31 August 2013

3 : Something Borrowed... Using HIV to Cure Cancer

Research Using HIV to Cure Cancer
My son showed me an amazing U tube video today entitled Fight Fire with Fire a cure for cancer, I really hope that this kind of technology becomes available for all, the sooner the better.  This is the link http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nslinX6C1ZM

Writes Doctor Mark Thoma, MD To the AMERICAblog about the new treatment:

If you never thought you’d see the day when you’d appreciate HIV . . .
Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania were looking for a way to stop tumor cell growth, or actively kill the tumor cells.
They had several patients (adults with chronic lymphocytic leukenia) and kids with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. These patients had failed all previous standard chemotherapy treatments and would all have probably died in less than a 1 month.
Researchers at Penn had developed a technique to modify the patients’ own T-cells to turn them into what they called “serial killer” cells. These serial killer T-cells could each kill approximately 1000 tumor cells that had the CD-19 antigen on them. This antigen is found on the malignant lymphocytes in these leukemia patients.
To produce the serial killers, researchers needed to modify the patients’ own T-cells by genetically engineering them to produce an antibody-like protein that would sic them on the tumor cells. To do that, the researchers needed to get at the T-cells’ genes. They found that the best way to get this process to work was to use HIV.
The HIV naturally seeks out T-cells and binds to them, then injects its own genetic material, functionally taking over the cell. Forcing it to produce millions of copies of HIV before the cell dies. The researchers modified the HIV so that it could no longer cause the infected cells to produce HIV. But it was programmed to cause them to produce the protein that would make them highly specific serial killers.
The researchers removed T-cells from each patient, cultured them, added the specially programmed HIV. They let the HIV inject and modify the cells, removed them and infused them into the patients. The results? The modified T-cells were very effective. In one case, the modified T-cells destroyed an estimated two POUNDS of tumor.
12 patients who participated in this small trial (10 adults and 2 children). Nine patients responded and all are still alive, some after almost three years. They show no evidence of any remaining leukemic cells and are generally doing well.
The research received additional grant funding and is continuing. The possibility exists that, using modified HIV, other tumor antigens can be successfully targeted and similarly destroyed.


29 August 2013

3 : Something New ...

My New Angelfish
Yesterday an exciting new foam box filled with fish arrived on my doorstep, inside my new Angelfish was packed beautifully and raring to go.  My first attempt at keeping an Angelfish was two weeks ago; the tiny little fellow, who initially appeared so cute and full of life, unfortunately didn't make it.  My new Angel is a lot larger and is already making much more of an impact in my lounge room tank.  I already have several fish in this tank but you could be forgiven for taking a quick glance and presuming it was simply an aquascaped tank.
Before I set up my first tank I carefully researched the many different aspects to the hobby, I have continued to enjoy researching along the way.  It's amazing how involved fish keeping actually is, learning how the nitrogen cycle works for aquariums has been just one of the many fascinating and essential lessons.  There have been some steep learning curves, however, I'm sure there would have been many more issues if I had not had the opportunity to research each step first.
My angel fish is a beautiful dark marble colour and looks magnificent at centre stage in the tank.  It's virtually impossible to tell whether Angelfish are male or female, it won't matter as I intend on keeping it as a single Angel in the tank.  Angelfish are omnivores and can easily devour smaller fish, they are part of the cichlid family which are known for aggression amongst their own kind.  Therefore, due to tank size this will be the only Angel for the tank, the other tank inhabitants are mostly also from the Amazon and enjoy the same living conditions. Angelfish are also known to become very familiar with their owners, just like my butterfly ram pair in the same tank that greet me each day wagging their fins like puppy dogs.  If kept healthy and conditions are right Angelfish can live for over 10 years.
Keeping fish is such a unique hobby, you can't ever get to hold your pets but you are able to interact with them and care for them in more ways than you could have imagined.  I hadn't anticipated how addictive this particular hobby could become.  The internet has shown me a world I didn't even know existed, there are so many other people addicted to fish keeping, sometimes to the extreme.  I don't have a huge interest in particularly becoming a groupie of the fish keeping world, I just want to enjoy my fish and learn as much as I can along the way.
Keeping fish brings with it sadness and frustration at times, it's hard when you find your fish suffering from some awful illness or disease.  There are a huge range of medications available to help, but more often there isn't much that can be done.  Sometimes to reduce their suffering you need to euthanise them.  This, again, wasn't how I pictured myself as an aquarist, yet it all comes with the territory.  You do become more attached to some fish than others, the more I get involved the more I find the challenge of keeping difficult and unusual looking fish the most appealing.
Here are some pictures of my 'empty tank'...
 L168 Clown Pleco (catfish)

27 August 2013

3 : Something Old ...

The Best Christmas Present Ever..
In 2006 Andrew and I decided to take 5 kids to Europe!  Well why not I hear you say, sounds like a great idea...
Well you would be right, it was.  No we couldn't afford it.  Yes it was expensive.  Yes it was very hectic.  Yes it was crazy busy and yes, we loved it!!!
I wanted to show my children the world, I wanted them to gain the richness of experience and I was determined to make it happen.  My children from my first marriage were growing so quickly and soon would be adults, it was time to act if I was ever going to do it.  It was 2006 and I had just had a baby with my new partner, Andrew, life was beyond crazy, hectic and stressful.  However, I really wanted to take my older children overseas at least once.  I had hoped that by doing this I would be able to show them that there was so much more to life than just where they lived.  I wanted to show them they could do anything they wanted.  I wanted to introduce them to travel, something I had barely been able to do myself.  Not only is travelling great to show how other people live, it also helps to appreciate what we have and the lucky country we live in.
Andrew was extremely supportive of this crazy notion and we went into secret planning mode.  We tried to pull money out of anywhere and everywhere we could think of, to this day I will never figure out how we managed to do that.  We worked very hard and eventually scraped together enough money to pay for all seven return tickets to Europe.  Still we didn't tell the children.  Planning was going into overdrive in the background, yet all along the kids suspected nothing.
Finally Christmas 2006 arrived and the surprise was all set to go, we were bursting for the children to find out. Each of the four older children found a large present with their name on it under the Christmas tree that Christmas morning.  Excitedly they started ripping into their gifts.  Unfortunately they weren't as good at hiding their utter disappointment when they each discovered they had pretty much the same present, an unappealing suitcase.  They weakly smiled and slowly began moving on to other presents. 
Ever so quietly, as I was filming the whole thing, I made mention that if I were to get a suitcase I would have looked inside...  The squeals of delight started as they each raced to see who would open their case first.  Ear piercing screams broke the stillness of the room when one by one they realized that inside their suitcase was an itinerary listing all the things they would be doing on their surprise 2007 holiday to London and France!  Baby Ethan screamed in fright as the room erupted, cries of delight and excitement took over and the atmosphere changed dramatically.  Tears were running down our eyes as the full weight of what we were all about to embark on began to sink in.
I'm chalking that one up as the best Christmas present ever...

23 August 2013

2 : Something Blue...

RIP to my Ocean Green Discus (on left)

Found this old picture of when I first got my discus, my White Swan Discus and Ocean Green Discus were a pair from when they were little, I was reminded of this when I found this picture!  Discus pairs stay together for life...
Unfortunately I found my Ocean Green dead last night, wedged into some plants at the back of the aquarium, not sure if it was an accident or not as he was looking well after having some issues over the past few months.  He never did grow as quickly as some of the other discus, including the White Swan, but their affection remained.  So sad...

2 : Something Borrowed

22 August 2013

2 : Something New...

One Year Job Share - Half Time!
Today is 22 August 2013, exactly one year ago today I officially changed to working job share - half time in my role as a Paramedic!  It certainly wasn't an easy decision, losing half of your income clearly affects the family budget, however, for us it was about living and it was about family.
Having two adults working full time shift work back to back is exhausting, our shifts as Paramedics consist of working two 10 hour days followed by two 14 hour night shifts, then four days off.  Although you get four days off, which is fantastic, you spend at least the first and often the second recovering from your two night shifts.  Although our arrangement has meant we didn't use childcare it also meant that every single day, unless on leave, one of us was working!  When one was starting the four days off the other was just starting back at work.
There had to be more to life than just working, sleeping and paying endless bills.  It was time to make a stand.  We decided that I would keep my position but revert to job share, which meant I would work only 2 shifts every 8 days; working on the second day and second night of the 4 shift rotation.   This has given us our life and our sanity back, it makes life easier for both Andrew and I and for the children.
What a year it has been!  With a bit more time now to involve myself in some new hobbies I decided to convert our old turtle tank into an aquarium.  I put a lot of research and effort into working out how to do it right, then I became addicted to the art of aquascaping and keeping tropical fish.  Turns out I'm really good at it and, instead of giving up the hobby in less than 12 months as I once read that approximately 80% of people do, I now have 4 tanks!!!
After a minor set back with the turtle tank, turns out you can't keep tropical fish in a turtle tank.  It apparently can suddenly burst at the seams the very first time you go back to working a night shift, leaving your husband home to try and catch all the fish whilst trying to stop the barrage of water flowing onto your dining room floor!  That made for an interesting personal/family reason to leave work in the middle of the night!  I replaced this with a proper aquarium and then followed it shortly after with another tank to separate some of the fish.   There's nothing quite like planning and setting up a brand new tank and selecting the right fish to fill it, it's very exciting and fulfilling.  Ordering fish through the mail became a new hobby all of its own.  With much more research I began to find myself needing a new challenge, I read that keeping discus fish was difficult and they were considered to be the king of the aquarium.  Challenge accepted!  My early Christmas present from Andrew was a brand new 6 foot aquarium, now the centrepiece of the entrance to our home.  
I became an aquarist very quickly and have successfully kept my tanks in excellent condition, including the huge discus tank with 8 healthy discus in it.  I really enjoy aquascaping the tanks and recreating as natural an environment as I can for the fish, including live aquatic plants which is another challenge all of its own.  My fourth tank was originally designed as a small tank for keeping baby fish, fry, in.  I also keep dwarf corydoras catfish and cherry shrimp in this tank to keep it running when there are no babies.  I just spoilt myself with my newest tank purchase yesterday of a gorgeous new fluval chi tank.  This replaces my hexagon baby tank with a beautiful chi flowing pebble waterfall tank, complete with my new Half Moon Betta (fighting fish).  Now a new focal point for our kitchen.  Well at least I think it is!
Besides my new aquarium hobby I have been able to dedicate more time to writing novels, a plan I have had since childhood.  I have always known there was at least one book in me, I am slowly discovering there are many more.  This has been a long process of discovery which recently has picked up pace in some exciting new ways. 
During this journey I have travelled to New York, met some amazing authors, completed online writing courses and attended a training seminar in Melbourne by Hay House.  We have also now dedicated a room in our busy large home to writing, I call this room our Zen Den.  I have tried to create a soothing and positive atmosphere in this room.  We have purchased some beautiful furniture already, painted it and tried our hand at wallpaper for the first time.  The mahogany and leather desk, Thomas Kinkade collectors lithograph and tiffany stain glass lamps make the room an inviting  place to be.  The next big purchase will be a bookshelf lining one wall, followed by a matching set of leather chesterfield chairs; an office chair and chaise lounge.  This is a room for both Andrew and I to use when we can, where Andrew can paint and I can write, once complete it will also serve as a room to relax and unwind and listen to music.
Ethan has changed schools in this last year, changing from private to public where there is less pressure on him.  Having more time at home allows me to be there to help with reading and homework, take the kids to school almost every day, attend the many extra curricular activities and give us more time as a family unit.  Everyone is certainly getting used to the fact that mum is home more now and I spend much of my time taxiing the older boys around as well.
Our lives have changed so much this past 12 months in more ways than I could possibly have imagined.  The best thing of all has been our change in attitude and new appreciation for life and all that it has to offer.  Gone are the days when I found myself just wishing away the days until my next lot of holidays, forgetting to live in the moment.  Every day there is something positive to enjoy, you just have to learn to slow that rollercoaster of life down a little and learn to appreciate it.
I admit I am still learning to perfect this, time will always be a challenge ....
 Discus Display Tank
(8 discus, clown loaches, rummy nose tetras, pristella tetras, pearl gourami, cherry
shrimp, corydoras sterbai, peppermint bristenose, L168 clown pleco, siamese algae eaters)
 First Community Tank
(neon tetras, cardinal tetras, ember tetras, glowlight tetras, guppies, marble 
bristlenose, dwarf loaches, siamese algae eater, congo tetras, red line torpedo 
barbs, blue dwarf gourami, otocinclus, half moon betta, cherry shrimp)
Second Tank
(butterfly ram pair, blue dwarf gourami, anglefish, otocinclus, cherry shrimp,
dwarf loaches, khuli loaches, marble bristlenose and L168 clown pleco)
Newest Tank : Fluval Chi
(half moon betta, corydoras hastatus and cherry shrimp)
Zen Den

19 August 2013

2: Something Old...

The Cobra's
During the late 70's early 80's my brother, Scott, and I moved to a new area and found a new neighbour to play with called Tom.  Tom was probably about 5 when we first all met, I would have been around 7 and Scott 9.  We were inseparable for a while.  The 3 of us played the best games, full of imagination.  We got ourselves into all sorts of mischief over the years.  For a couple of years Scott and I had to leave, to move to Darwin for a while, and the gang was broken up. 
When we came back and were a little older we fell back into play as if we had never left.  This time we were more adventurous and got to explore a lot more of our neighbourhood.  There weren't as many houses in our neighbourhood back then, there was a lot of free space and a reserve that ran through the back of the houses in our street.  It was thick with gum trees and the now banned, box thorn bushes, it had a creek flowing through it in winter and some parts were so thick with trees you could barely see any sunlight.  It came complete with all the natural flora and fauna you would expect, including snakes, it made for a magical place for children to explore.
We would spend literally hours playing in the reserve, sometimes not coming home until dinner.  We would get through the day foraging for our own food, eating wild growing watermelons, almonds and sometimes even strawberries.  We would also eat fruit from the many fruit trees growing in people's backyards, we figured if it was hanging over the fence it was fair game.  We would walk for miles on foot or race around on our bikes, jumping over the many dirt jumps and riding on the dirt tracks in the reserve.  The big dipper was always a rush to fly down on your bike full steam ahead holding on for dear life, hoping you wouldn't stack it at the bottom in front of everyone.  It showed a degree of nerve to be able to ride the big dipper!
I remember the many hours spent climbing trees, claiming our own branches and daring each other to jump from higher and higher heights.  I can't say we came out of it all unscathed, many cuts and bruises were proudly worn as a souvenir badge of honour.  The more battle scars you could compare with the other kids the better your reputation would be.
It was a good day when our gang and the other local kids would come across a rope someone had managed to somehow tie on one of the taller gum tree branches.  They would never last long, a few days at the most before some 'adult' would decide to remove it for 'safety reasons'.  But before it would be inevitably destroyed, we would all line up and take turns leaping off the embankment holding on for dear life to the loosely tied rope swinging metres above the ground.  The most impressive swingers would be cheered and then one upped by the next kid, trying to do that extra special twist or jump that no one else had done yet.  When there was a discovery of something like that the rival groups of kids would suddenly get along and join together in our secret world focused on our new prize. 
That was when life was free, time didn't matter and exploring the world was the main focus in life.  We decided our little gang had to have a name and after thinking long and hard and putting it to the vote, we became the Cobra's.  We thought we were pretty cool, we certainly weren't the youngest kids back then but we were not as big as the 'high schoolers' we all feared.  The high schoolers who would tear through on their 10 speed racers sure to destroy any game you were playing.  That's what secret hiding places and tree houses were for, hiding from the high schoolers and any other weirdo that would wander into our midst.
Before we got too much older and life became too stressful and real, weekends and especially school holidays were spent as the Cobra's.  As members of our own gang we had our own rules and even our own written language.  We had a character for every letter of the alphabet which only we could decipher.  Our codes were the mainstay of our gang.  No one else ever was allowed to join, we certainly played with many other neighbourhood kids but none were good enough for the Cobra gang.
When we did have to stay inside and play we developed our own board game called Cobra of course.  It was loosely based on the monopoly board game, except ours was written in Cobra code and had Cobra money and Cobra cards to tell you what to do next.  We probably spent much more time on making the Cobra game than playing it, but that was the fun of it.
Life was simpler then, to be free to create from your imagination, collaborate with friends and explore the world with a keenness that we all seem to grow up and forget...

15 August 2013

1 : Something Old, Something New

I would like to do regular updates under the headings of Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Blue - hopefully weekly.  I'll start this off with joining the first two together in Something Old and Something New.
My Something Old for this week is remembering back to when I was 18 years old living in Salisbury in a tiny unit crammed between two drug dealers! I was 9 months pregnant, scared, lonely and living away from any friends and family that I had thought that I had... 
Turning 18 back then wasn't all it was promised to be, I was becoming an adult, yes.  I could legally drink, yes.  Being one of the rare people our age that had our own place back then, we did have a handful of then loyal friends come around and use the opportunity to try and have a bit of a party.  I had made it to adulthood and could for the first time legally drink, yet my baby was due any day and I could not.  I had lost my skinny body, I had lost my freedom, I had lost my opportunity to be anything that I wanted, I had lost my self....  I was about to be a mother to someone else, to be responsible forever and never again could my life entirely be my own.  All I wanted for my baby was for it not to be born on my 18th birthday, not for selfish reasons but for the first time in my life it was for selfless reasons...  I didn't want my baby to turn out like me!
My Something New came exactly 24 years later when I turned 21x2 in New York City!  I had travelled there alone on my own journey of self discovery, and yet, on my special day I was joined by someone very special.  Someone I could never have imagined as that young frightened 18 year old full of worry about the future, someone who changed my life for the better and not for the worst.  The last 24 years certainly haven't been easy but I would have never chosen to do it any other way.  As there on that hot, muggy, New York City day I met up with that same baby all grown up, my daughter Kiara.  Who could have imagined two birthdays being so different yet both involving the same person?  Twenty-four years after I had my baby at the tender age of 18 years and 2 weeks I was able to celebrate with that same child all grown up in New York City!  Kiara is successful, finished high school with two dux and completed a degree.  She is now a qualified Registered Nurse and paid for this second overseas trip all by herself.  No, she didn't turn out like me, she turned out like her and I am proud of that!

13 August 2013

New to Blogging

Well apparently I need to gain a 'Platform' in order to publish a novel, so here goes...

I have only recently returned home from New York on a research trip for my new novel, it was an extremely exciting and worth while experience.  Travelling alone for the first time at the tender young age of 42 years was both exhilarating and nerve racking all at the same time.  Who would have thought!

Yes, yes I know thousands of young/er people travel all the time alone and no one batts an eyelid.  Well it's different when you are close to 40, you have already lived a little and already know the world is a dangerous place.  I've seen my fair share of Law and Order and all the CSI's, Bones etc.  I know what goes on in the 'real world' of New York City.  They all get murdered just when the music suddenly changes tone, they look the wrong way - frustratingly never behind them, and are going about ordinary activities when they are suddenly set upon and shamelessly slaughtered!  Of course it's always at the start of the show so you get to find out who did it before the hour is up.

Therefore, of course I was extremely alert to all possible murder situations, especially during the first part of my trip.  I am very pleased to say that I survived not only Central Park, including all the bridges where I was on the look out for any fresh bodies, but I also survived walking through the streets of New York past midnight!  All without being slaughtered.  Don't worry, I was keenly listening out for the music to change, I looked behind me at all times and I certainly avoided those dangerous ordinary activities!

Instead I had an absolute ball and really surprised myself at the ease in which I magically fit into the New York lifestyle.  Of course I had my 'cute little Aussie accent' to get me by, and my mortal fear of not tipping enough so basically gave everyone I met a $5 US note!

More to come, have to cook tea apparently... 

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