Readers’ Corner |

Readers’ Corner

When Bill Kroot’s wife, Polly, was dying of lung cancer, she extracted a promise from him. Polly wanted her husband to look up an old friend of hers and “look after her.”

Polly died in June 1989, and in November of that year Bill dutifully looked up Ruthie Ilsen. When Ruthie opened the door, her bald head was covered with a scarf, she had recently undergone cancer surgery, and she had a Hickman catheter in her chest to accommodate the long months of chemotherapy ahead of her.

Ruthie was just beginning an incredible struggle for her life. Her diagnosis was inflammatory breast cancer – a rare and deadly form of the disease. When Bill told her he would like to get to know her, despite her struggles, Ruthie told him she didn’t even know if she would still be alive in a year. She suggested they write to each other.

Ruthie was treated at the City of Hope in Southern California, the hospital that tries to heal people who have received a discouraging diagnosis. Ruthie had seven high-dose chemo treatments, 27 radiation treatments and a bone-marrow transplant, and spent 52 days in sterile isolation.

Meanwhile, Bill was falling in love with Ruthie. He had had a heart attack; she was in remission from her breast cancer. He told her it didn’t matter – he wanted to spend whatever time either of them had left with Ruthie.

It hasn’t all been easy, however. Ruthie had cancer in her second breast; Bill had a quintuple bypass. But to hear Bill tell it, their life is wonderful. His eyes sparkle when he talks about Ruthie and her incredible recovery from a cancer that many thought was not survivable.

Just another story of some of our neighbors here in Nevada County. It made me feel good, and I wanted to share Bill and Ruthie’s story with you.

Dixie Redfearn can be reached at 477-4238 or by e-mail at, or by fax at 477-4292.

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