Categories
Living with Myeloma

229 lbs

Damn. That hit hard. The nurse re-weighed me. They had to remix my infusion to match my body weight.

Ouch.

Multiple Myeloma Weight Gain

There are lots of ways to gain weight because of multiple myeloma. Dexamethasone is a steroid. If you weren’t using it to cure cancer, you might be using it to gain weight and muscle.

Coming off of a stem cell transplant (SCT), my oncologist warned me that I would basically go back through puberty. Oily skin, acne, improved sex drive… Oh, yeah. Increased appetite.

Eating Too Much Food

There are a lot of things, and I mean a LOT, that I can blame on my new cancer. The weight gain might, kind-of, sort-of, be the cancer’s fault. I did come back with a voracious appetite after spending 90 days after my SCT nervously swallowing single bites and waiting to see if they’d make me feel like throwing up. But, in the end, I’m overweight for the same reason most people are overweight. I ate too much.

The Multiple Myeloma Diet

When I first was diagnosed with multiple myeloma I asked my doc if there was a diet I should be following. After all, at first blush, it looked like someone with myeloma had just 5 to 7 years to live. When you’re only 46 and you’ve got two kids still in school, you need all 7 of those years. I was willing to eat a sucky diet if that would help.

Unfortunately, my doc told me, “You already have cancer. Eat what you want.”

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There is no way to get enough iron in your diet to overcome the anemia you get from chemo. The doc told me that the chemotherapy was like dropping atomic bombs on my system. Eating more iron was like passing out umbrellas.

The good news is that myeloma life expectancy can be way longer than 7 years. And getting to eat what you like during those years of life is a good thing too.

myeloma weight gain scale

Too Many Calories

You can read all the books you want, and check out and follow all the weight loss gurus you like, but in the end, the reality of the human body is that if you put more calories in than you use, it will turn the excess into fat. If you don’t pay enough attention, one day the nurse has you get up on the scale and it says 229. Then she resets it and has you try again because your last weigh in, a few months ago, said 209.

Resetting the scale didn’t help.

It’s not a secret. I’ve noticed that my shirts that used to be loose fitting are now snug. I can’t even button any of my shorts without putting the waist band “under” the fat around my belly. When I bend down to tie my shoes, part of my body that should be separate come into mushing contact.

I’ve gained weight. A lot of weight. It’s embarrassing. It doesn’t feel good. There will be no “Before” pictures.

Losing Weight With Multiple Myeloma

So, here we go. I have to lose weight while taking elotuzumab and dexamethasone, both of which will be fighting my in the other direction.

The good news is that I don’t necessarily need to do anything extreme. I know exactly where my weight gain comes from. I eat out a lot. Sometimes I eat lunch and dinner out.

There are ways to dine out and lose weight. That isn’t how I eat out. When I roll through the drive thru at Arby’s, I eat like I finally made it to the end of a long journey. Not only do I get a roast beef meal, but I get another roast beef sandwich on top of that. When I eat at home, I make one sandwich, and maybe I eat some chips. Even a lot of chips won’t add up to a box of curly fries.

So, eating out less, and not eating late night Oreos.

I don’t know where I picked up this habit, but I like eating Oreos and dunking them in milk at night. If I do it at a regular hour, my family is still awake. My wife is there to judge me. My kids are there to think they need Oreos too.

So, I wait.

After everyone has gone to bed around 10 pm I wander over to the pantry, pull out 8 or 9 Oreos, pour a small glass of milk and enjoy my snack.

Sometimes you deserve something nice, but I was doing this a few times every week. That’s too much.

I mean, that’s 500 calories right before bed. They say that a five hundred calorie a day deficit will cause you to lose a pound a week. I’m sure the reverse is true too.

So, I won’t be going out to eat, and hopefully the number the nurse gets off the scale next week isn’t in the 230s.

Exercise

If there is one thing that multiple myeloma has beat down on for me it is my physical strength and endurance. I can’t do much of anything without getting winded, and I can’t remember the last time I tried to run.

We’ll start easy: 10,000 steps every day.

It doesn’t sound like a lot, but 10,000 steps is a hearty amount. You can “accidentally” get 7,000 steps by wandering around and doing errands and stuff. You won’t get to 10,000 steps without either a fairly large endeavor, or deliberate intention. Either way is a good way to use up some of those extra calories and build strength and endurance back up.

Here we go.

I’ll keep you updated.

Update

Here is where I’m supposed to tell you how great I’ve done and how well everything worked out. Unfortunately, that’s not what happened. I blew up to 250 lbs. I’m not even sure how it happened.

I joined the local recreation district gym and I’ll be going at least twice a week, so hopefully that helps. The reality is that I don’t want to change my eating too much, so I’m hoping building back some muscle and doing some exercise will be all I need.

Good luck to you all. Brian out.

Categories
Multiple Myeloma Treatment

My Elotuzumab Regimen

My Myeloma History

For those of you who haven’t followed along from the beginning, let me explain how we got to elotuzumab treatment.

No. There is too much. Let me sum up.

elotuzumab-journey-sum-up

Once upon a time (2018) I was diagnosed with multiple myeloma when my chiropractor sent me for x-rays after months of me complaining to doctors about my back pain. To be fair, back pain is almost always caused by a muscle strain, and myeloma is rare, and typically seen in people two decades older than me.

Anyway, I started on the dex-velcade-revlimid initial treatment cocktail, but when the velcade gave me terrible neuropathy in my hands, and my M-spike started to climb, I had my autologous stem cell transplant (ASCT, or around these parts, just SCT). It worked, but my m-spike didn’t go to zero. For “maintenance” therapy we started daratumumab and 10mg of revlimid.

Dara, as it is affectionately known is the current darling of the multiple myeloma treatment world. It works very well, and is less toxic than a lot of other treatments.

And, that’s when the wheels came off.

My white blood cells and neutrophils plummeted. We stopped the dara and dex, but it was too late. Eventually with zero nuetrophils, I ended up in front of the ear-nose-and-throat (ENT) doc who wheeled me from her office in the outpatient building straight into the emergency room to prep for surgery.

Do not pass go. Do not collect $200.

I had lost my stem cell graft. It might have been the dara.

Although, my oncologist says if it was the dara, that’s a case study. Unfortunately, the only way to find out is to give me dara again and see if it ruins my immune system. Neither me, nor my doc, is willing to take that chance.

As an upside, after coming close to death and getting a LOT of transfusions, including having more of my collected stem cells infused, it turns out my new “transplant” worked. Every test for myeloma is negative including the COLONOseq test that can detect 1 in 105 myeloma cells.

Long-story, made short: MRD-

My doctor wants to keep it that way.

My Elotuzumab Treatment Plan

I just got off the phone with the pharmacist, who is apparently a required step toward getting the elotuzumab (I’m gonna call it elo from here on out) transfusion. I also have to talk to the nutritionist *power eyeroll*.

Remember I’m MRD- here, so we aren’t trying to knock down active myeloma, we are trying to eliminate any tiny traces, and when it tries to come back, be there with stuff already circulating in my blood stream ready and waiting to kick ass.

Elotuzumab Infusions

I don’t know why (I’ll research it and write it up someday), but dexamethasone goes with myeloma treatment like bread goes with sandwiches. So, my infusions will start with dexamethasone. It’s only 20 mg instead of the usual 40 mg. Again, that’s the benefit of being MRD-, you can take the lighter dose.

Elo is preceded by some pre-treatment meds, mostly allergy meds. Then, it’s infusion time. They start slow. The first one takes 4 hours. I get them weekly for two cycles (4 weeks per cycle) and then down to monthly. By the end, they should only take 90 minutes.

I’m gonna need a good book.

I’m trying to fill out and update my Goodreads. You can check it out for other book recommendations. – I highly recommend Once Upon a River. Great writing. Wonderful characters. Satisfying story. — I’m in the middle of Sleeping Giants and like it, but there are a lot of ways to disappoint me going forward, so I’m reserving full judgement. — I’ve only read the first couple of chapters in The City We Became, but I LOVED N.K. Jemisin’s Broken Earth Trilogy. I can’t recommend it enough, and so far The City We Became seems well written and interesting. (Living earth again?) There are some glitches in the writing style and point of view early in the first book of Broken Earth called The Fifth Season. IT’S PART OF THE PLOT! Just stick with it. It will so be worth it in the end.

Maybe my next post can be book recommendations for myeloma infusions and other treatments 🙂

Then, elo works best with pomalyst, or pomalidomide. According to the pharmacist it is chemically very similar to revlimid. But, we are going very light on the dose, 1 mg every other day. Like Revlimid, it has to come from a specialty pharmacy which will mail it to me. The cost will undoubtedly be another indictment of the American healthcare system. Fortunately, I’m one of the lucky ones with good insurance.

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For me, after clearing my out-of-pocket-maximum the first month, I get the free healthcare most Americans wish they could have. In other words, I’ll never pay a penny of the $10K+ they likely charge for pomalidomide. I do however have to answer their questions about not getting pregnant (pomalidomide causes birth defects), and then wait for them to overnight the package to me, which requires me to hang around all day because it is a signature required delivery.

A small price to pay to keep the myeloma away until they can find a cure.

So, that’s it. It all starts next week.

Wish me luck.

Categories
Multiple Myeloma Research

Latest Multiple Myeloma Research Guide

This article is in progress as I put together resources on the latest multiple myeloma (MM) research for patients. This article represents advanced information about multiple myeloma for patients and care-givers that already understand the basics of multiple myeloma.

If you were just diagnosed with multiple myeloma, or otherwise are new to MM, then I would recommend you explore some of the basics of multiple myeloma resources here. If you are interested in induction, or the first chemotherapy you get after a new multiple myeloma diagnosis, you should probably check here.

This article is broader look at the 2020 ASH Conference and the subsequent research.

Multiple Myeloma Treatment Definitions Cheat Sheet

K = carfilzomib = Kyprolis

R = lenalidomide = Revlimid

KRd = dexamethasone = Kd

PFS = progression-free survival (you live, and your multiple myeloma does not get any worse, i.e. progress)

ASCT = autologous stem cell transplant (the typical stem cell transplant where you collect and reimplant your own stem cells)

DRd = daratumumab + Revlimid + dexamethasone

IRD = ixaxomib + Revlimid + dexamethasone

ERd = elotuzumab + Revlimid + dexamethasone

Isa = Isatuximab

Pom= pomalidomide (usually used in place of lenalidomide aka Revlimid)

bortezomib = Velcade

ORR = overall response rate

New Multiple Myeloma Research

This paper is a doozy, covering a lot of current multiple myeloma treatments. Published in March 2020. – Novel Experimental Drugs for Treatment of Multiple Myeloma

If you want to do your own search for real multiple myeloma research use the site operator on your Google searches. The way it works is that you search for your keyword and then add ‘site:gov’ at the end. This tells Google to only return results from websites that have a .gov domain.

You can go a step further and search ‘site:nih.gov’ but you’ll miss some things that way. Generally, just making it .gov filters out a lot of the noise.

Multiple myeloma research studies and papers I am looking at:

A novel BCMA PBD-ADC with ATM/ATR/WEE1 inhibitors or bortezomib induce synergistic lethality in multiple myeloma

Harnessing the Immune System Against Multiple Myeloma: Challenges and Opportunities

I guess this is the big one for me if I’m going on Elotuzumab:

Elotuzumab plus Pomalidomide and Dexamethasone for Multiple Myeloma – It’s from 2018, so that’s pretty recent.

Elotuzumab in combination with pomalidomide and dexamethasone for the treatment of multiple myeloma (2019 – says combination like elotuzumab-pomalidomide-dexamethasone will become standard 2nd line therapies. I guess I’m second line?)

Actors on the Scene: Immune Cells in the Myeloma Niche

Alternative strategies include the use of agents to disrupt BM-myeloma cell interactions. One of these agents is elotuzumab, a humanized mAb that binds to SLAMF7 (family member 7 of the signaling lymphocytic activation molecule), an immunomodulatory receptor expressed on several hematopoietic cells, including myeloma cells and NK cells (160162)

Actors on the Scene: Immune Cells in the Myeloma Niche (nih.gov)

Immunotherapy in Multiple Myeloma

Multiple myeloma: the (r)evolution of current therapy and a glance into the future

Mechanisms of Action and Clinical Development of Elotuzumab (nih.gov) – This one made my head hurt, but it talks about how elotuzumab works.

Elotuzumab activates Natural Killer cells and the marks myeloma cells to be killed… but it’s complicated and involves SLAMF7, which is my new wrestling name.

According to this one, we got the order wrong… should be Elotuzumab before daratumumab. Since I was on dara for so short of time, maybe it doesn’t matter. Optimal sequence of daratumumab and elotuzumab in relapsed and refractory multiple myeloma

Immune Functions of Signaling Lymphocytic Activation Molecule Family Molecules in Multiple Myeloma (nih.gov)

Categories
Multiple Myeloma Treatment

Elotuzumab Multiple Myeloma

Empliciti is the brand name for elotuzumab. (*Adds elotuzumab and empliciti to autocorrect dictionary*) I will be using elotuzumab and Empliciti interchangeably so that I can focus on facts and not what elotuzumab is called.

I will be taking elotuzumab soon, so it is time to review elotuzumab and look at potential elotuzumab side effects and dosing for multiple myeloma treatment.

Why Elotuzumab or Empliciti

As I understand the term, my current multiple myeloma status is MRD negative. The short-short version is that there is no MRD detected anywhere in my body, even by a test so sensitive that it can detect just one cancer cell among one-million cells. This is good news.

In all of my tests since they changed my patient status last fall to multiple myeloma in remission, my myeloma markers all come back negative, or in the green (normal) range. This is also good.

But, in every monthly meeting with my oncologist, as he stares intensely at the screen with my numbers on it, he fidgets terribly with his fingers as he reads off the good news. He is nervous.

And when he is nervous, I’m nervous.

I’m still in remission and my tests all still say zero, so we’ve been working on my other health issues. I’ve stopped taking the powerful antifungal, posaconazole. My blood pressure is finally coming down from ridiculous highs.

I got my sleep apnea results back, and apparently I have “severe” sleep apnea, so I’m getting a CPAP machine, but it will take a couple of weeks. When it comes to sleep there isn’t much of a sense of urgency. After all, you won’t die from crummy sleep so… Apparently, sleep apnea can cause higher blood pressure. Who knew?

My blood pressure is mostly under control with a combination of lisinopril and carvedilol, but my guess is that if the sleep apnea thing works, then maybe that is one more medicine I can stop taking. Besides, maybe I’ll get deeper, more restful sleep.

Check out my Stash vs Acorns and more review.

My hemoglobin shows me as anemic, but just barely so. This has been the big concern. Anything my oncologist can give me will lower my blood counts, so having normal, stable, healthy blood counts first is ideal.

So we wait.

But, he’s nervous.

Elotuzumab Maintenance for Multiple Myeloma

So, the issue is that while my myeloma is zero now, it can explode back to very-not-zero in a short period of time. The way to avoid this is with some maintenance chemotherapy.

The idea is that if a cancer cell does try and start something, there will already be chemicals in my body ready to kick it in the teeth before it can even get started, instead of it getting a running head start in between monthly (or longer) monitoring.

Enter elotuzumab.

The similarity in the elotuzumab and daratumumab names is not a coincidence. The drugs are related, but not the same.

As my doc explains it, elotuzumab is a relatively benign chemotherapy that does a great job at keeping myeloma from increasing, but a bad job at lowering myeloma counts. Since I’m already zero, stability is good.

We didn’t start it today, but it is coming next month. He gave me what he called, “a bunch of medical marketing material.”

I like my oncologist. 🙂

elotuzumab information dosing side effects and package insert
Elotuzumab package insert and marketing material

Why Elotuzumab?

I need to understand my myeloma treatments and the chemo they are giving me, including why I take elotuzumab for multiple myeloma maintenance.

The short answer is that daratumumab didn’t work for me, or rather it worked too well, taking out my immune systems along with myeloma. Daratumumab is the darling of the multiple myeloma treatment world. Papers are starting to call for daratumumab to be a first-line treatment, adding it to the standard Revlimid, Velcade, dexamethazone treatment regime. Elotuzumab is the red-headed stepchild of daratumumab.

Elotuzumab Dosing

According to the elotuzumab package insert and brochures I received, elotuzumab dosing usually involves dexamethasone and either Revlimid (lenalidomide) or Pomalyst (pomalidomide). My oncologist says we’ll be adding Pomalyst.

So Empliciti dosing is done by infusion, whereas Pomalyst and dexamethasone are taken as pills.

How Does Elotuzumab Work?

According to the medical marketing material supplied by Empliciti’s manufacturer, Emplicity helps mark, or identify myeloma cells making them easier to find. Then, it activates NK cells (Natural Killer cells) which attach and destroy multiple myeloma cells.

Sounds good, but apparently it doesn’t work at well as daratumumab. Maybe, in my situation that doesn’t matter since I’m starting at MRD negative. All I need is to make sure it doesn’t come back. I don’t need it to root it out.

Elotuzumab Side Effects

Like all chemotherapies, Empliciti can cause other cancers. There really isn’t anything you can do about that if you are taking chemo.

Other side effects include liver problems, fever, rashes, trouble breathing (fun!), dizziness, light-headedness, and as always, infections.

I’m already familiar with the dexamethasone side effects. I guess it depends on the dose. I tolerate the smaller doses pretty well.

I will have to look up Pomalyst since I have never taken it before.

As always, we’ll hope for the best.

Elotuzumab Schedule

The schedule for Empliciti dosing looks familiar to my old Revlimid schedule, with a 28-day cycle.

For the first two months, you take elotuzumab once a week via IV infusion. You take dexamethasone every 7 days, on the same day you get your empliciti infusion. You take pomalyst every day. Starting on day 23, you stop taking everything (no dex or pomalyst) until the next infusion. Basically, a one-week off period.

After the first two cycles, it goes monthly. You get the elotuzumab infusion on Day 1 and take dexamethasone on Day 1 and then every 7 days. You take Pomalyst every day, stopping on Day 23, and taking a week off from all meds until the next cycle where you repeat the same dose schedule.

About the Author

Brian Nelson is an expert on multiple myeloma via first-hand knowledge as a patient but is not a doctor. Brian was diagnosed with multiple myeloma in 2019. He has been living with it ever since. All information is for informational purposes only and is not medical advice. Check with your own doctor about your specific situation for medical advice.