Neuroendocrine Cancer: Patient Power!

Awareness, Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer, Patient Advocacy, Survivorship, Treatment
There's a saying that the patient is the most underused person in healthcare and I think there's a lot of truth in that. However, I would suggest with Neuroendocrine Cancer, it's less true than for many other cancers. There are so many NET Cancer patients out there who know quite a lot about their cancer, and in some detail. Even the great Dr Liu once said that NET Patients frequently know more about NET Cancer than their doctors. If you go onto Twitter, if you go onto Facebook, if you read newspaper stories, you will find cancer patient stories in abundance and they will normally be patients diagnosed with the big 4 cancers. This is not surprising as these tend to affect more people.  However, the ratio of NET Cancer…
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Neuroendocrine Cancer – tumour markers and hormone levels

Neuroendocrine Cancer – tumour markers and hormone levels

Patient Advocacy
BackgroundI think most people have had a form of medical testing at some point in their life, i.e. the sampling and testing of blood, urine, saliva, stool or body tissue. In a nutshell, the medical staff are just measuring the content of a 'substance' and then taking a view whether this is normal or not based on pre-determined ranges. These tests are normally done as a physician's reaction to symptom presentation or maintenance/surveillance of an existing diagnosed condition. Sometimes, abnormal results will lead to more specialist tests.In cancer, these tests are frequently called 'markers'. Most tumour markers are made by normal cells as well as by cancer cells; however, they are produced at much higher levels in cancerous conditions. These substances can be found in the blood, urine, stool, tumour tissue,…
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“Not the Stereotypical picture of sick”

Awareness, Inspiration, Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer, Patient Advocacy, Survivorship
I've never really understood why people get upset or annoyed when someone tells them they look well. Maybe I just think differently than others?  I like to look for the positive things these well-meaning messages can convey.  Most people are just trying to be nice, even if it comes over clumsy. Personally, I love it when people tell me I look well, I mean who wants to look unwell?  If I'm feeling mischievous, I sometimes say "yes..... but you should see my insides".  Most of the time, it dispels any awkwardness and they follow my laughter. Yesterday, I listened to a few video clips of a very inspiring young lady who eloquently delivered her view of what it is like to have an invisible disease and still look the 'perfect picture of health'.  She…
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Procrastination – it’s a killer

Awareness, Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer, Patient Advocacy, Survivorship
[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="460"] Stiff upper lip[/caption] It's amazing to think that one minute I'm back from a holiday in the Caribbean and the next minute I'm being told the inside of my body is a 'train crash'. Just how does that work?  In July 2010, I said to the Gastroenterologist investigating my low hemoglobin "I'm not even feeling ill". He sent me to an Oncologist who then told me that without treatment, the prognosis wasn't good (i.e. I would eventually die). I also told him I wasn't feeling ill ....as if my protest was somehow going to reverse the situation! The term 'silent cancer' was apt in my case........  or was it my stiff upper lip? 20 months prior I had a colonoscopy after a short-term change of stool colour. Nothing…
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Neuroendocrine Cancer – the diarrhea jigsaw

Neuroendocrine Cancer – the diarrhea jigsaw

Diet and Nutrition, Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer, Patient Advocacy, Survivorship, Treatment
Diarrhea can be a symptom of many conditions, but it is particularly key in Neuroendocrine Tumour (NET) Syndromes and types, in particular, Carcinoid Syndrome but also in those associated with various other NET types such as VIPoma, PPoma, Gastrinoma, Somatostatinoma, Medullary Thyroid Carcinoma.Secondly, it can be a key consequence (side effect) of the treatment for Neuroendocrine Tumours and Carcinomas, in particular following surgery where various bits of the gastrointestinal tract are excised to remove and/or debulk tumour load.There are other reasons that might be causing or contributing, including (but not limited to) endocrine problems such as hyperthryoidism, mastocytosis or Addison's disease (which may be secondary illnesses in those with NETs). It's also possible that 'non-sydromic' issues such as stress and diet are contributing. It could be caused by other things…
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WEGO Health Patient Leader: Ronny Allan – Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer

WEGO Health Patient Leader: Ronny Allan – Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer

Awareness, Inspiration, Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer, Patient Advocacy, Survivorship
WEGO Health has the largest network of patient leaders in the world.  Every year they recognise them via their renowned awards process. I first discovered them in 2016 and decided to apply.  As at 2021, I have now won 3 awards, been in 8 finals following around 27 nominations for various categories. WEGO Health and many of their patient leaders now know about Neuroendocrine Cancer.  The story of WEGO Health and my experience with them is outlined below.  I encourage you to watch the 2021 announcements below, so inspiring.  The 2021 awards were special because all records were broken in terms of nominees.  From 21,000, that had to be reduced to just 96, 6 in each of 16 categories.  It's quite a feat just to get into the finals and…
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Serotonin – the NET effect

Serotonin – the NET effect

Diet and Nutrition, Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer, Patient Advocacy
picture shows an actual serotonin receptor BackgroundI'd never heard of Serotonin until I was diagnosed with Neuroendocrine Cancer in 2010. It is frequently discussed, often with contrasting views from the respondents. One common assumption/question is that it is responsible for many things that can go wrong with Neuroendocrine Cancer patients who have serotonin-producing tumours. To a certain extent, that's true but statement such as "it's the hormones" is an easy assumption to make; or an easy answer to give in response to a complex set of circumstances. It's difficult to get a definitive answer and the science behind the behaviour of our hormones isn't really 100% tied down - the human body is extremely complex.You may see serotonin referred to as a 'neurotransmitter', a 'chemical' and a 'hormone' - this…
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Neuroendocrine Cancer – not average, just mean

Neuroendocrine Cancer – not average, just mean

Awareness, Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer, Patient Advocacy, Survivorship
Most people have perceptions of cancer in their heads, fairly fixed perceptions too. They think about all the stuff they see daily on TV, in the main press, and people they know. The big cancers set the scene.Most doctors know about big cancers. They also know how to treat them, many of them have a fairly fixed regime of surgery/chemotherapy/radiotherapy. Many survivors will have side effects of their treatments, e.g. perhaps temporarily losing their hair. More people are now surviving these cancers and many will be declared disease-free or placed into some sort of remission status (no evidence of disease is a common term I see).Most NETs are not like that! Whilst it has a reputation for being a generally slow-growing type of tumour at the lower grades (but very…
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Stop talking about it, just go do it!

Inspiration, Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer, Patient Advocacy, Survivorship
[caption id="attachment_6724" align="aligncenter" width="2896"] Medicine![/caption] "yes, we must do this one day ......." and then we don't! We're all guilty of it aren't we? For years Chris and I have discussed travelling around the coast of Scotland and we're just back from a fantastic holiday where we saw some wonderful scenery. And we did the Edinburgh Tattoo on the way there! Yet another ....... "we must do this one day......." I've even decided that looking at this wonderful scenery is a form of medicine and a way to be inspired to do more. Admittedly we were motivated by the recent declaration of the new "North Coast 500" campaign which fortunately and timely sparked us into gear. As a patient with incurable cancer, life can be tough on the body and mind. However,…
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Neuroendocrine Cancer Nutrition Series Part 4 – Amines: Food for Thought?

Neuroendocrine Cancer Nutrition Series Part 4 – Amines: Food for Thought?

Diet and Nutrition, Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer, Patient Advocacy, Survivorship
reviewed and updated 12th Feb 2022Background.Nutrition is an important subject for many cancers, but it can be particularly important for many Neuroendocrine Cancer patients. When I started writing my nutrition series (I listed the other parts below), I said that my intention is not to tell you what to eat, even though that might be a challenge for many, and this theme continues. The issue with Nutrition and Diet, in general, is that it's very individual and what works for one may not work for another.I like to focus on why such things might have an effect - patients can then experiment and see what works for them. Sometimes very few changes are required and settling on a diet that works for you is the optimum solution. p.s. Not everyone has…
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It’s scary searching Cancer online

Awareness, Inspiration, Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer, Patient Advocacy
[caption id="attachment_6092" align="alignnone" width="500"] that's me in the middle[/caption] When my diagnosing specialist suggested I had Neuroendocrine Cancer, he also told me not to go online whilst we awaited the results of the liver biopsy. I completely ignored that and went online! I very quickly discovered why he said that because the Neuroendocrine Cancer information online in 2010 was indeed scary, despite me being a very experienced user of computers and the internet; and despite me being to some extent, an information worker. It's not just knowing where to look, it's also about the interpretation and knowing what is current and what is out of date.  As a novice NET patient, I found out my 5-year survival rate was only 38%.  It looked like a credible site but I now…
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The 5 E’s (of Carcinoid Syndrome)

The 5 E’s (of Carcinoid Syndrome)

Awareness, Diet and Nutrition, Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer, Patient Advocacy, Survivorship, Treatment
Since my diagnosis, I seem to have been in a perpetual learning phase! What not to do, what not to eat, what not to read! However, early on in my experience, I came across a list of 'E' words (5 of them) which is a handy reminder for Carcinoid Syndrome patients, particularly those whose symptoms are not under control. When I say "carcinoid syndrome" in this article, I only mean the syndrome that is caused by what was once called "Carcinoid Tumors", i.e. mainly serotonin secreting types but include tumours which are well differentiated found in the small intestine, appendiceal, rectal, lung, and one or two other less common places. There are many variations of this list, but this is my take! I suspect some of this also applies to…
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Don’t worry, I really am OK!

Don’t worry, I really am OK!

Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer, Patient Advocacy, Survivorship
[caption id="attachment_6843" align="aligncenter" width="377"] I really am OK![/caption] I read an interesting article in the BBC entitled "Why people keep quiet about their battle with cancer".  The usual range of reactions and fears can be found in this story and it made me think about my own experience. I think there are two key themes involved here: Talking about Cancer Managing your illness Firstly, as I have an international audience, I thought I'd introduce what might not be a well-known British trait - the 'stiff upper lip'.  For the uninitiated, I'm defining this as "One who displays fortitude in the face of adversity and within that, exercises great self-restraint in the expression of emotion, rarely asks for help and just suffers in silence."  That perfectly explains the accompanying graphic!  That definition also covers the two key themes above, talking…
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Neuroendocrine Cancer: I Can

Neuroendocrine Cancer: I Can

Inspiration, Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer, Patient Advocacy, Survivorship
Opinion.  Most people with an incurable Cancer will go through both good and bad periods.  I quite liked a quote by a fellow patient who described that as the 'ebb and flow' of living with cancer and said the flow would always return at some point.  I also liked a quote from a fellow blogger whose blog catchphrase is "Having a bad day shouldn't mean having a bad life". I don't like playing the victim so I'm just trying to make my new normal ..... normal!  And I make no apologies for my approach. When I wrote my blog post "Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer - it takes guts", that wasn't me being one of those trendy bloggers saying the sort of things people want to hear. Nor was my post "Neuroendocrine Cancer –…
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Patient power – use it!

Inspiration, Patient Advocacy
[caption id="attachment_4931" align="alignleft" width="300"] Team Effort[/caption] I recently wrote a blog entitled "Trust me, I'm a Doctor" which was a genuine attempt to say that we should try to work with our Doctors.  However, I also covered the issues that Neuroendocrine Tumour (NET) patients face in finding someone who understands their disease and how best to treat it; and that can on occasion lead to issues with doctor-patient relationships and communication.  The blog then commented on a number of tips for better doctor-patient relationship and communication.  These tips were provided by a Doctor via my friends in Cancer Knowledge Network. In the blog above, there was an underlying theme indicating certain cancer patients might need to know more about their disease than would be considered normal and that can influence the nature of the…
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Tips for doctor patient communication – “Trust me, I’m a Doctor”

Tips for doctor patient communication – “Trust me, I’m a Doctor”

Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer, Patient Advocacy, Survivorship
Reviewed and updated 4th June 2022Patient doctor communicationsOne of the most frequent posts on patient groups and forums is about the Patient-Doctor relationship (or occasionally a lack of it.....).   Personally, I have a lot of time and respect for all medical staff and I suspect that has been influenced by my general life experience, perhaps cemented since my diagnosis of metastatic Neuroendocrine Cancer in 2010.  The vast majority of people tend to trust Doctors and I'm a bit old-fashioned in this respect.  If you have metastatic Neuroendocrine Cancer, you see medical staff a lot!  Relationships and communication can therefore become more important than ever.However, people with less common conditions can perhaps be more difficult to satisfy.  A 'generalist' doctor (i.e. a GP or PCP) is unlikely to be very knowledgeable about every single condition. Even at the…
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Neuroendocrine Cancer – Incurable is not untreatable

Neuroendocrine Cancer – Incurable is not untreatable

Awareness, Inspiration, Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer, Patient Advocacy, Survivorship, Treatment
OPINION. When I was being officially told I had advanced and incurable cancer, I did what most people seem to do on films/TV ..... I asked "how long do I have".  The Oncologist started off with " ... perhaps just months ........".  That must have been quite a shock because for a few moments after that, I heard nothing - my brain was clearly still trying to process those words - I wasn't even feeling unwell! The really important bit I missed was him go on to say "...but with the right treatment, you should be able to live for a lot longer".  Fortunately, my wife Chris heard it all and I was refocused.  "OK Doc - let's go" I said.  Always take someone with you to take notes at important meetings with…
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Neuroendocrine Cancer – a difficult jigsaw

Neuroendocrine Cancer – a difficult jigsaw

Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer, Patient Advocacy, Survivorship
A couple of years ago, I received a request from a reader asking if I would write an article about all the symptoms experienced by a Neuroendocrine Cancer patient and how to sort out what is and what isn't associated with NETs.Although I chuckled and raised eyebrows at the request, inside I was genuinely humbled that someone thought I was capable of achieving this herculean task.  I actually gave it quite a bit of thought to the point of compiling a matrix of types of NET, main symptoms, cross-referenced with the symptoms of the most common reported comorbidities. After it started to look like it might be bigger than the Empire State Building, I came to the conclusion that it's an almost impossible task for a wee Scottish guy with…
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Grading and Staging – Neuroendocrine Neoplasms (incorporating WHO 2021 changes)

Grading and Staging – Neuroendocrine Neoplasms (incorporating WHO 2021 changes)

Patient Advocacy
One of the most discussed and sometimes confusing subjects on forums is the staging and grading of Neuroendocrine Neoplasms (NENs). Mixing them up is a common error and so it's important to understand the difference despite the apparent complexity. If I was to make a list of questions for my specialist/Oncologist at diagnosis, it would include "What is the stage, grade and differentiation of my cancer". To enable me to synchronise with the documented guidance, I'm going to use the following WHO 2019 approved terms in this post and then provide an update of the key WHO 2019 changes below. Neuroendocrine Neoplasm (NEN) - all types of Neuroendocrine tumour of whatever grade (please note Neoplasm is another word for tumour) Neuroendocrine Tumour (NET) - all well-differentiated tumours, Grade 1,2 or…
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I bet my flush beats yours?

I bet my flush beats yours?

Awareness, Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer, Patient Advocacy, Treatment
Neuroendocrine Tumours (NETs) can sometimes present with one or more vague symptoms which occasionally results in a lengthy diagnostic phase for some.  Sure, there can be issues with doctor experience and knowledge that can add to the problem. However, some people do present with multiple vague and confusing symptoms and some people have comorbidities that have similar symptoms.  Textbook diagnostics just don't make sense, sometimes even when the doctor suspects a NET i.e. classic symptoms of 'something' but with negative markers for NETs. Clearly, those are extreme cases and just like other complex diseases, many diagnoses of NET can be extremely challenging.  Even for an experienced doctor, it can be a difficult jigsaw! Most types of NET can have associated 'syndrome' i.e. the tumours are 'functional' and this is normally (but not…
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I’m still here

I’m still here

Awareness, Inspiration, Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer, Patient Advocacy, Survivorship
I was diagnosed with metastatic Neuroendocrine Cancer - 26th July 2010.  Until I arrived at my 5th anniversary, I hadn't thought much about how (or if) I should mark these occasions.  I never thought I would dwell on such things as 'Cancerversaries' but I now totally get why many patients and survivors do.There are several types of 'Cancerversary' that for some, could trigger a mix or range of emotions including gratitude, relief and fear of cancer recurrence or growth. These milestones could be the date of a cancer diagnosis, the end of a particular type of treatment (anniversary of surgery etc) or a period since no signs or symptoms of cancer were reported. Everybody will handle it their own way - and that's perfectly understandable.The 5-year milestone was significant, I…
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Neuroendocrine Neoplasms – not as rare as you think

Neuroendocrine Neoplasms – not as rare as you think

Awareness, Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer, Patient Advocacy
BackgroundAlthough initially considered rare tumours up until 10 years ago, the most recent data indicates the incidence of Neuroendocrine Neoplasms (NENs) has increased exponentially over the last 4 decades and they are as common as Myeloma, Testicular Cancer, and Hodgkin's Lymphoma. In terms of prevalence, NENs represent the second most common gastrointestinal malignancy after colorectal cancer. Consequently, many experts are now claiming NENs are not rare (see below).A recent study published in Dec 2020 indicates that Rectal NETs may be vastly understated having been included in the databases for Colorectal Cancer and hidden from NET figures.  Read more here.A recent study published on 5 Dec 2018 reports that even if you isolate Small Intestine NETs in the USA population, the incidence rate is 9/100,000. Contrast this against the US incidence…
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I may be (reassuringly) stable but I still need support and surveillance

I may be (reassuringly) stable but I still need support and surveillance

Diet and Nutrition, Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer, Patient Advocacy, Survivorship
With incurable but treatable cancers such as metastatic Neuroendocrine Cancer, 'Stable' is normally not the end of the matter, for many there is still a long road ahead and that road may not be straight or flat. The long road may be considered an advantage by some given that with very aggressive cancers, incurable can frequently mean terminal. The surveillance must continue in case of a recurrence.It's important to understand that 'Stable' simply means the disease is "under control" with tests and scans showing the cancer hasn't changed over time. One of the disadvantages of 'incurable but treatable' is that Quality of Life (QoL) can in many cases be compromised due to the consequences of cancer and /or treatment. However, if specialist treatment, surveillance and support are all in place,…
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Neuroendocrine Cancer Online Forums: frighteningly good or good at frightening?

Neuroendocrine Cancer Online Forums: frighteningly good or good at frightening?

Awareness, Patient Advocacy
OPINIONWhen I was diagnosed, I was happy with my own research and kept away from forums on the advice of a fellow patient who said they can be overly negative. Just before my second major operation in 2011, I decided to take the plunge and registered with an online web forum (not a Facebook one). Looking back to that period, I wasn't really a major player, more of a 'lurker'. I found it quite 'cliquey' and I should have listened to the initial advice of that fellow patient!  So I left it after the reigning clique found I didn't want to be part of their pity party.Joining forums/Online patient groupsIn 2013/14, I joined several large Facebook closed groups which function as forums. After 4 years, I felt more experienced and…
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Please flush after use!

Please flush after use!

Awareness, Diet and Nutrition, Humour, Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer, Patient Advocacy, Survivorship
In the past couple of years, I've read so many stories about the quite natural act of using a toilet (.....some more repeatable than others).  I think if there was a 'Bachelor of Science degree in Toiletry', I might pass with First Class Honours. I jest clearly but it's strange that such a routine activity for most can actually become quite scientific in the world of Neuroendocrine Cancer and other ailments which might be described in some scenarios as invisible illnesses. I also found myself smiling at the fact that flushing is connected with the toilet and a type of red warm feeling in the upper torso - the two main symptoms of the Carcinoid Syndrome associated with the most common type of Neuroendocrine Cancer.  "Please flush after use" - erm...yes sure but actually -…
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Neuroendocrine – what’s that?

Neuroendocrine – what’s that?

Awareness, Patient Advocacy
Neuroendocrine??? what's that! I once met some fellow cancer advocates and the conversation turned to what inspired us to ‘do what we do’. When it came to my turn as the only Neuroendocrine Cancer patient, I was already prepared to regurgitate my usual 'spiel'. As sometimes happens, a listener queried me with the words "Neuroendocrine - what's that?".  Another focused on 'Neuro' enquiring whether my nervous system or my brain had somehow become cancerous. Deja vu - here we go again!Two days later, I was speaking to one of my online friends who was having similar problems explaining this cancer to family and friends. Again 'Neuro' was proving difficult with the assumption that it’s somehow related to the brain. Technically not far from the truth but context is really important given that most…
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The trouble with the NET (Part 2) – Alternative Therapies – what’s the harm?

The trouble with the NET (Part 2) – Alternative Therapies – what’s the harm?

Awareness, Diet and Nutrition, Patient Advocacy, Survivorship
But it works, I read it on the internet! “But it works… I read it on the internet!”You may remember my article entitled The trouble with the NET (Part 1) which was a lighthearted but still serious discussion about the dangers of self-treatment on the internet. Linked to that blog was a very popular article written by the scientists at Cancer Research UK debunking some cancer myths which seem to regularly patrol the NET and social media.Many well meaning people will send you articles they saw on the 'NET' about this and that treatment which claims to cure cancer.  They also post them on social media increasing the reach to thousands of people, some of whom are not in the right frame of mind to see the risks.  The vast…
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Carcinoid vs Neuroendocrine

Carcinoid vs Neuroendocrine

Awareness, Patient Advocacy
OPINIONThere's a constant debate regarding the validity of the term 'Carcinoid'.  I've posted about this a few times and as far as I know, the debate has been raging for some years.EDIT MARCH 2022.  The latest classification system for Lung Neuroendocrine Neoplasms (NEN) confirms the word "carcinoid" is now a choice - the WHO Lung Committee bottled it.  I made my choice some years ago, I hope others follow suit.  Read more about changes to Lung NEN by clicking here. EDIT APRIL 2020.  The latest classification system for Neuroendocrine Neoplasms confirms the word "carcinoid" no longer forms part of the terminology used in Digestive System tumours (effectively removing the term from GEP NETs) - read more - click hereEdit May 2020.  So, what about other areas not included in GEPNETs above? Please note there…
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The trouble with the NET (Part 1) – Cancer Myths

The trouble with the NET (Part 1) – Cancer Myths

Awareness, Diet and Nutrition, Patient Advocacy, Survivorship
Certain popular ideas about how cancer starts and spreads - though scientifically wrong, can seem to make sense, especially when those ideas are rooted in old theories. To a certain extent, it can be the case with treatment too. But wrong ideas about cancer can lead to needless worry and even hinder good prevention and treatment decisions.In one study, a surprising 40% of Americans believe cancer can be cured solely through alternative therapies, according to the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO)’s second annual National Cancer Opinion Survey.  In a similar study in UK, the NHS blamed social media for the spread of fake healthcare news.  Unfortunately, social media 'misinformation' includes 'alleged' cures for various ailments including cancer.  I think we've all been there, we check twitter, Facebook, Pinterest etc and…
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Lanreotide – Four more years

Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer, Patient Advocacy, Survivorship
This post has been superseded by the following: Lanreotide: it's calling the shots - click here. Lanreotide:  10 more years please! - click here. Lanreotide vs Octreotide - click here. Original post: The UK general election steps up a gear this month and social media is playing a huge part in the debate leading up to 7 May 2015.  In the USA, the different parties are busily working on their candidates ready for 2016. It appears that politicians worldwide, are keen to exploit all areas of communication to eke out votes from the young and old who now use social media on a scale which makes 4 or 5 years ago look prehistoric. In 2012, Barack Obama's 'four more years' tweet was the biggest retweeted post ever up to that point after he thanked his 22 million…
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Neuroendocrine Cancer – not an exact Science

Neuroendocrine Cancer – not an exact Science

Awareness, Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer, Patient Advocacy
I've been interested in science since my school days and seem to remember it being separated into Biology, Physics and Chemistry for study and examination purposes. Biology wasn't on my radar and as I found Chemistry boring, I focused on Physics which seemed to be more 'modern' and exciting. Curiously, at the beginning of my Open University degree course some 25 years later, I found the Biology and Chemistry modules of my foundation year the most enjoyable part of the whole 6 year study.  Different teaching methods? different teachers?  Perhaps, but I suspect some maturity was involved plus a hunger for new knowledge. I seem to have caught the learning bug again since being diagnosed with Neuroendocrine Cancer (NET Cancer).  Like many other NET Cancer patients, I feel I need to know a lot more than the average cancer patient.  For me, this can be attributed to a number of…
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Every Day is World Neuroendocrine Cancer Day!

Every Day is World Neuroendocrine Cancer Day!

Awareness, Inspiration, Patient Advocacy, Survivorship
Opinion: In 2014, I experienced (so called) NET Cancer Day (10 Nov) on a major scale for the first time since its inception. Prior to that, it didn't really do that much for me.  Spookily, I even woke up on 10 Nov 2010 after a major 9-hour surgery.  Read about this here - I even woke up on November 10th after major surgery.  You'll note the title of this post is "World Neuroendocrine Cancer Day" and that is because "NET Cancer Day" is not good awareness - besides the terrible grammar, there is no such term as "Neuroendocrine Tumour Cancer".  And if we use just "NET" then in epidemiological terms we exclude the Neuroendocrine Carcinoma guys who need just as much awareness as we do (perhaps more). The build-up to…
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Neuroendocrine Cancer – Horrible Hormones

Neuroendocrine Cancer – Horrible Hormones

Patient Advocacy
Hormonal imbalances are quite common in many conditions including day to day stuff. With Neuroendocrine Cancer, it can be a real challenge both at diagnostic and maintenance phases.  In addition to the cancer angle, there's some strange stuff going on, inexplicable, frightening for the patient, an unwanted ingredient causing chaos!Until I was diagnosed with metastatic Neuroendocrine Cancer, I didn't have a clue about hormones - it's one of those things you just take for granted. However, hormones are vital to human health (male and female) and it's only when things go wrong you suddenly appreciate how important they are.  Hormones are involved in many conditions, not just an issue with Neuroendocrine Tumours (NETs) but the presence of over-secreting hormones (often called peptides throughout) is useful to aid a diagnosis, albeit…
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Living with an incurable cancer – does mind over matter help?

Living with an incurable cancer – does mind over matter help?

Inspiration, Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer, Patient Advocacy, Survivorship
When I started blogging in 2014, it was relatively easy - all I needed to do was to talk about my experience to help raise awareness of Neuroendocrine Cancer; then talk about my hike along Hadrian's Wall for a local Charity.  The blog was only ever intended to be a temporary supporting tool for the walk and its build up; but I was persuaded by good reviews and viewing numbers to keep it going.  That suddenly made it more difficult! In my early blogs, there were several 'no go areas' which were either too complex or potentially controversial.  I didn't really have much time to think them through properly at that point in time. However, I've since dabbled in some of these areas to test the waters.   I'm not a healthcare…
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If your Doctors don’t suspect something, they won’t detect anything!

If your Doctors don’t suspect something, they won’t detect anything!

Awareness, Patient Advocacy
Opinion:One of the most discussed and debated Cancer issues is late diagnosis. Cyberspace is full of disturbing stories and many different cancers are involved. Some cancers are notoriously difficult to diagnose, meaning that awareness and education needs to extend from the general population to healthcare professionals at all levels. The latter is a challenge as first-line physicians battle to deal with thousands of different conditions, many of which have similar presentations. Neuroendocrine Neoplasms have a record of being difficult to diagnose which often leads to late diagnosis. Moreover, due to their often-silent nature, a late diagnosis is often a default scenario as no intervention was possible without a symptomatic patient.Neuroendocrine Neoplasms - Under-diagnosed or Under-reported?Like many other Cancers, Neuroendocrine Neoplasms (NEN) is one of a number of 'difficult to diagnose'…
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Hadrian’s Wall Day 5 – Pass the morphine!

Hadrian’s Wall Day 5 – Pass the morphine!

Patient Advocacy
[caption id="attachment_1087" align="aligncenter" width="2448"] Me Resting![/caption][caption id="attachment_1088" align="aligncenter" width="480"] The M6![/caption]When I was in hospital for major surgery, I remember being briefed by my excellent nursing staff about all the tubes and pipes intruding and protruding into/from my body. One of the most important ones in the early days was known as PCA - Patient Controlled Analgesia.  Basically, I could click a button whenever I felt the post-surgical pain was too much.  As this administered morphine, safeguards were built in - for example, the machine limited me to 2 clicks within 5 minutes and then it wouldn't accept a request for another 5 minutes.  That handheld push button device was never far away from my hands!I could have done with it today.  Yesterday I felt my right knee going downhill…
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Hadrian’s Wall Day 4 – Welcome to Cumbria!

Hadrian’s Wall Day 4 – Welcome to Cumbria!

Patient Advocacy
[caption id="attachment_16938" align="aligncenter" width="640"] Day 4 highest point[/caption][caption id="attachment_1030" align="aligncenter" width="640"] Lanercost Priory - the end of Day 4[/caption][caption id="attachment_1034" align="aligncenter" width="480"] Milecastle 48 - Poltross Burn[/caption]That was a long day and a hard walk!  Started at Steel Rigg and ended at Lanercost and we were accompanied by our friend and ex-Army colleague, Jim Waterson.  Jim and I served together in Germany 1977-79 and then again in Blandford Dorset 1983-84.  Usual banter all day brought back more memories and news about some old mutual friends.  Thanks to Jim for a great day. Thanks also to Jennifer for picking us up to take us to the start point on the wall and vice versa at the end.The route was a mixture of hilly crags and rolling fields as we entered Cumbria.…
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Hadrian’s Wall Day 3 – Spectacular but wet!

Hadrian’s Wall Day 3 – Spectacular but wet!

Patient Advocacy
[caption id="attachment_977" align="aligncenter" width="480"] The lone sycamore - famous for being in a Robin Hood film[/caption][caption id="attachment_978" align="aligncenter" width="480"] Chris & Dave being daft[/caption]Chris and I adopted the famous military 'buddy buddy' system this morning by checking each other's feet and applying blister pads.  We then set off on a hilly section with some spectacular scenery.  But first we collected our friend Dave Taylor who was walking this tough section with us.The forecast rain didn't arrive until around an hour into the walk and then another hour after that it was time for waterproof trousers.   Pretty rough underfoot with plenty mud and damp grass.   Stonework was in some places dangerously slippy.  I fell once, fortunately I managed to miss landing on the ubiquitous sheep droppings!Some of the scenery…
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Hadrian’s Wall Day 2 – The wall appears

Patient Advocacy
This was the first real piece of the wall we say and it's the second day We must have been doing a blistering pace today!  Four of them – I claim 3 and Chris has one.  Nothing spectacular but a discomfort we could do without. Blister kit has been deployed and resupply to see us through the week will RV with us on Day 4 at Steel Rigg (cheers Jim W). In hindsight I should have deployed the blister kit last night as I had a feeling my tender feet would be even more tender by end of play today.  Four months of training and not a blister between us!When we set off from our farmhouse (Ironsign), it was overcast but dry, perfect walking weather. We had been told to…
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Just got (a) shot in the buttocks

Patient Advocacy
[caption id="attachment_857" align="alignnone" width="640"] San Francisco Pier 39 - 2008[/caption]I love watching films and Tom Hanks is one of my favourite actors. He's played such a wide range of parts and I've found every single one of his films enjoyable.  I think the first one I remember was 'Big' - a cracking family film for all ages. When I saw the large floor piano keyboard in Schwartz toy store in New York, I had to give it a go!  On the opposite side of the scale, he's also played in some quite gory films such as 'Saving Private Ryan' - the first 20 minutes sure tested out my surround sound and subwoofer! However, one of my firm favourites is Forrest Gump.  A multi-decade spectacular, amazing acting, amazing locations, amazing visual effects…
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My blog goes International!

Awareness, Patient Advocacy
One of the most interesting statistics in my blog app is the total number of views recorded each day.  It even breaks the total down into which posts were most viewed and which countries the viewers were from (but please note it does not identify the name or any other details of viewers). I'm always very pleased to have readers from overseas locations - I hope they enjoy reading my blog and find it useful. To date, these include readers from USA, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Barbados, Belize, France, Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg, Portugal, Austria, UAE, Bahrain, Philippines, Nigeria, Kenya, Croatia, Ireland, Sweden, Italy, Japan, Czech Republic. Neuroendocrine Cancer is not unique to UK, it's an International disease. If you research, you will find Neuroendocrine Support groups in most countries. There…
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If it’s not raining, it’s not training

Patient Advocacy
[caption id="attachment_678" align="alignnone" width="640"] Cold and about to be wet![/caption] Only a week left until Chris and I set off on our 84 mile trek across Hadrian's Wall in the North of England.   We've been training for this since January 2014 and probably covered sufficient distance to have walked the wall 5 times over!   Didn't stop us going for a fast short walk this morning and despite the heat there was no sweat.   I think we're ready :-) For the last few days we've been thinking it might be tougher if this heat continues.  Only a month ago, we were saying it might be tougher with all the rain we were having!  We had a few occasions where we got wet but we just had to get on with it - fortunately our…
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“I may not be rich, but I do have priceless grandchildren”

Patient Advocacy
[caption id="attachment_4300" align="alignleft" width="300"] My 4 Grandsons (and me if you look carefully!) - picture taken in 2015[/caption] Most of us will have experienced the ubiquitous quotations that somehow manage to go viral around Facebook and emails? Mother, Father, Son, Daughter, Grandson, Granddaughter etc.   I instinctively want to share those and like the post but something nearly always prevents me from doing so.  I suspect there is something in me that says "don't follow the crowd" or perhaps I'm just a shy private person at heart?  (I can hear some of you laughing .....).  However, today, I'm publishing the fact that grandchildren are indeed wonderful!  So what has brought on this sudden emotional outburst? I have 4 grandsons, 2 each from my son and daughter, aided and abetted by…
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Dr Google will see you now

Dr Google will see you now

Humour, Patient Advocacy, Survivorship
Whenever I need to know anything nowadays, I mostly just look on the internet and sometimes I ask my virtual PA 'Alexa' to look for me!  However, you need to be very careful in acceptance of what is credible information and what isn't.As a relatively experienced health blogger and activist, I like to think of myself as 'internet savvy', so I occasionally find myself using 'Dr Google' to diagnose my own aches, pains and unusual feelings (and I confess to using it to help others).  I mostly find there are no real or definitive answers online for many patient reported issues.  Although I seem to learn something on each piece of research, I also find some really worrying stuff.  Some symptoms can have dozens of reasons and I often realise…
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Is there life on other Planets?

Patient Advocacy
When I was a young lad, I was fascinated by Astronomy.  Not only could I tell you the name of each Planet in order of distance from the sun, but also the actual distance!  In those days, space travel was really taking off culminating in the first manned moon landing in 1969.  I remember staying up all night with my dad so I could watch it on TV (in black and white of course).  The talk then was of where next, Mars? After all this time, we still haven't landed people on that Planet - just shows you the complexity of such missions (and cost of course).  Nobody ever expected to find life on the moon but the excitement about finding life outside earth was as exciting then as it…
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If you suspect it, you can detect it

Patient Advocacy
I thought long and hard about today's post because no matter what I say, it will pale into insignificance when put alongside the words of Stephen Sutton who sadly died today at the tender age of 19.  The words used by his mother are particularly powerful. He was certainly a courageous, selfless and inspiring man.    However, although he successfully raised £3.2million for Teenage Cancer Trust - a phenomenal amount for a very worthy charity, I believe Stephen also leaves behind many other very valuable legacies and lessons.  I'd like to focus on two in particular. Social media.   This is one of the key technical innovations of the last 20 years and has changed the way in which society lives and communicates and it's still evolving.   It has altered the way…
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Through the Keyhole?

Patient Advocacy
  Through the Keyhole is a Panel Game Show on telly originally hosted by Lloyd Grossman (who?) and then Sir David Frost.  It was resurrected last year hosted by Keith Lemon.     Sorry to disappoint you but this blog is about a different type of keyhole.  Today I'm on 'K' words (I drew a blank on J). Keyhole Surgery After I had major surgery in Nov 2010, I left the hospital knowing that I'd be returning later for another but I needed to be fit enough first.  This took some time but in Apr 2011, I returned for further surgery, this time on my liver to remove several secondary tumours.  I was told it would be done using 'keyhole' surgery.  Fortunately for me, Neil Pearce is one of the world's most experienced…
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Queen Mother of the Isle of Wight

Patient Advocacy
  Decided to do a one off today after reading a story published on 7 May on the PLANETS Charity Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/pages/PLANETS-Charity/122088044556397?fref=ts The is a story about a lady who was faced with one of the most deadly cancers - Pancreatic Cancer, where the 5 year survival rate has not risen for the last 40 years (another story for another time).  Young and fit people can struggle with this cancer and its treatment so it must be ultra tough at 83.  Her attitude and strength of character in facing up to this terrible disease is very inspiring to me and an example to all. My own cancer type is not as dangerous as this one.  However, I did have some fairly extensive surgery from the same surgeon and reading this story…
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F words

Patient Advocacy
[caption id="attachment_173" align="aligncenter" width="284"] Does my flush beat yours?[/caption] A few 'F' words today :-) Flushing In early 2010, I had been experiencing mild and infrequent warm feelings in my face and neck and I did notice a slight reddening whilst looking in a mirror when it occurred.  It was odd and nothing like I had experienced before.  I thought nothing of it, dismissing it as something to do with my age!  When I was going through the diagnostic phase some months later, the Consultant who carried out the initial set of tests was interrogating me (literally) for any clues which could help him pin down the nature of my problem (I now know he had evidence of cancer but not the type).   I ran through every single niggle…
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Exercise – it’s a free prescription

Patient Advocacy
[caption id="attachment_147" align="aligncenter" width="480"] Gorgeous Chris xxx[/caption] [caption id="attachment_146" align="aligncenter" width="700"] Check out my new Fat Face hat :-)[/caption]   My E Blog on 5 May 14. Exercise I'm no stranger to exercise having served for 29 years in Her Majesty's Forces.  However, I'm not 21 anymore and I have some health challenges.  Chris isn't 21 either - despite her youthful looks (brownie points...).  Some people are quite impressed by our commitment to walk 84 miles. However, I'm hoping that's going to be the easy bit as the training regime we are putting ourselves through has been hard work and time consuming.  Today we walked 12 miles with Chris suffering neck and back pain and me with a sore right toe.  This followed a 9.5 mile on Saturday and an 8…
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