Happy Anniversary

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.



Though my mother is not yet in remission, she still remains in a consistent and steady decline with her numbers (M-Spike, Freelites) that have left us feeling satisfied and content. As far as we are concerned, as long as the numbers aren’t going up, there’s no need to fix something that isn’t technically broken. In the mean time, she remains on a very low, maintenance dose of Revlimid and regular check ups. While the word “cancer” is always on our minds, it remains so at a distance, allowing us to take pleasure of the simple joys in life. Since then, I have also managed to successfully complete an editorial internship at a men’s fashion and lifestyle magazine out in Toronto, called SHARP, that has, quite honestly, changed my life as well. Fashion is something that I am passionate about, and this internship provided me with an invaluable amount of experience and insight that has only fueled my drive even more. You can check out some of my work over at my other blog, the Fashion Relic! In addition, i’m just about to finish up my last semester in school where i’ll be obtaining my commerce degree. So, as you can see, a lot of excitement and new beginnings!



Remembering this date led me back to this blogging account, and to my great surprise, showed me that many of you were still coming back and reading my previous posts! Thank you so much, and I can only hope that some of my previous posts were able to help any of you in one way or another. Remember, you are never alone. Your support has inspired me to continue writing from this account, so be sure to check back soon for some updates (especially one involving the magazine’s September issue!)


Love and Light,


Lance

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

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

Thankful Thursday#3




I’m thankful for yellow school buses, wide open spaces, dogs and cats, and chickens and fresh eggs.  Cows and horses in my country views. Living in a “smallish” town.  The four seasons that change just when you tire of one.  Holidays and Sundays afternoons. Family dinners. Busy boys.  A soft bed and a good nap.  The security of employment and insurance (but not the red tape and co-pays!) Homemade bread and simmering stew.  Fresh garden produce and sewing projects.   Family stories and the faith of my ancestors.  Multiple Myeloma specialists and the expertise of my local oncologist.  Kind and friendly nurses.  Lab techs with a light touch and little needles.  Modern medicine and “magical” technology.  My scriptures. A tank full of gas. Clean laundry and my washer and dryer.  My “to do list” all checked off at the end of the day.  People I care about. 

                 I hope I don’t take the little things for granted.  I have so much to be grateful for.  May we all make a conscience effort to develop an attitude of gratitude.    

Thankful Thursday #2

THANK YOU JOE for……………….
Endless driving to dr. appointments,  drinks of water, and deepening dependence.  
Hugs and holding my hand, and masked messages only we can share.
Blessings and  strategic juggling of household chores and children’s activities.
Earning a living while easing my burdens.  More than most men could handle.
Telling me I’m beautiful with my bare head and raw emotions.
Walgreen runs and a package of oreos under my pillow. 
Calming my housewife guilt with a gentle hand; leading me back to lie down.
Phone calls, “just checking on you calls,” and “just because I love you,” calls. 
How do I ever express my gratitude and love for this man that married me over twenty six years ago. 
Covenanting with me and God to be by my side as we began a life and family together.  
Both have given us more than one could imagine.  
Breathtaking mountains to climb and breath “shaking” changes as we race up and
 down this roller-coaster of a life buckled in tightly together.  

Thankful Thursday

      As promised from my last post- lets talk puppies!
This is Kirby a shih tzu my family gave me for my birthday. He is a happy, furry, puppy who soaks up any kind of attention.
       He is a great addition to our family.  Kirby and Zoey, our airedale terrier, have become bests friends.

And now introducing
    THANKFUL THURSDAY a great blog idea shared by Phil another mm blogger.  Every Thursday until Thanksgiving, I will be posting something I am thankful for.
    Today I want to share with you my gratitude for several friends in my life who have been the answer to my prayers over the last two years.  I am learning that many times the Lord answers our prayers through other people.  If a person is “in tune” they will act upon the promptings they feel.
  There has been several times when I have prayed for something and soon after I received a phone call or a visit from a friend who told me they felt prompted to check on me or see how I was doing. These always seem to happen when I need it most.
    Just yesterday I wasn’t feeling very well.  Once again I am coming down with a cold.  It was after 6pm and I had not even thought about fixing dinner.  While I was resting, a friend dropped by with a dish of homemade tamales.  She knows my boys love them. Dinner problems solved!
 I am so blessed to have good friends in my life who not only bless me with their friendship but also act upon the promptings they receive and are truly an answer to my prayers.

Vive Ut Vivas!

Hi!

I was just contemplating writing another post or studying for my (ugh) Management Science exam coming up (it sounds as bad as it is) and realized that my last post was almost a MONTH ago! Shame on me *slaps wrist*. So here I am, almost a month later, bringing you all up to speed on what’s been going on in our lives.

Since my mom was set free from the transplant ward, things have been quite calm, serene, and almost surreal-like. At least compared to when we were in for the transplant. Looking back, it seems as if we live in an entirely different WORLD now. My mom is like… Superwoman. The rate that she was able to recover exceeded even my own expectations. I knew she had her relatively young age, otherwise very healthy body, etc. on her side, but I was still shocked to hear when I called home one day (within the same week she was discharged) that she was “out for a drive”………BY.HER.SELF!

..umm WHAT?! Her naivety was cute, but DANG! I almost had a baby heart attack when I heard that. She was supposed to be at home resting and recovering, partitioning herself from the outside world and its GERMS. But I guess I couldn’t really blame her for wanting to get a little air. Who wouldn’t want a little adventure after spending almost two weeks cooped up inside a hospital room? Regardless, my mom was pretty much back to her normal strength and eating habits before she even left the hospital. From what I read and have heard, that can take anywhere from 4-6 months to get back to! And yet mama bear hadn’t even been discharged??? We were talking about why we thought she was feeling so great post-transplant and came up with this: Organic vegetables and fruits, elimination of sugars, TONS of water, regular exercise, lots of laughs and smiles, and aloe vera juice PRE-TRANSPLANT(!!!). We had been seeing a naturopath (shhhh) for a little while and he had recommended taking aloe vera juice because it was supposed to help protect and regenerate the digestive tract. As i’m sure many of you know, the digestive tract is probably the part of the body that is hit the hardest – primarily due to the megadose of Melphalan. When your digestive tract goes, so too does your appetite and ability to hold down food and thus, your rate of recovery. My mom was pretty adamant and determined with her aloe-juice-taking and really credits it for why she was able to recover so fast. There were a couple days where she threw up, while we were in the transplant ward. But other than that, she didn’t lose any weight (she had actually GAINED a couple pounds within the first week after discharge!). I’m not trying to sell or endorse anything to you guys at all, but I encourage you to do your research on it. If it is the reason why my mom was able to recover so fast, then many, MANY others would be able to benefit from this knowledge as well.

On another note, I had tried to.. well, fatty my mom up before she was admitted in order to offset the weight loss that was associated with the transplant. But apparently, this isn’t really a good idea because the weight loss is due to a decrease in MUSCLE mass, not fat. So if you are someone you know is going into transplant, make sure they try to build as much muscle beforehand as possible.

I’m happy to report that mama bear is doing incredibly well :) Everyone is commenting on how good she looks, so that is great! We got back into Church when we were diagnosed (funny how that happens huh?) and really got back in touch with God (as I’m sure many of you can relate). My mom had to miss out on about a month’s worth of Church when she was in transplant, and went right back afterwards – and no one noticed a thing! That’s how good she looked! We have a couple doctor appointments ahead of us that entail a biopsy and re-staging. We’re all a bit nervous… But hoping for the best. What else can you do, right?

Mama Bear and her cub

Family Thanksgiving :)

Friend Thanksgiving :)

With Thanksgiving weekend (here in Canada) just past, i’ve been able to reflect on what it really means to be thankful for what you have. Having my entire family in one gathering, eating and laughing (truly the BEST that this world has to offer!) – it was just incredible. I’m truly, truly thankful for everything that I have, the people in my life, and the lessons that I have learned. That weekend was definitely one massive moment of reflection. To think that one year ago, we had not yet been diagnosed…and then everything that we have learned since then? It’s absolutely staggering, incredible, and humbling. Our journey with cancer has not yet ended, but for now, everything is perfect. Fall, my favourite season, is upon us and i’ve come to learn that it is essential to live in the moment. So naturally, I got a tattoo! I’d been wanting to get another one for awhile, so what better a time then Thanksgiving?! It says “Vive ut vivas“, which means “Live so that you may live” in Latin. I thought it was fitting :)


Some Fall pictures on campus :)


So basically, that’s pretty much you being up to speed :) My brother and I are currently back in school, and my parents are back home doing their thing. And i’m so very grateful to have such a simple luxury like that. I will admit, once everything was back to “normal”, I felt this great pressure to do something amazing and life-changing. Coming from an experience like cancer and a stem-cell transplant, with all the lessons you learn and perspective you gain, I felt like going back to the ho-hum days of school weren’t worthy of my newfound outlook. But i’ve come to realize that this “ho-hum” normality is exactly what we’ve been fighting so VERY hard to regain. This lifestyle, this ability to be somewhat “normal” again, really is a luxury, it is not a right. These lessons that i’ve learned, they are something that I am extremely grateful for, things that I will carry in my pocket for the rest of my life, wherever I go. This year has, undoubtedly, been the hardest year of my life. But it’s also been the greatest (not … “happy”-greatest, but more along the lines of “epic”-greatest, if that makes any sense). I feel like i’ve just returned from some grand adventure, a lifetime’s worth of sorrow, gratitude, and wisdom on my back. I’m a changed person. We are changed people. And even though I know our adventure isn’t over, I do know that if we were able to survive (and pass with flying colors!) the last 9 months, we’re capable of overcoming anything set before us. And so are you. Never forget that! YOU can get THROUGH this! And if you ever need someone, know that I will always be here for you.

FREEDOM!

Mama Bear is OUT of the hospital!!!

THANK GOD!!!

My brother and I went down to see her over the weekend, and her counts were slowly rising (with the help of G-CSF shots). Saturday her neutrophils (a type of WBC) were at 0.4. The doctors usually want you to get to a CONSISTENT level of 0.5 before they discharge you, so we were close. But on Sunday, when we left, they actually dropped to 0.3. To our big surprise, I found out that yesterday (Monday), my mom was discharged from the hospital. Um, EXCUSE ME?! As much as I want her out of there and at home, I want to make sure these things are done properly so as to avoid any unnecessary issues in the future. But apparently her counts went from 0.3 on Sunday to 4.0(!!!) on Monday! So, I guess it was a safe assumption that it would be ok to discharge my mom.

Today, they went in for an appointment with our Onc and her counts remained good. Our visits to the hospital have now gone from live-in patient to ONCE a week!!! What a blessing! Once she gets home, I know she’ll recover even faster. Nothing feels as good as home right?

The storm is over and it is a huge, HUGE relief to know that we can just focus on recovery now. Although I can’t really say much (because i’m not the patient, myself), the whole transplant process seems to have gone without a hitch! The side-effects were somewhat minimal and, all in all, everything was quite tolerable. My mom’s biggest issue towards the tail-end was boredom, which of course, isn’t really an issue at all. So i’m very thankful for that. Just goes to show the power of support and prayer.

To anyone that is just about to embark down the road of a transplant, know this: It’s not as bad as it seems. It really isn’t. I think the fact that it’s a TRANSPLANT is what makes the situation seem so intimidating and terrifying. While it IS a major procedure, most people are more afraid of the word than they are of the actual process. All the connotations and associations with that word seem to imply some grand, DRAMATIC procedure. But in all honesty, it’s not that bad. In truth, the amount of work-up to get to the actual transplant is probably harder than the transplant itself. The anxiety, the stress, the planning, the re-planning, the research. It takes a toll. My advice to you? Take it day by day. The work-up schedule is…intimidating and overwhelming, to say the least. But instead of looking at the overall view of the million things you have to do in a month, just think about what you should do that day, or even the week. It makes things a LOT easier. And ALWAYS remain optimistic, strong, and positive :) I want to talk more on this, but I currently have an assignment due tomorrow that I have yet to start hehe :) First week of school and i’m already getting my ass handed to me. JOY!

Much Love,

L