#DeleteFacebook…my thoughts…

Since I have both a personal profile AND a (public) Page for my blog on Facebook, I can’t ignore the recent unsettling revelations concerning Cambridge Analytica’s harvesting of personal data from millioooooooons of FB accounts…And, while NOTHING would have changed the way I voted in the 2016 U.S. presidential elections, I still find these revelations rather disturbing. I mean, I don’t want my data to be used by ANY entity for ANY reason…

I’m relieved that I never fell for any alluring quizzes and tests, which would have given some of those entities access not only to my own personal data but also to that of my FB friends. 👿

I also don’t play any games on FB (the candy crush game, etc.), and, most of the time, I ignore my FB friends who invite me to do this or that, or join this or that…

My life on FB is actually quite tame, although I’m fierce about protecting my own privacy and that of my family/friends. That said, I wasn’t always so careful: when I first joined FB, I innocently published quite a lot of cute photos of Stefano and me, our wedding, and other family photos. I subsequently deleted almost all of them, leaving only two (I think): 1. a hazy but beloved photo of Stefano and me kissing in the Arizona desert (the camera’s self-timer seemed to take forever, so we began laughing while keeping our lips locked…such a funny moment…), and 2. my profile photo, which is a photo of…you guessed it!…my (face) profile. Again, a bit on the fuzzy side (but it IS me!).

The only photos I publish on FB now are photos of my kitties. I can’t help myself…They are simply too cute (see our two 7-month-old kittens, sleepy Pandora on the left, Pixie on the right)…

Okay, let’s get back to the point of this post. Because of the big Cambridge Analytica and Facebook mess, a Tweeter movement called #DeleteFacebook has recently been encouraging people to delete their FB accounts.

I did think about it…about deleting…but I’ve decided not to go that far. The reason I’m going to stay on FB is simple: outreach. It’s perhaps the easiest way to keep in touch with my blog readers–well, with those who have FB accounts!–as well as reach out to people who, e.g., have just been diagnosed with MGUS or SMM or even MM (and other types of cancer, too, of course), and are freaking out, just as I did when I was first diagnosed.

Plus, I am co-administrator of two FB support groups (well, to be precise, I’ve semi-retired from the now-huge multiple myeloma support group that I founded years ago…It’s being administered by others, now). I’d really hate to fall out of touch with some of the people I’ve met in these groups…some, I’ve even met in person…

In sum, I’m not deleting anything. I just have to remember to update my FB privacy settings from time to time!  😎 

A high school senior determines that chemically modified curcumin can inhibit pancreatic cell growth

Just read an interesting tidbit. But first, I have to remark that this generation of U.S. high school students is really something…(and I’m not referring solely to their science projects…)…

At any rate, a senior at Hampton Bays High School came in third place at the Long Island Science and Engineering Fair in mid March for her discovery that chemically modified curcumin blocked pancreatic cancer cells from growing…and killed them (apoptosis). Based on her project, perhaps someday (!) this modified curcumin could be used to strengthen conventional treatments for pancreatic cancer. You can read about it here: goo.gl/N1BDuV

Here’s my suggestion for a future project, Ms. Caldwell: “The Apoptotic Effect of Novel Curcumin Derivative on Multiple Myeloma Cells.”

In the meantime, well done, well done indeed…and…CONGRATULATIONS!  🙂 

Plantar fasciitis

When I got out of bed on Friday morning, I felt a sharp pain under my right foot, near the heel. Oooh, that hurt! It got slightly better as I hobbled downstairs and into the kitchen to feed the cats and make myself a cappuccino. The more I hobbled/walked, the less the bottom of my heel seemed to hurt.

By mid morning I seemed to be okay and so, as planned, I took the bus into the center of Florence where I had lunch with some relatives, took them around Florence, and showed them the sights…I’ve always enjoyed seeing my beautiful Florence through the eyes of people who don’t live here. It’s always lots of fun.

But boyohboy, did we walk. We walked, and walked, and WALKED!!! All over the place. My heel didn’t bother me that much, although the pain would return occasionally, making me limp just a bit. The relatives didn’t notice, so the limp wasn’t that obvious, I guess.

I got home just before dinner and told Stefano about it, but my slight heel pain really paled in comparison to the discomfort he’s still in, poor sweetie.

On Saturday morning, I couldn’t stand up. The pain under my right foot was almost unbearable. Mainly, though, I had no idea what was causing it, and that was unsettling…

Anyway, long story short. Diagnosis: plantar fasciitis.

If I could go back in time, I’d change a bunch of things (hah!, wouldn’t we all???  😉 ). One of them would certainly be my fixation with wearing flip flops. I wear them in the house, summer and winter (with socks, in winter). I mean, I wear them A LOT. Way too much, evidently…How stupid I’ve been.

Flip flops are okay for the beach, but they are flat and flimsy (although mine aren’t as flimsy as most) and most of all, they don’t offer any arch or heel support. It’s okay to use them for a short while (on the beach, e.g.), but that is IT.

If, like me, you love wearing flip flops, please be careful…You don’t want to get this thing…

Anyway, I’ve already ordered special shoe inserts and special socks. And while I’m in the annoying pain phase (although today the pain has lessened a lot), I’ll be icing the bottom of my heel and rubbing an arnica-based ointment on it…And keeping my foot at a 90-angle degree as much as possible. After this painful phase is over, there are exercises I can do…

So…no big deal. Or, should I say, no big heel. 😉

Drinking plastic

I just read a BBC article about a new study showing that the bottled water of major brands (Nestlé, Coca-Cola, Pepsi…) is contaminated by microparticles of plastic. Here’s the link : goo.gl/fCPQp6.

Just a few years ago I discovered that Italians are the major consumers of bottled water in Europe…We’re talking, more than 10 BILLION liters of bottled water per year.  

That means that every single Italian drinks about 208 liters of bottled water per year…Now, if you exclude those of us–and there are quite a few by now–who do NOT buy bottled water, that adds up to A LOT of bottles, which, er, don’t always get recycled (another problem altogether, sigh… 🙁 ). 

I’ve always felt that there’s something wrong with Italians’ bottled water obsession. My gut feeling would increase during the summer, when I’d notice trucks, loaded with bottled water, parked all over the city in the HOT SUN…It didn’t take a genius to figure out that those plastic bottles were heating up and releasing toxic crap into the water…And this was even before we knew about BPA…

I still have friends telling me that they can only drink bottled water. It’s crazy.

Plus, bottled water is bad for your back!!! Whenever I’m at the supermarket, I see Italians struggling to lift their heavy loads of bottled water into their carts. Ouch!

Bottled water makes no sense to me, on any level. Of course, it makes sense to the bottled water producers that deluge us with commercials in which famous soccer players or actors tell us how healthful a particular brand of mineral water is, blablabla. Boy, I can’t even imagine how much money these brands make…


Truth be told, the BBC article points out that plastic particles are a bit everywhere: “Last year, Prof Mason found plastic particles in samples of tap water and other researchers have spotted them in seafood, beer, sea salt and even the air.”

But if we all stopped drinking bottled water, there is no question that we would help reduce the amount of plastic (bottles) in the environment…That’s a huge incentive to stop, right there.

And so I’m sticking to my tap water…unless, of course, I’m in a place where it isn’t safe to drink it…

My NON post

When I first began blogging, in March of 2007, a more experienced blogger informed me that I had to publish a post every day in order for my blog to be visible on Google and not be deemed “inactive.” If I stopped writing and publishing, even for ONE day, he added, my blog be more difficult to find on the search engines, meaning that I’d lose my readership. He talked about blogging as though it were a competition.

Well, I didn’t care about competing with other bloggers and/or becoming THE most popular myeloma blogger (!), but I did want to reach and possibly help as many people as possible, so I tried very hard to write and publish a post every day. Not easy, when you have “distractions,” such as a loving hubby, a job, a bunch of cats needing attention and care…and so on and so forth….

At a certain point, though, I decided, ENOUGH. I wanted to enjoy my life outside the blog. I’d done enough research to last almost an entire lifetime and, to be honest, I was sick and tired of reading scientific jargon every single day…

Plus, sometimes I didn’t know what to write about/had writer’s block. Writing became a bit of a struggle, even though I have to acknowledge that it’s only thanks to my blog that I have discovered how much I love writing…

Anyway, back then, in short, I needed a break.

And so I took a break from blogging. Just as I’d been warned, my readership dropped. Day by day, practically. It’s now down to less than a third of what it was in the “golden years.” But I didn’t care. I was outside, breathing fresh air, enjoying life, with plenty of time to spend with my friends…and so on and so forth. 😉

Mind you, I still had, and have!, a lot of readers writing to me with their questions and findings. In fact, many of them have become friends in real life, which is just wonderful. I also still had and have a lot of mail to sort through on a daily basis…often so much (mail) that I cannot reply to everyone, and for that I apologize.

Recently, though, I’ve been coming across some really interesting and/or promising stuff, which I’ve found on my own or thanks to blog readers (you know who you are, THANK YOU), such as:

  • the bone marrow microenvironment studies
  • the EBV-MM connection
  • Dieneke’s case study getting published in the UK (yaaaay)
  • andrographolide
  • the Chinese MM patient’s case study
  • astragalus

There seems to be a lot going on, which is very exciting. Inspiring, in fact. And for a while I almost got back to a post/day… 😉 

But ever since Stefano came down with shingles (he’s better now, btw, but still in quite a lot of pain…hasn’t gone back to work yet), I haven’t felt much like writing. It’s so hard to see the person you love in such pain. His pain has had an effect on me, too.

I haven’t stopped doing research…But these days it’s been mostly on the natural ways to relieve the pain caused by shingles, and in fact the turmeric-based topical applications have really helped him. However, only prescription-strength Tylenol (the Italian equivalent) is able to reach the sort of INTERNAL nerve pain he has been experiencing…My poor sweetie!

BUT, of course, this negative period will soon be over. Stefano is already feeling better, and the awful rash is fading. That means that I’ll soon be back to blogging more. I’m already looking at a couple of studies on my desktop,  hoping they’ll inspire me to write a post…

Okay, it’s time now to go check on my patient. Take care, everyone! CIAO!   🙂 

Visiting the land of Nod…

For some unknown reasonzzzzz, 😉 articles about sleep deprivation zzzzzz have been popping up on my screen lately. Indeed, I’ve been reading about some rather scary stuff, such as the fact that if you don’t get enough sleep your brain will start eating itself (nope, I’m not kidding!). How about that for the freaky fact of the day???

This morning I came across another sleep-related article, titled “What’s another hour of lost sleep? For some, a hazard,” which I found so riveting, in a good sense this time (no super scary stuff, I mean!), that I decided to post about it. It’s a Harvard Gazette interview with Jeanne Duffy, an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and a sleep researcher at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

Here’s the link: https://goo.gl/wMF3qY

Prof. Duffy gives us heaps of food for thought…or rather, one would hope, food for sleep! Hehe. 🙂 Here’s an excerpt, e.g.: “[…] getting inadequate sleep makes your immune system less efficient.” That sentence alone should make us want to visit the land of Nod… 🙂

Anyway, a highly recommended read, even for those who think they are getting enough sleep…

Fuoco di Sant’Antonio, shingles, herpes zoster…

Stefano had been complaining recently (last week) about a strange sort of pain/ache in his back that began more or less last Wednesday. We thought he’d pulled a muscle or some such thing. But the pain wasn’t going away. When he’d come home from work, and in the morning when he got out of bed, it was ouch-ouch-ouch. I suggested he at least call our GP, but he didn’t want to bother him. He really thought it was a pulled muscle. Then, on Saturday morning, he asked me to take a look. I found a little rash on the left side of his torso, but he said it wasn’t where the pain was.

And so I didn’t make the connection. Nor did he. Not until the rash had spread a bit, which it had by Saturday night. At that point, we both knew what it was, since his father and both of my parents had had it.



In Italy it’s called Fuoco di Sant’Antonio in Italian, or fire of Saint Anthony.

Unfortunately, we had no way of getting in touch with our GP during the weekend, and my rather stubborn Stefano didn’t want to go to the ER. So he “lost” a day, since, without a prescription, I wasn’t able to get the antiviral drug (acyclovir) for him until Monday morning, after we’d contacted our fantastic GP. And by Monday morning, let me tell ya, the rash had spread all around his torso, in back and in front, and he was in a lot of discomfort.

Well, I didn’t wait until Monday to take action. On Sunday morning I made a paste with organic turmeric and a bit of water, which Stefano spread over the rash. Incredibly, the rash stopped burning and itching. It did NOT stop the rash from spreading, BUT the area covered by the turmeric paste didn’t burn or itch at all, whereas any new bumps that developed  during the night itched and burned like crazy. Once he’d covered those bumps with the turmeric paste, though, the burning and itching disappeared completely.

This is how we knew it really worked.

And that’s why I’m writing this post today, with Stefano’s permission…because it’s a bit of good information that can be given to anyone who has shingles. As I noted, the turmeric + water paste will NOT stop the internal nerve pain caused by shingles (you need antiviral meds for that…), but it might stop the superficial burning and itching. I use the conditional tense “might,” because of course we all react differently, even to the same drug or treatment. But his case is a rather nasty one, and his skin should be itching and burning like mad. It’s not. Not at all.

The first few days (from Saturday night to yesterday morning) have been the most difficult. Last night he managed to sleep without any trouble. So I think the acute phase is over…And we can relax a bit…

Anyway, I’ve found another use for turmeric! Of course, it’s nothing new to Ayurveda…but it was to me! 🙂 

Cellphone snow

Last night Stefano downloaded my cellphone photos onto my computer, so…here are a few.

The first is the snowy heart I drew for Stefano on my car’s side window when I went outside our house to take photos in the falling snow first thing in the morning.

The second shows a group of cute, freezing but very happy and enthusiastic Asian tourists taking selfies and photos at the Piazzale Michelangelo.

One young woman’s legs were bare, and all she had on her feet was a pair of sneakers. Brrrrrr! But she and her friend didn’t seem to mind the cold…

I loved that red umbrella, btw…

Too bad I didn’t get better photos, but it wasn’t easy…the snow was coming down and making it hard to see, and besides, I am no Steve McCurry…  😉 

Anyway, too bad we couldn’t have waited for the snow to stop and for the light to change…but at least we managed to get some shots…And yes, I could have made them look better, but I don’t really like to do that, so these are my original photos…

The temperatures have gone back up…tomorrow we’re going to have a high of 15° Celsius (59° Fahrenheit). No more snow this year!

Have a great weekend! Ciao! 🙂

Snow in Florence…

So very exciting! Yesterday we woke up to a thin blanket of snow covering our street, and it was still snowing. As for accumulation, official estimates have been between 2 and 5 centimeters (5 cm is about 2 inches). We live on the outskirts of town, and we definitely got 5 cm, perhaps a bit more.

Yes, a very small snowfall, but it was enough for all the schools in Florence to be closed. No, I’m not kidding. Based on the forecast, on Wednesday the municipality announced that there would be no school on Thursday. Why? Well, simply put, because Florence doesn’t do well in snow, not even a few inches.

We’re simply not equipped for it.

Our last snowstorm occurred in December of 2010…although, unlike yesterday’s snowfall, that was a BIG one (well, for Florence, anyway). In 2010, we got more than 10 inches of snow (I wrote a post about it, in fact, and posted a few photos of our snow-covered neighborhood…).

The city was completely paralyzed back then…I remember barely making it home from work, and Stefano got home only after 1 AM, after nearly getting stranded near his office…It was a mess for most people, but for ME, it was COMPLETE JOY!!!

Anyway, I know that those of you who live in places that get much bigger snowfalls will laugh at us (and, having lived in Boston, Toronto, Cape Cod, in a way I do, too), but that’s the way things are here. After all, it would be pointless and expensive to have a lot of snowplows rusting away inside warehouses, waiting for that one possibly-big snowfall we get every seven years or so…Right?

Back to yesterday. After taking a few photos of our street and our garden, I really wanted to go up to Florence’s panoramic terrace overlooking the city, the Piazzale Michelangelo, to take some photos of the city…but it’s far from our house, too far to walk (based on the forecast, the snow was going to turn to rain at lunchtime…not enough time…). 

Stefano had to go to work (his SUV has winter tires, unlike my little Panda), so I begged him to take me up to the Piazzale. I reasoned with him that snow is such a rare event in Florence and that we just had to go to the Piazzale. He replied, “no, sorry, I really wish we could, but there just isn’t enough time. I have two shipments going out today and  have to be at work ASAP.”

I understood, of course. But still, I was so disappointed! Oh well. I began getting myself and my camera ready for some neighborhood shots. Not the same thing, of course, but it would have to do…

But then I saw that sneaky boy getting out his camera gear, his new lens in particular…

Haha, very funny indeed, Stefano!!! Yes, I married a comedian…  🙂 

And so we reached a compromise: we’d stop at the Piazzale to take some photos on the way to his office, but then I’d be stuck at his office all day. Clearly, I was more than happy to be “stuck.”

So here are some of my photos. Sorry, they look fuzzy and dark because the snow was still coming down, and the light was terrible (for photos, anyway). I took some others with my cellphone, but for some reason they aren’t downloading onto the computer. These will have to do. 

In the end, we had tons of fun yesterday. One of Stefano’s colleagues had brought her daughter to work, so she and I went outside while the grownups were working 😉 …We chased each other around the snow-filled parking lot and had a fierce snowball fight. What a blast!!!

I know I’m in the minority, but I LOVE SNOW (in case that weren’t obvious…hehe). I know, I know, I would probably change my mind if I lived in a Northern European country and had to shovel a ton of snow every day every single winter, but since I do not, snow always gives me a sense of peace and beauty…the sort of feeling you get when you meditate. Although…that feeling is totally gone today…It’s been raining hard all morning, so the snow has all melted…oh well…

It was lovely while it lasted!!!