Gut bacteria plays a big role in the progression to active myeloma, according to a new Italian study

One of my Italian blog readers sent me this link today: http://goo.gl/AEwRXo

I realize the article is in Italian, but hey, you’re in luck 😉 : you can read the full study, on which the Italian article is based, in English…at this link: http://goo.gl/9U8NoN

In any case, I’m going to give you a brief summary (based only on the article. I need more time to read/go through the full study). Here goes.

Researchers at the Ospedale di San Raffaele in Milan have discovered that a particular type of gut bacteria, called Prevotella heparinolytica, plays a big role in the proliferation of some of the inflammatory lymphocytes involved in the progression from asymptomatic to active myeloma.

Here’s what happens, in a nutshell. First, the pesky Prevotella bacterium activates the above-mentioned pesky lymphocytes. The lymphocytes then wander over to the bone marrow where they help plasma cells proliferate. They do so by releasing an inflammatory molecule called IL-17.

Arianna Brevi, one of the main researchers, points out that IL-17 could become a predictive tool, since it can actually be measured in the bone marrow of asymptomatic patients. In other words, it might be able to show which patients are more at risk of developing active myeloma.

Testing their findings on lab mice, the researchers were able to block IL-17 and other inflammatory molecules involved in the progression to active myeloma. Result: they SLOWED DOWN progression to active myeloma. Incidentally, they used anti-inflammatory drugs that are already on the market.

Aha!

That got me to wondering if curcumin’s inhibition of IL-17 is the reason, the main reason, why I’ve remained “inactive” for so many years, as have so many of you, too!

Well, well, a VERY exciting finding today!!!

(More research needed, of course…)

P.S. Finally, I just wanted to mention that I’m FINE and have been doing FINE for a while, now. No time for the blog, though. I’ve been busy with life…tons of stuff to do, blablabla. Thanks for your notes of encouragement…much appreciated! 🙂

A cold is almost never just a cold…

So much to do, so little time. And I wasn’t supposed to get a COUGH again, either.

No, I’m not kidding.

I know where I was infected. To make a very long story short, exactly a week ago I accompanied a friend (who has very little Italian) and her 5-year-old daughter to a pediatric dentist. We had to wait for a couple of hours (the dentist was very busy and behind schedule) in a small, airless waiting room with other adults and their…kids.

Yes, I’m well aware of the danger of my being around potentially ill kids, especially in a situation like that where I couldn’t escape, but my friend needed me to communicate with the dentist. If I hadn’t been there, she wouldn’t have understood that her daughter had an abscessed tooth, which, obviously, would not have been good at all. (Incidentally, after a cycle of antibiotics, the little girl is fine…)

Anyway, that was on Thursday afternoon/evening. On Saturday I had a runny nose…okay, Margaret, it’s just a wee cold…

Except, with us myeloma folks, a cold is almost never just a cold.

By Sunday I was feeling funny…not funny funny haha, unfortunately!, but strange funny. I put myself on an antibiotic that evening.

Smart move…

A few hours later, during the night, the dreaded cough began. Oh yeah.

Boy, though, was it QUICK!!! From my nose to my chest in about 12 hours, I’d say. I’ve been on the antibiotic now for five days…and my cough is so MUCH better. In fact, after resting in bed on Monday, watching TV series, napping under the careful watch of devoted feline nurses, I’ve been up and about since Tuesday morning, doing my regular household chores, stopping now and again to cough, but it’s manageable. And with every day that passes, it gets better…I figure I’ll be OK in a couple of days…

But hey, I’m not writing this post just to complain and whine about my cough (although that’s certainly part of it, hehe)… 😉

No, I’m writing because in the past few days I’ve realized a possibly important fact: when I came down with bronchial pneumonia last month, and then with bronchitis last week, I was testing Meriva curcumin.

In other words, I’d been off my usual C3 Complex for a while. I know many of you take Meriva curcumin, so this may just be a coincidence.

But, just to be on the safe side, I’m back on C3 Complex. My Meriva test will have to wait until the spring, when I’m not at such a high risk of being infected…

Hope everyone is happy and well!!! Ciao!!!

Almost spitting images

One of my best friends here in Florence gave me a lovely present the other day. It was supposed to be a Xmas present, but my friend was so excited and eager to see my reaction that she couldn’t wait until December.

She had ordered two small, woolen versions of Pixie and Pandora (my 14-month-old sisters) from an Italian woman who specializes in the needle felting technique, which I believe originated in Japan and is quite ancient.

My friend didn’t have any up-to-date photos of the two sisters, so, while we were away in Matera, she asked our cat sitter to be her accomplice…Photos were taken and sent off to the artist.

And here’s the result. A few days ago, when I pulled the two small kitties from the box, I recognized Pixie and Pandora immediately (even though the orange is a bit too bright) and got a bit teary…Such a sweet present!!!

Quite realistic, I’d say…but not TOO realistic, which I would have found way too freaky!

Of course, Stefano and I now want mini versions of ALL of our cats, so I’ve contacted this young woman and have placed an order…Top of my list: two mini versions of our beloved Piccolo and Puzzola, as hard as it’s going to be to open THAT particular box…eh.

Anyway, aren’t they wonderful? Yes, these are terrible photos, I know, but I had to be really QUICK…Both kitties were interested not just in harmlessly smelling their alter egos but in pulling at the wool, as you can see Pandora doing in the second photo…The mini kitties are now in a super safe place where they can be seen but not reached (and destroyed) by the cats. 🙂 

Matera, the 2019 European capital of culture

The weekend of November 1st was a long holiday weekend, so Stefano and I, and his aunt and uncle (yes, the uncle with MM), decided to visit the ancient southern Italian city of Matera, designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993. It is also one of the OLDEST CONTINUOUSLY INHABITED cities in the entire world. How about that, eh!

In 2014, Matera was also awarded the title of 2019 European city of culture and since then has become a big tourist attraction. By the time we managed to book a B&B, in fact, Matera was 97% booked!

Matera is mainly famous for its Sassi (Italian for “Stones”), for its 1500 cave dwellings carved out of limestone and scattered all over the flanks of a steep ravine. These caves, dating to the Paleolithic (see photo on right), were expanded into slightly larger dwellings (the Sassi) by peasants and artisans in later eras. We visited one of the most famous cave dwellings inside the Sassi, but there were too many tourists inside to take any decent photos…You can look it up online, if you are curious. It’s called “Casa Grotta di Vico Solitario.”  The cave on the right is much more ancient (no doors, e.g.!), and located in the Murgia National Park, that is, outside the Sassi. In the photo below you have a panoramic view of these more ancient caves…

Anyway, the dank and dark Sassi dwellings were still inhabited in the middle of last century by as many as 15,000 people. Each family lived together with its animals, usually chickens, a donkey, and a pig. The above-mentioned Vico Solitario dwelling was inhabited by a family of 11, we were told. So many people, living under those conditions…no ventilation, dampness that made your bones creak, no running water, no electricity, no sewer system…Just one double bed for the entire family, and a tiny crib, which meant that the older children were sleeping on boxes or on some hay spread out on the floor…

It’s no wonder that malaria, cholera, typhoid were common diseases in Matera. We were told that child mortality was at 50%. I’m surprised that number wasn’t higher…

Then, in the mid 1950s, the Italian government declared that Matera was “the shame of Italy” and had all of the Sassi’s inhabitants relocated to public housing projects in the modern part of Matera. This move, although necessary, I suppose, unfortunately destroyed an entire social network…And in fact the inhabitants didn’t want to leave their homes, their neighbors, their livelihoods. They had to be forcefully removed. The relocated children of the “Sassi” then pretended that they’d come from other parts of the region. The Sassi at that time was synonymous with abysmal poverty, ignorance, etc. Who’d want to be associated with that?

After this relocation, the Sassi were essentially left to rot…until 30 years later. In the 1980s, the local administration realized Matera’s tourism potential and began fixing up the ancient buildings and promoting the Sassi…

Ancient caves have now been turned into fancy boutique hotels, restaurants, galleries, and even a contemporary art museum, MUSMA, that has its own underground network. As I was looking online for a reasonably-priced B&B, I came across a fancy hotel that offered a fancy suite with a fancy (amazing!) underground swimming pool. We didn’t go there, but it gave us an idea of the sort of change that Matera has undergone in the past few decades…Now it’s a hip place to go!

Unfortunately, it rained, and rained and rained, during most of our stay, which certainly added to Matera’s aura of mystery and, well, a bit of spookiness, too…But when, on the day we left (!), the sun came out, all I could say was “WOW!” The sun really made a difference…

Beautiful!

Oh, we also ate incredibly well in restaurants that I’d chosen because they used locally-sourced food…amazing…so YUMMY! We brought back with us some of the specialties we had enjoyed in Matera, including black chickpeas, which are grown in the Murgia National Park, located on the other side of the gorge.

Black chickpeas apparently contain lots of iron.   🙂 They have to be soaked for two days, then boiled for three and a half hours. Wowsie! But they are so yummy…

Oh, I guess it’s obvious that I am compleeeeeetely over my bronchial pneumonia…I have to admit that I still get tired easily, but…no big deal. I’m taking probiotics (after such heavy doses of antibiotics, probiotics are a MUST), as well as vitamins and minerals to boost my energy levels. All good!

Anyway, if you are ever in or near the region of Basilicata, do stop in Matera…It’s well worth the visit. Oh, and don’t forget to visit the cave-churches with their amazing frescos dating as far back as the 9th century.

And one more thing: if it rains during your visit, please be careful, VERY careful!!!, as you walk down the slippery steps of the Sassi. Photo no. 5 can sort of give you an idea of how slippery the steps can get when wet…One evening, as we were returning to the B&B, in spite of my excellent trekking shoes, I slipped and almost fell on my, er, derriere! So, if it’s raining, hold onto the walls!  🙂 

Concern over too much EGCG

I just finished reading a BBC article about a man in Texas who had been taking an EGCG (extracted from green tea) supplement for 2-3 months when he found out that his liver was in very bad shape, to the point that he had to have an urgent liver transplant. His doctors ruled out everything else and concluded that this serious injury may have been caused by the EGCG supplement.

Even though I personally don’t take EGCG, I was horrified, at first. Then I read the article, which states that drinking green tea, as I do on occasion, is perfectly safe. What you have to be careful about is its extract, known as EGCG, which apparently can be toxic at certain levels, especially, e.g., on an empty stomach AND especially for certain people. Drinking alcohol or taking “other drugs” while taking EGCG might also lead to problems.

Anyway, if you drink lots of green tea and/or take large doses of EGCG (above 800 mg/day, it seems), please have a look at the article: goo.gl/YxUa68 

Excerpt: “While millions of people take green tea supplements safely, at least 80 cases of liver injury linked to green tea supplements have been reported around the world, ranging from lassitude and jaundice to cases requiring liver transplants.” A small percentage, but I always like to be super cautious. And that is why I’m posting about this article today!

You never know…

Broncopolmonite!

I realize it’s been quite some TIME since I’ve written a post, almost a MONTH!, so today I decided to sit down and write one, and it’s going to be a long one, so get yourselves some tea and get comfy…  😉 

CHAPTER ONE. PEEKABOO: in September I spent a lot of time researching possibly helpful but definitely non-toxic treatments for Peekaboo, my 11-year-old kitty whom I’ve written a lot about in recent times. She has a slipped disc, basically, and has been having a VERY hard time walking. The risk, of course, is that she’d stop walking altogether. Couldn’t let that happen!

I discovered that laser therapy might work…the vets agreed…so we planned about 10 sessions. I had to take her to the clinic for these treatments. Sounds easy, but driving with a constant whiny and quite loud “meow…meow…meow…!!!” in my ears, to and from the clinic, three times a week, in TRAFFIC (anyone who has ever driven in Florence will sympathize with me, I’m sure), almost drove me batty. The important thing, though, is that this therapy has worked quite well. She is walking again, in her own way (with her back end low to the ground), but yes, WALKING. Indeed, now that I’ve added arnica to her wet food once a day, she has also been seen RUNNING. Amazing recovery. Amazing cat.

CHAPTER TWO. PINGA. That’s our 9-year-old kitty, the apple of my eye. Stefano’s apple, too. But really, everyone adores Pinga. She’s an adorable little thing. Anyway, point is that months ago, almost suddenly, we noticed that she’d lost some weight. She’s never been an overweight cat…Her top weight was 3.5 kilos (7.7 pounds) in 2015. But before we left for Scotland, her weight had decreased to 3 kilos (about 6.6 pounds). We were worried, but to be honest, the worry over Peekaboo and her cancer had taken over our lives back in July, and we just couldn’t deal with Pinga. However, I vowed that if she weighed less than 3 kilos when we got back to Florence, I’d take her to the clinic for a checkup.

Indeed, she lost a bit more weight in August. She was down to 2.7 kilos (5.9 lbs). I took her to the clinic as soon as I could, with fear in my heart. I’d read online that weight loss could be due to a million horrible things…diabetes, cancer, etc. Scary stuff.

Pinga didn’t collaborate with the vets. She never has. Our sweet, tiny, darling kitty who will wrap her paws around your neck and purr ecstatically into your face, giving you loving head bumps, turns into a ferocious tiger whenever she smells a vet. In her file at the vet clinic, a note defines her as a “dangerous cat” (“gatto pericoloso,” in Italian). No kidding. This time was no different: three vets tried to hold her down and draw a bit of blood from her hind leg. Nope. Didn’t happen. And the screeches…mamma mia! I had to leave the exam room…too unsettling…

She had to be sedated. Under sedation, she had an MRI and a bunch of other tests…The RESULT is that she appears to have nothing more serious than a slight intestinal inflammation. That, we can deal with. Relief…So Pinga is okay, just…TINY.

CHAPTER THREE. MARGARET. Because of what had happened to me in Scotland (the leg pain/aching business that I wrote about in an earlier post), I decided to take action, even though everything is back to normal again…no leg pain, I mean. And so in mid September I joined a before-dinner Pilates class with my neighbor (also one of my best friends). Twice a week. We have an amazing instructor and love the class. So that is a good bit of news. I always felt fabulous after each class.

But…something happened ten days ago…on October 9th…the last class I attended.

Before our Pilates class, there is another class devoted to some sort of gymnastics for small children, aged five, more or less. On that infamous October 9th, once the children had left with their parents, we walked into the room, and it smelled terrible. Yuck. We opened all the windows and aired the room out for ten minutes. Clearly, not enough.

I must have picked IT up there. No other explanation.

IT happens to be bronchial pneumonia. Broncopolmonite, in Italian. A bad case, to boot. IT began on October 10th with some non-pneumonia-like symptoms, such as vomiting and extreme fatigue (I slept all day Wednesday, and then most of Thursday, too). In the beginning I thought it was “just” that well-known, pesky virus that gets me when I’m tired and/or stressed out. Indeed, perhaps it was. I felt much better on Friday, but then not so great on Saturday. The timeline is a bit fuzzy, to be honest. I didn’t write anything down. I should have.

Anyway, what’s certain is that by Sunday afternoon I had a fever of 39.8° Celsius, equivalent to 103.64° Fahrenheit. Wowsie!

Funny thing was, I felt okay even though my forehead was burning…I mean, I wasn’t delirious or anything. Gave Stefano quite a scare, though. Monday morning we called the doctor who wanted me to go over to his office, but we had to get the fever down first. So I didn’t actually see him until Wednesday morning. To get the fever down and cover a few bases, he put me on a high dose of paracetamol and an antibiotic.

The worst was the pain, which began on Monday, as I recall. IT felt as though a medieval knight had stuck his spear into me, just under my left shoulder, and had left it hanging there to torment me. Ouch. I figured I had pleurisy, which I’d already had (on the other side, other lung) many many many years ago. Same kind of persistent, awful, at times almost unbearable pain.

Okay, so on Wednesday morning, after almost 24 hours without fever, we made it to the doctor’s office. He heard some “activity” in that shoulder area and told me to go have an X-ray. Stefano drove me over to a clinic where I had the X-ray, which the doctor had marked as urgent. The X-ray technician told me that my results wouldn’t be ready, however, until the following EVENING. I almost died on the spot. Well, okay, exaggerating a bit there.

I asked her if there was ANYTHING she could do, explained about the myeloma, and that, = mentioning the myeloma!, did the trick. She said that, with my consent, she might be able to show my X-rays to another radiologist in the building. You can imagine my answer. So Stefano and I sat down and waited. After about an hour, I had my result. We drove back to the doctor’s office, which did wonders for my spear pain…ouch. He wrote a prescription for the ANTIBIOTIC BOMB that I’m going to be taking for the next ten days.

I’ve been on the BOMB for more than 48 hours now. The good news is that the spear is gone. Actually, there is only good news! All that is left is an occasional mild dagger-like pain. Yay. Yes, I’m coughing, but it’s not major coughing, oddly enough. I feel so much better, although very tired of course. And I’m slowly getting back into my household routines, such as feeding the cats, preparing and administering Peekaboo’s (non-toxic!) meds…This morning I even did some laundry! I have to be careful, I know that, so I’m also taking lots of naps surrounded by my furry nurses…and watching lots of TV series and documentaries.

Unfortunately, I think my time with Pilates has ended. I can’t risk getting sick like this again. Too bad, but oh well. I know the basics now and can do some exercises at home. I’ll figure out something…

Anyway, the main thing is that I’m going to be fine…in a couple of weeks…or less, even! 🙂 

September is Blood Cancer Awareness Month

When, many many years ago (19, but who’s counting? 😉 ), my doctor uttered those two words, “mieloma multiplo,” I thought he’d said: “melanoma.”
Who’d ever heard of multiple myeloma???
Ahhhh, how things change!!!
And today, thanks to my research, mixed in with quite a bit of determination (stubbornness?), and, oh yes, quite a bit of luck, I’m doing okay: 
No CRAB symptoms.
No conventional treatments.
Just…curcumin (mainly).
And, for sure!, lots of awareness!!!

A Fairy Pools anecdote

The Fairy Pools are a series of waterfalls and crystal-clear green/blue pools located on the Isle of Skye, Scotland. it’s an absolutely beautiful spot…highly recommended…My photos don’t do it justice, but you can check online for MUCH better ones.

We spent an entire morning there, walking slowly up the hill, taking in the views, stopping to admire the waterfalls and pools, aaaah and the colors!…and taking lots of photos, of course!

It usually takes about 45 minutes (each way) to complete the uphill walk without stopping, but how can you NOT stop? It’s simply stunning everywhere you look. The walk is deemed “Medium” for difficulty and includes a few river crossings over stepping stones, one of which would be quite slippery in wet weather…so please be careful!

One of the main things that slowed us down were the other visitors. The Fairy Pools were absolutely packed. Since it was an open area, though, that didn’t pose a problem, not a physical one, I mean. HOWEVER, since we didn’t want crowds of people to end up in all our photos (and the same, I’m sure, was true for them!), we had to wait for people to move out of the way, to let us by in some of the steeper areas, and so on.

It took a bit of time and a lot of patience. I don’t want to sound whiny: it was actually a perfect people-watching occasion…and at one point we even came upon a photographer who was wearing a kilt. Always fun, that!

The best moment, though, was when I looked down into one of the pools, almost directly below my feet, and watched in wonder as a sopping wet young man (a Scotsman), wearing nothing but bathing trunks and sneakers (compare that to Stefano who was wearing four layers of clothing, including a Gore Tex jacket!), climbed up the steep ravine. After reaching the top, he walked right past me and, to my complete surprise, JUMPED, as you can see in the ONLY blurry photo (above) that I managed to take with my cellphone. What a scary (exciting, too, I admit) moment! Jumping off those steep rocks to land with a splash into one of the Fairy Pools isn’t something that I would recommend, for sure…unless you know what you’re doing. This guy did, of course. But…brrrrrrrrrrrrrr, just the memory makes me shiver…

Before I forget (!), though, today’s anecdote has to do with our arrival. As we pulled into the Fairy Pools car park, which was almost full at the time (we got the last spot, right at the top), we noticed a sign telling us we had to pay to park…

While Stefano parked, therefore, I went off looking for an attendant or for a pay-and-display machine. I looked and looked, up and down the car park, but found…nothing except cars full of tourists looking for a spot…

Then I saw a Scottish guide standing by his van, waiting for his group of tourists to return from the pools. I figured he’d know what to do, so I went up to him and asked if he could tell me how/where to pay for our parking spot. He answered that the car park was free since it was a Sunday. 

Perfect!

I thanked him and prepared to go back up to the car to tell Stefano.

As I turned away, something on the ground caught my eye. A coin. A British pound. I pointed it out to the guide and said, “you’ve dropped a coin.” Before I could bend down to retrieve it for him, he said, “No, that coin isn’t mine. It’s yours!” I retorted, “no, it’s not. It must be yours.”

He grinned and, bending over to pick up the coin, said:

“If you find a coin, you’ll be lucky for an entire day. But if you find a coin and give it to a friend, you’ll be lucky for the rest of your life…”

He handed me the coin…

Memories of Scotland

Instead of going on and on about each place we visited in Scotland, I’ve decided to put together a series of anecdotes, cute or funny things that happened during our stay there.

First, though, here is a descriptive list of most of the places we visited, starting from Glasgow and ending in Edinburgh:

  • We spent a day and a half in Glasgow. To be honest, and I hope I don’t offend those who live there, as far as I could tell, there isn’t much to see, from a tourist’s point of view, except for the cathedral, but it’s very good for shopping, and it’s a very lively city. We also photographed a couple of excellent murals (photos 1 and 2). And we were lucky enough to happen upon a band practicing traditional Scottish music in a park for some upcoming event…marching up and down, twirling mallets, and that was lovely. I have a couple of videos of that encounter. Lots of fun. Oh, and I shouldn’t forget to repeat (see my September 4th post) that we had tea in our first ever cat café in Glasgow, the Purple Cat Café. I noticed it as we were driving around trying to reach our hotel. The navigator gave us the wrong directions, so we ended up driving around in circles a couple of times. And at one point during these “circles,” I happened to notice the sign, “Purple Cat Café.” If it hadn’t been for that batty navigator, we would have missed the café. Sometimes things just…happen! For a good reason, I mean! 🙂 
  • The Isle of Islay, which, in addition to some of the most important whisky distilleries in the UK, also has some very pretty villages and scenery (although nothing as dramatic as Skye). We spent three days there. It was here that I got quite high after a tour of one of the distilleries, and Stefano tried to make friends with what he thought was a hen but instead was a rather upset rooster. And we were also able to go have a look at the Kidalton Cross, see photo below, on the right, one of the finest and best preserved early Christian crosses, carved probably in the second half of the 8th century AD. 
  • One of my favorite photos is the above one (on the left) of a phone booth that was in the middle of “nowhere” on the Isle of Islay, but standing tall and proud, a testimony to the fact that these booths were absolutely essential BEFORE the invention of cellphones.
  • As we were walking down a path toward the 12th century, ruined Castle Sween (the day we left Islay…a stop we made on our way to the town of Oban), all of a sudden a doe jumped right in front of us (see September 4th post). We immediately froze, of course, so as not to scare her. We didn’t notice her two fawns until she’d disappeared into the vegetation to the right of us. We recovered enough to get some photos (in my case, blurry photos…I was too excited!) of the fawns, but I wish I’d been faster…
  • We stayed a couple of days in Oban, mainly so we could go on a all-day boat and bus tour of Mull, Staffa and Iona, three small islands with different types of appeal. We also visited a nearby fantastic ruined 15th century castle, Kilchurn Castle  (see photo on left), as well as a few other ruined castles (Dunollie, Dunstaffnage, and Stalker) in the area.
  • Inverlochy/Fort William. We spent a few days here mainly to check out some of the Harry Potter movie locations, such as the famous Glenfinnan Viaduct. I have a Viaduct anecdote that I will tell you in another post. So, no photos till then.
  • Eilean Donan Castle, see photo on left, one of the most famous and photographed castles in the UK. We stopped here on our way to Skye. Too many tourists…but still, it was worth the stop, for sure!
  • We spent five days on the the Isle of Skye. Best part of our tour, IMO. Here we hunted, and FOUND!!!, dinosaur footprints on two separate beaches. So much fun. In the photo on the right, I used my foot to show how big the prints are. This was left probably by a meat-eating theropod 170 million years ago more or less. You can find this footprint, marked by small stones by some kind-hearted person, at the An Corran beach at Staffin. The best time to view dinosaur prints, by the way, is in the winter, when they aren’t covered by algae. Since it wasn’t winter (although it was cold enough, at times!), we didn’t find that many…
  • We did find quite a number of prints belonging to plant-eating, long-necked, small-headed sauropods on another beach, the one located near another ruined castle (Duntulm Castle), see photo on left. The exciting part is that, following the prints, you can actually imagine these enormous creatures walking across the beach millions of years ago. Not easy to get down there (and then back up to the road, too), incidentally. Both the descent and the ascent are quite steep, I mean. I almost gave up, in fact…but I’m happy that I managed to climb down…
  • The best part of Skye, in my opinion, is its breathtaking and ever-changing scenery. So many photo ops! And, even though it wasn’t on my bucket list, I got to feed a Highland cow under the supervision of its owner…more on that in my upcoming “anecdote” post. 
  • Plockton, see panoramic photo on the right (taken with my cellphone), a very pretty little coastal village, up the coast from the Skye Bridge.
  • Drumnadrochit (Loch Ness). To be honest, we could have skipped this area, even though we stayed in the loveliest Airbnb of our entire trip. Anyway, now we can say, “been there, done that,” plus we got to spend an entire day at a Highland Game in Drumnadrochit, which was heaps of fun, sort of like being at a HUGE family reunion (the Scots are so friendly!), with adorable young girls doing traditional dances in kilts (see photo), big strong guys in kilts throwing extremely heavy items up in the air, bagpipe marches and competitions (see photo), and a final kilt race (I tried to get Stefano to participate, but he refused, I wonder why…….)…Yes, lots of fun. Highland Games, highly recommended!
  • Beauly Priory, a 13th century, roofless church.
  • Another 13th century ruin, but a much MUCH bigger and spectacular one: Elgin Cathedral. What can I say? Stefano and I prefer ruins to perfect (but at times a bit fake) restorations.
  • Dunnottar Castle. Again, yes, a ruin…on the northeast coast of Scotland, with ghosts, apparently, although we didn’t see or feel any…and yes, I do sound disappointed. 😉
  • Dundee, where we photographed the Desperate Dan (cartoon) statue, photo on the left.
  • St. Andrews Castle and Cathedral. Ruins, you guessed it! 13th and 12th centuries, respectively.
  • The village of Culross, of the (TV series) “Outlander” fame, also recommended by Rick Steves.
  • Stirling Castle, which we both found very disappointing…The best part were its lovely gardens…definitely could have skipped! The crowds didn’t help at all…
  • Edinburgh, for the final day and a half before returning to Florence…

I couldn’t help ending this long series of photos with one of a “Skye” goat that had just moved off the road so we could pass. He doesn’t look too pleased about it, does he?

That’s it for today! It has taken me a very long time to go through all my photos and get around to pulling together this first post…but I’ve had to deal with Peekaboo’s problems, too, in addition to other stuff, so that’s my “excuse.” Incidentally, Peekaboo is doing very well on cortisone. She’s walking almost normally now…I mean, she isn’t walking in pain (or in “prevention of pain”), that is, in slow motion, with her back end almost to the ground. No, she is walking slowly but surely now. She even jumped onto Stefano’s desk a few days ago!!!

I’m giving her cortisone AND curcumin. In the beginning, I was giving her just the cortisone, afraid that the curcumin might have a negative impact (you never know when you mix two things together…), but I found the opposite to be true. When I give her both (not at the same time, of course!), she walks much better and is clearly in no pain. I’ll be discussing this with the vet later on today…

Two cortisone stories involving Peekaboo and yours truly…

First, the news about Peekaboo. When I met with the vet a few days ago, he repeated that we wouldn’t be able to give her the current anti-inflammatory drug forever. Too bad, since she eagerly takes it in her wet food in the morning, and it seems to have no side effects. Oh well.

He suggested I substitute it with a drug called Contramal, which is basically Tramadol, and with another one that contains quercetin (I checked it out, it’s okay, so she’s on that now).

Tramadol is a different story. That’s the drug that Piccolo was on for some time last summer, and I am CONVINCED (although I have no proof, except for my own observations) that it played a role in the circumstances that led to his death. He had at least two strokes and went blind…and this all happened while he was on that drug. Now, sure, the strokes and blindness could have happened anyway. As I said, I have no proof. But do we want to risk the same thing happening to Peekaboo? No, we don’t. Stefano and I completely agree on that point.

So I needed to come up with a Plan B…another pain medication that would work as well, but without all the side effects.

After some online research, I found a possible solution on an official U.S. vet website: CORTISONE.

I called the vet surgeon, and, after various missed calls on both ends, we finally spoke yesterday. He agreed that it would be okay to put her on prednisone for little more than a week. I gave her the first dose this morning. Too early to tell if it is going to work, but my fingers are crossed…

Now for the second story, which is sort of related to the above. This really happened to me this summer while we were in Scotland.

First, some background. As many of you know, I’m allergic to cats, but I’m so in love with cats (as is Stefano) that we live with seven furry ones. In order to breathe, though, for years  I used a cortisone inhaler and always had emergency Ventolin on hand. Wherever I went…

Still do, actually. You never know.

Then, a few years ago, I read the story of a myeloma patient whose numbers improved, especially (as I recall) his red blood count, after he’d taken methylprednisolone for a cough that wouldn’t go away. I don’t remember the details, and even though I’m positive I wrote a post about this experience, I can’t find it now. Oh well.

The point is that at the time I thought that changing over to oral cortisone was an absolutely splendid idea. I mean, I’d be able to deal with two problems at once: my asthma and possibly some of my myeloma markers. Super!

With the approval of my family doctor, I began taking a low dose of Medrol. To be honest, I don’t think it has had an impact on my markers (I’d probably have to increase the dose to have such an effect), but it has changed my life in other ways. For example, I’m breathing much better and almost never need to use Ventolin, which can be tough on the heart (increases the heart rate)…No more cortisone inhaler, either.

But then we made our reservations for Scotland, and I had another brilliant idea.  Since I wouldn’t be exposed to cats there, I figured it would be a great time to take a breather from cortisone, which one shouldn’t really take long-term. And so I began decreasing my already low dose of Medrol, day by day. You’re not supposed to go off cortisone suddenly, not even if you are on a low dose…

July, however, turned into the month from hell after we found out about Peekaboo’s oral melanoma. I became completely focused on her and on what to do to save her life. I was so distracted by what happened to our cat that I’m now certain I didn’t decrease my daily dose of Medrol in the proper manner.

By the time we left for Scotland, I was off the Medrol entirely. No breathing problems, no side effects of the sort described online (vomiting, etc.), yippee! Yes, yippee. But almost immediately I began having difficulty walking. Pain. Pain located in my legs and feet. At times, it was hard to bear. For some reason, it got worse at night and often kept me awake or even awakened me. The only thing that gave me some momentary relief was aspirin.

In the beginning, Stefano and I ascribed the pain to my leading an essentially sedentary life. Of course my body would react to suddenly walking almost all day for kilometers, right? That made sense, but only in the beginning…not after the first week had gone by. By then, I should have gotten used to all the walking. Stefano also leads a mainly sedentary life, and he had no difficulties in that sense. Besides, nothing like this had EVER happened to me.

I began fearing that it might be the myeloma starting to rear its ugly head. That thought tormented me now and again, despite Stefano’s reassurances.

Well, now that we’re back in Florence, now that I’ve done a bit of online research, I’ve discovered what happened. Luckily, it has nothing to do with myeloma…

It has to do with my having stopped taking my Medrol without paying enough attention. Stupid of me, very stupid, but then again I have a “good” excuse: Peekaboo…

Solution: I’m back on the Medrol. And, quelle surprise!, the pain is gone. Gone gone gone. I’m sleeping just fine, have no problems walking, and so on. Life is good again. Ah, if only I’d figured this out while we were on holiday…No matter, I really enjoyed our tour of Scotland, pain or no pain!

Cortisone is a great drug when you need it, but it doesn’t come without (potential) consequences, especially if you decide to stop taking it for whatever reason. If you do want to stop, please take my advice: make sure that you don’t have any life distractions that might interfere with properly decreasing those daily doses…

I have certainly learned my lesson, that’s for sure!!! 🙄