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

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Happy New Year... You Have Myeloma

12.30.17

8 Years Ago Today, on 12.30.09, I Was Diagnosed with "high risk" Myeloma.


Today I celebrate my life, my health (what "little" I have), and all those in my life that have helped me stay alive for these past 8 years! On this 8 year anniversary of my Myeloma diagnosis, I can't completely nor adequately express the gratitude and "surprise" that I am still here to write this post.

8 years ago today, I was given a death sentence. 

I had never heard of Multiple Myeloma, as most of you never had either. I was told a dizzying amount of technical medical information that day, that changed my life forever. I was unable to comprehend what I was being told. I sat in utter disbelief. Jim cried. But one of the main statements I absorbed, was that Myeloma, Multiple Myeloma, is incurable, and I would be in treatment for life, whatever length my life forward would be.


Was I scared? No. I was shocked. Too shocked to be scared. Totally stunned. This was news that didn't fit with my life plans, and I just couldn't fully process what I was told or how terminally ill I was ... then, now and for my forever. 

See, on Dec 18, 2009, I had my first painful, reality awakening Bone Marrow Biopsy. It hurt physically and mentally. That was the first slam of my new reality, of how serious my situation was, as up to that point , I just thought I had very low blood counts due to extreme anemia, and a severely compromised immune system.


What I didn't know on Dec 18, I found out on Dec 30. I was told I had 70% cancerous plasma myeloma cells coursing through my body.  Cancer was raging throughout every part of me, in my plasma cells, in my bone marrow, in my blood, and I was a very sick puppy. 

Dec 30, 2009 I was given a death sentence. 

Today, Dec 30, 2017, incredibly, I have defied the odds. To stay alive, I have ingested and injected more chemo treatments in 8 years than I can count. I have survived a Stem Cell Transplant (July 2010), that many do not. I have responded to new chemo cocktails when my Myeloma numbers were almost 15 times above the high end of normal. In other words, I am a "medical miracle " and am here to tell you my story. Myeloma is trying to kill me, but so far Team Julie is winning.

Why I have survived against all odds, I'm not quite sure, but I do know my respect for medical science, traditional medical treatments and my own disbelief, perhaps a bit of denial of my situation, is the reason I am still here. I have gratefulness and gratitude beyond words, and feel so incredibly fortunate and blessed to still walk this beautiful earth.


Sunset in my backyard the other day!

I am thankful and grateful for all of you caring about me, and supporting me throughout this unbelievable journey. I am thankful and grateful for my amazing medical team of Doctors, Nurses, Chemo Lab Pharmacists, and all the Myeloma Researchers, that have medically saved my life. I am thankful and grateful for my family, friends (near and far, known and unknown) and my colleagues for being there for me, and caring about me as you have and continue to.

In honor of this amazing life anniversary, I told my kids I was going to shave my head, and proudly parade around as a visible cancer patient, so those that just don't get the seriousness of my situation might just do so, if I "looked like a cancer patient". See, Myeloma is an "invisible cancer". I don't have visible, external scars, that alert outsiders I am a terminal, incurable cancer patient. You will only see me out and about, or in social settings on the 1 or 2 days per week I feel ok, when I'm not depleted by extreme, immobilizing fatigue, and chemo side effects, or when I have taken powerful steroids so I am functional and fun. 

Most patients in the Myeloma club echo this problem. We are told "but you look so good, you can't be "that" sick". We have hair, we fix ourselves up, and try to be stronger than we really are. Our fear and worries about illness, sickness, germs and cross contamination are not taken seriously. Sadly most just don't understand that Myeloma is an Immune System Cancer, that depletes our ability to fight off cooties. Did you know most myeloma patients die from illnesses "normal healthy" people quickly recover from. Our severely compromised immune just can't fight off germs as a normal immune system can. We can't bounce back from illness that normal healthy people can. And as I write this, sadly, I am sick again. Again, with a lousy head cold, cough, fever..



Because this is such a huge, monumental anniversary for me, here are my previous blog post thoughts and reflections, on this day, over the last 7 years! Yes, 7 years of Myeloma survival has rolled over to 8! Pretty amazing. So glad I've recorded my life and feelings here on this blog...








I will end with words you don't want to hear, but I need to write them. Multiple Myeloma is a terminal, incurable cancer. We are on lifetime chemo, immunotherapies, any treatment protocol available, or clinical trial we can tolerate, to stay alive. To Just Stay Alive. And just because we look ok on the outside, please do not assume we are actually ok on the inside.

 Here I am Dec 25, 2009 (with my Uncle Murray(RIP)
Me, unknowingly full of 70% cancerous Myeloma cells
How sick, cancerous and "near death" do I look? 

 Dec 25, 2017- How Cancerous do I look here?
8 years later... 
After almost 8 years of chemo, immunotherapies
with more treatments than I can count!


Thank you loyal followers and readers. Thank you for sharing almost 8 years of my life with me. Thank you to everyone that takes the time to read my posts, and care about my life. This blog evolved in a way I never planned. I am so grateful to be here to share my thoughts with you, and hope my thoughts and reflections have impacted your life, as they have mine. 

Wishing you all the best for the remaining hours of 2017, and best wishes for a happy, healthy, rewarding 2018!


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




2 comments:

  1. Team Julie all the way! Love you Julie. -Jesse

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Love you Jesse, and our life connections on so many levels! Thank you for checking in, and following my blog, since I've been too sick with "Winter Cooties" to get together. Hopefully later this month for sure. Thank you for all your marathon support, collegial friendship, and all our amazing COC adventures! xoxo

      Delete

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.