Ruth's musings

I have been dealing with breast cancer for a while, and have been sharing my journey with friends, family, and prayer partners. This blog brings all my updates together in one place, and leaves me free to muse on other parts of my life. Thanks for visiting!

Friday, October 26, 2007

Ruth Update, October 26, 2007

Dear Friends, Relatives, and Prayer Partners,

I was pretty bummed at the beginning of this year, because it was one of those "7," years, which I haven't enjoyed since 1977.

My attitude has changed a bit since then. I am really glad to be fifty years old. I will be glad to see the next "7" year, too.

Happy Birthday to me.

Get your mammograms. Do your self-exams.


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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

A sneaker is just . . . a sneaker

My old sneaks were worn out. I had already ripped out the lining of the insole on one of them, and I was coming through the toes. I was wearing my work clothes Tuesday, with my black leather, low heeled, trouser pumps, when Timmy and I stopped at a local self-service shoe store. All the Chuck Taylor Hi-Tops they had there were in boring colors, so Timmy wasn't interested. I thought I would try to find myself some new white sneaks. I had some black ones, but needed the white ones. This is a bigger deal than you might imagine. I wear a women's size 12. My motto is that if I find a pair of shoes that fits, is not horrible, and is on sale, I buy it. If I have to find something specific, I often have to pay big bucks.

Anyway, with a little help, I found some size 12 Nike's. Cool. I put them on, put the work shoes in the box, and flashed the plastic.

One thing I really hate about sneakers these days is the laces:

Whatever happened to plain, flat, cotton shoelaces? These things, when they fail, fail spectacularly. They frizz out and are useless. It seems to me the old-fashioned kind lasted longer. If they wore out, they just broke, and you could see it coming. I think those "seams" on the edges aren't even sewn, just melted. They also don't stay tied unless you double-knot them as you would for a child. So, I switched laces. I had gotten some better laces for my old shoes, and they were still in good shape.
While I was changing laces, I noticed something:

After about two and a half years, and without intending to do it, I bought the same shoes.


Sunday, October 21, 2007

Mall Adventures

Somebody on an online list asked me if I had a good time at the mall.

Did I have a good time at the mall? I rarely have a good time at the mall. I go there when I need something that is best found there, as in LensCrafters, where we go mostly for the convenience. The plan was to go there, and while the glasses were being made, go to the DMV. The best laid plans gang aft agley (or something like that). When I finally got to the mall (I had to turn around half way there as I forgot to bring my new glasses prescription), I found that every staff member at LensCrafters was busy, and their sign in list must have had ten people on it who had not been seen. Okaaaayy, so we change plans.

Instead of waiting in line at LensCrafters, I waited in line at the DMV. I am so glad I brought my crochet projects. One is a "standing" project, a string bag so light I can do it standing up. And I stood for quite a while. I counted my blessings. At least I was not standing in that line with a baby. With no bathroom nearby. I think I caught a whiff of diaper, too. When I got to the front of the line it occurred to me that I hope that the information desk duty is one that is passed around. I would hate to have to face the people that lady was facing EVERY SINGLE DAY I came to work. She was the one who assigned numbers that sorted you by what you wanted done. My case was simple. Grab a clipboard and have a seat. By the time I finished filling out the form, my number came up. The fellow who handled my case and I cracked a little wise at each other, and I took a seat to wait for my photo to be taken and the license printed out. Then, I got to work on my "sitting" project, a bathmat for Matt. And, ya know, the picture wasn't that bad! I may just do this by mail next time. The main reason I didn't do it by mail this time was the horrible photo. I had it taken just as my hair was coming back in the first time.

Back to LensCrafters. I didn't have to wait to be seen, and we handled that pretty fast. Then, I had an hour and a half to kill. At the mall. Feh. I just can not get into the window shopping or mall crawling, or whatever it is that people seem to enjoy at the mall. I had a salad and slice of Cinnamon Cream Cake at "The Corner Bakery." It's a chain, I am pretty sure. The cake was okay, but the slice was too large. I suppose if I had forced myself, I could have finished it, but that behavior has led to my current weight problem, so I left a lot of it. Then, I found a place to sit overlooking the "grand court" or whatever they call it and started work on the bathmat some more. They had a college football game on. I was sort of idly watching it, and saw that one of the teams was wearing red. Oh, can't be Nebraska, they have red helmets on. Oh, hey, that's Penn State's coach. Those are the guys in white. Now, what's his name? He has been the coach there since God was a boy? Dang, I should know this! Ummmm, ummmm . . . Joe Paterno! I was so pleased with myself that I shared this discovery with the poor man sitting at the other end of the bench. Poor guy must have thought I was nuts. I am pretty sure it didn't take him that long to come up with Joe's name.

I found a loo, and then went back to LensCrafters. One day I will park at the right entrance to get there. I even checked the map of the Mall on Friday in hopes of not taking too long of a hike. I screwed it up again. It is on the OTHER side of Lord and Taylor, you moron! Anyway, I got my glasses, and got out of there.

I visited the new yarn shop and bought some yarn, of course. Gotta keep them in business, don't I? Then home.

Just in case you were wondering how my day went.

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Friday, October 19, 2007

Ruth Update, October 18, 2007

Dear Friends, Relatives, and Prayer Partners,

I have been trying out a new, short, description of my current condition. If people have not been brought up to speed, I tell them "I am now in the chronic, incurable phase of my cancer." What do you think? I usually go on about new discoveries all the time, but that pretty much sums it up, right? How would you feel if another friend hit you with that?

I was just speaking with Sonia, an online friend. Her mother, Arla, was diagnosed with cancer when she was in her eighties. She has had several rounds of chemotherapy since then, and some radiation, too. Sonia went to see her last year, as they thought this might be her last chance to see her while she was still fairly healthy. She is now 91, and all of her scans show clear. She lives in her house with her husband, and her kids call her "the Energizer Bunny," because she just keeps going, and going, and going . . . I wanna be like Arla.

The southeast is suffering a drought, and just this week a record was set at National Airport for the longest period with no measurable precipitation. Paul and Timmy are off on a Scout Camporee, so we naturally got rain today. I hope the boys don't get rained on this weekend.

My plan for this weekend include going to the mall to get new glasses and a new driver's license. So, if anybody is going to be a Fair Oaks Mall Saturday morning, you know where to look for me! There is also a new yarn shop open over in that direction.

I checked with my oncologist about my pain medications. I have been taking NSAIDS -- that family of drugs that includes asprin, ibuprofen, and naproxen sodium. They are known to be hard on the kidneys when taken over a long period of time, and since Aredia has the possibility of kidney damage, I asked if maybe I should stop taking those. She said that, though the risk is slight, it might be a good idea to change to other pain meds. So, she wrote me a prescription for Vicodin. That is Tylenol with Hydrocodone, a controlled substance. Okay, good for bedtime. I assume I will have to take Tylenol during the day. I quit taking pain meds a few days ago, to see how things went. I seem to still need them. Not only do I have the aches associated with my bone mets, I also have the family knees.

I asked my oncologist about clinical trials. She told me that if I found one I wanted to participate in, to bring her the paperwork. In other words, I do the legwork. Well, not tonight.

While I was working on this entry, my brother Andy called. He lives near Lincoln, Nebraska, and works as a cook at the heart hospital there. He and his friend Mark have been playing guitar together off and on since high school. When we were cleaning out our parent's home, Andy found a part from Mark's Fender Telecaster electric guitar that had probably been in the house for twenty years. Anyway, they have finally found a drummer, and have named their band "The Prairie Kings." They hope to get some gigs around Lincoln and have some fun. A CD is in the works, but nobody is giving up their day jobs. They could also use a bass player, so Andy can play some more harmonica. Right now he plays guitar and bass. Mark has put up some pictures and stuff at his personal website. That's Andy on the left. Since Mark is the computer expert in the bunch, expect a website for the band in the near future. I will keep you posted! Well, we think Andy is great, anyway.

Get your mammograms. Do your self-exams.



Thursday, October 18, 2007

The bells are ringing

Just something I noticed --

When I had a fever the other day, I bought a new digital thermometer to monitor it. I made sure that it was one that signaled when the final temperature was reached. It does beep -- at about the same note that my ears ring. I can't hear the thermometer!


Tuesday, October 16, 2007


Thanks to all of you who have called me "an inspiration," "my hero," and other things that make me blush. I certainly did not ask to be put in this position, and I only hope that I can do a little good by telling you all, once again, to "Get your mammograms. Do your self-exams." I know of one person who did that, and caught her cancer early. For that I am grateful.

I am not all that strong. The strangest things set me off. For instance, one of my cousins said she would be "a babbling idiot" in my place. I told her:


Believe me, I have gone through the babbling idiocy phase, and sometimes am still in it. Like tonight at bell choir. We were playing the bell part for the hymn of praise "This Is the Feast of Victory for Our God." I have been playing the same four bells on that piece for years. They wanted to take a couple away from me to make it easier, but I said I would rather just play what I have been playing. It was hard enough to learn, all those years ago, and now it is almost automatic. Then, I got to thinking, "who will play these bells after I am gone?" I had to leave the room for a bit. It is strange the things that bother one in a time like this.


As a matter of fact, the thought still chokes me up and makes me teary. There are other thoughts that do the same -- most of them involving Paul and the boys.

I think I had better go now.

P.S. I felt pretty crappy this afternoon. Side effects from the Aredia -- fever, soreness, like that. Not entirely unexpected. I shared my concerns with my oncologist, and they said to take Tylenol and monitor. The fever is much lower, and I went for a walk with Paul. I may actually make it to work tomorrow.


Monday, October 15, 2007

Ruth Update, October 15, 2007

Dear Friends, Relatives, and Prayer Partners,

It is amazing how little life changes when you find out that you have incurable cancer. I go to work, I go to the grocery store, I sleep in my own bed, and do laundry. I worry about Timmy's school work. I think about what I will crochet next. I even ordered some yarn! As if I didn't have enough stash.

At the same time, I have learned a little about what is really going on, here. According to most expectations, I have several years left, and most of them will be pretty good. One person even promised me that I would see Timmy graduate from high school. He is in seventh grade. She did not, however, promise that I would play with my grandchildren. I hadn't told her about my college freshman son, though. No, Matt, no rush! I am much more concerned about your happiness in this matter than I am concerned about playing with babies. I should have plenty of time to knit and crochet things for those grandchildren, though. There will be a hug in every stitch.

Another point is that there are advancements made in cancer treatment all the time. The drug that can keep me alive indefinitely could be available any time. The drugs that cure cancer could be out there, and we just don't know it!

There are many kinds of miracles. Just look at HIV-AIDS. Those who are lucky enough to have quality health care can live healthy lives for years, as long as they take their medicines. The vast majority of people with HIV, though, will never see those drugs. The same with cancer. I am alive today because I have good health care. People who don't have access to that health care die, and sometimes people don't even know what has killed them. I just heard today that the Indian Health Service often doesn't treat cancer. Some service.

Okay, I will get down off of the soapbox that I am not qualified to stand upon.

I just had my first Aredia today. Assuming that I don't have a bad reaction, my next infusion of it will be on November 12th. I will also get the Faslodex shot at the same time. I am supposed to get lab work done so that it is available on the day that I have the infusions. They need to watch my kidney function with the Aredia.

I plan to attend a support group tomorrow evening.

You haven't seen the last of me!

Please pray for whatever miracle we can get. Please also support medical research however you can.

Get your mammograms. Do your self-exams.


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Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The Trip to Radford in photos!

Yes, it's a college dorm room. I don't know why I thought he might possibly clean it up for our visit.

The old self-portrait.

Some of the sorority girls said "Awww" when I made out who I was walking in honor of.

Timmy had more fun on the playground than on the walk.

It is amazing what you can fit into the trunk of a car if you really try! Our suitcase fit in there, too.

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Monday, October 08, 2007

Ruth Update, October 8, 2007

Dear Friends, Relatives, and Prayer Partners,

We did indeed go to Radford to visit Matt this weekend. We left here about 6 pm and got to our motel in Christiansburg at about 11:15 pm (Radford was full up, surprise, surprise). We went on a walk for breast cancer research. I hope they made lots of money, because the route was kind of lame. They roped off a "course" which was a rough oval, and you walked around and around. Paul estimated it at 170 meters. They also had a raffle, for which I bought five tickets. It seems to me the majority of the prizes went to the sisters of the sorority sponsoring the walk. Of course, one of them bought 100 tickets, sooooo. . . Anyway lots of college kids with Greek letters on their t-shirts showed up.

After that we went to see "All My Sons," put on by the college theater department, with Conrad John Schuck in the starring role. Gee, an actor I actually recognize! (I wish IMDB had more photos of him, but you can get a little more info from the Radford U site). They had quite a gallery of past guest artists, including Elizabeth Taylor. Of course, she was pictured with her then-husband, Senator John Warner. I think a few strings may have been pulled to get her.

We had a nice dinner in a banquet hall, where we also had brunch the next day. Saturday evening, we saw a comedy magic show, by Spike and Hammer. It was pretty funny, and well done.

We left after brunch on Sunday.

I would have had a lot more fun if I didn't have another back spasm that started on Saturday morning and lasted until we got home. I didn't take my Vicodin with me, only Motrin and muscle relaxant. I was okay walking, sitting, standing, and lying down. It was the transitions that hurt. A lot. Also, don't give me a "high five" on my right hand. Poor Timmy did and I was in some pain for a bit.

One of the mets to my bone is in my right shoulder, so I guess that is what has been causing the pain there, not a rotator cuff problem. Also, we think the met to the rib is what is causing my "back spasms." I got my first treatment of Faslodex under the new regimen today, and complained to the nurse. She ran it by the doctor, and we are in agreement that the met is the source of the pain. For now, we will continue on the treatment I told you about the last time. The Faslodex is actually two shots. They assure me that I don't want the whole lot in one place.

I have had a couple of people ask why don't we just shoot the big guns right away this time. It is because the big guns could do me more harm than good at this point. I have been treated in the left hip, and have new mets to the right hip, both shoulders, some vertebrae, and a rib. In an adult, the bulk of our bone marrow is in the hips and vertebrae. We are not ready to do in my bone marrow. Though with the pain I have been feeling in the rib, I don't know why they can't just irradiate there.

I have given some thought to what you can do to help me. Prayer is, of course, first on the list. Another thing you can do is get on the bone marrow registry. I was on this registry before I was diagnosed with cancer. Nobody has said anything about me needing a bone marrow transplant, but this is a good thing to do for anybody. Also, if you want to contribute to breast cancer research, feel free. We support Susan G. Komen for the Cure. Then, of course, there is The Breast Cancer Site. You can just click to give. So they say, anyway.

Get your mammograms. Do your self exams.


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Thursday, October 04, 2007

Ruth Update, October 4, 2007

Dear Friends, Relatives, and Prayer Partners,

I met with my oncologist yesterday. She is going to treat me pretty conservatively for now, watching closely with another PET scan in three months or so, but I should not be missing any work, besides a few hours once a month, so we can all calm down. I will be getting Faslodex which is a once a month intramuscular injection (a shot in the butt), and Aredia , which is a once-a-month IV infusion.

The Faslodex is supposed to interfere with the metabolism of the cancer cells, and the Aredia is supposed to help with bone growth and healing. It worries me a bit because it is related to Zometa, which put me in the hospital with a high fever and generally yucky side effects last time. My oncologist knows about that episode, though, and she seems pretty confident. We shall see.

The good news is: I am not in any pain where the cancer is in my bones and there is no sign of any cancer outside of my skeleton. My cancer is now in a “chronic” phase, if you will. I could go on like this for years.

The bad news is that we don’t know the mind of God, and things could change at any time. My oncologist is saving the big guns for when we really need them. Barring a miracle, we will probably need them eventually. She knew of a patient who lasted for 18 years after getting to this stage, but she is an extreme example. The cancer did get her in the end.

The only thing I need from you is prayer. I will not be losing my hair, so I don't need hats. I should stay pretty healthy, so I won't need a lot of help with food and that kind of thing.
You have my permission to pray for a miracle, but I will settle for a long, fairly normal life. I still would like to play with my grandchildren -- at least nine months after I become a mother-in-law!

Get your mammograms. Do your self exams.



Monday, October 01, 2007

Ruth Update, October 1, 2007

Dear Friends, Relatives, and Prayer Partners,

The honeymoon is over. The results of my PET scan show a malignancy in my T8 (eighth thoracic) vertebra. Maybe the guy reading the MRI counted wrong. It also shows areas of "increased metabolic activity" in some other places in my skeleton. None of these places hurt. That's the good news. I think God sent me a back spasm to force me to get an MRI, which led me to getting a PET scan.

I got the news this afternoon from my primary care physician. He is a teddy bear of a man, who really cares about his patients, but he is a family practitioner. He will send the information to my oncologist, and I expect to hear from her tomorrow.

The only plans I have right now are to go to Radford University in Radford Virginia for parent's weekend this weekend. After that, we don't know. We hope to be able to go to Paul's hometown for Christmas, but we will see what happens. That's the plan, anyway.

I am ticked off and pretty upset. Please pray for me.

Get your mammograms. Do your self-exams.


PS to my blog readers (all four of you): These updates are actually copies of e-mails that I send out to my friends, relatives, and prayer partners (duh). Like you haven't already figured that out. If you would like to be added to the e-mail list (I always use BCC), please e-mail me at reprovance AT yahoo DAHT com, and I will add you to the list. If you want to read my adventures in the land of cancer from the beginning of my last (second) diagnosis, go to the beginning of the blog. It's all in there. I always post the updates to the blog, so bloglines or something like it will serve you just as well as getting e-mails. Thanks.