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

Thursday, September 19, 2019

9.19.19 ... 9.9 Years and Counting Towards 10


The moon and the moonlight has been so beautiful these past nights. Actually all summer long, the full moon has been stunning. Glowing, intense, alive. There's something about summer nights that really affects me. Energizing and Renewing me. The peacefulness of night, the calm of the end of another day. The hint of the night's cool stillness coming, stars sparkling, twinkling mysteriously in the sky. The crickets clicking, the owls hooting, the night birds chirping, as they settle in the oak trees for the night. Moonbeams shining down on the horses, as they relax from the hot day of waring with biting flies. The moon, a magical flashlight from the heavens, bathing everything in a soft glitter. I love the warmth of summer nights, and soon, the crispness of summer ebbing into fall. I contemplate another day battled, another day survived. Giving me hope, but also giving me sadness.

Every night, after the challenges of the day, I "escort" the 3 little doggies outside for their nightly pee.  They're so funny how they won't "do their business" without me actually walking out with them.  But this is how I get to see and feel the magic of night. This is how I get to see and feel the moon, that most miss, by going to bed early. My nightly routine has become me putting Jim to bed, sometimes easy, sometimes an ordeal... more an ordeal when I am not well from weekly chemo side effects. You know that feeling when you Just Want To Be In Bed.... Like Now! And you don't want to deal with Any Thing Else? That's my Tuesday and Wednesday nights. The yucky side effects creeping in, dragging me down, sucking me into awfulness. Nausea, achyness, swollen, bloat, that metallic taste in my mouth, headachy. That over-all chemo crash yuckiness, the punched in the gut, I might get "sick" feeling,... but when I'm outside, no matter how awful I feel, the moon and the beauty of the night, somehow replenishes my spirit and gives me hope to move forward to yet another day.

But as serene and energizing and peaceful this can be, it also triggers sadness in me. A sadness some may find selfish, but it's a profound loss type sadness. Being outside at night, especially on warm, moonlit summer nights, reminds me of days gone by... summer nights full of life, fun, laughter. Summer moonlit horseback rides, summers full of health, happiness, and a sense of carefree that only youth and health allow. I love these moonlit nights, but they make me sad now. I feel so much loss. I am so aware of what I put off, of what I didn't do, of what I didn't accomplish... that now, I'll never be able to do. Don't get mad at me for saying "never". I have to accept my fate. Our fate. Our body betrayals. Being outside at night slams my realities in my face. The beauty of the night, of the moon, only intensifies my losses. Yes, I have so much to be grateful for, but summer nights make me so sad, so aware of what can never be again...

I always look up to the heavens, to the night sky, to the moon and stars and cry out, laugh out... WHY? WHY me? WHY us? How come? How did two people wind up so sabotaged? 2 incurable, terminal illnesses at the same time. I know, I know. The world is full of unfair stories. Everyone has challenges. Everyone has mountains to climb. Rare is it the person or family that plans, and those plans, dreams come true. Most stories are of unrealized dreams, of deep sadness and loss. I know, I know, I am so very "lucky" in so many ways... but I hurt deep inside my core. I am sad. I am frustrated. I am devastated for our losses. For what could have been, that cannot be now. Warm summer nights remind me of what was, what could have been. What should have been... 

The doggies circle around me, sensing something. They tentatively lick my leg, or hand. Their tails wag in happiness. They have no idea my sadness. Neither do the horses. They have no idea how I miss those warm summer nights with them, hearing their barefoot hoofs softly, silently impact the cooling dusty earth beneath them. How I miss the breeze whispering through their manes, where I hold the reins. I miss the sweet scent of horse sweat under my saddle. The owls hoot, the night birds quietly chirp, the crickets click, and the horses swish their tails, while scratching and grooming each other, before finding that perfect spot to lay down for the night. They have no idea my sadness. They have no idea how I miss them, even though they are right there. The stars sparkle and wink, the moon shines brighter, lighter...  I pull myself together... I force acceptance on myself. I shake my head, but I can't shake the "Why"... But I am grateful, no matter how sad I am. I am grateful for the life we still have, and the miracle that I am still here, 9.9 years after my myeloma diagnosis. I am still here. I am still here...


  1. Hi Julie, Thank you for your honest, encouraging, sometimes sad, sometimes funny, sometimes vulnerable posts. I want to share my dad's story to encourage you to keep on writing and encouraging all who read with your skills at making us feel like we are sitting in your kitchen with you having a conversation. My dad's health began to fade several years before he passed. For his family and friends that knew him long term, the last year of his life we watched as his health failed, sometimes daily. He had lost most of his sight so could not drive or read anymore, lost some hearing, and was in and out of the hospital on a regular basis. Once he died we had a memorial service for him and after the family shared their thoughts they opened up to anyone who wanted to share about my dad. One man came to the microphone who had only know my dad 1 year. The year the family and friends had seen his life deteriorate on almost daily. This man shared how my dad was such an inspiration to my dad and saw him on Sundays when my dad went to church. Needless to say he did not see my dad 52 times as he was not always able to be there. But the man shared that if he saw Stan in church in spite of his challenges, what excuse did he have to not be in church when he was healthy and had no excuses. He said knowing my dad made him a better person. That was quite a surprise but such a blessing to know my dad's life was still impacting people who were in his life. I say all this, Julie, because your blogs are so encouraging, uplifting, inspiring, because of your honesty and transparency. Thank you for continuing to bless all of us who read your story and share your life with us. You may not know who you are encouraging today, but we are there. Love you.

  2. Hi CB :)) Wow! your comment really touched my heart! Thank you so much for sharing your Dad's story... see he is STILL making a difference in the world! What a wonderful story this is, and his life. Sorry I did not have a chance to know him... I deeply appreciate you taking the time to write as you did, and detail your feelings to me as you have. Means the world to me!! xoxo

    Actually there are times I think I am writing to outer space, and maybe I shouldn't post so often... as you have said, I really don't "know who (I am) encouraging today, but we (you) are there" ... This is such a timely and heartfelt reminder and encouragement to continue writing CB! I wonder how much, how deep, how detailed, etc I should share, but your post encourages me to continue to be REAL and write from the heart CB! Thank you so very much for taking the time to share your story and feelings with me, really really means a lot... I'll keep on sharing... Thank you!!
    Hoping you are doing well, and all is good with you and your family! xoxo :)) xoxo


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.