Sunday, February 28, 2010

Survivorship – The first 4 months

Late last year (2009) I gave a presentation to my myeloma group on myeloma survivorship, my first four months.
My presentation commenced with my condition at diagnose and I discussed if I wanted to be a survivor.
Some of my strengths are: Positive attitude, can see the big picture, don’t get bogged down with trivia, good planning and organisational skills, a willingness to learn, a self belief that I can do anything. How I used those strengths as part of my survivorship skills was explained in the six survivorship skills I identified.

Pro-active stance: Take ownership of my illness. Before I could move forward and fight my disease I had to address issues that would hold me back.
Myeloma support group: A support system with other myeloma patients.
Team Sid: A network of practical help and support.
Create a myeloma and medical knowledge base: To take ownership of my illness I had to learn about my illness.
Maintain a positive attitude: Continue what I always do, be positive.
Create positive affirmations: Compliments a positive attitude.

My next six postings will expand upon those six survivorship skills.

Two survivorship definitions:
Stages of survivorship: Debbie Moore LBF NZ.
Acute –Begins with diagnosis and spans the time of further diagnostic and treatment effects.
Livestrong - Lance Armstrong Foundation.
Survivorship begins at diagnosis, the moment your battle with cancer begins, and continues through your treatment and beyond.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Do it sooner rather than later

Six months after my first stem cell transplant for myeloma (2001) Myra and I discussed my progress and medical future with my haematologist. All was going well, my bloods, IgG etc were normal.
We said we had intended to travel as we got older. He said “do it sooner rather than later.” Rather ominous but that’s myeloma.
He said because of my compromised immune system try to avoid long haul flights and be selective where we travel. Avoid counties with limited hygiene, over crowding and be careful of what I ate.
I was 54, still had to work for an income. Our decision was easy.
We would plan a holiday (vacation) of 2 to 3 weeks once a year. Exploring New Zealand where we live and Australia a three hour flight across the Tasman Sea.
Our themes were keep it simple, let’s have fun, let’s create some memories, lets spend quality time together while I am well.
As we have a son and daughter-in-law in Sydney we factored a few visits there.
Our Australian holidays have been:
Cairns 2003
Sunshine Coast June 2004
Gold Coast 2005
Sydney May 2006
Sydney Christmas 2006
Gold Coast to Sydney Sunshine Coast (2007)
Sydney (NRL grand Final) September 2007
Melbourne May 2009
Sunshine Coast November 2009
Australia has a warmer climate than New Zealand. We travel in May (southern hemisphere autumn/fall) when the day time temperature is about 24C (75F).
Lots of good memories.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Myeloma plateau or remission

Now that I had reached my first myeloma plateau stage people were asking “what is a plateau stage”?
When I was diagnosed with myeloma in 2001 myeloma was considered a cancer that had no cure. It was explained I would have treatment, recover, then enter a plateau stage. This would be followed by a relapse, more treatment, then another plateau stage. This cycle of treatment/plateau/relapse was to be my future with the plateau stage getting progressively shorter. Treatment was chemotherapy; Thalidomide was on the horizon, that was it.
Plateau was described as a stable stage of my disease following a good response to anti cancer treatment. The word remission was not used.
It is only in recent times that the word remission has been introduced into the myeloma vocabulary. Now it is:
CR = complete remission.
VGPR = very good partial remission.
PR = partial remission.
NR = no remission.
The advent of the new generation treatments Thalidomide, Velcade, Revlimid and their alphabet combinations VTD, RTD, VPM etc, etc have changed outcomes. Improved treatment responses means people are now living longer with myeloma.
With total therapy treatment now available CR is the expected outcome. If I was a participant of total therapy treatment I would be totally focused on CR and would be telling everyone my entire goal is CR. Plateau would not be used.
My reference to plateau stage is now being challenged by myeloma treatment moving forward, it is time for me to reassess.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Interferon maintenance for myeloma

After achieving the plateau stage following my first autologous stem cell transplant for myeloma in 2001 my haematologist put me on maintenance therapy of interferon alpha.
At that time trial data suggested that interferon maintenance therapy improved remission duration in patients following transplants.
The interferon was self administered, injecting into my thigh or stomach three times a week.
Initially I suffered side effects of flu like symptoms and chills the day after the injections. These progressively reduced and disappeared after four weeks.
Eventually I began to suffer the symptoms of depression. This was attributed to the Interferon therapy. My depression was getting progressively worse so in early 2005 I stopped the Interferon and the depression disappeared.
With the introduction of the newer treatments we now have, Interferon seems to have fallen out of favour.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Myeloma wish list

I have been thinking. What would be most helpful to make life better for myeloma patients? Here are some of my thoughts.

USB port:
It’s the era of computer development so why weren’t we born with a USB port some where on our body. Plug a lead from the port to the computer and through a computer programme we could diagnose, read all blood results and determine anything else that was wrong. If the programme was smart enough it could even do a bone marrow biopsy.
That would do away with finding veins.

Car park building ticket:
Ever tried to put your arm out the car window to get the ticket from the car park ticket machine while suffering myeloma bone pain? Sometimes I had to ask Myra to get out of the passenger seat and walk around to get the ticket out of the machine for me. I want an arm on that machine that extends into the car so I don’t have to reach out.

Speed humps:
Speed humps should be made from soft foam rubber that would help the bones!!!

Showering with myeloma bone pain and restricted movement is difficult. I need a showering machine like a car wash. Turn it on, walk in and let the brushes and rollers do the work.

Plumbing inlet/outlet.
Needles in veins for blood tests and IV lines could be avoided it we were born with permanent inlet outlet taps connected directly to a vein.

Electronic bed:
That’s already available and I have used one, a great help. During my second ASCT I had an arm in a sling and was suffering myeloma back pain. The hospital gave me the electronic bed complete with remote control. Move it up, move it down, raise the head, raise or lower the legs.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Central vein occlusion again

A month after finishing my final VAD cycle for myeloma and 2 days after my stem cell harvest (2001) I developed blurred vision in my left eye resulting in a mild central vein occlusion. A previous posting of mine covered that.
Link: Left central vein occlusion.

Three and a half years later (April 2005) I developed blurred vision in my right eye.
This occurred during my first plateau stage. Two months earlier I had stopped taking Interferon Alpha-2A maintenance treatment. At the time of the blurred vision I was on no medication, all my test results were normal. An appointment was made to see the eye clinic at the hospital where the eye was inspected and tests were carried out.
The left eye (previous central vein occlusion) showed “no signs of the previous vascular event.”
The right eye presented a “swollen optic nerve with tortuous veins and numerous nerve fibre layer haemorrhages. There was diffuse macular oedema.”In simple terms the right eye showed a mild central vein occlusion.
No treatment was required and I was advised that over the next 3 months my vision would either improve or deteriorate. My right eye improved and returned to normal. As a precaution my hematologist prescribed a daily low dose aspirin (Cartia) to help thin the blood which I continue to have.
A follow up 9 months later showed that the right eye had returned to its normal state.
I have had no eye problems since.