Month: February 2004

New Family Member

BuddyThere’s been a new addition to my family, and his name is Buddy. He’s a collie mix, with some really obvious collie features. I’m not sure what the other ingredients are. His head reminds me of the shape of a golden retriever or lab. I got him from the Collie Rescue of the Carolinas. He’s a very sweet dog of about 5 years of age. He’s stretched out on the floor now, after having investigated his new surroundings pretty thoroughly, including the back yard.

My back is aching from spending hours in the car today. That’s one of the things that’s really hard on me – driving or riding in the car. We went to Greensboro and picked up my nephew and then over to Winston-Salem to see Buddy. I kind of decided right on the spot that he was the dog for me. He’s such a nice boy! My poor cat is hiding out someplace now. I hope she adjusts quickly.

Tomorrow’s the start of another week. I have to have my INR tested tomorrow. I also have to fill my rx for Thalomid. Yes, that’s right. I’m on it for another month. I wanted to see about getting in a Revlimid trial. UNC isn’t participating in any. I think I want to look for a phase II trial though, because the phase III trial involves a placebo. I’m not sure I want to take that kind of chance! What if the MM advances while I’m just on monthly dex?


On Wednesday, I had a full skeletal survey done. It’s different than the first one I had about a year ago. At UNC they don’t do the ribs, but they do all the leg & arm bones, including wrists (but not hands & feet). It’s my understanding that myeloma likes to affect the ribs though, so I don’t understand excluding them. Anyway, the imaging showed no lesions again. My labs were fine too (except for the MM).

On Wednesday, I’ll have Zometa, and it’ll be my 12th time. It’s amazing how quickly time passes.

Trusting Doctors

I put an awful lot of trust in my doctors, but I realize that they’re only human. They see hundreds of patients, and probably don’t think about me much after they leave the exam room. I take it upon myself to find out as much about my disease and its treatments as I can, and I don’t blindly follow any doctor’s advice. I have to understand what’s being done and accept the risks. When I see others getting less than standard care or outdated treatments, I have to speak up. I have an acquaintance whose treatment is MP, which makes her feel sick for the duration. She’s lost weight and has a poor quality of life. The suggestion to switch to thalidomide was rejected because her doctor doesn’t use thalidomide due to the problems it causes. The individual specifically mentioned the birth defects. This person is in her 80s! Of course thalidomide has side effects, especially at higher doses (Celgene says that certain side effects, such as peripheral neuropathy, are dose related). I just can’t forgive a doctor for not trying it with a patient that has such a miserable time with MP.

My dog

I called an animal communicator today. She has helped others in the collie community to find their lost dogs. It was sad for me, because she had a feeling that my dog may not still be alive. Normally, she can communicate with an animal. With Collie, there was nothing. She said it could also mean that maybe Collie had “turned her back” on us for some reason. She suggested that I try to talk to Collie myself, and told me some things that I can say.

There was an article on the front page of the local newspaper on Sunday about my search for my dog. I found a tracker who was featured in Bark Magazine, thanks to my Aunt Lucy. I called him, and the next day he was here (Thursday). This is the article (the name of my dog is misspelled):

Dog Tracer Helps Track Missing Pets

Beth Morgan has searched everywhere for her lost dog, Collee.

Last week, she got another dog to help.

Collee, who looks like the Lassie everybody knows from the television series, disappeared through a poorly latched door during last month’s ice storm.

Morgan called Jim Pitts of Sanford. He’s been successful at tracking other missing animals. Morgan was desperate.

When she read about Pitts in Bark magazine, he looked like her last hope.

“I got Collee from Collie Rescue of the Carolinas about three years ago,” Morgan says. “She had been shot and God knows whatever. I got her from her foster family in Charlotte. She is a very gentle, nice dog who loves kids, cats, dogs and people in general. But it looks like she has a tendency to roam.”

The anguish of a lost pet can be devastating. Such loss and wondering is worse when the missing pet happens to be the cherished companion of a young woman facing incurable cancer.

Morgan is battling multiple myeloma, a cancer of the plasma cell — which is a treatable, but so far incurable disease. Some 50,000 people in the United States are currently living with multiple myeloma. An estimated 14,600 new cases are diagnosed each year, according to the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation.

“Multiple myeloma comprises about one percent of all cancers,” Morgan says. “Geraldine Ferraro has it. About 12,000 people in the United States die of it every year.”

She’s about to start on a new, experimental drug-based treatment.

Friend and Companion

Collee has been her friend and companion. Morgan was away in Florida attending an International Myeloma Foundation seminar last month when snow and ice struck Moore County.

A power outage at her home forced her brother to take Collee to their mother’s home instead.

“This place has gas heat,” she said. “Unfortunately, he left the door open, and she walked out.”

Ads in The Pilot and notices on every bulletin board she could find brought no response. Morgan called Pitts for help.

Pitts finds missing dogs, horses, cats and just about any other animal. His partner is Sabre, a red Doberman, whose educated nose can tell one smell from another well enough to follow old scent trails across fields, creeks and concrete patios.

“She’s done about 15 of these,” Pitts says. “She found most of them. She found a horse, two cats and about eight or nine dogs.”

Pitts and Sabre stood in the hallway near the back door Collee had nosed open before disappearing into the snow.

“This one didn’t get found,” Morgan says. “That’s why she’s here.”

Sabre sat calmly, as working dogs do, waiting be shown the job at hand.

“She loves doing it,” Pitts said. “She is just really a good dog.”

Sabre’s career began with a call for help.

“One guy called me, a cousin of mine in Sanford,” he says. “He was away in Chicago at a dog show.”

Back home, the man’s son left a door open. Their Burmese show dog escaped and was nowhere to be found.

“I had never done anything with her, ever,” Pitts says, stroking Sabre, who appeared to be listening carefully. “He showed me the house, where the dog had been. We went out — searched that morning, that evening — and we got the dog the next morning.”

Thursday morning, Pitts and Sabre met Morgan at her mother’s home on Fairway Drive in Southern Pines, the last place Collee had been seen.

Morgan brought Collee’s chew bones and her dog brush. At Pitts’ request, Morgan had these scent sources in plastic bags to keep off confusing scents such as hers from contaminating Collee’s own.

“Usually what we do, whoever the owner is, we find an article the dog was sleeping with, chewing, whatever, to get the scent of the dog,” he says. “We find the last known area where the dog was, where the scent was left, and pick it up. Of course, the human mind says, ‘Well — three weeks — there’s been a lot of other pets, other people.’ Unlike humans, dogs have discriminatory scent.”

Finding the Scent

A dog can distinguish today’s scent from yesterday’s, this cat from that, one dog from another.

“With a discriminatory scent, we will get a good start,” Pitts says. “She will note the scent. She will go pick up the message how she can, and we will have to follow.”

No trail is a straight line.

“Scent goes down and spreads,” he said. “You will see the dog go through a door, then look around. There is always some there. It is amazing. If they cross a stream, it is kind of nice. Moisture holds a scent better than dry.”

He crouched, opening one bag and then another. Sabre checked out the brush. She checked the bones. They looked particularly interesting.

“No, we are not going to chew them,” Pitts told her. “Just get the scent.”

Back and forth a time or two she sniffed the bones and the brush, then suddenly seemed to lose all interest in them. Pitts held out a sample, and Sabre turned up her nose and looked away.

“She’s telling us she has the scent,” Pitts said. “She doesn’t need any more.”

The dog was ready for Collee’s trail.

“OK, I got it,” Sabre was saying. “Let’s go to work now.”

She followed Collee’s spoor through the back door and onto a concrete rear patio, then stopped suddenly.

Frozen in place, Sabre stood stock still. Only one part of the tracking dog was moving.

The tip of the great red dog’s nose wrinkled and twisted this way and that, like some olfactory telescope gazing at a world of scents invisible to Pitts and Morgan who were behind her.

Then, deciding on a course, she moved quickly across the hard surface to pine-needled forest carpet beyond.

The hunt is on.

It took two hours, but ended on the doorstep of a house several blocks away on Becky Branch Road. Nobody was home, but Sabre was sure. Efforts to reach the family continue.

This was where Collee came the day she left, Pitts told Morgan. This is where her journey ended. She may not be here now, but she didn’t leave here on foot.

“That was what Sabre was telling us,” Morgan says.

Drugs and discoveries

New discovery may lead to therapy for incurable blood cancer

A recent finding may lead to new treatments for multiple myeloma, an incurable cancer of immune cells called plasma cells that are present in the blood and bone marrow. The research, published in the February issue of Cancer Cell, reveals a frequent and common abnormal cellular event that occurs in about half of all myeloma cases and identifies an attractive target for therapeutic intervention. Read more here

REVLIMID(TM) Receives Orphan Drug Designation From the European Commission For Multiple Myeloma


Callisto Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (OTC BB: CLSP) announced today that the Office of Orphan Products Development of the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has granted orphan drug designation to the company’s lead drug candidate, Atiprimod, for the treatment of multiple myeloma, a blood cancer that proliferates in bone marrow. Callisto filed an investigational new drug application (IND) on Atiprimod in September 2003 and a Phase I/IIa clinical trial in multiple myeloma patients is expected to begin in January 2004.

Atiprimod has unique properties, centering on its ability to inhibit angiogenesis and proliferation of cancer cells through its ability to inhibit production of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) and Interleukin-6 (IL-6), two essential factors for tumor growth and metastasis in multiple myeloma and other solid tumors. Patients will also be evaluated for the effect of Atiprimod on bone resorption, a debilitating side effect of multiple myeloma. Other anti-cancer uses for Atiprimod are presently being evaluated pre-clinically in
collaboration with the National Cancer Institute.

The FDA grants orphan drug status for drug candidates that are intended to treat rare life-threatening diseases that, at the time of application, affect no more than 200,000 patients in the United States. The drug must have the ability to provide significant patient benefit over currently available treatment or fill an unmet medical need. Orphan drug designation entitles Callisto to seven years of market exclusivity in the United States upon FDA approval, provided that Callisto continues to meet certain conditions established by the FDA.

Once the FDA grants marketing approval of a new drug, the FDA will not accept or approve other applications to market the same medicinal product for the same therapeutic indication. Other incentives provided by orphan status include certain tax benefits, eligibility for research grants and protocol assistance. Protocol assistance includes regulatory assistance and possible exemptions or reductions of certain regulatory fees.


I had some x-rays today to rule out a sinus infection. About 2 weeks ago I had 5 days of Levaquin, and thought I was getting better. I still had headaches though, and really sore teeth on my left side (uppers). I learned that this can be the result of a sinus infection. I also have congestion, although that seems much better today. I have some pretty yucky post nasal goo draining down my throat when I get up in the morning.

Wednesday I’ll have another skeletal survey. It’s been almost a year since I had one. Dr. O. said he likes to do them every 6 months, but I have to remind him, I’ve discovered.

Early vs Late Stem Cell Transplant

Dr. Kyle, from the Mayo Clinic (read about Dr. Kyle here), was one of the MM specialists at the recent IMF patient & family seminar. Dr. Kyle’s opinion is that overall survival is the same whether a stem cell transplant is performed late or early.

I understand that some people don’t have a choice about the timing of their SCT. In some cases though, the MM is indolent or slow moving, and one can wait if one chooses.

Getting shocked

ColliebearI’m someone who has a problem with static electricity. No matter what time of year it is. I get shocked when I touch my mailbox, television, car door, or just about anything capable of carrying a charge. I don’t know why this is, or what can be done about it. I’m sure my dog & cat would like to have the problem solved.

My dog is still not home. I’ve had several calls from people sighting collies, but none of them has resulted in my finding my dog or any other. Calls have come from Southern Pines, Pinehurst and Aberdeen. Each time someone calls, I go to the area where the sighting occurred and conduct a search. In the ad I have running in the local paper, I ask people to try to detain her. Mostly, people just call to say they saw a collie a week ago or two days ago or two hours ago. I won’t give up looking. I’ll keep the ads running in the newspaper and keep the flyers up around town.