Thursday, March 31, 2011

Happy To Share Wonderful News!

I just got the phone call I have been praying for!  I just received confirmation that my M-Spike is too small to detect.  In other words, I have had a Complete Response from treatment!  The M-Spike or M-Protein measures the Monoclonal Proteins found in the blood of those with Multiple Myeloma and is used to measure the disease.  Prior to my Stem Cell Transplant in November my M-Spike was .39.  After my transplant my M-Spike still measured at .30.  The last 2 rounds of chemo must have attacked those stubborn cancer cells and brought my M-Spike down to Zero!!  Wahoo!  Complete Response Baby!!

What's next?  Well in the Myeloma world the word "Remission" is rarely used.  Currently the disease is not curable.  However patients who have very good to complete response from treatment who then go on to maintenance have a longer time between relapses and an overall longer survival rate.  So I have been officially put on maintenance.  I will begin taking 15 mg. of Revlimid daily and 20 mg. of Dexamethasone weekly for 3 weeks on and 1 week off for 12 months.  I will need to go in for monthly infusions of Zometa, a bone strengthening medicine used to treat high levels of calcium caused by cancer.  In addition, I will go in for monthly blood tests.  My next appointment at Dana Farber is scheduled on June 2, at which time, Dr. Munshi will perform a bone marrow biopsy.  

So this means I actually get to have a life again.  I will gain 12 hours a week since I wont be going in for chemo treatments.  Yeah!!!  And hopefully my energy will continue to surge.  I have been enjoying be able to run.  I have been averaging about 4 miles a day.  Yesterday I went out for a great 6 mile run with Suzi and Flower.  It felt great!  So everyday I feel good I am going to get out there and run.  It is amazing what it does for my state of mind.  I feel so strong, happy and healthy running. I think back to the immense pain I was in last summer and the complete fatigue I felt following the transplant.  It is incredible that I am now able to run, feel great and be pain free.  

The passing of Geraldine Ferraro from Multiple Myeloma has really hit close to home.  It is a reminder of how serious this disease is and the fact that currently there is no cure.  Many patients enjoy years between relapses but ultimately in most cases the cancer wins.  Geraldine did a lot to spread awareness to this disease and was very courageous in her candid interviews while undergoing treatment.  She lived almost 13 years after being diagnosed.  The day before she died, it has been reported that she thanked her oncologist for giving her those last 13 years. Incredible!  It is unfortunate that the Today Show did a segment on her this week and never even mentioned the words Multiple Myeloma. I am shocked and disappointed by this.  Multiple Myeloma is the second most common cancer of the blood.  About 60,000 people have this disease and there are an estimated 20,000 new cases each year in the United States and 10,000 patients will die.  Although the average peak age is 65 for disease onset, the disease is becoming more an more prevalent in people under 40.  When I was diagnosed I had never even heard of this disease.  Most people thought I meant Melanoma when I speak of it.   Yet so many families are being affected by this disease everyday.   

I was watching a segment on Geraldine Ferraro this week and Mike and Mitch (my 10 1/2 year old son) was in the room with me.  I explained to Mitch who she was and the fact that she also was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma and that she had passed away.  Mitch looked right and Mike and I and said, "You mean to tell me that people can die of Multiple Myeloma?"  Mike and I couldn't believe what we had just heard.  We both had to excuse ourselves from the room and went upstairs and held each other and cried.   Was it really possible that Mitch did not understand the severity of this disease?  Mike and I have always been honest and upfront with our four children about my diagnosis. We have told them that there is no cure.  However we have always been positive and have reassured them that there are many advancements in treatment that have prolonged the lives of those affected and that many people are living with cancer for many years.  Yet, right at that moment Mitch finally understand the seriousness of the disease.  Our hearts broke for him. We felt like at that moment he was robbed from his childhood.  Why should a 10 year old child even have to deal with this?   Shouldn't he just be able to go to school and play hours of baseball without knowing that his mom has an incurable cancer and that she may someday die of this disease?  Once again we were reminded of how much Cancer Sucks!

I called Mitch upstairs and did my best to explain to him that although many people have died of this disease, many more are living with it.  I told him that today mom is feeling strong, running 5 miles and enjoying every moment .  I told him that Ms. Ferraro's death should motivate us even more to do all that we can to learn about this disease and to educate others.  I told him that this has motivated me to run as many miles as I can to help raise money so that some day hopefully in my lifetime there will be a cure. 

Well today I am going to celebrate the absence of my M-Spike!!  I am going to hit the pavement for a nice run and think about the challenges of this past year and rejoice in the fact that I am one of the very lucky ones who have responded so well to treatment.  Today is a great day and I am going to allow myself to enjoy every moment without worrying about what tomorrow may bring.    Although based on the weather report looks like Mother Nature is going to give us another 6-10 inches of snow.  Ugh!!

Thank you all for your continuing love, support and prayers.  It's working!!  

Love and Hugs,


Thursday, March 24, 2011

Me Really, The Quiet Geek In High School?

Good Morning!  It was so wonderful to wake up to no snow this morning!  The bulbs popping up in my garden now may have a chance.  It was one of those hectic mornings getting everyone off to school.  I let the kids stay up to watch Idol with me, and no one could get up this morning.  Needless to say, it was another morning of driving them to school in my pjs with coffee in hand!

When I get back home I logged on to Facebook with yet another cup of coffee and was overwhelmed by what I came saw.  A high school friend, Kristin Larson Dame whom I have not seen since graduation in 1988 has organized a Relay for Life Team for me.  It will be held in Marshfield, MA on June 24, 2011.  I am just amazed by how incredibly wonderful people are.  You see, I was not what you would consider "popular" in high school.  I was extremely shy.  I didn't have a lot of confidence and kept to myself.  I guess better put, I was a geek.  I was an honor student, didn't party, and yes even played flute in the band!  In fact, I didn't do a whole lot. I had small circle of friends.  I look back at those years and think, why didn't I just loosen up a bit and enjoy life? Over 23 years has gone by, and I have never even gone to a reunion.  A part of me, figured why would I? It is not like I made a lasting impression in high school.  In fact, most people didn't even know me.  Yet over the last couple of years, I have reconnected with many from my old high school days.  Even though I may not have "hung out" with many of these people in high school it was so great to see old faces and names again. And through our daily updates on Facebook, many of us now are connected in a way we never were.  It's funny we are more similar now in many ways.  We are all trying to balance life, kids, family, friends.  Many of us share a passion for running and biking.  And in the past 9 months I have received so many loving and supportive messages since I was diagnosed with cancer.  I am overwhelmed with the outpour of support I continue to receive.

The day I was diagnosed with cancer was a day that has changed my life forever.   I have had many dark, scary moments, and struggle daily to stay positive and hopeful.  However cancer has brought me so many little gifts in life.  I continue to see the true beauty in kindness in people.  People who live their lives paying it forward.  People who ask nothing in return and just want to help.  You all continue to fill me with love, hope and happiness.  You have taught me so much on what is really important in life and how I want to teach my children to live their lives.  Every day it comes clearer and clearer to me that things don't happen just by chance.  The connections and experiences we have in life prepare us for the unknown days ahead.  Moments and opportunities that in the past I may have missed, I now pay close attention to.   Now I really try to stay present in those moments.

If you are interested in joining our team or following us on Facebook the group is called DHS '88 Relay For Life.  Our team is Cancer Sucks But Jeanie Rocks!!  Love it!!

Hope you all enjoy the day.  I am going to go for a run this morning and then I am meeting my brother for lunch!


Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Waiting for Energy and Spring!

Good Morning!  I finally have a quiet moment to myself to write.  The past couple of weeks I have been struggling with a lot of fatigue.  To be honest I was just zapped of all my energy.  I have been struggling with a cold for the last couple of weeks.  It is my first cold since my stem cell transplant.  With a new immune system, it is taking a longer than I would like to get over being sick.  I guess that coupled with the fact that I just completed my 6th cycle of chemo is the reason I felt like I had been run over by a truck.  Actually the fatigue I have been feeling reminds me of how I felt in the hospital.  No energy, no motivation, just blah!

But last week I just tried to work through it  and go about my day.  I wasn't able to exercise but I was able to take care of the kids and manage the house.  I also had to face a really hard decision.  Our adorable new member of our family Chance began to display some very disturbing behavior.  He was a sweetheart when at home with us.  However anytime he met anyone new, whether it be on a walk or if someone came to the door, he showed very mixed signals.  One minute he would be wagging his tail, the next he would be bark aggressively showing his teeth and lunging towards the visitor.  Living in a neighborhood with over 20 kids and having kids in and out of my house constantly, I couldn't take the risk.  So we made the difficult decision to bring Chance back to the shelter.  Breaking the news to the kids on Thursday night was so sad. My kids cried like I have seen them cry before.  They were heartbroken.  I tried to explain that Chance would be better off in a home with less visitors, perhaps without kids and that we would be protecting him by giving him a new home.  But no words could take away their sadness or mine for that matter.  It was  a hard lesson on learning that sometimes you need to love something or someone so much that you need to let them go.  Although it was the most painful thing I've ever done, I was again amazed by my kids.  They are so incredible.  They loved that little dog unconditionally in just the short 3 weeks that we had him.  They knew that I was devastated.  They also knew that mommy had to do the hard part of dropping him off at the shelter.  It was a moment I'll never forget.  I felt as though I was giving up on my kids.  When I got home my kids rallied and supported me and told me that I had done the right thing.   Can you believe that?  Every day my kids strength and incredible resilience continue to amaze me.

Yesterday, I finally hit the gym.  I was able to drag myself on the treadmill and run 3 miles.  It definitely was a struggle, but I felt great after.  I  have my first 5K of the year coming up in a few weeks.  I also signed up to do a sprint triathlon on Mother's Day.  Not sure what I was thinking doing that. I haven't been swimming since last year.  So I am hoping that I will slowly get some energy and motivation to start training.  I just ended my 6th cycle of chemo and next week I will be going to Dana Farber for a bone marrow biopsy.  I am anxiously awaiting to find out if these last 2 cycles of chemo had an effect.  I pray I am almost at a complete response and can begin maintenance.  Other than the fatigue, physically I feel great.  I have no bone pain!  I am so grateful for that!

My hair is slowly coming in.  It grew in so dark, so I had to do something about that.  The girls helped me pick out a color which was supposed to be a light blonde.  It came out a little more auburn than blonde.  Oh well!  It is great to go out without covering my head and I'm actually getting used to the short look.  The kids informed me today that I had a little bed head!

Although spring is supposed to be here, we are expecting more snow tonight.  Ugh!  But spring sports are underway.  We just found out that Mitchy made Majors for baseball.  So we are all excited for his season!  Baseball practices started last night.  Sarah and Emily will be following in the their brother's shoes playing softball this year.  Cam will be playing soccer..  Soon our weekends will be spent on the fields.  Watching my kids play is one of my favorite things to do.  So between the sports and Mike and I trying to train for our upcoming races, there are lots to look forward to .  Flower has finally stopped looking around the house for Chance.  We are so lucky with her she is an incredible dog.  She is getting ready to start hitting the pavement with me for our morning runs.

Well for the next 7 days I am going to enjoy living drug free.  I am hoping to gain back the strength that I have lost over the last month.  This morning I am hitting the gym and then spending the afternoon with a dear friend for some much needed "girlfriend time".  Let's hope the snow we get doesn't last long!

Thank you for your continuing prayers and support,


Monday, March 7, 2011

Thriving Off Of Life's Many Distractions

I thought after the day I had today that I would be fast asleep, but once again I find myself wide awake, unable to shut down and close my eyes.  So I thought I would blog a little bit and fill you in on the recent events in my world.  Last week, was winter break from school for my kids.  But it was definitely not vacation in the Dreyer house.  We spent the entire week housebound.    It started with Sarah with a high fever that lasted a few days and then ended up as chest cold.  And then one by one, like clock work the other three kids got it.  During all this fun, Mike had to fly out on business.  So it was Nurse Jeanie on duty full time!  For once I wasn't the patient.  Fortunately this also coincided with my week off of treatment.  And someone was definitely looking out for me! I didn't get sick and I had incredible energy to keep up with all the runny noses, the nebulizer treatments, and my sick kids in bed with me.

The girls got better by the weekend and fortunately were invited to a couple of birthday parties.  So they got to escape from the house a bit.  The boys were feeling awful and couch bound.  So strange to see my usually very energetic boys be couch potatoes.  We watched hours of movies and my fair share of Nickelodian TV.  During all this, the dogs also kept me quite busy.  Chance is loving his new home and has made himself very comfortable on the leather sofa along with Flower.  Our family of eight is getting too big for our large sectional in the living room!  Flower and Chance have become BFFs and enjoy energetic dog play outside and hours of laying around the house together.  Feeding time is a few seconds of pure chaos.  As Chance devours his bowl and fights Flower's for hers.  Flower no longer has the luxury to snack on her food, she must inhale it as quickly as Chance.  Two dogs is definitely double the fun, licks and cuddly time!  Which makes up for the all the extra dog hair and occasional barking contest!

This morning was my first day of chemo for  my sixth cycle.  Cam and Mitch still were not feeling well so they were not going to school.  So they were my dates at the chemo spa albeit with masks on so that they would infect anyone at the hospital.  We had to leave by 7:45 this morning which meant the girls had to make the bus by 7:35.  Of course the first day back to school never is easy.  Especially when the girls found out that the boys were staying home.  The girls finally got out of bed by 7.  At about 7:20 while they were eating breakfast I realized I was not dressed.  At the same time I heard Chance chewing something in the front hallway and it didn't sound like one of his chew toys. Nope,  he got a hold of a lose thread in my new area rug.  And like a ball of yarn, it all unraveled.  Oh crap!  Trying to remind myself of how adorable he is I remained "somewhat calm"  and quickly put him in his crate.  I had 15 minutes to get the everyone out of the house.  The boys and I  were still not dressed and the kitchen looked like a bomb hit it.  Anyone who knows me, knows I can't leave the house like that.  You would think having cancer, 4 kids and 2 dogs, that I would my OCD would calm down a bit. No, somethings will never change!  All beds were made, kitchen cleaned and out the door we flew and made the bus!
First stop was to the lab for blood work.  It was unusually crowded and we had a 45 minute wait.  Every 5 minutes Cam would ask me "Are you sure you signed in mom?"  Gotta love him!  Once I had my blood drawn it was upstairs to see my doctor.  The boys enjoyed meeting Dr. Hakemian.  Once I got the thumbs up, it was to the chemo chair.  I was so worried that the boys would be freaked out by seeing so many people hooked up to IVs.  But they walked right in like they were frequent visitors.  The nurses set us up in back corner to give us more room.  But I told the nurses, funny, restaurants do the same thing to us when we go with the kids!

The boys loved all the free drinks and snacks and the comfy chairs and tvs.  We were there until after 1:00.  During the time we watched 2 episodes of Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?  Sorry dad and mom to inform you that even after the wonderful college education you gave me, I am sad to say I am not!  The boys whipped my butt!!  We also watched The Price is Right, America's Funniest Home Videos and Do You Know The Lyrics!!  I'm all set with daytime television for a while! 

After treatment during our drive home I was so worried what I was going to come home to.  This was the first time I've left Chance in the crate during the day and for 5 hours!  But fortunately he held like a champ until I got home to let him out!  Makes up for the rug I'm going to need to put in the dump this weekend!

Once I finally got the kids settled tonight, I enjoyed some much needed time on the sofa with my puppies.  I thought I would catch up on some of my shows, since all I've watched in the past week is kids shows.  So while enjoying  Brother's and Sister's would you know Kitty on the show is having issues from her bone marrow from her transplant she received during her cancer treatment.  I know, it is just a show but seriously?   I was doing so well.  Between the sick kids and the dogs and Mike gone I hadn't thought about much.  Distractions are great that way.  I think that is why I prefer to be constantly on the go and have taken on some recent new challenges.  But damn here we go again.  And there I found myself completely breaking down once again. Sad I won't be around for my kids to see them graduate or get married.  Sad I won't be there to spend the golden years with Mike.   This time I was consoled by Flower and my new baby Chance.  I told Chance not to be scared that he would most likely see him mom cry quite often.  

The silence at night time is when life slows down and sometimes reality sneaks on you.  I tell you if I could stay busy 24 hours a day and never lay down to go to sleep, I think I would do it.  I love all the distractions and a part of me did feel like I was supermom this week.  Only a little over 100 days from transplant and I'm managing my house, my 4 sick kids, 2 dogs! This cancer doesn't have anything over me .  It can try but it is not going to bring me down!  And then it hits!  Crap I still have to deal with this!  Ugh!  Cancer does suck!  Especially when it doesn't have a cure, yet! 

Today they drew blood that will test my m-spike and I am hoping for positive news on Thursday.  My progress will then be confirmed with a bone marrow biopsy at the end of the month.  Until then, I  have about 4 weeks left of this cycle.  I am hoping that this time around I will have more energy and be able keep up with my running and sessions with my trainer and continue living life and having cancer treatments just fit into my  busy life as a mom.   

I am still so touched by all the love and support we receive by so many of you in person and all our supporters on my blog.  Please add my new cyber friends, Mike, Walter, Jill, Kris and Phil to your prayers.  They are all fighting the MM Fight!  And they are all dominating it!

Well, I am going to try to shut down for the night and catch some much needed sleep!

Wishing you all a peaceful sleep-

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Meet Chance

As promised here is our new little blessing Chance!  It has been true love at first sight!  This little guy has filled our house with incredible energy and an unstoppable spirit!  His strength and perseverance amazes me.  I think this little guy is going to be teaching his new mommy a few important life lessons!
Enjoy all your beautiful moments today!

Taking a Chance

March has arrived in New Hampshire and so has the howling winds.  Today in New England it is one of those days where you wait 5 minutes and the weather changes. Accompanying the strong winds today we have had snow squalls that look like a white out with gigantic snow flakes,  Then  moments later, the sun comes out and the snow is melting off the roof.  We are all had just enough of the snow and we are counting the days 'til Spring and dreaming of the day the tall snow banks are replaced with green grass. 

I just finished up my fifth round of chemo on Friday.  This cycle completely wiped me out.  Each passing day last week it seemed as though my energy diminished.  By Friday, I slept through my entire treatment which is very unusual for me.  Usually I spend the time chatting with my nurses and who ever joins me at the spa that day.  But Friday, I could barely keep my eyes opened.  Fortunately, this is my week off of treatment and it just happens to coincides with my kids' Winter Break from school.  I am so looking forward to spending the week off of meds and just hanging with the kids.   

Lately I have been tossing around the idea to Mike that we should add to our family.  Relax, I am not talking babies!!  I have been talking about adopting another dog.   We already have our Beautiful Flower.  She is a black lab mix with a birthday coming up this month.  Flower will be turning 3.  We adopted her about a year and a half ago and is was the best decision.  She has brought us so much happiness and watching our children play and cuddle with her just melts my heart.  I am a big fan of the book The Art of Racing In The Rain, and I truly believe Flower has sensed my illness since before my diagnosis.  Lately, I have been thinking that Flower needs a brother or sister.  Mike of course thinks that I am nuts.  I guess having 2 sets of twins, a dog, recovering from a stem cell transplant, and undergoing chemo isn't enough excitement for me.  In Mike's own words, "What's wrong with just managing life?  Why do you have to change it up and bring on new challenges?"  I guess that is what keeps me living.  Life has never been dull for Mike and I, why start now? 

So, on Sunday we visited the shelter.  We met a beautiful hound mix named Chance.  Against all odds, he is a survivor.  When he was only a couple of months old he had one of his hind legs amputated because of an infection.  He has spent all of his 1 1/2 years in a shelter.  He has never spent a night in a loving home with a  family.  Yet, when we met him he was so happy and sweet.  Limited by his handicap?  No way!  He can jump and run better than any dog I've met.  The kids instantly fell in love.  Mike was still on the fence about adding to our already busy family.  And to be honest, I was a little hesitant about adopting him.  I was worried about the fact that he only had 3 legs and wondered if he would require special care.  That night at home the kids kept chanting, "Let's give Chance a chance!"  How sweet, right?

Monday morning I woke up and all I couldn't get Chance off my mind.  Of course the kids were still chanting for Chance.  But all I could think of was about his strength.  That despite his imperfections he showed such strength.  He wasn't going to let the fact that he only has 3 legs get him down.  There was a lot I could learn from this little guy.  Lately, I have felt pretty damaged myself.  As you know, I didn't have the results I was hoping for after my stem cell transplant.  I am still fighting the fight.  I may never be one of the lucky ones to have a complete response.  I am hoping this next round of chemo destroys the remaining myeloma cells.  But the reality is, this is going to be my continued battle.  I need to learn to live my life as fully as I can without letting my ugly cancer get the best of me and handicap me.

So needless to say, yesterday we brought Flower to meet Chance.  It was puppy love from the start!  Chance and Flower ran around and played for a good hour before they both collapsed next to each other.  Once they chilled for a bit, it was our time to bond with Chance. There was no question, Chance was going to complete our family.  I will never forget the smiles on my kids faces and on Flower's face. Mike, the rational one in the family reminded me how irresponsible it was to be doing this right now with everything we have going on and with the uncertainty of the future. But Mike knew he could lecture me until pigs could fly, and it didn't matter.    It was one of those beautiful moments that just felt so right. Lately, when I am fortunate enough to have those moments, those little signs.....I listen, I trust, and I move forward.  So that is exactly what we did!

Chance has been a complete joy.  We spent the day watching the dogs play and taking them for walks.  Flower has been showing Chance the ropes.  She even lets him get up on her chair in the living room.  Flower loves that mommy has brought out the training treats again.  Today we worked on "sit".  Flower of course is the perfect veteran student.  Chance can now wiggle himself to a sit position.  He is definitely treat motivated!  Watching this little guy wiggle and hobble around is incredible.  He's even mastered the stairs.  Although tonight his legs were done and Mike had to carry him upstairs to bed.

The Dreyer house is now complete.  I now have 6 little ones and of course Mike fighting for my attention.  And you know what, I'm loving it!  I couldn't be happier.  I love that they all need me and that I finally have the strength to be here for all of them.  The energy level in my house is at an all time high with all the excitement, kids and dogs running/hopping around, and I love it.  Call me crazy!  But this is what life is all about for me.

Tonight as I tucked in my 4 kids, 2 dogs, and kissed my wonderful husband good night, I feel like life is continuing to bless me.  I am so thankful for today and I can't wait to wake up tomorrow to all the noise and chaos.   We took a chance on Chance and it looks like we are winning the lottery.  From the moment I met him, I felt an unexplained surge of energy.  In fact, the last couple of days I reached the 5 mile mark on the treadmill!  It feels so good to be running again.  I feel so strong and healthy every mile I run.  It's like a drug for me.  Once I finish a run, I keep thinking about the next time I go.  Today I met with my trainer.  It is great to feel muscle soreness from working out again and to see lost muscles come back!

Tomorrow I promise to post pictures of our new addition.  I am so happy we listened to our hearts and took a chance on Chance.  We all have so much love for this special boy .  I believe he is here to help all of us by showing us about the will to live and the strength that comes from within. 

Sweet Dreams!