What Happened to those Ruby Slippers?

Image result for ruby slippers wizard of oz

Did you ever wonder what happens to the ruby slippers in The Wizard of Oz?   In the movie, they just disappear when Dorothy wakes up in Kansas.  In L. Frank Baum’s original book, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Dorothy’s magic slippers go “flying off over the desert” as she is whisked back to Kansas.

I was thinking about those ruby slippers last week as I was literally “flying over the desert” (and other landforms) on two flights to escape from Costa Rica.   Up till now, my metaphorical ruby slippers have carried me on wonderful trips all over the world.  My attitude has been to ride the “Carpe Diem” travel adventure train as much as I can  before the Parkinson’s makes traveling unrealistic .

This particular  trip was a small-boat cruise by the UnCruise Adventures folks, going along the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica and Panama then through the Panama Canal.  Alas, less than halfway through the trip, we came to the border with Panama and learned that the government of Panama had – an hour earlier – decided to turn away all cruise ships.  The facts that the ship had a small number of passengers (35) and had no illnesses aboard made no difference.

So we all scrambled and got revised tickets back to Seattle from San Jose, the only international airport in Costa Rica.  Paul and I felt very lucky to not only be  able to procure tickets at the last minute, but not pay a fortune for them or have an exceptionally lengthy flight.  Our luck continued when my sister spotted a report that, shortly after we passed through, the International section of  the Atlanta airport was closed for cleaning after a TSA agent tested positive.  Image result for Flying Dutchman

And as of 3/20/20, CNN reported that at least 30 cruise ships were still wandering the globe, like the legendary Flying Dutchman, searching for a port that will let them dock.

We are home, the refrigerator is full, the freezer is full, and we feel very lucky.  We are still hoping we will be able to get another pair of ruby slippers for future travel.

Our heart goes out to all those who have lost their jobs and/or caught the coronavirus.  I end this post with this encouraging, unattributed quote reported by (of all sources!) Gordon White, the editor of TruckCamper Magazine:

“I know this. When this ends – AND IT WILL – every game will sell out, every restaurant will have a 2-hour wait, every kid will be glad to be in school, everyone will love their job, the stock market will skyrocket, every other house will get TP’d, and we’ll all embrace and shake hands. That’s gonna be a pretty good day. Hang in there, World.”


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How to Read a Research Article

Phony PD Headline

This is the headline I yearn to see, but it’s obvious this “article” is even more bogus than those emails you get from Nigerian  princes.   Unfortunately, most Internet articles are not so easy to evaluate for validity.  Here’s some “gotchas” I’ve learned about reading scientific research articles.

Let’s take a look at a real article, headlined “Living near major roads linked to risk of dementia, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and MS”.

Headline:  Notice in the bogus article there is a definite verb: “discover”.  You will never (well, hardly ever) see a definite verb in a real headline.  It’s just prudent journalism to caveat the headline, e.g., “linked to risk” in the real article.  The drug approval process is so long and complex that in real life, you will never have a dude in a white lab coat whipping out the test tube and shouting “Eureka! I have discovered a Parkinson’s cure!”

Where:  Where is the research published?  If you are finding your research in (I’m making this up) Voodoo Science Digest or Oprah Talks about Movement Disorders , validity would be highly suspect.  In the case of this article, it was “published this week in the journal Environmental Health.”   Having research published in an academic journal like this is the gold standard — since articles are typically peer-reviewed in scholarly journals.

Reasonableness:  Obviously the bogus article flunks this test – there aren’t even real words in the body of the article.   But to my mind, the real article also flunks this test:  Doesn’t nearly the entire global population live “near major roads”?  Isn’t this sort of like saying “Wearing shoes linked to risk…”?  So what research is this headline based on?  Time to look more closely at some other factors.

Who:  Who did the research?  Was it a university?  A  research institution?  I looked at the article and found the research was done at University of British Columbia by Weiran Yuchi, the study’s lead author and a PhD candidate in the UBC school of population and public health.   Hmmm…this sounds a bit weak…researcher doesn’t even have a PhD yet, and research is not coming from a medical school.   But nevertheless, UBC is a major institution in my northern neighbor (and oh yes, they have a really swell collection of totem poles).    By the way, the across-the-border location is a reminder to us arrogant Americans that perfectly valid and innovative research could (and does) come from anywhere in the world, not just Harvard and Stanford.

How many:   Most medical research boils down to identifying trends from a quantity of individual results.  This is a bit simplistic, but the bigger the quantity, the more valid the trend.   Think about the conclusions you could make after testing 6 people — this quantity is so tiny, you couldn’t identify any sort of trend accurately.  In the case of the UBC article, pretty impressive numbers: “Researchers from the University of British Columbia analyzed data for 678,000 adults in Metro Vancouver. ”

Date:  How recent is the research?  If I am looking up a research subject, I could get Internet articles from the last 20 years – and knowledge is changing rapidly regarding Parkinson’s.  The UBC article passes this criteria with flying colors: published 1/23/2020.

Anyone else?:  Has anyone else done research in this area?  Have they reached the same conclusions?  In the case of the UBC article, the underlying hypothesis was that if you lived “near major roads” (as estimated by postal codes), you had more exposure to air pollution.  People in this category had more cases of dementia, Parkinson’s, MS.  So I Googled “air pollution impact on dementia”.  Voila!  A 1/4/19 article  says: “A new study from the United Kingdom has found that high levels of air pollution are associated with an increased risk of dementia.”  And Bingo!  Here’s another headline: “Air Pollution and Dementia: A Systematic Review.”  “Review”  is a hint that there have been enough different studies that they can be reviewed to see if they come to the same conclusion.  Yep: The authors reviewed 13 studies from all over the world and concluded: “Evidence is emerging that greater exposure to airborne pollutants is associated with increased risk of dementia.”  As a bonus, note this review came from NIH, (US) National Institute of Health – about as scholarly  as you can get.

More research:  If the article does not include a phrase like “more research is needed”, you should be suspicious.  Sure enough, the UBC article says, “[Researchers] are hopeful the larger dataset will provide more information …..”

Sniff test:   With perfect timing, my sharp-eyed brother just sent me a video breathlessly headlined “Miracle surgery stops Parkinson’s sufferer from shaking” and asked “Is this legit?”  Obviously, this video didn’t pass the sniff test for my rational engineer  brother.  When I looked over the video, I found that the surgery (described as “pioneering”) was a pallidotomy, a surgery that’s been done for PD for at least 20 years, and which (unlike the implication in the article/video) only resolves Parkinson’s symptoms for a few years – it does not cure the disease.  So – repeat after me – “if it sounds too good to be true….it probably is.”

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Hike in a beautiful wilderness!

Related image

Mirror Lake with Eagle Cap Peak – Eagle Cap Wilderness, Oregon

Yes, I am determined to visit this beautiful lake – and camp nearby so I can visit other beautiful lakes.  Yes, I’m going to do another backpack — cheer me on! And would you like to join us?  We will be renting a mule to carry our gear and are looking for another couple to share the mule.

Background:   Mirror Lake is one of dozens of lakes in the Eagle Cap Wilderness in northeastern Oregon.  In 2008, Paul and I day hiked up the West Fork Lostine River and we both fell in love with Eagle Cap – we’ve done a lot of hiking over the years and we’ve never seen a prettier area.  We’ve always wanted to come back for a longer hike.

Dates and itinerary:  We are setting out  August 6 from Two Pan Trailhead,  a major trailhead on the northern edge of the Eagle Cap Wilderness, at the end of  a 18-mile gravel road from Lostine, Oregon.   We will be hiking along the East Fork Lostine River trail (#1662) into the Lakes Basin area.  We will probably hike past Mirror Lake another mile or so to Moccasin Lake, totaling about 8.1 miles and 2000′ gain – a healthy gain, but spread over 8 miles, considered a moderate day hike.  The wrangler will drop our gear and we’ll establish a base camp at Moccasin.  We’ll day hike for 3 days, then backpack out on August 10.  For variety , we will probably hike out the West Fork Lostine River trail (#1661/#1670) (10.3 miles, 925′ gain,  2,980′ loss.  No mule assist on the way out, but remember, we will have consumed our food and will be hiking (mostly) downhill.   (There’s a 925′ gain in the first 1.5 miles up to a pass, then all downhill after that.)  

Mule:  We have arranged with the gals at Moss Springs Outfitters to rent a mule  (or horse) and wrangler to help with Laura’s challenges.  The mule can carry 120 pounds (60 pounds a side).  So, 30 pounds a person should nicely cover your sleeping bag, sleeping pad, backpack, your half of the tent, food and extra clothes.  The cost?  $250 for the two of you.  The weight off your back?  Priceless!  Let me know if you’re interested.

Followers of this blog may recall I did a backpack last summer with the PassToPass.org folks who raise money for Parkinson’s every year.  The backpack was supposed to be three days/two nights and about 18 miles, relatively flat.  Note the “supposed to be”.    Very little actual sleep occurred during my one and only night sleeping on the ground.  So I decided to walk out the second day, since it was “supposed to be” less than 11 miles and downhill.  It was actually 12 miles with a big elevation gain (and then loss) in the middle.  I was way stooped over by the end, even though my wonderful husband took more and more of the weight as the day progressed.

My biggest challenge is not carrying the weight, but sleeping on the ground.  The second biggest challenge is hiking 8 miles with a healthy elevation gain.  Paul and I are contemplating some solutions to the first challenge (which I’ll cover  in another blog), and, for the second challenge, once the weather gets better, I need to get back out hiking.  In the meantime, I’m at least doing a short walk or a similar cardio activity most days.

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New Year’s Resolutions


Laura’s pinup – Michael J. Fox

Do you have a New Year’s resolution to volunteer more?  Or to help cure Parkinson’s?  Here’s an easy way to fulfill both of those resolutions: Sign up for Fox Trial Finder and Fox Insight.

These are two different projects of Michael J. Fox Foundation (MJFF):
–Fox Trial Finder:  A database of potential volunteers for Parkinson’s research.
–Fox Insight:  A quarterly survey of Parkies’ experience with the disease.

I am a big fan of MJFF – ya gotta love any charity that wants to go out of business.  They recently adopted a new slogan: “Here. Until Parkinson’s Isn’t.”  Michael J. Fox founded the organization in 2000, and the organization has since raised a mind-boggling amount of dough for Parkinson’s research.  I couldn’t find the cumulative amount, but just for 2018, they plowed over a $100 million into research.   Since 2014,  MJFF has helped push 14 new treatments for motor and non-motor symptoms of Parkinson’s through the complicated process to get FDA approval.  (In contrast,  before 2000, new Parkinson’s therapies were few and far between since levodopa was introduced in 1967.)

But back to your New Year’s resolutions.  I signed up for Fox Trial Finder and Fox Insight shortly after I got my diagnosis in 2012 because I wanted to do something.  For Fox Insight, I get a reminder in my email every quarter or so and am now up to my 17th study visit.  The survey usually takes less than an hour and includes questions about my motor and non-motor symptoms, cognition, depression, current therapies, and other relevant Parky data.   My personal data is of course kept confidential and de-identified.

Having a body of data over time and across over 43,000 Parkinson’s patients is obviously valuable to researchers of a disease that varies so much from patient to patient.  Even if you don’t have Parkinson’s, you can sign up with Fox Insight as a control.

And same for Fox Trial Finder – both Parkies and non-Parkies  are needed to sign up so we can test new Parkinson’s drugs.  Here’s the pitch from the Fox Trial Finder signup page: “Clinical trials are a final and crucial step on the path to developing better treatments for Parkinson’s patients today. Around the world, between 40% and 70% of trials face delays because of a lack of volunteers.”  Volunteers – that means you (and me).  And this is pretty easy:  You provide some basic info (e.g., how far you are willing to travel, when was your diagnosis) and then you can browse current trials.  MJFF will also periodically send you potential matches.  It’s a good idea to check in on new trials every so often – say, like when you’re getting ready to see your neurologist.  That way, if you see a trial that looks like a good fit, you can ask your doctor about it.   Remember,  those drugs aren’t going to test themselves.

Happy New Year, and here’s to more progress fighting Parkinson’s in 2020!


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A Bottle in Front of Me


Any Port in a storm…

“Better to have a bottle in front of me than a frontal lobotomy.”
 Attributed to Dorothy Parker, famous wit (and alcoholic) of the 1920s

This being the holiday season, a post about alcohol (and other mind-altering substances) seems appropriate.  Shortly after receiving my Parkinson’s diagnosis, I broached the question to my neurologist of whether I could continue to drink.  I hasten to add that I am a pretty light weight boozer – a half-glass of wine or a fine local craft brew with most dinners.  My neurologist paused (as only a physician can who long ago ceased to be surprised  by his patients’ questions) and finally gently replied, “Well, you’re already impaired…”  I guess a prudent patient would take that response to mean “knock off the booze”, but I figured that a small amount of alcohol was better for my mental health than quitting altogether.   And I have definitely cut back – no booze if I’m going to be driving somewhere after dinner.

Now I am happy to find out that I have been right all along – yes, drinking is good for you.  According to a recent article in in JAMA Network Open, “[s]everal epidemiologic studies have shown that consumers of moderate amounts of alcohol have a lower dementia risk compared with nondrinkers.”  I’ll drink to that!  Even better, the article goes on to say that more frequent low-quantity drinking (the kind that I do!) reduces dementia risk more than less frequent high-quantity drinking.

As for other mind-altering substances that could be good for Parkis, of course you could see this coming – marijuana.  But not just any weed — these days it is important to distinguish between THC (delta-g-tetrahydrocannabinol – the marijuana component that makes you a stoner)  and CBD (cannabidiol – the marijuana component that makes you mellow-yellow).  Scientists at University of Technology Sydney have discovered a marijuana component with the catchy name of HU-308 that lessons the tremors from dyskinesia.  (These jerky, involuntary movements can be a symptom of Parkinson’s but are more typically a side effect after taking levodopa for several years.)  HU-308 is a component of  medical marijuana but without the “high”.   Senior author of the study Professor Bryce Vissel said, “Our study suggests that a derivative of HU-308, either alone or in combination with amantadine [the only existing drug for dyskinesia], may be a more effective treatment for dyskinesias and a much better option than using an unproven potentially harmful substance like cannabis.”  Professor  Vissel went on to warn: “Currently there is limited evidence about the effectiveness of medicinal cannabis. One problem is that no cannabis preparation is the same and cannabis has numerous effects, some of which may not be beneficial in Parkinson’s disease.”

crown royal bagThis was from a 2018 post about dementia but I couldn’t resist repeating it.  Tasteless joke of the day: An old man was asked, “At your ripe age, what you prefer to get – Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s?” The wise one answered, “Definitely Parkinson’s. Better to spill half an ounce of Crown Royal whiskey, than to forget where you keep the bottle!” …

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Mambo Italiano



With a name like Kennedy, I can’t pass myself off as Italian, but I love all things Italian — pizza, pasta, truffles, and the Leaning Tower of  Pisa.  Hmm…scratch that last one.  Way back in 2001, I saw the tower and it struck me as odd that we celebrate such a really poor job of engineering.  Even in the 13th century, they must have known you don’t built a multi-story tower in a swamp.

And now I have a new reason to not be a fan of the Tower of Pisa.  My doctor tells me I have “Pisa Syndrome”.  For one brief happy moment, I thought he meant my only cure for Parkinson’s was to eat pizzas the rest of my days.  But nope, that’s Pisa with an ‘s’, not a ‘z’.  And you have already probably guessed that “Pisa Syndrome” is a classy way of saying I lean when standing, usually without being aware of it (as in the picture on the right).  I was quite chagrined that I was crooked in many shots from my September travels, even when I was consciously posing and (I thought) standing up straight.

One of the weird things about the Pisa Syndrome is that it seems like all the researchers are Italian!   Would you feel differently about your neurological team if they had sexy  names like  “Paolo” ,”Gabriella” and “Carmine”?  Alas, the research still comes out pretty dry and unhelpful:  “[Pisa] thought to be caused by alterations in sensory–motor integration pathways; …a[nother] …hypothesis emphasizes the role of anatomical changes in the musculoskeletal system. Furthermore, several drugs are reported to induce Pisa syndrome….”   My translation: we haven’t a clue what causes it  or how to treat it, try knocking off certain drugs.

I have been fighting this loopy posture for at least three years.  As my neurologist puts it, it is not helped very much by “pharmaceutical therapy” (i.e., drugs).   Instead, I  have been working for the last couple years with a personal trainer, and just signed up for my third tour of duty with her.  Being conscious of where your body is in space is difficult for most of us who are not (say) professional athletes or ballet dancers.     For me, it’s beyond difficult…baffling, perhaps….but I sense I’m getting more aware of how I’m standing/sitting/walking/cutting the vegetables at the kitchen counter, and I think my posture is getting better.  It goes all to hell when I get tired, so taking care of my fatigue  is part of monitoring my posture.  The single hardest motion for me to do?  Brushing my teeth.

YouTube extra:  Writing this blog requires exhausting, exhaustive research – such as: who has the best version of Mambo ItalianoDean MartinRosemary ClooneyBette MidlerSophia Loren?  Bette, hands down.

Posted in Dance, Exercise, Parkinson's Basics, Posture, Travel, Treatment | Tagged | 2 Comments

When “Transparency” means “Obfuscation”


Laura volunteering for a Parkinson’s research project.

Every morning I go to the front door, get the newspaper, read the headline, and almost always find myself exclaiming, “What an idiot!”  And here’s an example of a headline that gets that response: “EPA Plans Limit On Evidence Used For Health Rules”.

Yes, our anti-science administration has issued a proposal called (in perverse government-speak) “Strengthening Transparency in Regulatory Science”.  Transparency?  Like how did the researchers arrive at their conclusions?  Well, gee, that sounds okay…?  Except that “transparency” will be achieved by requiring that scientists disclose ALL of their raw data, including confidential medical records — and patient names.

It is difficult enough to get volunteers for Parkinson’s and other medical research.  Not being able to assure participants of confidentiality regarding their personal medical information would chill research.  That’s why the CEO of Michael J. Fox Foundation (MJFF), Todd Sherer, PhD, was one of five scientists testifying against this proposal, stating, “The proposed EPA rule requires study volunteers make a choice: waive their privacy or their desire to participate in key research. ”

I routinely participate in Parkinson’s questionnaires and other research —  physical characteristics (age, gender, race, etc.) may be collected but not my name.  My identification is not relevant to an epidemiological study.  The EPA says disclosure of raw data would allow conclusions to be verified independently, but this is a smokescreen.  Research is verified for publication by examining the methods used to arrive at a conclusion.   Epidemiological studies are commonly replicated.

The New York Times reports , “The measure would make it more difficult to enact new clean air and water rules because many studies detailing the links between pollution and disease relay on personal health information gather under confidentiality agreements.”   And oh yes – the EPA is considering applying this proposal retroactively.

So how do we block this non-transparent obfuscating rule?  MJFF reports on 11/13/19,  “The MJFF public policy team is working in Washington, D.C. on this issue, and will provide comments on the rule when it is updated for review.  There also may be a time for public comments in the future, and we will share information about how you can weigh in on this issue. ”

In the meantime, sign up for Fox Insight if you haven’t already.  We’re not going to let that idiot prevent us from finding a cure for Parkinson’s.

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It’s all in your gut

Image result for salzburg castle

View from the Salzburg Krankenhaus (Hospital)

Die Arst! Schnell!  Mein Blindarm ist kaput!
I can still remember frantically looking up words in my Berlitz dictionary as I yelled for a doctor when I realized my appendix was rupturing.  (Why in German?  I was in Salzburg, Austria as a college student.)

My Blindarm (appendix) is long gone and it turns out that could be a good thing.  I was fascinated by an article describing recent research that concluded that an appendectomy could be  associated with a reduced risk of Parkinson’s disease (PD).  But then, I did some more research and found that other studies say an increased risk or no correlation at all.

Epidemiological studies (that is, studies of diseases in a population) are very common in PD research, as a way to tease out disease patterns and potential causes.  I am gradually learning some simple validity checks for these type of studies:
1.   How big is the sample that researchers used to come to this conclusion?
2.   Correlation does not necessarily mean causation, but do the researchers have a theory why the factors under study might be related?  (in this case, PD and appendix).
3.  Has any one else done research in this area?

I should have done the third check first.  Turns out there has been a lot of research on whether removing your appendix reduces your PD risk, and  the conclusions are all over the map:

Date Sample size Researchers Conclusions
7/30/2015 295 Centro Hospitaler de Porto (Portugal) Mendes, et al. “Apparent relationship was observed between appendectomy and PD onset in the late [onset] PD cohort”
5/31/2016 42,999 Shulman Movement Disorders Ctr, Toronto (Canada), Marras et al. “Appendectomy in mid or late life does not appear to be associated with a reduced risk of PD”
9/13/2016 1,597,548 Aarhus Univ, Aarhus (Denmark) Svensson et al. “Appendectomy was associated with a small increase in PD risk 10 or more years after surgery.”
2017 1,625 Ankara University, Ankara (Turkey), Yilmaz et al.  “study suggest[s] no effect of appendectomy on the emergence and clinical manifestations of PD. The removal of the appendix is possibly not sufficient to suppress the exposure of the brain stem to alpha-synuclein
10/31/2018 1.6 million Van Andel Research Institute (VARI), Grand Rapids, MI (USA), Killinger et al. ” We observed that removal of the appendix decades before PD onset was associated with a lower risk for PD, particularly for individuals living in rural areas, and delayed the age of PD onset.”

Why is there so much interest in the relationship between PD and the appendix? Because  the appendix is lousy with alpha-synuclein, the bad-boy protein that “causes” PD.  (“causes” in quotes because this is a bit simplistic.)    The latest research group listed above, the VARI team reported that” high amounts of alpha-synuclein were found  in nearly every sample of appendiceal tissue …, including normal and inflamed tissue, tissue from individuals with PD and those without, and tissues from young and old individuals.”  So how come, if everybody has alpha-synclein, why don’t they all have  PD?

In a startling hypothesis, VARI researchers (and others) think  PD may start in the appendix and work its malicious way up to the brain.  For those of us who now have PD, this implies there must have been some sort of trigger (environmental, perhaps?) that released this bad boy from the appendix.

“The vermiform appendix was once considered to be an unnecessary organ. Although there is now good evidence that the appendix plays a major role in the regulation of the immune system, including the regulation of gut bacteria, our work suggests it is also mediates risk of Parkinson’s,” one of the VARI research leads, Dr. Vivianne Labrie, said in the article.   The contradictory conclusions of these different studies are confusing, but in the meantime I’m upping my consumption of all those good “gut” foods like yogurt, sauerkraut, and kimchee.

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Doctors are human!

Marcus Welby, M.D.: Season TwoNews flash!  Doctors are human!  I think we are way past the Marcus Welby image of a physician as the calm, cool, rational being who can do no wrong and whose diagnoses are logically arrived at and always correct.

I have written before about the diagnostic process for Parkinson’s.  PD (and for that matter, most neurological diseases) is difficult to diagnose because there is no lab test, no biomarker, and PD symptoms (e.g., constipation, depression, muscle pain, tremor, etc., etc.) are not unique to PD and may present in many other diseases.

In addition to these scientific challenges, I hadn’t thought about emotional obstacles to accurate diagnoses until I read an article about misdiagnosing another neurological movement disorder, ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, aka “Lou Gehrig’s disease”).   The specific errors the researchers found are not relevant here; what is fascinating is the errors’ classification into four categories of “cognitive bias”:
–availability heuristic (i.e., the diagnosis of a current patient is biased by the clinician’s experience with previous cases),
–anchoring heuristic (i.e., relying on the initial impression despite the emergence of evidence that may contradict it),
–framing effects (i.e., subtle cues and collateral information bias the diagnosis),
–blind obedience (i.e., undue reliance on test results or expert opinion).  
Continue reading

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The only thing worse than being wrong…


Marie Curie

The only thing worse than being wrong…is being wrong twice.   I just published a blog post about Marie Curie, writing how I had been wrong in several factoids about her.  Less than 12 hours after publishing, my sharp-eyed readership has (gently) pointed out I still have some facts wrong.

For starters, Marie Curie died at 67, not 77.  She was born in Warsaw, Poland on November 7, 1867, and died in Savoy, France on July 4, 1934.  I simply did my math wrong.  I persist in the baby  boomer conceit that I should be able to do simple math in my head.

I also am guilty of sloppy research by making the assumption that, since Marie Curie died at (I thought) 77 “after a short illness”, she simply died of old age, and not exposure to radiation.   My readership informed me that she actually died of aplastic anemia.  When I was more precise in my Internet search (“What did Marie Curie die of?”), I got a more precise answer:  “Curie died on July 4, 1934, of aplastic anemia, believed to be caused by prolonged exposure to radiation. She was known to carry test tubes of radium around in the pocket of her lab coat. Her many years working with radioactive materials took a toll on her health.”  So much for wearing a lead apron or lead shielding.

And another factoid about Marie Curie’s health:  When she finally earned enough money in Poland to study at the Sorbonne starting in 1891, she was still in precarious financial shape and survived largely on tea and buttered bread.

My previous post had said Marie Curie did not invent x-rays as I had previously thought.  This is true, but she did promote the use of x-rays.  In the same bio that includes the tea and bread factoid , I find the line:  “She championed the use of portable X-ray machines in the field [in WWI], and these medical vehicles earned the nickname “Little Curies.” .

One more tweak to my journalistic accuracy:  “Curies” are indeed a unit of measure for radioactive activity, but have been replaced as the official radiation unit by the becquerel since 1975.  Why?  The becquerel is more generic, defined as one nuclear decay per second , while the Curie is tied to radium: “quantity or mass of radium emanation in equilibrium with one gram of radium”  The becquerel was  named after Henri Becquerel, the discoverer of radioactivity.


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