Dealing with a detour in the road: Local gets re-diagnosed
Primrose: ‘Just let me live long enough to raise these kids’
There are an estimated 155,000 Americans living with metastatic breast cancer, and nearly 30 percent of people diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer will develop metastatic breast cancer.
Metastatic breast cancer means the cancer that was once in the breast has moved to another location in the body.
Of the thousands of people living with this cancer, one of them lives in the heart of the Cassville community.
Ruth Primrose, a 58-year-old local woman, beat breast cancer back in 2018.
The Monett Times featured her story, “The road I had to take,” on Oct. 10, 2018, and at that time, she knew she would have to have future PET scans to see if the cancer cells had returned.
For two years, Ruth lived her life thankful for the second chance she got, and she began raising her two granddaughters.
“In June 2020, I noticed my back had started to hurt,” she said. “I didn’t think anything of it, just thought cleaning houses was hard on my back.”
Towards the end of June, her daughter came in from California and a bunch of family and friends decided to go on a camping trip.
“That was the last week in June,” Primrose said. “My back was hurting so badly that me and one of my friends decided to come back from camping a day early. This was July 1, 2020.”
Primrose had decided that since her pain was getting worse, if nothing changed, she would go to the hospital the next day.
“I couldn’t do anything but sit,” she said. “The next day, everyone came back from camping and they called an ambulance because I was in so much pain.”
She was transported to the Rogers, Ark., emergency room.
“They did several scans and X-rays, and the next day, they did an MRI of my back,” she said. “On July 3, the doctor came in and told me that they thought they saw something in the MRI and with my history, he thought it was cancer.
I had a compression fracture in my spine from the tumor, and that is how they found the cancer.”
Although she was diagnosed with metastatic cancer in her spine, it is still breast cancer.
“They did a CT of my brain and an MRI of my major organs to make sure it hadn’t spread more,” Primrose said. “They did a blood test that showed the cancer cells were back.”
Primrose started radiation on July 20.
“They told me last time that the cancer could come back, But I just didn’t really think about it actually coming back,” she said. “I had no idea that my back pain would turn out to be cancer.
“In my head I thought, if I get rid of the breast I get rid of the problem.”
Her treatment plan started right away with radiation every day, Monday through Friday, for two weeks straight.
“They told me it wouldn’t do anything for the tumor, but it would help my pain,” she said. “Then they gave me a chemo pill, which was different than what I had before.
“I take Ibrance, one pill each day for three week cycles and one week of rest.”
Primrose will take medication for the rest of her life, and if this one stops working for her, she will try another one.
“They want to shrink the tumor to hopefully 45 percent of what it is now,” she said. “Once the cancer has metastasized, there is no cure, but we can control it. Next month, I will have a PET scan to see if this medication is working.”
She has been taking Ibrance since August.
“I also take an inhibitor, Anastrozole, along with the chemo pills,” she said. “This helps keep the cancer from spreading more.”
The biggest side effect this time is the nausea, headaches and fatigue.
“Sometimes I have restless legs,” she said. “The biggest difference between the first time and this time is, this time, isn’t so harsh on my body.
“Sometimes I still have back pain. But most of the time, I forget there is a tumor on my spine. I am just not in as much pain as the first time.”
Another big change is this time, she won’t lose her hair.
“When I got this second diagnosis, my first thought was fear,” she said. “I am now raising my granddaughters, 11 and 14 years old. I have fear in not knowing how long I have to live to take care of them.”
Her radiologist told her she could have two months or two years — but they just never know.
“I just pray I live long enough to raise these two kids,” sh said. “I kept telling the doctors, ‘I have to live at least that long.’”
Primrose said she could live for 10 years or even 20 years, she just doesn’t know.
“I went ahead and made a will to make sure the girls were taken care of,” she said. “I am 58 years old, but I have a lot of life left in me. I want to live, I won’t lie down and let this ravage me. I am going to do everything I can.”
Primrose is insured by Humana, and her co-pay of other chemo pill would be $2,000 per month.
“I told them I can’t do that,’ she said. “So, I called the manufacturer of the drug and they gave it to me for free for three months.
“I called last week to have my prescription refilled and they told me they will give it to me for free thoughout the rest of the year.”
She said she doesn’t know exactly what she will do after that, but she is taking it day by day or month by month.
“It bothers me because they know that you need this medication to live,” she said. “If you can’t afford it, you go without it and die — I am not going to do that.”
Primrose said she wakes up every day and tries to make it the best day she can.
“I get out of bed and thank God for giving me another day,” she said. “Then, I put on my makeup and do my hair. If all I can do that day is take a nap, I am going to look good doing it.”
Although she always tries to be positive, sometimes it is hard.
“The bad days seem to hit at the end of the day when I am trying to sleep,” she said. “That is when all the bad things run though my mind.”
Her granddaughters have been a huge help.
“They see me taking out the trash and jump in to help,” she said. “It was hard to tell them I had cancer again, they don’t know that it will never go away. They know I have cancer, and I just told them it was treatable, but I never told them it won’t be curative.”
Primrose said if not for her family and friends reaching out and helping her, this situation would be much different.
“The prayers are coming to me,” she said. “I can feel them every day.”