Petunia and Puffin

Everything is going well. Very well. Two days ago I had my first orthopaedic checkup at the clinic and was told that I am their best patient, top of the class (hmmm, perhaps that’s what they say to every patient…nonetheless, I was pleased!).

I’m down to one crutch now, which has made a huuuuuge difference to me, since I can manage the stairs on my own and take showers now! Yay! So…all is well on the hip replacement front. So nice to be without pain…so nice!

In about three weeks, these two Maine Coon kittens will be joining our family. As I mentioned in a previous post, they have the same parents as our Potter, so we know that they will fit in this complicated feline family as well as he has. Or, at least, that’s what we hope! 🙂

Here is a recent photo of the two, taken by our friend (no idea how she got them to sit still and pose for the photo…hehe). On the left is Petunia, on the right is Puffin. Respectively, female and male. Aren’t they just the cutest little fur balls?

Well, that’s about it for now. I would like to end by wishing Very Happy Holidays to everyone!!!

After hip surgery

I had my left hip replaced last Tuesday, November 30, and am happy to report that the surgery went amazingly well. I’m going to be using the word “amazing” a lot in this post…I mean, just think that my wound was closed with some sort of super glue. Glue! No stitches, not even one. Isn’t that…amazing? 🙂 Well, it’s amazing to me, anyway.

On Friday, that is, just three days after surgery, I came home…walking! Sure, I was walking with two crutches, but using them as you use walking sticks when you’re on a hike. Ama…zing!

Okay, it wasn’t all a picnic in the park. I mean, something had to go wrong, right? And so, in spite of being oh so incredibly cautious!, I came down with a cold about four days before surgery, and, as if that weren’t enough, I developed a mild but productive (yuck) cough over the weekend. Darn! How did that happen? Well, Stefano had come home from work one day, all stuffed up, but we thought it was his usual allergies acting up so we didn’t take the precaution of sleeping in separate bedrooms. Bad decision: I caught what he had, although his was a much milder case. Different immune systems, duh.

So there I was, the weekend before surgery!!!, with a blasted cough. I couldn’t believe it. Drat! On Monday morning, figuring that we might have to postpone surgery, noooooo!, I called the clinic and was told to  to show up early in order to be checked out by a doctor. Luckily, that went well: my lungs were clear. I did have to have another Covid swab, which turned out negative like the swab I’d had two days earlier.

Result: I was given the okay for surgery, yay!, and so, a few hours later, I checked into the clinic. The following morning, I was the first patient in the operating room. Excellent.

I was awake for the entire procedure. I could have chosen to be sedated, but I decided against that, in part because I was afraid of coughing during surgery…For the record: that didn’t happen.

Thanks to the epidural, I didn’t feel a thing from my waist down, but boy oh boy, nothing, not even the Playlist I’d carefully put together the previous week (which included some AC/DC, not just classical music), could shut out the noise. I heard it all, loud and clear…all the hammering… Whack whack whack thump thump thump! But my interest in what was going on kept me from getting anxious. As I mentioned, this was my first surgery ever, and I was curious about it all.

Funny thing:  before and after surgery, and actually for the first 48 hours more or less, all the doctors and nurses checking my vitals kept asking me the same questions : my name, surname, place of birth, birthdate…innocent little questions like that. It happened a lot, especially before and after surgery. I was a bit puzzled at first, since they clearly had all my personal data in front of them, but I soon figured out that they must be making sure that I hadn’t had a stroke or whatnot.

Speaking of which, I have an anecdote. After surgery, I was wheeled out of the operating room into a sort of recovery room where a nurse monitored me for quite some time, at least a half hour, perhaps longer, who knows?, I’d lost track of time by then. We had a very nice chat…once I’d told him my name and surname, birthplace and birth date, of course, hehe.

Well, it was in that room that I looked down and saw my operated leg for the first time since surgery. HOLY CATS! What the…???? For a nanosecond I almost had a “stroke”: my entire left leg (foot included) was bright red! And by bright, I mean BRIGHT! RED! I thought it was blood, and that was soooo freaky!, but then my brain told me that that made no sense…I asked the nurse what had happened down there, and he explained that it was just the color of the disinfectant they’d painted all over my leg in the operating room.

Disinfectant??? Gee wiz, you guys…why didn’t you let me know that I’d be coming out of surgery with a BRIGHT RED LEG??? Hellooooo??? What’s the bloody point of asking me my name and taking my vitals if you’re planning to give me a heart attack by painting my leg bright red and not telling me? (I’m joking, of course…hehe!!!). I was much relieved and even amused at myself, at my first reaction of semi-horror. Anyway, until I’m able to take a shower–about 10 days from now–my leg will continue to be reddish, although a couple of my nurses tried to wipe  off the color. Didn’t really work. My leg is all spotty red now. Lovely. Anyway, a funny-in-retrospect moment at the clinic…one I will never forget!

Just a few hours after surgery, in the early afternoon, a physiotherapist came to teach me how to get out of bed. I even went to the bathroom by myself, well, on crutches of course, under his supervision (in respect of my privacy, he shut the door once I was safely inside). I also took a few steps outside my hospital door. All that, just hours after having surgery. Amazing!!!

By the following afternoon I was instructed to put my full weight on my operated leg. Wow! I am still amazed…amazed amazed amazed. Sorry, I’m over-using that word…but for me the entire experience has been really…well, you know. 😉

At the clinic, I was taught lots of things–from how to walk up and down a flight of stairs to how to get dressed by myself (putting on socks still isn’t easy, I tell ya…)–which I’ll have to put into practice and be careful about for the next couple of months, albeit less and less, of course, as my leg gets stronger. Also, no bending over and picking up anything that falls on the floor (fortunately, I found a pick-up-stuff gadget…fantastic!), no crossing my legs…the list goes on.

But, and this is a big BUT, the pain I had before surgery is gone. Sure, I had a bit of pain after the surgery, no point in denying that (pain for which I was given some lovely painkillers), but right now I have NO PAIN. What a wonderful change from my pre-operative state, when I was limping all over the place, grimacing with pain.

And now I’m now happily at home with Stefano (who took a week off from work to be with me) and the kitties…and lots of documentaries and TV series and movies to watch while I do my strengthening exercises. I’m doing very well. The physiotherapist who came to check on me yesterday was amazed at how well I’m walking. I will be using two crutches until my first checkup, week after next, after which I should be going down to one crutch for another 20 days. So by the middle of January I should be ready to fly on my own, which is good since the new kittens will be here, and I do not want to be on crutches with those two little fur balls running around the house! 🙂

Life is good. Take care, everyone!

New hip, new kittens, new citizenship…

How did October fly past so quickly? ?  I really should make a point of posting something once a week when I’m super busy with life happenings. But sometimes it isn’t that simple. In my defence, at least this time, a lot has been going on, as you will see…

I went through a lot of waiting in October–waiting for all my tests to be set up, waiting in waiting rooms to have my tests done, and then waiting for test results. Waiting waiting waiting. I still have some waiting to do, but most of it is over. I have all my test results, I mean.

The most important result is that my PET and CAT scans were both negative, meaning that I don’t have any bone lesions (NO BONE LESIONS, yaaaay!!!) and there are no signs of cancerous activity in my body. Nothing. Nada. Big relief, for sure.

This means, among other things, that I’ve been cleared for my hip replacement surgery, which is scheduled for the end of this month. After spending three nights in the hospital, if all goes well, fingers crossed, I will be sent home and should make a full recovery in about a month and a half. My hip has really started acting up lately, ouch, so I’m ready…

And here’s another, HUGE bit of news: about a year and a half ago, after spending many months collecting all the necessary documents, having them translated, authenticated, etc., I requested Italian citizenship. Well, just recently, toward the end of October to be precise, I received my citizenship letter, and about a week later Stefano and I went to the municipality of Florence where I took my citizenship oath. So now I have dual citizenship, U.S. and Italian. I’m ecstatic…completely ecstatic. I’ve wanted Italian citizenship for so long, so this is a dream come true…

And…more good news. After vowing that (Harry) Potter was going to be our last cat, that we are getting too old to adopt any more cats, blablabla, we recently fell completely in love with two Maine Coon kittens–siblings–who are now a month old. Potter and the two kittens, a male and a female, have the same parents. They will be joining our family in mid January, at the age of three months. We are soooo happy about the kitties…they are so adorable…

So, Italian citizenship, kittens, no cancerous activity, and a titanium hip…What else could I want?

I actually have a bit more news, but it’ll have to wait for another post…I have to go now.

Take care, everyone! Ciao! 🙂 

New study: ursolic acid and myeloma cells

It’s been a long time since I’ve written a myeloma research post, but a recently published Korean abstract made my fingers itch to hit the keyboard. Here goes…

Remember ursolic acid? Well, perhaps not, since the last time I wrote about it was, oh, as long ago as 2007, the year I began blogging, in fact. What is ursolic acid? It’s a pentacyclic triterpenoid (yeah, I know, I know…) that can be found in a lot of foods, such as rosemary, apples, cranberries, pears, oregano, holy basil, thyme and prunes.

Back to the Korean abstract (the full study, from what I can gather, hasn’t been published yet), which I read about a half hour ago: it reports that the ursolic acid found in the root bark of Morus Alba, more commonly known as white mulberry, doesn’t just inhibit “the proliferation of RPMI-8226 multiple myeloma (MM) cells,” but it kills them, too. Oh yeah!

You can read the abstract here: https://www.jmb.or.kr/journal/view.html?doi=10.4014/jmb.2109.09002

Conclusion: “These findings suggest that MRBE and its active ingredient, ursolic acid, […] may have significant chemopreventive potential against MM.” Very exciting, don’t you think? Of course, we must remember that this is a study that used MM cells in a lab setting (not human patients, I mean), so, as always, we mustn’t get overly excited. But still, a wee bit of excitement can’t hurt, right? 🙂 

I have already ordered some white mulberry tea, while I do some more research to find a reliable source for ursolic acid (I hope to find the Morus Alba extract…but so far, I’ve found mainly rosemary extracts…). No idea if the tea will do any good, but at least it can’t hurt!

Fingers crossed…

BMB

I had my bone marrow biopsy yesterday (BMB in English, BOM in Italian). The easiest I’ve ever had. It wasn’t completely pain-free, which would have been, methinks, impossible (after all, the needle has to penetrate your pelvic bone!), and in fact a couple of times I felt what I can describe as painful shockwaves running down my right leg, but no, nothing unbearable. And the BMB was also over quickly, compared to my three others.

After it was done, the nurse bandaged and iced me up and then asked me to turn over and lie on my back to apply pressure on the area. That was nice. My previous BMB doctors had simply said, “okay, you can get up now.” There was no lying about, no ice, no asking me how I felt, etc. 🙁 

This goes to show that you can’t compare BMBs with other patients. Each experience is unique and depends mostly on who is performing the procedure. My previous BMB doctors had an aggressive approach, jamming the needle into the bone and making the procedure very painful for me and probably for all their patients, not just right there on the spot but afterwards as well. One of my worst BMBs had me limping for about a week. I remember it well.

But yesterday, as I said, I only had an insignificant amount of pain. The haematologist was as gentle as he could be. And today I am happy to report that I am fine. I don’t even have a bruise. Amazing. Now we just have to wait for the results, which will arrive late next month.

I’m quite pleased. This light-handed haematologist (who, by the way, was recommended to me by a member of my surgeon’s team) is now my new haematologist. The first thing that I liked about him was that he didn’t roll his eyes when, during our first meeting, I told him that I’ve been taking curcumin since 2006. On the contrary, he told me that some of his patients take curcumin (hmmm, blog readers, perchance?).

Yes, I’m pleased…

The fun is over…

Sirmione, Lago di Garda

Stefano and I had a lovely relaxing holiday in August. The first leg of our trip consisted of three days in the medieval town of Sirmione on the shores of one of Italy’s largest and prettiest lakes, the Lago di Garda.

To be honest, though, I couldn’t wait to leave. It wasn’t the heat that got to me (after Florence, practically anything would have felt cool…), but rather the throngs of unmasked tourists surrounding us as we walked along the town’s narrow streets. I found that quite unsettling. True, you don’t have to wear a mask now when you’re out in the open, but those streets were too narrow to be defined as “open,” in my opinion. Stefano and I wore our masks, of course (in addition to being fully vaccinated against Covid-19 and having our Green Passes).

We do plan to go back to the Lago di Garda someday, but never again in summer…too hot, too crowded…

Lago di Braies

By the third day of our holiday, we were more than ready for a change, namely for some cool air, which we  found at the Lago di Braies, known as the Jewel of the Dolomites. And a Jewel it really is! Lago di Braies is the most beautiful lake I’ve ever seen in my life. Its colours, ever-changing, were absolutely glorious. We spent a week in the (only) hotel facing the lake. Our top floor room had a balcony with panoramic views of the lake and the surrounding mountains (see above photo). Stunning. I would have been happy to have spent the entire week on that balcony, reading and enjoying the views.

But we didn’t, of course! We went on rather long and sometimes challenging walks. I admit that in the beginning I was a bit concerned about my hip…But I have to say that even though we walked between 5 and 7 kilometres every day, I didn’t have much pain, if any. Really weird. The lack of pain may not sound like much, but when I get to my medical stuff later on, you will realise that it really is (was) a big deal.

Check out the stairway (photo above, on the right) I climbed to get to the other side of the lake one morning. That whole path was up and down and up and down. Even regular hikers, in good shape, had to stop now and again to catch their breath…

But I’m so glad I did it: the views of the lakes and mountains were magnificent…

Tre Cime di Lavaredo

After a week at the Lake of Braies, we stayed a few nights at the nearby Lago di Misurina, another lake in the Dolomite range, mainly because of its strategical location near the Tre Cime di Lavaredo, the three most famous peaks in the Dolomites, and to Monte Piana, a very interesting World War I open-air museum located on a plateau at more than 2,300 metres above sea level, with amazing 360° views of the surrounding mountains. You can still see the trenches where the Italian and Austro-Hungarian soldiers fought for two years…Unbelievable…Anyway, highly recommended, if you are in the area. Again, my hip and I did quite a bit of climbing and hiking there, too.

Mantova, Ducal Palace

On our way back to Florence, we stopped for three days in the city of Mantova (Mantua). I have nothing but high marks for Mantova. But, for reasons I cannot explain, it got harder and harder for me to walk for more than a few kilometres a day, if that…Odd!

Our holiday ended on August 28, when we finally got back to Florence and to our kitties who had been totally spoiled by our cat sitter. 🙂

In early September, I went through a battery of pre-surgery tests and met with various doctors.

My first meeting was with my orthopaedic surgeon and his assistant. When I told them about all the walking I’d done, especially around Lake Braies, they were visibly surprised. Speechless, in fact. It was there and then that I found out that my arthrosis is worse than I (we) had initially thought: I’m in stage 4 (the most advanced stage of arthrosis), not between stages 2 and 3, as it had seemed from my first X-ray. Yikes!

Looking back on our August holiday now, I have to admit that I feel a bit like Wonder Woman…hiking and walking for kilometres and kilometres with arthrosis in stage 4, I mean…Not bad, eh?

Getting back to my surgery story, I aced all the preliminary tests (electrocardiogram, etc.), but…yes, there is a but. My haematologist and I agreed that, before having this surgery, I should have some myeloma-related tests done, too. It makes sense.

My first test will be next week: my fourth BMB (bone marrow biopsy). Ouch! I am also going to have a PET scan and a CAT scan. In a nutshell, we want to make sure that I don’t have any bone lesions. If that is the case, no bone lesions, I mean, as I hope and imagine!, I will go ahead with the hip surgery as soon as possible.

If not…well, we’ll cross that bridge when (IF!) we come to it…

Let’s see, I guess that’s about it for now…

Take care, everyone! Ciao!!!

Holiday!!!

Just a quick post to say that Stefano and I are finally on holiday and leaving for our 18-day trip to northern Italy in  just a couple of hours. I won’t be posting anything in this period. A holiday is a holiday…

Even though we are both vaccinated against Covid-19 (he undoubtedly is more protected than I am, because of my impaired immune system, but, still, I should be somewhat protected…), we will take precautions, huge precautions: stay away from crowds, double-mask if we go inside anywhere, wash/disinfect our hands as often as possible…in short, better be safe than sorry. That Delta variant is nasty business!

But…we both need a break. So, in spite of Covid and of people who disregard common sense, off we go, armed with masks. 🙂

Take care, everyone! I hope you have a lovely August. Stay safe!

Hip surgery

Well, yes, I’m having hip surgery in late September. The test results from my recent MRI and X-ray showed that the coxarthrosis is getting worse…fast. But we have holiday plans for two weeks in August, and nothing is getting in the way of those. So…September.

Today I made appointments for heaps (or hips, hehe) of pre-surgery tests and exams. I will be meeting with the surgeon and his team in early September…I suppose, since I’ve never had surgery before, that I should view this as an interesting experience, one that I could certainly have done without…but…oh well…

This is what I know thus far: I will be up and walking the day of the surgery (no kidding). My surgeon does what is called Fast-Track surgery, which lessens the patient’s recovery time as well as a bunch of surgery-related risks. I will also be awake during the procedure (note to myself: get some good headphones!), which is a great relief to me, again because of faster recovery issues.

If all goes well, I should be home within a few days. Because of Covid restrictions, Stefano won’t be able to visit me, even though we are both fully vaccinated, so the sooner I am able to go home, the better. We don’t like to be apart! Anyway, in early September I will know more about what I’m facing, and you can be sure that by then I will have prepared a long list of questions for the surgical team. 🙂

The only thing that worries me is the risk of post-op infections due to my impaired immune system. And because curcumin is a blood thinner, I’m going to have to stop my intake before surgery…so curcumin, which kills viruses and bacteria, won’t help with preventing any possible infections. That’s a bummer.

Anyway, I’m sure I’ll be fine.

Oh wait…Another thing that worries me is that I might end up looking like the horse in this Far Side cartoon (sorry, couldn’t help myself…love the Far Side…hehe)…

For now, though, I’m concentrating on our upcoming holiday.

Take care, everyone!

TAB’s July 2021 update

TAB wrote his update as a comment to the post I wrote about him back in 2012, but I decided that this update should be turned into a post, as follows…

TAB’s Update 7/9/2021
Smoldering 20 years, progression 2 years, Velcade for 4 months = complete remission.
My journey with IgA Lambda Multiple Myeloma has been a long one. At age 80 I am finally in complete remission. During the first 20 years I took only over the counter supplements which in my opinion kept the beast at bay. I plotted the results of my blood tests using Excel and relied on the trend lines to keep track of how I was doing. After a few years of supplements my M-spike leveled off and then started decreasing. This was not a cure by any means but it seemed to keep the beast at bay for 20 years with no CRAB symptoms. Then something caused the M-spike to progress from about 3000 mg/dl to almost 6000. A bone marrow biopsy showed 60%. Some results were approaching CRAB levels. At this point is was a no brainer, I had to consider treatment for overt MM. I discussed my options with by Oncologist and we decided on VRD (Velcade, Revlimid and Dexamethasone). Due to the high cost of Revlimid we (mostly me) decided to do the Velcade SQ and Dex (20 mg) only. After 15 Velcade subcutaneous injections in the tummy and 20 mg of DEX once per week over a 4 month period my blood work showed a remarkable return to normal levels. The only side effects were mild peripheral neuropathy (tingling sensation) in my toes. My latest blood work (7/9/2021) 5 months post Velcade treatments included : CBC, Platelet Count, Serum Electrophoresis, Beta-2 Microglobulin, Immunoglobulins (IgA, IgG and IgM), Complete Metabolic Profile, Kappa /Lambda serum Light Chains and Serum Immunofixation. A copy is included in my report. Of all of these tests only one test was flagged low and that was IgM. I have never had a blood test this good in my entire life! The most important result was the Immunofixation test showing “no monoclonals present”. This is according to my doctor a very sensitive test. My doctors conclusion, and I quote, “You are in complete remission and I tell my myeloma patients about your results”! I am back on my supplements which I am hoping will keep me in remission as long as possible. Of course there are no guarantees. My next blood work is in 4 months. I have documented all of my blood work and my supplement regimen in my latest report. If anyone would like a copy of my report they can E-mail me at tabbat41@hotmail.com. Best of luck to all fellow MM’s. TAB