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

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Can All This Be for Real?

6.27.17

And the count down begins... Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday..., June 30... and poof, my 30+ year career as a College Counselor is over... poof, done, gone, over... next chapter...

My head is so full of thoughts, my mind is overwhelmed with too many emotions to process. What happened to my life? How did I get cancer? When did I get cancer? How can all this craziness really be happening. Who am I? What has become of my life? ... Myeloma has become my life, stealing my life, reinventing my life...

So many events, so much of my life, so much me... here...

"Happy Retirement Julie"!!! so many exclaim and wish me. I smile, yet cringe inside. No this is not a "happy" retirement. This is not a retirement by choice. This is not a retirement wrapped up with a pretty bow of final accomplishments and satisfied chapters of completion. This is not a retirement of heading off on "bucket list" vacations. This is a "disability" retirement. An illness retirement. A medically "forced" retirement. This is not "my choice". This is cancer and treatments making the choice for me. This is a cancer caused retirement.

I've had a wonderful life. A wonderfully rewarding career as a College Counselor. It was my "calling". My nature is to help others realize and pursue their dreams and goals. I'm an intuitive helper. A natural analyzer. A great brainstormer. A realistic dreamer, opening pathways for others to dream their dreams and follow their goals. This is my passion. I love seeing the excitement of students discovering their talents, skills, abilities and confidence. I love helping others pursue their passions. I love researching pathways and options. I love the journey with students. Their journey of self discovery, self awareness. I'm all about the "what if", "why not", "try it out", "go for it"... 

And then cancer edited me. Cancer stopped me cold in my tracks. Well tried to. I didn't really "absorb" the seriousness of my diagnosis 12.30.2009. January 2010, I shared my status with my colleagues, made some work schedule changes, and cautioned everyone about my "compromised immune system", and carried on as "Counselor Julie", on chemo, on steroids, with crazy side effects, continuing to see students, at both campus offices! Until my July 2010 Stem Cell Transplant. That woke me up. Oooppss, guess I am a "sickie". Wow, guess I do have a serious, incurable, terminal cancer called myeloma...   


I tried so hard to be me. To return to "normal", all the while mouthing the words, "this is my new normal". 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017.. I kept thinking "things would change", I'll magically be better. Myeloma doesn't stand a chance with me... push it down, push it away... treat, treat, treat. This chemo, that chemo. These steroids, those steroids. More chemo, more treatments. More chemo. Chemo cocktails. Injections. Immunotherapy. New options. Running out of options... Numbers up. Numbers down. Numbers up, up, up and away. I'm beat up. I'm exhausted. Myeloma owns me. I have to accept...I'm a cancer patient, in continuous treatment. I have to accept...
 
Goodbye sweet (new) office I hardly used...

To Be Continued.... 



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



8 comments:

  1. AnonymousJune 27, 2017

    Hugs. Everyone lost when you were forced to retire.
    Sure wish we had both got a curable cancer...would have been a walk in the park compared to this MM crap.
    Though, you know, you are still inspiring others...everyday..in many ways..not even cancer could stop that.
    JC

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    Replies
    1. Thank you so much for all your encouragement and friendship Jan! I know, I just can't believe how "lucky" we are to get this special incurable status. Every time I fly spray the horses... I wonder... but I still spray, hold my breath, and step away as much as I can. Thank you for making me feel special Jan, and letting me know I still inspire :)) Horsey hugs always xoxo

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  2. AnonymousJune 27, 2017

    Love reading your posts - you have a great sense of expressing your reality; what many of us are experiencing but cannot or do not put it into words. You are very strong and an inspiration to those of us who only know you through your posts. Praying for your continued health!

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    Replies
    1. Hi Anonymous, thank you so much for commenting and letting me know my posts are meaningful to you! I write from the heart, and spontaneously, and I appreciate knowing I make a difference in other's lives :)) Thank you for your kind comment. I really appreciate it!

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  3. Wow, I had to read this a couple of times, Julie, as it truly hit home. Retirement - an interesting concept - off into the sunset - NOT. I'm a year ahead of you in MM World - diagnosed in 2008. I retired from 38 years of teaching elementary school in June 2007. I had intended to teach until I reached 40 years, but was just so darned tired (huh...I wonder why???) Diagnosis came 13 months later in July 2008. I follow your superb essays
    and always wish you the best. Lovey

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    Replies
    1. Oh wow Lovey! Such similarities we have! Yes fatigue is a career killer in Education for sure. Congrats on your 38 years of teaching! That's a huge accomplishment Lovey! And Congrats on your 9?years of MM survival! (Had to check my math on that!) Crazy how our retirements are not the "whoohoo, yiippeee, let's do everything we always wanted to do, now that we're retired". The constant treatments, side effects, fatigue, etc, have and will totally edit my "retirement". But we warrior forward, hoping against hope, we'll win in the long run. Thank you so much for commenting and letting me know you continue to enjoy my musings :))

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  4. Congratulations on a brilliant career !I know this is
    very hard on you but know your legacy lives on.You
    continue to help others with this blog.

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    Replies
    1. Thank you so much for your positive encouragement Ron. Yes, I am so sad to "officially" end my Counseling career, but you're right, I hope to continue to make a difference with my blog and all the other myeloma groups I am involved in, and I am considering "other adventures" too, possibly hosting a cancer support group... we'll see, I just worry about committing to something, then all my side effects and treatments ambush me. Hope you and your family are enjoying your summer! Golf and travel for me :)) Thanks for continuing to read my musings Ron.

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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 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?”)

Infections

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.