August Already……

I can’t believe it is August already. The summers in Florida are always brutal…… how did I do it when I was younger, just laying on the South Florida beaches, just baking? Or even just a short 7 years ago, when I spent EVERY Summer weekend, sitting on hot metal bleachers watching my daughter, Lindsay, playing Travel Tournament Softball, even going out of State for the World Series of Softball many times, to sit on (whoever’s) really hot metal bleachers. I remember sitting there with washcloths in the ice cold cooler and wrapping them around my head and neck to try to gain some semblance of a normal body temperature! And keeping Linz cool and hydrated was a priority as standing on that hot field playing 1st base or pitching, (or sitting in an almost hotter dugout)……well, let’s just say, I don’t know how she did it. I admired her for her love and dedication to the sport. I don’t know how I did it either. Kinda like what I’m doing now. When I look back at the beginnings of this journey with MM, I see how many times (so far), I have faced challenges and lived to tell the tale. Some are bigger than others, ie the hospitalizations, 2 not counting the BMT. Then of course, 6 weeks in an apartment with my wonderful caretakers (Mom and Kate) during the BMT and the daily trips back and forth to the hospital. Enduring the horrid, side effects of the BMT chemo. Losing all my hair…..(not really a big big deal, but still…..I am a girl!) Then comes the disappointing fact the BMT only lasted 9.5 months and then the relapse. And since the relapse, all the troubles of constant UTI’s, blood issues, transfusions (2 so far) and the multitude of daily little symptoms, from terrible fatigue to bowel issues (yep..I said it……chemo makes me constipated) and more. But…..the thing is, I’ve gone through all this so far, and survived, just like I survived 10 years of every single weekend of the summer sitting on all those hot bleachers. One big difference in all this though……I enjoyed those softball games, I wanted to be at every softball game (NEVER missed even one in all those years)…..this MM chit? Not enjoying it so much, and wouldn’t much mind if I missed a few of these MM “games” either.

Andre’s Obituary Notice

My brother-in-law works for the weekly paper where we had Andre’s obituary notice published. It was also mentioned in a roadracing magazine. We are planning a secular memorial service (celebration of his life seems to be the better term) in Dallas, Texas, next Saturday, August 8, a day before my birthday.

To all who sent me condolences, words of support, and their fondest memories of Andre, I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart. Take care of one another.



With everyone’s fingers crossed and prayers we have reached REMISSION!

Mark and I seen Dr. Zangari today and he went over all labs and the bone marrow biopsy. He is not showing any markers of the myeloma. Dr. Zangari was almost amazed at how well Mark has done. I am not going to get all technical here with numbers and charts. I will just tell you that Mark went from 95% down to 0.2%
Mark will still be on a maintenance program. He will go in for medications for the next year. They will do lab work and keep a close eye to make sure this cancer does not raise its ugly head back up.
We don’t see Dr. Z for three more months.. No offence but YAY!
Dr. Z told Mark be careful with his back, but go do what you like to do. Of course use caution around sick people. It will still be hard for him to shake off an illness.
Mark still will tire easily and will need time to get his strength back.
So now i would like to thank just some of our team that has worked so hard to get Mark to this point.


Dr. Zangari and Dr.Tricot

The Amazing Andrea Noordewier our PA

Our Coordinator Carol Neilson

Celeste and the girls in the Office Benadetta and Jenna

There are so many more to acknowledge, like all the nurses in the BMT Infusion room Katrina Dr Z’s Nurse. All our family and friend’s, all our new friend we have made along this journey
thank you to each one of you.
You are the one’s that got us through the worst part of this.
Don’t stop looking at Mark’s page there will still be updates on how he is doing and what he is doing.

More on the Wedding

I’ve recently discovered that it is impossible to schedule a short date for a minimal, sensible wedding because, at some point in the process, fiancĂ©es connect to a primitive female communications sub-carrier, which appears to men to consist of slow, deep-in-the-jungle drumbeats, a link that removes the discussion from anything a man is capable of understanding. I suspect all women of all

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Sometime later

I just wanted you all to know, if you are still reading this, that I am feeling good at the moment. Just got back from 2 weeks in the far north of Scotland. There can’t be many places left in the country that are as beautiful or as quiet. Here we can hear the constant drone of vehicles and aeroplanes, but to step out and listen to absolute nothing was a real treat.
My hair is just starting to grow back. My head resembles something like a small duckling. hopefully in a few weeks it will be presentable.
I’ll try and post more frequently from now on.
Well done and thanks to Rob and crew for completing the journey from south to north. Next year we’ll all tackle Mont Ventoux of Tour de France fame?

"Normal" Life…..

I think if you took a poll of cancer patients, they would tell you the one thing they really really want, is to have a “normal life” or get back to what was their normal life. I know that goes through my mind in lots of different ways, as the topic has so many layers to it. Getting back to normal relates to emotional, physical, spiritual and financial “normals”. My biggest wish, hope and dream, would be to continue living life the same way after being diagnosed as the way I did before. Is that ever ever possible though? Even if, say you got the physical back on track, don’t you always have the mental there saying……you have cancer. You might be in a remission, but the fact is, once you have cancer, you always have cancer, even if it’s just a little bitty thought in the back of your mind. The trick then, as I see it, is to strive, through our limitations, to regain as normal of a life as we can after being diagnosed. I would imagine at certain times throughout the journey, you have one thing that will bother you more than others, depending on where your focus may be at that time. Like if it”s a physical thing, well of course, that can’t help but take priority at that time, but maybe down the road when the physical aspects get back on track, maybe the financial aspect will rear it’s ugly head. Accepting our diagnosis, is #1 in regaining our normal life back, and then the process of adapting to life with cancer comes next. What helps me, I find, is focusing on the bigger picture. Sheesh, I’m always making plans for the future, because I refuse to allow cancer to run my life. Now I will admit, there are times when cancer DOES run my life, through no fault of my own. Like for example, when you have doctor visits every blessed day of the week! Hard to un-focus on cancer during times like that, as the constant needles and blood and vitals etc., slap you in the face with the reality of the situation. But those days, fortunately aren’t the norm. How does that saying go? I may have cancer, but it doesn’t have me. It’s just that we need to remind ourselves every morning when we wake up that HEY..I survived another day, so what am I gonna do with it? And I don’t necessarily mean do something physical with the day, it can be any of the other aspects I talked about. We just have to come to the point of acceptance that says, yep, this is shitty….I have cancer…. but it is not the center of my universe and I will push along as best as I am able. Now I don’t mean to sound trite…far from it…….and this is not the easiest thing to do either, especially when physically feeling crappy, but keeping it uppermost in my mind helps me. I still have so many things I still want and need to do, that I have to focus on them and give cancer a back seat in my life as best as I can. I have lots of trips I still need to take, some I am currently planning as we speak, and I want to be around for my girls. At least till I’m an old lady :) I just don’t want anyone giving in or giving up, which is WAY easier to do than getting battle armor on and fighting another day, but that’s the card we drew, so don’t fold your hand….play the cards.

4:21 PM

Andre died today in my arms. He was handsome until his very last breath. I’ve thanked him for the 9 wonderful years we’ve spent and for making me happy. I love him so much and I’m going to miss him dearly.

Still Hangin’ in There…….

I went to the doctor’s office on Thursday (2 days ago) to receive my 2nd injection of the IV chemo drug Velcade. I was so terrified because of what had happened to me after the first injection, and so so so did not want to end up hospitalized this weekend too. Dr. Nair and I had lots to talk about at this visit, but we came to an agreement on my current plan of care. We decided that rather than starting at the normal dose of 103 mg of Velcade, that we would lower the dose I received Thurs to 100 mg. and instead of having the injections twice a week which is the usual protocol, that I would only receive it once a week for now. In addition to lowering the dose, we also developed some pro-active things to do to try to prevent another hospitalization. They are to go back to the office on Fridays after my IV on Thursday, to receive an IV infusion of hydration (as much as I drink water……and it’s a ton….) I was still dehydrated when I was admitted to the hospital last week. In addition to the day after hydration, I was also taught to give myself neupogen injections, which I will give myself every day while undergoing this new chemo velcade. Neupogen is the drug I received right before my transplant last year. It is a drug that increases the production of while blood cells, and therefor gives you protection against any bacterial, viral and other infections that are floating around out there. It will give me a protection that the velcade just demolished last week. The problem last week is that the velcade just crashed my WBC, which fight infection, into such dangerous zones, and therefore also started running a temp because of this. To get the neupogen approved by the insurance company will take jumping through a few hoops, since it’s an injectable as well as VERY expensive. I don’t know how much this is per month as I haven’t received any paperwork on it yet, but I know that the oral chemo revlamid I take costs $8,000 a month and velcade is much stronger and more powerful, so I can (no…actually I can’t!) imagine what that cost will be. It will probably take about 4 days or so to get this approved, so in the meantime, my whole next week, every single day, will be taken up with doctors appts. On Monday I will go for a CBC (complete blood count) to see where my low platelets are and to determine if I will be going in for a platelet transfusion as well as getting a neupogen shot. Some slightly good news though, is that when I did come home from the hospital last week, my platelets were at 40 (normal 140) but by yesterday they had come up to 54 with no intervention), and then Tues and Wed will be just getting the neupogen shots and Thurs will be IV chemo day, and Friday will hydration and neupogen shots (although I hope to have my own by then and can give them to myself at home) Oh yeah…another change is that instead of the usual prtotcol of 103 mg of velcade twice a week for 2 weeks and then 10 days off, I will be having it once a week all the time. The bottom line is that I am on the right meds to get the MM under control, but the larger question becomes, where is the right balance? I will be on 15 mg of revlamid, 100 mg of Velcade, 40 mg once a week of dexamethasone and coumadin (the blood thinner as chemo causes blood clots). Any and all of these drugs can mess with my blood counts, so he said that our job right now is to play with the dosages until they are right and I can work my way up to the usual dosage and protocols for the velcade which has a proven record of really kciking some MM butt. This could take several months or up until around the holidays, no one knows for sure, since this is NOT an exact science and each person handles things differently. (I’m opting for the several months tops!) It’s actually kind of new and weird for me too, as I’m not a “side effects” person…..really ever. This last time was the very first time that I’ve had more than the usual pesky side effects (low energy etc) from any type of drug I’ve been given, even through all the stuff I had to take for the bone marrow transplant. Kinda threw me off my game when I had to go the hospital last week, as it was so unexpected too. Well that’s where we are right now in bizarro cancer drug world and I just visualize and see myself going through a few rough patches right now, with the promise of getting it right and having LOTS & LOTS of complete remission ahead of me after all this is said and done. Join me in seeing this, won’t you? :)

Back in my Own Bed…..

Was released from the hospital on Sunday afternoon, after arriving there about 11:00 AM on Thursday. The Readers Digest condensed version of what happened: Received my 1st velcade infusion on Friday the 10th. Felt ok and then as I had written, started running a fever and feeling weaker and weaker as each day went by, to the point I was holding onto walls and using a cane when I walked. EVERYTHING was a struggle. I was supposed to receive my 2nd infusion of velcade the following tues, but called the office and told them how I felt and that I had been running a fever and they said no to the infusion and made me an appt to see the doctor the next day (wed). Went through the usual routine of blood etc and it turns out my WBC (which have never been an issue until today) were 1.2 and normal is 4.0. That means with the temp it’s called a neutrapenic fever which is a life threatening condition. The hospital didn’t have a bed for me that day (required a private room b/c of all the precautions needed with this issue) , so doctor filled me up with 3 hours of IV drugs to get me through the nite and admitted me for the next day. I won’t go into all of the gory details of the hospital stay, let’s just say it’s just horrid being in the hospital. I don’t know how you are supposed to heal in such an environment. You can’t sleep, the food is horrible, the tubes and Iv’s all over, people in and out all day and nite…..and that’s just part of it. Each and every moment I was there, all I wanted was to come back home and be in my own bed, with my coffee, take meds on my timetable etc etc. Needless to say, I was thrilled when they gave me the ok to go home on sunday afternoon. I was to follow up with blood at the office on Monday so that’s what I did, and WBC back in normal range, RBC a bit low, but nothing requiring intervention BUT my platelet count is super low right now. Normal is 140 and my count is 40! He said we’ll wait till I see him on my Thursday appt and if they are still at crisis level, I’ll need to have a platelet transfusion. This shit is really getting old. After being in remission and feeling good for 10 months, this relapse has just not given me a break. It has truly been one thing right after or in conjunction with another. Between all the UTI’s, transfusions and now a hospital stay under my belt, well all this has happened in the last 6 months so it is truly wearing me out. I need to string together a bunch of good days for a break and have time to recoup. Mentally and physically, it’s just a struggle to day by day get through the last 6 months with all this stuff going on. What a cunning and baffling and unrelenting disease this is. We must never take for granted even one second of feeling well…..ever. I am feeling a bit better today, being my 2nd day home, but of course, I did over do it yesterday (monday, after getting home from hosp on sunday) b/c I had the doc appt and then decided to just grab a few things from the grocery store while I was out, which then in turn, I was like, hell, I’m here and I don’t know how I’ll be feeling so I’d better grocery shop, so that’s what I did. By the time I got home I was so whipped, I could barely bring the groceries in and put them away, but now it’s done and me and the dogs have food :) Today I am just chillin and plan on doing the same thing tomorrow. Have to be at doctors at 11:00 am on Thursday, so me and the doc have alot of talking to do to figure out where we go from here, since velcade didn’t like me too much. Maybe we’ll play with the dosage, but it scares the hell out of me to try it again, after what I just went through. No pain no gain, right? Who thought up that crappy way, anyway?

ICU Day 28

28 days. Andre has been on the ventilator and in the ICU for 28 days.

Today is probably the lowest I’ve felt since the initial diagnosis, and my heart is close to breaking. I know I’ll catch my bearing again to take better care of Andre and my other responsibilities but the road ahead just feels so much lonelier.

He had an MRI and a lumbar puncture two days ago to check if there is anything wrong with his nervous system that can explain his lack of lucidity and constant agitation. The results all came back negative. The only thing left to do clinically is to continue dialing down the sedative, pain meds and other medications that can cloud his mind, and hope that he comes out of it. And when he does, I’ll be the first one he’ll see.