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

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Taxing Times

Are you feeling "taxed" today? (ha ha sorry!) Imagine if having cancer was a "tax deduction"! Stupid Myeloma, you "tax" me mentally and physically! Ok, enough of tax-day puns :)

I really wasn't going to post today, 4-15-15, but I receive so many kind inquiries, comments, messages, emails, that many of you are now regularly checking in on the FIVES! Guess I really started a trend here when I mentioned this would be my year of the Fives and I would post on the 5th or 15th or 25th.Thank you for paying attention to my numerical silliness, and looking forward to my "On the Fives" posts.

So not to disappoint, here I am sneaking a post in under the 15th wire.

Not much new to report since my previous on-the-5th blog, where I updated my yucky status and stats. My now over-used response to "How are you doing Julie", is... "Different day, Same story". Side effects and daily challenges have become ridiculously predictable (kinda a good thing), but I'll just never get used to being a sickie and feeling so lousy, so much of the time, and being so limited in what I can and cannot do.

But a bigger story than me, is my son's girlfriend's mom who has been hospitalized since the end of March for her Allogeneic (donor) transplant. She was diagnosed last September with CLL (lymphoma), stage 4/4. Immediate intense chemo for 4 months, then an Allogeneic (donor) Stem Cell transplant. Fortunately her brother was a "perfect" match, and she is half way through the torturous process. She's had a very challenging time with all the treatments and awful side effects. My gut aches for her, knowing first hand what she's going through. She had several months of high dose IV chemo at the beginning of the year, then 11 radiation treatments just prior to SCT, then high dose chemo again, then the transplant/infusion March 31. Ugh! Such a chemo-warrior she is! As she battles to heal, we look forward to our transplant success celebration.

We went to visit her this past weekend, and it was the first time I visited the actual hospital floor where I had my SCT July 5, 2010. Quite emotional for me, walking the halls, being in the hospital where I experienced my month long transplant ordeal, now almost 5 years ago...

I will never, ever, forget these views

It's truly amazing what a person can tolerate when required to, to save your life... And can you even believe: us 2 moms, both diagnosed with blood cancers, 5 years apart, same doctors, same hospital, similar treatments...  
Really now Universe, what IS this all about?!

One day at a time
One challenge at a time

So all of you want me to travel, do that bucket list, go to Hawaii? Read this!
The story about the woman with cancer, removed from a flight, due to the airline's concern about the safety of her traveling from Hawaii to CA! And what was her diagnosis... Myeloma of course!

About Multiple Myeloma (MM)
Multiple myeloma is a cancer of the plasma cell. It is the second most common blood cancer. An estimated 24,050 adults (13,500 men and 10,550 women) in the United States will be diagnosed (in 2014) with MM and an estimated 11,090 people are predicted to die from the disease.  
The five-year survival rate is approximately 43%, versus 28% in 1998.

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


  1. Unbelievable what you two moms have gone, and are going, through with blood cancers. I feel that you could truly be an encouragement to her as so few people truly realize what it's like. You certainly have had to "adjust your sails" in the past five years, and praise God you are still here living life as best you can under some pretty miserable conditions. Keep your chin up and continue to look at the bright side. You sure keep me entertained!

    1. Hi Linda! Thanks for being such a loyal reader. Makes me happy to know I have a "girlfriend" in NC :)) Life is just so inexplicable.. I just feel so awful for Claudia as she's having such a terribly challenging time with her Allo-SCT. It's truly amazing what our bodies can/cannot tolerate...
      Anyway, hoping you and your beautiful family are getting a taste of Spring, and I look forward to you posting about your family adventures, with your always stunning pictures! Hello to my MM buddy EZ too :)) xoxo

  2. Julie,I bet it was really emotional for you to go back to the same hospital.Wow seeing the same view 5 years later with all you went through.
    Glad you are such a strong helpful person and can be there for Scott`s girlfriend mom.

    1. Hi Ron, thanks for checking in... I'll be posting my update on the 5th. Hoping all is great with you and your family :)

  3. AnonymousMay 04, 2015

    Julie, I am so sorry for Scott's girlfriends mom. I am sure you have been there to help with you knowledge, kindness and loving support. As I write this now I look to the side banner and see Mary. This makes me think of the song Let it Be. "In the times of darkness Mother Mary comforts me". I am sure she does. Because of her you have this amazing gift and talent to write this blog and to help and touch the lives of everyone. Love you ,


    1. Hi Janet! Thank you so much for reading my blog. I didn't know you were following my musings. I love what you wrote, and hadn't thought of that song related to my mother :)) Thank you for your kind words of appreciation... I never know who is reading, and what effect my posts have. Love and thanks, Julie xoxo


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 capsules)
Pill form Dexamethasone Steroids (40 mg!) paired with Omeprazole
Mepron (looks like yellow finger paint) Anti-fungal, Anti-viral, etc for my very compromised immune system
B-12- to build those cells!
.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.