Saturday, January 9, 2016

Happy New Year & News

New Weapons in the Fight Against Multiple Myeloma

Happy 2016! Great news right? 

I have not written an entry in this blog since May - yikes! 2015 was quite a year. I didn't have much interest in writing for some reason, and doctors appointments, working, and everyday life got in the way. I look back at my entry from January 2015 and think of how much of a emotional roller coaster 2015 ended up being health wise. But I made it through! Here's to hoping 2016 is a wonderful year. 

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

"Life is tough... Get a helmet"

Really good article if you are in need of a helmet ;)

Brownie points if you know what that quote is from ;)

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Retinal Vasculitis and Cystoid Macula Edema and Prednisone... Oh my!

I have been totally slacking in the blog department. But it's not because I have a lack of medical material to report about these days. Nope. Quite the opposite in fact. The last 3 months I have had more appointments and tests than I ever have had before.

I have always had bad eyes. Like everyone in my family, I am near-sighted. I started wearing glasses for distance in about the 6th grade to see the board in school. Eventually my vision worsened enough that I started needing glasses all the time and once I got old enough I transitioned into contact lenses. Over the years, I had a pretty good system where I went to the optometrist every other year and reordered my one year prescription of contacts and managed to make them last (in combination of wearing my glasses) until my next appointment.

In September,  I went for a routine eye exam with my optometrist. I felt like my eyes had worsened and probably needed a new prescription. However, I expected to be in and out of the appointment fairly quickly, with the outcome resulting in an up-to-date prescription that would allow me to order fresh new contact lenses. Unfortunately, this wasn't in the cards.

While the optometrist was checking my eyes he noticed that the vision in my left eye was not improving with a higher prescription. This is actually my least favorite part of the appointment when the eye doctor says over and over, "Which is better: 1...2...1...2?" I have always had a hard time with that. After my eyes dilated, upon examination he noticed that there were "shiny spots" on my left macula compared to my right macula. This prompted him to refer me to an ophthalmologist within the next week. He said, "Sorry it wasn't a 'See you next year!' appointment."

I went to see an ophthalmologist named Dr. C who did a field test and a optical coherance tomography (OTC) scan. The tests were normal (apart from two small cycles in the parafoveal of my left eye) and upon examination she did not see anything wrong with my macula. She said to return for an appointment in about 3 months.

About a 3-4 weeks later, I noticed my vision started to get whacky. I felt like I couldn't see my computer very well and the words on the screen were missing letters or parts of letters. I noticed this also while driving and reading highway signs. I called Dr. C and she recommended coming in for an appointment. She repeated the OTC scan which then showed bilateral cystoid macular edema.

A normal OCT - less than 250 microns.

My left eye in November - 571 microns.

My right eye in November - 465 microns. 

See those big holes? Yeah. Not good.

My opthalmologist was a bit shocked, and actually questioned if I was the right patient and wondered if there had been some sort of mix up with the tech who performed the OCT scan. mix up!

I returned to the office a few days later and had a fluorescein angiography - a test that revealed bilateral retinal vasculitis. Retinal vasculitis can be idiopathic or it can be caused by an infectious or autoimmune process. The first step was to rule out any type of infection that could be causing the retinal vasculitis. The first-line treatment for retinal vasculitis that is not caused by infection is prednisone, but that would be contraindicated if the retinal vasculitis were caused by infection. I was tested for a million different things and during that time my vision reduced to 20/40. Scary.

No infectious cause was found and I was prescribed prednisone. Steriods. Roid rage. The prescription was for 50 mg daily and was told to taper by 10 mg each week for a total of about 5-6 weeks.

Of course, I turned to google and began researching retinal vasculitis, a "sight threatening condition". A lot of very scary things can cause retinal vasculitis. Then, I began researching prednisone. Mood swings. Weight gain. Irritability. Anxiety. Moon face. Diabetes. Bone loss. Ahhhhh. The alternative? Blindness.

My thoughts exactly.

And so began a 3 month adventure consisting of rheumatology, neurology, and myelomology appointments and evaluations.

And just to make things a tad more exciting...
Prednisone is evil. 

Monday, January 5, 2015


The last few months have been quite blurry. Literally. And figuratively.

One of the many, many new doctors I've seen recently said this to me:

"I think 2015 is going to be a better year for you."

Here's to hoping. ;)

(more updates to follow soon... :))

Sunday, November 2, 2014

New Clinic Focuses on Why Some Conditions Become Cancer While Others Don’t

New Clinic Focuses on Why Some Conditions Become Cancer While Others Don’t

Insight: News and Information from Dana-Farber

"Thousands of people learn each year – usually after a routine blood test – that they have a condition that may develop into a blood cancer such as leukemia, lymphoma or multiple myeloma. The news is often followed by an equally surprising addendum: the condition won’t be treated until it becomes a full-fledged cancer.
Robert Soiffer, MD,
Robert Soiffer, MD, chief of the Division of Hematologic Malignancies at DF/BWCC and co-principal investigator at the BCPC
The lack of treatments for such “precursor conditions” places patients in an awkward limbo: seemingly healthy but waiting for their disease to progress to the point where it’s treatable. Scientists have puzzled over why some people with these conditions go on to develop cancer quickly while others never do, and whether treatment could arrest the disease at the precursor stage.
Advances in genomic technology have given researchers the tools to study the switch from precursor condition to cancer at unprecedented depth. By understanding the fundamental changes that occur in cells’ DNA – and when those changes occur – investigators hope to break the process down to its key components and, ultimately, develop targeted therapies capable of bringing the process to a halt.
To lead that effort at Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center (DF/BWCC), researchers have joined to create the Blood Cancer Prevention of Progression Clinic (BCPC), the first such facility in the United States. Comprised of experts in a variety of hematological (blood) disorders, the clinic has begun collecting tissue samples from patients with precursor conditions and from those with advanced disease. The samples will be analyzed to tease out genomic differences between early- and later-stage disorders, and identify which ones lead the march toward cancer.
“In cancer, we’re always looking to diagnose malignancies in their earliest stages, when they often can be treated successfully,” says Robert Soiffer, MD, chief of the Division of Hematologic Malignancies at DF/BWCC and co-principal investigator at the BCPC. “In many hematologic malignancies and disorders, precursor conditions provide this kind of advance notice. The challenge now is to use this knowledge to our advantage – to learn how to ‘read’ the tissue of patients with precursor conditions to determine which cases are likely to advance and which can benefit from early treatment.”

Precursor conditions take a variety of forms and go by a variety of names.  Early myelodysplastic syndrome, a disease in which the bone marrow fails to make enough healthy blood cells, is often a precursor of acute myeloid leukemia (AML). Myeloproliferative neoplasms, growths that cause the bone marrow to produce too many blood cells, can also lead to AML. Smoldering multiple myeloma, which occurs when abnormal plasma cells arise in the bone marrow, is often a predecessor of multiple myeloma, a bone marrow cancer.
Irene Ghobrial, MD, co-principal investigator at the CBPC
Irene Ghobrial, MD, medical oncologist in the DF/BWCC Jerome Lipper Multiple Myeloma Center, director of the Michele & Stephen Kirsch Laboratory, and co-principal investigator at Dana-Farber’s BCPC
Beyond their common identity as heralds of cancer, precursor conditions differ in how likely they are to progress to cancer, how quickly they will do so, and how they behave from one patient to another. Smoldering myeloma, for example, has a 50 percent chance of progressing to myeloma in two to three years, whereas a condition known as monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance has only a one percent chance, annually, of advancing to a cancer such as myeloma, lymphoma, orWaldenstrom’s Macroglobulinemia, says BCPC co-principal investigator Irene Ghobrial, MD, medical oncologist in the DF/BWCC Jerome Lipper Multiple Myeloma Center and director of the Michele & Stephen Kirsch Laboratory at Dana-Farber. She and Soiffer are joined by David Steensma, MD, and Benjamin Ebert, MD, PhD, both of the DF/BWCC Adult Leukemia Program, as the new clinic’s co-principal investigators.
“At this point, we don’t have a reliable way of determining which patients’ conditions are likely to progress and which are likely to remain stable,” Ghobrial remarks. “We’re hoping that research at the BCPC will enable us to better determine who is at greatest risk of progression and are the best candidates for treatment.”