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Sunday, February 21, 2021

Time for Real Acceptance


Hello Friends and Followers- 

Word of the day, week, month for me: Acceptance.
Acceptance can be a simple word and concept, or very powerful. 


I've spewed this word out all my life. I've talked about Acceptance of ourselves, our families, our situations, our circumstances, our history, our plans, our interruptions, other's Acceptance of us, and us of them. But have I ever really, really Accepted Myeloma?


Thought I did, but I really didn't on a deep to the core,... This Is Actually Happening To Me, level.

Sadly, it took this awful Extramedullary ABDOMINAL Mass (and also knowing about the other masses, and painful fractures) to wake me up and make me fully realize I'm really, really "sick". Yes, I have incurable cancer. I've "beat the odds" for over 11 years. Everything happening and growing INSIDE my body is out of My control, no matter what we do to treat it. Myeloma is Incurable, and just bounces back. Just a matter of time for each individual. (There is NO cure, and eventually one runs the course of all available FDA approved treatments, and then many go on to clinical trials.) I often say to people that because Myeloma is an "invisible killer", unlike other cancers that are External and can be "seen", Myeloma is more difficult to Accept and understand, because it cannot be seen. 

For so many years, I was able to take pill-form and IV-form chemo, along with high dose Steroids, and fake function a few days a week. I'd always "fix" myself up externally, just because that's me and it makes me feel better to look Ok. But now after over 11years, this vicious cancer has completely taken over my body, moved outside the bone marrow, where Myeloma begins and lives, and has forced me to ACCEPT my circumstances. Yes, forced. I don't have the option of "pretending" I'm ok, just because I look ok and Steroids fake me out several days a week. Truth is now, I don't look well, and this softball+ size tumor has changed my physical appearance so much, I can't stand to look at myself. 

Myeloma and my compromised immune system, has also sucked the life out of me for so many years. Most never understood it. Most around me got tired hearing of my status, treatments, labs, appts, results, side effects, etc, and why I wasn't able to go places, do things, the way I used to. I call it "Cancer Fatigue". Sometimes I just didn't talk about my circumstances unless people asked, or they said something dumb, like "Julie, you look so good, when did you stop chemo? When were you cured?" 

So how long has Myeloma been mutating inside me and growing these awful Extramedullary tumors? I'll have to go back to all my CT, MRI, PET Scans, etc, and see when they were first seen. They haven't always been there, and weren't visible on scans when growing years ago. When I first read the reports, not much sunk in, as the medical terminology is overwhelming. I just wish the scans would show in color and be more clear to non medical people. How the Radiology teams can read these as they do, is truly amazing. I do recall, as I have mentioned this many times, everything was so complicated by my husband Jim's Alz situation and decline. I paid more attention to him then me. I remember my Dr mentioning in Jan 2020, how big the masses were, and me studpidly telling her we'd wait on dealing with my situation because of Jim's status... yes, stupid Julie. I recall her understanding, but letting me know, not the best decision... Yes, stupid Julie... I just hadn't Accepted the seriousness of my situation, and at this time, these masses weren't causing me discomfort, and I had a few "good days" weekly. But if this awful Extramedullary Mass was growing on the outside of my body and could be seen, or I could actually feel it, I know my response would havve been drastically different.

See I was very fortunate in the beginning of my Myeloma journey, that I didn't have a lot of the classic bone pain, random pain, broken bones, tumors that could be seen, etc, like most diagnosed with Myeloma have. I had many fractures and pain often, but nothing that stopped my life or hospitalized me. I just thought I had pulled muscles and nerves due to steroids and chemo weakening my body, or that the fractures were pinching something. Back in the day, Chemo and Steroids allowed me these few good days per week after my SCT too. All the while these evil cells were growing and mutating INVISIBLY inside of me. 

So what's my point here, other than ranting (and I thank those that care to read my rants), my point is that I really have ACCEPTED my plight, I think about death and dying daily. I am angry and frustrated my life was cut so short so soon, (My dad is 94, doing great, and 100% independent. My mother passed at 88 from evil Alzheimers Feb 2010.) I am angry and frustrated that I am so limited and exhausted 24 7, meanwhile my body has all the energy in the world to grow Myeloma cells and take me down. 

I am angry and frustrated that most all that I planned and hoped for in my "golden years" has been stolen from me. And it's right in front of my face 24 7. I am sad I see all this wonderful food I used to love to prepare, share and eat, that I cannot now, because this Abdominal "Alien" is taking up so much space, I have little room to injest anything. And if I do, I feel incredibly bloated, short of breath, and have sharp abdominal pains, when my "Alien" gets angry it's being pushed around. I am angry and frustrated I have beautiful tangerines and lemons on our fruit trees, and cannot enjoy them. I am angry and frustrated that I have zero energy in general, but especially to walk outside in the sun, do little chores as Jim and I used to, pet and groom my horses, pet and play with the doggies and I am so very angry and frustrated that I cannot go anywhere or do anything, as I am so weak, fatigued, exhausted, and extremely Immune Compromised (WBC is .9 (point nine!), and feel like the "Pillsbury Dough Boy-Girl". 

I am so sad, angry and frustrated that I cannot join friends and family on adventures as I used to or planned to do. I see and hear what "Normal" people are doing and I cry. Go with them you say. I can't, I say. You say, never say can't. I say no, literally I can't. I have to be near a (clean) bathroom all the time, I feel gross and sick and bloated and extremely exhausted, and even if someone .... and I can't believe I am saying this... even with someone pushing me in wheelchair, it would Not be enjoyable. I hurt, I'm exhaused, I'm nauseated, I'm beat up, I'm horribly bloated, it hurts to do most anything unless I am on steroids, and I am too immune compromised to be in public places...  so for all these reasons, and for how sad it would make me feel, I honestly cannot do much of anything except go to medical appts. I would be forcing everything, and what's the point of that. I am sick with a horribly desctructive cancer and I Accept it... I cannot change it. It is what it is. I accept. I live moment by moment looking at all Jim and I created, all the critters, beautiful landscaping, things in our house, and I am just so sad it's being stolen from me too early.

So where does all this bring me.  I have accepted my clock is ticking much faster than I anticipated. I don't have the life choices I anticipated. I will "go" with missing out on so much, and that makes me angry and sad, but I am Accepting it more and more each day, because I cannot change it. I rant and cry around the house, then tell myself to just Shut Up, it doesn't matter any matter anymore. Just shut up Julie. You've Accepted your plight, so just shut up. 

I'm 9x higher than the Normal range of 1.0 - 1.8

IGA too High to even measure

>  =  beyond what the testing machine can register 

PS- yes I will speak to my Dr about Blenrep at my Tues appt. Pick your poison. Black box Rx warning about serious Eye issues... but according to many, great Myeloma results. Then there's Clinical Trials that everyone is pushing me to do. Little control of what they put in you, and what they are doing with you... I like being part of a Team, not being told what to do with little information or options... maybe I am wrong about clinical trials. Will have to ask my Dr more and call COH... an then there's the drive down there... time buy a lil airplane or helicopter lol

And now I will drag myself to Kaiser for weekly Labs, and hopefully be able to sit outside in the sun when I return.

Thank you for reading and caring as you do :))


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.