Cycle 4 Week 14: A chilly morning in the park

Sunday morning was pretty chilly (-2 C) when I was walking around before sunrise in the park. Unfortunately I really feel the cold due to my compromised immune system. My February monthly blood test results are encouraging. My cancer levels are 48 down from 50 in December. My Myeloma Specialist has increased the dosage of two of the drugs I take with my chemo, so hopefully my March results will be much better.

Overall I’m doing alright, eating healthy, and remaining positive each day.

Feeling Springtime in the air!

Cycle 4 Week 14: A chilly morning in the park

M protein (g/L) (if 0, then no cancer detected)
Jan = 50
Dec = between 47 and 48 (began chemo)
Nov = between 40 and 42
Oct = 29
Late Sept = 21
Early Sept = 16
Aug = 13
July = 6
June = 5


I have multiple myeloma and anemia, a rare cancer of the immune system. Multiple myeloma affects the plasma cells, a type of immune cell that produces antibodies to fight infection. These plasma cells are found in the bone marrow. As a blood cancer, it is incurable, but treatable.

From December 2019 I’ve been on Darzalex (Dartumumab), an IV chemo with Velcade (Bortezomib), a chemo injection + dexamethasone.

Steveston - Britannia ShipyardsSteveston – Britannia Shipyards

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Meibomian Gland Dysfunction, Chalazions and other fun things!

Back in January I wrote about the fact that I had been diagnosed with Meibomian Gland Dysfunction. Well, it turns out I have it pretty severely now, and we think that it is caused by the velcade that I am having, albeit it that it is pretty unusual to have it! I like to be unusual. (Not). Basically, it looks like my glands have not only blocked up and caused inflammation, but now they have become blocked and infected (blepharitis) which have lead to what is called chronic blepharitis and what is called a chalazion.

So when I just had the MGD without the infection, the best way I was told to treat it was by using a warm compress and massaging both eyelids. You can buy masks from the chemist that do a similar thing, and wipes that you then wipe the eyelid with. Anyway, that seemed to be working really well until a couple of weeks ago, when the first stye/ chalazion occurred. It basically made my left eye really sore, really swollen and very itchy. So I took a trip to the GP on the Friday who prescribed me with antibiotics….and I also started on ibuprofen on the recommendation of a friend. (Before anyone says anything, I don’t have any kidney damage so whilst I’m not meant to take it, it felt like a sensible thing to try in the short term)

Anyway, into the hospital on the Monday to be told it wasn’t anything to do with the velcade (hmmmm….I don’t think so!), that I should come off ibuprofen so I didn’t cause any kidney damage and take antihistamines instead, and prescribed extra eye drops. And things very slowly seemed to improve.

Until the same day two weeks later, when it came back in the right eye (and less so in the left eye again). This time, I immediately started back on the eye drops which I luckily had, emailed my consultant (who hadn’t been the one to give me the previous advice), and got it agreed to go back onto the ibuprofen to at least help bring the swelling down a bit. This time though, I’ve had it really sore over the whole weekend with it not only causing the chalazion, but also becoming infected.

So today, back to the hospital and it was agreed that I wouldn’t have my final dose of velcade as it quite probably was that which had caused the issue. In addition, further to an article I was given by my consultant, it was decided to put me back on antibiotics, but mainly to increase the dexamethasone that I’d had reduced last year due to it causing me anger issues! Dex is an anti-inflammatory and I have to say that I felt better within a couple of hours. It’s still infected of course, but the swelling is lower and I haven’t needed the ibuprofen.

Now we’ve got a bit of a waiting game. Hopefully, my eyes will just improve as I shouldn’t be having any further velcade. That is over thank god. In addition, I’m hoping to get a bit of energy back too… I’m now meant to be going to daratumabib maintenance until my stem transplant.

But, my numbers went up last week. Grrrr. Nothing is simple. I think they’ll still try at least one lot of maintenance to see if the dara works better without the velcade. But who knows what they’ll do if they keep rising….we could be back to the DT-Pace regime. I did my bloods again today, and I think they’ll be done next Monday too…all of which will give us a better indicator of whether I’m hovering around the same place, no longer responding to treatment, or whether my numbers do what we’re desperately hoping, and come down a little further to about 4 or 5.

Somehow (I may thank the antidepressants for this), I seem to be coping relatively well with it all. As does Nick I think. We aren’t telling the children too much until we know and luckily because we’re not falling to pieces, that is much easier. There is no point panicking unless it becomes necessary. So, I’d ask people just to take care in talking in front of them so that we can tell them what is necessary, when it is necessary, rather than them overhearing something….thank you.

I’ll update on here when we know more. Keep your fingers and toes crossed for those numbers to come down further please….I’ll even accept a few prayers if people are that way inclined!!

Cycle 3 Week 11: Enjoying a beautiful morning in the park!

I’ve been remaining calm and trying to relax over this month as there is alot going on with my health. I went to a park on a beautiful morning to enjoy nature and the fresh air.

Last month I received my Feb monthly blood test results and it was a bit of a shock as my cancer levels continue to rise. My cancer levels are now 50 from between 47-48 in December. I had hoped my cancer levels would drop and then remain low and stable between 0 and 2 with ongoing chemo for a long time.

I’ll soon see my Myeloma Specialist and should find out whether another chemo treatment is available. If the answer is no/not right now, I’ll remain on my current treatment and hope for the best while I wait.

Focused on happy thoughts and positive vibes.

Cycle 3 Week 11:  Enjoying a beautiful morning - No time for stress!
Self-portrait: A beautiful morning in the park

M protein (g/L) (if 0, then no cancer detected)
Jan = 50
Dec = between 47 and 48 (began chemo)
Nov = between 40 and 42
Oct = 29
Late Sept = 21
Early Sept = 16
Aug = 13
July = 6
June = 5
May = between 3 and 4 (post-chemo)
Apr = 3
Mar = between 1 and 2
Feb = 3
Jan 2019 = between 5 and 6
Dec = between 5 and 6
Nov = 11
Late Oct = 27 (started chemo)
Early Oct 2018 = 48


I have multiple myeloma and anemia, a rare cancer of the immune system. Multiple myeloma affects the plasma cells, a type of immune cell that produces antibodies to fight infection. These plasma cells are found in the bone marrow. As a blood cancer, it is incurable, but treatable.

From December 2019 I’ve been on Darzalex (Dartumumab), an IV chemo with Velcade (Bortezomib), a chemo injection + dexamethasone.

End of the day on Granville Island
Sunset on Granville Island

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Cycle 2 Week 9: Cancer is doing weird things to my body

In mid-Dec I was having headaches that wouldn’t go away so I went to my hospital’s Urgent Care for an assessment. A CT Scan didn’t reveal lesions or tumours. While waiting to see an ENT (Ear Nose Throat) Resident, I had a period of uncontrollable chills and shaking, that I attributed to my body being cold. The ENT Resident examined my nasal passage and found I have chronic sinusitis due to my cancer, so he prescribed a nasal spray to repair it. He also said that the random lumps in my mouth were benign.

Later that week when I arrived for chemo treatment I was coughing and had a fever of 39.1C, so I was isolated and various tests were taken. Chemo treatment was stopped for two weeks and I was placed on antibiotics. Results from the CDC revealed that the uncontrollable chills, headaches, and fever were a precursor for the Adenovirus, a virus that attacks people with immune suppressed systems. One of my pre-chemo drugs is actually an immune suppressor. Thankfully after a couple of weeks I had fully recovered from the Adenovirus and my chemo treatment continued.

My Dec blood test results were pretty meaningless (jumped to between 47 and 48 from between 40 and 42 in Nov) as it was based only on my first chemo treatment which was Cycle 1 Week 1. Cycle 1 Week 2 and Cycle 1 Week 3 were cancelled due to the Adenovirus. I remain confident that January’s blood test results (based on usual 4) will show a drop in my cancer levels.

Overall, I’m really focused on listening to my body, eating healthy, and relaxing as much as possible to help my chemo be as effective as possible. Bed has been my friend recently.

My mobility is compromised due to the lesions in my pelvis, so walking up stairs is no longer possible, without significant difficulty.

I really don’t stress about the various things going on with my body. I have an incurable cancer and I’m alive, so I’m thankful for that.

I take each day as it comes and focus on being calm and happy.

Cycle 2 Week 9: Cancer is doing weird things to my bodySelf-portrait: Rest is key for my health

I have multiple myeloma and anemia, a rare cancer of the immune system. Multiple myeloma affects the plasma cells, a type of immune cell that produces antibodies to fight infection. These plasma cells are found in the bone marrow. As a blood cancer, it is incurable, but treatable.

From December 2019 I’ve been on Darzalex (Dartumumab), an IV chemo with Velcade (Bortezomib), a chemo injection + dexamethasone.

Steveston - Canada GeeseMay 2014: Steveston – Canada Geese

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2020 – A (Belated) New Year!

I started writing this post a couple of weeks ago at my last consultant appointment and forgot to post it so here it is with a postscript at the end!

Although my last post was written on Christmas Eve, looking back on it I must have been Hugh as a kite!! I hadn’t realised quite how bad it was until Nick told me on Christmas Day – by the end it didn’t make any sense at all! But the good news is that the sleeping tablets got me asleep and I had a much better Christmas because of it!

In fact we had a lovely Christmas and New Year. It was massively busy with guests but a great time of catching up with people and making the most of my health as it is at the moment.

And now we’re on the countdown. Or at least I am. Unless anything changes, I have 10 weeks left on treatment, before I have a 2 month break and then my second Stem Cell Transplant. I really do think myself lucky to have had 9 years inbetween my transplants but it doesn’t stop the interpretation that I’m feeling about going through it all again. We’ve got a date now for February to discuss the procedure (and how it might have changed from my first time) so that will be interesting … it has definitely made it feel more real!

But as for the here and now, things plod along really. As I said, I’m back on the velcade and it has hit me hard this week. It always seems to when I have a break! I slept for 3 hours last night (while the kids made their own dinner and sorted themselves out), and then got up this morning, pottered for half an hour and then was back in bed until it was time to leave for hospital at lunchtime! And I’m still exhausted and feeling. Very bizarre.

None of it is made easier by the fact I’ve now also been diagnosed with Meibomian Gland Dysfunction (MGD). It basically means that the glands in my eyelids are blocked and so can’t secrete tears properly. So I either have really dry, itchy eyes, or I have tears rolling down my eyes! Normally the latter! It makes you just feel even more tired and blurry eyed than normal which I can’t imagine helps my overall feeling of wellbeing.

Haha. Also just had a letter today from Sajid Jarvis saying well done for winning the Helpline Volunteer of the Year Award! He’s our local MP but I was quite impressed that he wrote. I might even see if we can get him to donate something for Sam’s #15B415 challenge! Someone might want the normal bottle of wine that gets sent through, signed!

Postscript:

So not much to add since what I wrote above. Everything is still on track, and the sleeping tablets are continuing to help me to cope with the lack of sleep…although this week has been exhausting (but due to sorting my dads house all weekend and lots of wallpaper stripping!). I’m still waiting to hear whether my stem cells from first time round are viable but will hopefully find out next week….it’ll be a massive relief if they are!

In the meantime, I’m feeling pretty positive about the #50KB450 fundraising at the moment. We’re nearly at 10% already, much helped by asking people to donate instead of sending me bday cards this weekend! I’m also sending out lots of letters to businesses that I know to see if they can help as that’ll be my easiest way of raising money! Sam is doing really well with his #15B415 challenges (he’s raised over £1000 himself!), and all the other family and friends who have got involved have done amazingly well already, with more coming in all the time. I feel ever so humbled by how much people have been prepared to do!

Stanyan Street

The Oakland Gang: niece Tillie, me, Nephew Joey, my wife Marilyn, and Noah our oldest son.

Due to my cancer, multiple myeloma, the physical adventure of traveling challenges my attitude. I dislike flying: the herding, the depressing bag of pretzels, and the cabin’s claustrophobic fit. Yet, once again, my wife and I chose to spend the holidays in San Francisco’s Bay Area.

We stayed in Oakland at a hotel on Broadway, close to where our oldest son lives. We were joined by a niece, who lives and works in a town nearby and her brother, our nephew, who was visiting following the completion of his degree at Tufts University in Boston.

Lake Chalet

I’d arranged to re-schedule my twice monthly infusions so as to not interfere with our activities. My treatment also includes oral drugs, which can continue when I’m on the road. I take a chemo type pill once a day and a steroid once a week. I’ve become inured to the daily pill. Its side effects blend into the general fatigue syndrome that characterizes my blood cancer. The steroid, though, radically alters my mood, my energy, and, perhaps, my personality.

IMM

We dined at a number of excellent restaurants: Itani, brunch at Lake Chalet, The Berkeley Social Club,  a morning snack at The Rotunda on the first morning, the hotel’s restaurant for breakfast Christmas day, then Farley’s East on the penultimate morning. Prior to seeing the movie, Little Women, we ate Thai street food at IMM and finally a goodbye meal at Tay Ho, a French/Vietnamese restaurant.

The highlight, however, was Christmas dinner at my brother and sister-in-law’s house in San Francisco. The Oakland gang merged with the San Francisco gang. 

Brother and Sister-in-Law’s house on Stanyan Street

The house sits near the top of Stanyan Street above Golden Gate Park. It is of Victorian vintage, built early in the twentieth century. (1904)

There are three levels situated on a steep slope adjacent to Sutro Forest. My brother and his wife live on the top floor. Their daughter and son-in-law and 12 year old grandson occupy the main floor. A laundry and storage, as well as a small studio apartment finish out the dwelling. There is also a two car garage, quite a luxury in parking starved San Francisco. They bought the house for $100,000 in 1973.

Oakland street art.

They admit to initially being anxious about the mortgage. At the time, my brother was a San Francisco fireman. His wife worked in medical research. She then chose to get a law degree and eventually became a patent attorney. Along the way, she also bore a child. By investing in their ingenuity, they were able to persevere through those early busy years. The house is now worth much, much more than the purchase price.

Stanyan Street

Main floor of the Rotunda in Oakland, CA

Christmas day was my steroid day. Under the influence of the drug, I sometimes jabber too much. I have also been known to say the wrong thing at the wrong time. Such are the perils of the steroid high. My faux pas filter, however, managed to keep me out of trouble. The convivial conversation even  prompted me to toast the three family lines in attendance. 

But, the enduring star was the house itself. Nurtured by my brother and his wife through the years, it has hosted numerous events commemorating family passages. There was a going away party for my wife and I decades ago when we immigrated to New Zealand. Then, in the not too distant past, a support reunion party for me prior to my stem cell transplant.

Tay Ho

Furthermore, two of their granddaughters lived there while launching into adulthood. And, my SIL’s mother spent her final days in one of the downstairs apartments. Birth, death, and all the transitions in between: such is the legacy of the Stanyan Street house.

When the evening ended, my wife and I returned to Oakland with our son. The lights of the Bay Bridge glittered with holiday flair. My slumpiness from the myeloma had vanished temporarily, along with other aches and pains of disease and aging. The day’s activities had drained the jolt of energy caused by the drug. Yet, I still floated in the steroid’s groove and mused, without judgment, as to how my body is no longer entirely my own. It is managed, to a degree, by pharmaceuticals. That’s ok. I would not be alive without them. 

Worcester Rd – the new pharmacy!

As I started this blog this morning I was taking a wide variety of drugs and cocktails!

  1. Daratumamab – immunotherapy drug
  2. Velcade – chemo drug
  3. Dexamethasone – evil drug – should not be allowed past go. Ruins relationship, friendships and more!
  4. Lanziprazole – protects stomach…I think
  5. Co-trimoxazole – godminly knows, I just take them and hope!
  6. Pregablin – reduces impact of neuropathy in feet, calves and hopefully is reducing pain in back.
  7. Colosevelam – deals with mile-bilemalabsortion – don’t look that condition up if you’re eating!
  8. conjugated oestrogen – for early menopause that kicked in at 35
  9. Sertraline – for the depression that can’t help but find a homely place in our house with everything else that is going on! My saviour

But today I’ve been joined to another regime. And today……drum roll……-another one is joining the ranks in the form of ZOPICLONE – a sleeping tablet. And it’s already made me spaced out and unable to hold a straight line! Hoping I’ll be ok for tomorrow as driving to oxford to visit my dad!!

I’ve also been given next week off velcade and Dex so we can have some time where I’m fit enough to do some things. Hurrah! Bloody fantastic! Might even have a little topple for new year!

But it made sense to try as I’ve only been getting between 1and 4 hours on a Monday with Tuesday slightly better at around 6-8 hours. But I feel awful between Tuesday eve and Friday eve and it’s miserable. If sleep is anything to do with it, I’d like to vaguely enjoy Christmas Day! We’re cooking for 6 but hopefully will be organised enough we can look to the guests to help nick to wash and clear!

  • Remember
  • Don’t overdo it – it’s only one day
  • If you burn anything hide it and pretend you never had it on the menu
  • If you burn anything remember you’ll be eating twice your body weight for 6 hours solid so will be totally grateful it was one less thing to eat
  • When you look at yourself the next day and wonder why you ate everything you knew will make you fat, and a month to get off the hips, please don’t bore us all with your plans for the gym!!
  • When you say ‘I shouldn’t’ when offered that extra drink….don’t if you really don’t want to …. but if you do….bloody do it!
  • Right I’m jibbering rubs is hand want these tablets to send me into a deep sleep! Wish Me luck

Anyway, can’t see me writing again for a few days so wishing all my friends, family and general subscribes a 🎄VERY HAPPY CHRISTMAS🎄

Not Dead Yet

Not even close, doing pretty well actually, though I should post more often. I was diagnosed with myeloma in July, 2003, and according to my math that’s well over 16 years ago. My family and I go to two different support groups, and I get celebrated as one of the long-timers. I like that, so very preferable to being dead, I think.

I’ve been on Pomalyst (Pom) since March of 2008, with the exception of one year when the Pom trial ended. Trials of three different experimental regimens failed me then, but Darzalex became approved and the combo of Darzalex, Pom, and dexamethasone (dex) brought my numbers way back down. Eventually we eased up a bit, gradually dropping the dex altogether and reducing the Pom from every day to 21 days out of 28. That may have been a mistake.

Mayo Clinic Rochester MN

IgG and M-Spike stayed way down for three years, but last spring my shoulder began to hurt and my lambda light chains crept up almost to the top of their range. A PET scan showed a bright, colorful lesion in the right scapula, even though IgG and M-Spike said nothing about it.

The radiation treatments started the very next Monday, 10 daily sessions with breaks only for weekends. When that doctor heard that I was 16 years from diagnosis, he allowed that my myeloma must be “indolent,” like a lazy schoolboy. Well OK, but here it was threatening the use of my right arm! Happily, the PET scan after that treatment showed only a very small lesion remaining in the scapula. Doc did good.

I’m back on Pom every day, Darzalex once a month, and dex 12 mg/week. The arm feels great, IgG and M-Spike are fine, and lambda light chains are right in the center where they belong. We’ll find out more with another PET scan in March at Mayo Clinic.

Time for an update

I haven’t written properly for a while. Partially as I’ve been busy trying to be organised for Christmas (just in case I get ill!), but largely because there hasn’t been an awful lot to say. Which has to be good news in the world of chemo and myeloma.

So I’m sat here at the QE in Birmingham, trying to make the most of my time waiting to see my consultant. For anyone who doesn’t know, it’s my standard monthly check-up. We tend to talk about my numbers, I ask the questions that have been building up, and then I leave.

We’re getting closer to these meetings having a bit more substance to them though. Who knows….maybe even today’s will have more to say. But the idea last month was that we’d start talking about my transplant in January, with the idea that I’d be having it in March / April. I’m hoping that’s all the same, although there was a slight thought that perhaps my numbers are starting to plateau a little….i.e the drugs may not be doing quite as much now as they had been doing. That’s my main question for today….what would that actually mean if they’ve stopped working.

The idea on DVD (darathumabab, velcade and dexamethansone) was that I’d be on it until the transplant, and then after the transplant, would stay on the Darathumabab as a kind of maintenance therapy…..well I think that’s what he’d planned! But if it has stopped working, I assume that carrying on with the Dara won’t be an option and that I won’t be on any kind of maintenance. That’s slightly unnerving as I had maintenance therapy last time and felt it really helped towards my 8 years of remission. I desperately want that long again. But maybe that’s expecting too much. I must look into what the new figures are for remission after a second transplant. It used to be that they expected you to get half the time you got for your first, but I think that’s old news. I know people who’ve had far longer from their second transplants, but I would also imagine that if you have people like me who had maintenance first time round, that you could still get less time from the second if you don’t get to have maintenance.

UPDATE:

So I saw my consultant yesterday and the good news is that my numbers have decreased even further from 11.2 to 8.6 – a brilliant decrease and it means those drugs are working (and perhaps it’s worth feeling rubbish most of the week!).

The bad news is that my consultant got it wrong when he said that I could come off the velcade and dex in January. Apparently I need to stay on them until March, and after that is when I’ll need a couple of months without them before my transplant (basically, they’re pretty toxic drugs and they want them out of my system). So it now looks like my transplant is more likely to be May/ June rather than the March/April that we thought.

I can’t decide if I think this is good or bad news. It’s definitely bad that I’ve got longer on the velcade and dex…they both make me feel fuzzy, exhausted and even sick at times. I’d been hoping I only had weeks left of it. But, the longer I wait till transplant, in some ways the better. Every month we seem to see developments in the treatment of myeloma, and we just don’t know what a month here or there might offer me. Revlimid, the drug I had as maintenance therapy last time round, but on a trial, may be available from October next year. But you have to start it within 3-4 months of your transplant. So if I can postpone my transplant, just possibly, I might be eligible to give it another go! That said, I might be told I can’t have it anyway!

I suppose if I’m honest, I’m just a bit fed up of feeling so shattered. It feels harder at this time of year too when everyone is enjoying a social life and I’m asleep on the sofa by 6pm. I’m slightly dreading Christmas Day and New Year as they both fall on my worst days of the week. But I want to be excited about them and I want to organise all the things that we have done and make it special for the kids and nice for Nick. I wish the drugs could all go on hold over Christmas and that I could just feel normal again for a few days. Thank god my temper seems to have calmed a little! That’s the only positive thing. I’m at hospital on the 22nd for an MRI to check out my back, the 23rd for my infusion and chemo, the 30th again for more chemo and then on we go. It makes me feel tired just thinking about it all.

Anyway, I think I’m just tired today so hopefully I can gee myself up a bit tomorrow.

When sleep is like a Facebook timeline!

Last night was a Dex night. I often don’t get to sleep till 3am on the first night, but now I’ve added sertraline back into my concoction of drugs, I thought I’d go to bed at a relatively normal time.

I actually got to sleep pretty fast! But after that it was such a surreal night and genuinely felt like I was working my way through my Facebook / LinkedIn timelines!! It was all I could do to stop myself getting up and doing the things I was having go through my head.

What was weirdest was that it wasn’t really a dream either.

I’m thinking I need a break! Hopefully by the end of this month I’ll have cut down my work quite significantly which will mean that I can take a bit of time out. I might even come off Facebook for a few weeks if I can set up my work to run without me!

In the meantime, I’m grateful for a semi normal nights sleep on a Monday!