Virtual museum tours

If you’re at home right now because of the (necessary!) quarantine and don’t know what to do with yourself, why not take a virtual tour of 12 famous museums, including the Uffizi Gallery in Florence?

I’ve never been to the Guggenheim in NYC, so I’ll take its tour later on today. First, I have to have my daily chat/update with my neighbors to make sure they’re all okay. We chat from our terraces, of course. Then I have to put in a grocery order from a lovely little shop just down the street from us…It carries only local produce, mostly organic. This little shop has saved us in this difficult period. Then, after cleaning the cat litter boxes, I’ll be ready for a museum… 😉 

Here’s the link that will give us a moment of “escape” from Covid-19: https://www.msn.com/en-us/travel/travel-trivia/stuck-at-home-these-12-famous-museums-offer-virtual-tours-you-can-take-on-your-couch-video/ar-BB119nm6

Enjoy!!!

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Italy reacting to Covid-19

Italians have shown the world how to react to a quarantine and lockdown imposed by the spread of Covid-19.  Singing, clapping, dancing, and playing instruments from their balconies and terraces. This has been happening all over Italy, a sort of country-wide flash mob. For days now. Spain has picked up the message and is doing the same. It’s a way to feel united and also to help those who are alone and finding it difficult to stay indoors.

I have watched a lot of videos showing these impromptu Italian flash mobs–you can find heaps of them on YouTube–but the one that brought tears to my eyes towards the end (you will see why) is this one, prepared by Sanità Informazione, a healthcare-based newspaper.

This is instead a rather slick video on the notes of Italy’s national anthem, but it shows one of the prettiest towns on the Amalfi Coast, Positano, and I posted it mainly for that reason, to show how beautiful Italy is…

The flash mobs are happening in my neighborhood here in Florence, too. The other day, e.g., at the appointed Flash Mob time, I was out on my terrace, joining my neighbors in applauding and cheering the amazing, tireless work that our healthcare workers have been doing since this Covid-19 crisis began.

Italy has responded with determination and unity and, as one foreign journalist wrote recently, “This is why so many people through many centuries fall in love with Italy.”

Indeed. I am certainly madly in love with this country, and there is absolutely no other place I’d rather be right now.

As the current slogan goes, “Andrà tutto bene,” or “Tutto andrà bene,” which means: “Everything is going to be okay.” Children have been painting these words and drawing rainbows on signs and sheets that now are displayed on balconies in every city and town in Italy. I got this photo from the Internet, btw.

It’s a sign of hope…

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Covid-19

I have received messages from concerned blog readers, asking me if I’m okay. Today I’m posting just a quick note to say that, yes, I’m fine, as is my family.

I’m staying at home, and in fact I have stayed at home since the first few coronavirus cases appeared in Italy, therefore before the government reached the brave and difficult decision to impose a total lockdown here…

With a compromised immune system, you can’t take any chances…

But I have to go now. I am in the middle of my “spring” cleaning (the cats are exhausted from watching me zip around the house, cleaning and throwing stuff away, as you can see, hehe…).

I’ll be in touch soon!

Keep safe, everyone…and, mainly, wash your hands!!!

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“Use of curcumin in multiple myeloma patients intolerant of steroid therapy”

A few days ago, Dr. Terry Golombick of the Department of Endocrinology, St George Hospital, Sydney, Australia, sent me the link ( http://bit.ly/2VwqWf1 ) to her team’s most recent clinical case report, in which they tested curcumin on myeloma patients who were no longer able to tolerate the prolonged use of dexamethasone due to its adverse side effects, such as “fatigue, weight gain, fluid retention, poor impact on mental health, osteoporosis and hyperglycemia, or poor diabetic control.”

This new study selected 15 patients, ranging in age from 57 to 86, who were either taking immunomodulatory drugs (IMiDs) or proteasome inhibitors (PIs) in addition to the dexamethasone. They replaced Dex with a daily dose of 3-4 grams of curcumin (about half of what I take, btw).

Of the 15, three died during the study period…not because of the curcumin, obviously, but because they weren’t doing very well, unfortunately (you can read the details in the paragraph located above “4. Discussion and Conclusion”).

The other 12 patients, however, are stable and doing well, in spite of the fact that some have high-risk cytogenetic and FISH abnormalities.

The combination of curcumin and the other conventional drugs reduced their paraprotein levels by 38%, and plasmacytosis by 59%. How about that?

Anyway, it’s not a difficult read, methinks, so please have a look at the above link…

Thank you, Dr. Golombick! I am so grateful to you and your team for all your tireless work. You give us hope!!! :-) Thank You Thank You Thank You!!!

We need MORE studies like this one! Not 10 years from now…but…NOW!!!!!!!!!! 

Quick update

Well, quite a lot has happened since I wrote my post on the loss of our Priscilla.

A few days after her death, Stefano came home complaining of a sore throat, which soon turned into a full-blown case of bronchitis: more proof, to me anyway!, of a close association between stress (and, in this case, probably grief as well) and a lowering of the immune defenses.

Anyway, we tried to be careful, but to no avail: on top of everything else, I caught his bronchitis and was sick (againnnnnn!) for about two weeks. This happened in mid January or thereabouts. So, all in all, I was sick/convalescent/sick/convalescent for more than a month. Agh! Ridikkulus!

But now I’m fine…fully recovered.

The horrible month of January 2020 ended with another death: my mother-in-law…This didn’t come as a complete surprise, since she’d been doing poorly for some time, but still, on top of everything else…it wasn’t easy.

But, as an upcoming post will show, things seem to be slowly getting better. As I mentioned, I’m fully recovered, and…well, okay, here’s a sneak preview of that above-mentioned post: Stefano and I spent a lovely long weekend in Paris recently. 🙂

We were lucky and managed to return to Florence right before Italy was hit by the coronavirus “hurricane.” Speaking of which, even though I think that the COVID-19 outbreak has generated a bit too much mass hysteria (in Florence, e.g., where thus far there have been only a couple of confirmed cases, people have been emptying supermarket shelves, and so on…), I have to admit that I’d really hate to catch that blasted virus because of my probably-still-weakened condition. So I’m being very cautious…trying to stay at home as much as possible…No hugs, no kisses…washing hands all the time, etc.

Ah, before I go: tomorrow I’m going to publish a post about a new curcumin-myeloma patient study!!! 🙂

Take care, everyone! 🙂

Priscilla

Well, it’s been a really rough three weeks. The first thing that happened was on January 1, no kidding, when I came down with a case of the flu (much worse than the before-Xmas flu). It’s going around. A lot of people are sick with this thing. Anyway, it hit me with a very high fever and huge gastrointestinal issues. Terrible. Plus, one night, delirious with fever, I fell against the bathroom wall and injured my wrist. Ouch.

Because my wrist was all swollen and hurt like the dickens, and I feared it might be fractured, Stefano took me to the emergency room at Florence’s university hospital, Careggi. We spent 13 hours there. They checked me out thoroughly, not just my wrist, but everything, from head to toe.

Result: I had pneumonia, but luckily my wrist wasn’t broken. No fractures, nothing. Just a bad trauma. So they put a sort of splint (which was partly a cast, too) on my arm for a week, and now that the cast is off, I have to wear a brace for another 10 days or so. My wrist will be fine. Oh, and my pneumonia is gone, but I still have to be careful…so I’m convalescent, well, I’ve actually been convalescent for more than a week now.

So things are getting better for me, physically, I mean, and in fact I can finally use my left hand to type a little bit.

But something simply awful happened on Friday morning. I found Priscilla, our 14.5 year old cat, lying on the bathroom floor, panting, not moving at all. She didn’t respond to my voice, as she usually does. Scared the heck out of me. Here I was, with a brace on my arm, unable to do anything for her…pick her up, etc.

I called my cat sitter who came over and drove us to the vet clinic.

In a nutshell, after a whole bunch of tests were done on Priscilla, we found out that she had advanced heart failure and that her chest was full of pleural fluid, which the vets aspirated, well, most of it. The prognosis wasn’t good, of course. But the vets said that if she responded to treatment, she could come home with us…as early as today, Monday, yes. So we left her at the clinic. We really didn’t have a choice, since we believed that she would get strong enough to come home…

Knowing what I know now, I wish now that we’d just brought her home on Saturday.

Yesterday, early Sunday evening, that is, Stefano and I were preparing to go see her at the clinic, at the regular visiting times, when we got an urgent call from the clinic. Priscilla had gotten much worse, and we were told that she was on her way out.

We rushed over to the clinic, but we arrived too late. She had passed away just a few minutes before we got there.

We didn’t have a chance to hold our sweet kitty and say goodbye, and let her know that we were there and loved her. And that’s what’s killing me right now…and Stefano, too, of course.

It just went so fast. Too fast. We weren’t prepared at all for this. She was here with us on Friday…and gone yesterday.

We’re devastated. Absolutely shattered. We now need time to mourn…we need time…Oh, this is so hard. I just wanted to let you know that I probably won’t be here on the blog or FB anytime soon. Sorry about that. I’ll be okay, but, as I said, I need some time…

Now I need to stop typing because my wrist is bugging me.

Take care, everyone. I’ll be back as soon as I feel better. Ciao!!!

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Buone Feste! Happy Holidays!

Well, this year I have to admit that I don’t have much in the way of a festive spirit, which is very unusual for me. I have always loved the Xmas holidays, decorating the house, making cookies, etc.

Not this year.

There are several reasons why I’ve been down and out about the holidays. One is that Stefano and I were supposed to be in Prague right now, lovely Prague with its glittering streets and Xmas markets…but instead we’re still here, in Florence. We had to cancel our trip to Prague because I came down with a rather nasty case of the flu (high fever, etc.) on the eve of our departure.

Of course, now I’m fine… 😉

Typical.

That’s not the main reason I’m all down and out, just one of the many. But I can’t talk here about the other ones (which have nothing to do with me or my health, or with Stefano, mind you!). Suffice it to say that this hasn’t been a brilliant period…not at all. I keep getting bad news about people who are close to me…And I’m sure all that accumulated stress contributed to my finally giving in to a stupid case of the flu. Ahhhh, stress…How sneaky it can be…

Anyway, we’re trying our best to put together a nice little Xmas just for the two of us. Stefano is in the kitchen right now, cooking up a storm. Yesterday he made a huge pot of broth (his broth is legendary…) and other yummies. Today he’s making a huge meat sauce. I made a fantastic cake. So one thing is for sure: we won’t die of hunger! 😉

The day after Xmas we may drive to northern Italy. Or we’ll stay here at home, watch Xmas movies and get some rest. We’ll see what we feel like doing. The important thing is to be together…

Anyway, sorry for not being my usual optimistic cheery self, but I’ll get over it. 2020 is around the corner, and this dastardly period of bad (and very bad) news just has to end. Enough is enough!

So, with that in mind, I hope you are all having a wonderful restful and fun holiday period…

HAPPY HOLIDAYS, everyone! 🙂

A FEW HOURS LATER: Okay, okay, OKAY! I am MUCH more in the holiday spirit now. We decided to go on a short trip with my brother-in-law and his family day after tomorrow. Yes, some fun is back in the holidays again. I’m almost back to my old festive self now, hehe.

Love and happiness to everyone! 😎

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Let’s have some chillies!

I just read a nice bit of news this morning. A new Italian study shows that eating peperoncini, the Italian word for chilli peppers (also spelled chili, with one “l,” mainly in the U.S.), can cut our risk of having a heart attack or stroke by 40%. Yes, by a whopping 40%!!!

Here’s the link to the CNN article about this study: https://cnn.it/36Fatro

It should be noted that other researchers cast a few doubts on the study’s findings, pointing out that perhaps people who eat chillies are also eating more vegetables, as well as other herbs and spices, so it would be difficult to figure out if the purported health benefits are determined by one single food item.

Okay, that may well be true, but we have another BIG reason to eat chillies…

Capsaicin, which is an active component of chillies, kills myeloma cells. So even if chillies don’t end up protecting us from heart attacks and strokes (they may or may not), we should definitely be using them in the kitchen…!!!

Curcumin and myeloma: a new patient study

A very small Indonesian study came up with some interesting conclusions about curcumin given to myeloma patients who were also taking melphalan and prednisone (MP): http://bit.ly/348vHwY

The study evaluated two groups of myeloma patients, a control group of 16 patients who took only the MP, and a treatment group consisting of 17 people who also took 8 grams of curcumin in addition to the MP.

After 28 days, as we can read in the study, “There was a significant decrease of NF-KB, VEGF, TNF-?, LDH levels in the treatment group compared with control. There was a decreasing trend of IL-6 levels in the treatment group significantly.”

Now, true, this was a very small study, and it lasted only for 28 days, but it just adds to the anecdotal evidence that curcumin can reaaaaaaaaaally help, even when one has to take conventional myeloma drugs.

So, for the umpteenth time, I ask: when are we going to start testing curcumin, alone or in combination with conventional MM drugs, on a larger scale?

(My guess: NEVER. Simply put, curcumin won’t make a profit for the pharmaceutical companies that hold us all hostage…).

Still, let’s end on a positive note: very good news from Indonesia!!! 🙂

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Treat so-called “high-risk” smoldering myeloma…Yes or No?

My (predictable) answer is “NO, absolutely NOT.” Not until you begin having CRAB symptoms. But first things first…

I began writing this post last week, then I just had too many things to do so I didn’t finish my draft. Then, yesterday morning, before going to work, I came across an article by Dr. Brian Durie (I don’t think I need to explain who he is!) making some of the points I had already made in my draft, BUT from the point of view of a world-famous hematologist.

So I decided to cut my draft in half and give you the link to Dr. Durie’s piece: http://bit.ly/2WWwsX9

But, of course, I still have some comments to make… 😉 

First, though, a bit of background. In a recent trial, the ECOG trial that Dr. Durie refers to in his article, lenalidomide was administered to so-called “high risk” smoldering myeloma patients. Based on the trial results, the authors state that lenalidomide “may” delay progression to active myeloma.

Yes, this was a “big” SMM trial, the biggest to date, anyway, with 182 participants…but, according to Dr. Durie, “Of the 180 patients in the ECOG trial, only 13 with HR-SMM received treatment with lenalidomide. Though their outcomes were improved versus observation alone, this is an extremely small number of patients as a basis for a “standard of care.” In addition, the remaining patients (the vast majority of them) were those with lower-risk SMM, and they did not achieve benefit with treatment. This is important on many levels, not least because the criteria for the diagnosis of HR-SMM are currently in flux.”

There are many points of discussion here. First of all, based on data from only 13 patients, the authors recommend that lenalidomide be offered to patients with “HR” SMM. Based on data, I repeat, from only 13 patients, the authors suggest that lenalidomide should become a “standard of care” for the so-called “high-risk” smoldering myeloma patients…

Does that make sense? Not to me…and not to Dr. Durie.

Secondly, why the heck were lower-risk SMM patients included in this study??? Ooooh, that makes my blood boil.

And it begs the question: why did these patients agree to be included? This just goes to show that we (patients) need to be more informed, much more informed, about what we might be getting into…I’m not saying those patients weren’t informed, perhaps they were, but boyohboy, if my hematologist suggested that I participate in a study testing a conventional drug with potentially very bad side effects, you can imagine what I’d say…

And, thirdly, what Dr. Durie says about the “criteria for the diagnosis” of “high-risk” SMM is something I’ve been saying over and over again in various posts on this topic, and that I’d made in my draft last week, too. And that is why I want to put it in BOLD lettering: the experts themselves do NOT agree on the definition of “high risk smoldering myeloma.

And hey, if THEY can’t agree, how can I trust them to tell me that I need to start taking a drug that might give me some serious adverse effects and bring my quality of life down a notch or even several notches? Sure, it might not. I might react perfectly well to the drug and be perfectly fine. But nobody can tell me that taking lenalidomide is as safe as taking a vitamin pill. There are a number of potentially very bad side effects, including the onset of other types of cancer (as well as blood clots, severe liver problems, etc.).

And in fact, according to Dr. Durie, “Among treated patients, 40% came off treatment due to toxic adverse events.”

40%. That’s quite a large number, don’t you think?

Interesting note. Dr. Durie also writes: “If a patient with SMM progresses, what is that? Is it myeloma? Maybe, maybe not.” Precisely. Nobody knows. When you begin fiddling with SMM, things can get very muddy. Did you progress to active MM because of the cancer or possibly because of the drugs you were taking? There are so many factors involved in progression…most of them, still unknown.

One last…rant. Whenever I read about patient trials, I always ask myself how these folks are doing, how lenalidomide (in this case) has affected their quality of life, if at all. I mean, what’s the bloody point of surviving for a longer time, or of delaying progression to myeloma, if you’re going to spend most of that time in a hospital, fighting off infections, skin rashes, blood clots, or…well…or worse?

Studies don’t provide us with that vital bit of information…

And they should.

P.S. The full study is available online for free, so you can take your own look at it and draw your own conclusions (I have only skimmed it…no time to do more that that right now…but I will read the full shebang soon!): http://bit.ly/34Eqe0U

P.P.S.S. The basic information is also contained in this Mayo Clinic press release, dated October 26, 2019: http://bit.ly/2NLKmax

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