Lisa Ray, a stunning actress that was diagnosed with MM, fights for stem cell awareness and research! For more information on Stem Cell City, go HERE
Wow, it’s been a while since i’ve updated this blog! I must say, i’ve done an absolutely deplorable job of updating it – and for that, I apologize. Right now, i’m sitting in Kelowna, British Columbia, visiting my cousins and having just returned from a week long trip in Vancouver with my family. Aside from eating like it was nobody’s business and laughing as if no one could hear us (boy, were we wrong), my family and I have just been enjoying life. Today also marks the one year anniversary of my mom’s transplant – a significant date that has left us sitting back, pondering, and appreciating every breath we take in. It’s hard to believe that an entire year has already passed, how many things have occurred since one of the most terrifying, and important, days of our lives. Since that day, so much has happened in our lives. It’s almost as if we’re completely different people than the fragile, yet indestructable, ones a year ago today. Older, wiser – aware. But not so cautious that life’s joys cannot be enjoyed nor appreciated. Looking back and looking at my mother, I feel an overwhelming mixture of emotions. Pride, because I am so proud of how incredibly far my mother has come. Sad, because she had to go through, and still experiences, cancer. Awe, because of the sheer amount of strength and resilience she has shown. And most of all, happiness, that we all have each other, that we are so much stronger and closer than we have ever been.
I’m in the middle of my marketing class right now. Clearly, I am paying attention.
Well, it’s probably time for an update on Mama Bear and LIFE! How sweet it is :) Before I begin, i’ll apologize in advance if my grammar and/or sanity get lost in translation. The repairmen came to fix a bunch of things in the apartment, so you know what THAT means! Yep, i’ve been inhaling the wonderful fragrances of GLUE, DRYWALL, and PAINT for the last 5-6 hours. joy.
Mama Bear had her check up with the good doctor on Tuesday to see if we would need to go through with another transplant. Fuck. The days leading up to the appointment were filled with absolute DREAD as I had been almost 100% sure that she would have to go in (which would have been the following Thursday aka TWO.DAYS.LATER). Over the break, I had the chance to go back to the Tom Baker Cancer Centre for one of her chemo sessions and was able to look over her blood work. Her CBCs were pretty stable, but her Total Protein, which is a mix of both good protein and BAD protein (aka Myeloma protein), had gone up a little. Based on our history, rises in the total protein have never been because of the good protein going up. Aside from that, her Beta-2-Microglobulin levels had also gone up a little as well… Recent discussions on the ListServ on this matter have informed me that it is a new prognostic measure for myeloma patients. In other words, you do not want this number going up. Of course, I didn’t tell her any of this because I didn’t want her to worry. But all these things combined led me to believe that a transplant would definitely happen. Needless to say, it wouldn’t have been a very good start to the new year. But, to my surprise, my mom answered the phone with sunshine in her voice, saying that her m-spike (myeloma protein) had actually gone DOWN from 13 to 11. Granted, it’s not a lot, but any decrease is a step in the right direction, yes? That was a SHOCK. Our doctor had also said that her FreeLite Chain things (i’m still unsure about what these are exactly, so i’ll have to research it a bit more) went down a lot. Apparently, it is a better indicator of where you’re at than the m-spike? This, i’m not too convinced. I’m a little skeptical. Why had we never looked at these numbers in all the appointments before???? So, it’s still something that requires a little more investigation on my part. But I do trust our doctor. He’s a very good man, I just don’t understand what’s really happening and need to gain a little more information/control on my part. Anyway, he recommended, instead of a transplant, adding on another drug, Revlimid, to her current regimen. That brings the total to a chemo cocktail of 4 different drugs: Dexamethasone (Dex), Revlimid, Bortezomib (Velcade), and Cyclophosphamide (Cytoxan). Technically, Dex is a steroid, but whatever. A drug is a drug. I’m not the most elated with adding another drug to her regimen, as the body can only handle so much. And with the recent findings that Revlimid can cause secondary cancers, well… yeah. But I suppose it’s better than the alternative, yes? I’m pretty sure another transplant is due down the road, but right now is probably one of the worst times to do one. Flus, slippery ice, cold weather, etc. do NOT make for an easy recovery. Regardless though, I’m extremely grateful that that day was filled with good news, more so that my mom didn’t have to receive any bad news. I could tell BOTH my parents were relieved. It’s funny though. The night before, I prayed, like any other night. But instead I decided to ask just that the appointment would go well. Just one thing, not a whole list of things like my overall family’s health, happiness, etc. One precise, specific thing. And it’s like God, or someone, heard my prayers. So since then i’ve just been sending up prayers of gratitude and thanks. Aside from the obvious, I have nothing to ask for right now and plenty to be thankful for. I can tell we’re all growing a little weary of this, but anytime you receive good news, it fuels the fires that push you forward. A dear friend of ours, whom we met during this whole ordeal, recently came thisclose to dying. From what I was told, his numbers came back so high they asked the technicians if there was a mistake, perhaps in a decimal placement or something. But nope, they were the real numbers. This was all in the post-transplant recovery in the hospital, so you can imagine just how discouraging that would have been. This is hard for me to write because it could happen to anyone affected with cancer, but it was suggested that they call family members to say their good-byes. That…is just heartbreaking. But. One morning, the numbers came back and…THEYWEREZERO!!! Miracles happen, my friends. Keep the faith and never give up.
So that pretty much brings you up to speed on where the family is at. In other news, I’m just about to start the Phase II of my fundraiser and awareness campaign “Monsters Against Myeloma”. If you’ve been following the blog, you’ll probably know what it is :) Someone had heard about our cause and very graciously donated their own tickets to Lady Gaga’s concert in Salt Lake City in March. So i’m supersupersuper excited (and supersupersuper busy) to get this thing up and running ASAP, hopefully by the start/middle of next week! I plan on contacting the media within a couple days to get the word out. So if any of you, my beloved readers, know anyone in the Salt Lake City area wanting to go to a Lady Gaga concert (c’monnn, who WOULDN’T?!), please let them know about our event! I realize fundraising can seem a bit daunting sometimes, but our last winner from the summer won two tickets with $250 dollars raised (most of our donations have come from those just wanting to support the cause). It’s a lot of money, but also very do-able! So we’ve got that in the works. I also am in the midst of applying for any sort of volunteer position at the Edmonton Cross Cancer Institute, just to show my gratitude. Over the course of my mom’s treatment, the volunteers and nurses really were the unsung heroes. I cannot even begin to tell you how much these men and women do, how much love and care pours out of them. While doctors are amazing, these people are truly the faces of care and treatment and are severely underrated in our society. So I really want to try and give back to the community to show my gratitude and help others who are going through what I went through just over a year ago. If any of you, my readers, have not been directly affected by cancer, I would highly recommend volunteering at a local cancer center. Yes, it will be very uncomfortable at first. I remember the first day we went in for treatment. Dear lord, that was horrible and very unsettling. But you get used to it, as with all things, and have the opportunity (because it really is an opportunity) to meet the most amazing and courageous people, and have your lives changed. Forever.
Either than that, school is keeping me on the hustle as usual, studying lecture notes (yeah, right), looking for internships, and getting involved. BUSYBUSYBUSY!
Hope all is well with you, my readers.
Sending good vibes into the universe and you.
Ok, so I FINALLY figured out how to find all the e-mails I flagged on my phone, which I had meant to relay onto the blog. They’re all basically messages that I thought would be of interest and importance in the Myeloma community.
1. First off, Mike Katz, the moderator of the ACOR ListServ, messaged all the members not too long ago on the issue of myeloma stem cells. It’s a very hot and heated issue in the MM world, as there are many on both sides of the fence in this argument. Basically, what this is referring to is the debate that there exists stem cells with a myeloma blueprint, allowing it to “resurface” or relapse following a transplant or chemotherapy. The argument goes on to state that we’re basically hitting the bulls-eye on the wrong target. Yes, these drugs may be very effective against current existing myeloma cells in some people, but instead, our focus should be on developing treatments to cut off the myeloma at its root, in the stem cells, to prevent myeloma cells from ever coming back. The trick is HOW we’d be able to discriminate between normal, healthy stem cells and myeloma stem cells, and ensure that these two would be clearly and concisely separated from each other. It’s a very important issue, as stem cells are not an unlimited resource for patients. From what I have read and seen, most patients will be able to harvest enough stem-cells for about two transplants. So. When and how to utilize these stem cells is a critical matter, and literally, makes the difference between life and death. I’m all for the research. Not that I am anywhere CLOSE to being a scientist by any means, but the theory behind all this seems to make sense. It’s uncharted territory. Who knows, maybe this’ll be the holy grail of what the Myeloma community finally needs to find a cure? So, provided are two videos from the IMF (International Myeloma Foundation) on the matter.
2. A fellow ListServ member posted this a while ago (Nancy!) The National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) posted their guidelines on for patients on treatment strategies for Multiple Myeloma. From the looks of it, it looks pretty comprehensive. But, a very resourceful tool for patients to use. You can find the site HERE. NOW. With all that being said, I just want to reiterate something that I believe is very important for patients, especially new ones, to know. When you’re first diagnosed, often times the first question you’ll ask is in regards to the prognosis, how long you have to live. Well, i’m sure some have their reasons for doing so, and I respect that. But in my opinion, I think it’s a huge waste of time and energy. The thing is, with the extremely rapid pace that science is moving, any statistics on prognostics are constantly becoming outdated because of how fast research is going. So don’t listen to any of it. Nothing good comes out of it. And honestly, do you REALLY want to know? It’s a GINORMOUS ball of stress and pressure to live each and every single day out of however many years you may or may not have left to the fullest. Prognostics are bad news bears, in my opinion.
3. I can’t offer too much advice on this matter because my Dad is the one that handles all the finances of this stuff. But you don’t have to be affected by cancer to know that financing treatment on your own, without any assistance whatsoever, is not an option. A ListServ member (Dianne!) mentioned a website that I think many will be able to utilize. Laurie Todd is a cancer survivor and has a site titled “The Insurance Warrior” that deals with a lot of insurance issues and money matters. Take a look.
4. Lastly, it’s been reported (again, thanks Dianne!) that Bortezomib (Velcade) can cause severe irreversibe bilateral hearing loss. I haven’t had the chance to read it over just yet, but the link is HERE if you would like to check it out.
That’s all i’ve got for now!
Hope it helps
The FDA has released a new warning against osteoporosis drugs, stating that many of them cause thigh bone fractures.
According to NaturalNews, the FDA has issued a new warning for *ALL* drugs in the bisphosphonate family, including Merck’s Fosamax (marketed generically as alendronate), Roche’s Boniva, Novartis’ Reclast and Warner Chilcott’s Actonel. Why does this apply to us? If you’re like my mom, then you go for bisphosphonate treatments once a month, be it Pamidronate (Aredia) or Zometa. In a nutshell, there are two types of cells that maintain the metabolism (wearing down and growth) of our bones. Osteoclasts break down the bones and Osteoblasts build them up. In normal, healthy individuals, both are necessary and essential. However, in individuals with Multiple Myeloma, osteoclast activity is greater than that of osteoblasts, meaning that the bone is wearing down at a faster rate than it is building up. From what I know, these bisphosphonates prevent or slow down osteoclast activity, but do nothing for osteoblasts. This is all great and dandy, but when taken over time, it can cause bones to become brittle and rigid, increasing the likelihood of fractures. This is because osteoblast activity is already limited/hindered, and thus, no new bone cells are formed (instead, old ones remain).
Back to the article…
The FDA is also requiring that consumer-friendly guides be distributed with every bisphosphonate prescription to make sure that risks are understood by those taking the drugs, and how to minimize them. Thigh fractures are a common occurrence amongst those taking bisphosphonates and come with little or no preceding trauma. They may also be followed by months of a dull, aching pain in the thigh or groin area.
The FDA has also directed doctors to reassess whether patients should continue taking the drugs after five or more years, as they appear to offer little or no benefit after this time (but, with an increasing rate of fractures), according to Felicia Cosman of the National Osteoporosis Foundation.
You can read the entire article HERE
Ok. I SERIOUSLY have to change my sleeping patterns here. Constant late nights have tricked my body into thinking 4am is my regular bedtime. It is now 5:55 am… CURSES!
Don’t let the door hit your nasty ass on the way out. 2011, can I buy you a drink?
Happy New Years everyone! Here’s to a fresh new year full of love, light, health, hope, and happiness!
Sent from my BlackBerry device on the Rogers Wireless Network