Margaret's Corner https://margaret.healthblogs.org LIVING WITH SMOLDERING MYELOMA IN TUSCANY Tue, 23 Jun 2020 08:27:33 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.4.2 https://margaret.healthblogs.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/cropped-cropped-MG_0613-32x32.jpg Margaret's Corner https://margaret.healthblogs.org 32 32 Dexamethasone and Covid-19 https://margaret.healthblogs.org/2020/06/23/dexamethasone-and-covid-19/ https://margaret.healthblogs.org/2020/06/23/dexamethasone-and-covid-19/#comments Tue, 23 Jun 2020 08:27:33 +0000 https://margaret.healthblogs.org/?p=16319 I meant to write this post earlier but…stuff happens, such as our blocked kitchen sink pipe (We spent all day Sunday trying to “unblock” it using a bunch of different methods, including a high-pressure cleaner!, but to no avail. So today I’m waiting for the plumber to come fix it…), and I didn’t get to it until now. So you have probably already read about the Dex-Covid-19 connection. I’ll write this bit of news anyway, for those of you who might have missed it.

Last week Stefano asked me if I knew what dexamethasone was. Do I know what dexamethasone is? Hah! You can imagine my reply… 😉 

Anyway, he’d just read the news that Dex, as it’s more familiarly known to us myeloma people, has recently been found to reduce Covid-19 mortality by, drum roll!, a whopping 35% in hospitalized patients who are on ventilators. It’s all here, in this BBC article: https://www.bbc.com/news/health-53061281

Well, it’s good to know that there’s an option out there for very ill, hospitalized Covid-19 patients, even though Dex does come with its side effects (the “Dex days” that many myeloma patients have to endure…).

Still, yes, very good news!!!

Personal note: I’ve slowly been venturing outside the house to run a few errands. I wear TWO masks–a surgical mask AND a good cloth mask made by friends to raise money for the cat shelter (these cloth masks are very pretty, colorful, and full of, what else?, cats!).

So, everything is peachy in my little world…oh, except for the bloody drain pipe in the kitchen! 😉

Stay safe, everyone, and wear a mask!!!

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Yesterday I helped save a dog https://margaret.healthblogs.org/2020/06/18/yesterday-i-helped-save-a-dog/ https://margaret.healthblogs.org/2020/06/18/yesterday-i-helped-save-a-dog/#comments Thu, 18 Jun 2020 06:59:53 +0000 https://margaret.healthblogs.org/?p=16321 Yesterday morning I received a whatsapp text from one of my neighbors who had spotted a small, terrified dog on the other side of the tiny river at the bottom of our hill. She took a photo of it and asked if it belonged to anyone we knew. Wait, before going on, I should note that, years ago, my neighbors and I created a whatsapp group that enables us to get in touch quickly should anything happen or if anyone needs anything or whatnot. This group is super useful at times, as it was yesterday, as it turns out…

Some of my neighbors immediately mobilized to help this little dog. They didn’t wait for the municipal police to arrive but got a ladder, lowered it down into the tiny river, really no more than a stream, and carried the dog over to the other side, to safety.

I was still at home when all this happened. But as soon as I got my neighbor’s message and photo, I remembered something I’d seen earlier that morning on Facebook, a desperate appeal posted by a woman whose dog had run off the day before, with her leash on. I took another look at the photo on Facebook and, yes, I was sure it was the same dog.

So I texted my neighbor to tell the policewomen, who had just arrived, to call the FB woman’s cellphone. I then went down the hill to see if I could help. The poor little dog was still terrified, so terrified that she had refused to eat anything, even though she must have been starving. So we (a bunch of concerned neighbors and two lovely municipal policewomen) just stood around, keeping our social distance and wearing our surgical masks, of course, until the dog’s happy owner arrived. All of a sudden, the terrified, motionless little dog became the happiest dog in the world…dancing around and licking her owner, as you can see in this happy photo I took (cutting off the woman’s head, sorry!, for privacy reasons)…

And to think that if I hadn’t seen and remembered the appeal on Facebook, the policewomen would have had no choice but to take that scared little dog over to the municipal kennel, and it might have taken days for them to track down her owner…

I’m soooo glad that didn’t happen.

Anyway, all’s well that ends well. I helped save a dog yesterday, and it made me feel like a goddess for the rest of the day. 😉

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Quercetin has anti-myeloma activity https://margaret.healthblogs.org/2020/06/05/quercetin-has-anti-myeloma-activity/ https://margaret.healthblogs.org/2020/06/05/quercetin-has-anti-myeloma-activity/#comments Fri, 05 Jun 2020 15:37:04 +0000 https://margaret.healthblogs.org/?p=16313 A study from 2016 came to my attention today, thanks to a member of one of the MM Facebook groups to which I belong.

This study shows that quercetin works well both alone AND in combination with dexamethasone. Let’s not forget that it’s a proteasome inhibitor (like curcumin and, in the conventional world, Velcade).

Here’s the direct link to the study: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5216736/?fbclid=IwAR2Nk3FwZ3b8MfAqKUNOz1YXfQ6PU2lcQzAN-eGSMWvVBO7dTD9waNpxXn4 

I have to admit that I haven’t taken any quercetin in years, but it looks as though I’ll be putting it back on my “menu” now. For many reasons, not just because of its anti-myeloma activity…

Quercetin is good for a bunch of other things. For instance, it may reduce inflammation, blood pressure, and blood sugar, as well as protect against degenerative brain diseases. And the best thing is that it can be found in many of the foods we eat every day, including (red) apples, onions, cherries, broccoli, and so on. But of course it’s easier to get it in a capsule format…easier, that is, than eating a truckload of red apples every day. 😉 

A bunch of years ago, when I did some research on quercetin, I wrote that one shouldn’t take more than 1.5 grams a day, so please be careful with dosage. Do a search of my blog for more information…

Anyway…good stuff!

Stay safe, everyone!

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Terry Golombick’s new website https://margaret.healthblogs.org/2020/05/28/terry-golombicks-new-website/ https://margaret.healthblogs.org/2020/05/28/terry-golombicks-new-website/#comments Thu, 28 May 2020 10:34:20 +0000 https://margaret.healthblogs.org/?p=16295 Now, I don’t usually do this sort of thing, but I’m making an exception today because I have such a HIGH regard for Dr. Terry Golombick. If you don’t know who she is, just do a search of my blog…In a nutshell, she was in charge of the Australian MGUS and SMM curcumin patient trials…so, lots of experience, there…

Terry has recently relaunched her website and is offering consultations specifically for MGUS and SMM folks who live in or near Sydney, Australia. I think it’s WONDERFUL…

Anyway, here’s the link for those lucky Sydney-dwellers: https://www.mgustherapy.com/

But even if you do NOT live in or near Sydney, have a look at her website, which has some very interesting information. For example, how about those three case studies, eh? Nice! 🙂 

Take care, everyone! And…WEAR A MASK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

P.S. the photo in this post is of a purple Allium (ornamental). It’s so tall…and so pretty…to the point that some of my friends think it’s fake, hehe. Nope, it’s real. And it’s in my garden! BTW, I took this photo from above…

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Reaching out to all MGUS, SMM, MM patients and caregivers https://margaret.healthblogs.org/2020/05/25/reaching-out-to-all-mgus-smm-mm-patients-and-caregivers/ https://margaret.healthblogs.org/2020/05/25/reaching-out-to-all-mgus-smm-mm-patients-and-caregivers/#comments Mon, 25 May 2020 08:15:06 +0000 https://margaret.healthblogs.org/?p=16301 Last week I was contacted by Stephen Quinn, a Ph.D. student at Queen’s University in Belfast. He informed me about a study called IMPaCCT whose intent is to look at the effect that the current Covid-19 crisis has had, and is having, on pre-cancer, cancer and rare disease patients and their caregivers. The researchers, which include Stephen, hope to be able to use this data to inform patients and caregivers, as well as publish their findings in scientific journals.

He asked for my help in reaching out to smoldering myeloma and MGUS patients. Of course! So, how can we help? By taking their online SURVEY. I am about to do that, in fact. It should take about 20-30 minutes. No big deal, if we can help others, right? So please do it!

Here’s the direct link: https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/IMPACCTsurvey?fbclid=IwAR0JwWQPa8Md6VjJ_3KBCDBGGdZEClXB77SqK348s7Gh-hDbEns9_B7qgE0

Please note that if enough people respond to the survey, this Queen’s University group will be able to provide pre-publication information to charities/groups so that they can better support their members during these challenging times.

So this is really important. Please take the survey! Thanks, everyone! 

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Cat is the star of a classical music concert https://margaret.healthblogs.org/2020/05/20/cat-is-the-star-of-a-classical-music-concert/ https://margaret.healthblogs.org/2020/05/20/cat-is-the-star-of-a-classical-music-concert/#comments Wed, 20 May 2020 07:47:21 +0000 https://margaret.healthblogs.org/?p=16290 I loved this…absolutely loved this…

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More important news on vitamin D and coronavirus https://margaret.healthblogs.org/2020/05/12/more-news-on-vitamin-d-and-covid-19/ https://margaret.healthblogs.org/2020/05/12/more-news-on-vitamin-d-and-covid-19/#comments Tue, 12 May 2020 10:04:27 +0000 https://margaret.healthblogs.org/?p=16278 On March 27, I published a post about some findings of a team from the University of Turin (Italy) showing that low levels of vitamin D might increase:

  1. your risk of being infected with Covid-19
  2. your risk of having complications if you already have the virus

The University of Turin data also showed that vitamin D can counteract lung damage caused by hyperinflammation.

Well, now a research team led by Northwestern University has found a “strong correlation between severe vitamin D deficiency and mortality rates.” Their results are based on data from hospitals in several countries, including Italy.

Incidentally, I got this information from an easy-to-read Science Daily article, which you can check out for yourself at this link: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/05/200507121353.htm?fbclid=IwAR20hJJCU7d2WQj27sdIny3UgwYlrKZDlnR6gnbccXrBPiNu6QkSkspKQCk

So it seems as though vitamin D will lower your risk of having severe complications and of dying from the virus…once you’ve contracted it, of course. Here’s an important excerpt from the article: “Not only does vitamin D enhance our innate immune systems, it also prevents our immune systems from becoming dangerously overactive. This means that having healthy levels of vitamin D could protect patients against severe complications, including death, from COVID-19.

According to the lead researcher, vitamin D might actually cut “the mortality rate in half.” Wowsie!

Interestingly, the lead researcher also says that, while vitamin D “may reduce complications and prevent death in those who are infected,” it will not prevent you from actually getting the virus. Hmmm. That doesn’t make much sense to me. I mean, if your body has adequate levels of vitamin D, it should be better equipped to resist against the virus. But…who knows?

Anyway, whatever! I mean, even if vitamin D doesn’t give us the slightest protection from coronavirus, let’s not forget that keeping our vitamin D levels in the NORMAL range is absolutely essential for us myeloma folks. So let’s keep ’em in that normal range no matter what…

That said, please don’t exaggerate with your vitamin D daily intake: too much of a good thing may not necessarily be a…good thing, indeed, it probably isn’t!!!, as I have said repeatedly here on the blog. So please be careful…and don’t overdose!

I hope everyone is OKAY! Stay Safe!!!

P.S. That’s the photo of a flower from my garden…Nothing to do with the post, of course, but…it’s so pretty!

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Just a cute cat photo https://margaret.healthblogs.org/2020/04/28/just-a-cute-cat-photo/ https://margaret.healthblogs.org/2020/04/28/just-a-cute-cat-photo/#comments Tue, 28 Apr 2020 08:51:37 +0000 https://margaret.healthblogs.org/?p=16269 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???? 😀 

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Did I have Covid-19? https://margaret.healthblogs.org/2020/04/27/did-i-have-covid-19/ https://margaret.healthblogs.org/2020/04/27/did-i-have-covid-19/#comments Mon, 27 Apr 2020 14:41:37 +0000 https://margaret.healthblogs.org/?p=16240

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….

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Lockdown update https://margaret.healthblogs.org/2020/04/21/lockdown-update/ https://margaret.healthblogs.org/2020/04/21/lockdown-update/#comments Tue, 21 Apr 2020 11:46:34 +0000 https://margaret.healthblogs.org/?p=16204 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!!! 

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