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

Saturday, December 5, 2015

5 Becomes 6 This Month

Hello December!
Hello Month that represents so much, to so many, for so many different reasons. For me, December is Diagnosis month. It's hard to believe almost 6 years ago I was diagnosed with Myeloma.
6 years ago I was really sick, and didn't know it.
My cells knew it, but I didn't know it.
6 years ago, December 14, 2009 was my first Oncology Hematology appointment.
6 years ago, Doctors began to talk to me about serious medical issues that totally blew me away. I was in disbelief I had anything seriously wrong with me.
6 years ago this month my life changed FOREVER! Still hard to process this cancer diagnosis, but so grateful I've made it 6 years past the "OMG say WHAT? MyelomaWho?" conversation!
It's pretty impressive... all things considered!

So it appears that Kyprolis and I are getting along ok so far, with the predictable bi-polar boost from my ol friend Dexamethasone. Preliminary tests, after just a few infusions, showed my IgA and M-Protein coming DOWN a bit! But I'll know my full first month results when I meet with my Doctor on Mon Dec 7, which also begins my 2nd month of Kyprolis. Perhaps I should have waited to post my results, but I'm nearing the end of my symbolic #5 posts. So here I am 12.5.15, posting on one of my few remaining "On the Fives" days!

And as always in my life, my connected connections never fail me! Have I mentioned that one of previous students is also now one of my chemo nurses? Seriously, not kidding! Jonathan was my student over 10 years ago, and we re-met again when he transferred to Oncology Hematology earlier this year. Such a wonderful guy then, and such an AMAZING nurse now!!! Thank you Jonathan for all your GREAT care!

Here we are, just before he hooked me up
After the heart wrenching memorial-funeral service Nov 21 for my beautiful first cancer doctor, Dr Lee (see my previous post), the following day was my birthday. Again I ponder... I am here, she is not. Seriously, the ironies of life never cease to confuse me.
So after much discussion of what to "do" for my birthday, (because I just don't have the "helium" to do a lot), we all piled in the RV and Scott expertly drove us to the beach. It was a spectacular CA coastal day, with the beach temps in the 80's! As you've probably figured out by now I can't wander too far from my bathroom, so this was the perfect way to enjoy the day outside, with my personal pottie not far from my adventures. Being the nature lover I am, celebrating my special day outside is always my preference, and nature sure did not disappoint! The only thing that would have made this amazing day more spectacular, would be if our horses were magically trailered to the beach... but that's just not an option any more...

Here's a slice of our beautiful day:

 The Girls between the Gulls

 Just us Girls

 We had "Red Cups" stocked in the RV
way before they were trendy!
 Just me reflecting on my life

The ironies of life~
Beach today
Chemo tomorrow

Perfectly timed jump for joy!

Happy Birthday to me!

Spectacular sunset!

Just couldn't stop taking pictures
of this stunning sunset!

Me being grateful to be alive!

Me Ashley Jim

 Grandpa Hal even joined us

 The "kids"
and seagull poop

Thank you Mother Earth for such beauty
on my birthday

Seriously Spectacular Sunset!

What a cute cake they surprized me with!
I can't believe how my age correlates
with my diagnosis years!
* 56 *
5 becomes 6
Crazy stuff, this life!

 Hello beautiful Moon!
From spectacular Sunset
to this stunning Moonrise!

Kyprolis chemo begins again tomorrow. Month 2. 3 weeks on. 1 week off.
Mon Tues, Mon Tues, Mon Tues

I'll post my lab results soon, so check back on another 5 derivative :)  

Life... To Be Continued...

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


  1. thanks for your blog. My husband who is 63, has lightchain myeloma which we found out about 5 months ago. Certainly has changed our lives

    1. Hi "Unknown", I am so sorry to hear of your husband's Dx. Yes myeloma changes our lives, but to give you hope, there are so many more meds and chemos available now then when I was Dx in 2009. He has many treatment options! Please check back and let me know how he is, and if you have a blog I can follow. Thank you for finding me, and leaving a comment!

  2. Julie,glad you had a great time on your birthday!Congratulations on making 6 a real accomplishment
    I think it shows your great spirit as well as good
    medical care and many people praying and thinking
    good thoughts for you.Glad you took such good care of
    your students-it comes back.

    1. Yes, thank you Ron! I am very blessed! Thank you for always checking in!


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.