Monthly Archives: May 2010

A blonde joke…

This has been a very busy weekend…so I decided to post a quick joke. I find some of the “dumb blonde” jokes quite funny…a friend (thanks!) just sent me this one…oh, and by the way, I am a dark blonde (or used to be…now I have some white hair, too :-) )…

A blonde, wanting to earn some extra money, decided to hire herself out as a “handy-woman” and started canvassing a nearby well-to-do neighborhood.

She went to the front door of the first house, and asked the owner if he had any odd jobs for her to do. “Well, I guess I could use somebody to paint my porch,” he said. How much will you charge me?” The blonde quickly responded, “How about $50?” The man agreed and told her that the paint and everything she would need was in the garage.

The man’s wife, hearing the conversation, said to her husband, “Does she realize that our porch goes all the way around the house?” He responded, “That’s a bit cynical, isn’t it?” The wife replied, “You’re right. I guess I’m starting to believe all those dumb blonde jokes we’ve been getting by e-mail lately.”

A short time later, the blonde came to the door to collect her money. “You’re finished already?” the husband asked. “Yes,” the blonde replied, “and I had paint left over, so I gave it two coats.” Impressed, the man reached into his pocket for the $50.00 and handed it to her.

“And by the way,” the blonde added, “it’s not a Porsche, it’s a Lexus.”

Results, results and…more…results!!!!!

Okay, I admit, I was beginning to flip out about the bloody test result delay. Last night, for example, a silly incident set me off: my kitten, Pinga, has a bad sore throat, poor dear…the vet prescribed antibiotics. No problem, we thought. She will be the easy one, we thought. Hah. Last night she pig(cat)headedly refused to take her pill in any way, shape or form. And, after she stubbornly walked away from our umpteenth attempt to administer the crushed pill in a yummy morsel format, I had a sort of meltdown. Pinga was the icing on my stress cake, I guess. Luckily, my meltdown didn’t last long…

And even more luckily, the wait is over. A big fat envelope was sitting peacefully in my mailbox today…it didn’t even apologize or look the least bit contrite for having shown up so bloody late…! Surprisingly, my hands didn’t shake at all as I went to my computer to compare these tests with my previous ones. I didn’t even miss a heartbeat as I opened the envelope. I was in complete and utter control, ready for anything, good or bad…

Okay, comparing these results to my December 2009 set, my total IgGs have gone down, from 3410 to 3360 mg/dL…not much, that is true, but hey, even the slightest slide in a downward direction makes me happy. My other Igs are still holding their own…my brave little troupers! :-)

My M-spike is slightly up, but only an itsy bitsy bit: this bit of news is less comforting, but, after all, it is still less than 3 g/dL. Can’t complain. I will push it down again.

Going down the list in order, now. My white cells have gone down but only a fraction of a fraction and are still within the reference range. My red cells have actually gone up a tiny bit and are thus well established within the normal range. Hemoglobin is 13,1 (down just a drop compared to December’s 13,5). Hematocrit is more or less the same. My platelets went up from 264 to 291, though. Good.

Total protein: slightly down. It was 9,9 in December and now it is 9,8 g/dL. Every little bit counts! Beta-2 microglobulin: was 2,7 in December, now is 2,6 mg/L. Holding steady! My CRP (C-reactive protein) has also decreased a bit: from 0,29 to 0,23. Creatinine also slightly down, which is good. Uric acid: down a fraction…from 5,0 to 4,7. And now for an increase…a slight increase in my albumin, which is good…my albumin/globulin ratio is now heading toward the normal range. Not quite there, yet, but going in the right direction!

And here is more good news: my free light chains have improved…A LOT. My kappas have dropped considerably and my lambdas are up, which means that my kappa/lambda ratio is still a bit high, but not AS high as it has (always) been. The ratio has gone down almost 38 points…now, I am not an FLC expert by any means, but I am quite sure that that is good. According to the Binding Site interpretation chart, I am still “MGUS with BM suppression.” Ah, how I would love to be MGUS without BM suppression…but okay, one can’t have everything!

Ah, one more thing. I am going to stop taking vitamin D for a while…both of my vitamin D results are above the normal range! But, yaaay, my parathyroid hormone is now smack in the middle of the normal range…! Super!

Stefano told me that he is going to uncork a bottle of spumante this evening…good idea! I think we need to celebrate the fact that I am still rock-solid stable…oh by the way, after these good results, ashwagandha has been promoted to Vice President of my basic protocol (curcumin and fish oil). Curcumin, naturalmente, has been confirmed as President…

Waiting for test results…uffa! Oh, and a new screen cleaner…

My blood test results would have been ready on Tuesday, yes, the 18th of May, sigh!, if only I had chosen the “pick-up” option. In Italy, you see, cancer patients (or patients with any chronic, serious medical condition) can have their test results mailed to their home for free, which is lovely, of course…but it means that they might have to wait an extra day or two or three or…four or…MORE, as in this case, urgh. 

It all depends on the Italian postal service, which has improved immensely since I was a kid but clearly still isn’t perfect. The delay wouldn’t normally bother me…getting my results mailed to me is sooo much easier and certainly less “risky” than picking them up at the hospital lab, where I might have to wait in line behind/near someone with flu symptoms (yes, the flu is going around Florence again!).

This time, though, I am feeling a bit antsy. It’s probably mostly due to the fact that these are my first tests since mid December…oh well…just a few more days…I will have my results early next week, I am sure.

Luckily, I have a VERY busy social life, plus my cats keep me vastly entertained (see photo of Pinga trying to make friends with a virtual bulldog…this friendship attempt will seem even cuter after you click on the below link…), so I don’t have much time to dwell on test results.

Besides, many of my blog readers and friends (and my sister, too) keep sending me the most hilarious stuff (thank you all!), which also helps A LOT! Just the other day, a friend sent me the link to a fabulous screen cleaner that cleans your computer screen from the INSIDE…no, I am not kidding…this is a bit of amazing new technology…and no, it is NOT a virus, I assure you…Just click here: http://tinyurl.com/2pzegg

More on the suspended SRT501-myeloma trial…and a Consumer Lab look at vitamin D…

Point 1. In a recent post (http://margaret.healthblogs.org/2010/05/08/resveratrol-trial-in-multiple-myeloma-suspended/), I discussed the recent SRT501-chemo trial that was halted because some of the participants, advanced multiple myeloma patients with relapsed/refractory disease and who had failed at least one prior treatment, developed cast nephropathy, a common condition caused by myeloma that can lead to kidney failure. These patients, it turned out, had been taking what boils down to large amounts of resveratrol contained in a new formulation called SRT501…now, according to what I have read, SRT501 is able to get five times more resveratrol into the bloodstream than other resveratrol supplements on the market. These patients were taking 5 grams/day, which would be, unless I am horribly mistaken, the equivalent of 5×5=25 grams/day! Whoa!

I looked up the clinical trial and found that some of the patients were taking bortezomib (Velcade), too. And Velcade certainly can cause several bad side effects (see, e.g.: http://tinyurl.com/3a4sufe).

However, according to the Myeloma Beacon article (the link is in my above-mentioned post), the patients who developed cast nephropathy in this study were taking only the SRT501. Some folks apparently experienced nausea and vomiting, which may have led to dehydration…and that might possibly explain what happened…but this is pure speculation…we will just have to wait until the results of the investigation are released…

Point 2. I recently read about a vitamin D study (http://tinyurl.com/334a6ex) in which women aged 70 and older were given a single, annual, humongous dose of vitamin D: 500,000 IUs. All in one shot! Gee. Anyway, in a nutshell, these women ended up being more susceptible to falls and fractures than the women in the control (placebo) group.

From my viewpoint, the two stories are connected. If we say that the optimal daily dose of vitamin D is 1,000 IUs (=this is based on the Consumer Lab discussion further on, see Point 3, last quote), then 500,000 IUs, that is, the amount given in the above-mentioned study, is 5oo times that amount. 500 times! I mean, really!

Margaret’s crazy scenario: if, like me, you are taking 8 grams of curcumin/day…would you even remotely consider taking 8×500=4,000 grams? And consider this: if you respond well to a low dose of Velcade, would your doctor recommend raising it to 500 mg/m2? Or your Zometa from 4 mg to 4,000 mg? Or testing those amounts in a clinical trial? No, I didn’t think so…

It boils down to the “too much of a good thing may not be…such a good thing” theory. Just because a low dose is good for you, why multiply it 500 or even only 5 times…? Puzzling!

Point 3. Okay, at this point I thought it would be interesting for us to know what Consumer Lab had to say about vitamin D, including the above-mentioned vitamin D study (I received the entire report thanks to a very kind blog reader, incidentally, thank you!!!)…this is a long excerpt, I know, but I thought it was interesting…(my emphasis, btw):

Research has found that men with low levels of vitamin D in the blood (15 ng/mL and lower) were at increased risk for heart attack compared to those with sufficient levels (30 ng/mL and higher) even after adjusting for other risk factors and physical activity. A recent study suggests that this may contribute to the higher rate of cardiovascular mortality among black Americans compared to white Americans, as blacks tend to have lower vitamin D levels. 

Lower levels are also associated with a higher risk and severity of depression.  A recent study in Italy, for example, showed that older women with low vitamin D levels (below 20 ng/mL) were twice as likely to develop depressive mood as those with higher levels.  Older men with low levels were 60% more likely to develop depressive mood. 

Low levels of vitamin D are also associated with a higher risk of dementia, and, in women, a higher risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis. There is conflicting evidence about whether vitamin D helps reduce the overall risk of dying from cancer, although studies have consistently shown that higher vitamin D serum levels were associated with decreased risk of death from gastrointestinal cancers.

Studies suggest that vitamin D may also improve balance and reduce the risk of falls in older adults, for reasons that aren’t clear. However, a recent study in women aged 70 and older who were at-risk for bone fracture showed an increase in falls and fractures among those given an extremely high, single, annual dose (500,000 IU) of vitamin D3. This unexpected finding may have resulted from unusual effects of the extreme dose. Hah, no kidding!

Well, all this simply makes no sense to me…and really, it is starting to look as though there is some sort of bizarre “conspiracy” going on…I mean, it would not surprise me in the least if we soon heard about a clinical trial testing a super mega dose of curcumin, nanocurcumin or injectable curcumin, on patients who, as a result, might develop all sorts of weird symptoms, from orange nose hairs to…ah yes, quite right, it is pointless to speculate, but you can bet all your orange nose hairs that I would be the first to denounce such a study! Oh no…no…no!, I am beginning to sound like Mel Gibson in “Conspiracy Theory”…!  😉

Okay, back to the Consumer Lab report on vitamin D. Again, a long excerpt (my apologies):

D2 or D3? Several years ago, studies indicated that, at very high doses (4,000 IU per day for two weeks or a single dose of 50,000 IU), the D3 form of vitamin D is more efficient at maintaining serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels, than the D2 form.  However, a more recent and longer term study using a more common dosage, 1,000 IU daily, showed the two forms to be equally effective at raising and maintaining serum levels. An even more recent study showed that the two forms are also equally efficient whether taken daily as an oral supplement or in a fortified orange juice, based upon a dose of 1,000 IU per day.

The next paragraph deals with what are considered to be the desirable levels of vitamin D: 30 ng/ml. Deficiency: anything < than 15 ng/ml. Insufficient: < 30 ng/ml. Then there is a paragraph on U.S. children and adolescents: 61 % of them have insufficient vitamin D levels. Wow. And an additional 9% are vitamin D-deficient, which means that they most likely have higher blood pressure and lower levels of HDL (=good) cholesterol than other children. This quote tells us how much vitamin D we should be taking (according to Consumer Lab):

A rule of thumb for raising serum levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D is that about 100 IU of vitamin D2 or D3 daily will raise serum levels by 1 ng/ml in an adult.  With moderate (1,000 IU per day) supplementation, it has been shown to take about 6 weeks for serum levels to reach their peak. For example, during winter with no significant sun exposure, supplementation with 1,000 IU has been shown to increase levels of around 20 ng/mL up to about 30 ng/ml at six weeks.  In such a scenario, sun exposure or a dosage higher than 1,000 IU would be necessary to further elevate levels above 30 ng/mL.

Note: of course, we myeloma folks must be careful not to take too much vitamin D, since it can lead to hypercalcemia = too much calcium in the blood. That would not be good!…

But let us also not forget that, according to a 2009 Mayo Clinic study, multiple myeloma patients with low vitamin D had worse outcomes than those with normal vitamin D levels. Low is bad! See my December 10 2009 post on this topic: http://margaret.healthblogs.org/life-with-myeloma/what-is-multiple-myeloma/myeloma-and-vitamin-d/

So, if you haven’t done this already, please have your vitamin D levels checked…and if they are low (as mine were), do consider taking a good D supplement. Vitamin D levels should really be a standard test for all myeloma patients, especially newly diagnosed folks. We should really push for that to happen!

Power outage…

Yesterday afternoon, after getting home from work, I was typing away at my computer when all of a sudden, poof!, the lights went out. I saved what I had written and shut down the computer. I checked the circuit breaker box…no problem there. Since the phone was out, too, I fished my-almost-always-turned-off-cell-phone out of my purse and called, or rather, tried to call the electric company, but all I got was an unsympathetic automated voice informing me that I could not use my cell phone to call an “800” number.

“The number you have to call instead is incomprehensiblemillionnumbers,” the voice droned on. Great, except that I wasn’t able to locate a pen while trying to decipher the number. Click…line dead. Uffa. After finding a pen, I dialed the “800” number again, and this time I managed to jot down the number (note: before calling the electric company, always have a pen and paper handy…oh, and a cup of coffee wouldn’t hurt, either, to keep you on full mental alert)…ah yes, I know, this is turning into a long boring…yawn…convoluted story…

Okay, so then I called the correct number…only to be told by the same automated voice that it had been disconnected. Oh, how very helpful…I contacted Stefano at work, asking him to call the electric company’s “800” number. Since I never use my cell phone and (consequently) never ever charge the battery, I noticed that my battery was almost dead. Fantastico. The ONE time I really need my bloody cell phone, and it is about to konk out on me…(it didn’t…phew).

I heard voices out on the street, so I went outside to investigate. Some of my female neighbors had gathered together to complain about the power shortage and speculate as to what might have happened. I joined them, thinking they might have some news. But no, nobody else had thought of calling the electric company…

Like a fish caught in a net, it took me a while to disentangle myself. One of the above-mentioned neighbors is the biggest gossipmonger on Earth, you see. She knows what you are doing even before you do. She is always at her window, checking who is doing what with whom and why and where on our street. And, if you have the misfortune to bump into her, it’s almost impossible to get away…

But get away I finally did, with the excuse of having to call Stefano back. He told me that, according to an electric company representative (= a real human being!), an excavator had accidentally cut our power line, and that it would take two-three hours to fix it. Two-three hours? Well, so much for our dinner plans (it seems that you can’t make pizza in an electric oven when the power is out…although my helpful neighbors suggested using candles…).

I went back outside to tell the gossiping ladies…and once again managed to make a quick escape without seeming too rude. I settled down near a window to read Sophie Kinsella’s new novel while waiting for Stefano to get home. After dinner, a cold dinner!, I went to play cards with my rowdy girlfriends…their power was on, of course…and, by the time I got home, after midnight, our power was back on, too…so all’s well that ends well…

Oh okay, tomorrow’s post will be a bit more interesting… :-)

What’s in a name…?

A quick update on the dramatic bit of news I posted about yesterday: I found a news report translated from Italian to English, see: http://tinyurl.com/2unfg9h.

Okay, now for a much (MUCH!) lighter topic…something amusing that happened this morning during one of my English lessons (intermediate level…conversation, mainly).

The first part of the lesson revolved around the importance of having a name. First, I handed out a copy of a New York Times article (see: http://tinyurl.com/2we2dhx), which my students read and commented.

Then I began asking them a few questions, including this one: “Do you like your name?”

One of them (yes, the infamous Colleague C!…see my June 16 2009 and July 21 2009 posts) answered somberly, “No, Margaret, I don’t.”

“You don’t???…But you have such a pretty name!” I remarked, surprised…

“No, no, I don’t like it,” she insisted.

“Well, would you change your name, if given the chance?” I asked. 

“Oh yes!,” she replied, enthusiastically.

“Ah, what name would you pick, then?” I asked, curious.

Barely concealing a grin, she declared, “I would change my name to…[dramatic pause]….Margaret.”

😀

Spanish policeman fractures the right humerus of a multiple myeloma patient on a Barcelona-Rome Ryanair flight…

This morning, thanks to my dear friend Sherlock, I read an almost-hard-to-believe story, which, thank goodness, has been picked up by a number of Italian newspapers. It concerns the mistreatment of a multiple myeloma patient on a Barcelona-Rome Ryanair flight. I couldn’t find an English translation for this news item, so what follows is my own rather hasty translation of the main points (the following links are for those who can read Italian: http://tinyurl.com/2wy87jb, http://tinyurl.com/3y5kpo2 and http://tinyurl.com/27ulw2z and then, to be fair, the airline’s own statement: http://tinyurl.com/22rx7ph).

The story…from what I have pieced together: a couple of evenings ago, a 57-year-old multiple myeloma patient, Mr. Angelo Pietrolucci, a Roman entrepreneur, was returning to Rome from Barcelona with his wife and granddaughter on a Ryanair flight. Because of serious mobility problems–Mr. Pietrolucci is 100% disabled–he had requested assistance. And here is the first thing that struck me as being odd: the Pietroluccis were the last to board the plane…

The second thing that struck me: Ryanair hadn’t reserved the first and second rows for the Pietroluccis, which is, if I am not mistaken, standard practice for any airline. These rows were already occupied by the time the Pietroluccis boarded the plane. The Pietroluccis therefore settled themselves in the third and fourth rows. But the flight attendant apologetically informed them that the pilot, for some peculiar reason of his own, wanted them to move down to row no. 32. Mr. Pietrolucci apparently pointed out his above-mentioned mobility problems, but, at the insistence of the flight attendant and to the utter amazement of the other passengers, he got up and made his way, slowly and clearly in pain, to the back of the plane…

As soon as he sat down, the flight attendant informed him that the pilot had ordered him to get off the plane immediately or he would call the police. Mr. Pietrolucci began to feel ill…and didn’t move.

Well, the pilot didn’t waste any time…three Spanish policemen arrived and tried to force Mr. Pietrolucci off the plane. They even threatened him with handcuffs…then one of them grabbed him by his arm, which had been recently operated on…and Mr. Pietrolucci cried out in pain. At this point, the other passengers began protesting very forcefully against this assault. The police finally left, and the flight took off…after a two-hour delay.

As soon as the flight landed in Rome, Mr. Pietrolucci was taken by ambulance to a hospital…an X-ray showed that his humerus (right shoulder) was fractured.

Okay, in all fairness, I also read the statement issued by Ryanair (see above link, no 3). The airline’s position is that Mr. Pietrolucci REFUSED to sit down in his assigned seat, which was one of the seats reserved for people with limited mobility (=the opposite of what Mr. Pietrolucci declared).

According to Ryanair, Mr. Pietrolucci was warned that the police would be called if he did not sit down. C’mon, doesn’t it strike you as being somewhat odd that Mr. Pietrolucci refused to sit down in his assigned seat??? Have you ever refused to sit down in your assigned seat? No, this makes no sense at all…

The airline also denies that any physical contact occurred between the patient and the police or any Ryanair employee. Uhm…right…Mr. Pietrolucci must have fractured his humerus on his own, then…

The airline also declares that none of the flight attendants noticed that Mr. Pietrolucci was in any pain during the flight to Rome. Hmmm…

And, as if this were not enough!, at the end of the statement, instead of apologizing for the pain and discomfort experienced by Mr. Pietrolucci, Ryanair expresses its regret that this episode caused a two-hour delay for the other 150 passengers on board that flight (are you as flabbergasted as I am???!!!). Shameful…

This is bloody O U T R A G E O U S. At the very least, I am going to boycott Ryanair forever…but no, I feel that more should be done…I will write a letter of protest…and I hope mine will be one of MANY.

I am sure that there will be more on this story in the days to come…I will keep an eye on it and give you an update (if I have one, of course)…

Omega-3, NASA, astronauts, chickens, flaxseed, ovarian cancer and ophthalmologists…

Curious post title, huh? 😉 Okay, just quickly, since Stefano and I are about to go into town for our yearly ophthalmologist visit and will return home as blind as bats (I hate those dilating drops, don’t you? Sigh)…

Let’s see. I read two interesting Science Daily articles this morning. The first is a NASA study on omega-3, astronauts and bone loss, which, as peculiar as this may sound, is relevant to us, too, see: http://tinyurl.com/347r4w3

The second is a study on chickens, ovarian cancer and flaxseed, which reminds me that I should use my flaxseed grinder every day…but I confess…I forget…sigh! Click (or cluck, hehe) here to read it: http://tinyurl.com/36f2qdf Grind flaxseed over your food, it’s really good for you…

Okay, zooming off to the eye doctor…ciaooooo!