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…

Possible case of feline oral (malignant) melanoma

Because our 11-year-old cat, Peekaboo, has been very aggressive toward the new kittens…stalking them, pushing them into corners and then hitting them until, screeching like hyenas, thus giving us heart attacks, they manage to escape (mind you, she doesn’t hurt them, no blood is shed, e.g., but she really scares them, and that isn’t nice at all!), I finally took her to the vet clinic yesterday morning for a checkup.

When, back in May, I took Pandora and Pixie to the clinic to be spayed, I spoke about this aggressive behavior with the vets who agreed with me that Peekaboo might have some sort of painful physical condition. Pain can make a cat aggressive. Well, come to think of it, pain can make ANYTHING aggressive!!! Made sense to us, since she has never been like this before…

Soon afterwards, though, I came down with bronchitis, so the appointment got postponed. Until yesterday, when my schedule finally coincided with the good vet’s schedule.

As soon as the vet began the checkup, however, Peekaboo started growling ferociously and acting like a wild animal. I’ve never seen her like that…and she has certainly NEVER behaved like that at the vet’s. She’s usually super friendly with human beings, even vets. Not this time. It was so bad that we decided it would be best to have her sedated to have all her tests done. This turned out to be a good thing, as we will see.

To make a very long story short, her blood and urine tests were fine, her abdominal ultrasound was also fine, and her spinal column is in good shape. All very good news.

BUT, and unfortunately there may be a big BUT (!), the vet found a small black spot on her gum (lower, left side) that worried her so much that she used a fine needle to suck up some cells, which she then examined. If Peekaboo hadn’t been sedated, the vet wouldn’t have seen the spot.

Apparently, there were some malignant cells in the sample. The vet thinks it might be oral (malignant) melanoma, which is quite rare in cats, but this diagnosis needs to be confirmed by the oncologist and by a biopsy, which Peekaboo is having done today (I had to leave her at the clinic last night), together with a CAT (hah!) scan. We won’t know the results of the biopsy until next week…

Stefano and I are incredibly worried, of course. If this turns out to be oral melanoma, the prognosis really sucks…

For now, all we can do is wait and hope…

P.S. Does anyone have any experience with feline oral melanoma (just in case that’s what this “thing” turns out to be)? Thanks!

P.P.S.S. Incidentally, the first three photos show Peekaboo as a kitten in 2007; the first two were taken in July, just before and just after we adopted her; the third, in November 2007. The fourth, not-very-great photo, taken with my cellphone, is more recent: June 25 2018. Our beautiful girl!!!

For the first time, the FDA approves a CBD-containing drug

As I have written in previous posts, CBD, or cannabidiol, an active ingredient of marijuana, kills myeloma cells, so the news I came across early this morning is of huge interest to me.

In a nutshell, for the first time ever, the FDA has approved a CBD-containing oral solution (= a strawberry-flavored syrup) for the treatment of rare but severe forms of epilepsy in children.

Note: this syrup does not contain THC, the ingredient in marijuana that makes people “high.”

It may not come without side effects, such as sleepiness and increased liver enzymes (like most anti-seizure drugs, it appears), as you can read in the FDA press release:

Compared to seizures, however, the potential side effects seem tolerable. Here’s a Time magazine story about a 10-year-old girl with Dravet syndrome who participated in the CBD clinical trial in 2016, for example:

Anyway, I think this is very exciting…and promising…!!!

A new commission looks into the adverse effects of blood cancer treatments

This morning I read an IMPORTANT Science Daily article on how the adverse effects, tolerability, and toxicities of conventional treatments for blood cancers (including myeloma, of course) have not been reported/disclosed as well as they should have been, to put it mildly. See:

Well, this may change soon enough: a new commission set up by The Lancet Haematology has been looking into these adverse effects and toxicities, considering in particular the long-term, chronic effects that don’t go away even after the completion of treatment, such as neuropathy, which can be crippling.

Quality of life has always been a big concern of mine, and I always look for adverse effects and toxicities whenever I read studies about patients and conventional treatments. Very rarely, however, are adverse effects mentioned…The first study that comes to mind is the Spanish SMM patient-chemo study, where there was no information on how the early treatment of SMM patients affected their daily lives. And yet their lives must have been affected, at least in some ways…

Excerpt from the SD article: “In particular, the toxicity over time and tolerability to the patient of new chronic or continuously administered therapies are not well defined, and are poorly captured by existing reporting mechanisms.

Well, the important thing is that FINALLY (about time!!!) there is a commission looking into this lesser-disclosed (to say the least) part of conventional treatments. This is very good news.

We, the patients, need to be INFORMED about any and all potential problems, both short-term and long-term…

Or, at least, that is MY opinion! As usual!!! 🙂

Food items we should avoid “like the plague”…

I just read a very interesting interview with/article about a food poisoning lawyer (imagine that…!!!) who shares his knowledge about food, potentially contaminated food. And some of it isn’t so obvious.

That is why I’m posting the link to the article, as a warning/reminder to those of us who have weakened immune systems:

I never buy prepackaged (washed? Hah!) salad, e.g., or anything that has been cut and washed by others. I never go near salad bars, no matter how clean the restaurant looks. Bacteria bacteria bacteria! Better be safe than sorry…

After my SMM diagnosis, I began growing my own sprouts, which contain lots of vitamins and minerals (even protein and so on). Until…one day I read about the risk of Salmonella and E.coli contamination, and that completely killed my sprout-growing enthusiasm. I gave my sprouter away. Just a few days ago, in fact, there was an outbreak of Salmonella in Southern Australia caused by alfalfa sprouts. Yes, okay, these were store-bought, but still…I’m not taking the risk. No sprouts in my sandwich, thank you very much!!!

Anyway, the above interview/article may surprise you. Or not!

Do you have any additions/suggestions? Thanks! Have a great Sunday! Ciao! 🙂

Researchers test curcumin in new bone-building study

After enhancing the bioavailability of curcumin using polymers, a group of Washington State University researchers proved that curcumin can increase bone growth by between 30% and 45%  in a matter of weeks: “The presence of curcumin in TCP results in enhanced bone formation after 6 weeks.” (Quoted from the abstract.)

The researchers are currently testing other natural extracts as well, namely “aloe vera, saffron, Vitamin D, garlic, oregano and ginger [… ] that might help with bone disorders, including those that encourage bone growth or that have anti-inflammatory, infection control, or anti-cancer properties.” (Quoted from Science Daily, see link below.)

The bone-forming qualities of curcumin are nothing new to us (I’ve written a number of posts on this topic), but it’s always good to learn that researchers are looking for, and apparently FINDING, new ways to make curcumin more bioavailable, especially if it has to do with our precious bones!

Note: this study was carried out on 3D-printed, ceramic bone scaffolds, not on human beings. So there is still a long way to go. Still, it is encouraging to have one more study prove the importance of curcumin for bone health and growth…

Curcumin forever!

Here’s the very interesting write-up in Science Daily (easy to read, to boot): There is a link to the study’s abstract there, for those who want to know more.

Happy reading! 🙂

“It’s just a cat…”

Last summer, when we were forced to put down our two eldest cats, Puzzola and Piccolo (Puzzola, in June; Piccolo, in September), Stefano and I were absolutely devastated…overwhelmed with grief. Losing a pet is like losing a piece of yourself. A piece that is gone forever.

Piccolo (left) and Puzzola in 2005

Plus, in addition to all this emotional (at times, physical) pain, we also had to deal with the “it’s just a cat/dog/etc.” attitude of pet-less friends/people who just don’t get it. Last summer I remember hiding my despair from some of my closest friends, the pet-less ones, which wasn’t easy AT ALL…

In time, it’s gotten easier. Life goes on…but I still think of my lost cats every day, and I cry for them now and again (like RIGHT NOW, as I write this post). I know it’s the same for Stefano…Nothing can replace Puzzola and Piccolo in our hearts and daily life, not even our two mischievous/funny/adorable sisters, Pixie and Pandora, who really keep us entertained and give us so much love (as do our other adult cats, too, of course!)…

Oh, but WHY am I going back in time today and talking about my lost cats? It’s because this morning I read an excellent, spot-on Scientific American article, titled “Why we need to take pet loss seriously”:


Spot on.

If you have ever lost a pet, you must read this article, which offers a few helpful suggestions…

Quick post

Wow, it’s been a long time since I last published a post. Everything is fine, more or less…This has just been a super busy period…

In a nutshell: our two mischievous kittens (see the awful cellphone photo on the right) were spayed a couple of weeks ago after the scare with Pandora’s heart turned out to be just that. I mean, it was just a scare, luckily!!! They are doing just fine and are as mischievous as ever.

Then Stefano and I spent four days at a cousin’s wedding in Avellino, a town near Naples, then there were a million things to do once we got back to Florence, teaching English blablabla…then Stefano came down with a cold, which developed into bronchitis, which he passed on to me this past weekend. And so I’ve been coughing up a storm since Sunday (oh how I hate THE cough!!!)…But I’ll be fine, no worries…I feel much better today. I’ve been taking antibiotics, probiotics, the usual curcumin, Reishi extract, and the most important thing: an expectorant cough syrup (yeah, gross, I know…but essential in these cases). Bronchitis in June…makes no sense. There you go.

And then…also…eh…last week a friend’s husband, who’d had myeloma for 12 years, died…He was just a few years older than I am…I’ve been in touch with his wife for years…for years…so sad.

Crappy, crappy myeloma, grrrrr!!!  👿

Anyway, lots going on, as you can see. But now I have to get off the computer, so I hope everyone is fine and dandy. Ciao for now!