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!

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Ruth Update, April 30, 2008

Dear Friends, Relatives, and Prayer Partners,
I am feeling much better today and made it in to work with no problems.  If you didn't know I was sick, it is probably because you have AOL.  I had 34 messages returned on my last update, and all were from AOL.  I even tried to forward one from my Yahoo mail, and it bounced, too.  So, if you want to catch up, please see my blog:   I post almost all of my updates there, in addition to some other stuff.
"A Friend," who is described as one of my "blog readers," has made a very generous, anonymous gift to me so that I can buy a new wig.  This person worked through my pastor, and the gift arrived today.  Thank you very much.  I am truly grateful and humbled by your generosity.  I am also amazed by your faith in the Postal Service!  They delivered, though.  The card is very nice, too.  Thank you, whoever you are.  I want you to know I called the wig shop as soon as I could, but I guess they don't have an answering service.  I will work at that again tomorrow so I can put your gift to work right away.  This was not necessary, but is very much appreciated.  Thank you, again.
Please continue to pray for Paul and Matt and their trip back.  A meeting that Paul needed to attend on Friday was rescheduled, and I have nagged him a lot about not driving, or having Matt drive, late at night.  It will be good to have Matt home, that is for sure.
Get your mammograms.  Do your self-exams.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Ruth Update, April 29, 2008

Dear Friends, Relatives, and Prayer Partners,
I spent today home.  Last week, Paul stayed home one day with a cold, and I think I got it from him.  As colds go, it is not too bad, but considering the rest of my health, we voted for discretion being the better part of being a stubborn idiot.  I only have a little bit of congestion, and have a little cough, but I was very tired, and actually slept for a few hours this morning.  We'll see how I feel tomorrow.  The oncology advice nurse advised me to call my primary care doc if things got worse.  I was so tired yesterday, that I got to work an hour and a half late.  I stayed late for the same amount of time, and then came home and went back to bed.  I was blaming my sleep medications until I started running a little fever and coughing.  I am okay.  I am starting the phase in my chemo cycle where I actually have an immune system, so we should be glad I got it now.
The trip to Radford was fine, except for a little adventure.  Ever passed an 18-wheeler when one of its tires exploded?  That was exciting.  Thank God, we were about even with the cab, and the tire that blew, while on our side, was quite a ways behind us.  Rubber was flying, and I hope the people in the cars just behind us were okay.  I imagine that could do some serious damage to a car.  The truck slowed down and took the next exit.  This is why the wheels come in pairs.  I called my cousin the truck driver to tell him about it, and he said that recaps often blow at this time of year, and if it had been one of the steering or drive wheels, he would have had to stop.  It is usually safer to get to a repair facility than to pull over and get in everyone's way.  This is easier to do on I-81 in Virginia, with many truck stops, than out in the middle of, say, South Dakota.  Anyway, an exciting story to tell.
Matt was great in his two one-act plays.   These were productions of the "Directing 2" class, and the parents of one of the directors stayed at the same Super 8 we stayed in.  We were all very proud.  I was especially glad that Matt really didn't like the smoking part of his role.  He didn't inhale.  The name of the evening was "The Seven Deadly Sins: An Evening of Humans Behaving Badly."  I sat down and made a list, and yes, they pretty much covered all of them.  Lechery and wrath were especially well-represented.
On Sunday, after Tony and I got back to the DC area, we went to one of his favorite malls.  He didn't get what he came for, but did find some other stuff.  It is kind of embarrassing that he knows that mall better than I do.  They have a Nordstrom's, and I also did some shopping.  I needed some new black dress shoes, and found a nice pair.  I wear a size 12, and can usually find what I need at Nordstrom's, which started as a shoe store in the Pacific Northwest, and still has a wide selection of sizes.  If they don't have it, I have to resort to mail order.
After the mall, we went to Whole Foods to get some more Tea Tree Oil and some lotion with it as an ingredient.  Another thing I found was "Lilac Water."  I got all excited, but am a bit disappointed as the scent doesn't last very long.  I was also amused by the list of ingredients:  "Contains:  Vor-Mag Water (water that has been vortexed and magnetized to raise the energy to a higher vibration that we believe to be more beneficial) and Lilac Fragrance."  The water is Vortexed!  And Magnetized!  I wonder how they do that.
Paul plans to drive to Radford on Thursday after work, pick up Matt and all of his belongings (I brought boxes last weekend), and then turn around and drive back, hoping to go to work on Friday.  I think I will buy them a couple of four-packs of Red Bull, and pray a lot.  I wish they could do it differently, as it is about 250 miles one way.  Please pray for them.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Amazing Grace

Yes, this video is unapologetically Christian. I say this because I know some of my blog readers are not Christian, and I don't want to spring anything on them that they might find offensive. Okay, you have been warned! I really think you should watch the first part of it at least, for the musicology explained. Yes, I went home and sat at the piano and tried it!


Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Ruth Update, April 23, 2008

Dear Friends, Relatives, and Prayer Partners,
Which would you rather have from your doctor:  bad news that turned out to be false, or good news that wasn't?
Having had both of them, I think I would rather get erroneous bad news, as long as it didn't lead to some erroneous treatment.  This is what I got today.  My doctor should really not be checking her e-mail at home late at night.  Bad enough she works twelve hours per day in the clinic.  Apparently, the computer system at my HMO burped out the results of my PET scan in February at the same time it sent out the results of my Head and Neck CT scan in April.  I didn't think I had had an abdominal scan, and it turned out I hadn't.  She didn't notice the date on the scan and e-mailed me with bad news.  This was the old bad news I had already gotten in February.  She apologized up one side and down the other.  Unfortunately, she didn't even realize what had happened until just before my appointment with her today, or she would have cancelled the appointment.  As much as I would like her to, she can't devote all her time to me.  There are other patients.  So, there is no new bad news.  The head and neck CT scan said "normal" many, many times, in all places, including my neck.  I quizzed her about my mild discomfort there, and she had no answers for me.  She did note that my blood glucose level was a bit high on the day that I had that PET scan in February, and that could have led to something looking suspicious.  I have another PET scan scheduled in May.  I will try to avoid sugar the day before that one, in addition to the six-hour fast I am supposed to do.
Just so you know, I did pretend to kick her hard and repeatedly.  She said she deserved that.   I also showed her my feet, as one of my toenails is looking funky.  She recommended tea tree oil rubbed into the nail beds and cuticles.  She gave me a sheet of advice for people having nail troubles with Taxotere, and that was one of the things.  Also, I am supposed to keep my hands and feet as dry as possible.  I guess that lets out swimming.  It's a good thing Paul does the dishes most nights!  I think we have some rubber gloves around here. 
I have lost weight, mostly due to loss of appetite and some discomfort I am blaming on the Xeloda.  Now, don't get all over me, people!  I am eating a balanced diet, but I feel some days as if I have to force myself to do so.  The Xeloda has to be taken on a full stomach with lots of water, so that is an incentive to eat breakfast and dinner.  I just take smaller portions and enjoy them less.  And, as we all know.  I have the resources to lose a little weight.  I also have a metallic taste in my mouth from the Taxotere, so I have invested in some sugar-free mints which mask that a little between meals, anyway. 
In other news, Paul and Timmy are going Scout camping this weekend, so I am going to Radford to see Matt in some one-act plays.  My brother Tony is coming with me, and I am not surprising Matt this weekend.  Especially since he has lots of homework to do with the end of the semester in, gee, about a week!  It will be good to have him home, and since he broke up with Katherine, I think he will actually be spending a lot of time at home, when he is not working.  Assuming he gets a summer job.  The breakup with Katherine seems to have been amicable, and mostly for practical reasons, as she hopes to be attending Carnegie-Mellon University in the fall, which is just about as far north of here as Radford is south.  The timing concerned me a little, though.  They broke up like two days after the surprise visit.  What did I do? 
I haven't been spending as much time on the computer here at home as I usually do, as we have a leaky basement, and had some heavy rains last week, which led to musty, mildewy odors.  The computer is in a dry corner, but the aroma spreads pretty far.  Paul says we have some money saved up for home improvement, and asked what my priorities were.  Until this week, new windows was my priority.  I have changed my mind.  With an impaired immune system, I think a dry basement is more important than double-glazed windows.  Ah, well, gives me more time to read and crochet if I am not on the computer.
Don't forget the Race for the Cure!  Our team has reached our team fund-raising goal, but there is always a need for more money.  If you visit the individual team members pages, you can print out a donation form (see the link right under the "thermometer") to mail in a check if you would rather not contribute online.  Also, if you are local, we would welcome you to join our team!  Thanks to all of you who have contributed.
Get your mammograms.  Do your self-exams.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Ruth Update, April 16, 2008

Dear Friends, Relatives, and Prayer Partners,
I had my chemo yesterday, and worked today, but am getting to the point where I won't be able to concentrate much on writing, reading, knitting and crocheting.  My "bad days" of lying down, eating a bit, trying to rest, etc., are really not restful.  I can't do anything much productive, but maybe a little laundry, and thank God for Maytag.  So, I figured I had better get this out.
The good news about my CT scan from my doctor: 

"Dear Ms Provance,
Wanted to let you know that scns of head & neck came back as normal
Sincerely, N A MD"

(Hmm, same initials as another N A MD, I know.  Not you, Norm!)

This gives me some comfort, of course, though I don't know what to think about the discomfort in my neck.  It could be soreness from the seeping nosebleed that the Xeloda seems to give me.

The bad news is:

"The ct chest is stable but the abd ct scan unfortunately has shown Some progression . We will need to discuss the next steps . Please schedule a visit w me."

Now, I didn't know she had ordered a chest and abdominal scan in addition to the head and neck.  More bad news is I can't get any further information until next week, as she is booked solid until Wednesday.  I even tried to corner her in the elevator, but she had seven minutes to hide in the lunchroom and eat her sandwich before her next appointment, and didn't have any cancellations to speak to me while I was having my chemo.  The good news about the delay is that Paul will be able to come with me again.  I also speculate that if there is some "progression," maybe they will be able to get a better biopsy of the tumor to see if Herceptin will do me any good.

Anyway, prayers are requested. 

Get your mammograms.  Do your self-exams.





Monday, April 14, 2008

Ruth Update, April 14, 2008

Dear Friends, Relatives, and Prayer Partners,
First, thanks to those of you who have gotten the ball rolling for "my" team for the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure.  We are off to a good start.
I had a pretty good weekend.  Matt's girlfriend, Katherine, and I visited him at Radford.  He was running a spotlight for Pippin, neither of us had seen it, and she is a theater "techie," so we thought we would surprise him.  He knew I was coming, but was not expecting her!  It was a pleasant surprise for him.  We think.  Or so he said, anyway!
It was a good thing Katherine was driving her car, as my feet hurt.  On Thursday evening, on the little walk I often take with Paul, my feet started to hurt quite a bit.  I found a large blister on one of them, too.  I called the oncology advice nurse, and she told me to call her back today.  If the problem persisted, they might have to delay my next treatment.  So, I kept my feet up as much as possible over the weekend.  Suffice it to say, at this point, my treatment is on schedule for tomorrow.  I was able to go on a walk with Paul last night with less pain, and the blister has deflated.  The foot pain is a not-unexpected side effect of one of the drugs I am getting.
I had my CT scan of the head and neck (on Thursday, not Tuesday as I mistakenly said in my last update), and hope to get the results tomorrow.  I must tell you that I have been feeling anxious about my cancer lately.  My neck has been bothering me to the point that I cannot always sing all the hymns on Sundays, and I have been feeling some mild pain where I think my liver is.  My bone pain is much less, though.  The last time I had my cancer blood marker checked, it had gone up, when we hope for it to go down.  My oncologist wants to see how it goes after this next treatment.  If it isn't going down, we may have to revisit my treatment plan.
Please pray for me, that my treatment will be successful in knocking the cancer out, and that I will feel less anxiety.
I may have jumped the gun on getting my head shaved.  I have stubble.  Dang.
Get your mammograms.  Do your self-exams.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

With no errors!

72 words


Okay, okay. Time for my walk. Or bed, or something.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Ruth Update, April 7, 2008

Dear Friends, Relatives, and Prayer Partners,
One thing I forgot to mention in my last update -- I have a head and neck CT scan scheduled on Tuesday, after I see my oncologist on Wednesday. 
I am having my head examined to see if there is anything there.
Get your mammograms.  Do your self-exams.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Ruth Update, April 6, 2008

Dear Friends, Relatives, and Prayer Partners,

My week has been pretty uneventful. No particular treatments, except for the oral medication, which continues into Tuesday, and then I have a week off, before they fire me up again.

This week will be a little busier. I have an appointment with my oncologist on Wednesday, followed by an Aredia treatment. That is the IV medication meant to strengthen my bones. I get it every four weeks, and it is usually pretty easy to take. I get chemotherapy every three weeks. One of these days, I am going to spend a really long time in that chair when the treatments land on the same day. Both of them are long infusions, that is, they have to go in slowly, so it will pretty much take care of a day.

Also, Paul and I have signed up for the Komen Race for the Cure on June 7th in Washington, DC. We have joined a team sponsored by a fellow survivor at the church where I work, Living Savior Lutheran Church, and our team designation is "LSL Team LSLC" Here is a shortened link to the team page:

From that page, you can contribute to the team, contribute to an individual, or, even better, join the team and run (with Paul) or walk (with me). As I understand it, the runners go for 5K, and the walkers only commit to a mile, but I will let you know more details after we get our race packets. If you want to just send us a check to support us, I imagine that can be done. Again, I will let you know details as I learn them. (Edited to add: There are links to donation forms on the individual participant pages, just beneath the "thermometer." Print the page and follow the directions to send in a check with the form so the individual will get the "credit")

Thank you to everyone who has supported my friend Lisa Latall in her fund raising for the Avon Three-Day walk for Breast Cancer. She has surpassed her original goal of $1,800 and her second goal of $2,000. Her current total is $2,221.20. Yay, Lisa! Paul and I hope to be there when she starts the walk, but even if we can't, we will be with her in spirit.

Get your mammograms. Do your self-exams.



Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Ruth Update, April 1, 2008

No foolin'!
Dear Friends, Relatives, and Prayer Partners,
Spring is bursting all over Northern Virginia, and today the sun actually came out, so I took some photos.  Please see the blog.  I don't want to clog up your inboxes.
I am doing pretty well considering I had chemotherapy (Taxotere) a week ago today.  I took Thursday and Friday off work, and spent Saturday at home alone.  Paul and Timmy were at a Scouting event involving shotguns and archery.  So, I called Matt and my brothers and inflicted myself upon them.  I rested a little, ate a little, took medicine, lay down, did a little laundry, drugged myself, called a brother to bother him, rested a little . . . you know, like that.  I got along okay and got a lot of Mom's Fostoria glass out of the newspapers, washed, and into the china cabinet.  Now I need to have Paul bring down another box.  Maybe it will have china in it.
I found out that the wig benefit of my insurance company is a once-in-a-lifetime deal.  Oh, well.  I had to check.  My present wig is in pretty good shape, but once we get our checks from Uncle Sam and the state, get hooked up with broadband, and pay off our credit cards, I will be seeing about getting a new head of hair.  Nice to have a little variety.  Until then, I have more of a Kojak look.  My bristles from the big haircut were shedding out, so I took Paul's Norelco to my scalp.  Now the bristles are much shorter.  I have velcro head, so my hats stay in place.   Also, I have "folliculitis."  It makes my scalp look like my face looked when I was a teen.  Oh, let's be honest, I still haven't outgrown my acne, and it would still be bugging me if all my treatments hadn't shut off most of my hormones.  My head is still not ready for prime time.  My family and support group have to suffer with it, though.
In speaking with the person at my HMO about the wig benefit, she asked how I was doing otherwise.  One of the things I said was if I have to have cancer, I am glad I have it with the support system I have.  My husband, the church where I work, the church where I worship, all my online friends, relatives, and prayer partners . . . without you all, I am sure I would not be able to handle this challenge.  I also attended my support group today, and that is a great blessing, too.
Thank you all.
Get your mammograms.  Do your self-exams.

Blossom time

It's time for the Cherry Blossom Festival in our National Capital Area. These cherry trees are in Northern Virginia. You can find anything at your public library.

I don't know what these are called, but I bet they are considered a weed. I prefer to think of them as wildflowers. They turn whole slopes purple, and love to live in lawns.

These may look like cherries, but are actually ornamental pear trees, growing in the parking lot of the church where I work. The windows behind the altar look out upon these all year, and are they are also gorgeous in the fall, when the foliage turns red.

This is pretty much the veiw out my office window.

Other places on the grounds of the church are brightened by the early daffodils

Here we have what I consider one of the glories of early spring in this part of the world. One day, you see a bush of sticks. Two days later, the forsythia are in bloom.

Here is a reminder of Nebraska, only the crabapples bloom a month earlier in Northern Virginia. There are several crabapple trees in our neighborhood, and I often linger under them on our evening walks, just to inhale the soft scent.
These are . . . pretty blue flowers. Also found at the public library.

Waiting in the wings for their part of the show are the azaleas . . .

And the lilacs.

Not really a time waster . . . right?

In reading blogs you come across some interesting stuff, and it might even have some value:

67 words

Speed test

I did notice about this site, though, that I did not see any "q" or "z" in any of the words they give you. I could actually use the practice on those letters.