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

Friday, March 25, 2011

25 on the 25th! Celebrating My Son

Happy 25th Birthday Today to my "Mr Incredible" Son Scott :)

25 years ago today, was an amazing, monumental day for me and my hubby Jim...
Our handsome, smart son Scott was born at 1:58pm... ah.... such a story... but those that know us, know the tale, and those that don't... well... most of you are parents, and know that the day our children are born, is one of theeee most SPECIAL and life-altering moments in our lives!!! Especially since I was not PLANNING to have children, and was focused on building my career as a Counselor, and Jim and I were breeding and raising horses... not kids.... hahahahahhaaaaa such a story... and now 25 years later... I cannot imagine a life without my amazing and beautiful kids...

 Mommy and Me preschool class- 1990

2nd birthday, 1988, just before Alissa was born :)

So today, March 25, 2011 I am so blessed and grateful to be here, despite my cancer diagnosis Dec 2009. I am hoping for many many many more birthdays with my beautiful family...

Happy 25th birthday to you my Scotty-boy, and happy 25 years of lightening fast, spectacular motherhood to me :) Life would be meaningless without you in my life!

Scott, Julie, Jim 1987
(and Alissa's in the oven :)

My Mr Incredible today!

So Incredible!
We're such proud parents of you Scotty-boy!
Love you forever and ever always!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

2.2 on 22

Yikes!!!!! My whites are falling, my whites are falling!
I know, many of you say not to worry, levels fluctuate daily, weekly, monthly...
But now my Drs are taking note... and talking changes... maybe...

I had been as high as 3.4 a few months ago... but I guess Revimid is doing it's job and then some... as my white count has progressively dipped each month since then, from the high of 3.4 to 2.9 then 2.9 to the new low of 2.2, revealed at my last check yesterday...

I feel ok... just so tired all the time... but that also has to do with my busy, busy and back to work lifestyle I keep telling myself, and not getting to bed earlier ...
So I will head for bed now... and add all my details to this post tomorrow or the next day or the next ... as I have all kinds of data this time... light chains, immunoglobulins, beta micro... blah blah blahs...

Hi from Mr RedBear :)

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

R I P Max ... 5-5-99 to 3-15-11

Our family is mourning the loss of our dear furry pal, Max ...
Maxie, our sweet little Chihuahua doggie, almost 12 years old, died from congestive heart failure last night, around 11:30pm

We knew Max wasn't doing well these past several months. We had been to the vet with him several times recently. He had over a pound of fluid drained out and was on several medications, but we didn't think we would lose him so quickly. He died in Jim's arms, not long after watching a movie with us...

Max was a spontaneous surprise for hubby Jim, right after Jim's cancer surgery in July 1999.
Not long after Jim was home from the hospital and just beginning to feel a bit better and develop an appetite, I left to run a few errands. I called Jim to see if he wanted me to bring him anything to eat and he mentioned that a Subway sandwich sounded good to him. I promised him I would stop on my way home and bring his favorite Sub.

But just before stopping for our sandwiches, I remembered I needed to stop at our local pet shop for worms for the turtles... well we all know what immediately confronts customers in the local pet shops... those cute, adorable puppies and kittens... and sure enough when I walked in, sitting all alone in a pen, was this tiny little fluffy butterscotch long-haired Chihuahua puppy. He looked like a large guinea pig!

The reason he caught my eye at all, involves me telling you a little of our past history... see, several years prior to Jim's cancer diagnosis and surgery, we hospiced Jim's sister during her end-of-life battle with lung, lymphoma and bone cancer. And when she came to live with us, she brought her best friend and companion Max Sr., a charcoal-beige Chihuahua. Sadly, not long after Aunt Scotti died, we came to find out that her Max had sinus cancer and his sinus cavity was almost entirely hollowed-out from the cancer...
We promised Aunt Scotti that we would of course care for her Max and do everything we could for him. Max Sr and Jim especially bonded, as he wasn't used to kids, commotion and all the craziness of our household at that time.

Well, sadly within a year, Max Sr began having full-body-jolting-seizures. Our vet explained he wasn't long for this world. We just couldn't bear to watch him suffer through these stroke-like seizures and labored, choking breathing, so we did the humane thing and had him euthanized. This really tore Jim up, as he had just lost his sister, and now her little doggie, his new buddy...

So several years later, when I saw this tiny replica of Max Sr., I just couldn't resist the impulse to buy him for Jim as a little couch companion during Jim's cancer recovery... I think I completely forgot to buy the worms for the turtles and bundled up this fuzz ball and headed home to surprise Jim. Alissa was on the couch reading (of course!) and didn't pay much attention to me until I motioned to her to peak at my little bundle hidden in my shirt. To my surprise, Jim was actually sitting up at the kitchen table... waiting for his Sub sandwich...
I placed the little bundle on the table and Jim, expecting a wrapped sandwich, nearly fell off the chair in shock when the little "sandwich" moved and whined!

And so went the story of Jim recovering from his surgery and cancer ordeal with the help the new adorable, sweet, loyal Max Jr.. (who was almost named Subway, or Suby or Prostate!)

Today my heart is so heavy with the loss of our Maxie, but I can smile at all the wonderful memories, good times, and daily connections this little doggie has with us. Scott reminisced he no longer has a breakfast buddy to share cereal crumbs with or be greeted by a vigoriously wagging tail, when we all come home. Alissa reminisced we won't have our inside guard doggie, snuggle buddy or movie buddy anymore... along with so many many memories...
Jim of course, can barely talk...

Thankfully Scott spontaneously took this picture
yesterday Max's last day
He just sat there soaking up the sun, looking happy...
Little did any of us know... this would be his last moment like this

We said our final goodbye to Maxie tonight, as we burried him in the backyard, in his bed, in a sunny place, near the horses and deep within the earth, where our other past canine and feline pals rest forever...

Sunday, March 6, 2011

8 months Post SCT

So today, March 5, 2011 marks 8 months since my Stem Cell Transplant at City of Hope on July 5, 2010
Can't believe it's already been 8 months since that grueling month-long hospital stay and challenging recovery process...

Overall I'm feeling ppppretty good, but realizing I most likely will never have the same energizer-bunny energy I once had...
( lol age factored in too haha )
I am realizing my body will now always have weird aches and pains and numbness, along with crazy stiff joints and cramped muscles, that I never had before my SCT ... but ha! I don't make enough time to exercise regularly either... so go figure I'm so whimpy and achy now!!!

Today was such a beautiful sunny warm day to celebrate my Remission success I stopped all my ongoing indoor-never-caught-up-on-household and online activities, and went outside for a long walk.
When I returned, I petted my horsies and cleaned the arena...which really is great therapy for me!
Raking and forking poop into the wheelbarrow is actually great full body exercise !! I purposely leave the wheelbarrow outside the arena so I get extra walking back and forth, in addition to the "apple-picking"!
If I only had time to do that everyday... I'd be the Myeloma Ranch-woman of the year!
Luckily, hubby Jim, my ultimate "ranch manager", super pooper-scooper extraordinaire, is in such great shape for his old age because he gets this special exercise multiple times a day!

So as I mark this EIGHT MONTH SCT and Remission anniversary, I will leave you with an incredibly moving video of the amazing horsewoman Stacy Westfall, riding in tribute to her dad who died (from what, I couldn't find) just weeks before this spectacular bridleless, saddleless performance...
I could only watch part of this during my COH stay... as it was just too emotional for me...
thinking then, that I will never ever be able to do something like this in my lifetime ...

Stacy Westfall
music by Tim McGraw
"Live As If You Were Dying" ...

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.