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!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Ruth Update, March 25, 2008

Dear Friends, Relatives, and Prayer Partners,

It occurs to me that I should thank ALL blood donors, not just the O's. Thank you to all of you, as I am sure you have saved more lives than you know. I may have gotten plasma from some of you A's, B's, and AB's, though I bet your red blood cells went to save somebody else!

Matt has posted the video of my haircut. If you have a slow internet connection, be aware that it is over eight minutes long and will take a while to load. If you have WebTV, I am sorry. This is on YouTube. My channel is datatech57.

And here it is embedded:

Also, Matt posted a video that I shot of him and his room on his channel, but I can't find the URL for it. I don't want to embed it into my e-mail, but I will embed it on the blog. Anyway, those of you who know your way around YouTube can find it on his channel -- timsbro2000 -- as "Wake Up Call." -- now changed to "My mom wakes me up" Here is the embedded one:

Good news: the Washington, DC, area now has an Oldies Station. The bad news, it is nationally syndicated. The worse news, its morning show is Don Imus. I will continue to listen to Morning Edition on my way to work, I believe. More bad news, it used to be the only full-time jazz station in the market. Now we have Oldies, but no jazz.

I had my chemotherapy today, and am feeling pretty good, though a little "off." I expect to spend Thursday and Friday at home, medicated.

Get your mammograms. Do your self exams.



Monday, March 24, 2008

Ruth Update, March 24, 2008

Dear Prayer Partners,
My Mom gave birth to her first baby almost exactly nine months after her wedding.  She had pre-eclampsia, a multi-symptom condition that just about killed her.  Her heart actually stopped at one time, and a shot of adrenaline got it going again.  Baby Mary Lynn was born with complications, too.  Her muscles just never developed, or never got signals from her brain.  She could breathe and digest food, but that was about it, as I understand.  She died at the age of fourteen months.  I knew her as a headstone in the cemetery, and as photos of a beautiful baby with curly blonde hair.
Mom's next baby came at the doctor "like a Mac truck."  Tony was very healthy.
Mom did have trouble holding a pregnancy, though.  Somewhere in there, she had at least one miscarriage.  I know she had a total of four in her life, so, when she was pregnant with me, she took DES, so I am a DES daughter.  I don't know if that had any effect on my developing breast cancer, but it could certainly have lead to other cancers. 
During one of her previous pregnancies, the baby's Rh Positive blood came into contact with Mom's Rh Negative blood, and she developed antibodies to the Rh factor, so I was an "Rh Baby".  I was baptized on the day I was born, and had an exchange transfusion to flush the antibodies out of my system.  Thanks to anyone who has ever donated O Negative blood.  I spent most of my life believing that I almost died at birth, but Dad later told me that the doctor didn't think I would die, but it would be a "good idea" to do the transfusion.  That did sort of spoil the story, but I can tell you my date of baptism, anyway!
When Paul and I lived in Kenya, we each had typhoid and malaria, and I had a really bad case of salmonella.  I had to be hospitalized for a few days and put on IV fluid for that, and also for the malaria.  Paul was hospitalized for the typhoid.  We were also robbed at machete point while visiting a national park with another couple.  That did sort of ruin our overseas experience.  We didn't tell our folks about that incident until after we got home.
When Matt was born, I retained a piece of my placenta.  If I had not been in a hospital I might well have bled out.  I had to get six units of blood products and an emergency trip to surgery.  Thanks to anybody who has ever donated O Positive blood.
I was pregnant when we moved from Nebraska to Northern Virginia, but shortly after my first pre-natal exam, I had my first visit to Fairfax Hospital in  an ambulance in the middle of the night.  This was an ectopic pregancy.  If I had been far from medical help, had not realized what it was pretty soon after the pain hit, or been misdiagnosed, that could also have killed me.  We were glad that Tony was visiting, so he could take care of Matt, who was almost three years old at the time. 
I had a very early miscarriage a while later.  This was not life-threatening to me, but, of course, the embryo died.  I cried.  A lot.  This, and the ectopic pregnancy, may be related to the DES, too.
When Timmy was born, I made sure everybody knew about the DES and the retained placenta.  Every person who came into the delivery room got the same story, and there were no complications.  I had my remaining fallopian tube tied.
My word, what a litany.  I guess I am trying to say that, without modern medicine, I might not have lived long enough to develop breast cancer, and Timmy might never have been born.  For this, I am grateful.  I am not too happy about the DES part, but this would not be the first or last time that the best medical science of the time turned out to do more harm than good.
Tomorrow, I have my next treatment of Taxotere, and start my next round of Xeloda.  My stubble is falling out, so I guess I didn't have my head shaved for nothing.  I am looking into the possibility of my HMO buying me another wig.  After all, mine is six years old.  What do you think about long and blonde?  Maybe curly and blonde?  I don't have the guts for that, I am sure!
Check my blog for some pictures.  Matt and I are working on the video.
Thank you for your prayers and support.
Get your mammograms.  Do your self-exams!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

What goes on in the oncology clinic and the backyard

Thanks, Gladys

This was an unexpected gift that we have all enjoyed. Most of the flowers are gone now, but some remain.

Matt took some photos while I was getting a treatment at the oncologist's office

Here you see where my medi-port is. It is completely under the skin and saves my very few accessible veins for use by people who are not authorized to access ports.

That would be RN's and "above." You don't want just anybody having access to a catheter that dumps medication directly into the superior vena cava. That is just "upstream" from the heart.

Then, once I am hooked up, I get down to some serious crocheting.

And I am not the only one.

Who says you can't have fun at the oncology clinic!

A few days later, the haircut.

Matt didn't watch the first two haircuts. Those were before he started video blogging and got a video camera. My brother, Tony, took these stills. Matt pretty much watched through the viewfinder.

I don't think this is what my Mom had in mind when she gave me Grandpa's barber clippers.

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Monday, March 17, 2008

Ruth Update, March 17, 2008

Dear Friends, Relatives, and Prayer Partners,
Happy Birthday, Matt!  He was home for the whole week for spring break, but had to go back to classes today, so we had his birthday celebration on Saturday.  Tony was here, too, and it was great to have him.  Especially since we had Big Tony's pizza.  He had some advice, but he made some fine pizza.  Used my recipe for the flour, but he did the work, except for forming the dough.  I do have a bit of experience with that.  He also made Sunday dinner for us.  Yum!
We gave Matt a video camera for his birthday, and Tony gave him some video editing software.  Gee, I wonder how Tony knew!  ;-)  So, be watching for Matt on YouTube -- timsbro2000.  He has already posted some videos he "shot" with his laptop.  Thank you to all who were watching his monkey video.  You can stop now, as the contest is over.  I don't know the final results yet, but he was pretty high in the numbers race.
Another event this weekend was the head shaving.  Matt got video, and Tony took stills.  I will try to post some on the blog, and will link to whatever Matt comes up with.  I think he may delay posting the video, as he has plans for it for the future. 
My hair was not coming out in chunks yet, but was beginning to fall out.  We didn't shave off the stubble this time, so I am not completely slick.  If the stubble doesn't fall out, we'll know I jumped the gun.  I am not too worried, though.  The Taxotere is related to Abraxane, which took out my hair completely.  The Taxol I had the first time around was given with Adriamycin, which would do the trick by itself.  I did get some peach fuzz, or "preliminary hair" at the end of my first treatment regimen, but then I was having weekly low doses of Taxol by itself, rather than the powerful doses every three weeks.
Tomorrow I take the last oral dose of Xeloda for this cycle.  I take it morning and evening for fourteen days and then get seven days off.  I start again on the day I get my next IV Taxotere treatment, the Tuesday after Easter, and my doctor wants to bump up the dose.  I think this is the drug that is giving me the metallic taste in my mouth, and spoiling my enjoyment of licorice.  Oh, well, licorice does other things to me, so I can't eat much of it anyway.  Have to switch to gumdrops!  I still like chocolate, too!  No, you don't need to send me candy.  I have enough trouble walking by it in the grocery store.  Also, Matt brought home most of the ten-pound bar of dark chocolate we gave him for Christmas, so we are working on that.
Yesterday, I had coffee with a friend I had not seen in a while.  I had to tell her to wipe the wrinkles off of her brow.  "But I'm worried about you!"  I can appreciate that.  Thanks. 
Get your mammograms.  Do your self-exams.

Friday, March 14, 2008

If you've ever been owned by a cat . . . .

. . . you might be interested in this:


Monday, March 10, 2008

Monkey Business

Matt has entered a contest on YouTube to win an IPod Touch. To win, he has to get the most views of his video of all the people entered. So, keep watching it over and over and over until you absolutely cannot stand any more. And then keep watching:

(Edited: The contest is over. So, you don't need to watch any more than you want. He did get over 900 hits, though he didn't win. I don't think.)

For variety, you might want to look at my contribution. But probably not as many times as you watch Matt:

The really sad part about this video is that I made it just before I went to a meeting of the board of elders at church, which I thought was at 7:30. It was at 7:00, and I was late. I had to admit to the other members of that august body
that I was making a silly YouTube video.

I sure hope Matthew wins the IPod.

Ruth Update, March 10, 2008

Dear Friends, Relatives, and Prayer Partners,

First, a big thank you to all the people who have been praying for me during the past week. I made it to church on Sunday, and was at work the full six hours today. Whenever anybody asked how I was feeling, I said "mildly crappy." I feel like I have a bit of flu or something. I don't know if this is how I will continue to feel while I am on this regimen, but I decided yesterday that I probably wouldn't feel any worse if I went to work, and I have things there to keep me busy. I am feeling better than I was. I have an appointment with my oncologist on Wednesday, and will have an infusion of Aredia that day. This is the IV medicine to strengthen my bones. It has had very few side-effects, so I expect to be back to work as usual on Thursday and Friday.

I was very glad to find a meal in the refrigerator at work. Thank you, Miss Kathy from the preschool! The ladies there have a sign-up list going, and I really appreciate it. My family liked it, too! The church where I work has also offered to provide meals for us as we need them. I am very grateful. It is nice not to worry about that when I come home from work.

Thank you also to Kimmer, Amber, Trudy, Karen, Lisa, Mary, Gladys, and probably somebody else I have left out. I have been finding little surprises in the mail, from a florist, on my desk, and next to me in church, and they really brighten my day. Thank you.

Matt is home for spring break, and is participating in a contest on YouTube. I have also gotten into the spirit of the thing. To see a couple of people making monkeys out of themselves, please see the blog.

Get your mammograms. Do your self-exams.



Friday, March 07, 2008

Ruth Update, March7, 2008

Dear Friends, Relatives, and Prayer Partners,
I have been letting you down.  Please forgive me.
I had my first treatment with Taxotere on Tuesday, and began taking Xeloda that same evening.  I went to work on Wednesday, and have stayed home today, Friday, and yesterday.  Actually, I felt pretty well on Thursday, when I first woke up, but things went downhill after about noon, so I am very glad that Rosalie, a very nice lady at the church where I work, has stepped in to take up slack.  She knows what she is doing, and does not fear the computer or the copier!  Thanks, Rosalie!  Also, thanks to Bob, who has covered for me in the past, and can help Rosalie out when she can't reach me.  I guess I am doing a bit of telecommuting, but not much. 
Mostly I am lying or sitting down with some aches and pains, as I expected.  Vicodin is my friend.  I am able to do a little light laundry and other stuff, so hopefully the place isn't a disaster when Paul comes home in the evening.
Matt will be home for a week on spring break starting this evening, and the next week, Timmy will be off of school.  Poor planning on the school's parts, if you ask me!  My brother is planning to visit next weekend, and has told us not to clean.  He will get to see both his nephews on this trip.  Matt was home briefly last weekend, and Timmy was off on a ski trip at the same time, so they didn't even pass in the night.  Ah, how they grow.
Okay, I'm rambling.  Must be the drugs.
Thank you for your support.
Get your mammograms.  Do your self-exams.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Ruth Update, March 2, 2008

Dear Friends, Relatives, and Prayer Partners,
Just a quick note to let you know that we fire the first salvo of this battle on Tuesday, March 4th, beginning at 10:30 AM.  I will get the Taxotere via IV at that time, and will start taking the Xeloda pills that day.  I assume in the evening.
I appreciate your prayers and good thoughts.
Get your mammograms.  Do your self-exams.