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

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...


  1. Julie, my friend!! I was so happy to see your newest are such a positive person and a great writer, reflecter (?), inspirerer (?)......I see a book deal in your future. Best get going as I'm stealing a few minutes away from my duties (well, it is lunch time). Keep on keeping on!!

  2. Wow - such an amazing post! :) I agree that 2011 will be the year that will make up for the damages done in 2010! It has already started out with such great news (for both of us)! :) I can understand that you feel like a speck of the "old Julie" but the "new Julie" is just as amazing (even more-so, actually, because you are doing the same work as you did before)! I am so taken back by your high spirits and even though you say you have less energy than before, I have yet to see that. :) You are still very much like the "old Julie". I'm sure I have several people reading this and agreeing. ;)

    LOVE you so much! Thanks for sharing the GREAT news on your numbers! YAY for getting to NORMAL!!!!!!


  3. OH - and awesome pictures!!!!!!!!!! :) SO jealous I missed the snow!!!

  4. Julie, Thank you for the update.... 2011 will be a better year! You are My Hero and the strongest lady I know. NORMAL is good.

    We love you Dear One... Evelyn and Neel


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.