On Cape Cod, Massachusetts, U.S.A…

IMG_9101I’m here. At my parent’ house on Cape Cod. It’s great to be back… :-)

As soon as I set foot in my parents’ house–after first hugging Mom and Dad, of course–I asked: “so, where’s Muffet? (Muffet is my parents’ new cat…I wrote a post about her last month.)

IMG_9145She was asleep on my parents’ bed, but after about 5 minutes she came downstairs, sniffed me and let me pet her. Then, to everyone’s surprise, she jumped right into my lap–the lap of a complete stranger (to her, I mean)–and settled down.

Muffet is the purrfect lap cat…such a sweet cat…very playful, very gentle. Adorable. When she wants to play, she leads me into the living room where most of her toys are. Smart kitty!

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These are the first photos that have been taken of Muffet after my parents adopted her. Isn’t she (also!) a beauty?

Anyway, clearly, all is well here on Cape Cod…!!!

Getting ready…

How did this happen??? Wasn’t it Xmas just the other day??? ;) I still can’t believe that it’s April, and that I’m taking off for the U.S.A…again. Yep, I’m leaving tomorrow to go visit my parents and their new kitty, Muffet. The last few months have gone by in a flash, I must say…

Speaking of which, I would like to apologize to those whose emails have remained unanswered. I’ve done my best, but I just haven’t had the time to reply to some of you…

Anyway, while I’m in the U.S. I’ll have access to my Mom’s computer, so I will be online every day (working, mostly…yeah, the paying job/s ;) ), except for the few days we plan to be in New York City,  and will try to write at least a couple of posts. I’m taking a couple of scientific studies with me, hoping I’ll find the time to read, and post about, them. Interesting stuff!

Okaaaaay, I’d better get back to my packing…Take care, everyone…I’ll write a post once I get settled. Ciao! :-)

 

Tulip mania

IMG_9060I simply adore tulips. Last fall, with the help of a friend, I planted a whole bunch in my back garden…different colors, different types, smaller ones, bigger ones…

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And now we can finally admire the fruits of our labors…

Some of my tulips have been blooming for the past week or so, and more are getting ready to…burst.

IMG_9087They’re so lovely, in my opinion, and they give me a sense of happiness when I walk among them or even just look out at them, standing as still as elegant little sentinels wearing colorful hats…IMG_9075

Anyway, here are a few photos I took yesterday, a glorious sunny day here in Firenze!IMG_9085

 

 

 

Happiness can be found in small things…

Right place, right time

It’s really true. It’s all a matter of luck, of being in the right place at the right time.

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Male and female kingfisher, Parco della Piana, Sesto Fiorentino, March 29 2014.

It happened to Stefano and me yesterday. We went bird watching at our usual place, the Parco della Piana in Sesto Fiorentino, just outside of Florence.

We decided to check out the “kingfisher” hut before going to count the black-winged stilts. As it so happened, there was only one other photographer in the hut. Boy, this guy had the biggest lens and most elaborate set-up (camera, tripod, etc.) I’ve ever seen.

We sat down on either side of him and, at his suggestion, pointed our lenses toward the other end of the lake, about a million miles away (!), where you could barely make out a red dot = the female kingfisher’s belly. Then we just waited.

After 15 or 20 minutes, we heard a series of peeps overhead–the male kingfisher returning from his successful hunt. The female got very excited and began preening herself. After a few seconds, the male landed close to her and, after showing off his prey, turning his beak this way and that way, gently fed her the shrimp he’d caught. Awwww…so romantic!!!

We’d seen and photographed the male kingfisher before (I have posted a few photos of him here, in fact), but never the female. And we’d certainly never seen them TOGETHER, so this was an amazing treat. Now, I know this isn’t the best photo in the world (though I tried my best with the camera I have…a good camera, mind you, with a great zoom…but nothing like our new friend’s equipment…), but hey, you try taking a photo of two small red dots in the distance… ;-)

Okay, I must go now and get ready…I’m getting picked up soon by a friend, and we’re off for the rest of the day, a fun fun fun day with other friends, too. Have a great Sunday, everyone! Ciaoooooo!

Afterthought: here’s what a HUGE lens can do, and yes, this was taken by the guy sitting next to us yesterday…same place, same kingfishers…but check out the difference! Wow: http://goo.gl/DKgM9n 

“Why I’ve ditched statins for good.”

This post was inspired by a fascinating article I read this morning (many thanks to Libby for the link!) written by a vascular surgeon and published in The Telegraph just a few days ago: http://goo.gl/Es1XXS Please have a look…It’s a very good read.

Personal story: my Dad has always had high cholesterol and took statins for a while, many many many years ago, on the advice of his doctor. Dad’s follow-up blood test results did show a decrease in his “bad” (= LDL) cholesterol, but his “good” (HDL) cholesterol had decreased, too. This meant that his actual risk of developing heart disease went up, not down. And so, with his doctor’s approval, he stopped taking statins immediately. So far, so good…knock on wood!

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I have inherited this familial high cholesterol loveliness, but I have never taken statins. And then, some time after I began taking curcumin (= more than eight years ago, yippeeee!), I noticed a decrease in my cholesterol AND an even more significant decrease in my triglycerides. My cholesterol is currently much lower than it was in the pre-curcumin period, and that, coupled with my decreased triglycerides, has taken my heart disease risk down to zilch, practically–one of the many beneficial side effects of curcumin. Incidentally, the same has happened to my Dad–once he began taking curcumin, his cholesterol went down. And it has stayed down.

So WHY aren’t doctors prescribing curcumin instead of statins, which come with a host of side effects (increased risk of developing diabetes, among other, er, pleasant things)…side effects that curcumin definitely doesn’t have, by the way…

Well, I think we can all figure out the answer to that question…! (See also the Telegraph article for more on this.)

And now, under new guidelines, it looks as though a lot more people in the U.S.A. will be “eligible” to take these drugs (I’m sure big pharma is celebrating big time!). Unbelievable. See: http://goo.gl/q7N7Xg

No, of course I’m not saying that nobody at all should be on statins. Perhaps they do help some folks (= the big pharma CEO bank accounts, in particular! ;-) ). I’m just saying that I personally would never ever take them. And I’m very glad my Dad isn’t taking them anymore (and my sister, too, btw).

The Telegraph article gives us a lot of food for thought–the surgeon’s dietary changes (sugar), the fact that statins decrease CRP (= C-reactive protein), which is also a marker for myeloma…but then, curcumin decreases CRP, too…and, again, without all the potentially very nasty side effects…

And here is more food for thought: “In my view, high total blood cholesterol or high LDL levels no more cause heart attacks than paramedics cause car crashes, even though they are present at the scene. Just lowering cholesterol with drugs without sorting out the dietary and lifestyle factors that actually cause heart disease is nonsensical.” Interesting, huh?

The article also discusses the results of a Norwegian cholesterol study that followed 52,000 men and women with no pre-existing heart disease, for a period of ten years: “The results for women were crystal clear. The lower a woman’s total cholesterol, the greater her risk of dying, either of heart disease or anything else, including cancer. This reflects findings in previous studies.” Wow.

Okay, that definitely did it for me. I’m keeping my still high-ish but not-as-high-as-before cholesterol!

Feline hyperthyroidism: our Puzzola.

_MG_0185Last year Stefano and I took our eldest cat, Puzzola, to the vet because she had peed all over my bathrobe, which indicated in no uncertain terms that she had a urinary tract infection (I wrote a post about this episode in February 2013, btw). The vet confirmed the infection and immediately put her on antibiotics. Then, while checking her out, the vet found a small nodule on Puzzola’s thyroid gland. A blood test confirmed what she suspected–Puzzola had hyperthyroidism. At that time, it was a very mild case…

Puzzola was supposed to go back for a checkup (=blood test) after a month or thereabouts, but all this unfortunately happened while my father-in-law was very ill…and, with all that was going on, we just couldn’t deal with stressing out Puzzola, too. So I just gave her the recommended dose of Tapazole, the conventional drug prescribed for hyperthyroid humans, too. IMG_6527

For a while I put her (and the other cats, too) on C3 Complex curcumin powder, which I mixed in with their canned food, but, while some (= the eldest cats) loved it, others (= the youngest) simply refused to eat it after a while…Then, when we left for the States to visit my parents last summer, I couldn’t bring myself to ask our wonderful cat/house sitter to prepare the curcumin mixture for the cats on top of everything else she was doing for us. As a result, the cats went without curcumin for months.

A few weeks ago I noticed that Puzzola was more agitated and anxious than before (and it wasn’t because she had begun drinking wine, as the photo on the right might suggest ;-) ). Her behavior was simply, well, odd. I made an appointment with the vet immediately.

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Well, in a nutshell, her blood test results are simply terrible. TERRIBLE. Her liver numbers are sky high. SCARY high…

And her hyperthyroidism is now listed as “SERIOUS” (“grave” in Italian). The vet assured us, though, that Puzzola is not terminally ill. But we need to intervene. And that is what we are doing. By the way, this, I hope, will explain why I haven’t been blogging recently. All my free time is spent doing heaps of research on hyperthyroidism in cats…

I’ve looked at clinical trials, I’ve looked at natural remedies…anything and everything. I know all there is to know, practically, about feline hyperthyroidism–its causes (BPAs in cans has been linked to this condition, for example) and treatments. I’ve read heaps of forum comments, both in Italian and English, written by other humans who have hyperthyroid cats…

Anyway, the first changes we made were as follows:

  1. We have increased her daily dose of Tapazole. This doesn’t make me happy at all, because this drug comes with a bunch of side effects, including liver toxicity!, but for now she seems to tolerate it well, even at the higher dose.
  2. I am back to mixing curcumin into the cats’ canned food once a day. The eldest cats lick their plates clean and most often meow/stare at me for more…the youngest cats will gulp it down one day but turn up their noses at it the next…But the important thing is that Puzzola absolutely loves the stuff. I mix the Tapazole in with her curcumin wet food. Thus far it has worked like a charm.

puzzolaShe seems to have calmed down a lot, though sometimes she still goes wacky (her metabolism is on the go-go-go all the time, poor sweetie). Just a few minutes ago, for example, she ran helter-skelter into my study and wouldn’t settle down…aaaaagh. We’re also trying to give her milk thistle for her liver (she’s so difficult, though, and so far hasn’t taken it)…

Her next set of tests have been scheduled for May.

Last week we took her to a homeopathic vet who admitted to having treated only FIVE cats with hyperthyroidism in her entire career. She hadn’t even heard of the feline hyperthyroidism-homeopathic remedy clinical trial that I asked her about. Uhm.

Furthermore, among other things, she suggested that we put Puzzola on a raw meat diet that included chicken and turkey. Yes, raw. Oh, and, worse, RAW PORK. When I brought up the issue of possible salmonella (etc.) contamination, she told us that freezing raw meat KILLS salmonella and other nasties. Well, from what I have since read online, that appears not to be the case: freezing chicken meat can slow down the growth of salmonella, but it doesn’t kill it. Well, I am hugely disappointed and doubt we’ll be going back…

I am taking the diet issue seriously, though. I want to bring down Puzzola’s numbers AND I want my cats to be on the BEST diet possible. I have eliminated anything that contains corn and wheat and by-products (oh yes, I am the crazy cat lady reading labels in pet food stores…), and the raw meat diet is also OUT–even before it began!–but we have been giving all the cats some slightly cooked meat (cooked rare), the same meat we ourselves eat…

We have always given our cats what we thought was the best cat food available (only bought at the local pet food store, no supermarket brands, no crappy cheap stuff with fillers and so on ). But now we’re not so sure it’s the very best. I’ve been looking at cat food that is grain-free and possibly also low in iodine (but not Hill’s y/d, which can also cause problems, it seems!)…

Unfortunately, there are no simple answers…and so my search goes on…

Gugguls, not giggles…

Okay, so I said that I wouldn’t be experimenting with new stuff for a while. But that was BEFORE I began spring-cleaning the house last week (= one of the household tasks I hate the most!) and found something while checking to see how much curcumin I still have. url-2You see, Stefano and I will be spending a few weeks in April (around Easter) with my parents in Massachusetts, and I buy all my curcumin in the U.S. (even though it’s not as “cheap” as it used to be, mamma mia). So I needed to see how much curcumin I had left…

Anyway, while I was checking and counting, I happened upon two bottles of guggulsterone and decided to go ahead and start taking it. Reason no. 1: the bottles are going to expire at the end of the summer. Reason no. 2: guggulsterone kills myeloma cells and does a lot of other good things (just do a “Search” of my website for “guggulsterone” or scroll down my Pages until you find the one on guggulsterone). Reason no. 3: for some reason I stopped taking guggulsterone during my first experiment back in 2012. I’ve completely forgotten why, but I am POSITIVE that it had nothing to do with the supplement itself. It could have been because of all the illnesses and deaths that have taken place in Stefano’s large extended family in the past couple of years (stressful medical situations, including deaths, involving close members of his family…)…too much to deal with…

Anyway, 2014 has begun on a bit of a brighter note. Therefore, when, last week, I came across these two bottles of guggulsterone, I thought: “ah, why not?”

I’m having my next set of tests in late March…so it won’t be long before we know if the giggling gugguls have killed any myeloma cells… :-)

And now for a couple of off-topic notes.

1. I have received many queries, mostly private, as to which curcumin brand (and other stuff) I take. I cannot reply to everyone, impossible!, but I will write a post about that within a few days…so stay tuned!

Hmmm, speaking of queries, I have something else to add. Lately I’ve been getting an increasing number of private and “contact form” messages. So I’d like to make a couple of points. a I’m not a professional blogger, which means I don’t get paid to write my posts or do research (I wish I did!). I have a paying job that I enjoy but that takes up a good chunk of my time AND has nothing to do with the blog or curcumin (in brief, it’s connected to my years of teaching English). So it’s not easy for me to reply to everyone, even though I do my best. If I haven’t gotten in touch with you, try sending me a second email (but first read the next paragraph!). b. unfortunately, I cannot (and will not) give advice on treatments of any sort or dosages. My blog details my own personal experiences with curcumin and other naturally-derived substances. But that’s as far as it goes. I’m very VERY sorry, but I hope you will understand that I simply cannot give out any medical advice (I have a doctorate in linguistics, not medicine!)…Perhaps this will explain WHY I don’t always answer those types of queries…Again, sorry!

2. Completely off topic: Stefano and I would really like to spend three days in New York City the week of April 21st (we haven’t been there in YEARS…and in any case we haven’t been there as a couple, yet!), so for the past several days I have been looking at hundreds of bed and breakfasts, airbnb places, tripadvisor, booking.com, hotels.com listings…you name it, I’ve looked at it! I’m confident that I’ll find something, even though our budget is tight.

I have excluded anything that isn’t within easy walking distance of a fast train or bus to Manhattan (no point in spending most of the day commuting!)…and I have now found a few options that look nice and clean and more or less, gulp, affordable for us…Now, I am mentioning this mainly because my hotel-b&b search has been eating up a lot of my time, which means, among other things, that I’m not reading any studies right now, phooeydooey…But I also thought that some kind New York blog readers might have some helpful suggestions, which would be most welcome and perhaps save me some grief…! Thanks in advance. :-)

Anyway, I will get to the studies soon…and report anything of interest, as usual! Take care, everyone, and…ciao for now! :-)

February 27 2014 test results

This morning Stefano and I picked up my February 27 2014 blood test results and went to the doctor…even though I already knew…But hey, it’s always a good idea to get an expert’s opinion!

As you may recall, my November 2013 test results weren’t that great. I’d tried testing a lower dose of curcumin for a bunch of months. Didn’t work!

Well, I’m pleased/happy/ecstatic to announce that today’s results were an entirely different story…

In a nutshell, what should have gone up WENT UP; what should have gone down WENT DOWN. 

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One of my favorite photos, taken in Arizona in December 2013 (cacti with Santa hats…so happy-looking…so cute!).

My m-spike and monoclonal component, for example, have gone down. Not by a huge amount, but enough to impress my doctor. More good news: my hemoglobin and hematocrit are now back in the normal range…my light chains have also gone down…all very nice. My total protein is down, too (10.4, down from 10.7…yeah, not much, but I’ll take any decrease, especially after what I heard Dr. Gertz say…). My creatinine, which has always been in the normal range anyway, went down a wee bit more…which wasn’t necessary, but…eh, why not?

My other two immunoglobulins (A and M) are still the same number as last time, so they’re stable. B2M, also stable. Parathyroid is back in the normal range, dance of joy.

In sum, I couldn’t have wished for better results in such a short period of time…My doctor was relieved, too, and commented that evidently I respond very well to curcumin, but at the 8-gram/day dosage…

Let’s see. In addition to increasing my curcumin intake from 6 (back) to 8 grams/day, some with and some without bioperine, here’s a list of the other stuff I’ve been taking in this period (since November):

  1. 1.5 grams of quercetin with bromelain
  2. a spoonful of molasses/day
  3. a heaping teaspoonful of flax seed lignans mixed in yogurt, every day (thanks for this useful tip, Lisa!)

I think that’s about it…Oh well, of course I take vitamin D, and sometimes a (good) multivitamin.

The main lesson I’ve learned from this slightly harrowing experience: we have to be on our guard at all times. This doesn’t mean we need to be obsessive and compulsive about stuff (that would be very BAD, since by now we know that stress has an impact on this cancer) OR freak out if we have one bad test result. But if six or eight grams of curcumin–or whatever else for that matter–has been keeping our numbers stable, why fool around with it? Why rock the boat, as the saying goes?

Learn from my mistake…

But today, at least, I’m not thinking about past mistakes. I’m celebrating…not just with my family and friends, but with all of you, too! Thanks, everyone! :-)

“Yoga mat” chemical found in nearly 500 foods

This morning I read an incredibly scary news story. The Environmental Working Group (= great organization!) analyzed more than 500 “food” items and found that they contained “a potentially hazardous industrial plastics chemical.” It’s a chemical FOAMING agent. No kidding.

Now, I live in Italy and don’t buy any of these brands…but still, I wonder (shiver!) how widespread this really is…In any event, I thought I’d warn my U.S. readers to stay away from these brands (and yes, there is a full list…see below link)…

So, the next time you go to the supermarket to buy a Sara Lee blueberry crumble breakfast bread or Pillsbury’s Italian bread or any of the items on that list (hot dog and hamburger buns, bagels, pizza and pastries, e.g.), stop for a second and ask yourself the following question: would you ever chew on a yoga mat…or on your own plastic flip-flops? And also think of all that chemical foam ending up in your stomach…

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Here’s the link to the EWG story: http://goo.gl/QyZabA

Freeeeeeeeaky!

Muffet

My parents recently adopted a gorgeous, 10-year-old black female cat from the Cape Cod MSPCA shelter. There hasn’t been a cat in their house since our beloved Italian cat, Micia, died, many years ago, at age 17. I’d rescued Micia as a kitten in a field near Florence (long story), and she came with us, of course, when we moved from Italy back to the U.S.A. That would have been in the early 1980s…I was in my early 20s, and Micia was barely more than a kitten at the time…

Anyway, because of our wonderful Micia, my parents and I have always had a “thing” for black cats. Amazingly, though, most people don’t like black cats, mainly based on ancient (absurd!!!) superstitions.

In the Middle Ages, e.g., black cats were associated with witches and witchcraft, and millions of them (yes, millions) were tortured and killed all over Europe. It’s a wonder that ANY black cats made it to this century! And even today, in Italy, it is said that if a black cat crosses your path, you have to turn around and go in the opposite direction. I don’t know anyone who actually does that, but I’ve been told that it still happens…

What this means, though, is that black cats are less than half as likely to be adopted from a cat shelter than gray cats. So sad, but true: http://goo.gl/6rSdfS

Well, here’s a news flash: we’re not in the Middle Ages anymore. And black cats, like all cats, are wonderful, devoted life companions.

But this post is really about Muffet, my parents’ new furry companion…

Here is what the MSPCA had originally posted about Muffet (accompanied by a photo): “Hello, my name is Muffet. I am a 10 year old black short-haired kitty. I was brought to the adoption center because I was nervous around the grandchildren, because of this I would do best in a home with older children. I am an affectionate, quiet, lap cat. Please stop by the adoption center to meet me.” Now, I don’t know how long this link will be available online, but it’s been there for a couple of weeks, and today it’s still there, so you can check it out, if you want: http://goo.gl/UXZ33R

So Muffet was taken to the cat shelter because she got “NERVOUS” around the grandchildren, huh??? I mean, instead of showing the grandchildren how to treat an older cat, the grandparents chose to get rid of her. Oh boy, that’s a great lesson to teach the grandchilden, isn’t it? Shameful.

Unfortunately, this is not an isolated story. It happens a lot. And it makes me so incredibly angry.

Stupid humans.

Anyway, after reading this online post, Mom and Dad fell in love with Muffet and decided to adopt her…without even seeing her. They knew that Muffet probably would never find a home mainly because of her age. Most people want kittens, or at the most young cats. Not many people will adopt a 10-year-old cat, especially a black one. And in fact, when Mom and Dad arrived at the shelter and announced that they were there for Muffet, one of the volunteers rushed over to hug my Mom. It turned out that Muffet had been at the shelter for NINE months…

Well, I want to tell you that Muffet is the PERFECT cat for my parents. She is absolutely LOVELY, in every sense of the word. My parents have gone absolutely bonkers over her and talk about nothing else, practically. What she eats, what she does, where she goes, etc. It’s all about super Muffet. As it should be.

Muffet is a purring lap cat. She follows my parents around, sits in their laps, looks at them with love and devotion, climbs over them while they Skype with me, sleeps all cuddled up with them at night, and plays with her new toys. She is such an incredibly happy cat. But I don’t think she could possibly be as happy as my parents are…

Thank you, sweet Muffet (my Mom also calls her “Amore,” which means “Love” in Italian)…

And thank you, MSPCA (about 10 days ago, I wrote the MSPCA a private thank-you note, by the way, to which I received an enthusiastic response, which was verrrrry nice…I will send them the link to this post, too…).

The only thing I don’t have is a photo of Muffet in her new forever home, and I won’t have one until I go visit my parents (= in April)…But, if you hurry, you will be able to see a photo of her in the link above (a photo taken of course at the shelter)… :-)