My current supplement regimen

Back in March (!), after receiving many reader queries about my current supplement regimen, I began writing a “supplement” post…But then, between one thing and another, I never finished it. Since then, though, I’ve received even MORE requests from even MORE readers on the same topic. So today I picked up my draft and finished it. Here goes, for what it’s worth…

Oh wait, first, I would like to note that I take only the C3 Complex curcumin, that is, the curcumin that has been used in all the MM, SMM and MGUS trials. I disregard and am suspicious of any and all brands that claim to have the highest curcumin bioavailability possible (these claims are usually based on company-sponsored studies, blablabla). With one possible exception: I am very curious to try the Meriva curcumin (but I have not, so far…some day, though…).

Point is: I take ONLY what has worked for me all these years, as follows.,..

  1. Doctor’s Best C3 Complex curcumin, 500 mg capsules, with bioperine. My dose: four grams a day. I order it online from various sites (whichever one happens to be the cheapest, as long as it’s a reliable one…usually Amazon or Vitacost). If I run out of the 500 mg capsules, which I prefer for various reasons, I substitute them with the Doctor’s Best C3 Complex one-gram tablets (4 of these = 4 grams of curcumin, which is an advantage over the capsules, for sure).
  2. Doctors Purest C3 Complex curcumin, 500 mg capsules. My dose: four grams a day. I order it from Ageless Cures. Important note: it doesn’t contain the black pepper extract (= bioperine).
  3. This is sort of an aside, but I sometimes substitute the above type (point no.2) with Doctors Purest Boswellin + Curcumin (which I order from the same site, Ageless Cures), which does contain bioperine. However, in addition to performing other good deeds, boswellic acid has been shown to block one of myeloma’s main survival pathways (STAT3) — you can do a search of my blog for more information on boswellic acid. So I figure that boswellin plus curcumin should be a double whammy for my myeloma cells. [Yeah, I know, it's bloody expensive...but each caplet contains 700 mg of C3 Complex curcumin, so you don't need as many of these caplets to reach your daily goal.]
  4. Vitacost’s quercetin with bromelain, 250 capsules. My dose: one and a half grams a day. If you buy this brand and decide to take the dose I take, all you need are six capsules a day.
  5. I also plan to resume taking fish oil. Soon. I take the Vitacost brand, the Mega EFA and DHA “softgel” type. I stopped taking it simply because I ran out of it, but I now have a new bottle. And I also plan to resume taking ashwagandha as soon as my current experiment — see below — ends.

*Note: I’ve also tested Vitacost’s NSI curcumin, the one with C3 Complex, with bioperine. As I recall, the NSI capsules were a bit larger than the Doctor’s Best ones, and they had a bit of a stronger scent, so I stopped taking them. If those two things don’t bother you, though, then go right ahead. And perhaps they have improved, over the years.

Current test: Nutrigold’s Guggul Gold, 350 mg per capsule…I am taking the recommended dose on the bottle. You can order it from various online sources. This is a test, of course, so if it doesn’t work, I won’t be taking it again.

To sum things up: I take EIGHT grams of curcumin a day…4 grams with bioperine, 4 without bioperine (unless I am taking the boswellin-curcumin-bioperine caplets, of course).

I have a final disclaimer: I am not connected in any way, financial or otherwise, to any of these brands or companies (or to ANY brands or companies at all, for that matter). During my blogging career, I have received “freebie” offers for this and that supplement, that is true…but I ignore them or turn them down on this basis: if I can’t afford it, I won’t take it. Perhaps I’m being silly, but that’s my policy. I like my independence!

Okay. I think that’s about it, folks! :-)

New policy regarding e-mails

On Tuesday, when Stefano and I returned to Florence (after spending a couple of weeks with my parents in Massachusetts), I found almost 2,000 unread e-mails in my mailbox. An impossible number, yes, but it includes some old stuff, too, such as unopened newsletters and Google Alerts and also messages I just haven’t had the time to read. However, it also includes a whole bunch of new blog reader queries, some of which I feel I simply cannot or indeed should not answer…email-comic

So this morning I began thinking about what to do. And I was faced with my eternal dilemma: time. Simply put, should I take the time to answer each and every e-mail, or should I spend that time doing something else, such as reading a study I should have read and posted about months ago? I think the choice is clear…

It hasn’t been easy to reach a decision, since I am a very nice and polite person in real life and like to be nice and polite to everyone, but here is what I have decided to do…now and in the future:

  1. If you have asked any sort of medical-related question, you will (probably) not receive a reply from me. It would simply not be right for me to give out medical advice, especially concerning conditions I know very little about, such as Crohn’s Disease.
  2. If you have asked a question that has already been answered here on my blog, or that would be easily answered by (your) doing a brief search online, you will (probably) not receive a reply from me.
  3. Unless I manage to catch up with those 2,000 unopened e-mails, that is. ;-)

HINT: a very useful tool is my blog’s “Search” box. Just type your query inside the box (upper right-hand side of the blog) and press Enter. You may not find what you are looking for, but it’s worth a try. I confess that I use this tool, too, at times. I did so just this morning, in fact, to find the “study” on curcumin by Vermorken et al, a study that enraged me a couple of years ago.

Another useful tool is PubMed:, which you can find at this link http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed Again, you can type your query inside the Search box at the top of the page…for instance, type the words “curcumin Crohn’s Disease,” and you will find 28 studies. I use PubMed a lot.

If you are thinking of taking curcumin for the first time, please check out my blog Page on curcumin’s side effects, including warnings (who shouldn’t take it, etc.)…And also my protocol Page. As you scroll down my homepage, look on the right, where all my Pages are…

Sorry if this sounds harsh…but I really hope you all understand! Thank you! :-)

Sitting in a chair in the sky…

IMG_1528When I was a kid, getting on a plane and flying somewhere was one of the most exciting things ever. My family and I didn’t do much flying back then, mind you, but we did occasionally return to the States to visit the relatives (grandparents, e.g.) we’d left behind when we moved to Italy (see *Note below for more info). 

I grew out of my childhood enthusiasm for flying by the time I hit my 20s, almost as soon as I realized that, as Louis CK puts it, I was “sitting in a chair in the sky.” I know, I know, I know, statistically it is more dangerous for me to be sitting right here at my desk than to be sitting on a plane…and yes, yes, yes, statistically it is the safest way to travel. I am well aware of all that.IMG_1523 But I think we would all agree that there is something a bit freaky about “sitting in a chair in the sky”…And so I went through a long period during which I was a bit of a nervous, sweating wreck at the slightest sign of turbulence…

Everything changed when I was diagnosed with myeloma (well, with smoldering/inactive myeloma). My fear of flying disappeared. Yep, just like that. How could I be scared of flying when I am carrying around a bunch of lethal cancer cells inside my body?

Myeloma trumps fear of flying any day. 

But not yesterday. 

IMG_2270 IMG_2334Yesterday’s flight between Boston and Munich went fairly smoothly…no problems to report. But then we got on our Munich-Florence flight and…well…mamma mia...

The pilot announced that it was overcast in Florence…but he didn’t mention the high winds that plagued most of our flight (the turbulence varied between “acceptable bumpy” and “bloody effing scary bumpy”)…The strong gusts of wind pushing on the left side of the plane (seriously, you could really feel ‘em pushing the plane to the right) seemed to want to blow us out of the sky as we were descending from the clouds towards Florence. I’ve never felt wind like that, not even when I landed once during a snow storm in Toronto, Canada. Yikes. And so, yes, yesterday I experienced a shadow of my former fear of flying…

And then we landed with a huge BOOOOOM and then a bit of veering and shaking that took everyone’s breath away…IMG_3701

But hey, we landed. 

And Stefano and I are so happy to be with our beloved kitties again. :)

I will rest for the next few dayszzzzzz (I already have plans for a get-together with friends tomorrow, yaaaay), then I’ll take a look at some of the studies that have piled up on my desktop…I really must do something about my poor, dear and verrrrry neglected blog! IMG_2306

In the meantime, I hope you enjoy these photos, which I took on the island of Nantucket where Stefano and I spent three lovely days between August 12 and August 15. We rented a jeep for a 48-hour period ( = outraaaaaageously expensive, but in the end we were glad we’d done it) and, among other things, drove on Great Point Beach all the way out to the lighthouse, where we spent hours watching and photographing seals, but mostly sea birds — terns, seagulls and sandpipers…also, a cute oystercatcher (= the black and white bird with the long, bright orange beak digging into the sand) and a few ruddy turnstones (gee wiz, WHO comes up with these bird names??? ;-) )…  IMG_3047

Quick memo/bit of advice: always put on sunblock BEFORE getting distracted by the local fauna, not AFTER…Wow, ouch, what a sunburn we both got…

Okay, I have to go get the laundry off the line now, so I’d better get off the computer. Take care, everyone! Ciao! :) IMG_2500

[*Note: I was just a kid -- six years old -- when my family moved here from Massachusetts, U.S.A. So, while I am a U.S. citizen (and, now that I am married to an Italian citizen, also a permanent resident of Italy), I grew up here in Florence, where I went through the tough but very good Italian public school system, all the way through high school and 1.5 years of university. When Mom and Dad moved back to the U.S. in the early 1980s, I went with them and finished college and then grad school in North America.]

Yeah…again…

Before writing anything else, I wanted to celebrate my parents’ 60th wedding anniversary with all of you. I mean…SIXTY YEARS!!! Isn’t that something??? :) And my parents are still crazy about each other and hold hands and…well, you get the picture. They are very cute together. Sooo, what else can I say but:

CONGRATULATIONS and MUCH MUCH LOVE!!!!!!!! :)

I’m sorry that Stefano and I are not going to be there to celebrate this important date today, BUT…guess what?…he and I will be there — there = Cape Cod! — tomorrow night (!), so we will definitely break out the (Italian) bubbly and raise a glass to these amazing parents of mine…

Ah yes, we’re leaving Florence AGAIN. It seems as though we’ve been flying nonstop all over the place lately…

But if I don’t get packed, we’re not going to go anywhere tomorrow, so I really have to get off the computer now. ;)

Take care, everyone! CIao!!!!!

Finally, some of my photos from Skokholm Island…

IMG_0585I took almost 3000 photos of puffins, razorbills, guillemots, gannets, and other bird species while we were on Skokholm Island in Wales (the first photo gives a view of part of the island) early last month (boy, time does fly!)…I’ve been going through them slowly in my free time, but right now I’m too busy (with life and work and FUN of course!) to finish this task…IMG_8413

Here, therefore, is a limited and rather random selection of my photos. As you know by now, I don’t take or post perfect photos…in fact, I don’t think my current camera (which is not a bad camera, mind you) is even able to take any perfect photos. ;-)

IMG_3616But that doesn’t really matter to me. I don’t want or need to be a professional photographer. What matters to me is to be reminded of a particular moment during a particular trip or event. IMG_8750And so I sometimes don’t even delete photos that are clearly out of focus — photos that my Stefano would delete in the blink of an eye.

No, what counts for me, unprofessional me, is the moment in which I took a certain photo. IMG_4797Or the photo has to be high on my “cuteness scale,” like the photo (second from above) of the three puffins hiding in the grass, one of my favorites so far…Or the one of the puffin (below, on the left) pecking another puffin that needed to be shooed away from its burrow…Or the baby guillemot with its cute little tilted head (next to last photo, below)…who seems to be looking at us almost quizzically.

Anyway, without further ado, here is my random selection! IMG_5787

I hope you enjoy it!

Oh, and I bet you’re glad I decided NOT to publish all 3000 photos, eh?   :D  (By the way, if you don’t know the names of some of these sea birds, other than the puffins of course!, just hover over the photos for a sec…)IMG_0639IMG_9892IMG_5932IMG_8292

Parasite in cat poop might be able to cure cancer…someday…

IMG_0983

One of my six cats. This is Priscilla, 9 years old.

If you’ve ever thought that cats are useless creatures, think again: even their POOP might someday bring us closer to a cure for some forms of cancer. The promising, er, ingredient in cat’s poop is actually a parasite called Toxoplasma gondii. A group of Dartmouth College researchers discovered when that this parasite gets inside a human being, it is able to kick-start that person’s immune system. So now they are working on a safe immunotherapeutic vaccine to inject into cancer patients (by the way, this is all preliminary stuff…More testing is needed before any human trials can begin…).

Okay, without further ado, here’s one of the many articles discussing the cat poop discovery…I know you will find it a very interesting read: http://goo.gl/4xOTSZ

Oh, by the way, please do NOT try to create your own homemade toxo-remedy using the poop from your own cat’s litter box. Toxoplasmosis, the infection caused by this very naughty parasite, can be quite serious, sometimes even fatal!, for folks with weakened immune systems. (That said, I’ve always cleaned my cats’ litter boxes without any trouble whatsoever…as far as I know, anyway!)

Let’s let the researchers come up with a SAFE poopy parasite vaccine. No home remedies THIS time! :)

Curcumin gum!

When I first read this bit of news, I thought it was a joke: http://goo.gl/E1ufJA

But no, not at all. On the contrary, it makes perfect sense: by bypassing the stomach, the chewing gum system should be able to deliver more curcumin to cancer cells via the oral mucosa.

The oral mucosa is basically the skin inside the mouth, which has a rich blood supply and is quite permeable. Without going into too many details (such as first-pass metabolism in the liver and pre-systemic elimination in the gastrointestinal tract…), what happens is that substances absorbed inside the mouth enter the blood system immediately, without passing through the gastrointestinal tract where absorption is slow and subject to attacks by potentially degrading enzymes.

In a nutshell: the oral mucosa delivery system should be great for substances that are poorly absorbed in the gastrointestinal tract, such as curcumin.

That is precisely why I used to prepare a C3 Complex curcumin powder concoction using melted dark chocolate and honey. I would keep small blobs of this concoction inside my mouth for as long as possible, under my tongue (in an attempt to maximize absorption). I still add C3 Complex curcumin to our food whenever possible, and this fall I plan to experiment with coconut oil, too.

Well, how about curcumin chocolates…curcumin lollipops…curcumin candy canes? Hey, the sky’s the limit! :)

And, by the way, all my very best wishes to Dr. Nathan and her work! Hip hip hooray!

A near escape

IMG_6860Anyone who has been around puffins (= my favorite seabirds) knows that they don’t have an easy life, especially because of their main natural predators — the lazy, greedy and opportunistic seagulls.

IMG_6862I have seen gulls pull puffins out of their burrows, trying to make them drop their hard-earned mouthful of fish. And I have seen them chase fish-bearing puffins all around the colony. Some of these “pulls and chases” are successful, and the gulls end up swallowing their stolen goods…but others are not, thanks to the stubbornness of the puffin parents, desperate to feed their growing chicks.

Luckily, I have never seen a gull actually kill (and eat) a puffin…and yes, that happens…

Anyway, I thought I’d post three photos documenting a scene I witnessed last week on Skokholm Island (where I took almost 3000 photos!).

The photos show a herring gull attacking a puffin in an attempt to steal its dinner (well, probably its chick’s dinner). This is a common sight on Skokholm Island where the gulls, mainly herring gulls, hang around puffin burrows, waiting to attack the fish-bearing puffins that have just returned from the sea. IMG_6863

In this particular case, I am happy to note that the heroic puffin managed to fly off with its entire load of fish, after a very brief struggle. No harm done this time…

I apologize for the poor quality of these photos, but, as you can tell, my camera is not a professional one…

Still, it will give you an idea of what happened…

53!

Yep, today’s my birthday. I’m 53 years old! :) I feel a bit like the puffin in my current header photo (by the way, I took that photo at Skokholm Island, Wales, UK, last week) — young, happy, confident, strong, with my wings spread out…and with a bunch of sand eels (er…bleah) in my beak…

And to think that when, in the fall of 2005, I was diagnosed with (smoldering) myeloma, I thought I’d be dead within four or five years…That’s what my hematologist told us…

I guess I’ve proved him wrong, eh? ;)

Back then, in 2005 that is, I didn’t know much about myeloma, except that it was incurable. The statistics were really scary…and, almost ten years later, they are still scary. It was only years later that I realized statistics are useful ONLY in certain contexts (medical conferences, e.g.), but to us, individuals with myeloma at any stage, they are essentially useless…We are human beings–not numbers.

This became even clearer to me after reading Stephen Jay Gould’s famous essay on cancer and statistics, “The median isn’t the message” (worth reading again from time to time…you can look it up easily online). He was diagnosed in 1982 with mesothelioma cancer, which has “a median mortality of eight months.” As he points out, most of us would interpret that as “I am going to die in eight months.” That is not the case. The reality is that statistical distributions “apply only to a prescribed set of circumstances – in this case to survival with mesothelioma under conventional modes of treatment. If circumstances change, the distribution may alter.”

If circumstances change, the distribution may alter. Indeed.

Stephen Jay Gould didn’t die eight months after his diagnosis, but TWENTY years later — in 2002.

Based on my numbers, I should have progressed to active myeloma four years ago. This is not a wild guess on my part: in 2005 a famous Mayo Clinic myeloma specialist told me I’d have to begin conventional treatments in 2010. Based on statistics, of course.

But it’s 2014 now. So I guess I’ve proved him wrong, too, and I hope to keep proving him wrong in the years to come…

Anyway, it’s already a very hot day here in Florence, Tuscany, Italy, and it’s going to be boiling outside this afternoon, so I’ve decided to take the day off, lie in bed with my cats (under the cooling ceiling fan), watch movies and eat cake from our favorite local pastry shop, the best in town, in my opinion. And this evening, more movies and more cake (and pizzaaaaa!) with my Stefano…

What more could a girl want? :D

Leaving for…what do you mean? LEAVING??? AGAIN???

I know, I know! It seems as though we just got back from Amsterdam and now (= on Saturday…yes, I mean THIS Saturday!!!), we’re getting on another plane. Why, I’ve barely unpacked! ;-)

This time we’re flying to London, where we’re being picked up and hosted by a dear friend, Paul, whom I met thanks to the blog years ago. Paul and I began corresponding via email and ended up meeting on one of our UK trips and becoming very good friends. He and his family have been to visit us here in Florence, and Stefano and I have been to visit them in London…well, just outside London, to be precise (such a lovely neighborhood!). Anyway, we haven’t seen them for about two years now, so that is going to be wonderful.

Then on Sunday Paul, Stefano and I will be driving from London to Wales where, on Monday, we’re getting on the boat for Skokholm Island. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, type the word “Skokholm” into my blog’s Search box (at the top right of this page, just above “Recent Comments”) and you will discover that Stefano and I are totally obsessed with puffins = hole-nesting auks (seabirds) with big heads and a large, bright orange beak. IMG_0345

In fact, our bird watching hobby (by the way, my blog header right now is a photo I took a few days ago of a baby bittern at the Parco della Piana, a bird reserve just outside of Florence) began with puffins, and it was all thanks to Paul who suggested, more than six years ago, that we go to Northumberland (UK)…And that is where we saw our first puffins, on Inner Farne Island…An unforgettable experience.

Anyway, Paul, Stefano and I will be staying on Skokholm Island most of next week, just as Stefano and I did last year. Shared compost toilets, no hot water, no showers, no Internet, etc. etc. etc. It sounds a bit uncomfortable but really it is one of the most amazing life experiences I’ve ever had…completely relaxing…magical. In a nutshell: I can’t wait to leave. The puffin chicks, called pufflings, have been hatching, and I hope to get a glimpse or (even better!) a photograph of one this year.

I know I’ve been neglecting my research and my blog in the past few months, and I’m sorry about that. My blog is very important to me, and that will never change. But one of my best friends recently said this to me: “I’ve chosen to live.” Now, she was referring to the little messes that she didn’t have the time to straighten up in her apartment, but that sentence really rung a bell with me…for an entirely different reason…

I can’t change the fact that I have myeloma cells in my body. I know that I can’t run away from this cancer, and I have no intention of doing so. But myeloma won’t and can’t stop me from living. Not now, anyway…(fingers double crossed!).

And so, like my friend, I choose to live my life…the way I want to live it. And I will do so for as long as possible…I will keep traveling…enjoying the company of Stefano and of my best buddies and of my cats…rejoicing for my niece who recently sneaked off to Las Vegas to get married to her longtime companion without telling us or anyone else (way to go, sweetie!!! So happy for you both, yaaay!!!)…watching the World Cup soccer games even though Italy and the U.S. are both out now, argh…finding happiness in small things, such as an unexpected visit from a good friend (also met via the blog) yesterday…and planning future trips with Stefano…

No, myeloma can’t stop me. And so on Monday I’m going to immerse myself completely in the wonderful, magical world of puffins and razorbills and Manx shearwaters and guillemots and gannets and…the list goes on…

Life goes on…

:-)