Saturday, December 3, 2016

Moving Mountains for Multiple Myeloma

We're just over two months away from Kilimanjaro. The excitement is building. Can you feel it? The MMRF has started promoting the climb and the climbers. The below link will take you to a page with climber's blogs. You can read my blog here and you can learn more about the folks I'll be spending nearly two weeks with. It's a great group.

Also, you still have time to donate. By goal is $12,000 and I've recently crossed to 10,000 mark.

Here's the link to get to my donation page.

Matt's Kilimanjaro Donation Page

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Bag o Iron

My blood counts are going up with the new regimen, but I'm also low on iron. Last week and this week I've had to get a 30 minute iron infusion. It looks like this:

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Back to Kilimanjaro Training

Just wrapped up my first cycle of darzalex. Lab results were fantastic. Almost unbelievable how much improvement there is after one cycle.  But we'll take it. I can say I am definitely feeling better. Still having the crash today, two days after chemo. But yesterday I felt well enough to go on a short hike. Kilimanjaro is just 3 months away. Short work week coming up. Berenson Wednesday.  Chemo Friday. It'll be in the hospital since Phan's office is closed.  Should be smooth and easy. We've got it down to about five hours. It is the hospital so let's add a couple of hours.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

11.0 and 2.52

Dayum!!!  That creatinine is dropping like crazy. Good news. Thanks Darzalex. And blood counts going up, meaning increased energy. Tomorrow is day 22 of cycle 1. Might try and get a hike in on Saturday, gotta get back to Kilimanjaro training.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Latest labs

The doctors say that darzalex goes to work quickly because it targets the cancer cells. I'm no oncologist but I do know that finally my blood counts are going up and creatinine is dropping. Hemoglobin is 10.8 which means no procrit shot for first time in a couple of months. Creatinine is 2.82, meaning my kidneys are definitely out of failure territory. So I'd say something is going on.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

hashtag of the day #fuckthisshit

Feeling ok physically after a couple of rounds of darzalex. But I'm in a horrible mood and really not happy with work and all that goes with it. It has absolutely zero value to me (other than a paycheck). My time working could end sooner than anticipated. And that's my update. Day 15 this Friday.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Done and Done

Problem free day with darzalex. Took about 6 hours. Next time it should take 4. The beauty of it all is I'll have insomnia tonight from the dex but that's ok because tomorrow is Saturday and don't have work or anything. I'm gonna stay up all night. Where's the black jack table?


Lowest creatinine since being diagnosed. 2.79. Yay kidneys!

Darzalez 8.5

Met someone at Phan's office who has been on darzalex for 10 months. Working like a charm.

Here's me, half way through the bag, with my favorite nurse.

Darzalex day 8

#SkolVikings #myeloma #MM4MM

Training hard for Kilimanjaro

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Darzalex Day 7, 5 and 1/2 years

A chemo cycle is 28 days. For the first two months of this new regimen, I'll be doing chemo every Friday, on days 1, 8, 15 and 22. Then start again. Tomorrow is day 8 of the cycle, but it'll be my second time getting darzalex. We'll do it in Phan's office which is way better than the hospital. Another reaction is unlikely.

Today is day 7 of the cycle. I'm a bit achy again. Moved around a lot during the night, one room to another trying to find just the right, pain free spot to sleep. Poor Gracie follows me around, waiting for me to get settled. I'm sure she's happy to get a nap in when I leave to work.

Also of note, yesterday was November 2. That makes 5 and 1/2 since original diagnosis. 66 months.  Finally my brain is working again after the 27 hour infusion of last weekend.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Darzalex Day 4. Vikings vs Bears

day 4. Monday.  Physically doing good. In fact all my body pains are gone.  I got a light workout in and rode the stationary  bike for a while.  Went to work a couple of hours late and left early. Got to ease into it. Totally brain dead though.

Tomorrow work, procrit shot and visit with Dr Phan.

#skol Vikings

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Darzalex Day 3

Home. Very nice. Two days in the hospital is all I can take. When I was first diagnosed, I spent a fair amount time in the hospital. Sometimes for a week or more at a time. That was a killer on my mental state. After a few days, I'd start to wonder if I could rustle up some drugs that would let me just call it quits. This latest stay was actually. I felt fine, it was just a precautionary stay, given the chance of a reaction to the new drug. I stayed somewhere I haven't been before. A smaller place than my normal spot. Nurse were great, you get much more personal attention. That made the stay easy.

Yesterday, no reaction. It really is a one time thing. But I was loaded with various drugs. Demerol, benedryl, dexamethasone, and Ativan. That's a lot.

As I said I got a some really nice messages and calls from my Kilimanjaro family. And that's what they are. We are connected forever. Despite my worries about being able to do the climb, I am more focused on it than ever. I have to do it. I'm going to give my body a rest for a few days, then I'll be back at the training. The nice thing is I have zero body pains. Maybe my body needed the rest. I think I'm a retaining a bit of liquid. I haven't been eating much but I packed on a few pounds in one day, just out of the blue. Weird.

Today is a rest day. Not sure about going to work tomorrow. I'm trying to conserve my time off, so nut sure what to do.

My mental state today is meh, so-so. I think I'm coming down from all the drugs. I'm wondering what next. Ok I have an 8 month program ahead of me. And then? And what about today and tomorrow and the next day? Getting out of site sounds good. No people, no stress. Just Matt time, living quietly and anonymously.

This will pass. Depression can be a side effect of Dara. And I always get the post dex crash. So I got this, just need a day to process it all. Thanks for all the support.

Saturday, October 29, 2016


Just in the nick of time. I had reached my hospital stay limit. Thanks all for words of support.  Day 2 of darzalex is friday.  Should be done in Phan's office since i got the reaction out of the way.

Darzalex 2.75

We've bumped the rate to 110, above what I reacted to yesterday. So I should be going home soon. I've received calls and messages from Kiilimanjaro teammates.  This is very special. I was worrying how this turn of events would effect my ability to go to the mountain. The inspiration from my fellow patients is poweful. So it's on. Kilimanjaro look out!

Also got a note from another Kili teammate. He just fell out of remmision after 2.5 years. He was doing only revlimid. He's switching to carfilzomib and option we considered.

Darzalex day 2.5

Feeling great. Took a couple of laps around the hospy. The deal with Dara is that typically you get one reaction event and that's it. Yesterday I started at 50ml hour. We bumped up to 100 and had the reaction. Back to 50 and no issues. Today we've been increasing by 5 so I am up to 65. But even at this rate it would take forever to finish this thing. We are now taking incremental 10 ml steps.  Dara is rated at 200 and can even go up 400. Here we go. Let's light this candle! (See The Right Stuff)

Leslie checked in with Berenson and Phan. And we have agreement. 

Note Drazalex's formal name is Daratumameb (Dara).

Darlazex Day 2

Yes, day 2. Gonna be a long one.

This past week, my all over body pain was as bad as it has ever been. In the middle of the night, it was the worse. We recently did a skeletal survey and we ruled out the myeloma impacting the bones. But every bone and every muscle was hurting. And I'm not embilisshing by saying every one. Hands, toes, legs. Well, actually my back is the only that wasn't hurting. Decent sleep hasn't existed.

Phan's feeling is it's the myeloma and toxicity of all the drugs I've been on. Also, I haven't eaten much this week. Not much of an appetite.  Nonetheless, I gained several pounds.  When I checked in yesterday, we noticed I had some edema and swelling. I was feeling bloating. So my brain thought, of fuck my kidneys are failing. That would be game changer for me. Huge game chaanger.BUT, we did blood work at hospy. Creatinine is 3.2. That is a great number for me. On the official efr scale, it's out of failure range.

Yesterday, When we took darlazex on to a higher drip rate, I had a bad reaction. Breathing was impacted, then horrible shivers and rigors. Then all my pains were heightened. Not fun, not fun at all.  In fact a bit scary. A team of nurses got me blankets, rubbed my painful legs, they called Dr Phan. I got more, dex, demeral, more bendryal and we slowed the drip down. Breathing became easier. Shivers stopped and my pains lessened. That was a crazy ten minutes.

At 8 last night, they gave me an ativan.  And I passed the fuck out. Slept like a champ. Didn't wake up once. I can't remember the last time that happened. Sure I was highly medicated but I slept pain free. Just saw the morning nurse. The kicker is we're keeping me on slow drip. I have another 10 hours of infusion. So I'm in the hosiptal for the day. Hopefully I'll get discharged later today. Weekends are tough, hard to find doctors to give discharge notice.  Phan said once drip is done, I can go home. He's not on duty, but is available by phone. So later today, the nurses will call him to get the discharge notice.

 A few notes: thank god for my port. It makes the administration of all drugs super easy. One nurse wanted to also give me an iv as a precaution, In case I needed more drugs to fight a reaction. But we talked her out of it. Arm IV make the hospital stay a differemt animals. Restricts ability to move, gives a dull pain, my veins are hard to find and don't work so good and I would be left with ugly bruises.We convinced (pressured) the nurse to drop the thought of an iv.  It's an important reminder.  You, the patient, are the boss. You can ask questions and say no to stuff. Having your caregiver/advocate helps. When you are in pain or loopy or sleepy, you need that support. Scratch one thing. Just got a roomate. Ok, now I am ready to go home. Fuck

The kicker is I'm here for a while. Guess I'll watch lots of college football today.  I'm super hungry. I feel good. I'm in the oncology unit, so the nurses are extra friendlly.  teamgoldman lives to fight another day.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Side effects of darzalex

First hour of darzalex went off with no hitch. Then we increased drip rate and then i had a reaction. First breathing issues, then shivers and a painful back. We stopped and then restarted darzalex at slower rate. Plus a demeral iv that took care of shakes/rigors and pain. Now back to the drip with more benadryl.  Tired and loopy. it is.


Day 1, Cycle 1 Darzalex

So the interesting thing with darzalex if that for the first infusion, 50% of patients have an allergic reaction, sometimes impacting the respiratory system. Ergo, you do your first treatment in a hospital. Yuck. But i'm checked into Los Alamitos Medical Center, waiting on my drugs. It's going to be a long, slow drip.  Fingers crossed I don't have to spend the night.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016


Recall when I was diagnosed, I was experiencing fatigue, fevers, night sweats and severe anemia.  It took a few months of me being sick to get me diagnosed. Once diagnosed, we went though three chemo regimens that did nothing for me. My kidneys were on the verge of complete and total failure.  At this point Berenson started me on Treanda (Bendamustine), which at the time wasn't really being used on myeloma. But it worked, it got my numbers down to a good spot.  Then I was on maintenance for about 10 months. That was velcade, revlimid and dex.

After 10 months, my numbers starting going up, so we went back to treanda. Note that normally the myeloma morphs and becomes unfazed by whatever drug a patient is on. But, on my first go round with Treanda, we didn't exhaust its effectiveness. The second go round however we did exhaust the usefulness of the drug. It got my myeloma back down to a good spot. Again we switched to a maintenance regimen. This time, the usefulness of the maintenance mix lasted 2 years. That's pretty darn good.

Over the past few months, I've been getting fatigued with a lot of muscle and bone pain. We did a full body scan and my bones look good. My kidneys remain pretty darn good, considering where they were. My numbers? Well they have slowing been inching up. But the most recent month they took a significant jump and I've been feeling crappier.

There are two terms that myeloma patients are familiar with: relapse and refractory. Relapse is when a patient has been doing no treatment and the cancer gets reignited. Refractory is when a patient is doing treatment and the drugs stop working and the cancer gets aggressive. These two terms are what makes myeloma incurable. Relapse or refractory is inevitable. It's just a matter of when. And then it's a matter of  there being other drugs that are effective.

So I am now refractory.  It's time to change my mix. I'll be doing darzalex and pomalyst, both myeloma drugs that weren't around when I was diagnosed. Darzalex is infused and pomalyst is a pill. Taken together and with dexamethasone, every one's least favorite steroid, the regimen is pretty effective. I start Friday.

I've had the same routine for two years. It was totally doable and I knew what to expect. I knew I'd change at some point. That point is now.  Feeling like crap has made Kilimanjaro training a challenge. And now this new regimen makes it more of a challenge. Right now I'm operating at one week at a time. Can't really think beyond this Friday and this weekend.

Time for tiger blood, beast mode and visualization.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Kilimanjaro Team

Here's a link to a page with short bios on the Kilimanjaro team.

And here's a link to my fundraising page. Any amount helps us get closer to a cure.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016


Our pets are very important to us as we live with and fight myeloma.  Gracie has been amazing over these past few years. She can read my mood and my energy and motivate me to get moving or slow things down to accommodate me.   Sammy is a myeloma friend's dog.  Sammy was only 3 and had his own cancer. He passed away a few days ago.  Let's all take a moment to acknowledge Sammy as well as our own four legged support. While we're at it, let's also send positive thoughts to Richard who is living with myeloma and experienced this heart breaking loss.

Monday, October 17, 2016


I'm typically low on blood. It's a side effect of my treatment, but also a result of the myeloma. In rough terms, the myeloma crowds the bone marrow and inhibits the body's ability to make red and white blood cells. Hence anemia and lowered immune system.  I get weekly Procrit shots that help my blood making. Typically, 3 or 4 weeks in a row of Procrit gets me up to near normal. Near normal then lasts a month or so. Then we repeat. Lately though, Procrit shots aren't getting blood counts up. Perhaps the shots are preventing my levels from dropping even lower. All I know I am now consistently low on blood, meaning I'm tired, irritable and mentally not sharp. It makes focusing a real effort and thereby makes working a regular job difficult. I can't focus and I don't care.  Not a good match for being productive.

Friday is Berenson. I may push for a regimen change. I'm stable, but numbers are inching up. Of course the goal is to keep whatever is working. going for as long as possible. But I'm not sure stable is cutting it for me. I want improvement. I'd like to feel like I did about a year ago, when my numbers were superb. Phan is ready to change. We'll see what Dr B says.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Birthday with the Goats

For my 55th we went to the Gentle Barn, a farm animal sanctuary. It's a great place doing great work. Hanging with the goats is our happy place.

Momentum Magazine

This is a bit blurry, but it's an article from 2013. Momentum Magazine did an article on me and the importance of getting on my bike to help recover from the challenges of myeloma. I haven't been on my bike in a long time, but I did go on a short ride with my nephew Dillon in Tahoe last month and it's been on my mind that I need get riding again. It's relaxing, freeing and healthy.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

21 Pilots cover of the song Cancer (originally done by Chemical Romance)

21 Pilots is one of my favorite bands right about now. They performed on Saturday Night Live the other day (Oct 8). And I just discovered a song called Cancer. It's their cover of the original which was done by the band Chemical Romance.  Warning it might make you tear up a little bit, but that's ok. It's a good thing.

Monday, October 10, 2016

55, 5-0

Yesterday I turned 55 and the Vikings won to go to 5-0.  Leslie and I went to the Gentle Barn, a farm animal sanctuary located about an hour from our house.  Great day.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Lizzy Smith

 I mentioned the other day that a myeloma advocate had passed away. I knew of Lizzy Smith, but didn't know her. Here's a nice tribute to Lizzy from the Myeloma Crowd, for which Lizzy wrote many articles. Also here are some thoughts from Lizzy about living life.

A Tribute to Lizzy Smith

And that’s why I’ve learned to live. Live BIG and GRAND as often as I can. As often as my health and treatments allow, and responsibilities to children, self, family and loved ones. I travel like crazy and have discovered locales that bring me great joy. I go hang gliding. I ski. I do things that are outside of my comfort zone. When I feel angry, sad and depressed, I hit up the salon, go for a walk, or play with my friend Katherine’s dog. Anything to get out of that zone and into a different one. I plan to go skydiving soon. Wear your favorite shoes, use your pricey perfume and favorite dishes daily, and break out the handbag you paid way too much for and have been hesitant to use in case you ruin it. Who cares? It’s doing no good in the closet. Go hang out with your friends and laugh. Pity parties are allowed, but letting them go for too long accomplishes absolutely nothing and can be extremely dangerous to our fight to get well, recover, and gain our emotional, spiritual and physical health back.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Feeling Better

Mental is physical and physical is mental. Myeloma is both. The aches and pains had me mentally worn out. Today I woke up without any aches and pains and therefore in a better mental state. Of course, that doesn't change my plans one iota.  But I am feeling better which is nice. I got a work out in this morning. Then my skeletal survey. Perhaps 10 x rays, toes to head. Should get results next week.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Vikings 4-0

The great news is the Vikings are 4-0 and sources tell me they are looking like super bowl contenders. They are the Vikings so anything can happen. But so far the season is fantastic. Their defense is huge. I got scared the other day, thinking what if they did make the super bowl and I was off in Africa. Kilimanjaro and the super bowl are both in February. But I checked schedules and I'm good. No overlap. Perhaps I am jinxing things by getting so fired up. But eff that, I'm fired up and nothing can change it.

On the myeloma front, it's interesting times. The good news is that my time at work is winding down. Of course, work doesn't know about this and won't know about it, unless they read this blog, which I seriously doubt. A broad window for retiring is between now and April 2017. More specifically I am aiming for putting in a retirement notice when I get back from Kilimanjaro. This makes me happy. My contingency plan is that I might decide to retire any day, depending on how I feel.

Lately I've felt like crap and I've mentally checked out of work. Everything I do is aimed at wrapping things up and being able to hand them over. But it's all seeming meaningless right about now. And I'm running on fumes, so the energy for 40 hour weeks is slowly dissipating.

The myeloma? Well my kidneys, which are the primary measure of how I'm doing, are doing fantastic. They're better than they've been since I was diagnosed.  Other numbers like light chains and protein in my urine are inching up. I think if it were up to Dr Phan, we'd switch up my chemo regimen. Berenson isn't ready to make the shift. The goal/mission is to get every last benefit out of my maintenance protocol. Things aren't changing rapidly enough to warrant change.

But I'm tired. My weekly Procrit shots aren't really doing a good job of getting my blood counts up. So I'm running on 2/3 normal blood counts.  Everything aches. Phan is running various tests to see what's up. Berenson says arthritis. Phan says neuropathy. Both don't think it's bone damage caused by the myeloma. My feeling it is both arthritis and neuropathy. Some test results have come in and I'm definitely showing significant inflammation. Tomorrow is a skeletal survey, basically full body x rays, and this ought to enlighten us a bit more.

I'm coming up with my own plan of attack, because history shows the doctors will be vague about what I can do about this.  So I need to lighten up, the plan is to drop 15 pounds. This ought to relieve stress on the joints. I'm also reducing my carb and sugars intake. Both are inflammatory foods. I need to eat a non-inflammatory diet. And I need to keep exercising to keep the bones and muscles strong.

I've been on cruise control for a couple of years. Now, at 5 years and 5 months it seems that either the myeloma is changing or the non stop chemo is taking it's toll on me. We'll know what is what over the next couple of weeks.

I'm sure I've said this before; I've accepted my ultimate fate with this here myeloma. An advocate passed away this week from pneumonia. She was doing great a month ago. It's sad news. And that's the mystery of myeloma, you just never know when your immune system will quit and some virus or infection brings you down.  I'm not ready to go But I do have an exit strategy in mind. I'm not ready to execute it. But absolutely this is a large reason why I am excited to stop working. I need to get on with living and enjoying life. A desk does not fit into this goal.

Also, I hesitated to write this post. I know it worries some folks, particularly family members.  But remember, I partly view this blog as an avenue to share my experience with other patients and as a way for me to vent. Writing can be cathartic. So it might seem harsh and scary, but it's all ok. I'm still captaining this ship.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

5 5 5 5

It's October 2. 5 years and 5 months since my myeloma diagnosis.  In a week I'll be 55.  Over the past month, it seems like how my myeloma manifests itself has changed.  Light chains and protein are inching up. Not good.  But kidney function is approving remarkably.  That's a great thing. What's it mean?  I have never had bone involvement.  But for the  past few months I've been getting increased levels of bone pains. Berenson says it's arthritis and not myeloma.  Phan say it's neuropathy. In the next few days I'll do a bone scan to see what's up with the bones.  But I can say that this pain has the potential to be a game changer.  It impacts my ability to work out and train for Kilimanjaro.  It impacts my mind set. I can deal with fatigue and can handle it. But pain, I'm gonna have to ponder that.  Yesterday I saw friends that I don't see often.  I was crashing from chemo and hurting across the body.  I had to bow out of the fun, so I could get home and sleep. For the first time in a while I'm really hating this new normal that myeloma has created. It's bullshit. I definitely need to work through this challenge.

Tom Brokaw's Myeloma Journey

Here's something Tom Brokaw wrote for the New York Time this weekend, titled: Learning to live with cancer.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Arthritis, neuropathy or what

My doctors are great. I have an amzing team. Berenson comes up with the chemo regimen that keeps me going. Phan is my go to hemotologist for having longer conversations about what I've got going on. They don't ever talk to each other. Berenson is keeping me on the same maintenance I've been doing for two years. He doesn't discuss change. Phan on the other hand has been prepping me for a change. It's inevitable, really.  And with some of my recent lab results changes, a new regimen may be closer than it once was. That's fine.  But we want to squeeze every last successful bit of the current treatment. In fact over the past two months my kidneys have been better than ever. Which is why Dr B says there is no need to even talk change. 

I've been fortunate. I haven't had neuropathy issues in the five plus years since diagnosis. With treanda (bendamustine) I did experience minor neuropathy. I simply had a loss of sensation in my fingers. No pain and feeling came back as soon as I stopped the drug.

Over the past few months I been getting more aches and pains in my joints and legs and hands.  It hasn't been bad and I chalked it up to age, Kilimanjaro training, and a side effect from dex. Lately though the pain has intesified, usually at night and when I wake up.  I mentioned this to Berenson last week and he quickly chalked it up to arthritis, and not at all related to the myeloma.  Today I saw Phan and I talked more about the aches. He ruled out arthritis immediately and said it is obviously is neuropathy. He said I am too young to have arthritis all over my body.

I thought neuropathy was mostly tingling, numbness and pain in hands and feet. "Nope" says Phan. Can also be joint and muscle pain caused by nerve damage.  I have been getting velcade through my port.  It's typically now given sub q...a shot in the belly.  The sub q is supposed to lessen the velcade induced neuropathy. Up until today I have passed on sub q. The infusion has been working fine.  But today we switched to sub q, assuming my pain is neuropathy.  We shall see.

I also have the mystery bruise and soreness in my right arm.  Both docs say my bones are fine and not to worry.  Phan today suggested we do a bone survey to be sure they're good. It's been well over a year since the most recent survey.  Phan also said we'd do some kind of liver enzyme test to determine if my muscles are breaking down. I know Pat K would discuss how dex impacted muscles.

We'll do the tests, continue with sub q velcade, throw yoga into the mix and keep working to take control of the aches.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Mystery bruise

Low platelets, blood thinners and being a klutz leads to bruising. Most aren't that bad and most I have no idea how I got.  This one?  Don't know what happened. But kind of nasty looking. Wtf

And on it goes..

Saw Berenson Friday. He's happy. My kidney function is improving every month. That's a great thing. My myeloma numbers are not as good as they were several months ago, but not to worry says the doctor. Maintenance continues. Tuesday is day 1 of a new cycle. Velcade, dex, revlimid.

I'm still training for Kilimanjaro. I can unequivocally state that it is the hardest thing I have ever trained for. It's not the mountain's fault. It's my body. There's the myeloma, anemia, fatigue and sore joints. I asked Dr B about my achy joints. I haven't had any bone issues from myeloma. He's thinking it could be arthritis that's impacting me. From the bottom moving up...feet, ankles, knees,, hips, hands, elbows and shoulder all ache, almost daily. If you remember the movie North Dallas Forty, Nick Nolte was a an aging football player who struggled with pain every day getting out of pain. That is me. It makes training super difficult. But I'm up for the challenge. No turning back now. Also note that I'm at $9,500 in fund raising. It's not too late to give! Any amount helps.

I will be following up with other doctors, including Phan, on what is up with the aches and pains. Popping pain pills is hopefully not in my future.

I've said it before, myeloma has fast forwarded me into being an 80 year old man. I grunt. I struggle getting in and out of cars that sit too low. I need frequent bathroom breaks. My memory sucks.

But!!  I'll be 55 soon and I'm feeling pretty darn good.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

I Won't Apologize for Having Fun While Chronically Ill

As I prepare to wind down on my career so I can enjoy life and take care of my health the way I should be, I find this story to be quite appropriate and accurate.

Saturday, September 3, 2016


3.01 is my latest creatinine number. It's a measure of kidney health and function. The lower the number the better the kidneys are, meaning the myeloma is under control. 3.01 is easily the lowest my creatinine has been since I was diagnosed. This trounces the previous best by 8%. So the myeloma is calm. My stress over recent changes could be pointless.  Good news and a reminder to stay calm and listen to Berenson.  

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Teddy Bridgewater, Neuropathy, and What's Next

I'm wrapping up a Tuesday. Days and weeks and months fly by. I don't like it at all. Nor do I like green eggs and ham. I started my latest cycle of maintenance today. Revlimid, velcade, dex and medrol. Dr Berenson's mix. For some folks, my regimen is their treatment. But for me, it is maintenance. We're not looking at this mix to bring the myeloma down. Rather, we're using the mix to either keep it stable or slow the progression. For the past two years, it has done a superb job of keeping things stable. This is longer than we expected.  Since perhaps April of this year, my numbers have been creeping up. We look at protein in urine, paraprotein (the nasty myeloma created protein) in urine, kappa light chains and creatinine. I do not have a m spike, a common myeloma marker. So these four listed metrics give us a sense of what the myeloma is doing. Oh, and of course, we go by how I feel.

The numbers aren't skyrocketing, but they are inching up. My maintenance is no longer doing exactly what it aims to do. But don't get me wrong, it's working but not as efficiently as before. And that's how it is with myeloma. It eventually becomes refactory, basically meaning the myeloma morphs and becomes immune to whatever drug you might be taking, Very common for this to happen in myeloma. This is the incurable part of it. Us myeloma patients are fortunate that in the past 3 years or so, we've had several new drugs in the chamber ready to blast the myeloma. I haven't used any of these new drugs. Doctors Phan and Berenson have been reminding me of this fact in recent visits. In my mind, they are preparing me for a change. And if I am being frank, at my past 2-3 visits with Berenson I was absolutely expecting him to say it's time to change. But he hasn't said it yet. He's happy with how I'm doing. He's the expert. My kidney function (creatinine) is decent, meaning the myeloma is under control. I  feel ok, even climbing 10,000 foot Mt Baldy two weeks ago and 14,000 Mt Bierstadt in Colorado two months ago. Sure they totally kicked my ass, but I conquered them. This month, my proteins went down (good) while light chains went up (not good). Kind of a mixed bag. If you ask me, the regimen change is coming. But we want to sap every ounce of benefit (with time included as a benefit) from my maintenance as possible.

It's kind of an odd position. I know change is coming. Lots of questions though. When is it happening? Next month, next year, who knows. What drug will I do and what does that treatment schedule look like? Berenson has mentioned Daratumamab (more easily known as Darzalex) as the next drug. But Leslie recently asked the doc if we should have a forward looking plan. Not yet said the doctor. I guess we cross that bridge when we get to it.

Since my diagnosis five years ago, I've gotten decent at recognizing changes in my body and how/what I feel. There are a few changes that have popped up in 2016. Let's start from top:
- I've never had neuropathy, which can be painful and quality of life impacting. I take 600 mg daily of Alpha Lipoic Acid which is supposed to help. It has helped. But of late, I've noticed my hands very easily get numb. Not painful, but a tingling, I can't feel my hands kind of numb. It happens when my hands are not aimed perfectly straight from my wrists. Any angle or pressure on the hands creates the numbness. It goes away after a while, but it's becoming more pronounced. Dr Phan today suggested switching my velcade from infusion to sub q in the belly. This is supposed to help with neuropathy. We don't want the nerve damage that leads to neuropathy to become permanent. Today I stuck with infusion, but in two weeks, on day 15, I'll likely switch to the sub q and see if that helps.
-If I don't sleep in a perfect straight line, I now get various body pains. Curled up, legs bent will lead to pain. I can walk and shake it off, but it takes a few minute. I have the total old man walk. In fact, even if I sit at my desk at work or sit in a car for too long, when I stand I have aches. My legs get the brunt of pain. Ankles, feet, knees and hips. My bones are fine, we know this, It's the joints and muscles. When I think about camping out on Kilimanjaro and sitting on a plane for 19 hours, I already know that I'm going to have pain. Hello tylenol,
-For a while now, I've had fluctuating hemoglobin counts. Typically, when I'd get low, I get a procrit shot 2 or 3 weeks in a row and the counts would bounce up to near normal, with normalcy lasting 2 or 3 months. My counts don't bounce up as much any more. Procrit is becoming more of a regular weekly thing. It's administered by shot in the belly. I have not needed a transfusion in years, so the procrit is keeping me at least close to normal. Also note that I take a blood pressure medicine, not for blood pressure but to help with blood flow in the damaged kidneys and mending scar tissue. This leaves me with low blood pressure and when combined with low blood counts, I am prone to dizziness if I stand  up too quickly. I haven't passed out yet. At elevation though, this certainly adds to the challenge. Climbing mountains equals elevation. Our guides and doctor on team will watch me and the other patients very closely. We're taking our time getting up the mountain to help with altitude aclimation.
-Also with the low blood count, I get generally tired more quickly. Naps on my days off are the norm.  When I first started feeling sick, pre-diagnosis, I could fall sleep anywhere at any time. Even standing, leaning against a wall. I'm not there now, but I can crank out an hour nap pretty easily. Work at times can be more of a drag, what with the tired and all. When my myeloma numbers were at their best, I'd have a yucky chemo week followed by a week of feeling great. Nowadays, I have yucky chemo week followed by a week of feeling meh, so-so. This is frustrating and adds to the mental/emotional challenge. A tired body leads to tired mind, leads to a feeling of being over it.

Don't get me wrong. I'm doing good. I'm semi-lasered focused on Kilimanjaro. Very very excited for this. I'm ready now and will be ready in a few months.

If you know me, it's clear that I am lifelong almost obsessed Minnesota Vikings fan. It's been a bit of a tortured 54 years for me and the team. 1969, 1975, 1987, 1989, 2009, 2015. All were years with great hope and potential, and gut punching endings. We're close to the start of the 2016 season. The Vikings have been looking great. Expectations are high. Talk is they are super bowl contenders, and it hasn't just been me talking. Real people have been saying this. This past weekend I ordered my 2016 Vikings cap. I changed my work lanyard to the Vikings edition. I've been flapping my guns about how this is the year. Today I was wrapping things up at work getting ready to go to chemo when word (texts) came that Teddy Bridgewater, the team leader, quarterback and all around great guy, blew his knee out and will miss the entire season. Vikings fans and players and commentators on social media have been expressing heartbreak and concern. My expectations have been deflated.

Myeloma is a mental challenge, more so mental than physical at times. I keep myself positive by focusing on other things; Kilimanjaro, my upcoming road trip with Leslie and Gracie, the Vikings, my 55th birthday which is around the corner and anticipated Vegas trip, my brother is coming out in November for his birthday and sports spectating. This Vikings setback chips in to my focus. Might sound silly. A football team that I have no control over. But they're a diversion. I've been following them since the day I was born, which was two weeks after the very first game in franchise history. Kilmanjaro is another positive and another diversion and a chance to show myself I'm not done yet, while also raising money to help find a cure for myeloma. I've conquered a couple of peaks in my training. I am absolutely confident that I'll reach the summit. There are 6 patients on the Kili team, so our guides gear the climb for us to succeed. But, I know it'll be no easy feat. I'm slow, I hurt and I'm low on blood Yes, I'm doing it, but I am constantly reminded that I am no longer a spring chicken. I used to crank up hills and climbs. Now, not so much.

Tonight is an insomnia night from my dex. But I sure as hell am getting up and at em early tomorrow to go to gym. Lift some weights to keep my bones strong. Do some stairmaster to help my cardio and leg strength. I'm sticking to my program. Then I go to work. Not as enthusiastically as I could be, but I'll be there. Next week va-freaking-cation.

I really am pondering various What's Next questions. When do I switch drugs? When do I decide that I'm not spending any more time or energy at work? When do I downsize and simplify so I solely focus on my health and on leading a high quality life. Right now, it's a bit a drudge and routine, with time obnoxiously flying by. I've got February 2017 (Kilimanjaro) circled in my brain as the date for "what next" becoming "here we go, let's do it"

I know I haven't written a long, perhaps overly personal post in a while. I haven't been sharing or in a chatting about myeloma mood. Seems pointless in some respects. Other patients get this and experience this and understand. There is nothing to report, but that doesn't mean nothing is going on. Hard to explain and describe. The patient community is strong and important. We support and empathize with each other. It can be spoken or can be simply known. A head nod or "what up" between two patients means a lot. Five plus years folks. I try to give back to the myeloma and cancer community. I try to keep myself positive and in beast mode. I try to look forward and not backwards and not beat myself up over the various paths I have chosen over the years. Here I am, like it or not. I am constantly working on my self confidence and acceptance and ability to power forward and improve. I'm getting better at giving myself pep talks. Throwing all this out there in this post is a bit cathartic and a bit of a motivational exercise for myself. But definitely don't worry folks, I'm good.