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

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Up Up and Away

Yikes... my medication "cheating" from last month caught up with me.

I just keep thinking that my myeloma numbers will magically change for the better and my medications will suddenly kick in and totally eliminate myeloma's power over me. Seriously, this must all be a bad dream (make that a nightmare)! As much as I have always (tried to be) a total realist, I shake my head in disbelief that my "perceived" reality is not real reality.

What am I trying to say here... I (stupidly) thought that taking only 1/2 my weekly dose of Dexamethasone and even missing, (smugly deciding not to take), several doses of Dex in May, wouldn't be a big deal at all. I stupidly thought, eehh, I'll be just fine, it won't make a difference, I'm Julie and I'm not supposed to have cancer, so whatever, it won't matter if I don't follow what I'm supposed to do. And besides.... I'M JUST SO DARN SICK OF FEELING SICK, SO TIRED OF BEING TIRED, AND SO OVER HAVING CANCER, (hhmmm... haven't I written that multiple times before!), that I just don't want to take these GI crazy making meds, so take that myeloma, I won't take my meds! DUMB!!!

Here I am, living in my fantasyland of unicorns and magical thinking

So I'll confess... I'm still in denial about having incurable cancer. It must be a mistake. Even though feeling yucky most of the time is my constant reminder, I still can't believe I have cancer and I have to take all these crazy chemo meds forever and ever and ever until lights out. I still think, oh it really won't matter if I cheat on my med schedule occasionally, because it will just magically be ok, because I really don't have cancer. And honestly, I still can't believe 5 years of treatments, including a stem cell transplant, hasn't "fixed me up", and made me "normal" again. I know... dream world...

This probably makes no sense at all, because it really doesn't make any sense at all, because me having cancer makes no sense at all...

So anyway.... this is what happened:

I was supposed to see my COH/SCT/transplant, hematologist oncologist this past Monday, but because I had so much frikn GI lava, I didn't dare get on the freeway to go downtown. Even a dose or 2 of my friend Imodium wasn't calming the raging lava. So I emailed my Dr (and kinda confessed about my cheating) and asked him to let me know the results of my recent labs. Ha! be careful what you ask for, right?!
The results actually shocked me. And good they did, cuz that was just the wake up call I needed.

M-protein up from .88 to 1.13
IgA up from 1320 to 1570
WBCs still in the middle 2's

So I'm an idiot. I got my slap around, wake up call. I have cancer. I have to take all these meds. My situation is only getting worse. I'll probably have to add to my chemo cocktail and that scares me a lot!

And these results are not even reflective of my new test cycle of 2 weeks of 15mg Rev only (no more alternating 10mg), with 2 weeks off. I see my local hematologist/oncologist on the 19th, and I'll take my labs about 5 days prior... so we'll see. But ok, I've learned. There's something about Dexamethasone that punches myeloma in the cellular gut. As much as I absolutely hate the crash, I do enjoy the short buzzing serenity Dex gives me for about 24 hrs. Time to focus on that, and just accept my relationship with "Porcelain John".

So why did I cheat in May? There were a lot of things going on. A lot of events I was supposed to attend. C'mon cancer, you're gettin in the way of my life! Trying to work, live life, be there for others, enjoy family and friends, and trying participate in activities without having to worry about surprise volcanic eruptions. That's why I cheated a bit. But you know what... I still felt sick. I still had to starve myself if I left the house. I still had a lot of shocking GI reactions. So I learned. Shut up and take my meds.

Here's what I did on a few of the days I cheated: 

Celebrated Claudia
at her beautiful memorial service 

Hung out with these Gems

Pretended to be normal at a Battle of the Bands car show

 Played in the dirt a bit

And breathed in my favorite scents

Attended my 30th commencement ceremony
celebrating students, with wonderful colleagues

 And when I couldn't leave the house,
I watched a lot of TV with my daughter and hubby
between never ending visits with "Porcelain John"

Ugh, such a small fraction of what I used to do stupid cancer...

And I am... 
And I do...
But I just can't
accept that I have cancer

Why June 10, 2015?  5+5=10 :)

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


  1. That is a great post. And I am with you all the way. I'm still in some denial after 10 years. What?? I have what??? I had terrible GI issues too with rev. Then after I stopped for one cycle they weirdly got better. I still take immodium when I go out but I don't have the urgent call as before. I'm waiting on my new labs( in about 10 days. ), but the way I feel I think probably my neutrophils are tanking again.
    Oh the joys of this thing called cancer.

    1. Hi Christina- thanks so much for checking in and letting me know your status too. We sound like twins in this stupid myeloma battle! Thanks for appreciating my twisted blog writing and I will check your blog out, if you are still updating. I wish you the very best with your battle, and please let me know how your labs went too. Amazing how we can "feel" when our ANC and immune system "tanks"... ugh :( Thank you for checking in! xoxo

  2. Oh Julie how I wish there was something I could say to encourage you. I am so sorry for the side effects you deal with every day and can understand why you just wanted to be able to go to a few key events in May ~ your pictures were so wonderful. The memorial service for Claudia looks so touching...the red dresses, the doves, the sunny what a way to honor her life. And your 30th commencement that is something to be proud of! Daily activities in the dirt...gotta love it! Now to attack that myeloma again and beat it back into submission. EZ and I were so encouraged at the recent IMF workshop we attended about the new monoclonal antibody therapies for relapsed MM. Paired with rev/dex they are showing great results, and they are very close to being approved by the FDA! Do you read Bill O'Halloran's blog, My Myeloma Journey? He also stated:

    "Promising results were presented for two of the leading monoclonal antibodies, elotuzomab and datatumumab. These two immunotherapies, both of which target the protein CD38, which appears on many MM cancer cells, are both headed for early approval by the FDA. These two drugs could become potential front line MM immunotherapies in the near future."

    EZ and I also participated separately yesterday in video interviews for an unnamed pharmacutical company to give our opinions on various printed ads for one of the new immunotherapies they had labeled as Brand X...hopefully it is daratumumab and FDA approval is real close. The experts we heard definitely think anyone who has relapsed should participate in clinical trials. The science of myeloma now holds the key to individualizing treatment.

    Hang in there, stay hopeful, and keep fighting...the future of treatment looks good! Love to you from Big EZ and I!

    1. Hi sweet Linda! Thanks so much for being such a loyal blog follower and commenting as you do! And I see you updated yours too! So happy to see that, and I will go read your updates after commenting here :) I appreciate your positive comments above, and I sure do hope the brilliant researchers and medical professionals can get a handle on this stupid cancer... I'm just feeling so drained and would love the "magic pill" asap. I think EZ's magic was that he never went off of Rev maintenance, right? I wish him the very best and continued remission forever, so you two can enjoy your beautiful family for another 100 years! Glad you had a chance to take part in studies and interviews. I've done that too with some MM pals. So interesting what they ask and hopefully soon, we'll know what it's for. Happy summer, and love and hugs to you and EZ!!! xoxo

  3. Julie, I'm sympathetic and empathetic about the lava flow GI issues and hate that it is curtailing and narrowing your life to such a degree. I know you've tried every remedy under the sun. Have you tried eating two or three Archway coconut macaroon cookies each day? I found this helped me tremendously. Evidently, a few years ago somebody on the People's Pharmacy website talked about it. A chemo nurse passed the suggestion on to me a couple of years ago when I was at wit's end. I eat three coconut macaroons vigilantly each day. When I travel they travel with me - they've been around the world and back. Best Wishes, Lovey

    1. Hi Lovey, yes our "lava GI club" here... ugh!!! Sometimes so predictable, other times not. And I love your macaroon suggestion as I love coconut!!!! My hubby went out and got me some macaroons after I read this, and I think I had seen this suggestion elsewhere too. What a tasty remedy this is, if in fact it works. I have gotten better about not delaying taking Imodium when I realize the volcano is not stopping ;) Cheers to coconut macaroons, and I wish you the very best in your battle too! xoxo

  4. Ok….June 10th? Now I get it!!!!!!!

    I checked your blog on the 15th. I do seem to always know when it is a 5 day. My friend Julie might present an update. Have to admit that I didn't check on the 10th…..

    Glad to hear you are doing ok…. But I do have a question. You are surrounded with your numbers. Can you actually tell that your numbers are way too high or way too low by the way you feel? Did you know before they told you that the numbers had "caught up" with you?????

    The reason I ask…..

    My mom has Alzheimer's as I have told you. She is 88 years old and seems to be in perfect health. The doctor comes to her and gives her that quick "home" checkup and I hear she is just fine. She takes no medication. She is great…except for her brain that is. But, she is completely covered with skin cancer. Has huge welts all down her arms and legs. Very nasty looking stuff. She is white, blue eyes, very blonde and she LOVES the sun. She spent her entire life in the sun, with the baby oil dripping, burning and pealing thousands and thousands of times. She used to spend eight hours a day in the 110 plus degree heat of Palm Desert for 15 years. People told her constantly to get out of the sun, and she went in more. So, the result is out of control skin cancer. I can't stop it. They always want me to take her to a dermatologist. What can be done with hundreds of welts? Nothing. It doesn't seem to bother her. I have them put lotion on to sooth it, and really she seems just fine. I don't know exactly the type of skin cancer. Many spots look very different, so I'm guessing a combination of several. It has gotten worse over the years. I try to keep her comfortable, happy, and pain free at 88 years old. I can't see starting treatment that will make her ill, or in pain, etc.

    My point to all of this is that we really just don't know what it truly is. Is it on the skin surface? Has it gone inside? WHAT ARE THE NUMBERS????? She is happy. I see no harm at 88 years old.

    So, here is my question to you. AND I DO REALIZE YOU ARE NOT 88 YEARS OLD!!!!! Have you ever considered just not worrying about the numbers for a month or two. Just forget the meds and just go about life and really enjoy it. Go on some amazing vacation and eat and eat and eat and run from that bathroom, not toward it. Just have the time of your life on some amazing fantasy. Or perhaps just enjoy going out to eat with family and friends. Enjoy whatever it is you want to for that day or week or month and just forget all about meds, doctors, etc. Just have fun and worry about it next month.

    How would you feel as your numbers changed? Would you actually feel better without the meds, etc? Would it be the most amazing month of your life?

    I never worry about my mom's numbers and it all seems fine. If we were to actually take a serious look at things, I'm positive we wouldn't like the results.

    I guess I would love to see you just have the most glorious time this summer you have ever dreamed about. Have fun and forget those numbers that are so, so, negative in your life.

    What would happen the next month when you really looked at them again? I obviously have no idea what I'm talking about. I just want to see you have a much deserved rest from it all. I just want…….. it to all go away…….. for you…..

    Well, that is what I want for my bucket wish for this month. I want you to be happy!!!!! Ok…now I have said it. THAT IS WHAT I WANT.

    OK…getting off my soap box now.
    Truly, I do hope you have a glorious summer. Have fun. Live each day to the fullest… and stay out of the bathroom…….

    Happy Summer my dear friend!


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.