Cowgirl Up!!! ... Does Horse Poop Cause Cancer??

Friday, March 20, 2020

Vigilance and Vindication Overload!

3.20.20

Hello Everyone!
I'm sure you're as mentally beat up as I am. I almost wasn't going to post, but I just didn't want to break my commitment to post on my symbolic numerical days. I love that I've been writing this blog for almost 10 years now, and CoronaVirus isn't gonna bring me down :))

I have so much to say, but I've probably said it all already... said it, written about it, a million times over! Simply put, this awful Virus has totally Vindicated my OCD smart sanitizing lifestyle. I wouldn't have survived all the years of Myeloma and chemo treatment's ravages on my immune system, if I hadn't cleaned and sanitized and wiped off basically every public contact surface in my life. I should have bought stock in isopropyl alcohol manufacturing companies! All the cleaning and sanitizing instructions all over the news, social media, from friends, family, public service announcements, etc, IS EXACTLY WHAT I HAVE BEEN DOING AND PREACHING for over 10 years!!! Actually for most all my adult life. I'm just a bit smarter, or have more common sense, then most. Sorry, not sorry, but it's true. All this cleaning and sanitizing and being aware of deadly Cross Contamination, is JUST PLAIN COMMON SENSE CLEANLINESS!!! And I've been doing it ever since forever with animals and working with the public.
Unbelievable the world needs to "learn" 
how to wash your hands
and how to be clean!

I'm so ahead of the curve and trending before the trends!
I used to make these personalized scented Isopropyl Alcohol sprays
for my kids and their friends waaaaay back in 2000's,
They loved them. Friends would beg me to make them a bottle!
And all this.... 
Waaaaaay before Myeloma!
And waaaaaay before CoronaV!

I made these when the kids went on Spring Break trips,
When they moved out,
When they went away to college,
And for around our house.

Wipe it all off, if it has public cooties
Wipe it off so things don't cross contaminate
Don't touch dirty public cootie surfaces directly
Don't cross contaminate things (food, surfaces, etc)
Wash Wash Wash
Clean Clean Clean
If you touch this, don't touch that
Keep your dirty paws away from your face
Don't touch public surfaces directly, think about what you touch where
Clean off, sanitize anything that comes into your house or private space
Wipe Wipe Wipe it off
Don't wear public shoes in your house
Don't wear dirty germy clothes in your house
Be super clean in your kitchen
Wipe down things that involve food, utensils, your sink, your refrig, etc
Don't cross contaminate
I practiced clean hygiene forever. That's why we had very few illness, no food poisoning, and no animal Salmonella (we had reptiles for years!), not to mention all the ranch issues. But I have always thought our Animals were cleaner than Humans LOL, as we keep everything so clean. Jim used to clean the horse arena several times a day,...


I'm beat up from this life...
From my poor hubby having seizures on Monday...
From CoronaVirus overload
From Germ transference fear overload
From trying to get normal household supplies exhaustion
Exhausted from trying to find what I need, and everything is sold out online

With all the "shelter in place" policies, I cannot believe online ordering and delivery is not the standard practice now! I'm so sad there isn't grocery delivery or Walmart grocery pick up anymore.
Doesn't that make the most sense now! All the people crowding into grocery stores, standing in lines, defeats the "social, physical distancing" we're all supposed to be doing! I am not going to stores, I am not standing in line... it's all so hypocritical and ridiculous!
How can Costco and Walmart be sold out on everything, even with all the Hoarders?!
This is just insane!

But I can't help be a little humored that is going on... Not humored by the CoronaVirus! That is truly scary. Just humored by all the conversation about how to stay clean and sanitary now. Everyone is just now doing what all us cancer patients have been doing all along to stay alive and protect ourselves from germs and illnes.
I've lived the cootie free Bubble Life, and Shelter in Place life forever now it seems... this is my life, so life has hardly changed for me and my family. I don't ever do much socially, or do much in public, or go many places since my Myeloma diagnosis, so no new adjustments for me. My homebound, protective life is nothing new :))

Found this the one time I went to CVS
before the "Shelter In Place order"





Take care, be careful, be vigilant, and feel proud how clean and protective you've been of yourself and loved ones way before CoronaVirus!





Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Thank You CoronaVirus for Bringing Awareness to GERMS and the Immune Compromised

3.10.20
Hello March
or should I say Hello March Madness :))))


Sorry, Not Sorry... but Thank You CoronaVirus for bringing awareness to Germs, and COOTIE CONTAMINATION! Finally! Awareness! Let the cleaning and sanitizing commence! What's going on now, is what SHOULD be going on all the time, everywhere, every surface, every public and private place!

Long before Myeloma, I was super conscientious of cleanliness, always sanitizing and cleaning my office and keeping our home clean and cootie free. I cared for many types of animals outside and inside our home, as well being around the public daily as a college counselor. I was always acutely aware of germ cross contamination. Ecoli, Salmonella, Norovirus, colds, flus, viruses, bacteria lurked everywhere. Germs everywhere. Germs on people, critters and food. I hated being sick when I was "well" and I hate it even more being so sick with Myeloma, chemo side effects, and always immune compromised. Being aware of potential illness is just common sense. Taking precautions to not spread germs is just common sense. So all this new awareness and hype of being clean and sanitary is just amazing to me, and so welcomed! But What was being done, rather Not Done, before CoronaVirus??? Scary to think...


I've always been shocked how "stupid" and unaware the general public is regarding how germs are spread and transferred from human to human. The dirty habits of people was always quite "disgusting" and surprising to me. My students always commented how clean, fresh and nice scented my office was. They were always thankful for the wipes and antibacterial gel I kept handy for them. I was CLEAN and SMART long before it was all over the news with CoronaV. I was the Ninja cleaner before it was Cool! As a result, I rarely got sick.

Living on a Ranch, with a constant flow of kids and animals, I always had our visitors wash up before they came in the house, had them take their dirty, public, pee and poop crusted shoes off, or put on cute disposable booties! Sure everyone thought I was OCD and overly worried about germs, but seriously, who wants gross things in your house. Think about where hands and shoes have been! Think about how INFREQUENTLY people wash up. Think about how much physical touching of things people do. Think about all the gross, rarely cleaned surfaces people touch.... Ugh, just pisses me off to recount attitudes and resentments, eye rolling and sarcastic jeering I've encountered over the years. 


So THANK YOU CoronaVirus for VINDICATING me :)) What I've been preaching and teaching forever, is all over the news and social media now. C'mon folks, really! What was going on before CoronaVirus brought attention to staying clean and trying to stay germ free! Think about all the public surfaces that are touched and not cleaned frequently. Seriously think about ALL those public surfaces everywhere that are not normally sanitized. I have always been aware of that, and used paper towels or wipes to open doors, touch handrails, elevator knobs, etc. When was the last time you sanitized your car steering wheel? Your cell phone? When was the last time you cleaned door knobs in your home, office. I was even surprised how "unsanitary" many of the surfaces were in the hospital when I was an inpatient for my Stem Cell Transplant. I often had to remind staff to wipe down certain areas. And then the staff... always inadvertently touching their face, clothes, hair, and one Dr sitting with his leg over leg, touching his shoes! OMG, finally, one appointment I pointed it out to him. He wasn't happy. Then everyone touching computers, keyboards, cell phones, fixed phones, etc., then going from patient to patient. Even if they changed gloves, they still touched things after they had their gloves on, and cross contaminated everything. No wonder people get sicker in hospitals and medical facilities. Yikes.... I can't believe I'm still alive with such a compromised immune system all the time!



And waaaaaaaaaaaaay before CoronaV, I was queen of AIR HUGS and AIR (hand) SHAKES! Again, everyone rolled eyes and thought I was OCD, but warrior here... 10 YEAR MYELOMA SURVIVOR as a result! How often do you see people NOT washing hands after using the bathroom! How often do you see people touching their body parts, then touching everything, then wanting to shake your hand. I always thought that was a stupid societal custom. And now all over the news, is all the goofy non hand shakes. Common sense people, common sense. Where has it been. And think about airplanes and airports, and all of public transportation... Restaurants, dirty menus, unsanitized tables, chairs, booths... who really know what goes on in the food prep area... Ugh, I have to stop writing about all this, as it's turning my stomach, especially with chemo crash beginning... 




So currently my Myeloma numbers are like the Stock Market! The last several months, my numbers were going up up up, and my Dr was beginning to worry, and began talking about changing treatments. With all the insanity on my homefront with my husband's Alzheimers status, I just can't take another challenge on, with changing treatments, and dealing with new side effects. Yes, I know eventually I will have to change, but I've learned over the last 10 years, my Myeloma is like a roller coaster, always fluctuating. I just don't panic about my increasing numbers, until they're in the thousands. When I was diagnosed, I was 70% Myeloma, and my IGA was over 5700. Since then, it's fluctuated as high as being over 4300. Guess I naively always think there will be a treatment out there for me, and magically there is! Each time my IGA skyrocketed, my treatment Angels showed up and my Drs found a wonderful chemo elixir for me. I am very fortunate that I respond well to meds. Yes my Myeloma is too smart and aggressive, but the amazing cell pummeling Immunotherapies and chemos eventually win over... albeit temporarily. So thank you 40mg Dexamethasone Steroids, Velcade injections and 400mg Cytoxan pills for still pounding the nasty myeloma cells since September 2018! 


And take a look at this CRAZINESS

How can my IGA drop 500 points in one month! I thought this was too crazy, so I did my labs again a few days later...

There we go, my Myeloma roller coaster! Down up, Up down. Who knows what this month's labs will reveal.

And my CBC labs... Yikes! See, this is why I've been a Cootie, Germaphobe all my life...

From a CoronaVirus post:


Back off with your nasty germs!



Ok, I'll sign off here, but I always come back to edit :))
Time to eat before the yucky, nausea chemo crash from Monday really hits me. I'm making my special old family secret recipe of high protein cottage cheese pancakes. I made them a few weeks ago when CoronaV first came out, and we laughed that some of my pancakes looked like the CoronaV cells!



Thanks for checking in and caring about my life story as you do! Hoping you are well, staying safe and being smart, so the cooooooooooties don't get you. In all seriousness, it is very scary for us immune compromised and weak immune system people. Those are the ones that are not making it, if they get sick :(( Stay well, stay clean, and be smart about being around the dirty public!





Thursday, February 20, 2020

How Life Changes and Challenges Us Beyond the Beyond

2.20.20

Oh how life changes us....

Riding in our local parade, 1983

Currently, as I sit down to write, Jim is struggling to balance and walk back into the house.. he is forgetting how to move, how to walk, how to move his feet... I can see his mind trying to analyse things still... over analyse in a detrimental way... Chris and Jim attempted to go for a little walk outside, but Jim has been very disoriented today, well, this week, well, since last week and the week beyond.... his situation deteriorates and accelerates downhill daily, with a few moments of clarity and orientation. Alzheimers is just so cruel and evil... I hate illness and body sabotage... so incredibly unfair on so many levels...

To Be Continued, as Jim (with Chris) is struggling stand up right now...

===============
Yes, I was planning to write about so many things. I always have so many topics I want to share with you. I begin several posts before I post, but I rarely post the posts I begin or write in my head....
Here's a part of what I was going to write:
===============

On my way to my weekly blood tests this past Sunday, I was feeling so "alone". NOT lonely, just so alone in all my challenges and battles. I was thinking about the difference between being Alone and Lonely. I am not at all lonely. I have so many wonderful people in my life. Family, Friends, Caregivers, Neighbors, Acquaintances, Medical staff, even Social Media "friends", etc, surrounding me all the time. I could pick up the phone, and be with anyone, or a number wonderful people in second. I could go places, do things, have all kinds of adventures in a second, (if I only felt well enough!). I am Not Lonely at all and never will be. But the feeling of "aloneness" really hit me the other night. The feeling of being so Alone in all that I am dealing with, confronted with, slammed me in the face as I was driving. I was almost in tears. Tears of recognition. Tears of defeat. Tears of immeasurable sadness about what has happened in my life in the last 10 years, and of recent with Jim.

I pulled into Kaiser for my labs and "pulled myself together" psychologically. I am a master of disguises, always "faking it til I make it". I don't want to be "weepy" wherever I go. I have been, but don't want to be. It's just not me. I am not afraid of my emotions. Not afraid of people knowing me and my feelings. I just don't want to be sad. It's so sweet how I am always greeted personally by the kind, caring check in staff. They know me. I am their "regular Sunday labs gal". Been doing WEEKLY blood tests since Kyprolis, Darzalex, now Velcade! Wow, since Fall 2015! Just something as "small" as this identity recognition warms my heart and boosts my spirits. See Julie, you really are not Alone in this crazy, continuing cancer battle.

I'm also greeted with recognition and smiles by the Phlebotomy team that knows me too well. We chat about our mutual lives. Sometimes there are others in the lab, thankfully often not, as I try to time it when Sunday night Urgent Care is not busy. Our conversation often includes amazement of my ongoing chemo, treatment, incurable cancer situation. Everyone is always incredulous I am as "ok" as I am, look as "good" as I do, and am as "positive" and "upbeat" as I am. That's just me. I don't want to be sad. I don't want to be weepy. I don't want to be dragged down by all this illness awfulness. It's not who I am. My spirits are renewed. Just simple acts of recognition, familiarity, kindness and understanding renew me, and remind me of who I used to be.


I leave the Lab for the Pharmacy just steps away to pick up my Rx for weekly Cytoxan. My phone rings. It's my son Scott and his fiance Ashley, on the way home from a trip. Crazy timing, as they are Right There, on the freeway, almost passing where I am. Unbelievable timing... or is it. They are right there. I let them know where I am. We're all shocked at the "coincidence"... at how location-close we all are. Right there, at the Same time! They were thinking about stopping at In n Out. I hadn't eaten much yet, and was planning to go home eat. They're Right There. I'm Right There. The timing is incredible... We decide to meet up at In n Out. They're amazed I'll go lol. I tell them how sad I had been. How "alone" I had been feeling. The timing was crazy. Meant to Be. How could I not meet up! They're sad I was so sad. I reassured them it had nothing to do with them being gone. It was all about me. All about the overwhelming sadness of the medical insanity in MY life. They still felt bad. My kids always feel so bad and sad for what we are going through. The timing of this was truly amazing. We met, we ate, we laughed, my spirits again were renewed. Timing... wow...

I am alone in MY journey. I am alone within Myself, about myself. Has nothing to do with others. My life is full of amazing, wonderful, loving, caring people. I have so many, so much in my life. I am so lucky on so many levels! Can you believe this timing?!

That was Sunday.
Monday is Dex Steroid day. My day of  fake feeling good. Of not feeling sick or in bone pain. Of things sunshine and renewed spirits. I feel like me again...

The kids and I go out Monday night for my daughter's boyfriend's birthday. We laugh a lot. I'm their crazy, steroided, dexified, hilarious mom. We laugh! I'm feeling like me again. Free of pain. Not nauseated. Free of illness. Free of sadness. Free, for a day... Temporarily, this is me again.
The me before illness took over our lives.


I am not Alone. I am not Lonely. I am a Very Lucky Lady!



Monday, February 10, 2020

Cooties, Germs, and the Bubble Life

2.10.20
Helllllooooo February!

40 mg Steroids, Velcade and Cytoxan chemo Today! Whoohoo!!

What I've learned from learning about my CBCs below!
And this is a fabulous, informative website regarding everything blood tests!
https://labtestsonline.org/tests/complete-blood-count-cbc
https://labtestsonline.org/tests-index

Fun Life update ...

My daughter Alissa and I at a recent College event
that I barely made, due to continually recovering from
being a head cold, respiratory sickie most of Dec and Jan,
along with being a weekly chemo crash sickie.
Finally gave in, and took some "shots" of my fave mint Imodium
and cough suppressant to be able to attend this fun event!

My WBC was 1.7 here!
Yes, I know, I should be wearing a mask... ugh...

Aren't we cute hippies!
So wonderful to see my colleagues, 
but as they say, "you can "never" go back". 
Sadly I feel my beloved career as a college counselor
seems so far away now... 
And it's just so stressful to be in crowds, wondering what 
awful viruses and bacterias are being transferred to me...
We'll see how I do, as who knows the incubation period of all the
cooties floating around during this awful flu season :((
So many bugs are transferred when people think they are well,
but they're in the "silent, no symptoms" incubation period.
I really need to get a "Back Off"-
"I'm an Immune Compromised Cancer Patient on Chemo" mask!
As no one remembers my weekly chemo, or thinks I'm as sick as I am.

******************

Mondays are always an interesting day for me, with little consistency of how my body will react to steroids and chemos. The one thing I have figured out, is that when my WBCs are super Low, the steroids have a greater impact on how I feel. When my WBCs are a bit Higher, I don't have the extreme "up". But then again, that changes all the time too, so basically Mondays are "bi polar", unpredictable days for me. I often eat like a crazed animal, as everything looks yummy, gotta have it! I still count calories, as I don't want to be a fat steroid cancer girl. Sometimes I am careful, sometimes, just tossing all my nutrition and calorie rules out the window :)) Today, BBQ sounded great, and in light of my low RBCs, Hemoglobin, Platelets, etc, I decided meat was the menu of the day. I don't eat much meat in general, as I feel so bad for animal slaughter and factory farming. Actually, I don't eat much at all on crash days, for days, so I do believe my body sends me signals of what it needs on the days I can eat, so protein and iron it was today! 

I also tossed out my "Neutropenic" cautions of don't eat fresh fruits and veggies, and had a Kale salad with the delish BBQ. If you know of Stonefire in CA, then you know how great their food is. I had BBQ grilled chicken, fire roasted Tri Tip, Kale salad, a bread stick, then couldn't get enough dark chocolate for dessert. Then I had some mini blueberry muffins, hot chocolate, Licorice herb tea, and as I'm writing this, some mini Graham crackers and more Licorice tea. I could just eat the entire contents of my pantry tonight, but I rein myself in. Hopefully I won't be up in several hours with regret and then drinking the pretty pink Pepto Bismal lol.

Tuesdays I've learned to eat light, as boy oh boy, does the intestinal crash hit me mid to later in the afternoon. Again, when my WBCs are loooowwwww, I have more and "severe" side effects. Nausea, diarrhea, achy body all over, headaches, extreme blah, yucky, etc. Sometimes hits me early, sometimes delayed. When my WBCs are higher, it's more of a delayed reaction and not as extreme. 2 weeks ago Tuesday Jan 28, when I was just coming out of my awful fever head cold, (but still did chemo on Monday Jan 27), I met my dad at Brent's deli after my Dr appt. Didn't really eat heavy- Lox, bagel, blintzes, dill pickles. But OMG did I "die" later, around 12am with EXTREME, sudden, cleansing diarrhea! OMG haven't had a severe reaction like that in a long time. Like awful, awful... like turn on the faucet for hours and hours. Finally got to bed around 2:30, 3:00am, then still a bit more the next day. Well my WBC was 1.7, so I've learned that's when my body really over reacts to side effects. Low = Caution, it's gonna be a rough crash. Higher = watch out, you're sick, or getting sick, and your WBC army is trying to fight for you...



Dec, Jan, Feb, my WBCs, ANC have been jumping all over the place. In the 1's one week. In the 4's the next. Then 3's, then 2's, then up down, up down, up down. No consistency since being so sick for so long. I have figured out that when I'm getting and fighting a bug, my WBCs jump higher. Like High for me. Fake High lol. Like in the 3's and 4's. That's the low end of  "normal" for a "normal" person. I am always ABNORMALLY low regarding my WBCs. So that's always a red flag for me. My nurses laugh at me, and tell me so many cancer patients would "kill" to have my labs, as my organ stats are always "good"- liver, kidney, creatinine function, all normal ranges. But ugh, those WBC immune cells are just so challenged for me all the time, but I am fortunate they rally for me, and do rise when I'm a sickie. So yes, I've been all over the blood lab map Dec, Jan, Feb!! I'm still coughing and hacking a bit, but nothing compared to weeks prior. Thankfully I didn't fracture a rib or throw my back out, or tweek my neck horribly with all these bugs I've had. I did have the awful headaches for weeks and weeks, but that was probably all the congestion in my head, but I really didn't have the awful, can't breathe sinus clogging. Crazy how steroids mask symptoms. Who does weekly chemo when sick! I do! Because I am just so scared to NOT do chemo, as my myeloma is so aggressive and is looking for any window of opportunity to take over. Grrrrr...

Well it's getting late, and the steroids still want to party, but I have to try to force sleep on myself. Plus if my Alz hubby wakes up and doesn't see me in our room, he'll try to get up, and that's a DRAMA I don't want to deal with... 

So in summary, life is great and horrible all at the same time. 
We are so lucky, blessed, fortunate in so many ways, yet so cursed in so many ways.
I fight forward everyday for my family and animals and friends. I wonder how I would handle all this if I was a single, alone, person, with no one in my life. Seems like EVERYONE needs me, and I have to fight to stay alive for everyone else. I do fight to stay alive for myself for the principle of it. I JUST CAN'T LET MYELOMA WIN! I've come this far, and am just incredulous that I've survived 10 years, and have been doing intense chemo for 10 years, so I'll warrior on, and see what each day, week, month, year brings! 

I fight forward for all these goofballs:

For all my Horses

For all my adorable, crazy little rescue doggies

For my family that needs me

For my big rescue doggie Abbie, who is not well herself

For my amazing caregivers
Nathalie and Chris

And for everyone that cares about me :))

Thank you for checking in, reading, and caring about my life as you do!


If you need a "pick me up", 
WATCH THIS!! :)) 






Thursday, January 30, 2020

Sick of being Sick

1.30.20

Hello end of January 2020! I'm not sorry to see you go.
January and December have been yucky months for me, full of several illnesses, never ending side effects, Alzheimers challenges, sickness, illness, pain, sadness, and lousy on going realities.

Just not the same girl writing this blog, as who began writing years ago. Used to be so optimistic, so positive, so full of hope and fun fake steroid energy. Not so much anymore. Illness, sickness and lack of sleep is just wearing me down, and stealing "me".

Who I was, is certainly not who I am now. I honestly never realized how illness, being sick all the time, being around ill people all the time could change someone so much, so profoundly. I confess, all my optimism, positivity, "you can do anything" philosophy I encouraged with all my students and anyone that sought my counsel, advice, opinion, etc, was really NAIVE. I know I felt life deeply, and understood life and people's challenges deeply, and worked hard to build others up, no matter what... But oh how the saying rings too true, "you don't REALLY know, nor can you REALLY understand another person's circumstances until you have walked in their shoes". Yes I had overflowing empathy, sympathy, understanding for everyone's life circumstances and issues, but I realize how much I really did not know the life draining impact of illness, sickness and being continually sick.

We can try to understand other's situations, circumstances, life challenges and deep feelings, but we can't really understand another's situation, unless yours is the same or similar. Yes, we can generalize and "apply" our understanding of pain, hurt, sadness, depression, desperation, hopelessness, etc, from one to another, and one issue to another. We can care deeply, help and build others up, give encouragement and support, but one's own subjective pain, desperation, hopelessness, and sadness, is undeniably topic and issue specific. I always "knew" this, but KNOW it so much deeper now. My cancer challenges, my emotional pain, my sadness, my disappointments, my frustrations, my life devastations are just so awful to me, no matter how "ok" it looks on the outside. It's just so sad with what has become of me and Jim. The tragedy is incomprehensible...

In my other life... I always felt my student's issues deeply. I understood their emotions and challenges from a loving, caring, build you up, get you to your dreams perspective. But what we comprehend and understand is what we have survived, endured and coped with. It is so very specific and subjective to our individual circumstances. I suffered with the "trauma" of being a stutterer all my life, and applied my pain, insecurities, self doubts, and life lessons to everything I did. I was a better person and counselor as a result of my depth, awareness and sensitivities brought on by my personal suffering and challenges.

We all know the issues humanity is confronted with is overwhelming, tragedy is everywhere, every day. I believe no matter who you are, where you are, it's our SIMILARITIES that connect us. There's a bond, a sisterhood, brotherhood, we have, when we share the similarity of a particular pain, survival and overcoming. I can never forget the awful life experiences my students and friends shared with me. What they have endured and survived is mind boggling. My heart and head would explode with empathy and understanding when they would share. I could feel their feelings along with them. I truly could, but still, for all of us, that understanding is still limited to our own subjective experiences, beyond any empathy, sympathy we can offer.


In my little world of my awful challenges, having INCURABLE CANCER, Being on NEVER ENDING CHEMO, ALONG WITH a daily deteriorating ALZHEIMER'S HUSBAND, is a life circumstance that is just so intense, not many can really relate to. Our lives are like a living death every day. I've lost my life to everything illness. So much has been ripped away from me. We lost our dreams and life as we knew it. We've lost what we worked all our lives for. I lost a husband who was everything to everyone. We live, rather, exist, each day knowing we can't change the outcome. We cannot control or change the outcome of our situation. We just have to keep living this nightmare over and over and over again, every single day. Process that.

I know those in my circles care deeply, lovingly empathize, and try hard to understand what I am going through. But the depth of my challenges are so intense, and issue specific, no one can really know what I am confronted with, except my Myeloma buddies and Alz buddies. Is here anyone else out there who is living both? Yes, there are far more awful situations than mine, and other's far more challenged in ways I could never handle, but I'm at my breaking point daily, with all that's on my plate. I'm just so beat up from just surviving day to day. So beat up from being sick all the time. So beat up from lack of sleep. Everyone thinks I am so strong. I am not. I don't want to be strong. I don't want challenges. I just want to be who I was, who we were, and live a simple uncomplicated life. Life is too complicated for me now.

Each day, week, month, year, our circumstance hits me harder than ever because we were such an incredibly functional team. No problem seemed unsolvable years ago. We were doers, fixers, problem solvers. I could "fix" things at home and work. We both "fixed" whatever was broken, literally and figuratively. I shared my optimism and move forward philosophy everywhere. I truly believed anything could be solved or "fixed", or at least repaired...

But now...
Our situations cannot be fixed.
Myeloma is incurable, deadly
Alzheimers is incurable, deadly
Myeloma is treatable, but treated continually, non stop, or I die
Alzheimers is not treatable. It's a slow journey to death, no options.

I don't have the choices and options I once had, and that was always the core of my being. CHOICES AND OPTIONS. I don't have those anymore. Cancer, treatment and side effects have stolen my choices and options. I'm a prisoner to illness, feeling ill, being ill, feeling sick and being sick most all the time. The only relief I have is on Steroid Day. And then The Crash... the awful being sick, guaranteed feeling sick for days.... I'm just so sick of being sick :((



Yes, I'm feeling down today. Yes my dark cloud will lessen, but it's been a tough December and January with so much headcold, fever headcold, coughing, hurting illness, along with all of Jim's unsettling, tragic daily challenges, and now a bit of lousy news from my Dr appt on Tuesday:

My IGA continues to climb, around 100+ points per month. Jumped to 1000 this past blood test.
M Protein went down a spec, from .8 to .7
My Dr is concernered with the upward trend and started to talk about other chemo options, but I just can't make any changes right now, as I just can't handle any more challenges, new side effects, etc.

My recent Pet Scan revealed a new lytic lesion at the base of my skull. My Dr wants me to do a MRI for additional detail. I will do this, but don't want to do it with the contrast, as I've read the Gadolinium, or Gadavist is a concern for those with kidney issues, allergic reactions, etc. I recall reading something about Myeloma patients should avoid it due to myeloma specific issues, kidney issues, etc. https://www.itnonline.com/article/debate-over-gadolinium-mri-contrast-toxicity

My Creatinine levels are actually good, and I never did have kidney issues, but why start now! I just don't want to add one more thing to my "worry plate", or regret that I did that plate.

Anyway, blah blah blah...
I am so sorry my blog has turned so sad, and I don't have the funny, uplifting stories I used to share.


Cancer's effect on us- great read! https://itsinmyblood.blog/2020/01/16/i-couldnt-have-expected-leukemia-to-lead-to-both-heavy-self-criticism-and-new-friendships/



Monday, January 20, 2020

First Myeloma Status Labs of 2020

Hello 1.20.20

Hi Everyone,

Today was the usual Monday Medication Madness of 40mg Dex Steroids first thing in the morning.
Then one Velcade shot in the belly jelly in the aftternoon.
Then 400mg of Cyclophosphamide chemo pills with dinner.
How's that for a Myeloma pummeling triplet cocktail, that so far has done the trick since about September 2018!! Hoping to stay on this madness for a long time, as I've got the routine down, and I can somewhat predict the weekly crash and side effects.

Yumm Yumm!

Get in there Velcade and do your thing!


I have a Dr consult in person this coming Thursday, and should have all my Myeloma status labs by then. I always silently "bet" with myself if my numbers will be around the same, or down, or up...
Not sure what I'm feeling, guessing from yesterday's labs... hmmm.... what's your guess?
I only cheated with doing half the Dex steroids back in Dec, but have been a good patient ever since. Back to "high dose" 40mg Dex weekly, so maybe my myeloma numbers are status quo, or down? I have figured out that when my WBCs are low, I get a bigger reaction from Dex, then when my WBC is higher. And I was shocked at my CBC results from yesterday!

My WBC is a shocking "high" of 3.7 (which often means I am sick, or getting sick), RBC low tho, but all my organ status labs, creatinine, calcium, etc, are in the low to normal range. How can that be?? How can this ol bod tolerate 10 years worth of continual chemo, meds, immunotherapy, etc. How long have you been in treatment, and continually on treatment?

You know those cancer articles, TV pharma commercials, poignant news features of one's loved ones being on chemo for 6, 9, etc weeks, or months, and the families are devastated with what happened, then fortunately able to celebrate treatment success... Well I do a mental gulp (sometimes a pissed snicker if I'm on my steroid crash), at the "short" treatment time mentioned,... as what I and my Myeloma buddies would do for a short treatment outcome, not to mention, being "done" with chemo!... My heart truly hurts for anyone's diagnosis, but TRY DOING 10 YEARS WORTH OF TREATMENT, not 10 months!! Try knowing your treatment is forever and endless, to "the end"... Honestly, lucky them for being able to "ring the bell" of being DONE with chemo treatment in a "short" amount of time. Ring the bell, ha, not this gal, thanks to Myeloma's incurable status. Not bitter, just facts, just reality. Sorry I keep perseverating on this, but I'm just still so surprised and shocked with my situation. This just can't be! How can I have cancer? How can I have incurable Myeloma? How can have been on weekly chemo treatments SINCE 2010!!??


Some of my Myeloma status labs will trickle in before my Thursday appointment, but some are not released until I see my Dr. But I will update this post as the lab results come in, so check back if you're curious my MM status.

All else is continued loony bin ridiculousness here... again, just can't wrap my head around how our lives became all about sickness, illness, side effects and dysfunction. Just mind bending. If you know us personally, you get this shock. But as I always say, I have so much to be grateful for, especially considering the BIG PICTURE out there, and what I read on all the myeloma social media posts. Wow, the suffering and challenges are just unreal :((

Here's to hoping your're able to work on your 2020 dreams and goals.
My top goal for 2020 is "Less is More" regarding slowly sorting thru all our 38 years of stuff... I have so few "good days" where I have the helium to do this, but thinning things out, and storing away the sentimental mementos is my top priority. It used to be that if my inner self was at peace, calm, organized and joyful, all was ok. Now, forget that LOL, it's all about the external visual. Lessening perceived visual chaos, which in turn lessens my inner chaos, and brings a sense of calm and peace to my life. Our awesome caregiver Chris moved my (finally packed up!) bins and bins and bins of Halloween and Christmas decorations out to our "storage trailer" in the back. Sadly this now "storage trailer" used to be Jim's off road toy trailer. Shows how much our life has changed, and the sad symbolism of a fun vacation trailer, becoming a storage shed :((((  Jim would be so sad if he could comprehend all this, but sadly, his Alz self just can't process our reality. He does know when I'm gone to chemo, and wanders around the house and property (with his caregiver) looking for me :(( He still tries to do horse chores, as that's the old routine embedded in his psyche. Just such a tragedy on every level for him, as he was so healthy, and so active, and should have had old age fun as an old ranch guy, just moving around slowly, but functional, picking up the horse poop, planting roses, raking the dirt, cleaning the barn, shopping for us, etc,... He loved nothing more than "doing", being busy, doing. He's just "existing" now...

We never know what's coming down the line for us. And I certainly did not anticipate the big ol train wreck we are...

This is what I had hoped for...

May your dreams continue to come true, and your life goals always be in process...






My Story... How my MM was diagnosed

October/November/December 2009...

Most of my life I was VERY presumptuous about being healthy, taking my (mostly) GOOD health for granted...
I was committed to annual check-ups for all of us, and so late October 2009, my daughter and I went for our annual and very routine physicals.

Surprise, surprise... my routine blood tests revealed extreme Anemia, significant White and Red Cell issues, low Platelets, and a variety of other CBC red flags! I was (stupidly) not worried when my GP doc left repeated phone messages to contact him, and when we did speak, I (stupidly) requested postponement of his referral appointment to the Hematology Dept until the end of the Fall academic term.

Arriving for my first appointment Dec 14, 2009, I was confronted with the check-in sign that read: "Hematology/Oncology"... What? Nooooo! not me... I must be in the WRONG place! And so my diagnosis journey began with vials and vials of blood drawn "stat", urgent Dr consultations, a surprise and painful Bone Marrow Biopsy, a full body Skeletal Scan, more blood tests stat, and then on 12.30.2009... THE revealing meeting... the "huh-what" moment ... the confirmation diagnosis that I, Julie, have CANCER!!!

Happy New Year to me, I just learned a new vocabulary word:
Multiple Myeloma!!! MM, Multiple Mye-what-loma!!!

January - June 2010

My medical metamorphosis began.
I read, and read, and read and researched and researched MM. I trusted my expert Oncology/Hematology team's plan and began my "New Normal" as a cancer patient.
My treatment plan was developed to include powerful Dexemthesone steroids paired with Revlimid chemotherapy, with the plan to be hospitalized for an Autologous Stem Cell Transplant July 2010.

I began living "one day at a time" like never before.
Jim was a wreck. Alissa and Scott were stunned; family and friends shocked.

Me... Cowgirl Up! I got back in the saddle and knew I was in for the ride of my life!
I did well on my initial pill-form Revlimid Chemo, "roid-rage" Dex Steroids and other supportive meds. I am forever deeply grateful and appreciative for all the love and support from everyone in my personal and professional life! I thank all of you for working along with me, and allowing me to continue to lead a semi "normal" life!
YOU have helped save my life!

My treatment trail ride forks to City of Hope hospital as I will saddle up beginning June 9, 2010 for a new rodeo called an Autologous Stem Cell Transplant!
Ye-Ha, let the adventure begin!

Chemical Warfare...

January 2010 - May 2010:
My initial chemo regimen:

Pill form Chemo= Revlimid (10mg, 15mg capsules)
Pill form Dexamethasone Steroids (40 mg, 4 days on, 4 days off!
Omeprazole for steroid acid reflux
Mepron (looks like yellow finger paint) Anti-fungal, Anti-viral, etc for my very compromised immune system
B-12
.81 Aspirin to prevent DVT, Revlimid complications
Allopurinol- keeping the kidneys healthy
Acyclovir- anti-Shingles, anti-viral

June 2010:
High dose IV Cytoxan chemo
Neupogen to build up stem cells for Apheresis, stem cell harvest, which was very successful, as City of Hope was able to collect 9.5 million of my own stem cells

July 2010 Hospitalization:
Two days of high dose Melphalan chemo
Then July 5, 2010 = my Autologous Stem Cell transplant infusion!

And you can read my whole story from that point forward in this blog!


What is multiple myeloma?

What is multiple myeloma?

Cancer starts when cells in the body begin to grow out of control. Cells in nearly any part of the body can become cancer, and can spread to other areas of the body. To learn more about how cancers start and spread, see What Is Cancer?

Multiple myeloma is a cancer formed by malignant plasma cells. Normal plasma cells are found in the bone marrow and are an important part of the immune system.

The immune system is made up of several types of cells that work together to fight infections and other diseases. Lymphocytes (lymph cells) are the main cell type of the immune system. The major types of lymphocytes are T cells and B cells.

When B cells respond to an infection, they mature and change into plasma cells. Plasma cells make the antibodies (also called immunoglobulins) that help the body attack and kill germs. Lymphocytes are in many areas of the body, such as lymph nodes, the bone marrow, the intestines, and the bloodstream. Plasma cells, however, are mainly found in the bone marrow. Bone marrow is the soft tissue inside some hollow bones. In addition to plasma cells, normal bone marrow has cells that make the different normal blood cells.

When plasma cells become cancerous and grow out of control, they can produce a tumor called a plasmacytoma. These tumors generally develop in a bone, but they are also rarely found in other tissues. If someone has only a single plasma cell tumor, the disease is called an isolated (or solitary) plasmacytoma. If someone has more than one plasmacytoma, they have multiple myeloma.

Multiple myeloma is characterized by several features, including:

Low blood counts

In multiple myeloma, the overgrowth of plasma cells in the bone marrow can crowd out normal blood-forming cells, leading to low blood counts. This can cause anemia – a shortage of red blood cells. People with anemia become pale, weak, and fatigued. Multiple myeloma can also cause the level of platelets in the blood to become low (called thrombocytopenia). This can lead to increased bleeding and bruising. Another condition that can develop is leukopenia – a shortage of normal white blood cells. This can lead to problems fighting infections.

Bone and calcium problems

Myeloma cells also interfere with cells that help keep the bones strong. Bones are constantly being remade to keep them strong. Two major kinds of bone cells normally work together to keep bones healthy and strong. The cells that lay down new bone are called osteoblasts. The cells that break down old bone are called osteoclasts. Myeloma cells make a substance that tells the osteoclasts to speed up dissolving the bone. Since the osteoblasts do not get a signal to put down new bone, old bone is broken down without new bone to replace it. This makes the bones weak and they break easily. Fractured bones are a major problem in people with myeloma. This increase in bone break-down can also raise calcium levels in the blood. (Problems caused by high calcium levels are discussed in the section “How is multiple myeloma diagnosed?”)

Infections

Abnormal plasma cells do not protect the body from infections. As mentioned before, normal plasma cells produce antibodies that attack germs. For example, if you developed pneumonia, normal plasma cells would produce antibodies aimed at the specific bacteria that were causing the illness. These antibodies help the body attack and kill the bacteria. In multiple myeloma, the myeloma cells crowd out the normal plasma cells, so that antibodies to fight the infection can’t be made. The antibody made by the myeloma cells does not help fight infections. That’s because the myeloma cells are just many copies of the same plasma cell – all making copies of the same exact (or monoclonal) antibody.

Kidney problems

The antibody made by myeloma cells can harm the kidneys. This can lead to kidney damage and even kidney failure.