Week 24 chemo complete: If at first you don’t succeed…

Week 24 chemo complete: If at first you don't succeed...

On Sunday I completed Cycle 6 Week 4. I saw my Hematologist last week and they were very happy with my progress. From the beginning of my chemo in February, my cancer levels (marker is the igG) dropped from 36.1 to 15.7 this month. The region where my cancer lives is called the Beta 2 Globulin. Those levels have dropped from 33.9 in February to 11.4 in July. Everything remains the same regarding chemo, in a best case scenario, I’m still in treatment 2 years from now. But my weekly dexamethasone (oral steroid) has been reduced to 3 pills from 5 to help slow down my weight gain and reduce the likelihood of other side effects.

This multiplicity self-portrait (multiple images using different poses) represents a significant accomplishment for me. A few weeks ago I had tried to figure out how to edit the multiple photos in Photoshop without success. I watched many YouTube tutorial and I just couldn’t follow them. I got confused, a bit frustrated so I put them aside for later. I decided to try again, found a YouTube tutorial that was easy to follow and I was able to create this final product that I’m happy with.

A few lessons I learned:

  • Take your photos as soon as possible, because the sun will affect your lighting. Although it was cloudy out, I spent a long time taking different poses and that resulted in different lighting in places.
  • Avoid touching your camera. My 50mm lens seems to have problems with blurry photos sometimes shooting with my remote, so I use a timer to take for my photos. Pressing the shutter may have caused slight adjustments in my photos that weren’t corrected in Photoshop, as my tripod extension is broken.
  • Many sure you don’t whack your tripod. I accidentally hit my tripod while shooting. Although the view looked the same, I started at the beginning and reshot everything, just in case.
  • Find tutorials when you’re stuck or learning something new. Definitely helped me out and gives me confidence for the future.

I will continue to use this awareness project to learn new genres of photography and explore new forms of creativity for my weekly self-portraits.

Staying positive each day!

To recap: I have Multiple Myeloma and anemia, a rare blood cancer. It is incurable, but treatable. From February to November 2013, I received Velcade chemo through weekly in-hospital injections as an outpatient. Since February 9th 2015, I have been on Pomalyst and dexamethasone chemo treatment (Pom/dex). I now take 3 X 4mg dexamethasone weekly. I started Cycle 7 yesterday.

Weekly chemo-inspired self-portraits can be viewed in my flickr album.

River Rock Casino Marina

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Week 18 complete: Food cravings while on chemo

Week 18 complete: Food cravings while on chemoFood cravings during chemo

Dexamethasone is as an oral steroid I take every Monday. It adds weight to my body and creates food cravings. I hear these donuts calling my name, saying “Eat me please!”.

Resistance is futile.

On Sunday I completed Cycle 5 Week 2. I felt great all week without any chemo side effects or cancer symptoms. I do find challenges with chemo as can be expected, such as decision making. Chemo can also be lonely, but thankfully I have amazing friends that I spend time with to keep me happy and positive about life.

To recap: I have Multiple Myeloma and anemia, a rare blood cancer. It is incurable, but treatable. From February to November 2013, I received Velcade chemo through weekly in-hospital injections as an outpatient. From February 9th 2015, I am on Pomalyst and dexamethasone chemo treatment (Pom/dex). On June 1st I began Cycle 5.

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Week 17 chemo complete: Reflecting on my invisible illness

Week 17 complete: Reflecting on my invisible illness
Reflecting on my invisible illness

Today I was sitting in a park thinking about my life with multiple myeloma and how it is an invisible illness. I was reflecting on how you can’t really tell that I’m a cancer patient on chemo treatment. Because of that when I meet someone new, I’m always unsure when it is the right time to tell them about my cancer. Basically I don’t want to freak anyone out nor lose them as a potential friend. I’m not stressing about this though. I just remain positive, focus on making friends, and enjoying life.

On Sunday I completed Cycle 5 Week 1. Last week I had a complete blood count, a blood test that measured my overall health while on chemo treatment. The results looked good (see normal range in brackets). The hemoglobin (red blood cells) is below normal because I have anemia.

Hematology Profile
Date WBC Hemoglobin Platelet Count Neutrophils
Reference Range 4.0 – 11.0 135 – 170 150 – 400 2.0 – 8.0
June 6.5 122 439 4.7
May 10 118 320 5.2
Apr 7.6 113 357 3.9
Mar 7.0 133 247 5.6
Mar 6.8 127 467 5.2
Feb 5.5 133 191 4.6
Jan 4.4 129 206 2.3

To recap: I have multiple myeloma and anemia, a rare blood cancer. It is incurable, but treatable. From February to November 2013, I received Velcade chemo through weekly in-hospital injections as an outpatient. From February 9th 2015, I am on Pomalyst and dexamethasone chemo treatment (Pom/dex). On June 1st I began Cycle 5 for 4 weeks.

Weekly chemo-inspired self-portraits can be viewed in my flickr album.

Segway on the seawallMay 2014: Segway on the seawall

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Week 16 chemo complete: Thinking about my future

Week 16 chemo complete: Thinking about the futureThinking about the future

Each day I remain incredibly thankful that my Pomalyst chemo side effects have been so minimal. This is such a contrast from my Velcade chemo in 2013. It makes each day happier and gives me confidence to continue doing what I’m doing. I’m always thinking about my future, and the possibility that my side effects could worsen. However, I’m not stressed, I remain calm. Everything’s going to be ok.

High positivity + low stress = minimal side effects

On Sunday I completed Cycle 4 Week 4. Last week I had my regular appointment (every 6 months) with my Glaucoma Specialist. I have had glaucoma scares in the past related to my treatment so I need to always be cautious. During my 2013 chemo, dexamethasone (oral steroid), increased my eye pressure requiring eye drops. Dexamethasone can also cause cataracts, so I’m thankful that my dosage has been reduced in half (20mg total) from June 1st (Cycle 5).

My eye pressure was normal, 14 in each eye. Afterwards, I had a Humphrey Machine visual field test. My face was placed in a machine where I acknowledged whenever I saw a flashing light in my periphery, so that any blind spots can be mapped out. lf the test results are different than in the past, I will see my Glaucoma Specialist later in the summer. As I haven’t received a call yet, I expect there weren’t any problems, meaning my next appointment will be in the Spring.

Humphrey Machine Visual Field TestJune 2012: Humphrey Machine Visual field test

Thanks everyone for your support and encouragement.

To recap: I have Multiple Myeloma and anemia, a rare blood cancer. It is incurable, but treatable. From February to November 2013, I received Velcade chemo through weekly in-hospital injections as an outpatient. From February 9th 2015, I am on Pomalyst and dexamethasone chemo treatment (Pom/dex). On June 1st, I began Cycle 5.

Weekly chemo-inspired self-portraits can be viewed in my flickr album.

North VancouverFebruary 2014: North Vancouver

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Week 15 chemo complete: Cancer levels have dropped again

Week 15 chemo complete: Cancer levels dropped again
Lowered cancer levels again

Last evening as I continued to get over an extended cold, I took a walk in a grassy area to relax and enjoy the weather while the sun was going down. On Sunday I completed Cycle 4 Week 3 of my chemo treatment. Apologies for the delay, however a week ago Tuesday, I had my monthly blood test and I’m happy to report that my cancer levels dropped again. As I’ve stated before, in BC, I can use an online service called myehealth, to get free access to my lab results as soon as available (around 24 hours).

The igG is my cancer marker. My multiple myeloma resides in the Beta 2 Globulin region. As noted below, my myeloma cells continue to decrease there.

Serum Proteins (Electrophoresis & Immunoglobulins) (g/L)
Date Albumin Beta Globulin 2 Gamma Globulin igG igA igM
Reference Range 34.0-53.0 1.8 – 4.8 5.1 – 15.0 6.7 – 15.2 .70 – 4.00 .40 – 2.30
May 42 17.2 2.5 18.7 .28 .33
Apr 44.4 19.2 1.5 21.4 .29 .41
Mar 39.1 27.1 2.6 27.5 .26 .50
Feb 38.9 33.9 3.0 36.1 .33 .53
Jan 39.3 30.6 3.7 33.4 .29 .22

My Hematologist (specialist of blood diseases) wants my cancer levels to remain below 18.0, which is half of 36.1. I’m almost there and remain optimistic about my June.

My Hematology Profile is the Complete Blood Counts test I have every 2 weeks that measures my overall health.

Hematology Profile
Date WBC Hemoglobin Platelet Count Neutrophils
Reference Range 4.0 – 11.0 135 – 170 150 – 400 2.0 – 8.0
May 12.4 118 271 8.9
May 10.0 118 320 5.2
Apr 12.5 123 297 9.8
Apr 7.6 113 357 3.9
Mar 7.0 133 247 5.6
Mar 6.8 127 467 5.2
Feb 5.5 133 191 4.6
Jan 4.4 129 206 2.3

I can’t emphasize enough how well this treatment is going. Yes, I have significant weight from the steroids and I’m not that strong mentally, but overall the side effects have been minimal. I’m feeling super fortunate. I continue to get lots of rest, eat well, and I remain focused on positivity each day.

Thanks everyone for your ongoing encouragement and positive support!

To recap: I have Multiple Myeloma and anemia, a rare blood cancer. It is incurable, but treatable. From February to November 2013, I received Velcade chemo through weekly in-hospital injections as an outpatient. From February 9th 2015, I am on Pomalyst and dexamethasone chemo treatment (Pom/dex). On May 31st, I finish Cycle 4.

Weekly chemo-inspired self-portraits can be viewed in my flickr album.

Waiting on letters from a friend
May 2014: Granville Island

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Week 13 complete: More than a cancer patient on chemo

Week 13 complete: More than a cancer patient on chemoMore than a cancer patient on chemo

Being on Pomalyst chemo treatment that will continue for an indefinite period, could leave me with the perspective that my identity is “someone on chemo forever”. I’m aware of the many challenges brought on by my treatment, but I’m not letting it define who I am. That is not how I’m living my life.

I’m more than a cancer patient on chemo. I’m a photographer, that continues to develop my skills through weekly self-portraits, providing awareness about my multiple myeloma to others touched by cancer. I’m a friend, focused on building new friendships and maintaining existing ones, as I enjoy interacting with people. I’m an optimist, that wakes up each morning wondering what adventures I’ll discover, to brighten my day.

On Sunday I completed Cycle 4 Week 1. Last Tuesday I had a Complete Blood Count (blood test) that measured my overall health while on chemo treatment. The results looked good (see normal range in brackets). The hemoglobin (red blood cells) is below normal because I have anemia.

Hematology Profile
Date WBC Hemoglobin Platelet Count Neutrophils
Reference Range 4.0 – 11.0 135 – 170 150 – 400 2.0 – 8.0
May 10 118 320 5.2
Apr 7.6 113 357 3.9
Mar 7.0 133 247 5.6
Mar 6.8 127 467 5.2
Feb 5.5 133 191 4.6
Jan 4.4 129 206 2.3

To recap: I have multiple myeloma and anemia, a rare blood cancer. It is incurable, but treatable. From February to November 2013, I received Velcade chemo through weekly in-hospital injections as an outpatient. From February 9th 2015, I am on Pomalyst and dexamethasone chemo treatment (Pom/dex). On May 4th I began Cycle 4 for 4 weeks.

Weekly chemo-inspired self-portraits can be viewed in my flickr album.

End of the day on Granville IslandMay 2014: Granville Island

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Week 11 blood test results: Cancer levels have dropped

Week 11 blood test: Cancer levels have droppedCancer levels have dropped again

Good news! On Monday I had my monthly full blood test and the test results show that my cancer levels have decreased (again). In BC, I can use an online service called myehealth, to get free access to my lab results as soon as available. In this case, about 28 hours later.

The igG is my cancer marker. My multiple myeloma resides in the Beta 2 Globulin region. As noted below, there are also less myeloma cells there now.

Serum Proteins (Electrophoresis & Immunoglobulins) (g/L)
Date Albumin Beta Globulin 2 Gamma Globulin igG igA igM
Reference Range 34.0-53.0 1.8 – 4.8 5.1 – 15.0 6.7 – 15.2 .70 – 4.00 .40 – 2.30
Apr 44.4 19.2 1.5 21.4 .29 .41
Mar 39.1 27.1 2.6 27.5 .26 .50
Feb 38.9 33.9 3.0 36.1 .33 .53
Jan 39.3 30.6 3.7 33.4 .29 .22

My Hematology Profile is the Complete Blood Counts test I have every 2 weeks that measures my overall health.

Hematology Profile
Date WBC Hemoglobin Platelet Count Neutrophils
Reference Range 4.0 – 11.0 135 – 170 150 – 400 2.0 – 8.0
Apr 12.5 123 297 9.8
Apr 7.6 113 357 3.9
Mar 7.0 133 247 5.6
Mar 6.8 127 467 5.2
Feb 5.5 133 191 4.6
Jan 4.4 129 206 2.3

So, my chemo treatment is working well with minimal side effects. I’m continuing to focus on healthy living, positive thinking, and creative self-portraits to help me cope and remain happy. Thanks to everyone for their positive energy and kind words of encouragement. I never feel alone.

To recap: I have Multiple Myeloma and anemia, a rare blood cancer. It is incurable, but treatable. From February to November 2013, I received Velcade chemo through weekly in-hospital injections as an outpatient. From February 9th 2015, I am on Pomalyst and dexamethasone chemo treatment (Pom/dex). On April 6th I began Cycle 3.

Photos related to my Pomalyst chemo treatment can be viewed in my flickr album.

Something interesting happened for this third cycle of chemo. When my chemo was delivered I noticed the box had braille on the cover.

Pomalyst chemo with braille Chemo box with braille

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Pomalyst chemo week 7 complete: No surprises

Week 7 chemo complete: No surprises - let's keep it that wayChemo life is like an egg

When you break an egg, the yolk is yellow or orange. Nothing out of the ordinary. But sometimes you get a double yolk, which may make you pause as it was unexpected, a bit of a surprise. Similarly, each morning I wake up expecting that the day will be uneventful – no surprises. Yes, I know side effects may occur due to my treatment or symptoms may flare up as a result of my multiple myeloma + anemia. But I don’t foresee anything dramatic happening that I haven’t experienced before (e.g. liver damage, chronic pain or chronic fatigue).

For the third week of this cycle, I continue to feel fatigued and find I don’t have the energy to climb up escalators without great effort. However, I don’t have any concerns with my body’s response to treatment and remain cautiously optimistic for my future.

For those that didn’t hear the good news, according to my blood test last week, my cancer levels (igG) are moving in the right direction:

Serum Proteins (Electrophoresis & Immunoglobulins) (g/L)
Date Albumin Beta Globulin 2 Gamma Globulin igG igA igM
Reference Range 34.0-53.0 1.8 – 4.8 5.1 – 15.0 6.7 – 15.2 .70 – 4.00 .40 – 2.30
Mar 39.1 27.1 2.6 27.5 .26 .50
Feb 38.9 33.9 3.0 36.1 .33 .53
Jan 39.3 30.6 3.7 33.4 .29 .22

I love photography. It is beneficial to my health and wellness and has a calming effect. I remain thankful for the opportunity to educate others about my rare disease through creative self-portraits.

Staying positive every day!

To recap: I have Multiple Myeloma and anemia, a rare blood cancer. It is incurable, but treatable. From February to November 2013, I received Velcade chemo through weekly in-hospital injections as an outpatient. From February 9th 2015, I am on Pomalyst and dexamethasone chemo treatment (Pom/dex). On April 6th, I begin my third cycle.

Photos related to my Pomalyst chemo treatment can be viewed in my flickr album.

Cherry Blossoms at UBCApril 2013: Cherry blossoms at UBC

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Living with multiple myeloma: Cancer levels have dropped

March full blood testWaiting for my bloodtest

On Monday I had my monthly full blood test. Unfortunately I didn’t drink as much water as I should have beforehand, so I was dehydrated. This meant it took a few pokes before the attendant was able to get enough blood to fill the four test tubes needed for the various tests. I will remember next time for sure.

I looked at my results online today using myehealth, a service in BC which provides free access to my lab results as soon as available.

My cancer levels (igG) have dropped. This is good news. It is always worrying when you begin a new treatment (now Pomalyst after Revlimid and Velcade) whether it will be effective or not, so I’m happy that I’m showing progress.

Serum Proteins (Electrophoresis & Immunoglobulins) (g/L)
Date Albumin Beta Globulin 2 Gamma Globulin igG igA igM
Reference Range 34.0-53.0 1.8 – 4.8 5.1 – 15.0 6.7 – 15.2 .70 – 4.00 .40 – 2.30
Mar 39.1 27.1 2.6 27.5 .26 .50
Feb 38.9 33.9 3.0 36.1 .33 .53
Jan 39.3 30.6 3.7 33.4 .29 .22

My Hematology Profile is the Complete Blood Counts test I have every 2 weeks that measures my overall health.

Hematology Profile
Date WBC Hemoglobin Platelet Count Neutrophils
Reference Range 4.0 – 11.0 135 – 170 150 – 400 2.0 – 8.0
Mar 7.0 133 247 5.6
Mar 6.8 127 467 5.2
Feb 5.5 133 191 4.6
Jan 4.4 129 206 2.3

So, my chemo treatment is working and the side effects have been minimal. I’m continuing to focus on healthy living, positive thinking, and creative self-portraits to help me cope and remain happy.

To recap: I have Multiple Myeloma and anemia, a rare blood cancer. It is incurable, but treatable. From February to November 2013, I received Velcade chemo through weekly in-hospital injections as an outpatient. From February 9th 2015, I am on Pomalyst and dexamethasone chemo treatment (Pom/dex).

Photos related to my Pomalyst chemo treatment can be viewed in my flickr album.

UBC Wreck BeachMarch 2014: UBC Wreck Beach

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Living with multiple myeloma: Knocked down by chemo fatigue

Completed Cycle 1 Week 2: Knocked down by chemo fatigueAll I want to do is sleep

It was a rough weekend. On Friday evening I began experiencing intense chemo fatigue that I hadn’t felt since my last chemo treatment (Velcade/dex) in 2013. It seemed to come out of nowhere. It became further compounded with a bad cold that caused headaches and drained me of energy. Thinking, moving, or talking was challenging. On Saturday I struggled to keep my eyes open for more than 5 minutes at a time, instead opting for sleep, knowing how important rest was for my health and well-being. As dawn broke on Sunday, the fatigue seemed to have left my body. I felt refreshed and re-energized. I’m really glad that’s over, I’m hopeful that Week 3 will be better.

On Sunday I completed Cycle 1 Week 2 of Pomalyst chemo + dexamethasone for my multiple myeloma and anemia. For 21 days out of every 30 I take a chemo pill (4mg) and every 7 days I take 10 dexamethasone pills (40mg in total). Dexamethasone is an oral steroid. I didn’t have much hiccups at all during the week. Only a couple of times Monday and Tuesday for a few minutes. Overall, I’m happy with how I’m handling this treatment.

I’m facing any adversity with a smile!

I love photography and use self-portraits to help improve my health and well-being. Taking pictures brings me happiness. Each week I will be taking a self-portrait that represents some aspect of my experiences on chemo.

To recap: I have Multiple Myeloma and anemia, a rare blood cancer. It is incurable, but treatable. From February to November 2013, I received Velcade chemo through weekly in-hospital injections as an outpatient. From February 9th 2015, I am on Pomalyst and dexamethasone chemo treatment (Pom/dex).

End of the day on Granville IslandMay 2014: Granville Island

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