Monthly Archives: April 2010

Done…

I had my usual battery of blood tests this morning…the doctor filled so many test tubes that I lost count. Anyway, it was about time! I haven’t had any tests since mid December 2009, which is very unusual since I usually have tests done every two months…three, at the most. I should have my results by mid May. I must say, even though I don’t know what the outcome will be, I feel as though a huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders. Relief! :-)

Today I have to look through my supplements and decide which one I want to test for the next couple of months. The extract of Ganoderma lucidum (=Reishi mushroom) is at the top of my list right now…It is known as the “mushroom of immortality,” don’t you love that?…It makes me feel a bit like Christopher Lambert…you know, from the “Highlander” series… 😉 But seriously, this mushroom extract has a very strong anti-myeloma effect…see my page on Reishi/Ganoderma lucidum on the right-hand side of the blog…

Well, I have a busy afternoon ahead of me…so I have to go now. Ciao!

Silly stuff…before blood tests…

I am having blood tests on Wednesday, so I want to be as carefree and happy as possible, especially tomorrow. My cousin, thanks!, sent me a link earlier today that has already put a smile on my face:

http://tinyurl.com/y8bbme4 = I’d never seen a cat stand for this long before…oh, and about halfway through, don’t miss the kitty lifting its paw…sooo cute!

I just wanted to add this BBC “Walk on the wild side” episode preview: http://tinyurl.com/3698jzy Have a look at more of these…very amusing!!!

Indian spice may thwart liver damage…

This (my post title) is the title of a HealthDay article that I read this morning. Of course, the Indian spice is…uhm, gee, let me guess…what else COULD it be??? 😉

Anyway, the text is straightforward enough, so I will simply post the link: http://tinyurl.com/2dyppn7

The article isn’t just about curcumin, by the way…the last part deals with the connection between cirrhosis (chronic liver disease) and the chemicals contained in hair dye and nail polish…boy am I glad I don’t use any of that stuff! Oh, and there is a link between smoking and cirrhosis…again, I am glad I have never smoked! So, especially if you are a smoker who uses hair dye and nail polish, please take a close look at this article…or if you have an autoimmune disease…

Finally, I would like to thank all those who have been leaving comments on my April 8th post (the viral infection-myeloma one) and sending me private notes. I am very VERY busy these days, but this viral connection is very VERY interesting to me, and I am definitely going to follow up on it. Soon.

A woman’s yearly physical…

Blog readers send me the funniest stuff…I love it! Anyway, this joke is no exception…enjoy!

I went to the doctor for my yearly physical. The nurse started with certain basics. “How much do you weigh?” she asked.

“135 pounds,” I said.

She put me on the scale. It turns out that my weight is 180.

Then she asked, “Your height?”

“5 feet 4 inches,” I said.

The nurse measured me and reported that I am only  5′ 2″ tall.

She then took my blood pressure and told me that it was very high.

“Of course it’s high!” I screamed, ‘When I came in here I was tall and slender! Now I’m short and fat!”

New study shows that IL-17 promotes myeloma cell growth and inhibits the proper functioning of the immune system

Back from our weekend (more on that in the next couple of days, with photos, too) and…back to work again…:-)

Earlier today I came across a newly-published study in “Blood” (http://tinyurl.com/y29l7up) on the evil deeds of IL-17, a proinflammatory cytokine (=in a nutshell, a cytokine is a signalling molecule that immune system cells use to communicate with other cells…), which has a prominent role in angiogenesis, the process of new blood vessel formation that is essential for the survival of myeloma cells…angiogenesis is, in fact, one of the big targets of myeloma treatment.

The new study shows that myeloma patients have elevated blood levels of IL-17, which promotes myeloma cell growth and interferes with the regular functioning of our immune system…ooooh, not good. I don’t like the idea that something is having a negative impact on my immune system…

Anyway, I thought this new abstract was quite interesting, and it also took me back to a post I published more than two years ago (for a reminder, please see: http://tinyurl.com/y54rofj) on, tada!, this evil thingamajig called IL-17.

But the news isn’t all bad. As you can see if you read the above link, curcumin inhibits IL-17. So those of us that are taking curcumin regularly should be in good shape. At least, I hope we are!

Various, including some funny stuff…

I got the funny stuff (see below list) from a good friend last night and howled with laughter until I was practically rolling on the floor, clutching my belly. And, to make matters “worse,” my 6-month-old kitten, Pinga, got really excited by all the…noise I was making and began meowing loudly and climbing on and off my shoulder and running around like a mad thing. Made me laugh even harder…so much so that Stefano rushed upstairs to see what the matter was…hehe. Enjoy! The title of this list, by the way, is “Girlie Wisdom.” I chose the ones I liked the best:

  1. A friend of mine confused her Valium with her birth control pills… she has 14 kids, but she doesn’t really care…
  2. One of life’s mysteries is how a 2-pound box of chocolates can make a woman gain 5 pounds…
  3. My mind not only wanders, it sometimes leaves completely…
  4. The best way to forget your troubles is to wear tight shoes…
  5. The nice part about living in a small town is that when you don’t know what you are doing, someone else does…
  6. The older you get, the tougher it is to lose weight, because by then your body and your fat are really good friends…
  7. Just when I was getting used to yesterday, along came today…
  8. Sometimes I think I understand everything, and then I regain consciousness…
  9. I gave up jogging for my health when my thighs kept rubbing together and setting fire to my panties…
  10. Amazing! You hang something in your closet, for a while, and it shrinks 2 sizes!
  11. I read this article that said the typical symptoms of stress are eating too much, impulse buying, and driving  too fast. Are they kidding? That’s my idea of a perfect day!

I am very busy today…no time to do any serious research, oh well. I do have quite a bit of news, though, so here goes.

  • Tomorrow, after work, Stefano and I are taking off for the weekend. We are going to the Po Delta, a protected wetlands region, which is probably the best place in Italy for birdwatching. Very exciting! We will be gone until Sunday. (A friend is going to take good care of our kitties, of course.) I won’t have access to e-mail or my blog (or Facebook).
  • On Monday morning, I am finally having blood tests (most recent tests: December 2009!).
  • I just recently found out that a myeloma blogger signed up for hospice and decided to stop blogging. That made/makes me very sad. Very very upsetting. If you would like to leave her a message, please click on “Because I said so!” (scroll down my Pages to MM blogs/sites). Crap!
  • And finally, as if we weren’t busy enough!, day before yesterday a friend and I decided to create a Multiple Myeloma Support Group on Facebook. It’s a private support group (that is, FB users who are not group members cannot read anything we write)…so, if you belong to FB, please join us! The group was created less than 48 hours ago, and we already have 74 members… By the way, this group is intended mainly for myeloma, SMM and MGUS folks and caregivers, but other cancer patients are welcome, too. Click on: http://www.facebook.com/group.php?v=app_2373072738&gid=108654495840465#!/group.php?gid=108654495840465 (I hope the link works…please let me know if it doesn’t). Then click on “Request to join.” If your membership request doesn’t get approved immediately, that simply means that Beth and I aren’t online, so please be patient. Anyway, until there is a cure, we need to provide support for one another…and also exchange useful information about both conventional and alternative treatments, with a bit of humor sprinkled around, whenever possible…!
  • While you are at it, you can also become a fan of my blog on FB: http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?pid=3900082&id=600258519#!/pages/Margarets-Corner-Living-with-smoldering-myeloma/312414599519?ref=ts

Rome…Rome…Rome!

I was going to finish this post yesterday, but a couple of close friends invited us out for lunch, then we all went to an exhibition (Magritte, De Chirico and others)…so by the time we got home it was too late to do much of anything constructive.

Rome. Ah there is so much to write about…but I will try to keep in mind that this is not a travel blog. Let’s see, we arrived in Rome on Friday April 2nd…this was, incidentally, my first train ride in a very long time…we took one of the superfast trains, the Frecciarossa (=Red arrow), which got us to Rome in an hour and a half, impressive! Anyway, as soon as we arrived, we took the subway to the B&B, checked in and then went off on a walk. After grabbing a slice (or two…) of yummy pizza, we took the subway to the Coliseum…a few photos (but we had been to the Coliseum before), then we set off for the Basilica di San Clemente (photo no 1 shows a view of the Coliseum from via di San Giovanni in Laterano, near the basilica), which I had read about on Tripadvisor…apparently, one of Rome’s best-kept secrets…

The reports I read were correct. The basilica itself, built around the year 1100, is nothing spectacular…well, except for the floor…but the underground visit was amazing. After buying a ticket right inside the church, you go through a tiny door and down some stairs. And there you find yourself in a 4th century basilica that used to be a Roman nobleman’s home. Part of it had served as an early church (1st century), part as a temple devoted to the cult of Mithras. You go down more stairs and you find a Republican era building that had been destroyed in the Great Fire of 64…yes, this was really fascinating. Lots of history, there.

At one point you hear the sound of rushing water…and in fact on the lowest floor you will see an opening with a tiny waterfall…one of the church ushers told us that some visitors had actually drunk that water but, she added in a whisper, “nothing was ever heard of them again.” Hehe, very funny. To be on the safe side, though, Stefano and I didn’t touch the water…even though Roman tap water is safe and tastes very good, too. For more information on the Basilica di San Clemente, see Wikipedia, e.g.

On Saturday we went to the Vatican Museums (see photo of one of the courtyards). My recommendation: buy your tickets online unless you like standing for hours in very long queues…unbelievable…those folks must have spent 3-4 hours in line…

Once inside, we hurried to the Sistine Chapel, ignoring the Egyptian Museum and Raphael’s Rooms (we saw all this later), so as to avoid the crowds as much as possible. This turned out to be a good thing to do, so here is my second recommendation for the Vatican Museums: get early morning tickets and make a beeline for the Sistine Chapel, especially if you are going there on a weekend or during a religious holiday…

The Sistine Chapel was definitely, for me, the highlight of our visit. I didn’t know where to look…at the floor (stupendous) or at the ceiling (stupendous)…at one point, overwhelmed by all that beauty and also achy from the previous day’s walking, I sank onto a bench and looked up to admire the famous depiction of God and Adam reaching out and almost touching fingers (=the “Creation of Adam”). As luck would have it, I sat next to a U.S. couple whose own private guide (no kidding!) began describing the chapel to them (in U.S. English, obviously)…now, I have no idea if this guy was making things up, but I enjoyed his stories. Here follows a bit of what I remember.

He said that Michelangelo was paid a very handsome sum of money to paint the Sistine Chapel…but he had to pay for all his expenses, including materials (paint and whatnot) and assistants. From where we were sitting, we had a great view of the “Last Judgement,” which has a gorgeous blue background. Blue, the guide said, was a very expensive colour to make. You had to use lapis lazuli, a quite rare semi-precious (blue!) stone that had to be ordered from abroad. In fact, I remember reading that the lapis lazuli used by Michelangelo for this fresco might have come from Pakistan, so that should give us an idea…no planes or fast trains back then… Anyway, that is why there is no blue on the ceiling frescos. the guide said. I don’t know if that is the true reason why Michelangelo didn’t use blue everywhere, but the guide told a very convincing story…

Another titbit…when the chapel was cleaned in the 1980s, a startling discovery was made: Michelangelo had “signed” one of his frescos. He had touched and left his fingerprints on the eyes of Eve depicted in the “Temptation and Expulsion” fresco. The guide said that Michelangelo was probably particularly happy with this fresco and wanted to leave a sign for future generations. Hmmm. Who knows?

Another story: until Michelangelo came along, the guide said, God had always been depicted as a sort of stern, immobile figure. But Michelangelo painted God as a sort of Superman…a flying, very active character…so this was a huge break with the past. True or not, I was much amused.

You are not allowed to take photos inside the Sistine Chapel (but of course all you have to do is google “Sistine Chapel” and you will be able to see what I saw…except being there is, of course, quite different!), but you can take photos everywhere else in the Vatican Museums. So Stefano and I were quite busy with our cameras, as you can imagine. I have posted many of my photos on my private Facebook profile, by the way.

Other places we visited, not in chronological order: the Coliseum (this time we didn’t go inside, though), the Roman forum, Castel Sant’Angelo (photo no 4; if you go to Rome, don’t forget to visit the museum, incredibly interesting and with great views of the city, see photo of the bridge, Ponte Sant’Angelo, photo no 5), the Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, Piazza Navona (see fountain detail, photo no 7), the Trastevere neighborhood, Ponte Fabricio (a bridge that has been standing since 62 BC, the oldest bridge in Rome, see photo no 6), isola Tiberina, St. Peter’s square…

And finally, one of the fabulous things we did was go to the Caravaggio exhibition. Very highly recommended. Again, buy your tickets online. This is a once-in-a-lifetime event. We couldn’t take photos inside the exhibit, of course, so all I have is a photo of the banner above the exhibit entrance. That experience was beyond words…so I will end this post with a big “wow”! Oh, I didn’t even mention the yummy food we ate…oh well. Enough! :-)

A Pinga story, viral infections and myeloma…

Today, after returning from an appointment for which I had to get a bit dressed up, I opened the closet door to put away my dressy clothes and slip back into my more comfy house clothes, and Pinga hopped out. Eeek! The silly little creature had been stuck in my closet for about two hours…Luckily, she seems to have suffered no harm. In fact, right now she is leaning against me, purring, watching me type, and occasionally leaping after the cursor (my poor monitor!)…ah yes, life is back to normal! 😉

In my snippets of free time, I am writing a draft about our trip to Rome and trying to decide which photos I would like to publish. In the meantime, I thought I would ask you all a question, based on something that a blog reader told me recently: she was diagnosed with MGUS shortly after recovering from a bad viral infection. That reminded me that I would like to write another post on this topic, since I myself was diagnosed with MGUS just a few years after recovering from a nasty case of Epstein-Barr (EBV) while I was in grad school in Toronto…

Here is my question: does anyone else have a similar story? I mean, a viral infection preceding a MGUS, SMM or even MM diagnosis?

Here is an excerpt from an IMF document dating to 2005: Recently, researchers have proposed infection, particularly viral infection, as a causal or trigger factor. Several studies have linked multiple myeloma to HIV, hepatitis, herpes virus infections (especially herpes virus 8), Epstein Barr Virus (EBV), as well as new “stealth adapted” viruses such as mutated cytomegalovirus (CMV). The significance of these viruses with regard to multiple myeloma remains to be fully explored.

As I mentioned, I have already discussed this topic, which you can find under “Myeloma Triggers” (see: http://margaret.healthblogs.org/life-with-myeloma/what-is-multiple-myeloma/mgus-to-mm-progression-sox2/myeloma-triggers/), but I would like to take another look at it…there might be a more recent study out there…interesting topic, yes…

Back from Rome…

Well, what a splendid trip this turned out to be, even though we walked and walked and…walked until I thought my leg muscles were going to burst. Yes, it was very tiring, I admit…the distances in Rome are simply enormous.

But ohhh, everything was so amazingly gorgeous…from the Sistine Chapel to the Caravaggio exhibition, which went beyond our expectations…we were also lucky with the weather…until Easter Sunday, which turned into a very rainy day…but we put on our rain gear and trundled off to visit a museum (Castel Sant’Angelo). Easy peasy!

Anyway, while I am recovering from all the excitement AND settling back into my daily routine, here is a photo I took of a sign outside a marble shop near Lungotevere Marzio…I was and still am most amused! 😀

About to leave for Rome…and a few random thoughts…

Stefano and I are leaving early tomorrow morning for Rome and will be back in Florence on Monday night. During this long weekend, I will not be able to access my e-mail or my blog…in fact, I probably won’t even turn on my computer until Tuesday afternoon, after I return home from work.

Before wishing everyone a very Happy Easter, though, I just wanted to go back for a moment to the more scientific aspect of that “Word of caution” study that I have written about in two recent posts. In the abstract, the authors state the following: it is known that curcumin inhibits interleukin-12 production in dendritic cells, thereby dampening the Th1 response. It is also well established that Th1 cells are protective against invading pathogens and tumors.

Okay, the authors clearly seem quite concerned about curcumin’s inhibition of IL-12. Some of my blog readers have written to me expressing this concern, too. In the beginning, I was a bit uneasy, too. Well, I would just like to point out that, after doing a wee bit of research this afternoon, I found out that curcumin is not the sole inhibitor of this interleukin…

Dexamethasone also inhibits IL-12 (see http://tinyurl.com/yfjxfyk), as do thalidomide (see http://tinyurl.com/ydceuyw and http://tinyurl.com/y8h6r57), lenalidomide (see http://tinyurl.com/yeb7vjk) and, oh let’s see, bortezomib (http://tinyurl.com/ycdcksh). And these drugs (there may be more, incidentally, I just don’t have the time right now to check) are commonly used in conventional myeloma treatment

And here is my point: I haven’t seen any conventional doctors getting all hopped up about the inhibition of IL-12 by conventional myeloma drugs…on the contrary, not one study (of those that I have glanced at so far) have expressed even the slightest concern about this inhibition.

As a result, my concern over curcumin’s inhibition of IL-12 has now gone down to a big fat zero, no question about that. I may decide, in fact, not to pursue this matter any further, even though I have already found and read a number of studies on this topic…Oh, this is bloody ridiculous…I am so annoyed to have wasted time on a pile of…NONSENSE! Uffa.

Well, I just thought that this bit of news would give us something to chew on over the Easter weekend…! 😉 Enough. It’s getting late, and I still have a few things to do… 

Happy Easter, everyone! Buona Pasqua a tutti!