Good news – nothing horribly amusing happened yesterday – my third FEC chemo.  My Google desktop popped up a new WebMD article that reported on a study saying Epirubicin (the E in FEC and the “red stuff” that caused the burning panic last time) improves outcomes over standard chemo – and worsens quality of life during chemo.  Fortunately, I’m not having much worse side-effects than with the Taxol.

My BRAC genetic test results came back yesterday and I got them today. Negative!  This is good for me because BRAC gene mutations increase both breast cancer incidence and recurrence rates, and ovarian cancer rates to  30-60% percent or higher.  Yuck.  Good for my family, because it means most likely what I have is not because of a hereditary disposition, and my daughter and nieces aren’t at any more risk than the general population.

We had a great trip to West Virginia to see the leaves and family.  When we got to Pittsburgh, Enterprise had not the intermediate car we had splurged on, but an SUV at the same price.  It turned out to be very good for some of the back roads we explored.  Robert was very patient with turning up gravel roads (one with a “STOP – private road” sign) and fording creeks.

I had forgotten how narrow the “hollers” are – old farmsteads now have several trailers, double-wides, or new houses on them, as people have added houses for family, because there are so few level building spots. The country used to be cleared and farmed, and is now mostly wooded. It is beautiful and isolated, even just a mile or two off of the interstate.  I took about a hundred pictures, but it is impossible to capture the feeling of being there in a picture – being surrounded by trees in the bottom of a holler, or the 360-degree vista of hills in the distance from the top of a ridge.  Will post pictures and send y’all a link soon.

We took the old highways going south from Pittsburgh to Charleston last Thursday – Philippi, where we admired the covered bridge; down to Buckhannon, which took us past Hodgesville and Peeltree (McVaney and Greathouse ancestors lived there), French Creek, Rock Cave, Gassaway, Flatwoods, Falls Mill (where the old store we used to stop at for drinks and picnic lunch when we were kids going to French Creek Game Farm with our parents has been replaced by a roadside park), and down Elk River through Clay and Corton (Hill and Taylor ancestors lived there), to brother Eric’s in time for dinner.

Friday we visited Suzanne’s house (sixth cousin and Eric’s friend) – a historic farmhouse with lots of neat old stuff.  Suzanne laid out a beautiful lunch table, with homemade bread, peach jam from Eric’s tree, blackberries they had picked up the hollow, and an assortment of cheese and fruit.  Wish I had taken a picture – tasty and beautiful too.  It was grey and rainy, but we went on up Johnson Creek and over to Stringtown, which was an oil-boom town now dwindled to a few farms, where Suzanne’s father grew up.  That was the first ford.  With the help of the topo atlas, we found our way north from there to Walnut Grove, where Grandaddy deGruyter was born, before Otto and Jane Hill deGruyter moved to town.  We drove on in to Spencer, which isn’t looking as prosperous as some places farther north – just driving through West Virginia, things look much better than the last time we were there.

Saturday, Suzanne and Eric came with us down to Babcock State Park – Robert and Suzanne hadn’t been, and Eric and I couldn’t remember when we had – sometime in the 60s with our parents.  We stopped at several scenic spots, including Hawk’s Nest, along the way.  Going back, we drove up through Mt. Nebo and Summersville, where we had no ancestors at all ;-) but it was a lovely drive through Nicholas County mountains.  We had a late lunch at Fran’s Restaurant just off the courthouse square in Summersville, where there has been a restaurant in the building continuously since 1885.  Real home-made hamburgers, onion rings, and french fries – best burger I had had in years (including at home – ground beef in our stores seems to be completely tasteless these days). We went back down the Gauley River through Swiss and Dixie to Gauley Bridge and back to Charleston.

Saturday night we went to cousins Mike and Janice Conley’s for supper and a get-together with cousins Fred and Anne Giersch – great barbecue and food too numerous to mention.  Mike and Fred didn’t rib me too much (they’re a few years older and still think of me (at 55) as one of the baby cousins – not to mention I left WV and they stayed).

Sunday Eric, Robert, and I went up to Corton, where the Hills are buried in a private cemetery – the directions said “take the gravel road around behind the house”, and since we were already up the road marked private, none of us had the nerve to just drive up (or walk) and ask.  We couldn’t see any gravestones from a distance, so we gazed longingly and went back through the country to Osborne’s Mills, where the Hills and Taylors lived, and then up to Hebron, to take pictures of Hersman stones.  We went on up Missouri Fork to Lick Fork and all the way up Lick Fork (where Eric and I had not been since some teenage parties on the Hardman farm out there).

Monday Eric, Robert, and I went up to Gilmer county and poked around the back roads in Duskcamp, Cedarville, Sand Fork, Truebada, where the McVaneys, Snyders, Brannons, etc. lived.  Visited the Otterbein Church cemetery where Nancy Brannon Snyder, a g-g-g-grandmother, is supposed to be buried.  There was a big Snyder area, but many of the stones were fieldstones, either originally painted or unmarked, so I suspect she is one of those.  We went down to niece Kate’s house and visted with her and her sister Carol.  Kate has done a great job remodeling, doing most of the work herself, laying floors (tile and laminate) and doing carpentry as well as painting and decorating.  Should have taken pictures, but it was after dark.

Tuesday was back up I79 to Pittsburgh and the flight home.  It was a great trip, and I hope we’ll get back to WV soon.

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