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

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Too Many, Too Much, Too Overwhelming

I'd like to write another "happy" post like my last one, but I am just overwhelmed by so many people in my life with medical challenges:

A dear family friend (who's like a brother to Jim and me, and another dad to Scott and Alissa) recently suddenly, shockingly passed away from unexpected complications of heart surgery

Another dear family friend is battling uterine/endometrial cancer, and not enjoying the ravages of chemo side effects and losing her hair

I cannot believe how many of my girl - friends are currently battling breast cancer, or in recovery from various types of life-saving treatments... trying to wrap their minds around how cancer destroyed their beautiful bodies

A good friend's Dad (from my high school days) was recently diagnosed with... drum roll... you guessed it...
Multiple Myeloma!

My dad took my sister to ER the other night... she remains hospitalized with unusual electrolyte (and other) blood levels... guess what specialist was sent to her room today.... yep... a Hematologist

Our beautiful doggie Molly is hanging on (barely) as her sinus, head, nose cancerous tumor grows bigger by the day... but we are too torn to make the euthanasia decision when she still follows us and her doggie buddies around the backyard

Seriously, look at the size of that awful tumor on Molly's head
And no, that's not her skull or bone structure
It's a stinkin tumor the size of a baseball !!  :(

I continue to correspond with many cancer comrades around the country, referred to me by family and friends. I am thrilled and blessed to have so many new friends and pen-pals.
I just wish the common thread of introduction wasn't CANCER

I just found out from the sweet daughter hosting a (IMF) Myeloma wine-tasting fundraiser for her mom, who has.... of course... you guessed it.... Myeloma... they grew up around the block from where I did !

Ok brilliant scientific researchers out there...
3 of us neighbors (my current location) within walking blocks of each other ... have Multiple Myeloma
3 of us newly discovered past neighbors from the other Valley, have Multiple Myeloma

And we still can't even process the "bad movie" we starred in just this past January... did our son Scott really have bladder cancer surgery???

I'm having chest pains and difficulty breathing... is it physiological or psychological?
I have a Dr's appt next week...

But I will end on a happy note, with a GIANT sigh of relief for my incredibly BRAVE buddy Brian, who's recent brain cancer surgery has been declared SUCCESSFUL !!!

And a positive shout-out to my COC colleagues waging their cancer battles too... may your remission good-news continue forever!!!


  1. I am super shocked on how so many people are getting so ill!!!! I want it to stop. Unfortunately its the sign of the times. My poor mother is just so down and of course Alina is amazed and thinks that her "nita's" hair is too little but she wants to show everyone and my mom wants to hide the head. Im glad you are going to the doctor for the chest pains. It's probably way too much for you to handle and nothing else :(

  2. Gets mighty discouraging to say the least! Life is so very hard sometimes. All the more reason to support research to find cures and to discover perhaps "environmental" causes for such a high incidence of cancer in your area! Wow! Hang in there and try to count the blessings in big and small things.


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.