Monthly Archives: August 2013

ALERT: could our spices possibly be contaminated with salmonella?

Holy cats! As I read the two articles (see below), my hair stood on end for a moment or two. And, if you use spices in your kitchen (as I hope you do!), your hair is probably going to do the same…But keep in mind that the second article provides an easy peasy solution to this problem: don’t use raw spices but HEAT ’em up. Heat kills all the potentially nasty beasties…

Well, even though I buy only organic spices from sources that I consider to be trustworthy, and even though we’ve never run into any trouble, salmonella or other nasties, I won’t be adding raw spices to our food anymore…Just to be on the safe side…Uff… 

Here are the two articles:

New York Times: http://goo.gl/Qr8tIA Scary quote from the article: Salmonella can survive indefinitely on dried spices. Did you know that? No, me neither!!! Bleah bleah bleah ugh ugh ugh yuck yuck yuck…

The solution: http://goo.gl/EI3Jbt 

Bottom line: cook your spices! Don’t eat ’em raw!

HEAT is our friend!!! Besides, as far as turmeric (not mentioned in either article, thank goodness) is concerned, let’s not forget that curcumin is more bioavailable when heated…

A tribute to Homer…

As I recall, I bought “Homer’s Odyssey,” the story of Gwen Cooper’s adventures with her blind black cat, while I was waiting to board a flight to Italy a few years ago. It was one of those (rare) books that I just couldn’t put down…

I laughed, I cried, I worried, I loved…so many different emotions…a wonderful book. Since then I’ve read quite a few other cat-based books (the one about Dewey, the small-town library cat, e.g.). But Homer was special. I fell totally in love with that extraordinary little cat…a cat with two big strikes against him: he was black AND blind. I don’t understand why this is the case, but people don’t want to adopt black cats. And a blind black cat? Forget it. But Gwen adopted Homer, and her life changed. And, thanks to her and thanks to Homer, the lives of many blind and/or black cats have changed, too.

My first cat was black…this was a looooong time ago, when I was a child. And so was my second cat, Micia, who had been abandoned in a field where I’d gone with friends to attend an Inti Illimani (= a Chilean folk music ensemble) concert just outside of Florence, Italy, many many years ago, when I was in my late teens. As we were making our way across the field to find a good place to sit down and enjoy the concert, I noticed a German shepherd running around and barking loudly at a bush. A group of children were yelling that he was after a kitten. As soon as I heard that, I zoomed over to the bush and eventually managed to grab the terrified, tiny black kitten hidden inside, holding her high above my head so the dog couldn’t reach her. I walked away, then tucked her safely inside my sweater, where she cried desperately for a while, then fell asleep, exhausted.

Needless to say, my friends and I didn’t attend that concert. I remember sneaking home, trying to be really quiet so as not to wake my parents who didn’t want any more cats (though they are huge cat lovers)…But my Mom heard Micia’s meowing (from hunger at that point, poor little sweetie!) and walked into my bedroom. I told her what had happened at the concert and reassured her that within 24 hours I’d find a family, another family!, that would adopt Micia. Well, I did find a family for Micia: our family. From the very start, in fact, it was clear that she was going to be our cat. And when we moved back to the United States, a few years later, Micia came with us (inside the cabin with us, of course). Micia had a good life and gave us much joy. She died on Cape Cod at age 16, the same age as Homer…our beloved Micia. 

So it’s no secret that I love black cats. As does Stefano. And now we have a black cat, our Prezzemolo, who was very ill when we adopted him and still has a chronic sniffle and sneeze. Perhaps because of that, we love him even more, if possible…

Oh dear. Sorry for the long digression…

Back to Homer now. I remained “in touch” with Homer via Gwen’s Facebook and blog updates. And that is how I knew he had not been doing very well in recent months. Well, a few days ago I read Gwen’s devastating news: at age 16, Homer had finally been put to sleep…

I wept almost as though this had happened to one of my own six cats…

It brought back memories, wretched wretched memories…of when I had to put my beloved Canadian cat, Keshé, to sleep…She was still young, just five years old, but had kidney failure, and there was no hope (I’d even learned how to give her I.V. fluids in a last-ditch effort to save her life…). Keshé’s suffering, which didn’t last very long (I couldn’t bear to see her in so much pain and begged the vet to put her out of her misery…which she finally did…) made me realize that I would like someone to put me to sleep should I ever be in that much pain. But of course that—euthanasia—is not possible for humans, not here in Italy, at least…Hmmm, that could be fodder for another post, in fact…but not today…

Here is Gwen’s sweet and loving tribute to Homer published in the Huffington Post: http://goo.gl/uu3qZO 

Get out a box of Kleenex before you click on the link…

Never ever CRAB-by…

I meant to write a post for the blog yesterday, with photos, but I had some work (= paid work!) to do, so I had to postpone till today. And even now I don’t have much time…an August deadline, you know how it is…

_MG_0018Still, I wanted to write and post a quick note, just to let you know that Stefano and I had a safe trip home and that our six kitties were waiting for us at the front door on Sunday afternoon…They are so obviously happy to have us back home again…It’s really heartwarming, even when they walk over our heads during the night (uff!)…Oh how I love those adorable furry ones…

Okay, just quickly, here’s a photo I took in Provincetown, MA (my favorite town on Cape Cod!)…The words refer to the zodiac sign, which happens to be MY sign, too…but they are just perfect for smoldering myeloma as well, aren’t they? :-) 

Never ever CRAB-by!!!

My new motto!!!

An impaired immune system

This is not the way I’d planned things. Stefano and I were supposed to be going on whale watching trips out of Provincetown, going off bird watching and, generally speaking, having a really good, relaxing, romantic time together, while of course spending time with and taking care of my parents, who had their second cataract surgery on Tuesday, by the way. A successful removal, once again: they can see well from both eyes now!!! Yay!

But I guess I’d gotten a bit overtired in the past few weeks. And the straw that finally broke my camel’s back was the frrrrrrrrrrreezing cold waiting room at the eye clinic on Tuesday. Like last time, as soon as my Dad was out of the operating room, one of the nurses called me so I could sit and talk with him. Mind you, it was cold in there last time, too, but this time it seemed that that the AC in that inner waiting room had really been jacked up. Even the nurses were remarking on how chilly it was, but of course they were running around and doing stuff, so they managed to keep warm enough. Anyway, point is: I had forgotten to bring a sweater with me the second time. Duh. And I felt silly asking the nurse for a warm blanket like the one Dad had (ah, if I could go back in time, I’d bloody ASK her!!!).

Result: I got a chill = the above-mentioned straw…

By Tuesday afternoon, I knew I was in trouble. Luckily, I can recognize the symptoms of “trouble” by now, so I knew what to do…

It began with a sore throat that kept getting worse. And a head cold, which also kept getting worse. I’d brought my usual antibiotics from Italy, so I went ahead and took one (I’m still on the same antibiotic, of course). Smart move. By the next morning, I was in a full-blown SOMETHING THAT WAS NOT AT ALL NICE. And my sore throat had turned into the mother of all sore throats. That would have been Wednesday, just two days ago. By Wednesday afternoon I had developed a fever (100.4 F, or 38 Celsius) and, worse, THE COUGH, the terrible, raking cough, the one with the lovely (not), colorful discharge, the one that we myeloma-touched folks dread like most folks dread the plague…

On the positive side: at the onset of the first symptoms, I immediately began stuffing myself with Manuka honey and Nigella sativa (not enough of the latter, I’m afraid, but I made up for that yesterday 😉 ). Curcumin, too, of course. Oh, and a bit of Sambucol and, since yesterday afternoon, one of those OTC cough expectorants, which I thought I needed but have now stopped taking. 

Well, live and learn:

  1. if you have an impaired immune system, don’t get all run down (or stressed out!), because bad things can happen really fast…within a matter of hours. Take it from me. 
  2. learn to recognize the symptoms. As soon as you begin feeling out of sorts, DO SOMETHING. Don’t just shrug it off. 

And here I’d been priding myself on not having gotten really sick for two years…Sure, I’ve had a couple of 48 bugs (which I’ve posted about here on the blog…like after my father-in-law died = major stress period for Stefano and me…proof that stress is incredibly BAD for us, too!!!), but nothing major. Nothing like this. This August 2013 bug made me quite ill for the first 24 hours (I did almost nothing but sleep), then I felt better yesterday, and today I even went out with Stefano for a short trip to the store. Today I don’t have a fever, my cough has almost entirely disappeared (how about that??? I’m amazed, too), and I’m feeling quite strong. So I know that tomorrow I’m going to be FINE. In fact, I feel fine right now, as I’m writing this quick post. 

All things considered, therefore, it hasn’t been that bad. Yes, my immune system is definitely out of whack, but it’s also a feisty little, er, whacker. 😉 And, with the proper sustenance (antibiotics, Manuka, Nigella, curcumin and so on), it is able to pick up its little sword and cut off THE BUG’S nasty, evil head. Those first symptoms are crucial…

It’s a learning process. But the important thing is that life goes on. And Stefano and I can now plan to go whale watching…perhaps even on Sunday.

Tomorrow (finally!) we’re going to the beach. And now I’m going to do some work. My brain needs a workout after all that snoozing. 😉

Life is good again. :)

Waiting for Stefano…

My Stefano is landing in Boston this evening. We’ve been apart more than two weeks now, and I feel like a giddy schoolgirl getting ready for her first date…very excited!!! :) 

And now, a “just for fun” moment. This link will take you to a FIAT ( = the main Italian automobile manufacturer) commercial that made me laugh out loud. Enjoy! Here is the link: http://goo.gl/ZTFzOr Hehe. 

The possible drawbacks of C3 Reduct

I’ve been receiving a lot of questions regarding C3 Reduct, the new type of curcumin patented by Sabinsa Corp (= the company that also makes the C3 Complex curcumin that many of us take). We heard about C3 Reduct in February: http://margaret.healthblogs.org/2013/02/21/a-new-product-curcumin-c3-reduct/

Thanks to my blog reader John, who left a few comments on that February post, I didn’t have to do a whole lot of research. He found the main study for me (and then I went to PubMed and found a few others that basically confirmed that study’s conclusions): http://goo.gl/pbWg2J

Here are a few excerpts (from the above-mentioned study) that should give us a better picture of what is going on. While you are reading, keep in mind that C3 Reduct = THC, which is an abbreviation of tetrahydrocurcumin = one of curcumin’s main and most stable metabolites: 

THC and turmerones were much less effective” at suppressing tumor activity compared to regular curcumin. Uhmmmm…

Why this occurs is explained in the paragraph titled “THC is less active than curcumin mix to suppress TNF-induced NF-kB activation.” While THC is able to inhibit chronic myeloid leukemic cells (= KBM-5), said inhibition occurred in tests only at a concentration 10 times higher than that required for the curcumin mix.

TEN TIMES HIGHER.

That doesn’t sound very promising to me! The paragraph ends with this statement: “Thus, these results suggest that THC is not a very potent anti-inflammatory agent and that the conjugated bonds in the central seven-carbon chain are needed for its activity.” Ah, so C3 Reduct is missing a few “conjugated bonds” in its makeup. Bummer, that!

More unfortunate news: as we know, there are also a lot of genes involved in keeping myeloma cells alive and happy, such as COX2 and cyclin D1. Well, THC was found to be “much less effective” in inhibiting these pesky genes compared to regular old curcumin. 

There are other minor things, too, such as THC’s inability to generate ROS, but I would like to keep to the main point, that is, its comparatively reduced effectiveness concerning the inhibition of one of myeloma’s best friends, the NF-kB pathway…

In sum, it doesn’t sound to me as though C3 Reduct would be a great thing for us myeloma folks to take. Disappointing, yes, I know. I’m very disappointed, too! I was so excited at the idea of taking something more bioavailable than the old C3 Complex (and not as messy!) when I first read about C3 Reduct…oh well. I guess we need to be careful about which curcuminoids are inside the type of curcumin we choose. And, from the studies I’ve looked at, I’m afraid that this new product may fall into the category of “not as effective for myeloma.” Too bad! 

Okay, now I am going to, er, muddy the waters a bit. A few abstracts seem to indicate the opposite of what I just wrote (I know, I know…!):

This 2011 study showed that THC was effective against a leukemia cell line (HL-60): http://goo.gl/MDglIw

This 2008 study found that THC was effective against highly-metastatic HT1080 human fibrosarcoma cells by inhibiting the MMPs, which are active in myeloma, too: http://goo.gl/IMS8Oh Note: another thing involved in myeloma is extracellular matrix, or ECM…in fact, it seems to have a role in myeloma drug resistance, from the little I just read in PubMed. Yikes.

So, is it possible that C3 Reduct might work for myeloma after all, in spite of the drawbacks listed in the first article? Hard to say. The only way would be to try it, of course…And, since I know that some of you have already begun testing it, please let me know how things go. Thanks! :)

Bottom line: for now at least, I’m sticking to C3 Complex (I’m currently on 4 grams of C3 Complex without bioperine, PLUS 3 to 3.5 grams of C3 Complex with bioperine).

What can I say? I want my NF-kB pathway to be inhibited…!!!

Guilt

Guilt guilt guilt. Guilt for having “abandoned” my cats for so much time. I know, I know, I know they’re in very good hands (Stefano’s, right at the moment…and, at the end of next week, they will be in the care of our very reliable cat ‘n house sitter for a couple of weeks, when Stefano finally goes on holiday and can join me here in Massachusetts…), but I miss them very much…

Stefano and I are in touch every day via Skype, of course, sometime two or three times a day…and also, at least twice a week, usually on the weekend, he “skypes” with the kitties, so I can see them. Since the cats get very agitated and upset at the sound of my voice, and go around looking for me (no kidding, this really happens…rather heart wrenching, yes!), I mostly keep my mouth shut during these furry calls. But I really enjoy seeing them…watching them…admiring them. They are all so adorable. My sweeties. 

I’ve already bought three presents for them…One is a long cat tunnel that folds up (er…at least, I HOPE it folds up!!!, otherwise I’ll be wearing a 5.5-foot-long, rather odd-looking hat on the plane back to Italy…). They, especially Pinga, love running through their tunnels, but the ones we have in Florence are getting rather old and worn…time to replace them, and this one will do the trick…it’s so long!

Anyway, the reason I’m writing about my cats today is because of a new, very cute Simon’s Cat video…one to which I could really relate, since my cats always make a beeline for, and bury themselves in, any open, half-packed suitcase, as though trying to stop us from leaving… :) [youtuber youtube=’http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_dm_2G-rIOs&feature=youtu.be’]