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!

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!
 
Love,
 
Ruth
 

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