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

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

9+ Million Stem Cells Saved My Life... one year ago today

June 22, 2010
June 22, 2011

One year ago today I was at the amazing City of Hope Hospital having life saving Stem Cells (my own!) collected from my blood in preparation for my Autologous Stem Cell Transplant in July 2010

City of Hope Apheresis Center

Over 9.3 million stemmies were successfully collected from my blood on
June 21 and 22, 2010
Combined with 6 months of Revlimid chemo + Dexamethasone steroids
and IV Cytoxan chemo
and Neupogen injections to pump up my stemmies
 and IV Melphalan chemo
and my Stem Cell Transplant
and a lot of wonderful people...
All combined to
Save My Life!

Hellooooo Myeloma............ I'm Winnnnnnning !!!!

June 22, 2011 = REMISSION STILL !!!


I had a surprise One Year Anniversary present:
a Bone Marrow Biopsy!
Results in a week...
Counting on REMISSION still!!!


Friday, June 10, 2011

One Year Ago Today 6-10-10

Has it really been a year since I was Chemo IV'd for the first time with CYTOXAN aka "CyTOXIC" to me!!!

Sheessh! was I naive about what I was in for!! But good thing... as I think my blonde "I'll do just fine optimism" was what gave me the bravery I had...
Knowing what I know now... hhmmm... don't think I'd be so brave! There would have been the anticipatory fear factor for sure
No doubt, "Ignorance is Bliss" was best in this case for what I went thru beginning June 10, 2010...

 Puffy Steroid Me

hooked up and receiving the live-saving poison

 Looking back, I still can't believe what I tolerated chemically!!!
Nor do I fully understand how all these powerful chemicals
work in tandem together to save our lives, rather than euthanize us!
Such a delicate, wonderous balance

Medical science just amazes and intrigues me!
How those brilliant researchers, doctors, nurses etc
really know the exact pairing, balance and amounts 
of these cancer-killing, life saving chemicals

Feeling ok then...
Ha! had no idea how Cytoxan would be so
CyTOXIC to me hours later!
Jim's just glad they didn't hook him up too!

Best nurse ever and forever, Jalee Ms Extraordinare!

Ha! almost looks like the death-sentence chair
But in my case, the Life -Saving chair!

Just another big round of kicking Myeloma's butt out of my system
after doing 6 months of Revlimid and DexamethasoneSteroids prior to this!
Gooooooooooo Chemo!!!
Bring on the cancer-fighting chemicals!!!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

11 months post stem cell transplant! 6-5-11

I can hardly believe it's been 11 months today since my hospitalization and life-saving Stem Cell Transplant!!
And what a monumental year, month, week it has been...

So many important milestones happened on Friday June 3, 2011 !
And to think one year ago, so much was unknown cancerous territory, survival doubts and chemo fears...

So many special details on this noteworthy date of June 5, 2011... 11 months post stem cell transplant and more than a year and a half since Myeloma diagnosis...haha to you cancer... I'm still here and fighting you off, off and away!!

So many medical, personal, parental and professional accomplishments and goals met!

Alissa, Julie, Bilet ruled the stage for a magical moment

Proud parents of the double major (English and History)
double Honors student

Proud Mom and Dad Graduation Day

Priceless graduation moment with COC Chancellor Dr Dianne Van Hook

The era of our Mother-Daughter Student Services team
is soon coming to a close...
Many firsts, many lasts, many milestones
She's moving on, moving forward
New adventures, new location, new college
Special events, magical moments that can never be again
Student-Admissions Office Employee-Daughter's
Name at the 2011 Graduation Commencement Ceremony
Absolutely Priceless
Once in a life time moment for us
Cancer didn't stand a chance stealing this storybook moment from me!

Lucky, lucky us!!!

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.