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

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Today is National Cancer Survivor's Day! Who knew?!

The 25th annual National Cancer Survivors Day is Sunday, June 3, 2012.

"National Cancer Survivors Day® is an annual, treasured worldwide Celebration of Life that is held in hundreds of communities throughout the United States, Canada, and other participating countries. Participants unite in a symbolic event to show the world that life after a cancer diagnosis can be meaningful and productive..."

Well who knew? I sure didn't! 

Every time I read something about cancer "survival" or being a cancer "survivor"... I still just can't fully "connect" to the statement or idea.
Have I never really fully processed that I was diagnosed and treated for a terminal blood CANCER?
Have I "forgotten" all my TRAUMATIC live-saving treatments? Hardly!!!
Am I in denial?
Seriously, I should be fully "in touch" with all of this! But honestly... I feel a disconnect...

I do know I was shocked when I was actually diagnosed on December 30, 2009
I do know I was really affected by all my initial chemo treatment medications early 2010
I do know I suffered from IV Cytoxan chemo June 2010
I do know I suffered from IV Melphalan chemo July 2010
I do know I received my own stem cells back in an Autologus Stem Cell Transplant July 5, 2010
I do know I was very seriously ill and could have died... several times... had I not had the treatments I did
I do know I lost my hair and had a complete visual make over, several times over since
And I do know I have continued on monthly maintenance Revlimid chemo to this day to continue to battle back the Myeloma cells trying to invade and make a come-back

AND I KNOW I AM VERY FORTUNATE TO STILL BE IN REMISSION!!! and approaching my 2 year SCT anniversary!

So to celebrate Cancer Survivor's Day TODAY and my personal remission since late summer 2010 and other's battling CANCER along with me-
I am wearing a Tshirt that says in BOLD letters: SURVIVOR

Ok... I am trying to feel this, trying to connect, trying to process I had/have cancer...

Here's the pictorial of me celebrating Remission at various Cancer events this year:

with my dear friend and avid supporter

S U R V I V O R S! May 2012

Hubby Jim and me
Wow, how can we both be Cancer Survivors?
(not to mention that son of ours
who is further out of touch with this cancer thing than me!)

Next BIG Survivors event:
City of Hope's giant BMT - SCT reunion
extravaganza with thousands of survivors!

And I mean THOUSANDS!!!
Seriously amazing!!!

Find me and Jim... left corner (I'm in red) 3rd row behind "Welcome" 

Me, my awesome Dr Kogut and fellow Myeloma survivor Jim

Me and Dr Kogut
Mr Awesome himself

Me, being me, showing off my 22 months
Post Stem Cell Transplant button

Ok, so after all I've been through 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012
you'd think I would connect with having cancer, right?

Well I do...
when I try to do things like I did
prior to a terminal cancer diagnosis
that's when I connect with 
as cancer stole my "perfect" health
my energy
my stamina
my get up and go
and my ability to be Cowgirl Julie

So my new hobby is
short distance
Horse Back Walking :)



  1. Well Julie, you look marvelous and do have much to celebrate on this Cancer Survivor's Day! Your story and timeline is so similar to EZ's, and I am so thankful for where you both are today in regards to complete response!! Horse back walking looks like loads of fun! Your home seems like an amazing place to be, surrounded by all your animals.

  2. Julie,Enjoy seeing the pictures of another group you are
    particiating in even if neither of them were by choice.
    Keep doing your great work of encouraging others and as
    you know it will lighten your load.Glad you have such a
    willing heart.


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.