June 19, 2009

Me and Myeloma facts

I have been pretty slack about writing-sorry.  I have been sooooo busy  what with summer gardening, painting my house, and training for my next marathon-not!
   Actually I have been enjoying the rainy weather, trying to do what I can around my house and trying harder to ignore the things I can't do, and considering a walk through the grocery store as my "marathon" training.  
   So now for the long anticipated update.  How am I doing?
Well that is a loaded question and the answer is prone to change hourly.  I am regaining my strength ever so slowly.  I guess I was getting a little too cocky last week thinking how lucky I was that I had not had any infections after this second transplant.  Alas that was not to be the case.  Last week Joe had a conference in Park City for two days and I was so excited to go with him.  Instead of spending some quality time together, I spent most of the time in the bathroom kneeling at the toilet.  I couldn't blame it on chemo so I assume I had picked up a stomach infection.
    The last few days I have been developing a sinus infection.  It's been a doozy and has really knocked me down physically.  There is nothing like getting sick to remind me that I need to be more careful with this weakened immune system that I have.  That is the nature of this beast multiple myeloma.  It is a cancer of the plasma cells within the bone marrow.  The cancerous cells crowd out the healthy plasma cells that help fight disease and infections.  
   Since we are on the subject of multiple myeloma I wanted to give you a few facts about this cancer because I have never really explained much about it and very few people even know what it is.
     Like I mentioned multiple myeloma is a cancer of the plasma cells.  It represents only 1% of all cancers.  It is most commonly found in older men.  It is called multiple myeloma because it affects multiple parts of the body.  The acronym CRAB helps me remember what they are.  The C stands for hyperCalcemia.  Calcium from the bone leaches into the blood stream.  If enough of it gets into the blood it can damage the kidneys or Renal system. The A stands for Anemia a common problem with mm. The B stands for Bone.  As the myeloma cells begin to multiply they start to eat into the bone causing lesions, and repeated fractures.  I was very lucky to not have any broken bones which is usually how mm is diagnosed. However I do have numerous lesions or weak spots throughout my body.  I have an infusion once a month to harden the bones.
   Multiple Myeloma is treatable but is not curable yet.  There are several different approaches to treatment.  My Doctor takes the "hit 'em hard and hit 'em fast" approach.
Thus the high dose chemo and two stem cell transplants.  We were able to knock off most of the myeloma cells through this, but my doctor explains that there are "sleeper cells" lurking which we have to get rid of through maintenance chemo shots and anti-cancer drugs and a steriod throughout the next year. 
   So the question is How am I doing.  Well I made it to the top of this first mountain range but I am not done mountain climbing yet.  Every step through this journey has been hard.  It has affected every facet of my being. It has made me grieve for the life and body that I had, but truly appreciate the many good things in my life I still have. I look forward to renewed health and a happy future.


carolyn said...

Two transplants down, only 12 months of maintenance to go! Stay with me on this one. I'm pretty sure it will be worth the climb.

stick said...

Kristine, thank you for the inspiration you give to us all. Sharon

monica said...

So by now you are sick and tired of being sick and tired. That stinks. Really stinks.

And it is hard. Very hard. Harder than woodpecker lips.

As you go through this, I think it has to be a bit like giving birth - the hardest thing you have ever done, and still lived through it. While the pain in enormous, it is worth every moment if only you make it to the other side. As you are going through the throws of it, you believe, if only momentarily, that you won't make it.

But then you do.

And then they hand you that little bundle of responsibility, and somehow it was worth every moment of pain and distress. Looking back, which one would you have traded to avoid the pain? NONE. Absolutely none. Instead, you would go through it all again to gain even one more day with them. And, knowing you, for even one more minute with them. Wow. I guess some pain is good.

This little journey through a mountain range is the same thing. I bet there are moments when you feel like you can't go on, moments when you feel like you can't go the distance. But you do. What choice do you have, really? But it still is painful.

Everyone around you is telling you that you are nearing the end, but it doesn't really feel like it, does it?

But...wait for it...wait for it...(drum roll)...BOOM, there IT is! That little bundle of responsibility - LIFE! - the joy, the pain, the ups, the downs.

It's coming, it's really coming! Keep going! Breath! Rest! One more hurdle! You can do it! You're almost there!

Now, of course, the question is... What are you going to do with the bundle - the very life - that is your own rebirth? No matter what, make it worth every bit of the pain you have endured. But what are you going to do first?

Fourteenth Year Cancerversary

              My husband and I at my 40th High School Reunion.                                                    Am I seriously that old?! ...