Monthly Archives: December 2010

Diagnosis stress and a sleepy…spudgy…

Busy busy today. But I did want to publish the link to an interesting Science Daily article discussing a new study about diagnosis uncertainty…Yes, a new study shows that it is more stressful, or perhaps as stressful, NOT to know what is (possibly) wrong with you than to know that you have a serious somethingorother. It is definitely worth reading: http://goo.gl/vFYOc Been there, done that, eh? Yes, so have I…

Okay, now, to get rid of the stress that we have all accumulated after reading the above-mentioned article, let’s have a look at this adorable puppy: http://goo.gl/CtULy As you have probably guessed by now, I am definitely a cat person, but this video has jumped to the top of my cute-o-meter! Enjoy! :-)

Leukemic cells can be reversed to their pre-leukemic stage…

Sometimes I get really excited by the stuff I read. Today is one of those days…even though I have been concentrating on housecleaning, since friends of mine are spending the weekend with us, and I would really like the house to be clean and tidy for them (sigh…I really wish I had a magic wand…ah, don’t we all? 😉 )…At any rate, in between mad fits of straightening up and dusting, I have found the time to sit down and read bits of this and bits of that. And one of these bits happens to be this Science Daily article: http://goo.gl/UjzBw 

Okay, so you block a protein called beta-catenin, and whambamslam!, your leukemic cells go back to their pre-leukemic stage. Amazing, huh? And there is more good news: even leukemic stem cells that had become resistant to treatment could be ‘re-sensitised’ to treatment by suppressing the same protein.

As you have probably guessed, this beta-catenin protein is active in myeloma, too. Have a look at this abstract (which is very interesting on other levels, too): http://goo.gl/e63Zg (Griseofulvin, incidentally, is another anti-fungal drug (I looked it up)…Remember ciclopirox olamine? Exactly…Oh, and this reminds me that during these holidays I should really finish my “virus link to myeloma” post…)

Now, this study examined the suppression of beta-catenin in MLL, or myeloid-lymphoid leukemia, cells…not in myeloma cells. As soon as I read that, though, I looked up MLL cells in PubMed and found that myeloma has cells that behave as badly as the MLL ones. I think, therefore, that it would be extremely interesting to see what would happen to myeloma cells if beta-catenin were blocked in its “MLL-behaving” cells…I mean, would these cells go back to their pre-myeloma stage? What an incredibly exciting thought! I am seriously thinking of writing to the head researcher…

Oh phooey booey, it’s getting late, and I still have some work to do. Just quickly, then, let me tell you that curcumin inhibits beta-catenin. Yes indeedie! A number of studies tell us so, including this one: http://goo.gl/jvAvH In fact, beta-catenin seems to be quite active in a number of cancers…hmmm…food for thought…

Clearly, this topic merits further research…Right now, though, I have just enough time to make a note of it…

Exciting!!!

New chemo delivery methods, lost washing machines and vain cats…

I just can’t concentrate on any research these days, although I did come across a few interesting Science Daily articles, such as this one, which discusses a new delivery method that might make chemo drugs more effective and less harmful to healthy cells: http://goo.gl/deZ9x. Gold-coated liposomes, eh?

Well, it’s the holidays, after all…so I am getting some rest, playing with the cats, enjoying my time with Stefano and, er…doing laundry at my in-laws’ apartment. Oh yes. That’s right. We still don’t have a washing machine. It was supposed to have been delivered to our house last Thursday, but–and I know this may sound unbelievable (it is!)–the courier “lost” our washing machine at some point while it was in transit between Milan and Florence. No, I am NOT kidding…

I have to say that we were as mad as buzzing hornets when we first found out…But then I just had to laugh. I mean, I can understand losing a small item–a camera, a handbag, whatever–but a WASHING MACHINE??? Hmmm…  

Anyway, now I think it’s funny…so that is that…Besides, we should be getting another washing machine next week (?). No worries…ehm…Okay, let’s change the subject…

About this photo. Our lovely but rather vain Princess Peekaboo whined about not having been included in yesterday’s Xmas photos. She always loves being admired…and the center of everyone’s attention…so this morning I promised her that I would publish this photo in which she demonstrates the proper use of a scratching post…Besides, this info might come in handy someday…say, if you happen to break your nail file… 😉

Happy day-after-Xmas!!! :-)

Peace, Joy and Health…

Merry Xmas to all my blog readers!

Buon Natale a tutti!

I took this fuzzy photo of Priscilla and Pinga touching noses a few hours ago…

And Santa brought the kitties a new scratching post… :-)

 

Those unexpected moments of happiness…

Yesterday was my last day at work before the Xmas/New Year break. Before my morning classes began, all my students filed into the classroom and lined up in front of the window, facing me. For a moment, it looked as though they were going to start singing a Xmas carol in English… 😉  

But no, they just all wanted to be there to hand me their gift, which is now next to our tree…(=the big, dark red box in the photo).

After I had thanked them, we all hugged and kissed and exchanged holiday wishes…

That was a moment of pure joy for me…

P.S. Speaking of happy moments, our new washing machine is going to be delivered tomorrow. Yahooooo! I tell ya, it’s the small things in life that make you happy…such as…CLEAN CLOTHES!!! :-)

A bed full of cats!

I don’t get easily embarrassed anymore. When I was a kid, though, I used to be shy, terribly shy…the shyest kid on the block! Anything and everything made me blush. But my shyness vanished overnight…once I began teaching. I was a first-year Ph.D. student then…

My first teaching job was teaching intermediate Italian to second-year university students at the University of Toronto. I was essentially handed a grammar book and shoved into a classroom, with no prior preparation. Eeek! I remember walking into my first class with a confidence I didn’t feel…but for some (lucky!) reason I had thought of bringing a small Gund bear with me, which really helped me break the ice with my students. I still have that little bear…But I digress…And that is another story…

Why am I mentioning this today? Because I am not embarrassed to show you my messy, unmade bed. This morning, you see, I found all my cats sleeping on our bed. Just like this. Now, it’s really unusual to find them all gathered together in the same place. So I took about a million photos and decided to put this one on the blog…

So here they are–all my sweeties! And my unmade bed. :-)

Heaviest snowfall in Florence in the last 50 years…

Stefano did make it home after all on Friday night, the night of the heaviest snowfall on record (in Florence) in the last 50 years.

First, though, he went out for dinner near his office together with a group of stranded colleagues. He managed to snag a hotel room, but by the time he’d finished dinner, he noticed that the streets were clear enough, so he called me to tell me he was on his way home.

He arrived after 1 AM…with scary stories of city buses stuck in the middle of the road, together with abandoned vehicles and motorbikes…

My neighborhood got about 10 inches of snow, more or less. It is a bit colder here than in the center of the city. Today, that is, two full days after the storm, we are still snowed in.

No ploughs have come here to clear away the snow, which means that I cannot move my car. The same is true for most of my neighbors, who don’t have snow tires or four-wheel drive…Our street is still filled with snow…amazing. Some melted today…not enough, though…

At any rate, yesterday morning Stefano and I put on our snow attire and set off on a walk around the neighborhood.It was a beautiful sunny day, as you can see. 

What we really wanted to do, actually, was try to get up to the Piazzale Michelangelo, which would have offered us a unique panoramic view of the city, but we soon realized that there were no buses in our neighborhood. Not one. I later heard on the news that only about 30% of the bus service in Florence had been restored.

As a result, much to our chagrin, we have no panoramic photos of Florence under the snow…! Uffaaa

But we did take a nice long walk in the snow, and here are some of the photos I took, including one of a pine tree that had collapsed onto the roof of a row house…not too far from where we live.

And then there is one of my Piccolo staring at the snow from my study window…

And one that shows an eerily deserted street in my neighborhood…This is VERY unusual for a busy Saturday morning. All the cars in these photos are parked…

All this snow threatened to put a bit of a damper on a friend’s plans. For weeks now she had been planning to hold her annual Xmas card-playing party on December 18th…Yesterday!

For the above-stated reasons, I couldn’t use my car, and the same was true of other friends. One of my close friends was able to free her car and started to drive over to pick me up…but she ended up being stranded on an icy street and barely managed to pull over and park her car. She was about halfway to my house…

For once, I was happy that we all have cell phones! :-)

In the end, another friend and I met up near my house and set off together on snow-covered, rather icy sidewalks…carefully carrying about a ton of my homemade cookies (the ones you see in the photo are a few of the leftovers). We trudged on for about a kilometer before getting picked up by yet another friend who has a four-wheel drive vehicle and had picked up my stranded friend on the way…

What an adventure…

We all finally gathered together, safe and sound and laughing, at my friend’s house. We began playing cards a bit later than planned and also decided to end our evening earlier than usual, right after dinner, so that we could all make it safely back home.

As it was, even with his powerful four-wheel drive vehicle, my friend wasn’t able to drive up the slight hill leading to my street, so I had to walk part of the way home last night, which turned out to be absolutely wonderful…

So quiet…So peaceful…A sort of mist had arisen, and it enveloped me like a reassuring blanket…Oh, I am not very good with words, but I can tell you that I felt much like Lucy must have felt when she first entered the seemingly peaceful, snowy world of Narnia…

It was magical…

A magical end to an adventurous, and fun!, evening with my friends…

A winter wonderland…

I found out last night that snow was predicted today for Florence. But when I woke up, yes, it was brrr cold outside and cloudy, but no, no snow. Disappointed not to be snowed in, I fed the cats, got ready and went off to work.

Luckily, as it turns out!, one of my students was too busy to have a lesson, so I was able to leave work an hour early. After making a brief stop at the farmer’s cooperative to get some veggies and whatnot, I headed home.

Not a moment too soon…

As I was parking my car, snow began falling. An hour later, my car had disappeared under a white blanket… 

It has been snowing steadily all afternoon. And now it’s early evening. It seems to me that there are several inches of snow out there. About ten, if I am not mistaken… 

It’s beautiful, really beautiful, and I took heaps of photos as long as there was enough light…But I just communicated with Stefano via Messenger, and he appears to be stuck at work. Seriously stuck…Bummer!

He told me that, once the serious snow began falling, one of his colleagues, who lives outside of the city, left the office in mid afternoon and ended up getting completely blocked in traffic. After two hours he had managed to drive only about a kilometer from the office…

I don’t have an update on him yet…But I imagine, from what I have been reading online, that he is still stuck in traffic somewhere in Florence…

Stefano’s car doesn’t have four-wheel drive or snow tires. So right now it looks as though he may be spending the night in a hotel near his office. The hotel is so close that he can walk there. This makes sense to me, since the authorities are telling all Florentines to stay put where they are, if possible…

The highways have been shut…Oh, I just read online that the airports of Pisa and Florence have also been shut…Wow. I cannot remember a snowfall like this in Florence…ever…

I just peered out my study window…The snow is still falling heavily and still accumulating…And all the neighbordhood children are out playing…So cute…

But what a mess.

A beautiful mess…

Photo 1. View from my back terrace, early afternoon. Photo 2. My Myeloma buddy, Honey, safe and snug under my hat, enjoying the view from my study (other side of the house; you can see the top of our front gate, lower left hand corner); Photo 3. A male blackcap pecking at a persimmon in our neighbor’s yard. Photos 4 and 5. Details of my magnolia tree…again, early afternoon (the accumulation has at least doubled since then…)…

Wowsie!