On Saturday, I glanced at the calendar on my phone and recognised the date as some sort of anniversary – 26 July. It was exactly 4 years to the day I received my diagnosis of Metastatic Neuroendocrine Cancer.
It all began 2 months previously with a routine asthma clinic appointment when I mentioned to the Nurse Practitioner that I thought I’d lost half a stone in weight. She immediately said “did you mean to lose the weight” and the answer was “no” on the basis that I just simply thought I was heavier. As a precaution she sent me for a set of blood tests and then a retest. I later marched into the GP’s office (having been asked to come to the surgery) to hear the GP say “I didn’t expect such a well-looking man given the haemoglobin results I’m looking at”.
I was eventually referred to a specialist whose immediate words were “something isn’t right here”. Following a bunch of tests, he then told me he had “found something very unusual“. More tests and even more tests………. and then on 26 July 2010 I was told I had widespread and incurable Neuroendocrine Cancer which was quite uncommon and without treatment I would eventually die.
A lot has happened since then. I’ve had approximately 25 hours of surgery/invasive procedures much of it under general anaesthetic and around 34 days in hospital. I’ve had countless scans and other tests. I’ve had more injections than I’ve had hot dinners – this is actually true! More importantly, I’m still alive and kicking! I’m feeling great too having recently completed a 6-day hike along the 84 miles of Hadrian’s Wall.
How many times have you heard it said that laughter is the best medicine? I can certainly remember this phrase being said when I was a child. There is some Science in Medicine (more applied than pure), so where is the scientific evidence for this claim? Well after all this time, someone has decided to carry out a study. Apparently when we laugh, we exercise our muscles, get blood flowing, decrease our blood pressure and stress hormones, improve sleep patterns and boost our immune system. It’s a new area of research known as ‘Psychoneuroimmunology’ – the study of how emotions affect our nervous and immune systems. It’s still a relatively new area of research, but the insights are promising.
The study looked at 20 healthy older adults in their 60s and 70s, measuring their stress levels and short-term memory. One group was asked to sit silently, not talking or reading and not using their mobile phones or tablet devices. The other group watched funny video clips (personally I would have advised they watched the English football team 🙂 )
After 20 minutes, the participants gave saliva samples and took a short memory test. While both groups performed better after the break than before, the “laughter group” performed significantly better when it came to memory recall. Participants who viewed the funny videos had much higher improvement in recall abilities, 43.6 percent, compared with 20.3 percent in the “non-laughter” group. The laughter group showed considerably lower levels of cortisol after watching the videos. Cortisol is a key stress hormonemeasured via saliva. The non-laughter group’s cortisol levels decreased just slightly.
Re the amusing picture, I received this in the form of a get well card after major surgery in 2010. This person clearly understood my sense of humour and I hope you had a good laugh too. My surgeon’s secretary also thought it was funny and had her cortisol levels reduced 🙂 Laughter helps you feel both physically and emotionally healthy and could possibly be as good for you as taking a vitamin, who knows? Furthermore it’s prescription free! More research is clearly still needed, but why not start to include laughter as part of your health regime? Read my blog for starters 🙂
Thanks for reading
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Just back from a nice relaxing holiday in Tenerife. I don’t know about you but when overseas I find myself looking for ‘hotspots’ everywhere I go……. I don’t mean trendy entertainment venues, I’m talking about the modern phenomenon known as a WiFi signal! I also mean free and open connections. Even recent price reductions within Europe did not tempt me to use ‘data’ overseas and I didn’t even want to take advantage of the £2 per day upgrade of my mobile phone account which would give me access to my minutes/MBs overseas on a temporary basis. I just look for free WiFi and I also make a point of turning off ‘data’ on my phone before leaving the country to avoid expensive mistakes. No Scottish jokes please, I’m just frugal 🙂
My hotspot finding in Tenerife was relatively successful – it isn’t rocket science. However, that’s the second time in the last month I’ve been involved in ‘finding hotspots’. The first was explained in my blog posts: http://wp.me/p4AplF-n3 and: http://wp.me/p4AplF-o3. As a reminder, the Octreotide Scan is currently the gold standard for ‘finding hotspots‘ in Neuroendocrine Cancer patients, although newer techniques and binding agents are coming on line which have greater efficiency (e.g. Ga-68 DOTATATE PET/CT). A hotspot was identified in 2010 (amongst others) in the area of my neck – specifically in the left Supraclavicular Fossa (SCF) lymph nodes (collar bone area). There was also some take-up in my left axillary nodes (armpit). The armpit nodes were palpable and therefore resected in Feb 2012 as a follow on from major surgery in 2010 and 2011. During the same procedure, the surgeon also opened me up in the area of the left SCF nodes and removed 5 of them. However, all of these 5 nodes tested negative and given the findings (and the nature) of the Octreotide scan, this was unusual (to me).
I met with my Consultant before going on holiday and he explained my test results were all good but that there was still a ‘hotspot’ showing up on the Octreotide scan in my neck. The scanning machine is newer technology than the one used in my previous Octreotide scans. It also has a built-in CT (SPECT) scanner and therefore the ability to overlay multiple types of scans. In fact the radiologist is reporting the neck hotspot location as the thyroid rather than the left SCF lymph nodes indicated in the two previous scans in 2010 and 2011.
Whatever is going on in my neck area has been there for at least 4 years but as my biochemistry results are good, I guess it’s not life threatening. Nonetheless, 3 separate Octreotide scans have lit up an area in my neck indicating there is a risk which needs to be managed. My Consultant has been investigating whilst I was on holiday, so will provide updates in future blogs.
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