Stewart Byars

19 07 2008

He’s gone. He left us this morning on to his next adventure.

To my friend Stewart I give my favorite poem by W.H. Auden, long before Four Weddings and a Funeral gave it a resurgence.

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message He Is Dead,
Put crêpe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last for ever: I was wrong.

The stars are not wanted now: put out every one;
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood.
For nothing now can ever come to any good.

I will miss him more than you will ever know. More than I can express in words. Today is the day we mourn. Then we will remember his laughter and the joy he brought to us.

Stew, we love you. Then, now and forever.

His words:

According to “science”, they like to say that the universe started from a single pinpoint of energy. A pinpoint that expanded at an incredible rate. Remember this part.. a single point… a point from which the universe has continued to expand. From what I can tell, that sound an awful lot like a center of the universe doesn’t it? Yet, they also say that there is no center of the universe, nor an outside edge. Which are we to believe? That’s the paradox.

But, the paradox continues kids. Here’s another part that strums my thinker big time. If in fact, there is no center, and no edge, then how can there be a direction outward? Outward from where? You mean away from something? Like um… the center?

From here I leave the pondering to you. I don’t pretend to know the answer to these questions. I just continue to maintain that it’s possible “they” don’t know it either.

He had a beer at the hospital. He wanted one so he had it. He made me laugh one last time.

There are no words left right now.

Michael Savage On Ted Kennedy

21 05 2008

I was at the office yesterday working on some stuff when I heard the news about Ted Kennedy. My heart sank a bit for more than just the obvious reasons. Kennedy has a brain tumor as I’m sure you already know.

My mother had a brain tumor. Her’s was metastasized from another location. I knew when I heard that he had a seizure, as she did repeatedly, that when he was rushed to the hospital it wasn’t of the good.

If you have ever been through something like this, then you know how bad it is.

I noticed that most folks regardless of their political affiliation have been very kind about his health.

Everyone but Michael Savage.

Beautiful Bald Women

22 04 2008

My mother lost all her hair when she had cancer. We ended up shaving her head. It was hard but then again, as we were and are a family that laughs when we are in pain, we teased her and she even called herself Spock because her ears were kind of pointy.

It was better for her because the chemo made her hair fly about and it was hard for her to breath.

I thought she looked fabulous.

My friend, Katrina, talks about losing her hair and writes about it with such a frankness and a sense of humor that I can’t help but admire her. I know she looks great.

So, Robin Roberts, I salute you. What you said is wonderful and, thanks, because you are helping people like my mom.

“I’ve taken my cue from people here and from viewers, especially [cancer] survivors . . . who said, ‘When it’s time to literally flip your wig, you’ll know,’ ” Roberts said. “I am not my hair,” she said, quoting from the song by India.Arie. “I am the soul that lies within and that’s it – no more wig. That’s it.” Roberts will auction her wig to raise money for a charity that helps “those who don’t have insurance and can’t afford this.”

None of these women want to have cancer. My mother didn’t want to lose her hair.

It’s good to see someone not define themselves by flowing locks.

So I think this is really wonderful.

What GenBetween Said:

7 04 2008

And this is what she wrote:

According to Dr. Harvey Gilbert of the Gilbert Guide, there are several factors to consider in the assessment includes functional status, other illnesses, social support, medications and more.

Though the length of survival and quality of life depends on the type of cancer and the treatment, there are some factors that assist the physician in life expectancy discussions.

When my mother was sick, one thing we never asked was “how long?” because it was obvious that a diagnosis of Stage IV lung cancer wasn’t good, and I really didn’t want her to hear a prediction because I felt that she might behave and respond as if the time was a known fact.

Healthcare is an odd, evasive thing these day.

Serious illness is also evasive, what do you say? What don’t you say?

It must be done. Ask the always practical and beautiful Katrina. She is a perfect example of dealing with an illness with grace and courage.

And I adore her.

Put GenBetween in your feedreader. Immediately. She’s a nurse. Also put Katrina in your reader. They both are of so much value and grace.

And they are both fantastic.

Today We Will Talk About Hope And The CaringBridge

28 02 2008

I’m not going to write about my mom today. I’ve done that before. Today is the tenth anniversary of the death of my mother. For me to go into any detail of this day, which is significant in the life of my family, I would just say it means a lot to us and I’m trying to figure out what to do on a personal level that would have some significance for myself about today. It’s a private thing that runs as deep as the Mississippi River. It’s hard to put those feelings into words.

To say I feel sort of lost and insignificant is an understatement.


No, this morning, I want to talk about life and survival and one woman who I have so much respect and admiration for that it’s hard to put into words.

Read the rest of this entry »

And Sometimes The News Isn’t Good

31 01 2008

I’m wishing Scout many kind wishes this morning. Her grandmother is ill. I worked with gma for years before she retired in 2006. There are kind women in this world and Scout’s grandmother is one of them. She literally was the backbone of local politics for fifty years in our neck of the woods as she worked in the County Mayor’s office up until her retirement. She is a blessing and things are grave.

Nurse Elizabeth noticed that my grandmother (We’ll just call her gma, the Finn/Scout texting abbrev for grandmother) had turned an eerie shade of yellow this past Sunday. Gma came home from church early because she was “too tired and weak to stand it anymore,” and Elizabeth convinced her to go to the doctor the next day. Despite gma’s trying to talk Elizabeth out of it, she couldn’t put up enough of a fight and ended up being taken to the doctor anyway. At the hospital, they determined that she had hemolytic anemia and needed a blood transfusion pronto so my sister and dad took her up to a hospital in Paducah to have the transfusion done. Her doctor took one look at her and ushered my dad and sister out in the hall for a conference. He said that he believed that the lymphoma she’d had three years ago had come out of a dormant state and was very quickly taking over her blood because it had come back much stronger than before.

Arrangements are now being made for chemotherapy, but the doctor is not really giving us much hope at this point.

We are sending much love to Mrs. Doris and to her entire family right now.

We Give What We Can

15 01 2008

The last two weeks have been pretty amazing. I’ve learned a great deal about my community, about the human spirit and about myself.

The benefit last night went very well. We think we raised roughly $10,000 for the Stewman. Final tallies aren’t in, but that’s what I was told last night. It could run a bit less or a bit more.

I was thinking about all of this as I was drinking my coffee this morning. I talked to some folks last night that have been impacted by the devastation of cancer and how they gave back. In this world, money is important, but there are other things that help our neighbors and friends.

You know, sometimes the money is just part of it. God knows it helps and is necessary but there were other things I learned last night that were such a wonderful example of the human spirit.

—-To the woman who gave her hair to Locks of Love. She didn’t have any money, but she had something to give, and give she did.

—-To the artists who called me and said I only have my work to offer. Is that enough? Jeez, yes. YES. It’s more than enough. You gave yourself.

—-To the two people that worked on the event during their off time dealing with their own health issues, I am awed and humbled to just be in your presence and you know who you are.

—-To Chris Brinkley’s son, who fell asleep during the auction and looked so completely and utterly beautiful as he was being carried out. Who gave his time as well, as his father worked diligently to raise money for his friend.

—-To the people in the blogosphere who have left comments on The Stewman’s blog and let him know that you were thinking of him. Those kind words mean a whole lot more than you think they do. As the Great Ivy told me once, getting a comment is like getting a $20 bill. Those comments mean a great deal. Communication, even with those people that you don’t know, is so very important.

—- To those of you who donated financially to the event to a man you do not know, I thank you.

—- A special thank you to Holly, who drove an hour and stayed with Scout, taking money for T-shirts, DVDs and CDs who stayed much later than I even expected her to. (And had to be back at school at 7:30 a.m this morning.) If you do not know Holly and Scout, you should. They are lovely people who gave a most valuable commodity and that is their time. They live-blogged the event, and they were really funny and utterly charming. And yes, I did go into the bathroom with a dude. Completely and purely innocent, I assure you.

—-To the guy that sat down with me who gave me a break for a few minutes where we talked about politics. (Imagine that.)

I have two favorite quotes and I put one over at The Friends of The Stewman blog yesterday.

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.
Margaret Mead

“Well-behaved women rarely make history”

Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

The last quote I just like.

So thanks.

Now back to your regularly scheduled Newscoma.

Cool Stuff at The Friends of The Stewman Benefit

14 01 2008
Art From Beth Cravens
Art by Les MacDiarmond, who painted the mural for the International Rockabilly Hall of Fame
Signed Tracy Lawrence hat
We have two signed editions of The War by Ken Burns
A Pool Table
Okay, I’ll put some stuff up later.
We’re hanging at Olivia’s Opera House this evening for the Stewman benefit.

Cancer Isn’t Cheap

14 01 2008

On a lot of levels, I’m telling you.

I’ve been writing here for the last three weeks about the benefit for my friend, Stew Byars. I want to talk a little about him this morning because we are having a fundraiser tonight in Martin. I’ve gotten a lot of emails about him and I thought I’d just take a few minutes to chat about him. It’s one thing to tell you about this great guy that we love in northwest Tennessee who has cancer, but then it’s completely another for me to tell you why we love him.

You see, lots of folks get sick. Lots of folks get cancer. And those of us who love them don’t know what to do. So I’m going to tell you about why we are doing this. I can’t share some of the other people’s stories. I can only share mine.

When my mother became sick in 1996, she was diagnosed with lung cancer that had metastasized into her brain. I knew she was sick before she ever went to the doctor. She had trouble walking, she complained about seeing spots and her energy level was nil. Finally, we got her to the doctor and he said she had a severe sinus infection. One week later, after she went on a roller coaster into feeling 1000 times worse, she went back to the doctor and they ran an MRI. It was one week before Christmas and the doctor met me outside the hospital room. My father had gone to take care of some business and I had the grown up lesson that we get when life throws you a curveball. He told me she had a mass in her lung and it had spread to three different parts of her brain. I remember being very calm during all of this and feeling absolutely nothing. I asked how bad and he said it was.

There was nothing left to say at that point. I remember asking about options and he said we could “try”. I then asked him if it was terminal and he just nodded.

Homer and I called Big Daddy and told him the news which has to be the worst night of my entire life on my 42 years on this planet. So, for the next 14 months, she endured horrible chemo, radiation to her head and a remission that lasted about a month.

And we just loved her because it’s all we had.

My mother died in February of 1998 after a hard-fought battle. Homer, Big Daddy and I are approaching the ten year anniversary of her death.

Not a single day goes by that I don’t miss her.

With that said, the powerlessness was amazing. If any of you have ever lost a parent to cancer or any other life-threatening disease and watched them fade away, you know what I’m talking about.

You might say that this benefit for the Stewman is cathartic for me, and you would be right. I saw him on Friday and the chemo, although it is making him sick, has helped. He lifted his left arm in front of Squirrel Queen and I on Friday. I was so proud for him and the smile on his face was infectious. You couldn’t help but just laugh because he has only been able to crawl it up his body to use it since last September.

Do we feel powerless about the cancer that our friend is fighting?


Are we trying to do what we CAN to help him, things that we have a bit of control over. That’s also a yes.

We can’t make the cancer go away, but we can help him. Cancer treatment is not cheap. He is not working now because every moment is spent getting better. The cancer, my friends, is that bad.

So we are doing what the chairman of our little committee said quite eloquently last month that we “have” to do because it all we can do. And because he would do it for us.

Throughout the day, we will be putting updates about the benefit here. We want to help just a little. Are we fighting our own demons? Probably.

Are we trying to raise a bit of money for a person who has been our mentor, our friend and has lifted us when we could not do the heavy lifting for ourselves?


BadBadIvy has committed to buy a T-shirt. If anyone in the Nashville blogosphere is interested in buying a T-shirt designed by Squirrel Queen, I will bring it to you personally within the next couple of weeks to The Sportsman’s Grill in Nashville. They are $20 a piece and they are pretty groovy. (A picture of Mabel and a Newscoma emblem is on the back of them as a sponsor.)


Information about the day’s events will be posted at the official Friends of the Stewman blog. I’ll keep you updated all day about how things are going, and if Holly and Scout are interested, will get them to live blog some of the event over there as well this evening at the FofS blog.

We are doing what we have a bit of control over because we can’t cure the cancer. But we can make it a little more comfortable for him.

So if you can, visit the site, buy a T-shirt, leave a nice sentiment for him as that blog will archive the event.


In Where I Say Thank You Again

9 01 2008

Hi campers. Today is the day that Newscoma pulls her hair out due to an impossible schedule, but I wanted to thank everyone out there who have been so wonderful in assisting with the Friends of the Stewman benefit. Special thanks to Melissa Kent of Clear Channel, Christian Grantham, Sharon Cobb and Kathy T. for their donations to the event. If anyone is wanting to make a donation, you can go through Pay Pal and make a donation through friendsofthestewman at yahoo dot com. Let me know if you do!

Melissa works for WSIX and 107.5 The River in Nashville and she heard about all of this and has thrown in her support. She is from here and used to work for me when I owned a magazine called “our town” where we starved together in the early days of our career. Much love is being sent to Melissa right now.

Other props are being sent to singer Tracy Lawrence through Melissa who has sent some donations including a signed cowboy hat to be auctioned off. Woot. Thanks Tracy.

For all of you who have linked to the Stewman’s blog and posted the benefit which is next Monday night, we all wanted to say thanks. Special props to Michael Silence and Bad, Bad Ivy for keeping you guys up to date on the event as well.

I talked to the Stewman last night. He had his big chemo treatment yesterday and although he is sick as a dog, he’s in good spirits. When I say big chemo, it’s the one where he sits on an IV drip for about 7 and 1/2 hours.

Needless to say, it isn’t fun.

I am honored to be part of this community. All of you are just wonderful.

(Update: I wanted to add the lovely and amazing Holly Wynne will be selling T-shirts Monday night at the event and will be driving in for the event. THANKS HOLLY!)

Friends Of The Stewman Benefit Update

7 01 2008

Still taking donations for my buddy’s benefit. We will have T-shirts designed by the fabulous Squirrel Queen available by the end of the week for $20.

We also have DVD’s of his former show, Club Country that was on WLJT, and CDs of a radio show he’s done with Chris Brinkley, who is the voice of the UTM Skyhawks, called Game Show on the Go.Those are $10.


One thing I haven’t told you about Stew is that he won this.
He tied for first place with …

Small Market Promos

WINNER (tie): B.S. Promo – WCMT/WCDZ/Thunderbolt Broadcasting, Martin, Tennessee. Producer – Stewart Byars; Copywriter – Stewart Byars; Voice Talent – Stewart Byars.

WINNER (tie): Out of Ideas – WCMT/WCDZ/Thunderbolt Broadcasting, Martin, Tennessee. Producer – Stewart Byars; Copywriter – Stewart Byars; Voice Talent – Stewart Byars.

He moved to Memphis and worked for Clear Channel for awhile and then decided he wanted to come home with his wife, Sugarface.

Stew also performed stand-up comedy all over the south for a few years before he adopted two wonderful kids.

Cash donations can be sent via paypal to friendsofthestewman at yahoo dot com.

We are also holding an auction the night of the benefit. You can bit on FABULOUS prizes including:

  • A three-night stay in Gatlingburg
  • Signed Ken Burns DVDs (two of ’em) of The War
  • DVDs from the BBC including the original “The Office” “Absolutely Fabulous” and “The Young Ones”
  • Original art from Badger Beth
  • Art and photographs from local artists
  • A bunch of autographed stuff
  • A fantastic copy of “Wrinkles” from the fab Kathy T.
  • Nascar stuff
There is a ton more. Trudy Henderson, who is the goddess from the athletic department at UT Martin, is working on a web cast so Stew (and possible you if you are so inclined) can see it. We are working on it right now as we speak.
This is his long week for chemo (seven hours on the IV drip) so he’s probably going to be worn out.

The Stewman Talks About Cancer

29 12 2007


The Stewman writes about life with cancer:

As I approach the new year, I have to admit I approach it with both a sense of hope, and to be as honest as possible… fear.  When I was diagnosed with cancer back in September, the doctor that broke the news to me, left little doubt as to how serious it was.  Basically I was told I had terminal cancer.  Then he told me of the options of chemo and radiation.  Then, like the stick and the carrot… after the stick of impending death, came the carrot.  If you try these procedures.. you might make it…. maybe.

It’s at this point when one makes a choice, or more accurately…. realizes he has no choice.  I like so many others, gave up my pride, my dignity, and my body, to a bunch of strangers.  One hopes they are professional, and kind, and considerate.  Most of them are, thank goodness. 

I was never so glad to make it to another year. 

It’s hard to see people you care about sick, but the one thing about Stew is his sense of humor is in tact. Yesterday, when we saw him, he talked about his days as a stand-up comedian in Tennessee and a couple of gigs in Ky. I don’t think I’ve ever laughed so much this week.
Last week’s chemo was rough. He sat under the drip for 7 1/2 hours.

And he still smiles. And he looks at his wife, Sugarface, with so much devotion I almost feel I’m interrupting an intimate moment.

Go see him.

Give Peas A Chance

22 12 2007

I put this up at the last minute over at Twitter last night and I’m remiss at not getting it up here in a time sensitive fashion and all, but go here now and read about Susan Reynolds, where yesterday there was a frozen Peas Fundraiser at her blog “Boobs On Ice” about having Breast Cancer.

I’m a day late and a dollar short.


Yesterday she had surgery and unfortunately the real world got in the way for me to be on top of it yesterday. It’s amazing how many people have supported this woman. I offer my support today.

She wrote this:

To keep bleeding down & relieve pain I’d need to keep things cool. Traditional ice packs are hard and heavy. As much as I try to be a good sport I’m not into having a brick sitting on my chest.

Enter a bag of frozen peas.

I tucked it in my bra, took a picture, and was ready to tell the story later that night. That bag of peas added a touch of lightness to what could have been a sad and serious tale.

  • A bag of peas was something everybody could relate to.
  • Some people love them, some hate them, some use them for their own injuries.
  • A bag of frozen peas was a vehicle for conversation and let people tease me instead of having to cry.
  • It let people share instead of bemoaning.

I napped a lot during the first few days after the biopsy. The news was sudden and stunning after all and my body was being assaulted.

Mmmm peas for lunch?

When I fell asleep with peas in my cleavage I’d wake to the smell of freshly cooked peas. That made the story funnier, and more human. Of course I shared it because what is life but a series of stories.

It was an outpouring of amazing love and support for a woman who’s sense of humor while learning and fighting breast cancer was amazing. The Twitter world was amazing (Katie Allison, here’s another positive Twitter story. Go see Rex they have more. (Added: Jack Lail, who has a nice write up and Djuggler.)

Peas be nice, go give her a visit and remember there is always good immersed in the bad. Everyone could use some encouragement and a helping hand.

Introducing My Friend The Stewman

16 12 2007

Please go and say hello to my friend, the Stewman.

For some reason, they think I would make a clever, or at least interesting blogger.  I don’t know if it’s my wit, my humor, or that history of bizarre behavior, but for better or worse, here I am.

Play nice, enjoy, and be patient with me.  Some days I may not feel like posting anything.  I was recently diagnosed with cancer, and the chemo really takes it’s toll on me.  But, the days I feel well enough, I’ll do my best to keep this updated.

I think you will love him as much as Squirrel Queen and I  do. Add him to your blogroll, stop by to say hello.

He’s incredible.

That’s What Friends Are For

14 12 2007

I believe there is a collective bone-rattling sigh going around with everyone. Man, the holidays are tiring. I think my head has frozen into this Mary Sunshine face mask that has become etched into some sort of Nicole Kidman thing. In other words, I’m one scary girl to look at.

Yesterday, some friends and business people in our community decided to throw my friend, who is ill, a benefit to help defray some of his medical costs. I have written about him before. If everything goes OK then we will be holding it on January 14th. Thus far, everything is coming together and I love it when people come together for a cause. We will have some T-shirts for sale pretty soon which are being donated for cost, we are holding an auction and have requests for open donations. All the proceeds of this benefit will go to him and his wife.

If you have anything you would like to donate or if you want to purchase a T-shirt, I’ll have those things up here as soon as it’s all ready, which should be the middle of next week with all the details.

I wrote about my friend here earlier this year. 

I talked to him late yesterday and he’s been taking radiation and chemotherapy, dealing with nauseous moments that he says just blind side him and many times are explosive. He’s also dealing with the emotional ups and downs that walk hand-in-hand with sitting on an IV drip for seven hour sessions and then the abundance of pain medication.

Needless to say, he’s fighting literally for his life. Squirrelly and I are going to see him, most likely, tomorrow.  As he is a wonderful and funny man, I’m going to see if he will let me set him up a blog so we can talk to him. He has one form of cancer in his left hip and shoulder and then he has a tumor near his kidney. He’s having trouble getting around, needless to say, and I thought this might cheer him. He has written ad copy, performed as a very popular stand-up comedian and had his own television show about country music at WLJT  which is our PBS station at UT Martin.

We do benefits occasionally and we are hoping to help him with this one as the costs are just horrific. He has health insurance, but he can’t work now, so the day-to-day stuff is about to get tight.

He’s just wonderful. I think he might like this blogging thing. We will see how he feels, but the interaction might be something he might enjoy.

Ironically, when I was speaking to him, I was reminded of when my mother had cancer. I told him of some things we used to do with her to help out. I told him about them and they were things he hadn’t considered. I thought I might share them with you as well:

1.) If someone you love has lost their appetite due to the chemo, one thing we found with my mother is she could eat ice cream. We would mix Boost, Ensure or sometimes even a Slim Fast in with her milkshakes so she could get the vitamins and nutrients she needed. During her remission, this also helped her put on a bit of weight. During the dark times, it just kept her going. At times, we would get her to drink a couple of them before her chemo or when she just wanted to get out of the house for awhile. It helped.

2.) Occasionally, the pills she had to take would choke her, so we would crush them up (under her watchful eyes) and put them in the milkshake. I don’t know how doctors of oncology feel about this, but it seemed to help.

3.) My mom needed stimulation. Her body was under attack and she didn’t have a lot of energy. We always made sure she had plenty things to watch on television and would rent her horror movies, as she loved them. This seemed to help distract her from thinking about how sick she was, and that was good. There is a level of deep depression that accompanies those who are very ill.  As she was an avid reader, she sometimes didn’t have the strength to hold a book, so this was helpful. This also seemed to assist in lifting her out of dark, frightening moods. When you have cancer, sometimes the thinking will get to you.

4.) We always had her favorite food available. Most of the time, she couldn’t eat it, but when her appetite would surge, at least it was there.

5.) We never shied away from talking about the cancer. If she wanted to talk about it, we did. We let her set the tone for those conversations. She didn’t talk about it a lot, but when she did, she needed someone just to listen. People need to be listened to anyway, and those battling cancer need a safe space to process their fears. 

Everyone deals with caring for sick people differently. These were just a couple of things off the top of my head that I shared with him, and a couple of things I will share with him and his wife this weekend.

We want to help our friend. The financial part is drowning him. Hopefully, we can assist a little.