Oh Happy Day!

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. 
Anyway…
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.

L

2011

Dear 2010…
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!

L
Sent from my BlackBerry device on the Rogers Wireless Network

Anniversary

“If there were ever a time that I needed a prayer to be heard, now would be it. Mom has cancer.”

Immortal words I wrote down when my mother was discharged from the hospital exactly one year ago. It started out two days earlier as a sore throat and, somehow, ended up with cancer. It’s absolutely incredible how much can happen in a single year. Your life can change in the blink of an eye. YOU can change. The experiences we have experienced in this last year can be described as nothing short of phenomenal, in both good ways and bad. We’ve been presented with a very… Hard reality. I don’t want to say unfortunate, although in many ways it is, because it implies an unhappy ending to me. But to say this past year has been a struggle would be an understatement. However, a lot of good has come out of our situation as well. Its almost like Pandora’s box, where all the evils of the world flew out once opened. But despite all the darkness and malice in the world, there’s still a little light, hope. And no matter how big or small that light is, it is enough to be seen in a world of darkness. With hope we gathered strength, and with strength we built resilience and fortitude. Like a bricklayer, we built ourselves up, slowly but surely. This year has taught me many lessons in strength and perseverance, in appreciation and gratitude, and has given a depth to my perception of the world I never knew possible. Though it has been a difficult year, a number of unlikely blessings have revealed themselves, and I am extremely grateful for them. While it would be quite a stretch to say that these experiences have been blessings in disguise, there has been much good that has risen from our ordeal. The end of the year is a time for reflection for many, and this year is no exception. In fact, these last few weeks are more like a reflection of reflections amassed over time, an incredible sum of lessons learned and trials tribulated. And now, here we are. We’ve come full circle, back to the day where it all started. But the world is not the same, nor are we. As the world turns, life goes on and regardless of what happens, you gotta keep up. You gotta pick them legs up and move, because the world doesn’t wait for anyone, and you end up getting left behind in the dust. Although I am only in my early twenties, I feel like an old soul. As traumatic as the last year has been (especially the first 4 months), I have learned more in one year than I have in 21. It’s hard to put these experiences into perspective. People just don’t understand, unless they, too, have been impacted by the claws of cancer. On one hand, you wish they could understand the depth and magnitude of your pain. But on the other, this is an experience that you would not wish on even your worst of enemies. It’s a twisted reality, it is. Everything about cancer is twisted. You get jaded real fast on certain aspects and develop a deep respect and appreciation for others. Why is it when you are threatened with death that life seems so much more beautiful? It’s like some sort of sick joke being played. There is still residual trauma that lingers inside from those first few months. Physically, I may have recovered. But mentally, still shell-shocked. Not a day has gone by where I do not think about the mortality of my mother. It is now a dark cursed cloud that follows me everywhere I go. Some days are only slightly overcast, while others, thundershowers. And I know my mother feels the same. I can still see the pain in her eyes, hear the sorrow in her voice. She’s pretty good at covering it up, but this son knows his mother well. Overall though, I would have to say that we are all in much better places. Cancer has forced us to make certain lifestyle changes, both physically and mentally, which would benefit anyone regardless of the circumstances. We’re completely different people now. You’ll have to excuse me if this post seems a bit drawn out, i’m just writing down these words as they come to me.

In the past year, we’ve faced and overcome a cancer diagnosis, been on several different chemotherapy regimens, started a fundraiser that received world-wide attention, gone through an autologous stem-cell transplant, completely changed our lifestyles in the way we eat, exercise, and think, and so much more. We’ve come…a very long way, and we still have a long ways to go. But, if we’ve come this far, we can do anything. Currently, mama bear is on a mix of Velcade, Cyclophosphamide, and Dex to bring the numbers down a little more. We’re hovering and debating the addition of Revlimid to her current regimen or the possibility of another transplant. With the news that Revlimid may cause secondary cancers, i’m a little hesitant to have her go on it again. Then again, what kind of chemotherapy doesn’t have the risk of secondary cancers? That stuff is poison and meant to shock the system. On the other hand, the very thought of another transplant is exhausting and daunting. Due to overbooked hospitals, I’m pretty sure we’ve passed the time period that would consider this second one a tandem transplant (and thus, the possibility of higher effectiveness), so i’m a little reluctant to go down that route as well… It’s not like these stem cells are an unlimited resource. We’ve got enough for one, MAYBE two, more transplants. So we have to be smart with our choices. As usual, we must face some tough decisions… In other news, i’m gearing up to start the second half of my fundraiser, Monsters Against Myeloma, so stay tuned for more information. I’m also planning to use this site as a resource for new updates and news in the MM world. Definitely lots of work ahead of us, but it’s all stuff that will hopefully help us move forward :)

I’m thankful for what 2010 has taught us, but i’m ready for it to be over. I’m hoping with everything that I have that 2011 brings health and happiness to my loved ones. I’ve come to realize that the important things in life are the simple things. Now, with everything in my life put into perspective, things seem much more clear. All I could ask for in this life is for my loved ones to be happy, healthy, safe, and strong. Cheers to a (soon-to-be) New Year my friends.
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Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas everyone!

It truly is the most wonderful time of the year. Family. Friends. Food. Laughs. Love. Its a time where we are able to come together as one and enjoy each other’s company (and not be judged by our mountainous plates of food). It’s also a time to really sit back and reflect on the past, present, and future. What we are grateful for and the things that we cherish most. When it really comes down to it, family and those close to our hearts are what really matter. I think the reason why Christmas, and the holidays, have always been such a pivotal time of the year for me is because they symbolize so many important things. Within religious contexts, it signifies hope, light, and love. There is a warmth that emanates from the very thought of being together with my loved ones, enjoying each others company and eating together. I am so grateful to be able to have opportunities to come together like this. It truly is a blessing. For those of you spending the holidays alone, my heart goes out to you. There is always an extra space at the table here for you. And for everyone, I hope your hearts and your bellies are full tonight :).

Merry Christmas!

L
Sent from my BlackBerry device on the Rogers Wireless Network

Christmas Reflections