Just a cute cat photo

One afternoon last week Prezzemolo and I were lying in bed, watching a TV series. Okay, okay, truth be told, he wasn’t that interested in the series. He was fast asleep, snuggled up right next to me.

At one point I must have moved and woken him up. He looked up at me reprovingly and then started yawning. I was quick enough to catch almost the entire sequence on my cellphone.

This is one of my best shots.

How about that long tongue???? 😀 

Did I have Covid-19?

A few blog readers have suggested to me, privately, that the awful flu I had back in early January might have been Covid-19. But well before I had read their suggestions, that same thought had occurred to me, too, in the early days of the outbreak here in Italy. So this morning I decided to write a post about it, just for the record.

I certainly did have some of the Covid-19 symptoms, namely:

  • fatigue (probably my very first symptom)
  • sore throat (also an early symptom)
  • terrible intestinal woes (ditto as above)
  • high fever…a very high fever
  • aches, of course
  • nasal congestion
  • cough (see below)
  • and, finally, pneumonia, yes, the interstitial form that is typical of Covid-19

However, it would have been an anomalous case of Covid-19 for the following reasons:

  1. I didn’t infect anyone. A few days after Xmas, Stefano and I drove up to the city of Padova, in the Veneto region, northern Italy, to pick up my brother-in-law and his family. The following day the four of us drove to the city of Ljubljan, Slovenia, where we spent a very nice, long weekend. This means that we all spent hours inside Stefano’s car, talking and laughing, and breathing the same air. When we returned to Padova, my sister-in-law organized a family dinner party. I had begun feeling a bit tired but of course had absolutely no inkling that I was about to get very sick, otherwise Stefano and I would have left immediately for Florence (we left the following day, and then it all “exploded” within 24 hours). This dinner party therefore took place just before I got REALLY sick. Luckily, nobody got ill, not even the grandmother. Now, we all know by now that Covid-19 is extremely contagious, especially for the elderly. Another point: as you may (or may not!) know, Italians are veeeeeery affectionate, big huggers and kissers, which is undoubtedly one of the reasons why Covid-19 spread so readily here in the beginning (nobody is kissing and hugging now, of course!). After my SMM diagnosis in 2005, I cut back on all the kissing and hugging (explaining WHY to my friends), but when the Xmas holidays come around, it’s hard to pull back….So I had kissed and hugged and been in close contact with at least ten people, possibly more, before I got sick. And what about my husband? We slept together the entire time I was sick. Before, during, and after. He never left my side. In fact, I was so helpless that he stayed at home from work for at least ten days to take care of me. But he didn’t develop even the slightest of sniffles. Okay, perhaps he is one of those asymptomatic folks that we’ve heard so much about on the news, but then every single person that I was in touch with in the 10-14 days before I got sick would have to be asymptomatic, too. Hmmm.
  2. My cough was never dry. And that’s one big sign of Covid-19.
  3. My family doctor never mentioned the possibility of my having coronavirus.

In sum, if what I had back in early January was coronavirus, then it must have been a very odd and non-contagious strain.

Can Covid-19 be non-contagious? Well, from all I’ve read about this terrible virus, and I’ve read a lot, that just doesn’t seem likely. I could be wrong, of course. So, as soon as the antibody tests become widely available, I’m going to have one. Boy, it would be such a relief to find out that I actually have those antibodies AND that I survived Covid-19 (AT HOME, to boot!), in spite of my compromised immune system and my asthma.

But, feet back on the ground, I am almost 100% certain that my early January illness, as bad as it was, had nothing to do with coronavirus. For me, therefore, the case is closed, and, at this point, it would be useless to speculate any further until I have that antibody test. But I would like to thank my blog readers for their interest and concern, which got me thinking…

Finally, and obviously: as soon as I have any test results, I’ll post them. It won’t be for a while, for sure, so don’t hold your breath. 🙂

P.S. I thought I’d add the photos of 1. a swallowtail butterfly drinking nectar from my pansies, and 2. a tulip from my front yard. These are a couple of weeks old, but my black tulips are still blooming….

Lockdown update

I haven’t done any research and haven’t published any posts, lately. Duh, that’s quite obvious! And yet, now that I have more free time during the total lockdown here in Italy, you’d think I’d be on the computer all the time, looking up stuff. No, not really happening. Simply put, I just don’t feel like it. I’ve been doing other things instead.

Before continuing, I should state that I COMPLETELY support the coronavirus-caused lockdown, and I think the Italian government has done an excellent job, given the circumstances, which were (and are) extremely difficult.

However, this month and a half or so (I’ve almost lost count…) of staying at home has taken its toll on me, as it has on everyone, of course. I shouldn’t complain, though. Stefano and I live in a big row-house with a garden in the front and a bigger one in the back. We have plenty of space, and our neighborhood is very pretty and very green. And we have friendly, helpful neighbor. Many people, though, including some good friends of mine, aren’t that lucky. A couple of my friends live in a room in a shared apartment. Others have small children who haven’t been outside during the entire lockdown. So yes, it’s been hard on everyone, on some more than others…especially hard, of course, on the Covid-19 patients, on their families, on the medical workers, many of whom have lost their lives…Absolutely horrifying…

Oh boy, it all happened so fast, or so it seems. I mean, in mid February Stefano and I were in Paris, where life was proceeding as usual…No sign of coronavirus anywhere. In the Musée d’Orsay and at the Louvre, I noticed only a couple of people wearing disposable face masks.

Stefano and I had left Italy only with our neck warmers, which we used as “face masks” (I have since realized that they gave us almost zero protection, but at the time it was the best we had…). I did finally manage to find, in a pharmacy in Paris, a few disposable masks, which we didn’t wear because nobody else was (silly, I know…but back then, who knew???). I should mention that I went into a lot of Parisian pharmacies and was informed that they were sold out of face masks. At that point, alarm bells should have started ringing in my head. They didn’t.

And then a friend back in Florence texted me about the death of the first French (actually, the first EUROPEAN) Covid-19 patient, a Chinese tourist, IN PARIS. The alarm bells should have deafened me at that point. They still didn’t. I remember that I was sitting down in the Louvre when I read her message, closely surrounded by hundreds of “maskless” people from all over the world. Boy, shivers go down my back when I remember that…And Stefano and I didn’t have masks on, either…sheesh. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

Anyway, we didn’t really give much of a thought to coronavirus until we returned to Florence on February 16. As soon as we landed, we noticed that the airport was plastered with posters and leaflets warning about coronavirus, and a couple of medical workers in full protective gear took our temperature before allowing us to go through the exit doors. Okay, that was a bit scary, I admit…

But even then, I was still…unaware. Then again, so were most Italians. This couldn’t be happening here, to us, right? All the shops and restaurants were still open, and people were going about their business while infecting themselves and others, without knowing it, of course.

Things were about to change, though: just a few days after we returned from Paris, on February 21, the first Italian Covid-19 patient, a 78-year-old man who was already in hospital, died, in the northern region of Veneto…Still, no bells…not really. Again, stupid stupid stupid.

I met with my girlfriends to play cards the week after we got back from Paris. One of my girlfriends was wearing a face mask she’d bought during a trip to Japan. We made fun of it (I recently apologized to her…). I’d read that masks didn’t offer any protection, and besides, it was just the four of us, and WE couldn’t possibly be infected, right? Of course, since then, my opinion has really changed! Nobody is safe…nobody.

Well, that was my last outing. I finally became alarmed at the numbers of people flooding the ICUs in Lombardy and Veneto…and dying. I put myself in full lockdown well before the Italian government shut down the entire country.

About a week or so before the announcement of the lockdown (= March 10) I began stockpiling cat food and cat litter…Isn’t it funny that I thought of the kitties first? Hah. I also bought quite a lot of non-perishable human food…pasta and whatnot. And, yes, toilet paper. I’m sooooo glad I trusted my gut instinct because, on March 10, things went absolutely crazy here…long queues in front of supermarkets, some basic food supplies running short, etc. At one point, it was impossible to find any FLOUR…and then YEAST (it’s still impossible to find any yeast, except at my house, of course)…

Because of my compromised immune system and my asthma, it would have been incredibly dangerous for me to go stand in a queue. It still would  be, of course…Luckily, I don’t have to worry about that, thanks to my foresight and to grocery stores that deliver food right to our front door. As for Stefano, oh boy, I was so relieved, incredibly relieved!!!, when he began “smart-working” from home on March 10.

In fact, this is the only “benefit” of the lockdown–we’re able to spend more time together. In our spare time, we watch TV series, cook wonderful meals (I married an excellent cook!!!), work in the garden, and play games. We do lots of things to keep ourselves busy, even spring cleaning (zzzz).

Luckily, things are getting better over here in Italy. After reaching a plateau, the curve is on a downward trend. As a result, some of the lockdown restrictions have been lifted, and the total lockdown should be ending on May 4, if all goes well. But I’m afraid that it still won’t be over for a while, unfortunately.

Even when the number of infected people goes down to ZERO, we will still have to wear masks and face shields and take all the precautions we have been taking thus far (washing hands, social distancing, etc.). Incidentally, after the stupid risks we took in Paris (shivers down my back, again)–that is, not wearing masks because nobody else was–I will be wearing a face shield AND a mask when I start leaving the house.

Must stay safe.

I have to admit that my usual optimistic self has been hard hit by the coronavirus, and that is probably why I don’t feel like doing any research or writing (oh, hey, but I AM writing right now, and quite a bit, too…how about that? My initial idea was to write a brief post, hahahaha!).

Well, let’s get through this first wave of Covid-19 and see what happens and how things go…

Sorry about this long, probably very repetitive, ranting post. I’m going to go ahead and publish it anyway…No time to do some editing…it’s time for lunch…Oh, and that’s the other thing: we are eating and eating and eating. Stefano and I have both gained about 4 kilos, which is almost 9 pounds. Stefano has hidden the scales. 🙂

Much love to everyone, and please stay safe…And the only way to do that is to:

STAY AT HOME!!! 

Social distancing

Last week I noticed four of my cats sleeping in the sun, in the four corners of our bed, each on a different blanket. I immediately thought of Social Distancing, two words that are, unfortunately, very familiar to all of us these days…

Cats are the best!!!

Treating COVID-19 in a patient with multiple myeloma

Some readers have recently been asking me about curcumin and Covid-19. Is it good or bad to be taking it if you contract coronavirus?  Can it reduce your risk of contracting Covid-19? (See my post on vitamina D, incidentally.) I don’t know.

If I had any answers, believe me, I’d be publishing them…immediately.

Well, it just so happens that this afternoon I read a very interesting Science Daily article that may shed some light on this matter. It discusses the case study of ONE myeloma patient, in Wuhan, who was given an immunosuppressant drug, a monoclonal antibody, called tocilizumab. Here’s the link: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/04/200403124931.htm?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+sciencedaily%2Fhealth_medicine%2Fmultiple_myeloma+%28Multiple+Myeloma+News+–+ScienceDaily%29

Okay, now that you’ve read the SD article, you can read the rest of my post. 😉 

The main use of tocilizumab is to treat rheumatoid arthritis. The interesting bit, as far as I’m concerned, though, is that tocilizumab blocks IL-6. Remember IL-6? I haven’t talked about IL-6 in a long time, but, simply put, it’s a really good friend of multiple myeloma. Aha…

And, by reducing the expression of IL-6, tocilizumab helps control the effects of what is known as a “cytokine storm” (read this April 1 New York Times article for a good explanation of what happens to Covid-19 patients when their immune systems go wacky and begin churning out too many cytokines, which can lead to vital organ failure: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/01/health/coronavirus-cytokine-storm-immune-system.html).

Okay, now for this: curcumin inhibits IL-6 AND suppresses the cytokines involved in cytokine storms. Yes, it does both the things that tocilizumab does, without all the side effects, which actually don’t look that bad–from a runny nose to urinary tract infections (well, okay, I’d rather not get a UTI!).

Does that mean that curcumin would work against coronavirus or indeed help lower our risk of getting this blasted virus? As I wrote above, I have no idea, even though, as we know, among other things, curcumin has anti-viral and anti-inflammatory properties.

All I can say is that this bit of news today is promising. Sure, this is only ONE single case study, but I can tell you that, on March 19, tocilizumab started being administered to 330 coronavirus patients in a hospital in Naples (Italy). At the end of this month, fingers crossed, we may have some results. Right now, Italian newspapers report that the director of this study has expressed “cautious optimism.” I also saw that the FDA has approved Phase III trials for treating Covid patients with tocilizumab.

We just have to wait and see…

But, while we’re waiting, I’m going to keep taking curcumin (actually, I’d never thought about stopping…!!!)…

John’s post

This morning I read and really enjoyed my friend John’s post, “Today will not be here tomorrow,” and decided to give you the link to it: https://goodbloodbadblood.com/2020/03/27/today-will-not-be-here-tomorrow/?fbclid=IwAR0eeATsBAJDPOxMMajDnq85BSnLf7FApQFegnZpa4g6XA_6punacPJjFg8

I agree with him 100%, incidentally.

The only thing I would add is this: if only other countries, including the U.S., had paid attention to what has been happening in my beloved Italy…if only…eh…

I could go on for hours on this subject. But today let us simply enjoy John’s post. I will keep my rants and ravings for another day…

In fact, I’m going to go into my garden right now to see if my tulips have bloomed…Ciao!

Music that brings people together

Last night Stefano and I watched a lovely TV program called, in Italian, “Musica che unisce,” literally translated as Music that unites.

In addition to comedians, actors (Luca ZIngaretti, whom I adore), dancers (Roberto Bolle) athletes (Federica Pellegrini), and even regular folks like us, 25 well-known Italian musicians (Andrea Bocelli, see photo below, and the Three Tenors, e.g.) got together, from their homes, to thank and raise money for Italy’s Protezione Civile, similar to a Civil Defense, which has the goal of predicting, preventing and managing national disasters and catastrophes, both natural and human-made. Together with our doctors and medical workers, the Protezione Civile has been amazing, simply amazing, during this  disastrous coronavirus outbreak in Italy.

Last night’s program was really inspiring. The musicians played and sang from their homes, as I mentioned above…No audiences, no clapping, no cheering. Only…music. Yes, very inspiring. I confess that I got a bit emotional here and there. There were also a few doctors who explained what Covid-19 is and how to protect ourselves from it. One of the nicest moments was when doctors and nurses played and sang songs, too…

Italy has shown the world HOW to react to the spread, to the invasion of this horrible virus. Italians were THE FIRST to clap (in thanks to doctors and nurses) and sing from their windows and balconies. A united country. Yes, true, a minority of ignorant fools have ignored the lockdown rules, and many will be paying the consequences of their actions, but the same thing is happening in several European countries right now.

In general, though, we have all stayed at home, staying safe…not just for ourselves but for everyone else.

I am so proud of Italy…What an amazing country!

Thanks to Jacqueline, I was able to post the program here. Yes, it’s in Italian, of course, but there’s a lot of music, too, and beautiful images of this beautiful country (oh silly me, getting emotional again), so I hope that even those who don’t understand Italian will be able to enjoy it.

STAY AT HOME!!! STIAMO A CASA!!!