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

Sunday, January 30, 2011

One Year, One Month Ago Today... and Poodle MakeOver Pictures

So I'm reflecting that TODAY  1 /30 / 2011  is One Year and One Month since I was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma Cancer... and...

I reflect with amazement what I have been through since diagnosis 12/30/10, as life can almost seem somewhat, a wee bit, "normal" now.
I do often, very often, think how different my outcome COULD HAVE BEEN, and therefore how very different what I would be writing here today, would be...
I do reflect and take pause when others seem so affected by my diagnosis, treatments, hospitalization, recovery process and current appearance, and I wonder why I don't feel quite as stunned and shocked?

Perhaps it all hasn't REALLY fully sunk in yet?
Perhaps I just jumped aboard the Cancer Cruise and just did what I had to do... and presumptuously EXPECTED a good outcome??
Perhaps I haven't fully digested all this yet?
Perhaps it REALLY hasn't hit me yet???
Perhaps because I don't feel too horrible all the time and I hear far worse diagnosis and treatment stories... I don't really feel "cancerous"?
Perhaps... my bad memories are fading already?

Maybe if I had a disfiguring cancer or a more visible cancer
Maybe if I had an organ or body part removed
Maybe if I had to suffer even more than I did
Maybe then, I would REALLY feel like I HAVE cancer?

When meeting people I tell my story matter of factly
When thinking about having cancer I don't think I actually connect with it yet
When hearing people's reactions and responses, I then think, wow, I guess I really have been thru a lot!

Honestly, I feel so very, very lucky-
That I didn't have to endure cycles and cycles of hard core IV chemo
That I didn't have to endure Radiation at all
That I didn't have to endure a Tandem (2nd) stem cell transplant
That I didn't Puke my guts out for days and weeks
That I didn't get those awful chemo mouth Sores
That I didn't gain or loose extreme amounts of Weight
That I only had to be Hospitalized once, and for only a Month
That my Myeloma wasn't Multiple bone lesions Myeloma
That my Neuropathy has stabilized a bit... or have I just learned to live with it

Yes, although I do have an incurable cancer, I feel pretty good most of the time :)
I feel so blessed to have the fantastic medical support system I do
I feel so blessed researchers discovered chemos Revlimid, Cytoxan and Melphan KILLS Myeloma
I feel so blessed to have the amazing human support system I do
I feel so blessed to have been Diagnosed, Treated and determined to be in Remission in just 8 months!

And, strange... I never went thru the true cancer-bald stage, but just a boy-buzz that grew into a ton of wavy new hair, that actually grew so much, so fast, that I now get to trim it and experiment with trendy and goofy styles...

As promised, here's Ms Poodle's new Do:
 Groomed and Trimmed
Poodle no more!

 Dang, lots of hair...
Me and Chemo do just fine

 Goldilocks no more...
Hello instantaneous middle age

 My lil zebra decided to torment me with her new Goldilocks
Christine our amazing hair artist, entertained by my ever-present wackiness

Not the best representation of our new Do's, as the lighting was off
but Alissa's Blonder now and I'm all Naturraal!!!

Since then, I have swiped Scott's years-old spiking gel and I'm wrestling with the grey waves, and going for the Porcupine look! Thank you Myeloma, I'm having fun creating a new style everyday!

PS- for those with Myeloma reading this... Revlimid chemo seems to enhance my hair... Cytoxan and Melphalan chemos thinned my original hair slowly, before it was replaced by my new hair

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Poodle's going in for a Grooming

1 / 22 / 11    :)
Well be careful what you wish for as they say...

As a young girl I wished for long, curly-wavy dark hair...
During the 1980's I even faked my way to curly hair with perms!! (Hmmm... maybe all those chemicals caused Myeloma?)

But that was long ago... and thanks to cancer and chemo, I did ironically get my wish for curly-wavy hair! So crazy!!! Initially it was novel and fun for a lifelong straight haired blondie! Interesting and fun to work with too. But when I look in the mirror and see pictures of myself, and can't believe "who" I see, and how chemo affects our hair color and texture!

Hello Chia-pet head Julie!

But honestly, I'm kinda over HOW this Fluffy, Curly, Grey Poodle hair looks on me now... it's a been a wonderful ride ... and don't get me wrong... I am very very grateful for how full, soft and plentiful my new reformatted remission mini-locks are... but I'm over it now... BECAUSE... I have been instantly transformed into looking a lot Older and more Serious on the Outside, than I am on the Inside! And as I've mentioned before, I have unwittingly become my own sociological study. It's crazy how DIFFERENT people treat me and look at me while looking like this, compared to being blonde. I know, I know... yes being Blonde has all the "stereotypical" reactions...

Yikes, who's this AARP member on the beach in Malibu??

But if I was still as young and beautiful as these gorgeous girls...

I definitely would be patient enough to grow it out and revel in my curly locks like darling Courtney... but I'm not in my 20's anymore so the grey poodle is going in for a "grooming" this coming week... Hello Jamie L Curtis?
Check back everyone, as I'll post pictures later this week :)

And after posting this, I met the wife of the THIRD person in my IMMEDIATE AREA that has Myeloma.... ok... maybe there IS something to those oil pumping grasshoppers on the hills adjacent to us...

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

1/11/11 = cool numbers... and so are My new numbers

Hello Everyone-
Today is January 11, 2011 but I like 1/11/11... wonder what 11/11/11 will bring...

I've come to love interesting numbers... in many ways... especially since my Myeloma diagnosis brought such Interesting Numbers into my life LOL
Numbers have become quite symbolic in my life... well they always have been, but I have numerical MARKERS now that I didn't before. So sorry to everyone and my students who now have to endure my... "Oh wow, did you know....that on... blah blah... I was blah blah... and your BD is my blah blah, or your ID# has my blah blah" hahaahahahaaaaaa

13 = FRIDAY THE 13th !!! ... the date of that fateful 2009 "routine physical" that began EVERYTHING!
13th Chromosome may have something to do gentically with Myeloma...
14 = my first Hematology appointment (and so ironically, the date I was hired at my favorite college MANY years ago)
30 = my diagnosis date- just a day or two before the New Year
5 =  the 4th of July weekend- as the 5th is my new "birthday" they tell me; the day I received my own Stem Cells back to regenerate my blood after decimating the myeloma cells with chemo, chemo, chemo
22 = my original birthday... and I have so many coincidences on the magical 22
Today, 1/11/11 (double that, and you've got my 22)... seems like a numerically fun day to report in my amazing Remission status numbers from my most recent blood work...
Happy New Year to me!
My Whites have jumped an amazing .01 from last month's 3.3 to this month's 3.4 woo-hoo!! Almost sliding into the low end of NORMAL, which is 4.0 (and not my GPA!)
Go Reds... they're Nnnnnormal!!! at 4.39 - and several other related levels there are Normal too
Neutrophils... (still have to look up their significance, but was told they matter!) are Normal
Electrolytes, Creatinine, Liver function tests, Proteins = Normal
are lo, lo, lo, lowwww and sub normal low as a result of the stem cell transplant and the lovely Melphalan chemo
At diagnosis... my myeloma infested IGA was over 5600 !!!! its now so low the test results show a < !!
Haaa to you myeloma I have have a bunch of <<<<< less than symbols symbolizing YOU!!!
IGG = 551
IGA = <25
IGM = <20
hahahahahahahaaaaa on you Myeloma!!! We gobbled you up and spit you out of town!!!
Yes, I know... low, low, low would "normally" not be good... but for me, right now... I'm liking it!
Here's a fairly good description of who these different Immunoglobulins are:
I'm going to have to study this myself, as glancing through this... as I have done millions of times, but not much stuck during 2010, I do see a relationship between things there and perhaps WHY I developed Multiple Myeloma!! Dang my sensitive system... allergies, allergies, low thyroid, genetics, etc.... hmmmm
And lastly... M-PROTEIN was Not DETECTED by Immunofixation
Beta-2-Microglobulin is Normal
Light Chains = Normal or right on the low end of Normal
And guess how many pages my test results were... 22 !! not kidding!!

I'm so NNNNNormal now... my blog is getting rather boring!!!! I'll be losing my Drama-Queen title fairly soon! But I know... Normal has never been a description that comes to mind when thinking about me :)

So here's to a great beginning of 2011 on 1/11/11 with 22 pages of good news!
I wish all of you the very best for 2011 and may your numbers be healthy, happy and repetitiously fun!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

6 Months Post Stem Cell Transplant... Today

Haaaaaappppppppyyyyyyyyyyy New Year Everyone !

Helllllloooooooooo 2011 :)
Good Riddance 2010 !!!!!

12.30.2010 came and went... and yes I've been quite reflective and still shocked with my 12.30.2009 MM diagnosis... still processing what I encountered, endured, experienced and dealt with in 2010...

But when the 2011 clock rolled over...
I was energized with optimism and gratefulness...
Thrilled with the actuality and reality that all I had been through in 2010... equaled SUCCESS and I am truly in REMISSION from Multiple Myeloma Cancer!
How blessed am I !!! And so appreciative for all the unwavering support I have received from all of YOU, so appreciative for the amazing medical care I have received from Kaiser and City of Hope Doctors, Nurses, Staff Members, etc! YOU have all been the TEAM that Saved My Life!!! Thank you, thank you!!!!

I am slowly learning and accepting my "new normal"...
I am not (ouch) the energizer-bunny I used to be... and when I unwittingly revert to that mode... I am reminded by exhaustion, dehydration, neuropathy, aches and pains, and by those around me.
I feel a fraction of who I used to be, who I "should" be and what I am capable of... but dang it... I tell myself.. you've survived cancer, cancer treatments, chemotherapy (3 kinds!), a Stem Cell Transplant, hospitalization for a month, endless doctor appointments, etc... I guess I can cut myself some slack...

I still have a difficult time seeing myself as a cancer-survivor ... but I am rudely reminded when I catch a glimpse of my new reflection.
Reminded when I look in the mirror and see my Hickman catheter scar on my chest.
Reminded when I feel the damaged veins in my arms.
Reminded when I see my crazy cancer make-over grey curly hair!!!!

I must confess... I miss my Goldilocks...
I must confess that life IS DIFFERENT NOT being blonde anymore...
I must confess that outsiders, strangers and those that know NOTHING of my journey... now look right beyond me, right past me, not knowing that the grey poodle was once a shimmery Palomino

I have unwittingly become my own psychological experiment--
And that will be a (brave) introspective blog entry one day ...

BUT for now..........
2011 is beginning wonderfully!
My recent blood test results show many levels in the NORMAL range now!
Southern California Had Snow!!!! and What a Treat it Was:

Pawsy enjoying the cold white stuff

Previously, these were sun-basking chairs!

Sunny and RedBear growing winter coats fast!

Yes, I am very very blessed...

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.