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, June 25, 2008

Ruth Update, June 25, 2008. The "review"

Dear Friends, Relatives, and Prayer Partners,
That is one strange play, and I enjoyed it.  It is very darkly funny, as it is set during the Black Death in France, and concerns a monk who feels inspired by God to form a troupe of clowns to bring mirth to everybody.  The "church" thought that was fine during the plague, but changed tacks after the epidemic burned out.  Not a play for people who believe that the people who make up the church have never made a mistake.  Matthew says it is "Brechtian," but not really theater of the absurd.
It is bawdy.  Parental guidance is recommended for children under thirteen.  There are ladies of the evening involved, but no nudity.  There is a codpiece, though. 
Matt was great as one of the "Ravens."
Don't get me wrong -- I don't believe the play makes fun of God, just organized religion, specifically the Roman Catholic church of the time. 
After the play, there was a reception and I got to meet some of Matt's playmates.  They all had nice things to say about him.  The director is very glad he showed up to help them out at the last minute.  The whole play seems to have been a last-minute replacement for another play, though  Matt doesn't know the details.  I spoke to the lead actor, and he was surprised to find he had the lead in the beginning.  He had not even read the play yet!  He did a very good job, as did the rest of the cast.
Go see it.  More information at the company website  The prices vary by which performance you choose, but the Saturday matinees are "pay what you can."    General seating, so try to be near the door when the house opens, though the theater is small enough that it doesn't really matter where you sit.  We were in the top row on the end, and saw and heard everything just fine.  Great legroom up there, too!  The theater is a converted warehouse, and the a/c has trouble keeping up, so wear thin layers.  It is summer in DC, after all.
Before you go, get your mammograms and do your self-exams!

Monday, June 23, 2008

Ruth Update, June 23, 2008

Dear Friends, Relatives, and Prayer Partners,
Last Tuesday was a big day.  I had my big toenails removed, and I had my last treatment of Taxotere.  The toenails were so far gone I didn't need an anesthetic (just held the medical assistant's hand), and the Taxotere treatment went without incident, but I am surely glad to be done with the drug.  I fear I may lose at least one more toenail and a fingernail thanks to it.  My oncologist assures me that not everybody has the nail problems I have been having, so don't go by me.
The main side effect of the chemotherapy that has been bothering me is depression.  I actually didn't have a lot of physical pain last week on my "sick" days.  Maybe I should have tried to go to work, as my mind kept going off in directions I really don't like.  I had to keep speaking sternly to myself.  I had no energy to much of anything except lie in bed and feel sorry for myself.  Then, after some hugs from my fellas, I felt better.  I do think, though, that I am going to have to use the self-referral for psych services with my HMO.  The Prozac doesn't seem to be keeping up, at least on the bad days.  Please pray for my mental well-being, and that my nails would grow back healthy and strong.
My CA 27-29 cancer marker was also up from the reading earlier in the month.  This is a blood test that supposedly shows the activity of my cancer, and we want it to go down.  That did nothing for my depression.  I have shared (vented) with my oncologist in an e-mail that I am concerned, and I hope she gets back to me.  As it is, we are taking July pretty much off from cancer world.  We plan to go to Florida the end of the month, as Paul has a conference in Orlando, and we have always wanted to go to Disney World.  We plan to visit Paul's brother in Alabama on the way, and maybe stop in North Carolina the first night out.  Paul wants to drive hard to get home.  I want to take the Amtrak Auto Train.  With the price of gas the way it is, I bet it's a wash if we travel coach, though I would love a sleeper.  Hmmmm, maybe we could just get one sleeper and leave the boys in coach.  That's a thought.  They can sleep anywhere.  I can't.  Meals are included with the roomettes.  Hmmmmm.
The other big news around here is opening night.  Tomorrow, Red Noses opens at the Washington Shakespeare Company, with Matthew onstage.  Tonight is the final preview (dress rehearsal with "pay what you can" audience), and tomorrow is the press show, and we get free tickets!   I am planning for it to be good enough to see again with relatives in tow.  I plan to post a review either tomorrow night or Wednesday.  My own review.  We will have to wait to see what the Post and Times have to say.  I do know that, according to Matt, it is not appropriate for young children.  We are taking Timmy, but he is thirteen, and it is his brother's debut, after all.  (Matt also says that the "brief male nudity" mentioned on the website has been covered up.)
That's about it for today.  I am sorry it has been a while, but I felt so down last week, I just didn't feel like inflicting my blues on you.  I know you don't want to hear that, but, hey, they are my updates!  Please, just keep the prayers rolling.  Thanks.
Get your mammograms.  Do your self-exams.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

A Hot Day in DC

The Parade of Pink. People who register as breast cancer survivors get pink t-shirts, and if you get there early enough, you get to sit near the speaker's platform.

Where you can take pictures of our Secretary of State . . .

Nancy G. Brinker, whose sister, Susan G. Komen, was the inspiration for the foundation named after her . . .

and the actress, Cynthia Nixon (I think), from "Sex and the City" who is a survivor.

Here's part of the team at the assembly area, which was some distance from the actual starting line. The lady in pink on the right is my friend Belinda, who took my motto, "Get your mammograms. Do your self-exams" seriously. She is the captain of our team. Paul was already on his way to the starting line when we took this photo.

Isn't that a great sign? The people with the microphones at the start and finish didn't know what to say about it, so they didn't say anything. The "LSLC" is for "Living Savior Lutheran Church." The gentleman at the right with the white hat is my friend Bob, and the lady walking next to him is Ruth M. Both of them kept up with the young 'uns. The other Ruth is just to the right of the sign, and her fiance, Joel, is carrying the sign.

I carried the sign for a little while. Dang, can you tell I don't spend much time in the sun?

Ruth Update, June 11, 2008

Dear Friends, Relatives, and Prayer Partners,
I thought I had gotten away with it.  I felt really well, considering I had walked three miles in DC heat, but I found out the next day that the piper must be paid.
You know I have been having trouble with my feet and toenails.  One of my big toenails was about to fall off, so I wrapped it with gauze and tape so it wouldn't rip off during the walk.  The other big toe was showing some signs of trouble, but I didn't worry so much about it.  I should have.  The next day, it hurt like the dickens when touched.  On Monday I called my new friend, the podiatrist, and found that he had had a cancellation on Tuesday.  In the meantime, I iced it once in a while with a bag of frozen peas, and tried not to wear shoes.  I kept my socks on, of course.  I took Matt with me to my appointment, just in case I would not be able to drive afterwards.
The podiatrist said both big toenails need to come off, but, since I was STILL neutropenic, he consulted with my oncologist on the phone.  They apparently agreed that I shouldn't have the toenails taken off while I have a compromised immune system, so I went home with a sore toe and a prescription of antibiotics, with instructions to see him again when I have some white blood cells.  Since he is right across the hall from my oncology clinic, I should be able to do that.  He said I could be a phantom patient.  I am also to soak in Epsom salt solution.
I will do you all a favor and not post photos of my toe.  I will not even describe it.  Suffice it to say it is very sore to the touch and quite spectacular-looking.  I will try to post some photos of the Race for the Cure on my blog.  Matt installed a wireless router in our house yesterday, and we are still getting used to it.
Please pray for my toe and that I will be protected from infection.
Get your mammograms.  Do your self-exams.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Ruth Update, June 7, 2008

Dear Friends, Relatives, and Prayer Partners,
I can't believe I walked the whole thing!  Yes, indeed, I managed the whole 5K, which, I am told, is 3.1 miles.  I looked at the cut off for the one-mile route, and two members of our team were planning to take that one, but, we figured if one of our team members, who is a long-time survivor, could make it, then so could I.  We had three Ruths on our team!  One of them, with Bob, is a senior citizen, and the third is young and pretty.  Anyway, Bob and Ruth M., who were planning to cut it short, made it along with the rest of us.  Paul ran, and met us at the finish line, still upright, but his knee is a little stiff.
Thanks for all your support, and prayers for my poor feet!  They complained, but not above what I would expect if I weren't getting chemo!
One of the things they have at this event is a "Survivor's Tent," where they offer "pampering" to those of us with pink t-shirts.  I had though I might indulge, and take the shortcut to get back there, but all they had was manicures and makeovers.  Now, for a foot massage, I might have bailed.
The plan was to post photos today, but our camera ended up with another member of the team, who didn't realize it until after we had broken up after the race, so the photos will have to wait until next week.  And I have Condoleeza Rice on there, too!  Her mom died of breast cancer, and she spoke at the pre-race rally. 
I kept running into Timmy's English teacher, who is a survivor.  We didn't get much chance to talk about the boy, though.  He may actually pass English, barely.  I hope so.  I want to go to Florida this summer!
Get your mammograms.  Do your self exams.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Ruth Update, June 5, 2008

Dear Friends, Relatives, and Prayer Partners,
On Tuesday, I had a treatment with Aredia, which is the bone-strengthening IV I get every four weeks.  This was one week after my Taxotere, so they did a blood test to see how my white cells are doing.  Not good at all.  The good news is I am not sick to go along with it, at the moment.  I called the HMO advice line, just to check in.  I have a tiny fever (99.5 F), but no other real symptoms.  I suppose I will get a call from the oncology triage nurse tomorrow. 
The next time I have Taxotere, they will be sending me home with some shots to give myself.  The drug they are talking about is Neupogen, which is to support or elevate the white blood cell count.  They tell me it has to start the day after chemo or it doesn't do any good.  My oncologist and I had discussed starting it with my last chemo, but we decided to watch and see, instead.  So, now we know, and I will be able to add another skill to my resume.  Nothing that diabetics don't do all the time.  I think I will be "shooting" myself in the belly.  Lots of subcutaneous fat, and places that don't have much feeling from my reconstructive surgery in 2001.  For those of you who may have missed that adventure, I had a "TRAM flap" reconstruction of the breast when I had my mastectomy.  This is why I was laid up for four or five weeks and had four surgical drains when I came home.
I should be okay for the Race for the Cure, as my white count should be bouncing back by then.  Thank you to all of you who have supported us in many and various ways, including moral support.  Please pray that my feet are in good shape on Saturday.  I saw a podiatrist on Wednesday, mostly for an evaluation.  I have sufficient sensation in my feet, and the toenail is not ready to be taken off.  I should just wrap it with tape and go on my merry way.
Get your mammograms.  Do your self-exams.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Ruth Update, June 1, 2008

Dear Friends, Relatives, and Prayer Partners,
I had chemo last Tuesday, and I am feeling pretty well at this point.  My doctor lowered my dose of Xeloda for now, after that scary episode with no white cells.  I go in again on Tuesday to get the Aredia bone-strengthening IV, and will have my blood counts checked at that time.  I don't expect too much to be wrong.
To be honest, I had a bit of depression this time around.  The medications that fight cancer are poisons, and one does get tired of being poisoned.  I don't think my family and friends would be too happy with me if I gave up at this point, and, once I started feeling better, the depression lifted.  I appreciate all your support, and I know that Paul, Matt, and Timmy appreciate it, too. 
I will have one more treatment of Taxotere, and then will go to Xeloda, the oral drug, alone for a while.  Somebody asked me why we would stop using a drug that is working, as evident by my last PET scan, and my lower cancer markers on my last blood test.  See above.  It is a poison, and I am feeling the effects.  Sometimes it is difficult to button my shirt from the peripheral neuropathy, and I hope that will clear up once I get off the Taxotere.  Also, my oncologist said it is time to stop.  The timing is good, too, as we do hope to take a trip this summer.  More about that later as we firm up the plans.
Saturday is the Race for the Cure.  Our team has reached its funding goal, though it is never too late to contribute!  I am just hoping that I don't get foot problems before setting out.  I am seeing a podiatrist on Wednesday, and I suppose a final decision will be made then.  I plan to attend the event even if I can't walk.  I am looking forward to it.  Thank you all for your support in this venture, especially to my buddy Belinda for getting it all together!
Just a reminder, be sure to change our email address to the one in "from" above.
Get your mammograms.  Do your self-exams.