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

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

2 years ago today, my life as I knew it, began to change forever

12 - 14 - 2009 ...  2011
Two years ago today I had my FIRST evaluative appointment in a department called... "HEMATOLOGY-ONCOLOGY"

I was smart enough to know what those terms TECHNICALLY meant by definition ... but I was not at all connecting the significance to me!
I arrived at Kaiser check-in for this appointment (that, bad me, I had put off for a month!), and was quite surprised to see the word ONCOLOGY connected on the sign to HEMATOLOGY!
W H A T ??? Huh? Seriously people, I'm in the WRONG department!

Honestly, I was aware there was "something" going on with me and my blood... but I took a casual, over-confident attitude about it
Fortunately, my very diligent GP had called several times the previous month, advising me that "something" was seriously wrong with my blood levels.
He advised me that I needed additional blood work and I needed to be on Iron immediately, as I was dangerously anemic
He referred me to a HEMATOLOGIST fast!

Ha! I thought... nothing's REALLY WRONG with me... I'm OK!
I'm just a little bit tired (lie!)
I'm doing too much, for too many (understatement!)
Random intense headaches (I never had headaches before)
Just a little bit dizzy (scary dizzy sometimes!)
Just a little bit low on iron (very low!)
Just a little bit anemic (very anemic!)
Just losing blood everyday from various areas:
Nose bleeds = Allergies I thought (daily nose bleeds... a lot!)
Mid-life female bleeding issues = normal I thought (a lot! = not normal)
Just a bit thinner than usual, but enjoying that (true enough!)
Feeling faint sometimes (scary, passing out faint!)
Feeling dehydrated all the time (weird feelings with this)
Exhausted and fatigued - I'm just doing too much (way too much!)
I rationalized it all... (O yes I did, dumb me!)

I checked in... lightheartedly...
Jim and I moved towards the waiting area...
I noticed that several patients in the waiting area looked sickly, sort of "cancerous"... their color was off, and several had scarves or hats on, or VERY short hair-
Geeezzzz, I thought, I certainly don't belong in this department as I comforted myself and Jim with the thought that Hematology was on ONE SIDE of the department and Oncology would be ON THE OTHER SIDE, of course detached from where we were headed...
Wrong... NOT!!!

I don't remember many details from this appointment and the appointments thereafter
It was a blur then and still is..
But I do recall everyone seemed to be in a bit of panic over my situation, and I just knew I was fine...

I met my wonderful RN Jalee and my amazing doctor, Dr Lee, that fateful day
Vitals were taken
Previous blood tests were explained and analyzed
Questions were asked
And I was sent immediately to take more blood tests...

So much is a blur from that point on
More blood tests, questions and assessments
More concern that I should be hospitalized immediately as several blood levels were DANGEROUSLY LOW or HIGH
Ok, I'll eat better I rationalized
I'll hydrate more... make better blood I thought...
Jim's in a bit of a panic
I'm thinking about being on Winter Break and enjoying the holidays, Dang it!

4 days later, calls from Nurse Jalee and Dr Lee needing to see me for an "emergency" appointment
12 - 18 - 2009
My blood levels are not good
Platelets are dangerously low
My white count is way down
Something about Calcium and Protein levels too high

Jim and Alissa go with me as earlier Alissa needed xrays for a sprained foot
They're asked to leave the room...
I knew things were getting serious

Surprise----- I'm quickly prepped for a Bone Marrow Biopsy
I'm realizing there's something kinda serious going on with me
During the very painful biopsy I suddenly become emotional, begin to cry
I'm realizing that I can't joke about this anymore
I'm a sick lil puppy...
Why else would they need this intense type of assessment
What's all this mean?
I thank Jalee and Dr Lee for taking such good care of me

It was late, cold and drizzly when we drove home
My thoughts spinning
My world was changing fast
How indeed it was, I would soon find out...

A day before New Year's, 12- 30- 2009
I was due to return for THE RESULTS...

To Be Continued...

There I am... late 2009
Possessed by (67%) Myeloma
So completely unaware

1 comment:

  1. Oh, Julie, your beautifully written memoir hits home (or right in the gut) for so many of us out here in the MM Blogosphere! I convinced myself that I had gall bladder problems (hey - my mom and sister had gotten through it) until I was told that my kidneys had failed and was hospitalized on the renal unit to begin dialysis immediately! Then I convinced myself that I had taken too much Advil to help with the intense back pain - surely THAT was why my kidneys failed. Oh...the webs we weave!


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.