When Ruth Crane was diagnosed with breast cancer in March of 2008 at age 37, it stopped her in her tracks. She had no history of the disease in her family, and she had three young sons, all younger than 10.
Rather than sink into despair, Ruth made a concerted effort to stay positive through treatment. She asked friends to send her funny stories. She encouraged family members to reach out to her. And she found comfort and a sense of normalcy in her jewelry. In fact, it was earrings that buoyed Ruth when chemotherapy took away her curly auburn hair.
“One late night, I had been hospitalized for a fever, and I asked my husband to bring my wig and some jewelry to the hospital,” Ruth recalled. “When I put my earrings on, I just felt more ‘me’.”
That’s when it occurred to Ruth: She felt most at ease when she wore make-up and jewelry – just as she always had prior to her diagnosis. Thereafter, she began to take time to wear a nice wig, do her make-up, and accessorize with necklaces and earrings.
These days, Ruth’s cancer is in remission, and she is thriving – and so is the new nonprofit venture inspired by her cancer journey. Ruth launched Ears To You in 2008, while undergoing treatment at the Cleveland Clinic. Through Ears To You, Ruth provides free earrings to women undergoing chemotherapy.
“It seems so simple,” said. “But earrings really have the power to make you feel good and attractive at time when you don’t feel good about other things.”
The women who have received earrings from the program agree. In the past three years, Ruth’s Ears To You program has expanded from the Cleveland Clinic to three other hospitals across the country, including St.Vincent Hospital in Indianapolis.
Here at St.Vincent, nurses distribute the earrings to female cancer patients at their first chemotherapy treatment. According to Andrea Fusaro, manager of the Women’s Health Boutique at St.Vincent Women’s Hospital, the goal is “to help the patient’s anxiety and fears, and let her know we are supporting her.”