 and 9 years old. I had been thru 3 surgeries and 6 months of chemo. It was one of the lowest points in my life. My songwriting all but stopped and performing had to be put on hold. Any energy I had left went to my girls.I felt like I was 99 years old and looked like a shell of my former self. I had no hair, I was anemic, underweight and depressed. And It was about to get a whole lot worse because I was facing 8 weeks of daily radiation. Most people get to do 5 or 6 weeks but because the cancer I had was advanced and there were multiple tumors I was going to receive the 2 week booster series! Lucky me!  And I was lucky to have good insurance because of my husband’s job. It can mean the difference between life and death. I chose the closest radiation facility because the thought of driving somewhere very far in my condition seemed impossible. Unfortunately it was in the same building as my girls pediatricians office, the one with the crappy parking lot.

The first day of radiation arrived. I came in the front door and waited in a dirty chair next to a bunch of very old, very sick looking people all sitting around in identical gowns doing jigsaw puzzles. I felt very young and healthy compared to them. Some of them looked up and smiled as if to welcome me to the club I never asked to join. I felt sick to my stomach just thinking about what was about to happen. I tried to smile back hoping they would not notice my nausea. My initial scan would take 3 hours. They had to line up the radiation machine to my body and tattoo the markers on my chest and armpit to make sure it was always in the right position. The cancer was in my left breast and very close to my heart. Apparently radiating the heart is a no no. So they are particularly careful about the left chest.

Margaret McClure 5A nurse named Debbie with long shiny brown hair called my name and asked me to follow her back. “I like your hair “ I said in an attempt to be friendly. “oh really? It’s such a pain” she replied. I thought to myself, now that was an insensitive thing to say to a bald woman. Honestly I would have been happy to have her eyelashes let alone her painful long hair. Just then we arrived at our first stop ….The robe closet. A long narrow closet with dozens of those identical hospital gowns all lined up in a row, touching each other. A special hanger was waiting there for me with my first name clearly printed on it. “Heres your fresh gown, we have too many patients and we don’t have time to wash them, so hang it up on your hanger every day when your done” she said in a cranky tone. I had seen some of those patients with oozing open sores in the lobby earlier and I really did not want to share any kind of bacteria in my weakened state. “Oh, ok. Are there any other Margaret’s?” I said half joking and half serious. She said “I don’t know. Just write your last name on it if your’e that worried” and rolled her eyes. Right then I decided that I did not like Debbie at all and I also decided I would tie the waistband in a secret double knot each day so I would know if anyone else had used my robe.

Once I had stripped down I was then led into a very scary white space aged looking room. They scanned me for what seemed like forever and then Debbie tattooed four black dots on my chest and arm pit. Before she did I asked her if they could use a sharpie instead and just reapply it every day or so because I did not want these black dots on my body forever. “No we cant do that” was all she said and she proceeded to tattoo my chest. “It helps if you smile” she had the nerve to say. Laying there under the bright lights with no clothes, only half of my scarred up left breast remaining and people coming and going everywhere was so dehumanizing. “I’ll smile when this is over bitch!!” I said in my head.

I got dressed and returned my gown to the hanger with my name on it. I then tied my secret knot which no one would ever be able to duplicate. Debbie said “Oh and by the way, you need to use the back entrance it is much easer and we have some parking spaces reserved for you right outside the door. That way you wont be late”. She faked a smile and pointed to the special exit. I walked down the hall opened the VIP door and there they were, the Oncology Parking spaces. I nearly fell over when I realized where I was, somewhere I never thought I would end up.So I quickly made a promise to myself that I would not be parking in one of those spots, not now and not ever. I felt like that would be giving up and admitting that I was an oncology patient. I have always believed in properly timed denial, or positive thinking if you wanna look at it that way.

I did not like this particular Radiology Group. The nurses were snippy, the doctors were weird and the carpets were dirty. I admit that I was beyond cranky and accept some of the responsibility for the tension that existed. But every other oncology doctor, nurse technician and surgeon I had run into during this little cancer journey thus far were all wonderful, understanding and kind. I had to accept the fact that I was stuck with them. It was too late to change facilities because they had already fitted my body to the machine and my insurance would not cover a redo. (I knew this because I called my insurance company that day and asked.).

Continued…..Oncology Parking Part 2

Margaret McClure

Please feel free to share this story with others who are facing similar battles. Margaret is an inspiration and I appreciate her sharing her story on this blog.

Press & educational links – Hangout June 6, 2014, “Blanket” Music Licensing, Examiner, Isthmus Rock The Vote, Broadjam 6-Pack, Celebrating Sonic Foundry, Some Of The Best, Getting Your Music Into Film, Project Famous – Great Photographer, Models of Opportunity: How Entrepreneurs Design Firms

Donovan Tucker & The Gift

Donovan Tucker & The Gift

Donovan Tucker

Recently, I found out that one of our Broadjam members, Donovan Tucker, recently received a liver transplant. A medical procedure of this nature is not only life saving, but certainly changes the perspective of recipient it forever.

His story begins on October 31st, 2013 at the UAMS hospital in Little Rock, Arkansas. This is the day he received his new liver. After he returned home, he couldn’t help but think about the donor and his or her family. He was thankful for such a tremendous gift from a family that must have experienced a recent loss. He was moved to write a song in memory of his donor.

Donovan Tucker The GiftHe originally wrote the lyrics, then asked fellow writer Adam Avery to help him complete it. When finished, he sent the song to the transplant team at the hospital. Soon after, he received a message from Arkansas Donate Life asking to use the song to promote organ donor awareness. He and Adam offered the song, “The Gift”, to help their cause. This version features the vocals of Julia Schmidt.

But the story doesn’t end there.

He forwarded his desire to meet the family of the donor as he wanted to show his appreciation. He was surprised to find out that the donor was female. Her son met with Donovan for lunch and lost his mom just a few months from graduating high school. The young man also lost his father in 2009. He said the young man has a great attitude and wants to be a doctor so he can help other and now considers him part of his own family.

Donovan Tucker 2

I have never met Donovan Tucker, but he is one of my favorite writers and is truly one of the best who has ever graced the servers of Knowing the back story, The Gift is probably one of the most meaningful songs I have heard to date. And it certainly has been a gift to anyone who has heard it.

Please click on this link and it will take you to Donovan Tucker’s Home Website. From there, you will find more details to this wonderful story.

Press & educational links – Hangout June 6, 2014, “Blanket” Music Licensing, Examiner, Isthmus Rock The Vote, Broadjam 6-Pack, Celebrating Sonic Foundry, Some Of The Best, Getting Your Music Into Film, Project Famous – Great Photographer, Models of Opportunity: How Entrepreneurs Design Firms