Parasite in cat poop might be able to cure cancer…someday…

One of my six cats. This is Priscilla, 9 years old.

If you’ve ever thought that cats are useless creatures, think again: even their POOP might someday bring us closer to a cure for some forms of cancer. The promising, er, ingredient in cat’s poop is actually a parasite called Toxoplasma gondii. A group of Dartmouth College researchers discovered when that this parasite gets inside a human being, it is able to kick-start that person’s immune system. So now they are working on a safe immunotherapeutic vaccine to inject into cancer patients (by the way, this is all preliminary stuff…More testing is needed before any human trials can begin…).

Okay, without further ado, here’s one of the many articles discussing the cat poop discovery…I know you will find it a very interesting read:

Oh, by the way, please do NOT try to create your own homemade toxo-remedy using the poop from your own cat’s litter box. Toxoplasmosis, the infection caused by this very naughty parasite, can be quite serious, sometimes even fatal!, for folks with weakened immune systems. (That said, I’ve always cleaned my cats’ litter boxes without any trouble whatsoever…as far as I know, anyway!)

Let’s let the researchers come up with a SAFE poopy parasite vaccine. No home remedies THIS time! 🙂

Curcumin gum!

When I first read this bit of news, I thought it was a joke:

But no, not at all. On the contrary, it makes perfect sense: by bypassing the stomach, the chewing gum system should be able to deliver more curcumin to cancer cells via the oral mucosa.

The oral mucosa is basically the skin inside the mouth, which has a rich blood supply and is quite permeable. Without going into too many details (such as first-pass metabolism in the liver and pre-systemic elimination in the gastrointestinal tract…), what happens is that substances absorbed inside the mouth enter the blood system immediately, without passing through the gastrointestinal tract where absorption is slow and subject to attacks by potentially degrading enzymes.

In a nutshell: the oral mucosa delivery system should be great for substances that are poorly absorbed in the gastrointestinal tract, such as curcumin.

That is precisely why I used to prepare a C3 Complex curcumin powder concoction using melted dark chocolate and honey. I would keep small blobs of this concoction inside my mouth for as long as possible, under my tongue (in an attempt to maximize absorption). I still add C3 Complex curcumin to our food whenever possible, and this fall I plan to experiment with coconut oil, too.

Well, how about curcumin chocolates…curcumin lollipops…curcumin candy canes? Hey, the sky’s the limit! 🙂

And, by the way, all my very best wishes to Dr. Nathan and her work! Hip hip hooray!

A near escape

IMG_6860Anyone who has been around puffins (= my favorite seabirds) knows that they don’t have an easy life, especially because of their main natural predators — the lazy, greedy and opportunistic seagulls.

IMG_6862I have seen gulls pull puffins out of their burrows, trying to make them drop their hard-earned mouthful of fish. And I have seen them chase fish-bearing puffins all around the colony. Some of these “pulls and chases” are successful, and the gulls end up swallowing their stolen goods…but others are not, thanks to the stubbornness of the puffin parents, desperate to feed their growing chicks.

Luckily, I have never seen a gull actually kill (and eat) a puffin…and yes, that happens…

Anyway, I thought I’d post three photos documenting a scene I witnessed last week on Skokholm Island (where I took almost 3000 photos!).

The photos show a herring gull attacking a puffin in an attempt to steal its dinner (well, probably its chick’s dinner). This is a common sight on Skokholm Island where the gulls, mainly herring gulls, hang around puffin burrows, waiting to attack the fish-bearing puffins that have just returned from the sea. IMG_6863

In this particular case, I am happy to note that the heroic puffin managed to fly off with its entire load of fish, after a very brief struggle. No harm done this time…

I apologize for the poor quality of these photos, but, as you can tell, my camera is not a professional one…

Still, it will give you an idea of what happened…


Yep, today’s my birthday. I’m 53 years old! 🙂 I feel a bit like the puffin in my current header photo (by the way, I took that photo at Skokholm Island, Wales, UK, last week) — young, happy, confident, strong, with my wings spread out…and with a bunch of sand eels (er…bleah) in my beak…

And to think that when, in the fall of 2005, I was diagnosed with (smoldering) myeloma, I thought I’d be dead within four or five years…That’s what my hematologist told us…

I guess I’ve proved him wrong, eh? 😉

Back then, in 2005 that is, I didn’t know much about myeloma, except that it was incurable. The statistics were really scary…and, almost ten years later, they are still scary. It was only years later that I realized statistics are useful ONLY in certain contexts (medical conferences, e.g.), but to us, individuals with myeloma at any stage, they are essentially useless…We are human beings–not numbers.

This became even clearer to me after reading Stephen Jay Gould’s famous essay on cancer and statistics, “The median isn’t the message” (worth reading again from time to time…you can look it up easily online). He was diagnosed in 1982 with mesothelioma cancer, which has “a median mortality of eight months.” As he points out, most of us would interpret that as “I am going to die in eight months.” That is not the case. The reality is that statistical distributions “apply only to a prescribed set of circumstances – in this case to survival with mesothelioma under conventional modes of treatment. If circumstances change, the distribution may alter.”

If circumstances change, the distribution may alter. Indeed.

Stephen Jay Gould didn’t die eight months after his diagnosis, but TWENTY years later — in 2002.

Based on my numbers, I should have progressed to active myeloma four years ago. This is not a wild guess on my part: in 2005 a famous Mayo Clinic myeloma specialist told me I’d have to begin conventional treatments in 2010. Based on statistics, of course.

But it’s 2014 now. So I guess I’ve proved him wrong, too, and I hope to keep proving him wrong in the years to come…

Anyway, it’s already a very hot day here in Florence, Tuscany, Italy, and it’s going to be boiling outside this afternoon, so I’ve decided to take the day off, lie in bed with my cats (under the cooling ceiling fan), watch movies and eat cake from our favorite local pastry shop, the best in town, in my opinion. And this evening, more movies and more cake (and pizzaaaaa!) with my Stefano…

What more could a girl want? 😀

Leaving for…what do you mean? LEAVING??? AGAIN???

I know, I know! It seems as though we just got back from Amsterdam and now (= on Saturday…yes, I mean THIS Saturday!!!), we’re getting on another plane. Why, I’ve barely unpacked! 😉

This time we’re flying to London, where we’re being picked up and hosted by a dear friend, Paul, whom I met thanks to the blog years ago. Paul and I began corresponding via email and ended up meeting on one of our UK trips and becoming very good friends. He and his family have been to visit us here in Florence, and Stefano and I have been to visit them in London…well, just outside London, to be precise (such a lovely neighborhood!). Anyway, we haven’t seen them for about two years now, so that is going to be wonderful.

Then on Sunday Paul, Stefano and I will be driving from London to Wales where, on Monday, we’re getting on the boat for Skokholm Island. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, type the word “Skokholm” into my blog’s Search box (at the top right of this page, just above “Recent Comments”) and you will discover that Stefano and I are totally obsessed with puffins = hole-nesting auks (seabirds) with big heads and a large, bright orange beak. IMG_0345

In fact, our bird watching hobby (by the way, my blog header right now is a photo I took a few days ago of a baby bittern at the Parco della Piana, a bird reserve just outside of Florence) began with puffins, and it was all thanks to Paul who suggested, more than six years ago, that we go to Northumberland (UK)…And that is where we saw our first puffins, on Inner Farne Island…An unforgettable experience.

Anyway, Paul, Stefano and I will be staying on Skokholm Island most of next week, just as Stefano and I did last year. Shared compost toilets, no hot water, no showers, no Internet, etc. etc. etc. It sounds a bit uncomfortable but really it is one of the most amazing life experiences I’ve ever had…completely relaxing…magical. In a nutshell: I can’t wait to leave. The puffin chicks, called pufflings, have been hatching, and I hope to get a glimpse or (even better!) a photograph of one this year.

I know I’ve been neglecting my research and my blog in the past few months, and I’m sorry about that. My blog is very important to me, and that will never change. But one of my best friends recently said this to me: “I’ve chosen to live.” Now, she was referring to the little messes that she didn’t have the time to straighten up in her apartment, but that sentence really rung a bell with me…for an entirely different reason…

I can’t change the fact that I have myeloma cells in my body. I know that I can’t run away from this cancer, and I have no intention of doing so. But myeloma won’t and can’t stop me from living. Not now, anyway…(fingers double crossed!).

And so, like my friend, I choose to live my life…the way I want to live it. And I will do so for as long as possible…I will keep traveling…enjoying the company of Stefano and of my best buddies and of my cats…rejoicing for my niece who recently sneaked off to Las Vegas to get married to her longtime companion without telling us or anyone else (way to go, sweetie!!! So happy for you both, yaaay!!!)…watching the World Cup soccer games even though Italy and the U.S. are both out now, argh…finding happiness in small things, such as an unexpected visit from a good friend (also met via the blog) yesterday…and planning future trips with Stefano…

No, myeloma can’t stop me. And so on Monday I’m going to immerse myself completely in the wonderful, magical world of puffins and razorbills and Manx shearwaters and guillemots and gannets and…the list goes on…

Life goes on…