Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Cancer cells

Years ago, I grew cancer cells in vitro and in vivo in the laboratory at the Cleveland Clinic. I grew them so that we could perform experiments on them. These experiments varied, from studying their cell cycle phase (mitosis vs plateau) to their radiation sensitivity, to their phosphorous content through NMR spectroscopy, plus much, much more. Cells that were dividing or in mitosis were more susceptible to radiation because the DNA was exposed to the damage from radiation, whereas plateau phase cells tended to be radioresistant and didn't do much when zapped with radiation except sit there.

The word in vitro means that the cancer cells were grown in petrie dishes or culture dishes in a certain type of medium. These cancer cells could have been mammalian or human in origin, but the bottom line was that they were cancer cells. This word "cancer" came with a lot of assumptions, such as the following:
1) Cancer cells grow in Carbon Dioxide incubators only
2) Cancer cells need some form of bovine fetal calf serum and glucose to live on
3) cancer cells needed to be reseeded after so many doublings
4) They typically doubled every 8-10 hours (mammalian cancer cells)
5) If left alone in a dish, cancer cells would outgrow their medium and eventually die.

The word in vivo means that the cancer cells were living in an animal host, mostly mice. The mice we used varied. Little gray mice with hair were used for certain cancers, while nude mice with no hair or color (and with hardly an immune system) were used for other cancers. The cancer cells would be cultured in the laboratory and then concentrated to a certain amount and injected into the leg of the mouse. This procedure usually had to be planned weeks in advance in order to have the right amount of cells for the injection. Once the animal was injected, a certain period of time would pass and the tumor would result. The tumors were then studied.

Now, years later, as a wife, homeschooling mother, author, and poet, I have other things to occupy my time. One of them, is writing cancer articles with my husband Anthony Apostolides,Ph.D. Our articles can be accessed through Townsend Letter

Now I am no longer studying cancer cells in the lab, but their devastating effect on human beings on a much larger scale. This has been a painful experience for my family, for I have lost my father, mother-in-law, and brother-in-law to cancer, all within a few years of each other. This has become a mission for me and my husband as we devote our time to educating the public on this cancer epidemic.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Berkeley Springs Book Festival

Morgan Arts Council in Berkeley Springs, WV is hosting its first annual Book Festival on November 26, 2011 at the Ice House (10am-4pm).

I plan to be there to booksign my four books. Also, I will probably read a couple of my poems during the open mic session (3-4pm).

Here is more information about the book festival:

http://www.berkeleysprings.com/bookfest.html

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Listen to your Heart

Listen to your Heart

How many times must a rocket
Flare a path up into the air,
Slicing, dicing oxygen
Laced with petroleum
Fast and furious path
To nowhere,
Only to fall back down
Broken piece of junk -
To humble Earth.
Its cost absorbed by millions,
Yet no one knows why, except
A few privileged.


How many homes must a
Nuclear power plant light,
Spewing radiation poisoning
Like Medussa's venom
Into the frigid night air
While babies cry out.
Somehow they know
Radiation is not good for them,
Yet no one listens.
Children's hospitals
Sprout forth like mushrooms
Postponing death's call
To diseased children
For a few more months.


And when we lay down our heads
At night,
Do we dare listen to our heart
To the love that binds our
Destiny to one another
And do something about it?
Or do we turn our heads,
Choosing to ignore the
Cries of babies in the night,
Unable to defend their right
To live one more day,
Victims of a polluted universe
That spews them forth like venom
Into the pitch black of night.
Only they don't get to return
to humble Earth.


by Patty Apostolides, 2011

Friday, November 18, 2011

Growing up Greek

I was born in Piraeus, Greece and came to the United States with my family when I was four. My parents were staunch Greeks and spoke only Greek at home. We ate Greek food and celebrated all the religious holidays. We lived in Cleveland and we went to the Greek churches there (4 churches) , sang in the Greek choirs, danced at the Greek dances, and even married Greek men. While in college, I co-founded and was president of the Hellenic Student Association and also ran the weekly Greek radio show on campus. How more Greek can that be?

When I visited Greece for the first time in my twenties, I visited Lipsi island, where my parents were from. The people there were very hospitable and I enjoyed myself tremendously. I returned there several times during my college years - until I began to envision living in Greece permanently.

I attempted to move back to Greece after graduating from college and having worked a few years as a biologist. I was in my twenties, enamored with the idea of going back to my roots. I stayed with my uncle and aunt in Piraeus for awhile. At first, it was like a honeymoon, everything was nice and rosy. I liked the evening strolls near the water and the beautiful scenery. I liked the music and the food. But somehow the longer I stayed, the dream began to sour. I remember waiting in the bank line in Athens and people pushing and getting in front of me, thrusting their papers at the clerk without so much as looking at me. I remember my uncle driving normally in his car and getting cursed by other drivers who wanted to speed past us, giving us the five fingers, thinking we were going too slow. I remember the dowries and proxenia, and how we Greek Americans were looked at as dollar signs. I remember trying to flag a taxi and once they heard our destination ( a bit away from the airport), declined and we had to pay double to get to where we needed to go. I also worked in Greece in an endocrinology lab because of my degree and I knew English and was able to run radioimmunassay tests for pregnant women, but got paid a fraction of what I got paid in the United States.

After several months of attempting to fit in, I experienced a culture shock. I sorely missed my family and Greek community. I missed the professionalism and intellectual stimulation of my former job at the Cleveland Clinic. The Greece that I envisioned was totally different from the Greek American culture that I had experienced. Compared to the Greeks living in Greece, Greek Americans were very conservative, being more religious, busy working and building dreams in America. The Greek Americans I knew had adopted a comraderie and fellowship that was evident in the church community. Unfortunately, I did not witness that in mainland Greece. There was a sophistication, an almost arrogant stance to us "Amerikanakia" and a decadence (particularly television shows) that was unheard of in America (Lipsi island was an exception because practically everyone there was a relative and the islanders tend to be hospitable).

So I returned to America, having learned that although I was born in Greece, there was a difference. Greek Americans are a hybrid of Greek and American cultures, having captured the best of both worlds, and that made all the difference.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Publishing Trends

For many years, my family and I have been patrons of Borders, Barnes & Noble bookstores and BooksAMillion bookstores. Twice a week we would visit one of these bookstores and I would browse the different bookshelves, skim through books, and note what was in stock. We also are avid library patrons, and also frequent used bookstores.

As I was growing up in Cleveland in the seventies, most of the books I read were clean books like Heidi, Jane Eyre, and Black Beauty. The libraries were well stocked with clean covers, clean stories, and better stories, in my humble opinion. "Noir" stories were not the norm then, as they are now.

Now, when I enter one of the bookstores (Barnes & Noble, etc.) I see black every where, black covers, black stories, black ideas; even the music is harsh and grating. Magazines show more bare skin. Even book titles are vulgar and use four-letter words. It is a depressing atmosphere for an optimistic person like me. Who is buying these books and why are they buying them? It sure isn't me! I like to see bright cover colors, bright ideas, optimistic and hopeful stories. Where have they gone?

Where are the stories that inspire, and make me laugh? I crave for stories comparable to the following movies: Sound of Music, Inspector General, Easter Parade, TopHat, Daddy Longlegs, Mary Poppins, Good Old Summertime, etc. Where have they all gone? Am I living in the wrong time period?

I'm also seeing this infiltrate into the educational system. We were going to send our son to sixth grade public school this year. He was tested and placed in the advanced section for all his classes, and for his English class was given a book to read over the summer. It was about misfits and a foster home and how the parents had abused the children. It was a terrible story. What garbage! The choices that these authorities are making shows me that our society is missing in values. Who wants to read about misfits and abusive parents? How depressing. My son who is an avid reader, was depressed by the story. We ended up not sending him to the public school after all but decided to homeschool him another year.

We visited our public library the other day. I usually choose books for my son to read. He reads one fiction and one non-fiction a day as his limit. If I did not set a limit, he would be reading all day.
Choosing books for him to read has been a chore. I search for books that have an engaging story, are uplifting, and capture the imagination. Most of the new books are tailored to the Harry Potter series, full of fantasy and evil. Most of the new books have at least one description of death, one description of something bad happening to someone (prevalent in vampire stories), and so on. This is becoming a dilemma. He has already read all the classic books by now (Heidi, Anne of Greengables, Black Beauty, Robinson Crusoe, Mary Poppins, Winnie-the-Pooh, and many more!). Dare he venture into the dark unknown? I shiver at the thought of my impressionable, intelligent son being influenced by these dark forces.

So I pray that the universe listens to my prayers for the good of humanity - to spread this goodness into the publishing industry and embrace it with much love and light - so that we may learn from life through positive examples and not negative, downgrading horrific stories. Let the positive forces win over the dark forces.

This prayer also holds true with all the art forms - music and fine art.

Signing off and God bless!!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Radiation and more Radiation

One "new normal" activity these days includes a daily check of our inside air with our radiation detector Inspector+ which is linked to the computer through a software program (both detector and software program bought by Mineralab.com). Typically, the detector would range from 20-40 cpm. The last few days, I've been getting alerts (I set the threshold to 50 cpm to alert me when it reaches that count) for 50 cpm and above. One alert was for 56 cpm. Although it's not exceedingly high, it is almost twice the normal reading that I got in the past. This additional radiation is probably gamma rays, since the radiation is coming from the outside and passing through our walls.

I wonder if others have been seeing spikes in their radiation readings. To answer that question, I just checked the www.radiationnetwork.com website and I do notice at this time, 3:30pm Nov. 15 2011, that east of Pennsylvania, there was a 55cpm reading. That's high, also.

Although the site uses 100cpm as an alert threshold, I feel that 50 cpm is a better number. Any low-level radiation is unacceptable.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Excerpt from The Lion and the Nurse

THE LION AND THE NURSE

by Patty Apostolides

CHAPTER 1

April 1979

Truth exists, yet often times we don’t see it. Elusive, like a deer in hiding, it waits, revealing itself only when the beholder stands still, ready to accept it unconditionally. Such a moment of truth exposed itself on this spring afternoon to Cassiani, but was she ready for it?

Cassiani stepped out on to the sunlit balcony carrying a bucket of dirty soap water in one hand and a wet mop in the other. Her mind was miles away at the University Hospital in Cleveland, Ohio, where she worked the past five months as a registered nurse. Today she would have been taking blood pressure readings at seven o’clock in the morning or popping thermometers into patients’ mouths. Or she would have been reading charts and administering medications. Instead, she was here on the Greek Island of Kos, mopping Mrs. Lukas’ upstairs apartment.

A week ago, when she and her sister received the telephone call from the doctor at Kos Hospital telling them that her mother experienced a heart attack, it had come as a shock. Athena couldn’t come because she was pregnant with her second child, so it was decided that Cassiani would come. Cassiani rushed to get here, dropping everything she was doing with no other thought but to nurse her mother. When she arrived three days ago, little did she know that today she’d be cleaning and mopping Mrs. Lukas’ house.

Cassiani lifted the bucket and poured the soapy water over the side of the balcony, watching the water disappear down the slope of the lime-green hill below. Further observation revealed flecks of color among the hill; clusters of white cyclamen, bunches of daisies, and bright red poppies that swayed with each caress of the wind. She took a deep breath, enjoying the fresh mountain air.

“This would be a good place to rest,” she said aloud. Two wooden chairs and a small square table sat on the balcony. She sank into one chair, plopping her slender legs up on the other chair, enjoying the sun-drenched panoramic view of Kos Island below. She could see far on this clear day; the whitewashed houses scattered here and there, the sandy beach of Tigaki with its salt lake, and in the horizon, the small island of Pserimos.

Her gaze settled to her left, beyond the row of Cypress trees that marked the property’s boundary, on the winding road leading to the house. She remembered the walk she had with her mother years ago down that very same road. It was dusty and half the width; suited more for pedestrians and donkeys than for cars. This morning her mother said, “You’ll find the road paved now, so don’t miss the way. It was done two years ago when Mrs. Lukas bought a new Mercedes.”

Cassiani glimpsed the dark shade of a lonely automobile driving up the road, but lost track of it just as quickly; probably her imagination at work. Mrs. Lukas was napping downstairs and wasn’t expecting anyone. She yawned, rubbing her eyes, enjoying the feel of the warm sun on her face. Her eyes fluttered shut as she fell into a light sleep.

Thud.

Cassiani jumped up from her chair, knocking it over, her heart beating wildly. She anxiously peered through the balcony’s glass door into the darkness of the apartment. Could it be that Mrs. Lukas had walked up the stairs looking for her and had slipped on the newly mopped floor? Then she caught sight of the man. His movements were slow and cautious, as if he had sensed another presence…her presence. “A burglar,” she whispered. She quickly made the sign of the cross. “Dear Lord, have mercy on me.”

He was lean and dressed in dark clothes, and was heading purposefully towards her.

* * *

“What are you doing here?” Leo demanded. Just as he was about to reach the balcony he slipped on the wet floor and landed on his back.

At that very same moment Cassiani sprinted past him, then slid on the wet floor, her arms flailing about her until she regained her momentum. In her haste to leave, she blindly ran into the luggage lined up at the door. She lost her balance and grabbed the doorframe managing to keep from falling. She shakily pulled the two large suitcases upright. Were these the cause of the sound she heard from the balcony? She glanced at the nametag. “Dr. Leonidas Regas,” she whispered. Why did the name sound familiar? Her eyes flew open. “Oh, no!”

The burglar was none other than the much-awaited nephew of Soula Lukas. How could it be? He was supposed to arrive tomorrow. Ashamed at her behavior, Cassiani turned around and stared at the fallen man. She inched her way towards him, careful not to slip on the wet floor. Although his eyes were shut, to her relief she could make out the faint movement of his chest rising and falling rhythmically. Yes, he was alive…and undeniably handsome. His tanned face was lean, with a strong chin and a prominent, straight nose. She bent down, ready to check his head for bumps when his eyes fluttered open, staring upwards to gaze at the ceiling.

She caught her breath when his eyes settled on her. Magnificently large in size, their golden hazel color, speckled with emerald and saffron, glowed like a cat’s eyes…no…more like a lion’s eyes…as if there was a fire brewing inside them. It was unnerving, the intent way he studied her.

“Ouch,” he said, touching the back of his head. Apparently satisfied with the result, he raised himself in a sitting position. He studied her once more.

She could feel the warm rush of his breath against her face. Suddenly aware of how physically close he was to her, Cassiani moved back, trembling. A minute ago she was nursing a vulnerable, weak patient. As soon as he spoke, as soon as he was a man again and not a patient, society’s norms, her Christian principles, and her parents’ sound upbringing joined forces, sending warning signals up her spine. You’re alone in this apartment with a man.

“Don’t worry, I won’t bite.” His teasing voice was low and husky. She smiled. He smiled back. “What were you doing here?”

“I, I…was.” she said, very conscious of his stare. For some odd reason, she couldn’t speak. Instead, she stood up and pointed towards the balcony where she had left the bucket and mop. She made the motion of mopping.

In one swift movement he was up on his feet, his agile body moving cautiously to the balcony. “You were mopping the apartment,” he finished her sentence. “That explains the wet floor.”

Cassiani was about to introduce herself when she heard a faint call coming from downstairs. She turned her head to hear better. “It’s Mrs. Lukas. She is calling.” She ran towards the door, knocking the luggage over.

“Wait!” Leo shouted.

Cassiani flew down the steps. This time there was no turning back. She sprinted through the large kitchen with the peppermint tea scent, across the narrow hallway with its paintings, and into the bedroom. She found Soula Lukas sitting upright in her bed, propped up by several large pillows. The pink satin robe covering her thin frame, meant for a much younger woman, captured the eye first before settling on her olive-skinned, wrinkled face. Her fluffy white hair circled her head like a misplaced halo.

Maybe it was the way her brown eyes, clouded and unfocused, looked up at Cassiani, or the dazed look on her face, as if she had just seen a ghost; whatever it was, something had caused her to call out.

Cassiani leaned over and touched her shoulder. “Mrs. Lukas, is everything all right?” she asked, feeling breathless. “I heard you calling.”

“What? Oh, yes,” Soula muttered. Her hand fluttered over her eyes. “I had a dream…yes…a dream. That Leo was here.”

“Actually, Leo did—” Cassiani began, then stopped when she saw Leo.

In a few strides Leo reached his aunt’s bed. “Aunt Soula!” he said. He bent down and kissed his aunt tenderly on the forehead then eased his body on the edge of the bed

Soula’s voice trembled with joy. She gripped his hand as if she were testing the reality of his presence. “So you weren’t really a dream after all! I thought I saw you in a dream…that you had come.”

Captivated by this new development into Mrs. Lukas’ world, Cassiani watched with surprise, witnessing the caring look on Leo’s face and the gentle way he touched his aunt’s arm. There was sensitivity in that gesture, one that conveyed a soul that had experienced love and knew how to show it and this spoke louder than words to Cassiani’s fine-tuned heart. She was mesmerized.

The tender way in which Mrs. Lukas gazed back into her nephew’s eyes revealed no coldness or hardness that Cassiani had glimpsed in the past, but a startling show of affection…resembling the love of a mother towards her child.

“I stopped by earlier, but you were asleep.”

“Ahh, so that was what happened!” Soula said, touching Leo’s face fondly. “Weren’t you supposed to come tomorrow?” She scrunched her face, thinking. “What is today…Thursday or Friday?”

Leo playfully patted her on the hand. “We had arranged for me to come today, Thursday.”

“Oh, my,” Soula replied, appearing apologetic. “For some reason I thought it was tomorrow. You know…I’m becoming rather forgetful.”

Cassiani quietly removed herself, not wanting to interfere with the reunion. As a nurse, she had learned not to pry into people’s affairs. She paused at the door and looked at them. “I must be going,” she said.

Leo stood up. “I’m sorry if I frightened you. I wasn’t expecting to find anyone upstairs in the apartment.”

I wasn’t expecting anyone either. “That’s all right. I’m the one that should be apologizing,” Cassiani replied.

“What happened?” Soula asked Leo, her eyes narrowing.

“I slipped on the floor she had mopped and – ”

“Did you hurt yourself?” Soula interjected, looking concerned.

“I’m fine,” Leo chuckled, gingerly touching the back of his head. “Not even a small bump for a souvenir.”

“I have to go now,” Cassiani said, feeling awkward under Mrs. Lukas’ scrutiny. “My mother hasn’t been feeling well. I need to be with her.”

“Ah, yes. Say hello to her for me,” Soula said, her face softening. “Oh…and don’t forget to take the payment for cleaning the upstairs apartment. The money is on the kitchen table.” She signaled towards the kitchen.

Cassiani blushed at the patronizing manner in which Mrs. Lukas had just spoken. I helped because I wanted to, not because of any payment. Instead of replying, she fled from the room.

* * *

Leo watched with amusement at Cassiani’s flustered exit. His mind had been preoccupied all day with business deals and his aunt’s health. Cassiani’s brief entrance into his life had been a refreshingly beautiful diversion. I wonder whether I’ll see her again. I wonder where she lives. “Who is she?”

“She’s the daughter of my hired companion, Vera Meletis. Vera had a heart attack recently. I needed help, so she sent her in her place.” Soula motioned to Leo. “Come, take my arm so I can get up.”

Leo held on to his aunt as she arose out of bed. “I didn’t see her car outside. Does she need a ride—”

“Don’t go thinking too much about her,” Soula interjected.

“What makes you think that?” Leo asked, shrugging his shoulders.

“Oh, an old woman’s intuition,” was his aunt’s tart reply.

* * *


Available on www.Amazon.com

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Goodness of Heart

Today is Sunday, and we read the Bible. I particularly like reading the Proverbs section, and of course, passages from the New Testament. Sometimes we bring in other reading that is spiritual.
Today, we read a portion from a book by St. Therese of Lisiuex, France. She had written an autobiography before she passed away in her twenties. It showed her simple, pure thinking and how she prayed for all the souls so they wouldn't go to purgatory. She was very inspiring.

If we could all see the goodness in each other and forgive one another, knowing that we all are God's children, wouldn't this be a better, safer place to live?

Miracles

Miracles have been a part of my life since I was a young girl. I call them miracles because they defy normal life happenings and the probability of them happening is so rare, that no other explanation other than that they are a miracle, or a grace from God. I am deeply thankful for these. I may have written about them in the past, but cannot seem to locate that article, so I'll write them once again.

The first miracle I remember is when I am around five years old, chasing after my sister and aunt, who are older than me. It is a sunny day and we are crossing the street. I am wearing black shoes, white socks, and a dress. As I'm crossing the street, I run into the path of a car. The next thing I remember, is that I'm on the sidewalk, and there are several people around me, looking down with concerned faces. Apparently, the car had run over my leg, because my shoe had been removed. I remember looking for my shoe, and slipping it on. Being five, I did not have laced shoes, but a strap that was buckled. I then stood up and walked away, very shy and not used to all this attention. It wasn't until years later that I realized the miracle that had happened. Someone/God/angel had kept me from being harmed by the car.


The second major incident was a few years later. I must have been 8 or 9 years old. In the Greek Orthodox religion, we are christened when we are babies. The nouna, or Godmother gives the child a cross as part of the christening. I wore my cross just about everywhere, and while going to school. I loved it because the gold was intricately woven, almost lacelike in feature, and shaped like a cross. In the center was a small stone. Anyway, I remember coming home one day from school. It was a September afternoon, and I found out that somehow I had lost the cross. I was dismayed and so was my family. I kept looking for it at school, in my classroom, gym class, etc., but couldn't find it. Three days later, as I was walking to school, a black girl came toward me holding the cross. She showed it to me and said, "Is this your cross?" I was so happy to receive it. I did not know who she was and did not see her again. My mother was very happy and said it was a miracle. That day was the day the Greek Orthodox observed the day of the cross. Was it a coincidence or a miracle? You decide.

Until next time...

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Winners of Giveaway Posted

The winners of the giveaway of The Greek Maiden and the English Lord are now posted on my website. I hope every one of the winners enjoys the story!

Until the next giveaway...

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Giveaway of The Greek Maiden and the English Lord

Today is the last day to sign up to win a free copy of The Greek Maiden and the English Lord!

Click here to submit

I will contact the winners and once confirmed, will post their names on my website.

Good luck!!