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

Monday, August 30, 2010

Myeloma? Not MY eloma anymore !!!!

Hello Everyone  :)

I am so happy to share .............. insert dramatic drum roll here ............. that my 3rd, most recent Bone Marrow Biopsy CONCLUDES THAT WE HAVE STOMPED THOSE OBNOXIOUS MYELOMA CELLS RIGHT OUT OF MY BLOOD PLASMA/BONE MARROW!!!!! I would love to write something really medically-scientifically intelligent here, but I barely understand this crazy disease to begin with, let alone the biopsy analysis! But from what I understand, I can say that there is currently ZERO myeloma in my system!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

And yes, the sweet word of REMISSION is my current cancer status!!!!
(I received the amazing news late last week over the phone... but wanted to hear it and see (the biopsy report) in person today, before blasting the world with my stunning news !!!!!) Looooooooove all my Doctors!!!!!!!

I am so fortunate that my diagnosis (Dec 09) came so swiftly (less than 2 months of tests) and my treatment plan was quickly designed and prescribed. Even though I've had numerous complications and challenges, and at times felt I was barely hanging on... I made it, and I cannot believe that my body responded so well. Actually, I am still trying to process my diagnosis, treatment, and hospitalization, not to mention THIS GOOD NEWS!

Amazing that I've "survived" 3 types of Chemo (Revlimid, Cytoxan and Melphalan) in 7 months - and all the other medications and injections, the stem cell harvesting, the stem cell transplant, the Hickman fiasco, etc... and all the crazy side effects that happened with almost every treatment step!

Ah, so much to say; so much to process; so much to accept.... so many, many, many people to thank!!!!!
I will save all that for another blog...

So where does this bring me medically.....
1- I really am in REMISSION !!! (but not cured)
2- All my treatments were SUCCESSFUL !!!
3- I get a few weeks off from medications, then...
4- I begin "maintenance therapy" late next month or in October.. most likely Revlimid, and
5- I'm encouraging my new immune system to build me a strong army!!!!

But until then, I will revel in this "new normal" :)

Here's a picture of me today, leaving City of Hope for the "last time" for a while!!!
Photographer-hubby Jim hasn't learned to say... 1, 2, 3, smile.... so forgive me for saying this... as I might sound vain and ungrateful... but... uuggghhhh, I am not happy with my appearance...

BUT O SO GRATEFUL FOR MY CURRENT REMISSION STATUS!!! I know, I know... my hair will fill in and I can once again poof it up and do my famous "glue and go" style :)

But for now......... I'm going to go eat some fresh baked cookies Scott brought home for me and work on how the heck I am going to CELEBRATE ALL THIS!!!!!!!!!!!!

Endless Heartfelt Appreciation for everyone's love, care, concern, and interest in my myeloma journey!
Whew!!!!!!!!!!!! what a journey it's been.

28 comments:

  1. Congratulations!!!!!!!!!!!

    Husbands! Little do you think when you marry them that one of the virtues you should look for is photographer! Not that I'm saying you don't look great but you know what I mean! ;D

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  2. Kelly Down the RoadAugust 31, 2010

    I kept checking yesterday and now...I am in tears here. Sooooo happy. I am so happy that you have kicked cancer's flippin' A@#$!! I want to hug you. Please let me know when we can have a quick, non-tiring neighbor celebration. Love and hugs to your wonderful family.

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  3. Julie this is the most wonderful news! You have been so courageous, not only in going through everything you have, but in sharing it with others. You have had so many people rooting for you and we will continue to do so. I'm so thankful that you have come out on the other side of this with such great healing!
    Love, Chris Norton

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  4. WOOHOO!!! Yay, Julie!!! We love you and are so happy for this news. Can't wait to see you!!!
    Love, Meri B

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  5. Oh my goodness, Julie!!! That's the best news I've heard in 2010 (and before that timeframe too)!!! I'm SO happy for you and your family!!! I know you can't see it, but I'm grinning from ear to ear right now!!! :) I can't wait until we all get to see you and celebrate your courage, strength, patience, and resiliency!!!!!!

    Love,
    Julie J

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  6. Jamie MilteerAugust 31, 2010

    I am so happy to hear this wonderful news. You are such a trooper Julie and such an inspiration. Can't wait to see you, we have missed you around here.
    Love,
    Jamie
    I'm already planning your cake!

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  7. Gail IshimotoAugust 31, 2010

    Excellent, wonderful news Julie! I had faith that you would rise above all this. I agree with Jamie; we sure miss you here!

    Lots of love,

    Gail

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  8. Julie,That`s fantastic news!!!I continue to be
    amazed at your positive attitude.I am convinced
    you bring out the best in people-in this case
    the medical people at COH.Enjoy the cookies,
    it is good to see you doing that.

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  9. Jules...I'm so happy to read this amazing update. You are so awesome. I can't wait to see you so I could give you a big hug. Miss seeing ya. Love ya too. -Claudia K

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  10. Super thrilled to hear the wonderful news! I had no doubt you'd make it to remission. You did scare me a few times, but you like to scare me anyway ... ;p ... SO happy that you have ZEROOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO cancer in your body! We do need to figure out a way to celebrate! You tell me when and where and I'm there! I don't care what you say, I'm paying for a party, food, port-o-potties for the backyard (ppl can be outside and you can talk through the window screens if you didn't want them inside) ... EVERYTHING!!!! :)

    Love you so much!
    RJ :)

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  11. Julie~
    YAYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY!!!!! We are ALL so thrilled to get the good news. No Cancer YAY!!!! We are so looking forward to seeing you and we would love to celebrate the good news with you!!!! My Mom just told me that she had an idea after seeing your dad but wasnt sure.
    Love you sooooooo much,
    Claudia and the gang :)
    p.s. my mother says "thank god you are better." in spanish :)

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  12. Great News Julie....Yay! I am sooo happy!! Happy you are feeling better now. You look good,can't wait to see you. You are so strong. Talk to you soon, Love Jan

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  13. Julie,

    I am so happy for you and your family! What a struggle but you did it! This is fantastic news!

    Can't wait to see you and give you a big hug.

    Love,
    Edel

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  14. So glad for this wonderful news. Hugs through the air to you. What a fighter. What a victory. You did it. Now enjoy every moment, as I know you will.

    Love, Ilene

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  15. Julie! I am so happy to hear this news. You are an AMAZING person - so strong and positive! I can't wait to see you. We have missed you so much. Please take care and enjoy this wonderful moment. You are always in our hearts.

    Love,
    Dena

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  16. My heart is swelling with happiness! So happy for my friend. My brother-in-law had his bone marrow transplant last week and is doing 'better than average' according to his doctors. Rock on Julie!!!

    Chris Miner

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  17. Beryl LawrenceSeptember 01, 2010

    Julie,
    I cannot express my relief and joy at hearing your wonderful news. We should all hold on to each glittering moment of our miraculous lives.
    Love You,
    Beryl

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  18. Oh Julie,

    I'm extremely happy to hear such great news!!!! You are truly an amazing and inspirational woman. WooHoo!!! :D Can't wait to see you back at CCC...

    ~ Loida

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  19. Jennifer AbramsSeptember 01, 2010

    Julie,

    Yay and double Yay! SO happy for you and your family! Yes, it is time to trade the antiseptic for the grape alcohol. Way to go, and I hope you are able to feel like it was worth it. If not yet, you will. Be well.

    Love,
    Jennifer

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  20. Your great news brings tears to my eyes. I know that you have been through so very much this year but with that great hubby and kids of yours you have made it. I can't wait to see you. I am here for you if need anything.

    Janet

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  21. "Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. And Today? Today is a gift. That's why we call it the present."
    - Babatunde Olatunji


    Love ya and I hope to see you soon!

    ...On monday another person in my life was affected by Acute myeloid leukemia (AML)... and I am going to forward your blog to her... to provide some inspiration. Luckily she has a great support system too.

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  22. Julie, What wonderful news.... Remission!!! I don't think I have prayed so hard in my life !!!
    God has heard all of our prayers. You Dear One have gone through so much and now you are on the other side. What a strong inspiration you are to all of us........... Blessings to all of the Visner Family

    We love you, Evelyn and Neel

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  23. I am just thrilled Julie!! When Bill told me I have to admit that I didn't believe him..had to check the blog myself!! You are such a fighter, and inspiration, a SURVIVOR!! Bet we see you doing flips in the backyard at any moment. Congratulations just does not seem like enough here. I still have goosebumps and tears of joy. Love to you my friend, with cyberhugs..SharonAnn
    See you soon

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  24. Julie! I am soooo excited for you! Congratulations, lady! Keep fighting!

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  25. Arggh! Take THAT myeloma cells! You didn't know who you were messing with!
    Much love to you Julie, SO excited about the wonderful news!
    Hugs and much love,
    Fashia

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  26. I am so glad that I stumbled upon your blog. I was away all summer and just yesterday asked how you were doing. So glad that you are in remission............I know that you have what it takes to fight this and God knows you deserve all of the good things that are coming your way.......BTW, for opening day I dressed like Dianne Van Hook, so if you need the blonde wig I bought for the occassion (it's a pretty good wig by the way) it is all yours Julie.
    With much love,

    Cindy Stephens

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  27. As a fellow cancer survivor, I can understand the horror you have endured... However, just as me, you were able to overcome that disease through the grace of God, a positive attitude, accompanied by great doctors and friends/family! Way to go Julie!

    -Dylan F.

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  28. Julie, thank you so much for sharing your story with us all. Thank 6 month old Baby Jesus, sittin in a high chair, sucking on a cracker that you are such a bad-ass and have made it though this HORRIBLE ordeal. Someone in my close family is terminal and is starting a blog because I showed them yours and how much it helped you and others to stay connected while you just could not. Thank you Oh, one more thing, wanna go get a beer? One more thing... FUCK CANCER!!!!!! You know who this is, Personal Development 11 times hehe

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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 capsules)
Pill form Dexamethasone Steroids (40 mg!) paired with Omeprazole
Mepron (looks like yellow finger paint) Anti-fungal, Anti-viral, etc for my very compromised immune system
B-12- to build those cells!
.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.