Ruth Riffe, Paul Humphrey & Half Dome

Ruth Riffe, Paul Humphrey & Half Dome
Ruth Riffe, Paul Humphrey & Half Dome

Friday, November 5, 2010


A month or so ago, when staying in Ouray, CO, I decided that 39 isn't old enough, though. I vowed to make at least 40 years. So stay tuned...

This is the letter my folks sent out when I showed up. They were a young evangelical couple. Dad was ordained the same week I was born. They were starting a church in Huntington Beach Ca. From there to here...Mr. Toad's wild ride!

Still Here,

Monday, November 1, 2010

Tumors continue to shrink

Paul here.

The tumors from my cancer seem to be shrinking for now. I am near the end of the first round of the clinical trial. I will take a one week break from the meds, then get the FULL DOSE every day after that.

Sure hope it keeps working!

Hopefully this blog will be a good way for folks to follow my adventure.

A more climbing related thread is on Check out


Reprint of the rest of October News


Paul David Humphrey

The last time many of you heard from me I had ended my involvement in the YM155 clinical trial for my stage IV Metastatic Malignant Melanoma. The drug combo they had me on, especially the decarbazine chemo component, crippled me further. My leg swelled with lymphedema, to the point where I could not take the heated room for yoga and work. Hurt too much. My options did not look good. One new drug, PLX4032, was on the nightly news one day. We followed up and were referred to UCSF Mt. Zion Melanoma Center to see if I might qualify.
After a wait…we got an appointment. The place is a ZOO! Long wait for the doctor…then, BAM, a whirlwind! Prodded, poked, weighed, pressure tested and then consulted by at least four fast talking specialists about best option, next option, etc. Damn. The lead, DR. Daud, was obviously on my side but hyper over worked. He said test me to see if I have a B-RAF gene mutation. OK… The dermatologist took four samples from a tumor on my collarbone. Deep cuts. I was blood tested, etc. then kicked back out the door with a “We will rush this through.”
A week later we get “the” call. We thought. Instead we are told that the sample was not usable. “What?”
“There’s no melanoma in the sample.”
“Excuse me, so I don’t have melanoma?”
“No, you have melanoma, just not in the tumor we biopsied.”
“I don’t get it.”
“Yeh, it’s odd.”
That was an understatement. What was going on here? I called and called. But getting the Doc there is like ringing up Obama, ain’t happening. New appointment instead in a few days. Ruth and I were very confused. No answers for a few days though, and I don’t wait well.
We finally got to UCSF. I do have melanoma. But they biopsied a lypoma. They need another sample to start all over again. Another wasted week! I was pissed. Ruth was frazzled. They biopsied another tumor on the other collarbone. They looked at it this time to ensure it was melanoma cells. Then off it went to Roche Labs, the drug company that makes the pill. More waiting…
We decided that if I waited in the RV in Santa Rosa, I would fade away. So new plan, on the road. We decided to go traveling while awaiting the news of whether or not I was a mutant. I wrote about much of it on, a climbing (sort of) web-site and forum. Never thought I would be posting to a place on the web regularly. But here it is. My ID on the site is my nickname, DISASTER MASTER. Check it out for more info.
Malignent Melanoma Survivors who climb

My Up And Down Life, Disaster Master
Ruth and I stayed in a cabin in Wawona, inside Yosemite NP. It was lent to us by a yoga student and dear friend. That was perfect, since I was cane bound and could barely walk, let alone climb. We saw Wawona grove of redwoods. Walked up the hill. Paid for the shuttle ride down. In the handicapped section, no less. We got little Walkman’s to listen to a John Muir impersonator. Tourists.
It took me a while to shift from always road trip to climb mind to just have a good time mind. Strange. I used to poo-poo the tourists when I went rock-climbing above them. Now one of them, I regret that. Even BS like cancer can widen your view. So cranky but curious, we left Yosemite for Utah. Over Tuolumne pass past mono lake and across the lonely highway through Nevada.
I had RSVP’d us for a party called “Sushi Fest”. It was a sushi all-you-can-eat dinner in the desert, near Moab, UT. I know, sounds weird. The chef was an old acquaintance from climbing and collage, Doug Lafarge. He loves sushi. And he makes it at climbing areas through these internet-notified parties at world class rock climbing areas. Still strange? IT was great! Stuffed myself on excellent raw fish. Ruth is not a sashimi girl, so less for her. Many people were there including Jim Donini, a world renowned climber. He and his wife invited us to their house in Ouray, CO.
After climbing ”Supercrack of the desert” hard 5.10 crack climb at Indian Creek UT, we wandered the Moab area for a few days. Then off to CO. This no plan road trip was working out. I was getting weaker daily, though. And Ruth had to do all the driving, and put up with my pain and mood swings. She is remarkable!
Jim Donini was off to climb in Yosemite when we got to Ouray. But his wife, Angela was there and a great hostess. We were given free reign of the guest studio over the garage with a view of the mountains. And assess to the hot tub. Ruth loved that. There was mineral hot springs in the town of Ouray. So we checked those out. They felt great on our tired bones. Went climbing in the park near the pools. Not a very stressful spot to live. Called the Switzerland of America.
I kept getting sicker, though, and spent several days lying on the futon mattress on the floor of our hosts’ cabin. Nice view, though. The fall in to place nature of this trip was fantastic. We seemed guided along the way, every day. Good weather. Strangers turned friends in minutes. Amazing views. But I was dying, still.
I had begun to make my peace with that when, RRRIIINNNGGG…..a call.
I AM A MUTANT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
The test came back the right way. I was BRAF positive. This means that the drug PLX4032 would likely work for me, attacking cancerous tissue, but not the rest of me like the last chemo component of treatment. Wow. Unbelievable. Yet my mood darkened….I am too used to body-slaming-blind-sided disappointments of late. I dared not believe. Not yet. So to the annoyance of Ruth, I sulked with her to LA to see relatives on the way to appointments at UCSF in San Francisco. Family was fun, but my mind still lurked in the shadows of uncertainty. Would this end up being another waste of our time? I did not have much left, and did not want to spend any good time as a guinea pig. I wanted back on the road.
But onward to SF and scan land.
I lost my wallet, my ID, cards, medical info, hundreds of road trip dollars from my mom’s account that my sister got when mom passed. Worse mood for Paul. Near breaking point for Ruth’s nerves. She still drove all the way from La to the Bay. What a woman! Then parked in downtown SF at night….Ay, yie, yie.
Up the next day for testing. The dos are excited. Ruth is excited. I am….numb. I won’t believe it until the pill is in my hand. Everything goes well until… late in the day we talk with the doc. He says that something is lighting up in my brain on a scan. It could be melanoma, which would disqualify me, not only for this trial, but most others as well.
“It’s not a cancer!” I insisted. “It was there three months ago and was noted on other scans as unlikely to be Melanoma. It could be a malformation, or evidence of my past head injury, or evidence of pain management.” (The part of my brain lighting up controls pain signals and consciousness. Interesting…???)
The Doc’s face lit up, really lit up. He said that could be the ammo he needs to convince the drug company to let me on the trial. He needs the old reports, though. Otherwise I will likely be rejected. AAARRRRGGGHHHH!!!!
Back to Santa Rosa. I found the scans and reports and faxed them off. The weekend came. No word. Four more days of waiting… Ruth and I almost gave up hope. After all, the company wants clean numbers. I have a variable they don’t need. And there must be many people vying for this treatment.
Then the word…I’M IN! They just need to book a room at the hospital to start. Just a few more days. Ruth is smiling for the first time in a long time. I am still guarded. The pill is not in my hand yet. What a rollercoaster.
Finally we get it, October 20, 2010, 10:45 AM. Pill Swallowed. I sigh, yet the crankiness remains. I just don’t believe anymore, not in anything that might cure me. It all seems too late, a long shot, a pipe dream. The trials coordinator tells us I was the last one admitted to the study. Other people in the building right then were being told the drug would not be available to them. A cruel victory for me.
We left with a bag of pills, a schedule of appointments for the next month, and a weird off kilter feeling. Down the rabbit hole again. One pill makes tumors smaller… two????
I have been taking the wonder pills for 7 days as of this writing. I am beginning to believe in miracles! My energy is returning. I was able to do a complete hot yoga class, the first in 2 months. My cane is forgotten more often than not.

I know, incredible. It seems to be true. The ones on my neck and front torso are smaller for sure. Some on my back too. Most important, the main large masses in my groin seem better. My leg pain is less. The swelling is down…. I can barely believe it. But it is true.
If all goes well I will try and teach a little yoga again, then climb in Joshua tree NP next month.
This dreadful disease Melanoma, so down-played still by most, is a drug resistant bastard. The tumors may grow again. But for now, I seem to be a step ahead of cancer. It bites my heels, so I gotta run.

Mastering on,

Super Topo Thread review: Oct. 6, 2010

Topic Author's Reply - Oct 6, 2010 - 05:43pm PT

I got the test results back from the Doc today.

I AM A MUTANT! That's good. I tested BRAF positive, a gene mutation. Us mutants can (hopfully)get the latest PLX somthin' drug through a clinical trial. Short term positive results, tumor shrinkage occur up to 60% of the time! That's odds I like. Problems with long term effects, who knows, but HOPE my friends.

Mastering on,

Super Topo Thread review: Oct. 5, 2010

Topic Author's Reply - Oct 5, 2010 - 04:47am PT
Still in Ouray. We are soaking in the hot pools, great for the bones, and even climbing some more. Who knew there was so much to climb IN town? Went to the town park for no commitment sport climbing. Fun stuff, did a 5.4, 5.7, 5.8, 5.9+ and a 5.10c bam, bam, bam all in a row. Not bad!

Ruth's back has a pinched nerve now from bombing Oinion Creek near Fischer Towers on her old rigid mtn. bike. So that's why they put suspension
on those things!

The gimp patrol hobbles on. No doctor news. I think the yare waiting for me to die before they approove me for more tretment. Mean time, the bumps multiply. I have at least 20 tumors on my front and back now. Makes me a little self concience in the pools.

I was in the locker room at the hot springs and had to put on my compression hose for the lymphadema in my leg. Talk about some strange looks. A couple of kids whispered. "Look at that skinny guy. He's putting on panty hose!"

"No, gromet dude," I replied. "This is the latest in extream training tights. All the top athletes are wearing them."

"No way, do they work?"
I really had them going.

Climbing on,

Super Topo Thread review: Oct. 2, 2010

Old post from

Topic Author's Reply - Oct 2, 2010 - 07:58pm PT
Paul here, still....

All these kind posts sure help both me and Ruth. We went to another crag neaar moab and climbed about 5 routes, 5.6 -hard 5.10. Ruth did her first desert crack, yummy. Swore at me the whole time, then loved it after getting to the anchors. We are climbing therapy patients lately. Get it out, work it out, climb it out.

Jim and Angela Donini invited us to Ouray, so we went. Jim is off to YO but Angela is here. We are in their guest apartment right now.

Travel day today. felt bad. Had to pull over and hurl at one point. I am a bit down.

The tumors are almost double the size as before the trip. I can barely digest now. The tumors push on my intestines and prostate. Pissing even sucks. got an apitite if I try to climb, otherwise not.

Tomorrow will bring new moments, some of pain, some of pulling down some more on new rock near town, I hope. Hot springs too. I feel sooooooo weak. All I want is time with my Love and a rock to top it off.

The tumors are also in my genitals. Can't get it up, but I can ctill get up. At least some muscles are working still. (Too much information?!)

I say these personal things to remind everyone that you can loose almost anything, including your wang, but not be impotent in the least.

Try till You Die, then one more time.

Love and redpoints to you all,

Super Topo Thread review: Sept. 28, 2010

Past post from

Topic Author's Reply - Sep 28, 2010 - 02:40pm PT
A quick update from a free wi-fi spot in Moab UT:

Went to sushi fest in Indian Creek. Fun!


I got my ass up SUPERCRACK. Had to hang several times (TR) since I am very weak and have no lungs left. Also, the back pain, wah wah, wah. But I made it to the chains!

One of the biggest efforts in my life. The moves were fine, just sick, I guess. On to Colorado!