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

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Stem Cells, Benadryl and Neopolitan Ice Cream

What a day... Collecting/Harvesting my Stemmies!

10:30- we arrive at COH, check in to the Apheresis Lab and I get to see my Hickman in action for a blood draw! Hook me up, snap in the vials... and whooosh...blood flows from my catheter tubes! Glad they function as they should for all the pain and annoyance I've been through! (Thank you Dr K at COH)
11-12:30- Lunch break-- feed those Stemmies and back to the lab to receive the blood draw results... to see if I qualify for Collection/Harvesting! We met some wonderful people there waiting also... where did all this cancer come from????

1:00- My Stemmies qualify! Yeah! The relevant numbers were something like this: minimum to qualify for collection is 10 and I was at 109... Jim remembers these numbers and is proud of my Stemmies... everyone is excited my numbers are so high... I'm ready, let the collection begin!

1:30- Set me up in a bed, plug me in, more blood vials drawn, talk with Nurses and Drs and hook me up to the amazing Collection machine

1:45ish- I begin a slight cough, body tingling, allergy type coughing, more body tingling as if I had my finger in an electrical socket... keeping my Nurses posted of my developing symptoms (Jim thinks I talk too much) ... coughing and now some asthma type-wheezing... Jim's looking at me like, shut up and quit coughing... but I know... my body is pissed off with something hanging in one of the IV bags.... Drs and Nurses are summoned... and the machine is turned off... as sure enough... I'm having a classic-Julie allergic reaction.. not good... Collection is haulted! Time to consult, discuss a plan of action...

So bring on the BENADRYL! My Best Friend... everyone is amazed how much I can tolerate and still be awake and functional... .25, .50, crank it up to .75 !

2:20ish...the wonderful Drs and Nurses on my case let me know how important it is to wrangle in this allergic reaction and continue with collection, as my numbers are so good they don't want to miss this opportunity... question is... can I now tolerate whatever is in the IV bags that my body previously said NO to?

2:30- my friend Benadryl has kicked IN and kicked OUT the allergic reaction... so I agree to let the collection begin again!

So for the the rest of the afternoon, until after 6:00pm, this amazing machine collects and separates my blood, stem cells and plasma. My collection bag reminds me of Neopolitan Ice Cream with the layers! Red (chocolate) is the blood, light red is the stemmies (strawberry), and clear-yellowish (vanilla) is the plasma!

I'm pretty wiped out at this point... but collection is going great... everyone is happy and impressed with my numbers and amount of Stemmies collected.

Homeward bound around 7:00ish. Yippee! No traffic!
Electrical socket symptoms finally stop hours later... I'm good... but so exhausted... so grateful and thankful to everyone for everything and my Stemmies success! Thank you COH staff for your wonderful care!

Round #2 coming up tomorrow... and I'm armed with boxes of Benadryl and my asthma inhalers... stay tuned :)


  1. AnonymousJune 22, 2010

    You're amazing, Jules! Hang in there and kick those cancer cells a_s! Love, Linda

  2. Radar,

    I'm continuing to read the progress on your blog. You're beyond amazing...!

    Think Ft. Worth next summer!

    Love, Russ

  3. AnonymousJune 22, 2010

    Hi Julie,

    Keep going strong and doing great! I'm glad to hear you had good numbers...and I hope you get good rest and feel better!


  4. I enjoy the emotion and detail in your writing! Hope things go well and collection time is short- Pat

  5. Im following your blog Julie!!! Keep staying strong and positive!!!


  6. You are my hero and I love you!

  7. AnonymousJune 23, 2010

    You are just going through one crazy roller coaster. You used to say that my life was insane... look at yours, my friend! ;) You are truly amazing. Keep going Julie... you're almost there. Glad that allergic reaction was contained by the life saving powers of Ben (Benadryl that is) ... ;) ...

    Keep being the FANTASTIC person you are!

  8. AnonymousJune 26, 2010

    You're incredible, Julie! So glad Benadryl exists! Keep fighting those darn cancer cells. You and your "stemmies" can do it!!!
    Love you,
    Julie J


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
.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?”)


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.