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!

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Ruth Update, February 28, 2008

Dear Friends, Relatives, and Prayer Partners,
We have decided on the drugs we are going to shoot at the cancer this time:  Taxotere and Xeloda   I don't have an appointment for the administration of these drugs, yet, but hope to hear from the nurse who schedules the IV treatment (taxotere) tomorrow.  The Xeloda is an oral medication.  If you click on those links, as I have, it is pretty scary to think of what can happen.  But it is also scary to think what would happen if I didn't go this route.  Paul and I were both comforted as my oncologist listed all the drugs that we haven't tried yet.  We have lots more ammunition.  I am sure I will be taking other drugs to fight the side effects of these, and drugs to fight the side effects of the drugs that fight the side effects of the chemotherapy agents. 
I made an appointment to use that gift card for the spa.  I will be having a manicure and pedicure, "petite facial," and leg waxing.  I hope they wax my legs first.  Since hair loss is one of the side effects of Taxotere, I probably won't have to shave my legs for months.  Again.
I had better take my wig in to be styled.
Get your mammograms.  Do your self-exams.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Ruth Update, February 26, 2008

Dear Friends, Relatives, and Prayer Partners,
I just heard from my doctor via e-mail.  She had spoken to the pathologist who examined my liver biopsy and confirmed malignancy in one of the six samples that were presented to him.  This is not news.  Unfortunately, there was not enough malignant tissue to do the test for the HER 2 receptors, which would tell if I could use the drug Herceptin.  (The specific test she mentioned was:  ER , PR & HER 2 NEU.  I just Googled that, and just the titles of the hits gave me the willies.  It is late, and I need to talk with my husband.  I am not going there right now.)
I have not spoken with my oncologist yet, and I just got the e-mail, but the way I see it, my choices are:
1)  Have another liver biopsy.  According to the e-mail from my doctor, the pathologist believes that one could also be hit or miss, so we could be in the same position we are in right now.
2)  Go with the chemotherapy that we would have gone with anyway if the test came out negative for HER2 receptors.  These are the toxic kinds of chemo, similar to what I have already had, that put me in the "No Evidence of Disease" category.  My oncologist assures me that we could do the test another time down the road, when we can get another sample that might be better, to try the Herceptin then.  I was hoping for the Herceptin now, as it is less toxic, and one doesn't lose one's hair.  One also doesn't spend two or three days every three weeks curled up in bed, whimpering.
3)  Talk with my oncologist and my husband and see if there are any other options.
Of course, any treatment plan I take includes the prayers of my praying friends, and the good wishes of those who don't pray.
The option of doing nothing is not an option.  Haul out the big guns and let's start shooting.  I hate this waiting around stuff.
I need to go talk to Paul.
I posted a little something more lighthearted on my blog today, just in case you missed it.
Get your mammograms.  Do your self-exams.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Aromatic care packages

On Thursday, I came home to some really nice mail

My cousin had "partial success" in her quest, and she sent me some nice lilac hand cream, along with other goodies -- chocolate covered sunflower seeds, a bracelet with the "Fruit of the Spirit", and a nice prayer/poem. My friends in California had sent four bars of lilac-scented soap, and some lilac "body mousse." I have really smelled nice for the past few days. Thank you to Jan, Jen, and Diane! Also, thanks to Trudy, who found some more lilac soap, and gave it to me after church on Sunday. And to Lisa, who left something for me on my desk on Monday:

I got some other mail on Thursday, too.

Susan G. Komen for the Cure (c) has apparently been doing some "branding" to separate themselves from other breast cancer charities. They now have "dark pink" awareness bracelets. The ones on the right are the old ones, which say "Sharing the Promise." The ones on the left now say "SUSAN G. KOMEN FOR THE CURE." They do good work, don't get me wrong, and I am glad to send them my money. I am not happy with the new color. And I ordered fifty of them. I guess the color isn't the point of the thing, but it isn't pink! And I have a lot of pink awareness bracelets.

Schnapps wonders what that sheet is doing on his sofa.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Ruth Update, February 20, 2008

Dear Friends, Relatives, and Prayer partners,
The liver biopsy went fine.  I am a bit sore, but hope to have the results on Friday or Monday.
It got off to a rocky start.  I was supposed to get some mail from my HMO about it, and didn't.  I was supposed to get a call from a nurse at the hospital, but didn't, and by the time I realized that none of that had happened, it was too late last night to ask about it.  So we showed up early.   And found out that my procedure had been cancelled.  After numerous phone calls and running around by other people (I got to sit in the reception area and read), they fit me in.  They apologized for being so late, but I said that I had nothing else planned, anyway.
I asked to be put out pretty thoroughly, and the nurse tried, but I was fairly alert through the whole thing.  They need me to be able to hold my breath at some times, so I had to be conscious, what they call "twilight sedation," but apparently I am resistant to the amnesiac part of that drug.  I can't complain.  The nurses and techs were very solicitous and caring.
Here's hoping they find the "Her 2" receptors.
Get your mammograms.  Do your self-exams.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Ruth Update, February 16, 2008

Dear Friends, Relatives, and Prayer Partners,
Thank you for all of your messages of support.  I am embarrassed when people call me "brave" and "courageous."  Any strength I have, I get from the LORD.  I thank Him that I was baptized at birth, reared in a Christian home, and have had good Bible teaching along the way, even when I was in the Army.  Paul is my earthly rock, and I also thank God for him on a regular basis.
One of my cousins asked what she could do for me.  Heck, she has already flown out to visit from Nebraska.  Anyway, just to give her something to do, I guess, I mentioned lilac soap and lotion.  I can't usually find lilac soap, except at the local Turkish grocery, and that is commercial stuff with a very light scent.  I like the stuff you can get at craft fairs.  I usually clean the vendors out if they have lilac.  I used to be able to get some lilac soap at Whole Foods, but didn't see it the last time I was there, and didn't even see a space for it on the shelf.  Now my cousin is driving around Eastern Nebraska like somebody on a mission.  Not what I meant.  I guess I should have said, "If you happen to be at a craft fair, and somebody happens to have some artisan lilac-scented soap, I wouldn't mind a bar."  Now I feel bad that she is the only one I told about my lilac love.  So, now, if anybody out there wants to do some little thing for me, and you happen to be at a craft fair . . .  One bar is fine.  Don't burn gas just for me!  If I seriously needed the stuff, I know I can find it online.
On the cancer front, I have an appointment for a liver biopsy on Wednesday morning.  It is "CT-guided."  I think what they mean by that is they use a CT-scan to find the lesions in my liver, and then use a big, long, needle to get a sample of it.  I will be pretty thoroughly sedated.  I am going to ask to be really thoroughly sedated.  The procedure is at 9 am EST, February 20th, just in case any of you want to pray at the exact time.  I pray that they will get a good sample, and it will show that I can be treated with Herceptin.  I need all the ammunition I can get if I want to play with my grandbabies.  I also pray that nothing goes wrong and I am back on my feet and fighting in a hurry.  Paul is coming with me. 
My friend Lisa Latall is still raising money for the Avon Breast Cancer Walk.  She is more than halfway there!  Whoo, hoo!
Get your mammograms.  Do your self-exams!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Ruth Update, February 13, 2008

Dear Friends, Relatives, and Prayer Partners,
I had a couple of things I wanted to include in my update yesterday, but I kind of ran out of steam.  I think you all had about all you could take from me in one day, anyway!
First of all, my son has gotten into YouTube.  He has a "channel," which, at this point he is using mostly as a blog.  The hot link there is to the video reply to yesterday's update.  No, he didn't get the news via the 'net.  I did call him before I sent out the update.
Next, a friend of mine is doing the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer.  This is the two-day marathon walk you might have heard about.  There is a lot of overhead for this venture, and she has committed herself to raise $1,800.  I figure that every dollar over that is one more for research and awareness.
I quote her letter:  "I ask that you please take this opportunity to honor those you love by making a tax deductible donation.  There are 2 ways you can donate to this cause and support my efforts.  To donate online, go to, click on "Make a donation" click on "Donate to a participant", click on "Washington DC 2008" and type in [her name -- Lisa Latall].  It will lead you to a page where you can pledge online by credit or debit card either as a one time gift or a pledge over time.  . . .  Please know that no donation is too small and that your gift will be appreciated more than I can possibly tell you."   The other way to donate is to send a check to her directly.  If you wish to do that, please let me know, and I will let her contact you with the particulars.
I had better warn you, the Provance family is trying to see what we can do to participate in the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure in June.  I will be asking for support then, too.  It's not just for me.  It is for my daughters-in-law and grandchildren.  It is for your mother, sister, wife, cousins, in-laws and descendants.
Excuse me while I go donate.
Get your mammograms.  Do your self-exams.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Ruth Update, February 12, 2008

Dear Friends, Relatives, and Prayer Partners,
"Impression:  Continued progression of bony metastatic disease, with new areas of metastasis in the liver and possible metastatic disease in the right neck involving the fossa of Rosenmuller and vallecula.  Direct visualization of these regions may be warranted."
In other words, we need to call out the big guns again.  My cancer has spread to more places in my skeleton, has also appeared in my liver, and there are suspicious areas in my neck.  The above quote is the bottom line in the report from the radiologist who read the results of my PET/CT scan which was taken on Saturday.
I had a treatment with Aredia today, and saw my oncologist also.  We skipped the Faslodex, as it obviously isn't working.  As she was giving us the bad news, I looked over at Paul, who was looking pretty stricken, and made faces at him to make him smile.  He did, but the smile did not reach his eyes.  I fell apart then.  One can only smile through so much.  The doctor then hugged me, and said, "I think she needs your hug more now," and Paul's arms surrounded me.  I am sure that he had gotten up without her instruction, but I couldn't see.
Here's the plan:  my oncologist only had the written report today.  When she gets the actual images, probably tomorrow, she will send them to the hospital to be reviewed by specialists.  She wants to get a sample of my tumors from wherever we can get it without too much invasion.  It will then be tested to see what therapy will be most useful.  There is a drug called Herceptin that is pretty effective, but only on cancers that have receptors for it.  If it will be effective, I will get it.  There are also other drugs I will probably be getting, too, so I will need to get my wig styled.  I was planning to get a haircut, but the heck with that.  There are probably more MRI's and/or CT scans in my future.  The doctor has already ordered a CT scan of my brain, but we will hold off on that for a little while, as we might be able to combine it with another scan.  PET scans apparently don't work well for the brain.
I have had some sharp pain in my right wrist occasionally since Sunday.  I mentioned this to my oncologist, and she thinks it is some kind of repetitive stress injury, so I am wearing a brace on my wrist while at the computer.  I have had some problems with wrist aches before, so I have the braces at home and at work.  I am also avoiding knitting and crocheting for a while.  I could use the yarn therapy.  Good thing I have some mysteries to read.  It is also good that I didn't ring handbells yesterday as I had a meeting, and we get next Monday off for the holiday.  The pain occurs when I lift something, and lifting a handbell would be just the thing to set it off.  I hope to be able to ring at Easter.
Last week I won a gift card for a spa facial and a one-hour massage.  I can't have the massage because the cancer has fractured one of my ribs.   I have so wanted a real massage all of my adult life, and now that I have the chance, I can't have it.  Also, I must ask my friends to hug me gently. Bummer.  Maybe I can trade it in for a manicure and pedicure.  Maybe I can get a foot massage. 
Get your mammograms.  Do your self exams.  Get a massage.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

A Pox on Both Your Houses

I'm not very political, really. I do vote, but I don't live or die on the outcome. Probably. Until today, the races for the presidential nominations were pretty interesting, though. The Democrats still have a horse race, even after Super Tuesday. The Republicans did, too, but now Mitt has bowed out. Paul and I thought that was pretty sudden. I think that maybe somebody in the party got to him and convinced him to bow out "for the good of the party." At least he gave "the good of the party" as his reason. I don't know, but it seems pretty suspicious to me. The thought that he might have been offered the running mate slot was voiced at the dinner table.

Here in my state, I could vote in either primary. Or neither. Earlier in the year, the Virginia Republican Party tried to get something through that would require anyone voting in the Republican primary to sign an oath that they promise to vote for the Republican nominee in the fall. That didn't last long.

It is interesting that the Virginia primary might actually have some impact. It has been later in the year before this, when all was decided. This year, we have the "Potomac Primary," with Washington DC, Maryland, and Virginia having primaries on the same day. I think it is also interesting that one of the conventions might actually mean something. It has been so long since the convention actually selected the nominee that I cannot remember when that was.

The church where I work is a polling place, and the preschool will be in session during part of the polling time. We are doing some pretty fast thinking to figure out how to accommodate the expected crowds and still keep the children safe. And, to top it off, I will be in the oncologist's office for most of the day. The preschool director is not happy with that situation.

I am not fond of politics, but I am fond of the democratic process. Not necessarily the way it is practiced in the USA, but letting people choose their leaders seems to be the way to go. I was glad that Kenya had gone to a multi-party system. While we lived there, they only had one political party. I thought it was pretty funny when the president was congratulated all around when he was re-elected. Some of the seats in parliament were contested, but the president had no competition. There was election-day violence then, but what is happening in Kenya now makes my heart ache. When we lived there, I saw very little ethnic conflict. Oh, sure, people could tell each other's ethnic groups pretty much by looking at them, but everybody seemed to get along. I just don't understand what has happened.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

A new star on YouTube

My son, Matt coerced me into adding a link to his YouTube Channel I think it's great, but I am not exactly unbiased. You can only see my feet and hands in the "Fat Cat" video. I suppose somebody should get him a real digital video camera, so he doesn't have to shoot with his laptop. Let's see, his birthday is coming up . . .

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Ruth Update, February 3, 2008

Dear Friends, Relatives, and Prayer Partners,

There is really no news. My PET/CT scan is scheduled for Saturday, February 9th, at 10:15 AM. Paul is going to take me to it this time. You see, one of the things with a PET scan, is you lie on the skinny cot with your hands over your head for the duration of the scan, which is, I suppose, about 20 minutes. No big deal, except that my shoulders are where I have been having pain. Even though this is a fasting test, I will be allowed to take some pain medication. I am going to see if two Vicodin do the trick, so I will not be able to drive afterwards.

The last two weeks, I have come home on Friday and almost immediately put on my jammies and crawled into bed. I have been so tired and achy that I just couldn't face the afternoon vertical. Last Friday, I did put some chicken leg quarters in the crockpot before I left for work, so Paul didn't have to start dinner from scratch. Then, I told him what I had in mind, and we had chicken taco soup for dinner. I was inspired by the bag of tortilla chip crumbles we had. They went great in the soup, and I may have proved to Paul that one really can wing it occasionally. He is really big into following the recipe exactly.

We enjoyed celebrating Chinese New Year a little early with the members of our church who worship in Mandarin. We had a special guest for the weekend, Dr. Rowold, a professor from the seminary who also spent twenty years as a missionary in Taiwan, and some more time in Hong Kong. He still visits Asia with the mission board of our church from time to time. He spoke in English on the state of the Christian Church in China on Saturday morning, and on the Old Testament in Mandarin in the afternoon. Between times, some of us in the Board of Elders took him off to lunch to pick his brains to get some advice about our Mandarin ministry. In the evening, he was the guest speaker at a banquet. He spoke in Mandarin, but we heard a synopsis in English. It was a story about how when he was in Taiwan, the wine was really bad. I assume he was talking about wine for communion. Anyway, he decided to make his own. Part of the process is that you have to let the gasses from fermentation escape without letting outside air into the container. They used a curved tube with a bit of water in the curve so that outside air could not get in, and whenever the pressure got so great inside the fermentation vessel, they would hear a little "boop!" as the gas escaped. No matter the pressure outside, the gas escaped with that little "boop!" (I was surely glad to get the translation, because I was wondering what all the "Boop, boop, boop!" was about!) Dr. Rowold used this as an illustration of the Christian Church during the dark days of the cultural revolution. No matter the pressure from the outside, the Word of God and the Christian Church continued to grow, or "ferment" and little "Boops" of life kept percolating to the surface. Now, the Christian church is growing at the rate of three congregations every two days in China!

The food was very good, too. I even managed to not take seconds even though my taste buds wanted more, more, more! My tummy had other ideas.

I may never need to buy pantyhose again. Giant, one of our local supermarket chains, is discontinuing my favorite brand of panty hose and selling it for half-price. I have cleaned three stores out of my size. Except for the off-white. I cannot picture myself in off-white hose. Our local Safeway quit carrying pantyhose that fit me a long time ago, but I don't remember them selling off their inventory. Giant must be going through some kind of reorganization, because there are many products being discontinued.

Get your mammograms. Do your self-exams.