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

Sunday, June 30, 2013

3 Years ago June was a month of BIG events...

Whoa!!! June zoomed by and here I am moments before the clock ticks into July 2013!
Honestly... I am so over CANCER (especially me having cancer), that I have psychologically separated myself from this wonderful blog of mine :/
Guess I just don't want to think about IT and focus on IT much anymore!
Sorry to have let slide my commitment to write a least one blog entry a month to those of you still reading and checking in with me.

I have mentally moved forward (rather, pretended to) and have learned to move forward with the idea tentative, fragile health.
No doubt, I KNOW my current and future reality...
No doubt I think about it, but I try to not waste much time perseverating on the When, What, Why, How of my eventual, impending coming out of remission.
I have somewhat accepted the idea of a much shortened life, accepted the idea that any day, any blood test, any ONCOLOGY appointment can mean I am slipping away from the precarious cliff of health that I am wobbling on...
I try to direct my energies to focus on the NOW, not the WHAT if, and the eventual WHEN!

June seems to always be so full of milestones and anniversaries... in so many ways for me.
It's the end of a beginning
And the beginning of a new end to come
As June always represents some sort of graduation or commencement of something or someone for me... since I have always lived in the academic world.

I have been blessed with surviving another year in relatively good health, which allowed me to continue to pursue my mission of "Saving the world, One student at a time"...
I have a beautiful (6 months new) office, with one of the BEST views on campus!

But, June also represents so many cancer "graduations" for me-
THREE years ago June 2010, I walked away from my college's graduation having no idea what was in store for me that June, July 2010...
I was heading into a complete UNKNOWN, as I was to begin "preparing" for my Autologus Stem Cell Transplant, and subsequent hospitalization/isolation at City of Hope.
From diagnosis 12/30/2009 to June 2010, I went from around 70% lethal cancer coursing through my blood to about 10%.  June, July now brought the final super intense battle to kick Myeloma's butt out of my universe!

Early June 2010 transitioned me from pill form Chemo (Revlimid) to hard-core IV Chemo
June 2010 began my being suddenly really sick from IV Chemo, then suddenly feeling really well
Mid June 2010 began daily Neupogen injections to pump up my white cells and boost those Stemmies up!
June 2010 began the thinning and eventual cutting off of my "goldilocks" hair
Later June 2010 MY life saving Stem Cells were harvested, processed and preserved for my July 2010 transplant process
Wow... June 2010 was 3 years ago!!! That was then, this is now... and, and, and... it's beginning to feel like a long time ago!!!!!!!!!!!

However, reality recently awakened my mental cancer vacation, as my last Oncology appointment earlier this month had a bit of unsettling news... perhaps why I delayed and stalled writing a blog entry .........

My Myeloma markers for my IGA Myeloma are now officially out of the "normal" range, bouncing above the high end of normal to the loud notation on my blood test results stated as ABNORMAL!!! ouch :/
Weird really... not shocking though, as I live in reality... I knew it was coming... it's been almost 3 years exactly since my STC.
And now that I think about it, it's EXACTLY one year I have NOT been on Myeloma fighting Chemo...
Yes Revlimid was my initial Myeloma eliminator, and Revlimid was my post STC maintenance ammunition

So what does this tell us... well guess I am creeping OUT of remission
My next blood tests later in July well be telling for sure; how fast Myeloma is creeping or raging back; how soon I will be back on a treatment plan...

But, life is to be lived NOW!
No waiting, no putting things off... I tell myself
I stop to smell the delicious scents of life daily
I taste my preferred flavors daily (those that chemo didn't spoil)
I smile and laugh often
I don't take too much too seriously
I keep it all in perspective, and encourage other to also
I try to surround myself with happy, positive people and life-embracing events
And I work on not letting CANCER control my life... for now, for sure!

Life and miraculous events embrace me all the time, and in the most amazing ways!
My 2011 rescue doggie Hanna "played it forward" and rescued (by calling my attention to) a days old baby sparrow on our porch last month! So delicate, so vulnerable, but so desperate to LIVE!
Rescuing creatures (and humans) is second nature to me, so I quickly picked up baby birdie and got to work saving his/her life...

This is BabyBirdie a few days after rescue
when heshe opened hisher eyes!
"Imprinting" on us, as the human bird family, began!

We will never know if Birdie's parents pushed himher out of the nest of if the poor little guygirl fell out..
Sadly we quickly discovered that Birdie had a sprained, twisted up neck, and didn't know hisher chances of survival... but that sure didn't stop Birdie from energetically trying to survive and thrive! Baby needed to be feed every 20-40 minutes, sun up to sun down, so life revolved around feeding Birdie and I sure didn't have a second to reminiscence about my June cancer anniversaries! We had to support Birdie's little neck to eat, until one day, heshe kinda balanced upwards and began eating in a semi-normal stature!

Now almost 7 weeks later, Birdie is thriving and flying around the house like a little helicopter. Neck is 100% normal and heshe is so happy, healthy and doing all the normal bird activities, but in our human environment! Birdie only knows us as hisher family and is totally "imprinted" on us, so releasing Birdie is not an option. Birdie flys to us, perches on our hands, shoulders, phones and seeks out pictures of us on the shelves to perch on! So funny!!!
 Birdie is almost "weaned" now
eating "bigbird" foods (grains, crushed dog food, fruits, etc)! 

We "saved" Birdie's fragile little life, but Birdie has given us far more than heshe will ever know!!! Life is so tentative and unpredictable... but so incredibly beautiful and breathtaking!
Birdie is now a full feathered beauty... and in a few months nature will reveal to us if he is a he or she, when hisher adult feathers come in! Here's the amazing website that helped me save Birdie's life: Raising an abandoned baby sparrow
Cancer can never take these simple joys away!
Nature's will to survive is a message to all humans

Birdie loves to eat from our hands
The tweezer mimicked the momma beak when feeding tiny baby Birdie
and heshe is so bonded to it

Crazy how I bought this flag long before Birdie arrived
and it now serves as a lively backdrop behind Birdie's house-
Not to mention, the simple message I live by !
And so.... it's
Hello July 2013!
Hello memories of my family saying emotional goodbyes to me at City of Hope July 2, 2010
Saying goodbye to me, in a small, sanitized hospital room, leaving me alone, in full isolation, in hopes of saving my life...
Hello brink of death Melpalan IV chemo anniversary July 3 and 4, 2010
Hello 3 year Stem Cell Infusion Transplant anniversary July 5, 2010
Hello 3 years of REMISSION anniversary!
Hello 3 years of many personal and professional "missions" accomplished!
Hello 3 years and counting!
Hello Myeloma... I'm still winning :)

So enough about cancer!!!! ... here's my new blog all about Raising Baby Birdie!

Live happy, live well, and make a difference somewhere, somehow, with someone or something as often as you can!

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.