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

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Darzalex Day ONE!

Tuesday, March 28, 2017
Here we gooooo! It's Darza game time! Here's my quickie update:

Funny let's get to the chemo lab on time story-
As my personal "Uber" driver son Scott was taking me this morning to my Darza appointment, he switched safely, but illegally, into the carpool lane, cutting over the double line. (Insert mom lecture here.) Minutes later, a CHP with full lights blaring comes roaring up fast behind us, but back a bit, giving Scott time to quickly get out of the HOV lane, and time to dart (safely and evasively) into other lanes. (Insert another mom lecture here!) Omg, we're "dying" laughing here, and I'm reprimanding my 30yr old son! We're thinking Scott's going to get a ticket for an illegal lane change, not to mention, we're going to be late to my appointment. Here goes the beginning of my Darza drama day, and we've barely left the house.
We're both "dying" laughing and cussing, as he's darting in and out of lanes, trying to ditch the CHP! But thank goodness, it turns out Mr. CHP could care less about us, buzzing right past us, towards an accident on the overpass, not after Scott!! We're so relieved he wasn't after Scott, but now we're going to be late to my first appointment from this accident closure in front of us! Seriously! Can't believe this! Turns out, Mr CHP was headed to the EMS activity in the carpool lane, the lane Scott had quickly gotten out of, so we were safe, and not involved in the freeway closure! What a crazy, "I'm going to kill you son" start to the day!

But wait, there's more!
We finally arrive at the chemo lab, check in, meet with my Dr, discuss the plan and my blood tests, then boom! she tells me my WBCs are too low to start today's Darzalex infusion! Omg! Seriously! All this mental prep, and now to be sent home?!?!?! Nooooo!!! Down to the lab I go. New blood tests STAT!! ... Back to the chemo lab to wait and wonder if my levels are better and I can finally move forward. Soon, Stat labs in, and it's a GO, as my CBCs have risen (thank you Dex Roids for pumping me up!)

But wait, there's more!
First needle stick, into a dead vein from so many previous Kyprolis IVs, and I am a bit dehydrated, as I hardly had a chance to hydrate, leaving the house so early for this allllll day infusion! Omg life, seriously?! But 2nd needle stick, different hand, good to go! ... Finally hooked up, pre-meding with MORE Roids, Benadryl, and Tylenol. (I had previously taken 8mg Dex steroids on Monday, and 20mg Dex this morning at home.) Now it's hurry up and wait for the meds to take affect. Before we know it, it's Darzalex go time!! Premed'd up, and hello Darza into my veins. This life never ceases to entertain me. As one of my friend's posted, my life "Mr Toad's Wild Ride". Yep!
Per Darza infusion prescribing literature, the worst reactions, if they happen, occur about 2-4 hours in.
And sure enough, as predicted, like clockwork, the infamous Darza reaction creeps up on me:

Darza was infused at standard protocol. Scott and Ashley were my "reaction monitors" for the first half of the day. Initially, all seemed rather uneventful, so I told Scott he could run his business errands, and Ashley would stay and monitor me.

But not long after he left, about an hour and half, 2 hours of Darza, here comes the reaction just like clockwork. I'm just such a textbook patient. The predicted reaction of chills, cough, headache, scratchy throat, flushed face, body aches, sneezing, sore throat, wheezing, and I felt blah, no energy to talk and felt overall weird. The reaction crept in, one side effect at a time. I let it ride for a bit to see what direction it would go, but Ashley summoned my nurse, as I knew the predicted Darza reaction was happening! I've had some asthma and allergies all my life prior to my stem cell transplant, so I know the early signs. The nurse took my vitals, listened to my wheezy breathing and we stopped the drip for 30-40 min. They offered me a various meds to treat the side effects, but I didn't think I was that bad off, and wanted to see what would happen if the Darza drip was just turned off for a bit.

Sure enough, that did the trick and we started back after my reactions subsided. We did a graduated slow drip, medium drip and then full drip. I think the rates are 50, 100, 150, 200. And after the no-Darza break, I surprisingly did just fine! We did the final hour at the speedy 200 rate! My 90 year old, very healthy I must add Dad, stopped by too, then they all left for work. Second shift "reaction monitor" daughter Alissa came, and thank goodness the rest of the infusion to 4:30 was slightly uneventful, at full speed ahead. Yippee!! I didn't get through much of the bag, so we'll see what happens tomorrow...

So what's my final status today: Tired, achy, headachy, woozy, soon snoozey, a tiny bit of nausea, but relatively ok. I was too medicated to drive home myself as predicted, but honestly, I was in such good shape compared to what I had anticipated. So proud of my body today! If that's all Darza sends my way..... I'm in love with you Darza! (And look at this, I'm in bed "F" aahahhaa!)

So it's back to the chemo lab tomorrow to finish the rest of the bag, as I only got through less then  half.  So.Same.Show.Tomorrow.  I'll premed again with 8mg Dex roids, and then med up more there, before the Darza infusion begins. I totally trust my chemo lab staff and so appreciate all their attentive care! Nurses and Pharmacists right there for everything and anything. Doesn't get better than that!

Thank you so very much for all your support, concern, cool comments, and healing prayers!

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


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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.