My Euro Work Trip – Part Two, Prague

Picking up from the previous post…My sleeper compartment in the Polish train from Krakow to Prague ended up being a single, which made me extraordinarily happy not to have to share with either a boisterous young backpacker or a grumpy older woman. The compartment was in an older train car, no doubt about it. But it was clean and relatively spacious, particularly since only one of the berths was set up. There was a small open closet and a wash basin/mirror combo along the side opposite from the berth. I thought there was plenty of room for my suitcase and backpack in the closet, although adding someone who had the exact same amount of luggage as me would have definitely made it cramped. Grateful for my space, I locked the door, got into pajamas, snuggled under the blanket and tried to get as much sleep as possible. The bunk was firm and I slept fairly well, I thought.

In the morning, the attendant knocked on the door about 40 minutes before the scheduled arrival time and handed me a small tray containing a cup of hot water for tea (I declined the coffee) and a box with two soft brown bread rolls, butter, jam, and a small bottle of apple juice. Surprisingly, I loved the apple juice. Normally I find juices to be too sweet, at least in the States. But this was crisp and refreshing. I may have to rethink my stance on juices – at least when I’m in Europe. I pulled up the window shade and idly watched the countryside which turned into the outskirts of Prague over the course of the next 20 minutes.

Pulling into the main train station, I grabbed my suitcase and headed off to my next hotel, located in the New Town section of Prague. While I ordinarily like to stay in the Old Town sections while in Europe, I was spending the weekend hanging out with a colleague. So finding a twin bed room (not a room with the two beds shoved together to make one bed) was a challenge. In the end, I opted for the Sheraton, which not only has twin bedded rooms but also helped me requalify towards Platinum status with SPG. Platinums also get access to the club lounge, and those usually have free bottled water and sodas (and sometimes snacks and wine/beer depending on the particular Sheraton, but obviously not the Sheraton Jacksonville…)

Check-in was made even more delightful by the fact that my room was ready at 9am! I decided to take a nap before heading out to explore. Well, I guess I needed sleep more than I realized because when I woke up, I had slept for over 4 hours! I rolled around for another 30 minutes before I actually got out of bed and opened the curtains to find that the sky was growing darker by the minute. In fact, the first crack of lightning struck while I was still standing there staring at the sky. OK, so I ended up getting back into bed with a book and listened to the storm while I read. It’s OK I’m being lazy right now, I thought. My friend is coming here and she didn’t want me to do too much sightseeing without her anyway. After a few hours, I decided to get dressed and at least find my way to Old Town so later we wouldn’t wander around lost. But despite the alleged clearing in the weather, about 5 minutes from the hotel the heavens opened up again. I made a strategic retreat back to the hotel, where I discovered that the lounge not only had free sodas and bottled water, but also had peanuts, chips, cheese sticks, as well as beer, red wine, white wine, and a sparkling rose on offer. I settled in with a glass or two of the rose and played on my phone.

And then in quick succession, I got the messages from my friend – Worried about my transfer to Prague, going to be super tight. And then – if I miss it, I will get something in the morning. And then – I won’t make it. And then – So I will miss the Prague thing…

OK, I’m going to say this right up front. She had been acting a bit squirrely about the trip to Prague for the last week or so. And although I tried to ignore the feeling that she was going to blow me off, I thought I was just being hyper-sensitive about it. Surely she wasn’t planning on blowing me off after I purchased two train tickets and pre-paid for the twin-bedded hotel room, right? She really wouldn’t have had me do a bunch of research and planning for two people to do this weekend if she was thinking that in the end she wasn’t going to actually show up, right? And she definitely wouldn’t have agreed to bring my camera with her a few days ago if she wasn’t going to even come to Prague (I busted my phone’s screen in Krakow), right? She really wouldn’t blow me off to spend time with a guy that she likes who lives in Budapest when she was going to be here another week after I left, right?

Well, it turns out that I was wrong… and I don’t like being wrong. That makes me angry with myself for ignoring that small voice that always seems to be right. And it makes me angry for thinking that someone is a friend and then they act like I don’t matter to them. And it makes me angry to feel stupid to believe that people are true to their word.

The couple I was chatting with in the lounge watched my face for the five minutes that the text exchange was occurring. And when I set my phone down, face down, they knew. They were very sweet and told me that I would going to have a great time regardless – which, I mean, I can travel by myself and have a fun time. That’s not the issue. I finished the rest of the bottle of the rose while I sat fuming.

The next morning, the rain was gone and in it’s place was a gorgeous sunrise. I messaged my friend that lives in Germany (the one I went to Scotland with last year and whom I also visited in Germany a few years ago) bitching about the situation. And then she sent this message – Ummm, I could be in Prague in 3.5 hours. There’s a bus that’s leaving in about an hour and I’d be there by 1p.

Wait, what? I had no idea she was that close to Prague. In the end, she booked her ticket and jumped on the bus. And it really hit me in that moment that despite that person choosing someone else’s company over mine, there was at least one person willing to travel 7 hours roundtrip to hang out with me for approximately 30 hours. I went from feeling like I had no business ever trying this friendship thing out again to realizing that¬† I was capable of making a friend or two that really did want to spend time with me without wanting anything from me. In fact, I did have friends that would drop their lives for a day or two to take advantage of unexpected time with me.

I wandered through Old Town and across the various bridges, exploring the city while waiting for Natasha’s bus to arrive. Because she has been to Prague quite a few times and relatively recently, there was no concern about her missing out on any sightseeing. The day was absolutely postcard perfect, blue skies, temperatures in the lows 70s. And with the change in my temperament, the city looked even more beautiful to my eyes.

Natasha’s bus arrived, and then we set out just walking aimlessly, talking a mile a minute.¬† We poked our heads into small jazz clubs. We checked menus of takeaway places and fancy restaurants. We glanced at displays in shop windows. We ended up in the lounge that evening; the lounge attendant making sure to always keep a bottle of the sparkling rose chilled. And this time, it tasted ever better than it did the night before.

While I lounged around the next morning, I realized she had fallen back asleep. She’s been under a ton of stress lately and hasn’t really been sleeping well for months. Although I wanted to get out to explore some more, I opted to let her sleep as long as she could. In the end, we didn’t even get out of the hotel until checkout time. Storing our bags, we walked through the park on the castle side of the river. It was another beautiful spring day and the cherry blossom trees were in full bloom. Couples and families were having picnics or just hanging out. We got to the castle, bought a snack, and crossed back across the Charles Bridge.

And then, it was time to grab her bag. After she got on the Metro to head back to the bus station, I wandered back to a park near the hotel to sit on a park bench and stare into space, thinking about how my time in Prague turned out versus how I expected it to be before I got to the city.

Friendship is a weird thing. Sometimes, the people you don’t expect to disappoint you do. And sometimes the people that you don’t expect to be there for you are. But I was heading to Budapest next and needed to come to grips with my disappointment, my anger, and my sense of rejection that this whole episode generated. I had to decide exactly how I was going to react to this woman in person. She’s a co-worker and I was going to Budapest to get some work accomplished. But she was also a friend and now she inhabits a very grey area for me. I don’t make friends easily but when I do consider you a friend and you lie to me, that usually means game over as far as I’m concerned.

I pondered this situation until it got dark out. I picked up my bags from the hotel and made my way to the train station. Looking on the bright side, I realized that I was definitely guaranteed to have a single in the sleeper car on the way to Budapest…

Advertisements

My Euro Work Trip – Part One, London and Krakow

I’m in Budapest right now, grappling with my emotions. Wait…Let me back up a few days.

In my previous post, I mentioned that I was going on a work trip, but I was going to sneak some fun into it as well. I started in London, which despite the rainy, cold weather, I still freaking love. This time I stayed in the East End in Spitalsfield, an area I hadn’t checked out yet in previous London adventures. I landed on Sunday morning and as soon as I could check into my aparthotel flat, I threw my bags down and took off exploring. I wandered through the Spitalsfield Market, then up into Shoreditch, and back down on Brick Lane. There’s a ton of really cool street art everywhere in the area in addition to a bunch of shopping, restaurants and bars. I was a bit hesitant to stay in the area, mostly because I wasn’t sure how I would connect with that part of the city. I mean, I’m fun and all; but I’m definitely not cool and hip. Maybe living in Austin is good for me though, because I really did enjoy checking out the neighborhoods and didn’t feel completely out of place. The bright young things walking around might have thought differently but no one said it out loud.

Monday, I was in the office all day with meetings but in the evening, a small group of colleagues and I went to dinner in Shoreditch – at a place that despite being billed as a pizza place was actually a modern, industrial setting for all kinds of food. After dinner, we wandered to the Ace Hotel bar and had a few more rounds of drinks before half the group called it a night. The remaining two guys and I were up for one more drink and ended up in a basement cocktail bar with a demented circus theme that was weird and awesome all at the same time. We were treated to a full-on makeout session by the couple seated right behind us. I mean, the dude was aggressively checking out the woman’s tonsils with his tongue. I was flabbergasted because here I thought the British were all proper (at least out in public). The Polish bartender found out I was heading to Krakow next and in honor of my impending visit, bought me a shot of something I still don’t know the name of. She claimed that I needed to learn how to drink strong stuff to fit in there. I was like – look sweetheart, I live in Austin, I know how to drink. And threw the shot down like a pro. She was so impressed that I didn’t gasp or even make a face after the shot went down that she wanted to buy me another (which I politely declined because dear God that was some nasty turpentine and while I like drinking, I’m not an alcoholic or in desperate need of organ failure). Despite everyone claiming I was going to wake up hungover, I was at work bright-eyed the next morning. See, the weird thing is that I don’t get hungover. I never have that throwing up, head pounding, I-hate-the-world thing the next day that apparently everyone else gets. In college, I was legendary for waking up the day after a major party and acting like a normal person.

Tuesday, I worked all day and thought we were supposed to go out for a farewell send-off for someone but then I saw all of the other marketing people sneaking out. I made a break for it too so I could have some more Nicole-time to wander around on my own. I walked down to check out St. Paul’s Cathedral. And let me tell you, the shopping in London is absurd. How anyone can afford to go to all of these posh shops after paying the prices to live in London is beyond me. And I desperately wish I could figure out how people do it so I could too! I walked back up to Shoreditch to grab dinner at a local fish-and-chips place before calling it a night.

The next morning, I had to get up at a god-awful early time to catch my train up to Stansted Airport for my Ryanair flight to Krakow. I am not a morning person even on a good day and I have no idea why I continually book flights that leave before noon. Anyway, Ryanair gets a bad rap, but I honestly didn’t think it was all that different than the service on domestic U.S. carriers and they actually were less aggressive in up-selling stuff than American Airlines or United. And the fares are actually so low on Ryanair that it’s not a big deal to pay a little more for a checked bag, seat assignment, whatever (unlike those greedy U.S. airlines who have those Basic Economy fares which are sometimes higher than the standard fare, but don’t even get me started on that because I will be here all day ranting). I did pay like $10 extra to use the Fast Track security line, which was the smartest $10 I think I have ever spent. I was through the line in less than 5 minutes instead of the 45-60 minutes that was posted for the regular security line.

The flight to Krakow took about 2.5 hours. We finally took off after about an hour delay and I read on my Kindle the entire time so it passed by quickly. There’s a train that runs from the Krakow airport to the main train station near where my next accommodation was located. I bought a ticket at the machine with my credit card; but onboard, the woman checking tickets claimed that my transaction didn’t go through and I needed to buy another ticket and since I didn’t have cash, I needed to do it when we got to the main train station. I was ashamed and embarrassed because I’m not the type to try to get away with riding for free. But in the crush of all the people getting off the train, I lost sight of the ticket checker lady and after the train pulled away and I didn’t see her on the platform, I finally gave up and went downstairs. On my way to actually go buy another ticket to soothe my conscience, I connected to the wifi – and got an email notification from my credit card about a foreign transaction. My payment actually DID go through. I have no idea what the deal was, whether she honestly thought I didn’t have a valid ticket or if she thought she could get me to give her cash (which I didn’t have on me yet because I hadn’t been able to find an ATM at that point that took my card) or what. But needless to say, I did not cheat the system out of 10 zlotys.

Anyway, the cute little place I stayed at in Krakow was right in the heart of Old Town, which was gorgeous. I enjoyed roaming the streets and park paths between the Main Market and the Wawel Castle grounds. I stumbled onto a locals market that had everything from fresh fruit to clothing to kitchen utensils for purchase. I sorely wanted a hat that one elderly gentleman was selling from his kiosk but my lack of Polish language skills hindered me from asking the price. I walked away berating myself for a few blocks for not learning more than please, thank you, and one in Polish. Damn it, I still want that hat!

I also found myself down a little passage into a secret courtyard for a wine bar. There, I chatted with an older Australian couple, Margaret and Brian. Brian drank more wine than he needed but Margaret was interesting to talk to. They are both school teachers on break traveling around. They also own a cottage in a small English town where apparently there lives a couple from Texas and another one from Ohio! What a weird coincidence. I think I need to go visit there just because of those two connections. Brian proceeded to drink two more glasses of wine (that he really, really didn’t need) and then tell me how brave I am for traveling around by myself. I hate when people say this. Would you say that to a man? Margaret was like, I’m so embarrassed of him but I told her not to worry. But then he came back down the little alley after I thought they left to tell me AGAIN how brave he thought I was. Part of me was like, OK old man, I get it. But then he starts saying that a pretty woman like myself (Brian apparently has failing eyesight or had wine goggles) has to know that there are pervy men around and then started doing some creepy thing with his tongue. I was completely dumbfounded. Was this 70 year old guy hitting on me? And in a totally gross way? Ewwww. And then the thought that he’s a school teacher. Dear God, please don’t let this dude around young women, please have him teaching at an all-boys school… On the plus side, the Polish white wine the server recommended was pretty good (for a white wine).

The next day, I walked all over in an effort to get myself completely exhausted. I had a sleeper berth for the night train to Prague that evening. I even went into the very modern and sleek shopping mall attached to the train station to take a look. And let me tell you, those Polish women are spoiled for choice with stores that carry makeup and skin care. Every other shop was either Sephora or a knock-off of one. I have this weird urge to acquire makeup despite the fact that I have absolutely no idea how to apply it properly; so I had to force myself to not even glance into the stores anymore. I ended up wandering back towards the Main Market and walked around the entire square perusing the menus. I opted for a ringside (squareside?) seat and sat for an hour and a half trying to choke down this horrible red wine (that was not Polish but sure as hell wasn’t the Italian variety the menu claimed) and watching the world go by. All in all, even with the bad wine, it was a very agreeable way to spend a beautiful spring evening.

Then I made my way over to the train station to wait for my sleeper to Prague. I was excited to try the Polish rail system and see if the train cars were as antiquated as some blogs led me to believe. Finally the platform for my train was posted and I went upstairs to find my compartment. The attendant for my carriage was a German who was actually very nice and kind, even though he never smiled – not once, even though I smiled at him every time. I got my bags into the compartment and realized that I had scored in a big way. Even though I bought a ticket in a 2-berth compartment, they didn’t sell the other berth. Meaning, I had gotten a compartment all to myself! I was super stoked about this because I agonized over spending the additional $100 that it would have cost me to get a single. So I saved $100 and still got a single in the end. I think that was the universe’s way of apologizing for Brian…


OK, this post is getting awfully long… I’ll pick up the rest in the next post. And yes, like a cliffhanger TV show, I am making you wait to hear about why I’m grappling with feelings. Y’all know I’m know I’m no good with those things and I’m hoping writing things down will give me some much needed perspective…but that’ll be the next post.

Random Babbling

I’m in Miami right now, staying at my college roommate’s house. We had a great weekend boating up to Ft. Lauderdale and back on the Intercoastal. I had lots of sunscreen, swim shirts, long bathing suit coverups, a hat, and massively oversized sunglasses on for the vast majority of the time on the water. Which was fine with me as long as I got to experience marina life. There are a whole lot more wealthy people in Broward County than I realized. The marina was stuffed with mega-yachts that dwarfed our not-too-small boat. I discovered that you can google the name of pretty much any yacht and made yourself ill with envy looking at photos of the interiors of these ridiculously extravagant ships (at those sizes, they cease being boats and become ships, in my opinion). Also, who the hell has so much money that they can not only afford one of these floating palaces but also the maintenance, gas, and marina dockage fees? (And can we totally be friends? I’m a great decorative accessory on a boat…)

I get home tomorrow night and have a few days to relax until I head out of town again – this time for work. Well, I guess there will be a little bit of pleasure thrown in there too. I’m excited that I somehow finagled my company to pay for me to go to our London office and then to the Budapest ones for meetings! So, not only do I get to return yet again to London, but I get to also return to Budapest – which I haven’t been to since my very first Euro-trip way the hell back in the day. And because I can’t leave well enough alone, I’ve managed to squeeze a visit to Krakow and Prague into the mix thanks to making a long weekend in the middle of the trip. Yay! More places to experience ūüôā

London is also going to be new to me this trip because our offices are in an area that I haven’t explored yet (you’re thinking to yourself, really? there is one?). Definitely looking forward to checking out the East End, although I suspect that it may be too trendy for me to blend in there smoothly. And then I head to Krakow for a whirlwind solo 48 hours of exploring before jumping on a night train to Prague, where I’m going to meet up with a co-worker who is also a really good friend. We’re going to be doing a girls’ weekend so if there are any news stories about two crazy Americans in Prague at some point soon, you know who to blame…I somehow managed to convince her that we should take the night train to Budapest so we can maximize our sightseeing in Prague and minimize the hotel that can’t be expensed… I’m a freaking genius, lol! Actually, I’m really excited to be able to incorporate trains into this adventure because I do love me some trains. And because I’m older and have slightly more disposable income than the last time I meandered around that section of Europe, I sprang for a sleeper compartment for us. (Plus, I’m sure my co-worker would have balked at the idea if she thought she was going to be roughriding the rails and trying to sleep in a basic seat.) I’m hoping that in between work commitments, we’ll find some time to explore Budapest too…

And Adam Ant just released tour dates for the summer today. I’m looking at the schedule¬† to see if there are a few dates I can go play groupie. While he does have a concert scheduled on my birthday (yay, best present ever), he is NOT coming to Texas on this leg either (damn it, why isn’t someone on his team reading this blog and making this happen?). And most of the dates are at general admission-type places which always makes me hesitate because of my lack of height and the fact that most of the time, I cannot stand being in close proximity to that many people pushing and shoving. Sadly, I did not win the lottery this past week, so a command performance is out of my financial reach and buying VIP packages for multiple shows would definitely put a crimp on my budget for other travel expenses. I’m going to see at least one of those shows but I likely won’t be putting together a long road trip around this tour either…

So, April looks like it’s shaping up to be a better month than January was. Hoping that the rest of the year progressively gets better and better for me. I’m still going through some weird stretches where the world just seems a bit off. I have to imagine that our current political climate is not doing wonders for my outlook and honestly, at times I wish I could be willfully ignorant of the chaos going on in the world. But I’m trying to remind myself that generations prior have lived through much worse. And the personal things I’m dealing with right now won’t matter too much in five years time (at least that’s what I tell myself when I get too stressed about work and this god-forsaken insurance debacle with my condo which is STILL not moving an inch towards resolution – I seriously have to control my anger impulses every time I think about the inability of three separate insurance companies to take responsibility for their clients’ negligence – and there I go lining myself up for another round of “why is the world so damned f’ed up?”)…

I think it’s time to head to my friend’s backyard and spend some time gazing at their boat and reminding myself of fun times yet to come. And I’m sure I will be providing a recap of my European work trip but asking for forgiveness if I’m a little quiet on the blog for the next few weeks while I gallivant around this planet of ours. Stay healthy everyone…

Maybe Consistency isn’t Always Good

Being consistent with good eating habits, drinking those glasses of water, and exercising is supposed to be good for you (I wouldn’t know because I’m unable to do all three of those things consistently). But in melanoma treatment, consistency may not always be a good thing, at least according to recently published research.

Combining various drug treatments has been at the forefront of cancer research for a few years now. But melanoma cells often find ways of developing resistance to these drugs, to the frustration of patients and physicians alike. According to the article, researchers at the Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center at Jefferson Health in the U.S. have been tinkering with the schedule of how various drugs are delivered to mice melanoma patients to see if they can improve outcomes.

Using two FDA-approved drugs, the researchers administered MEK inhibitor (used in advanced-stage melanoma) in combination with a CDK4/6 inhibitor called palbociclib, which is used in breast cancer treatments. The scientists discovered that if they gave the mice the drugs intermittently and then stopped, after a week the tumors increased. And after 8 weeks, the tumors developed resistance to the drugs. Not a good thing…

However, and I’m going to quote from the article: “If one drug was provided continuously while the other given intermittently, the tumors shrank and remained small, no matter which drug was continuous.” Further research showed that “a combination of MEK inhibitor given continuously with intermittent CDK4/6 inhibitor was the most effective schedule in mice” without the toxicity levels of the alternate schedule.

Obviously, there needs to be some human clinical trials to see if the result replicates in humans. But since these drugs have already been approved by the FDA, the timescale for those trials might be in years rather than decades. And as we all know, melanoma patients may not have a whole lot of time to wait for bureaucratic red-tape.

 

Reconnections

Now that SXSW is over, I had thought that my life would settle down for a few weeks at least. While I had a lot of fun running around, listening to a bunch of live music and discovering some new bands, I’m not going to lie – SXSW is not a time where you get to relax. And I’m paying for it – fatigue and headaches which I really hope are nothing more than a result of sleep deprivation and spring allergies joining forces. But, I had made plans months ago without realizing the weekend after SXSW should be blocked for nothing more strenuous than going to the couch, but it’s for a very good reason…

This weekend, one of my few friends from the time I lived in San Antonio is coming to visit. I miss her and have been looking forward to seeing her for months. I am ashamed that I haven’t seen Lauren in over a year. It’s because of my schedule that she hasn’t been able to find a weekend until now to come up. And I just don’t make the drive down to San Antonio. I know I covered previously how I never felt at home in San Antonio; but the traffic getting down there is a pain in the ass as well and for someone who really doesn’t drive much anymore, it’s super stressful more than a fun road trip (plus she much prefers to come here because here we can hang out in downtown Austin rather than her place out in the hinterlands and have to drive or Uber everywhere).

Although I’m still just really run-down, I know I will rally to make sure Lauren has some fun while she’s up here. Hopefully, maybe she’ll want to take a nap or something tomorrow afternoon… And I don’t really have much time to rest because on Wednesday night, I’m headed to Miami to hang out with my college roommate again for a few days. I am so grateful I had the chance to reconnect with her as well. In many ways, being around her just feels like home. As someone who has only a very small circle of close friends, I don’t often get to hang out with a girlfriend and have those long, meaningful talks while sipping cosmopolitans that apparently the rest of my gender enjoys on a regular basis. And I can be weird and silly around her without any embarrassment because she lived with me for two and a half years in college when I was basically a feral animal. (Not that I was an unkempt creature living in filth, far from it; but more like an unsupervised hormonal teenager who was actively trying to avoid becoming a responsible adult and realizing that after university, you can’t continue to do goofy things like sitting on Santa’s lap outside of a Publix for a picture when you are a functioning member of society – at least you don’t if you don’t want to endure side-eye for the rest of your 20s and 30s…although funny thing about full circle, I’d probably do it now if I didn’t think I would crush the poor guy…)

We’re going to be cruising around on their boat, which means I need to pack a bunch of sunscreen. But I do love being on the water… and they have a sweet-ass boat. I look at how we both grew up – poor family with blue collar jobs who had pretty much nothing extra – and see how far we’ve come from our humble beginnings. It’s a reality check for me when I sometimes don’t feel like I’m doing enough, earning enough, and realize that I’m being completely idiotic. Based on the way I grew up, I’m not supposed to be living in a beautiful condo in downtown Austin, I’m not supposed to be traveling on a whim to places, I’m not even supposed to be able to go out to eat when I’m too tired to cook… my family didn’t have the luxury of doing anything more than try to keep a roof over our heads and some food in the kitchen. Same for her… And then Lydia and I will be on this gorgeous boat (can I call it a yacht?) of hers and laugh ourselves silly because we really aren’t supposed to be able to enjoy this beautiful life – despite how hard we worked to get here because the American Dream is often just that, a dream. And since we both had health issues that might have prevented us from enjoying where we are now, it’s even sweeter to celebrate with her.

Are Your Eyes an Indicator of Your Melanoma Risk?

So there’s an article released yesterday that basically says that if you have a pigmented lesion in your iris (the colored part of your eye), you have an increased likelihood of developing melanoma. I wanted to run to the mirror and stare at my irises but because I am at work, I figured I would avoid the awkward conversation in the bathroom and wait until I get home to check…

Anyway, this study showed that “the presence of ‚Č•3 iris pigmented lesions increased the risk for melanoma 1.45-fold”. If you ever wanted to give yourself the willies, run a google image search for “iris pigmented lesions”. Actually, maybe that could be the sociopath test – if you don’t react to some of those images, you are either creepy as hell or an¬†ophthalmologist.

(And totally random aside, but have you ever realized how hard it is to spell ophthalmologist correctly the first time? Is this a word in that national spelling bee? It sure as hell should be. And those doctors have my mad respect because eyeballs kinda creep me out…)

The authors of the study recommended that the presence of these lesions should serve as a predictive mechanism for people to get a skin check for cutaneous melanoma (or in basic terms, melanoma lesions on your skin). I wonder if any ophthalmologists or opticians get any training to tell patients with these pigmented iris lesions (which are supposedly benign in situ) that it does serve as a warning for their patients to really pay attention to skin changes since they seem to be at a higher risk for developing melanoma.

Your eyes might be more than windows to your soul. They could be the early warning sign for future melanoma…

Repurposed Drugs an Option to Fight Melanoma

Been a little quiet on the blog as I have been slammed with work stuff and still trying to recover from whatever that second virus-head-cold thing was. It’s SXSW in Austin and the sleep deficit I’m carrying isn’t going to be wiped out anytime soon.

But I did see an interesting story I wanted to share. Researchers at the University of Kentucky have identified a molecular mechanism that allows melanoma to spread. And as we know, spreading melanoma is not a good thing.¬† But there are existing drugs on the market that potentially can be used to disrupt that mechanism, halting the metastasizing tumor in its tracks. The drugs have been around for decades to fight leukemia. They’re called¬†Abl and Arg inhibitors and one of the great things about them is the fact that there are few serious side effects.

There’s a whole lot of science behind the mechanism and if you love dense medical jargon, you’ll love the article. But basically, there are enzymes called¬†cathepsins that degrade proteins, particularly around cancer tumors. This allows bits of the cancer tumor to move around the body,¬†metastasizing to distant locations from the original tumor. The drugs work to actually increase the amount of cathepsin produced in cancer cells, which seems counter-intuitive. But there’s so much being produced that it ends up being released into the environment between cells, not in the actual tumor structure. So the tumor doesn’t break into smaller pieces and get into the bloodstream or the lymphatic system.

Since these drugs are already on the market, it’s not like melanoma patients are going to need to wait years and years for something to be produced, tested, and put into rotation. Because for metastatic melanoma patients, the majority of them don’t have the luxury of time. As noted in the article, despite new advances in metastatic melanoma treatment, the 5-year survival rate is only 15% to 20%. I’m hoping that these inhibitor drugs will allow that percentage to go up.