Back from Scotland

We’re baaaack! Back in Florence with our kitties, that is. Actually, we’ve been home since last Wednesday, but I’ve had lots of things to do, PLUS my computer wasn’t working properly, so Stefano spent the entire weekend fixing it, checking it out, updating programs, and so on. I’m so lucky to have him (in so many ways!)!

About our fabulous holiday in Scotland…so hard to decide where to begin…And so I’ve made a partial list of some of my fondest memories, as follows:

  • One of the funniest things: animals of all sorts (goats, sheep, chickens, cows…) in the middle of the road, chewing grass, completely oblivious to cars and other dangers. I have about 250 blurry photos taken of these encounters. 🙂
  • Speaking of encounters: one morning, while walking through a wood on our way to visit a ruined castle, we came across a doe and her two fawns. They popped out of the trees right in front of us. We froze, they froze, then the mother jumped across the path and disappeared into the trees. The rather fearful fawns just stood there looking at us (especially the one that isn’t in this photo). My biggest regret is that I was so startled that I didn’t start taking photos until the fawns began following their mother…Plus, it was a bit dark down there, so, yes, all my photos turned out fuzzy, as you can see. No matter…Fuzzy or not, these photos will remind me of that magical moment…
  • Sunshine, then rain, then clouds, then sunshine, then…well, you get the idea…crazy, fast-changing weather. But, as quite a few Scots told us on different occasions: “There is no such thing as bad weather in Scotland. There is only bad…clothes!” So true. And Stefano and I came well prepared in that sense…Gore Tex from head to toe…dressing in layers…so we had no problems at all. And we were so HAPPY to have escaped the horrendous heat back in Florence!
  • Speaking of the weather, we ended up being super lucky: it usually rained only at night or while we were driving from one place to another. For example, the morning we drove to Dunnottar Castle (a ruined castle on the north-east coast of Scotland) was horrible–rainy, and very cool and windy. But when we got to the castle, the rain stopped and didn’t resume until after we’d been to the castle and taken our photos.
  • The Scots. We met some lovely people, really really really lovely.
  • The Purple Cat Café in Glasgow (see photo of one of the 26 rescue kitties that live there). Trust me to come upon a cat café (our very first cat café, too) entirely by chance!
  • Driving on the other side of the road. Oh yes, I did! And, believe it or not, for the first time EVER. During all our previous trips to the UK, Stefano had done all the driving. I was too afraid of making a terrible mistake, wrong turn, etc., and getting us into trouble. This time, though, we had a bit of an emergency (more about this in an upcoming post), so I was forced to drive. Oddly enough, I wasn’t nervous about it and didn’t make any mistakes…not even on single track roads! Hah!
  • Harry Potter movie locations, especially the Glenfinnan Viaduct (we had an adventure there…again, see my upcoming post, which, er, I haven’t written yet!).
  • The views, some of which were absolutely breathtaking. Best views: on Skye. Oh I’d go back there in a heartbeat!
  • The colors…with the clouds racing across the sky almost all the time, especially on the islands, the colors of the landscape were never the same. So for instance you’d take a landscape photo, then the same photo in the exact same place just a few hours later, but the result would be completely different. I’d never get bored if I lived on Skye…And then, of course, I mustn’t forget to mention the colors of the Scottish gardens and flowers. Mmmmh…pure beauty.
  • Hunting for (AND FINDING!!!) dinosaur prints…on Skye…where else? 😉
  • Feeding a Highland cow…again, on Skye (yes, Skye Skye Skye…but those of you who have been there will certainly understand…). Feeding a cow wasn’t exactly on my bucket list, but this actually turned out to be one of the most amazing things I’ve ever experienced. Again, more about this in an upcoming post.
  • Going on a tour of a whisky distillery. Note: I don’t drink alcohol, generally speaking, although I don’t mind an occasional sip of a good Brunello di Montalcino. Stefano, however, is a whisky connoisseur, and so we spent three full days on the isle of Islay, the southernmost island of the Inner Hebrides, which is well known for its distilleries–Laphroaig, Lagavulin, Ardbeg, and a bunch of others. I finally gave in and accompanied Stefano on a TWO-hour (!) tour of Ardbeg, at the end of which some very amusing things happened. Upcoming post, upcoming post… 😉

I’m slowly going through my 2240 photos (Stefano took more than that: 3400 photos!) and will get around to posting a few of them…as soon as I have a bit of free time. Not this morning, though. This morning I’m meeting with the vet surgeon to talk about Peekaboo. When we got home from Scotland, as the cat sitter had warned us, Peekaboo wasn’t walking very well and spent most of the time in her comfy cat bed. On Friday I called the vet to see if I could increase the dose of the anti-inflammatory/pain drug, but he said no and also told me that we can’t keep giving her this stuff forever…He said we should meet to discuss the situation. Hence this morning’s meeting…

The day after we got home from Scotland, I began mixing some curcumin with her wet food. After just a few days, she began going downstairs and is now also walking a bit better…

This may be the solution…Another topic I’m going to address with the vet. I doubt he’ll be impressed, but you never know…

Anyway, lots to do and think about…And so many photos to go through! 😉

New test results and other bits of news

As you may recall, my April “andrographolide” results were disappointing, although some MM markers did improve. But my IgG jumped up quite a bit.

But now, incredibly, in just three months, and in spite of ALL the stress I’ve been under in the past weeks, my new, August test results are, well, excellent!!! My IgG has gone down to less than it was in 2012. Obviously, it’s still high, but it’s back to where I prefer it to be. 🙂

So I’m pleased. VERY pleased. Incidentally, all I took in this period was curcumin (the usual 8  grams a day) and Reishi, which has done well for me for the second time. Looks like I’m going to be taking Reishi forever!

So that’s some very good news…

Another topic. HOLIDAYS! Stefano and I have been sort of talking about going on holiday this year. Last year we didn’t have a holiday because, as you may remember, one of our cats, my beloved Piccolo, became seriously ill, and in fact we had to have him put to sleep in early September. My sweet boy…still miss him terribly.

Anyway, back to the point: we haven’t had a holiday in two years. So we’d recently been talking about going somewhere in Europe, and our choice fell on Scotland. We’ve only been to Edinburgh and, briefly, the Scottish Borders. Never been to the Highlands, Skye, etc.

We made our flight reservations, but then we found out about Peekaboo, and that whole process began. We didn’t think we’d be able to leave, but of course our priority was Peekaboo’s health…

As if cancer isn’t enough: a couple of days ago, I saw Peekaboo walking a bit “funny,” and then she screamed out in pain. Have you ever heard a cat scream in pain? Let me tell you, it scared the bejeezers out of me! I took her over to the vet hospital immediately, and they found a herniated disk. OUCH!!!

That’s all poor Peekaboo needed, after all she’s been through. So now she’s on an anti-inflammatory drug, which has anti-tumoral effects, too…

She’s not moving very much, but the vets told me that she should be out of the acute phase in a couple of days.

Luckily for us, we have a fabulous cat sitter who will be coming over a couple of times a day, plus our next door neighbor (one of my best friends) is going to check on the kitties every day, plus our vets have practically ORDERED us to go on holiday (seriously, they did!), plus, if anything happens (knock on wood!), the vet clinic will send someone over to the house to check on any of the cats…

So we’re all set, and we’re leaving for Scotland. Tomorrow, as it happens. I still can’t believe it…

My blog will be going on holiday with me. I won’t have a proper computer while we’re in Scotland, just an iPad, so it would be difficult for me to post anything. I’m going to take a break from everything, basically.

I will be checking Facebook, though, where my blog has its own Page (same name, Margaret’s Corner blablabla), so if you need/want to reach me, or if you just want to say “Hi,” please “like” that Page and drop me a note. Thanks!

(I love the “Keep Calm” messages…hehe.)

In the meantime, have a look at this interesting Science Daily report that a blog reader sent to me. It’s about the all-important issue of curcumin bioavailability…Yes, a rather unexpected, new delivery method has been found:

Take care, everyone! Ciao!

The margins are CLEAR!!!

Peekaboo, my 11-year-old cat, is such a star. Our amazing little star…And yes, in case you’re wondering, all of these photos are recent, post-surgery photos. Obviously, her right side looks better than her left, as you can see…But once her fur grows back, she’ll be as good as new (not that that’s the most important thing, of course!).

Here’s the most important thing:

Our vet just called to let us know that the final results of Peekaboo’s mandibulectomy (half of her lower left jaw was removed) show CLEAR MARGINS.

In other words, no cancer cells were found in the outer portion of her jaw, the portion that was removed. Had that happened, if even a few cancer cells had been found, it would not have been good news at all…

I have to confess that I got all choked up on the phone and could barely speak to the vet. Tears of happiness.

This has been such an emotional journey for Stefano and me. Just a few weeks ago, when this awful cancer was found in her mouth, by chance!, we didn’t know what to do: should we agree to the surgery? Is surgery the right decision for Peekaboo? What about her quality of life afterwards? Would she be able to eat without half her lower left jaw? We had so many questions…and so few answers.

But in the end, based on her test results, specifically her second CAT (hah) scan, we agreed to go ahead with the surgery. And now I’m so glad we did…

And yes, she is eating on her own again, eating like a horse, as you can see…

This final biopsy result doesn’t mean that Peekaboo will never have a recurrence of this beastly cancer…

But we’re not thinking about that now…

We’re celebrating today’s victory…

And she’s back to chasing her video mice again…

Forskolin: another natural compound goes on my list of myeloma killers

Yesterday I came across a 2015 study that really caught my attention. A group of Norwegian researchers has discovered that the combination of dexamethasone with a natural compound called forskolin kills multiple myeloma cells.

They tested forskolin with other conventional myeloma drugs, too: bortezomib (Velcade), cyclophosphamide, doxorubicin, and melphalan.

And by itself.

Results in a nutshell: dead myeloma cells.  😎 

Excerpt from the abstract: “Our findings support a potential role of forskolin in combination with current conventional agents in the treatment of MM.”

The researchers believe that forskolin might be able “to diminish treatment-associated side effects,” which of course would have a huge impact, obviously a very positive one!!!, on a patient’s quality of life…indeed, on the QOL of countless patients…

Of course, this is all theoretical, since the researchers used MM cell lines, not actual human beings. I checked the clinical trial website where I found only a few trials testing forskolin for various conditions, mostly eye, weight loss, and lung-related (interesting aside: there were a couple of cystic fibrosis studies there, too).

No myeloma clinical trials.

Are you surprised? I wasn’t. I mean, we know WHO finances almost all the clinical trials…and the ghastly rich and powerful pharmaceutical companies aren’t going to be interested in an affordable natural compound, are they?

No profit, no trial. It’s as simple as that.

And that is why non-toxic substances that might kill our myeloma cells without messing with our QUALITY OF LIFE are completely ignored…ignored even by our own MM foundations that should have our best interests at heart…It’s frustrating, to say the least…unbearably so, I admit, at times.

But let’s get away from negative feelings and focus instead on this potentially POSITIVE bit of news, which is that it seems we have another promising anti-myeloma tool. Yaaaaay!

Incidentally, the Norwegian study is fully available

So what exactly is forskolin? It’s a natural compound extracted from the root of an Indian plant called Coleus forskohlii. It has become popular in recent years as a weight loss supplement (the patient studies I glanced at early today, however, have mixed results). More importantly, it has been traditionally used in Ayurvedic medicine for centuries as a treatment for asthma, breathing disorders, and for general health purposes.

Contraindications. Generally speaking, forskolin is considered to be safe. However:

  • It may lower blood pressure, so definitely stay away from it if you have low blood pressure or are taking drugs for high blood pressure (beta-blockers, etc.). Of course, if you suffer from HIGH blood pressure, this might be of interest to you.
  • If you are on blood thinners such as warfarin or if you have kidney disease, forskolin is not for you.
  • It may also increase your heart rate and your levels of gastric acid.
  • There have been reports about possibly contaminated supplements in Europe.

Apart from these things, though, so far I haven’t read anything super negative about forskolin.

The big question is: will it work for myeloma patients? No idea, of course. As I mentioned, the Norwegian study used myeloma cell lines, not patients. But that hasn’t stopped me before, and it probably won’t stop me now…as long as my research keeps turning up positive information. Right now, though, it’s too hot here in Florence to think about experimenting with a new compound, which is good in the sense that it gives me time to do some further reading…

But I’m intrigued, really intrigued, and that’s a good start…

Hmmm, final (obvious!) thought: has anyone here taken this supplement? I’d love to hear from you! Thanks!

Curcumin eye drops

I’ve been reading and researching curcumin for almost 13 years now, but I am still amazed at all the things it can do…

A new study shows that it might be able to treat the early stages of

That’s music to my ears, since glaucoma runs in my family…hmmmm, my eye pressure happens to be normal…I wonder if my high intake of curcumin might have something to do with that?

Excerpt from the above-mentioned Science Daily article: “‘Curcumin is an exciting compound that has shown promise at detecting and treating the neurodegeneration implicated in numerous eye and brain conditions from glaucoma to Alzheimer’s disease, so being able to administer it easily in eye drops may end up helping millions of people,’ said the study’s lead author, Professor Francesca Cordeiro (UCL Institute of Ophthalmology, Western Eye Hospital and Imperial College London).”

Millions of people…

According to the researchers, curcumin may someday be used to diagnose Alzheimer’s disease…Well, how about that? This is indeed one of the most interesting articles I’ve read in recent times…

Light at the end of the tunnel

We brought Peekaboo home from the clinic almost a week ago, last Saturday evening to be exact. I thought that she’d slowly return to her usual self once she got home, but it has taken longer than expected. Reason: we ran into a few problems…

Problem number 1. Like most (all?) cats, Peekaboo was REALLY bothered by the Elizabethan collar, a cone-shaped torture device that prevents cats and dogs from licking or scratching or biting their wounds (Note: these three photos of Peekaboo are “post-Elizabethan-collar” photos. The white and red stuff around her neck is just a temporary bandage that doesn’t impede her movements and will come off next week).

Problem number 2. On Friday and Saturday, while she was still in the hospital, the vets had slowly weaned her off her pain medication. Too soon, evidently. By Sunday evening I knew she was in pain. She wasn’t purring or licking food off my finger anymore, so we had to feed her, and administer her meds (antibiotics, etc.), using the esophagostomy tube, which is a feeding tube that connects the esophagus directly to the stomach.

Furthermore, she was very lethargic and wasn’t moving at all, really. And she hadn’t used the litter box at all (even though we put one right on the bed).

I called the weekend vet who told me to give her more of the anti-inflammatory drug, which contains a painkiller, too. There wasn’t much else we could do on a Sunday evening, but first thing on Monday morning I took her back to the vet hospital, where they ran some tests and immediately gave her a shot containing a stronger painkiller. I gave her painkiller shots twice a day until Wednesday (at home). That at least got rid of the pain issue!

She peed inside the cat carrier in the car…so, er, that problem was solved, too! And in fact, as long as she wore the blasted cone, she peed only when we drove to the vet hospital. 🙄 

On Wednesday afternoon the surgeon removed her feeding tube. Consequently, off came the cone!

Life was good again. Peekaboo was back to her old self–happy, relaxed, hungry, and curious. Since then, it’s been all uphill. JOY!!!

Without the awful collar, in fact, she began eating and drinking on her own…she started peeing (etc.) in the litter box, not in the car (!)…she’s grooming herself (as you can see in photo no. 3), and she purrs and talks a lot…

So she’s doing really well. One of my MAIN concerns, in fact, before agreeing to the surgery, was HOW she’d be able to eat without half a jaw…But she is indeed eating–wet food only, right now–and it is such a joy to behold…Cats are such amazing creatures…

More good news: we have some partial biopsy results (from her jaw, which of course was sent off to the lab for testing):

  • the cells aren’t dividing madly, as aggressive cancer cells do.
  • there are indications that this type of melanoma is NOT aggressive.

This means that, IF the surgeon was able to remove every bit of the tumor, and IF no cancer cells have migrated to another part of her body (the lungs, usually), from now on she will lead a normal, healthy life.

Of course, these are big “IFs,” and Peekaboo will have to be monitored for some time…with periodic X-rays of her lungs, for example.

But for now, at least, Stefano and I can sit back and relax…

Quick update on Peekaboo

I took our cat, Peekaboo, to the vet two days ago, around lunchtime. When her new CAT scan results came in, my vet told me that, even though the melanoma had spread a bit in the past two weeks, the cancer hadn’t gone into the jawbone yet. She recommended that we do the surgery.

After asking a few obvious but almost-impossible-to-answer questions (will the surgery PROLONG HER LIFE without impacting her QUALITY OF LIFE, blablabla), I called Stefano, and we both agreed it was our only choice at this point, even though there really aren’t any guarantees: this sort of cancer is very aggressive, so it may come back at some point…

But if we’d waited until, say, September, it would have been too late to do anything. And by then she would been suffering a lot…bleeding from her mouth, etc. I’ve seen the photos online…It’s nasty.

We had to try removing the blasted thing…

In a nutshell: the surgery went well. No complications. Now we just have to wait until she’s well enough to come home. That will happen once she begins eating on her own, which is going to take a few more days…

Yesterday Stefano and I went to see her twice, at lunchtime and just before dinner. I braced myself, expecting her to look like a little Frankenstein, but no, she actually looks the same (see photo). Not that we care what she looks like, of course! As long as she’s okay…

She’s not a happy camper, as perhaps you can tell from the photo. She’s NOT in any pain, of course, but I think the Elizabethan collar is driving her bonkers. Plus, the painkiller/sedative is making her live in a world of her own. I don’t know how much she even knew that we were there…

My job is to get her to eat on her own again. So at one point I put some mushy food on my finger and offered it to her. She turned her head, growling (growling? My Peekaboo???), got up and moved away. Who can blame her? Poor sweetie. I didn’t insist. I’ll try again today. As soon as she begins eating on her own, we can bring her home, where she will be happier and recover more quickly, for sure.

I just hope the vet surgeon was able to get all of that blasted thing, that no cells escaped, and that there will be no recurrences…

One day at a time.

It’s not just malignant. It’s very aggressive.

All of Peekaboo’s test results are in (see my July 4 post; Peekaboo is one of our cats…11 years old…I took the above photo of her in 2015).

The biopsy confirmed the diagnosis of an aggressive malignant oral melanoma.

I won’t go on and on about all the discussions Stefano and I (and friends and family) have had in the past couple of weeks, especially this past weekend…all the going back and forth (surgery…or no surgery???), all the online research we’ve done, reading horrible stories on various cat forums, the heartbreak, the anxiety…”what should we DO???”…

You can imagine all that…

We haven’t been sitting around…doing nothing but talk, I mean. In addition to speaking with the oncologist and the vet surgeon at our own vet hospital, last week we sent her test results to a well-known oncology specialist vet( outside of Florence) who called us on Saturday, recommending we go ahead with the surgery.

Even with that second opinion, I still didn’t want to put her through all that misery…the pain…the risks of doing this surgery…etc. During the weekend, talking things over with Stefano’s aunt (also a cat lover) and his cousins, I decided to let Nature take its course: palliative care…curcumin…pain killers…But no surgery. Definitely absolutely NO SURGERY. How do you explain to a kitty that she’ll have to undergo such a painful procedure blablabla? You can’t. It’s not fair, I decided. She might never recover…never be able to eat properly again…and then she will die anyway, eventually…So WHY do it? Those were all the things rushing through my mind this past weekend.

But what happened today changed my mind. This morning I took Peekaboo to see another vet surgeon, highly recommended, at a clinic here in Florence. He went through her tests very carefully and calmly and told me that, if this were HIS cat, he’d go ahead with the surgery. I still wasn’t completely on board, though…

Until we looked into her mouth…

I’d seen the melanoma almost two weeks ago, when it was just a tiny oval on the side of her gum. Well, it’s not an oval now, and it’s not tiny, either. In just two weeks it has spread quite a bit. Now you can see the blasted thing clearly. It’s growing.

It freaked me out, I have to admit.

I took Peekaboo home and decided I needed to discuss this new bit of information with our vet and the main vet surgeon over at the vet hospital. I was there within a half hour. I told them both what I’d seen this morning in her mouth, and here’s what we agreed to do (we = all of us, Stefano included, of course…Oh my poor sweetheart, getting all this awful news while at work!):

I’ll take Peekaboo to the hospital day after tomorrow (which happens to be my birthday…I hope it brings her luck!). The vets will do another CAT scan to see how much the tumor has spread. Then we will decide what should be done.

  1. If the blasted thing has spread TOO much, meaning that a manibulectomy would impair her QOL, then I’ll just take her home, and we’ll go with the palliative care option. Right now the tumor isn’t bothering her: she’s eating (even dry food), playing, purring, etc.
  2. If, as we hope, something can be done to give her a good QOL for quite some time, we’ll go ahead with the surgery.

Whatever the choice, it’s going to be hard on all of us…first and foremost, on Peekaboo, of course, but also on Stefano and me. And I can’t help but still ask myself: are we doing the right thing? Or rather, are we doing the right thing FOR HER?

To be honest, right now I don’t have an answer…

Incidentally, I’d really appreciate hearing from anyone who might have had this sort of experience with their cat. Thank youuuuuuu!

A case report: the antibiotic roxithromycin induces PR in a patient with smoldering myeloma

Well…Well…WELL!!! I’ve got a very interesting item for you today…

Many many many thanks to my blog reader Charlotte for this gem:

The link will lead you to a case report about a 86-year-old patient (with IgA lambda smoldering myeloma) who went into partial remission after taking roxithromycin, an antibiotic, for just ONE MONTH. This happened last year in New Zealand.

The patient’s paraprotein, which had been increasing since he was diagnosed in 2008, dropped from 46 g/L to 20 g/L.

That’s a 57% decrease! Wowsie.

And another thing: in addition to his other markers remaining stable (calcium and creatinine, e.g.) in the four months after taking roxithromycin, his hemoglobin increased to 132…from 97. Another wowsie.

I also discovered something else: the antibiotic clarithromycin has been found to have anti-myeloma activity BUT only in association with other drugs (dexamethasone, etc.). That’s the difference between the two antibiotics, since roxithromycin appears to have “significant single-agent anti-myeloma activity.” That is, it goes after myeloma all by itself…

I’m not a big fan of antibiotics, that’s for sure (although when you need ’em, you need ’em!!!), but this case report has certainly given me food for thought…

A lot of food for thought…


“Crystal structure reveals how curcumin impairs cancer”

Wow, VERY EXCITING BIT OF NEWS that popped up in my Google Alerts yesterday.

My post title is the title of a new study revealing a previously unreported biochemical activity of curcumin. This very important study, carried out by three research teams (University of California San Diego School of Medicine, Peking University, and Zhejiang University), shows how curcumin attaches to, and INHIBITS, a gene called DYRK2, which is associated with cellular growth and/or development. This inhibition diminishes the proliferation of cancer cells. It reduces the tumor burden. 

How about THAT?

Here’s the link to the University of California San Diego School of Medicine press release:

Quote: “DYRK2 depletion impairs proteasome activity and exhibits slower cancer proliferation rates and significantly reduced tumor burden in mouse models. In combination with the FDA-approved multiple myeloma drug, carfilzomib, curcumin induced a much higher cancer cell death while normal non-cancerous cells were less affected. This suggest that targeting proteasome regulators (such as DYRK2) in combination with proteasome inhibitors may be a promising approach of anticancer therapy with less side-effects but further work is needed, said Banerjee.

Curcumin plus carfilzomib = HIGHER MM CELL DEATH. Food for thought.

One of the researchers involved in the study states the following: “In general, curcumin is expelled from the body quite fast. […] For curcumin to be an effective drug, it needs to be modified to enter the blood stream and stay in the body long enough to target the cancer. Owing to various chemical drawbacks, curcumin on its own may not be sufficient to completely reverse cancer in human patients.

I agree, of course. I never thought curcumin would (reverse cancer, that is, etc.). But I was also told by an expert that curcumin gets absorbed by our tissues, slurp slurp slurp!!!, within ten minutes or so after we swallow it. Well, whatever the case, curcumin has done me (and many of you, too!!!) a world of good in the past 12 and a half years…

And that is why, while waiting for researchers to come up with a truly effective, modified form of curcumin, I’m going to keep taking my daily eight grams of C3 Complex.  

Well, well. Curcumin never ceases to “wow” me, that’s for sure…