Purring against myeloma

As many of you already know, I adore cats, the most wonderful creatures in the world. I have four cats now, two years apart in age…even though years ago I found out that I am allergic to them (just my luck!!!), which forces me to use a cortisone inhaler once a day. I don’t mind, though, it’s a small price to pay for all the joy they bring to me and Stefano (who is also probably allergic to our darlings, by the way). Our friends think we’re nuts. That may well be true, but at least we are happy nuts.


Well, after what I read this morning, I am beginning to suspect that they might be giving us more than (allergies and) joy…but let me proceed by degrees.


Priscilla, my second youngest, now 3+ years old, is our “wild” cat. I posted her story on my blog a while ago, but, in a nutshell, I found her abandoned as a tiny kitten on our street and saved her from certain death. Even though we have tamed her to some extent, she still hisses and spits and even growls (sometimes) if you try to pick her up. But she also has a very sweet affectionate side, as my parents well know (she worships them). For instance, whenever we lie down, she nestles next to us or on top of us and purrs and purrs and purrs. She loves to get under blankets (see photo). When I am sitting at my desk, she frequently gets into my lap or tries to perch on my shoulder (well, when she was a baby, she fit right on my shoulder, but now she hooks her claws into me to hold on, ouch!). Or she gets under my sweater. That is her favourite place.


Well, I am no longer going to try to discourage her sweater retreat, even though most of my turtlenecks are full of tiny claw-made holes.


The reason. A blog reader (thanks, Sue!) recently left a blog comment with a link to a page about the healing effect of a cat’s purring: http://tinyurl.com/5j95ne An extraordinary read, I must say. So I decided to have a closer look at this purring business today, even though I really should be working on my more serious piece.


We all know that pets in general (not just cats) have a soothing effect on their “owners,” in terms of reducing blood pressure etc. Indeed, some time ago I think I posted about a study in which folks who do not have cats in their lives had a much higher risk, 30-40% as I recall, of dying from heart attacks or strokes compared to cat “owners.”


At any rate, this morning I did a bit of research on PubMed and came across a few scientific studies that discussed the purring/healing phenomenon. But these studies had no abstracts and were a bit dated, so I won’t even bother asking Sherlock to retrieve them for me. However, I would like to highlight the title of a 2003 Swedish study: Purr as a cat—and avoid osteoporosis. Too bad I don’t know a word of Swedish. Still, an intriguing title, no? 


I did find an article in English addressing the issue of bone healing: http://tinyurl.com/5zly2u The author writes that Consistent vibrational sound frequencies of 25-150 Hz, which is the range of a cat’s purr, aid in the healing of bones, tendons, ligaments and muscles, as well as providing pain relief. Cat lovers, please go have a peek at this article.


Another interesting titbit is that cats purr when frightened or injured or giving birth. Ah, in fact, I have noticed that all of my cats (except for Peekaboo, who is fearless), Priscilla in particular, howl but also purr when I take them to the vet. The purring never made sense until now. So, as the author points out, in addition to expressing contentment, purring must be some sort of survival strategy.


And read this: Cats’ bones heal faster and more easily after fractures than those of dogs. Veterinary medicine researchers note that 90% of cats that plummet from extraordinary heights survive despite serious injuries. There is also evidence that cats are less likely to suffer postoperative complications after surgery than dogs. This rapid healing ability may be attributable to purring. Of course, the conditional tense is used here.


Then we read that Dr. Clinton Rubin [for info on Dr. Rubin, check out: http://tinyurl.com/6yqxph, love that turkey photo, hehe] and his colleagues have discovered that sound frequencies of 20-50 Hz can increase bone density. From what I gather (but I could not find the original study), these researchers performed two tests, one on chickens, the other on rabbits. Both chickens and rabbits had stronger bones after exposure to 20-50 Hz, which also stimulated the healing of broken bones as well as the speed of bone regeneration. Healing of broken bones? Increased speed of bone generation? How much is two plus two?


And here is the clincher:


Cats are also less likely to suffer from osteosarcoma, osteoarthritis and myeloma (a tumor of the bone marrow’s plasma cells). Oh boy!


The rest of the article (the effect of purring on pain relief, tendons and muscles, etc.) is interesting, too. This morning I read online that people suffering from migraines get some relief when purring cats are placed next to their heads. Well, well. And hey, it occurs to me that my cats lie next to me or on me whenever I am ill. When I had pleurisy (and almost kicked the bucket), they were with me all the time. Now I know why. And hey, even if this purring business is an old wives’ tale, isn’t it a good one? I, for one, like to believe it’s true.


Well, heck, now I guess I am going to have to learn how to purr, perhaps while sipping a dark hoppy beer. For the moment, though, I will continue to cuddle my little tiger under my sweater as often as she wants.


  1. Hi Margaret: I like cats too. We have three of them. I also speak fluent Swedish, although I’m a New Zealander (it’s a long story). If you give me the url of the Swedish paper on purring and osteoporosis, I’ll translate at least the abstract for you. Regards, Alex.

  2. Hi Margaret,
    Just thought I’d share some info that may be of importance to you and some of your readers. In August I finally persuaded my family doctor to write a prescription for Low Dose Naltrexone for me. I took it for over two months until my next test results were due. I was disappointed to learn that my numbers worsened instead of improved. My IgGs are always low since my Lambda light chains are suppressing them as opposed to many others whose IgGs are high…not sure why mine are different. Another strange thing, almost always my test reports read, “no monoclonal protein detected”. They’ve got to be there, my IgGs are ridiculously low! Anyway, for those with high IgGs if may be a good thing, but for me, it wasn’t. My onc wants me to have more test results on Monday. Keep your fingers crossed! : ) Thanks, Donna

  3. Hi Donna,

    If you have nonsecretory or oligosecretory myeloma, few or no antibodies are secreted by the plasma cells. Some MM folks can become nonsecretory after years of seeing an m-spike in the blood or urine. Do you have the serum free light chain assay done to track your MM? It sounds like it, since you know you have light chain disease.


  4. Thanks for your response Beth. I asked my onc about the nonsecretory MM and he said I don’t have that. I’ve never heard of the other one but I will ask! Yes, I have the serum light chain test done every time. My Kappa results were 13.1 mg/L and Lambda increased to 976 mg/L this time with the the K/L ratio at 0.02. My results changed enough this time for my onc to want me to come back in a month instead of two months. You folks are so knowledgeable on all of this! How bad off am I? I have Bence Jones disease and the protein almost tripled this month. Not so good, huh! Believe it or not, all my other numbers are normal! I feel great for a person that’s on the verge of collapse! : ) Just kidding…I hope! I appreciate any and all feedback! Thanks, Donna

  5. Hi Donna

    What are the levels of your IgA and IgM, mine is an IgA paraptrotein so it reduces the IgG and Igm yours may be IgM or IgA?

    Also you need to look after your kidneys the there are several teas and herbs out there that are supposed to help disolve stones, and help to keep the kidney filtering system clear, I haven’t looked into this much as I haven’t had a problem with high numbers yet, but I do drink at least 3 litres of filtered water regulary throughout the day (this keeps what is going through the kidneys diluted) and then I only drink a variety of green herbal teas(nettle, dandelion etc), do you have any herbalists near you they could probably advise you. Or you could look up kidney cleanse on the internet, but start off slowly.

    All the best


  6. Thanks Sue! My IgG went down from 645 to 591, IgA is 25, and IgM is 11. IgA and IgM only went down one point. My calcium, creantinine, and albumin were all perfect. Total protein was just below normal for the first time though. All my CBC (Complete Blood Work) was normal except for the protein. Do you have Bence Jones disease too? I’m sure I need to increase my intake of water although I do realize it’s importance and will continue to try to drink as much as I can. I live in a relatively small town so I doubt we have an herbalist here. I so appreciate your feedback! Thanks for your response and your advice. Donna

  7. Margaret,
    Has it occurred to you that steroids probably suppress the immune response to SOX-2 thereby allowing progression?! This harks back to Dr. Dhodapkar’s study. Perhaps if you stopped the steroids, your SOX-2 response would kick back in and your status might improve if you still have a sufficient number of fighting normal immune cells.

    I, too, love cats and have had up to two at a time and would miss them dearly, but would not have them if it meant I would have to have steroids. There is a positive correlation between steroid use and the development of cancer, probably because it knocks out the immune responses that gobble up new cancer cells.

    Bence Jones protein is light chain paraprotein that is being created in sufficient amounts that it is overflowing into the urine. That usually only happens when the paraprotein level is pretty high. So you would definitely not be considered non-secretory. So I have no idea why your paraproteins are not showing up with immunofixation and electrophoresis. It suggests to me that either you are not getting those tests, or you need to change labs!

    There is also the remote possibility that you are producing light chains, but no heavy chains, as was reported in this article:

    Also, according to http://www.focusdx.com/focus/1-reference_laboratory/search_frame.asp?f=11 about 25% of myeloma patients produce only light chains, and I’m not sure whether the immunofixation and electrophoresis will reveal light chains! I know they reveal heavy chains.

  8. Donna, does your doctor really say you have “Bence-Jones” myeloma? Since you say you have no marker in blood (or urine, I assume), and follow your MM through the serum free light chain assay, I think your doctor might be applying a misnomer. Have you consulted with a specialist?

    I have an IFE and SPEP each time I go to the clinic and they report both light and heavy chains. In my case, two IgA lambdas. I never have proteinuria, so we skip urine tests. They also do a FLC.

    Do you want a copy of the tests I have done to compare to what your doctor orders?

    Sorry for hijacking the blog, Margaret!

  9. Well actually, I have Smouldering Multiple myeloma…let’s not rush things! The way I understand my condition is that I have Lambda light chain disease that is cloning and is suppressing the heavy chain proteins. Because so many are cloning, they are dumping into the kidneys and are being “excreted” through the urine.
    Yes, unfortunately, my test results specify Bence Jones protein in the urine. My onc says the SPEP test is the one that tells me my immunoglobulin levels. Is that correct? By markers in the blood, are you referring to the “no monoclonal protein” sentence? My labs don’t say that every time but often times it does. Sometimes it says “all below normal levels”. I’m not familiar with “IFE” and “FLC” tests. As far as a specialist, my onc sent me to the Myeloma Instute for Research and Therapy at the University of Arkansas Medical Sciences in 2006. My onc diagnosed me with MGUS but they diagnosed the SMM. I liked my onc’s diagnosis better! : )

    Yes, I’d appreciate a copy of your tests. I surely appreciate the help you all have given to me! You’d think I’d have this stuff down to a science by now but I think I’m still in a state of denial. It’s hard to believe you’re sick when you don’t feel sick! I apologize too for taking up so much space on your blog Margaret. Thanks again for everything. Donna

  10. Hi Donna and All,
    Donna, you have an unusual form of myeloma so it’s not surprising that we are all having difficulty getting to grips with what your latest results mean. However, I think you and Hallie might have hit on something important and I can add my own experience which might give a slightly different perspective.
    My myeloma is the more standard form – IgG kappa light chain. My IgG paraprotein has been fairly constant between 22-24g/l since I was diagnosed over 3 years ago. However, my kappa light chains, which also seemed to be fairly constant, at around 60 mg/L (+/- 5), jumped by 30% between March and August this year. I was not too worried because my key measure, the paraprotein IgG (heavy chain) dropped very slightly.
    Now, here’s the interesting bit. In February I started taking DHEA because I had read that it suppressed IL-6. It has other benefits too. But Hallie notes that steroids prevent SOX-2 suppression. Can it be that this might cause an increase in light chains but not heavy chains? I can’t think why but it’s certainly worth looking into.
    One more thing. Some people on the mma digest have noted that they can tell if their myeloma is active if they see foam in their urine. Presumably this is caused by Bence Jones proteins. Donna, as Sue as said, if you have high levels kappa or lambda light chains you need to drink a lot to flush it out and prevent kidney damage.
    Best wishes,

  11. Yes Beth, you may have my email address. I’d appreciate it if Margaret would share that with you.

    Thanks Paul for your information too. It was most helpful. This time I’m glad you have so many of the answers! : ) So my myeloma is unusual? I always liked being a little different! (I apologize for being a little flippant, I need to laugh to keep from crying!) It’s a bitter pill to swallow to think my myeloma may be active. I was kinda hoping it would just…go away! Oh well, I have a wonderful week-end planned and I plan to enjoy it to the fullest! I hope each of you will do the same. Again, I appreciate all the wonderful counsel and advice each has shared with me. Thank you too Margaret for providing this forum for communication that has helped me so much at this time. Sincerely, Donna

  12. Hi Donna,
    The important thing is that you feel well and have no symptoms. When I’m like that I “kinda hope it will just go away” too.
    However, it is also important to try to discover what sets things off and maybe you have. It will be interesting to see what happens if you come off the LDN and I drop DHEA. Maybe our SOX-2 suppressors will kick back in as Hallie suggests.
    Have a great weekend.

  13. Paul et al,
    Paul you misquoted me. What I said was that steroids “probably” suppress the immune response to SOX2. Emphasis on probably. Steroids suppress so much in the immune system that I just think it’s very likely. I don’t think anyone has yet done a study to determine it. But until we know for sure, I’m not taking any chances with steroids.

    Taking steroids after the good portion of the immune system has clearly given up, in order to suppress the bad plasma cells is one thing. Taking them too early when the good portion of the immune system is still putting up the good fight may be something else entirely. As Dr. Dhodapkar has said, therapy is sometimes a double-edged sword.

  14. Donna, I will write you a private note about this, but I thought this info might be interesting and possibly useful to others, so I am posting it, too. Have you heard of hypogammaglobulinaemia? I don’t have much time to do much research now on this topic, but I found a bunch of studies, including this one:

    It might be worth investigating…if nothing else to try to get a clearer picture of what could be going on with your type of myeloma.

    Keep us posted, please,
    And chins up!

    Hallie: interesting comment. Some time ago more or less the same thing occurred to me, and I remember asking my doctor if my inhaled cortisone would have a negative or other impact on my myeloma; his answer was no. Fact is, I have been stable for such a long time now, while using cortisone, that I have the feeling that he is right. But yes, it’s worth double-checking. Not that anything in the world would make me give up my cats!


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