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

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

New year, not so new meds, and the old plan is ok with me!

Happy New Year Blog Followers!
Hoping your 2014 is off to a wonderful start for you and yours, and great things come your way this year!

Funny how old aspects and milestones of my cancer life randomly hit me. As I just wrote 2014, it suddenly sunk in that I have had the formal diagnosis of cancer for 4 years now! Who knows how long it was brewing within me prior to diagnosis..., making the 4 years into 5, 6, 7, double? triple? years ... I'll never know the what, when, why, how and actual trigger of Myeloma... but that's ok. I have accepted that I have an incurable, terminal cancer, or in softer words, a "chronic illness". Some are bothered when I refer to my situation as terminal, and they quickly say, "well you know Julie... everyone is terminal"... ok... whatever makes them feel better... I live with my reality. 

Seriously though, I am so grateful I am still here. Every morning I wake up, I really do take a second breath of realization, that I AM HERE... that I woke up to embrace another day!
I feel fortunate for the "quality of life" I do still have considering the circumstances and what I could be feeling and enduring.
When people ask how I am, I generally reply "ok". Not bad for someone in my situation. I'm here (wherever that here/there might be), I am vertical, I am functional, I am able to engage in life/work in small doses, and I am tolerating my new chemo regimen, and most importantly, I am not hugging a toilet !!! Truly, I feel so grateful for the little things in my world, I am still able to embrace daily. 

And I will always feel so blessed for the medical insurance I've had, that continues to provide me with what I know to be, excellent medical care and a wonderful team of caring Doctors and Nurses. Lucky me!!!

And so on to my current 2014 treatment plan and stats:
Check out my blog entry from November 18, 2013 for a pictorial of my medications.

I am liking only doing 20mg of Dexamethasone steroids only ONE day a week. So tolerable compared to my 2010 initial regimen of 40mg 4 days on, 4 day off!!
The current low dose 5mg Revlimid is also quite tolerable, although fatiguing and tiring, and bit of neuropathy is back.
Thankfully, both meds have put a detectable U-turn in Myeloma's forward march!
My immune system remains challenged... so please stay away from me if you are a sickie, or around anyone that's is or has been sick!!!
The combination of all the meds do make me feel like someone has punched me in the stomach some days, but again, I feel so fortunate that I tolerate the meds as I do. As a matter of fact, I need to go take them now... be right back...

My most recent status in number:
IgA = 1890 for December
January's blood tests show IgA = 1240
Still high, but I'll take the downward slide!
(Normal range is 70-400)
Goooooooo Revlimid and Dex! Stomp and chomp those Myeloma cells!!

M-Protein was 1.40 in December, and January's blood tests show .84
This measurement detects the existence of Myeloma in my blood plasma
(Remission = 0)
But I'll take this, thank you chemo and steroids!

So in summary, we are not being super aggressive with the meds, as I value my quality of life and don't want to feel horrible from high dose meds. But the low dose I am on, is WORKING!!!

I always visualize the chemo and steroids in my system gobbling up the cancer cells like "Pac-man" ! And I just stumbled on this timely and so relevant element of the game:
I quote from Wikipedia: "Pac-Man was designed to have no ending – as long as the player keeps at least one life, he or she should be able to play the game indefinitely."
Well that sure sums it all up for me... keep one life... play indefinitely, no ending!!! wow!! never knew!!! Take that Myeloma!!!

My Kaiser-City of Hope oncologist did discuss the pros and cons of a second (autologous) stem cell transplant, but we're going with the chemo meds first. Just something he wants me to think about, as they weigh the pros and cons of putting me through that again, noting that the outcome may not be worth the risk... Besides, there are several new next generation Myeloma targeted chemos that I haven't had the pleasure of ingesting or injecting yet... so I am comfortable knowing I have several Myeloma devouring options in my arsenal!

Happy New Year to all of you! I am so grateful for your friendship and support!

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


  1. You are so wonderful Julie! I LOVE your positive attitude! You are such an inspiration to everyone who knows you! I love you so much xo.
    Wishing you exceptionally good health, healing, and blessings in 2014.
    Leslie C.

  2. Hello Ms. Pac Man.......... CHOMP CHOMP CHOMP....... So good to hear your update and that your numbers are coming down. Happy New Year Julie! Love you, Madonna

  3. I am so happy that your numbers are going in the right direction! Keep chomping away! Happy New Year! Love, Carole Leigh

  4. Julie,Glad you health is going the right way.I think it is so neat-the medical treatment you are getting.I think that is partly a reflection of you bringing the best out in people.Keep doing it and keep being so positive.

  5. Love the Pac-man quote from Wiki! Sounds like a plan to me and happy those numbers are going down, down, down! Happy New Year!

  6. I'm so glad the meds are working!!!!! The girls have been thinking about you lately :). We are sending you lots of love!!!!!

  7. I cannot help but feel glad that, despite what you are facing, you are able to manage with your medications and have some pleasure in your life. I hope this trend lasts a long, long time for you. I send you lots of hugs and love, my special friend. Ilene

  8. Hey Ms. Julie! Just thought I'd check in on you at the beginning of this new year. Sounds like things are moving in the right direction..........glad you can reduce amount of chemo/drugs and still have some good results! You are such a positive person.............hang in and keep on chomping!!!!


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.