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

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Seriously GI system, just Calm down and let me Pretend to be Normal!

Well it's the end of May, and the last week of my 3 week 10mg Revlimid + Dex cycle.  Honestly, it's been a lousy week (month, year, etc) as my lower GI system has been rebelling. Against what, I don't know.

Actually, I have more lousy GI days then good days... but it's certainly all relative, I constantly remind myself... as in the BIG picture of cancer...  I am able to function fairly well... most days. But it seems like my GI system has ruled my life for years now. Who knew, I sure didn't know, that IGA immunoglobulins play such a critical role in the intestinal system... no wonder I always seemed to be so sensitive to foods, digestion, germs, etc, and then I get diagnosed with IGA Myeloma!

But, dang it... my plan was NOT to live life dependent upon my proximity to my bathroom!
I make plans, and cancel them
I hope to walk for a little exercise on Dex days, but I can only really walk in my own backyard, since I never know when "John" will be my best friend
I make plans, and cancel them
If I eat out... I never know if I'll have instant GI retalliation
I make plans, and cancel them
I schedule myself with students, hoping to make it into work, but then I can't... as I certainly don't want to be in my office chatting with students, then suddenly have cramps and have a "biological emergency"!
I make plans, and cancel them
My life: now centered around my GI functionality... make that, dysfunctionality! ugh!

Sorry if this is "TMI" (Too Much Information), but it's my reality this time round with Myeloma's recurrence/relapse. I had "issues" before, but I don't recall days and days and days of "instant processing" of food, like I have now.  I don't recall my 2010 chemo and meds affecting me quite like this, every week, every month. Sure when I was hospitalized for my stem cell transplant and had high dose chemo, every part of me was a wreck, including my GI system. But dang it stupid stomach... let me be!

I vacillate between, ok I just won't eat... thinking nothing in, nothing out. But that's dumb, and besides, I get weak, dizzy, head-achy, etc, so I eat, trying my normal healthy stuff, to bland, boring, plain stuff... but this week, it still went thru me. Jim even buys me delicious (lol) options of Gerber baby foods. That went thru me this week. Plain baked potatoes went thru me. Boring, no food value Saltine crackers went thru me. I tried good ol chicken-rice soup today. That went thru me. Shheesshh this has been going on since late last Sunday (and last month, and the month before, and before, etc). Dex and Rev often has the opposite effect, binding me up. So what's up GI system???

So I give up, give in, and later this afternoon, worried I had lost so many nutrients for the week and hadn't taken my Acyclovr, Mepron, etc for days, I decided to go for broke and tried a chocolate Ensure with my meds... and surprise surprise, so far so good! So hopefully I am suddenly better... gurgle gurgle, rumble rumble... only to start the med cycle over again with Dex tomorrow... then hello GI distress come Sunday, Monday on... ugh!!!

On another note, I found out today that my Myeloma neighbor learned his MM is back. He was diagnosed about 6 months after me, and thru our neighborhood grapevine we discovered each other's MM plight in 2010! Same medical team, same Kaiser facility, same meds, same Auto SCT at City of Hope, same Rev maintenance, etc. But he had remission for 3 and a half years!!! Sadly, welcome back to the treatment club buddy...

Between bathroom visitations, I rushed over and took my monthly blood tests today and have my oncology check up next week...
Let's see what story my Stats tell this month...

In the meantime.......... This makes me happy!!!

Pharrell Williams Happy ~ Happy Dogs (and a Cat) playing in Australia 

Hoping all is groovy in your lives!
Thanks for reading my rants :)

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

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Thank You Revlimid!

So I always begin my blog musings thinking and saying I will be brief, and wind up being very long winded! But this time I really will be brief, as I rattled on so much on my last blog entry!

Here's Birdie intrigued by my water/pedialyte mix,
plus she loves to peck the keyboard with me as I type this. 

I received rather good news yesterday at my monthly oncology appointment. My friend Revlimid is doing it's chemical thing well, and my IgA levels decreased! Go 10mg!!! And to think I was worried going from 5mg to 10mg. Ok, I'll cut myself some slack here, as 10mg in 2010 along with 40mg Dex, (along with all my other meds, along with being newly diagnosed) was quite the challenging adventure.

IgA from this most recent blood work was 1150 (70-400 scale).
That's down from 1400 in March/April (and better still from 1800+ Dec/Jan). Yippee!!!
That still puts me around 3x the high end of normal range, but I like the downward slide! I'll continue on the 10mg (indefinitely?), and if need be, bump up to 15mg and see what happens.
M-Protein = 0.81. Just go away Myeloma and leave me alone!!!

 Look who's hiding on Jim's beautiful rose!

So far, my side effects are tolerable... well kinda. I'm not a fan of being so tired and fatigued, but I'll take that over hugging "John" from hardcore IV infusions! I also have some buzzing, Neuropathy, dizziness, headaches, blurry vision and still some GI unrest, but not as bad as last month! Thankfully, me and food are a bit more friendly now.

Here's a great article where the author talks about his lowered immune system as a result of Myeloma and chemo affecting his immune system. Hello "normal" population, we are not OCD "germ-a-phobes" for fun... Viruses and Bacteria can KILL us! But that's for another tirade, another time...

Happy Birthday to the BEST hubby, supporter, caretaker, shopper, best friend, and overall loving tolerator of my situation. Scary thought who I would be, and how I would currently be... if Jim wasn't in my life!!! I tell him to stop caring so much, and take as good care of himself, as he does for me.

Our new saying:
Every day is a Bucket List day-
Heck, eat TWO desserts if you want to!

Almost looks like twin roses within the rose!
Jim has such an amazing "green thumb", 
not to mention our mutual love of nature and animals!

We are both so grateful for another year! Truly we are so fortunate to have the life we have with all the love and beauty that surrounds us! One of my greatest treatment challenges was being hospitalized in isolation for a whole month (for my stem cell transplant July 2010), as the closest I got to fresh air and nature, was the view out my window. Ugh, that was so awful for me. I cried my eyes out when I was wheeled out of the hospital, and breathed in summer...

Enough blogging, on to the birthday boy celebrations!

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.