Saturday, February 18, 2017

Living with multiple myeloma

In 2008, Traver Hutchins was the president of his own health care education company. Strong and athletic, he did not hesitate when a financial backer asked him to have a check-up as part of the insurance process. It was, after all, a standard and routine request.

What happened next was anything but routine.

“I found out I have a disease I had never heard of before,” Hutchins says, “and that it was ‘smoldering,’ meaning there were no symptoms.”1

The disease, multiple myeloma, is a rare, fatal cancer of the blood plasma cells.1 It affects 30,000 people each year.1

Hutchins was profoundly affected by the diagnosis. “My father died young of a blood cancer, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, when I was a teenager,” he says. Remembering the effect of that tragedy on the rest of his family, he re-evaluated many of his own life choices.

Despite being asymptomatic, Hutchins scaled back his activity at work and handed over the company to a new president—a decision he now considers premature. “In retrospect, that was a big mistake,” Hutchins says. “I should have soldiered on.”

Hutchins waited for four years after the initial diagnosis before he experienced his first symptom: back pain he attributed, mistakenly, to a hockey injury. After months of physical therapy, an MRI revealed that he had a compressed vertebra and bone lesions, the result of an accumulation of plasma in his spine.

Following the MRI, Hutchins underwent his first treatment: kyphoplasty to restore the vertebra and a combination of medicines. His cancer went into remission. But given the current state of myeloma treatment, relapse is inevitable.1 He bided his time.

For three years Hutchins monitored his blood levels diligently but they did not register his relapse, not even when he experienced more back pain and a return of the cancer in early 2016.

“The pain increased much quicker this time and the cancer was further along by the time we detected it,” Hutchins says. “I take full responsibility for not moving on the pain sooner, but I would have moved faster if the blood tests had indicated anything.”

After two rounds of radiation, another kyphoplasty procedure, and a laminectomy to relieve spinal pressure, Hutchins chose to undergo a more invasive treatment which involved the replacement of bone marrow with stem cells. To induce a remission in advance of the transplant, he underwent two rounds of induction therapy. The first round failed, but the second round was successful.  Hutchins received a stem cell transplant two weeks later.

“I am now in the post-stem cell replacement phase,” he says, “waiting for my batteries to power up as well as my immunities.”

“I have about a month of being hypersensitive to avoid any potential infection,” he says.

Hutchins hopes that he will be ready to go back to work in three months and resume a relatively normal schedule. But he also knows that his fight is not over and that his long-term prognosis diminishes with every relapse.2-4

He looks forward to the day when multiple myeloma is considered chronic and manageable, rather than incurable.

“The research groups and clinicians have expanded the lifetime expectancy massively from fifteen years ago, and even from when I was diagnosed,” he says. “But we really need to break through and figure out how to get to the right medicines for the right type of myeloma.”5

Link and References

Monday, February 13, 2017

My First Attempt at Carbonara.... A Success!

We've got oodles of Country Ham left, so I made this yesterday.  Very Good.  OINK OINK

1/2 pound spaghetti
3 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced
8 ounces ham, thinly sliced
A couple handfuls of frozen peas/carrots
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
Large can of sliced mushrooms
3 eggs
1 cup parmesan, grated
3/4 cup heavy cream
Sliced green onions

Make sure that all ingredients  chopped/measured/prepared before you start cooking. The goal is to time the recipe so that the pasta has finished cooking at the same time the ham, pea, and onion mixture is done.

Cook pasta in large pot of boiling water.
Heat butter and oil in large saute pan and cook onion over medium high heat until golden brown, about five minutes. Add ham, peas, mushrooms and garlic and cook long enough to heat through.

Meanwhile in a separate bowl, combine eggs, parmesan and heavy cream. Whisk to combine.
Prior to draining your pasta, add about 1/2 cup of the cooking water to a measuring cup in case it is needed to thin the sauce later on.

Drain hot pasta and return to pot. Add hot ham and pea mixture. With the heat off, add the egg mixture to the hot ingredients and stir very well to combine. The hot ingredients will cook the egg enough to turn it into a wonderful sauce without scrambling the egg. Season with salt and pepper, as desired.

I topped with Green Onions

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Rat Snake Excitement Yesterday. What a Horrid Few Days!

We've had a CRAPPY few days.  Our kitchen sink started leaking, we had DirecTV installed, called to cancel DISH after 20+ years and they are insisting on $440 for breaking a contract that we never signed.  (Long story).  Got the FCC involved and refusing to pay it.

Dom has developed some type of rash.... welts.  Stress, maybe?

THEN..... yesterday I was in our bedroom chatting with Amy.  I opened up the bedroom door to see this 4 foot monster in our hallway.

I called Dom very quietly and went back into my bedroom with the door CLOSED.

The snake ended up crawling into my computer room and hid underneath a daybed.

It wouldn't die.  Tried to strike Dom.

Later found out that it was just a "Rat Snake" who was harmless.  I feel bad, but can't have them in my house!

We think that it got in on Friday.  We went to do some shopping and when we returned, our French Doors were wide open from the wind.  Had forgotten to latch them.

Mr. Snake must have figured "No people, no TV blaring, let's check this out!".  God only knows where he slept on Friday night.  *cringing*

Friday, February 10, 2017

VA Faces Tough Decisions About Agent Orange Benefits for Vietnam Veterans

Northville, MI (Law Firm Newswire) February 7, 2017 - The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) must tackle a long list of decisions about the effects of Agent Orange and veterans’ eligibility for benefits. A key issue is whether the department will add new conditions to its list of diseases and health problems presumed to be linked to the pesticide.

Agent Orange was sprayed to destroy vegetation used as cover by Vietnamese troops during the Vietnam War. ProPublica and The Virginian-Pilot have joined forces to investigate the toxic chemical’s effects on Vietnam veterans and their families, as well as their struggles to obtain VA benefits.

“Rather than waiting for the problem to simply disappear, the VA should pay close attention to the vast research that has been conducted about the devastating effects of Agent Orange,” said Jim Fausone, a Michigan veterans attorney. “It is likely that the exposure could have also impacted the descendants of service members. Seeking benefits from the VA should not be this difficult for affected veterans and their families.”

Many Vietnam veterans are fighting the VA for compensation for medical conditions believed to be linked to Agent Orange exposure. However, proving exposure and harm has been challenging for veterans and their widows. Many widows do not have access to their husbands’ full service histories or experience dealing with the VA.

Currently, a veteran can gain eligibility for VA disability payments by proving their service in Vietnam and showing they have one of the 14 ailments linked to Agent Orange exposure, including cancer, diabetes and heart disease. In March 2016, a panel of federal researchers claimed there is enough evidence to connect Agent Orange exposure to several conditions not on the VA’s list. These include hypothyroidism, stroke, bladder cancer, hypertension and other Parkinson’s Disease-like neurological diseases.

However, the VA may be reluctant to include the additional illnesses to its list of Agent Orange exposure-related medical conditions due to the potential expenses involved. For example, the chances of hypertension increase with age, and anyone with the ailment who entered Vietnam could become eligible for VA benefits.


Legal Help for Veterans, PLLC
41700 West Six Mile Road, Suite 101
Northville, MI 48168
Toll Free Phone: 800.693.4800

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Another FUN Super Bowl

We had a GREAT Super Bowl Sunday and Monday.  We put out a great spread of food featuring an 18#  Kentucky Country Ham from our Pal Goldie in Danville, KY.

Served with an antipasto with hard salami, cheese tortellini, fresh mozzarella, baby corn, black olives, artichoke hearts and hearts of palm. Balsamic Deviled Eggs, a Cheesy Sour-Cream based New Potato Salad, Sweet and Spicy Bacon Wrapped Meatballs, and for dessert a DECADENT bacon/walnut Fudge.

We had our annual Super Bowl Pool... Wendy won the money this year.  She and I indulged in Moscow Mules (my new favorite), Joe brought over a bottle of Jagermeister and had a couple of martinis.  Dom and Bubby stuck with their beer.

The party continued on Monday.  Bubs did some fishing.... caught some nice bass and threw 'em back in.  Had a fun little visit from Wendy's daughter Ashley and grandchild. Julie.