8 tips for conquering fear – Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer

8 tips for conquering fear – Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer

Inspiration, Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer, Patient Advocacy, Survivorship
Opinion:Before I was diagnosed with cancer, my health was in reasonable condition. I had minor irritants that seemed to come back now and then, nothing that was going to kill me. So I just put up with most of it and time was frequently a good healer. Occasionally, I would use medicine to speed up the healing or ask a doctor for advice. Even leading up to my diagnosis, this was my strategy despite some strange things going on.  Luckily for me, the 'system' picked up something suspicious and I am where I am today. It's amazing to think a cancer can grow inside you for years causing a lot of damage but without a grand announcement.That's not to say I didn't have any fear about what was going to…
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The trouble with the NET (Part 3) – Miracle Cures

The trouble with the NET (Part 3) – Miracle Cures

Awareness, Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer, Patient Advocacy, Survivorship
Since I started blogging, I've had to become quite savvy at forming headlines for my posts as the wording can be a factor in whether someone reads it or not. A post picture can also influence.  There's a third factor and that is credibility - I'd like to think I've worked hard to earn that level of trust in my 'product'. I use the NET to talk about NETs!  I'm a genuine guy with a genuine purpose and I don't want to sell you anything - my 'product' is free.However, the 'NET' can also provide 'misinformation'. Unfortunately 'misinformation' also includes 'alleged' cures for various ailments including cancer.  I think we've all been there, we check twitter, Facebook, Pinterest etc and we find the ubiquitous miracle cures for every illness under the…
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Diagnosed with Neuroendocrine Cancer? – 10 questions to ask your doctor (and where to find a NET Specialist Worldwide)

Diagnosed with Neuroendocrine Cancer? – 10 questions to ask your doctor (and where to find a NET Specialist Worldwide)

Awareness, Diet and Nutrition, Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer, Patient Advocacy, Survivorship
On the day I was diagnosed, I hadn't really thought about questions, the only one I actually remember asking was "how long do I have left to live" (I watch too many movies!). On the day of diagnosis and period beyond, people tend to feel emotions of shock, denial, anger, and sadness, before going on to accept their situation. Yes, I 'googled' but not a great deal really - although some things I found did frighten me. I wish I had found this article way back then.As things progressed in the weeks after 'D-Day', I started to work out the sort of things to ask but even then, it was limited. I had been referred to an experienced NET team so I felt confident they would do whatever needed doing.…
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Don’t believe the hype – Neuroendocrine Cancer Myths debunked

Don’t believe the hype – Neuroendocrine Cancer Myths debunked

Awareness, Diet and Nutrition, Inspiration, Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer, Patient Advocacy, Survivorship, Treatment
OPINIONThere's a lot of inaccurate and out of date information out there. Some is just a lack of understanding, some caused by out of date websites, often as a result of patient forum myth spreading. Some can only be described as propaganda. Some of it even comes from doctors and NET advocate organisations. Myth 1: All Neuroendocrine Tumours are benignNot true. By any scientific definition, the word 'tumour' means 'an abnormal mass of tissue that results when cells divide more than they should or do not die when they should. Tumours may be benign (not cancerous), or malignant (cancerous)'. Sure, some NETs will be benign but a tumours which spreads away from the primary site cannot be benign by any scientific definition. However, since the World Health Organisation (WHO) 2010 classification…
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In the war on Neuroendocrine Cancer, let’s not forget to win the battle for better quality of life

In the war on Neuroendocrine Cancer, let’s not forget to win the battle for better quality of life

Awareness, Diet and Nutrition, Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer, Patient Advocacy, Survivorship, Treatment
OPINION.  Date of Article March 2017.  In the last 24 months, there seems to have been announcement after announcement of new and/or upgraded/enhanced diagnostics and treatment types for Neuroendocrine Cancer.  Increased availability of radionuclide scans, increased availability of radionuclide therapies, combination therapies, increased availability of somatostatin analogues, biological therapies, enhanced surgical and minimally invasive techniques, new oral drugs for carcinoid syndrome, more trials including immunotherapy. Admittedly, some of the announcements are just expansions of existing therapies having been approved in new regions. Compared to some other cancers, even those which hit the headlines often, we appear to be doing not too badly. However, the pressure needs to stay on, all patients, regardless of where they live, need access to the best diagnostics and treatments for them, and at the requisite…
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Poker Face or Cancer Card?

Poker Face or Cancer Card?

Inspiration, Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer, Patient Advocacy, Survivorship
[caption id="attachment_11078" align="aligncenter" width="500"] As featured by Cure Magazine[/caption]Before I was diagnosed, I had my share of illnesses. Fortunately, many of them were the routine stuff that most people tend to get from time to time, and most did not stop me from getting on with whatever I needed to do. I served in the military from age 16 until 45 – a long time! On only two occasions during that 29-year period, did I involuntary visit a hospital: aged 16 having been knocked out at boxing (you should have seen the other guy!) and aged 39 after falling off a vehicle (in my defense it was really dark). Illness wasn't really something I thought much about and for minor things, I would just "soldier on.” So, from an early…
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It’s been 10 years since I saw a scalpel (….but my surgeon is still on speed dial)

It’s been 10 years since I saw a scalpel (….but my surgeon is still on speed dial)

Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer, Survivorship, Treatment
In 2012, I had a bunch of lymph nodes removed. Two separate areas were resected, only one was showing growth but both were showing up as hotspots on an Octreoscan.  I had known since shortly after diagnosis in 2010 that 'hotspots' were showing in my left 'axillary' lymph nodes (armpit) and my left 'supraclavicular fossa' (SCF) lymph nodes (clavicle area). Some 10 months previously, I had a major liver resection, and 5 months prior to the liver resection, I had a small intestinal primary removed including work on some associated complications.  There had always been a plan to optimise cytoreduction of my distant metastases, it was just a matter of timing. I still can't get my head around why metastases from a small intestinal NET managed to get to this area but…
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25 Life Lessons From a Two-Time Cancer Survivor

25 Life Lessons From a Two-Time Cancer Survivor

Inspiration, Survivorship
Sometimes, a blog post comes along and it just resonates!  I got chatting with the author who has given me permission to post it here.  Shari Berman is a two-time cancer survivor. She was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma at age 25, days after returning from her honeymoon and a second time with breast cancer 8 years later. I posted her full CV below.Her post "25 Life Lessons From a Two-Time Cancer Survivor" is a fantastic summary of a positive approach to life, despite a cancer diagnosis (or in Shari's case, two). I've seen some similar quotes before but Shari has collated them into one very powerful list.  I'm not suggesting they all apply to everyone but perhaps even a 'pick n mix' approach would be useful.  The first 10 are here, you…
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Things not to say to someone with cancer

Things not to say to someone with cancer

Inspiration, Survivorship
This topic comes up regularly on patient forums, twitter, Facebook..... in fact everywhere!  Personally, I don't tend to get too excited about it, although there can be extremes.  Most people (not all) are just stumped to know exactly what to say.  Even as a person with cancer, I sometimes feel awkward when faced with someone I just found out has a serious illness. It's really difficult to know what to say, knowing how they might react and it's particularly difficult if you don't really know the person, for example on social media, you could be talking to someone who you have never met, you don't know anything about them; and they may not even speak English as a first language (those who have tried google/twitter or Facebook translator, will know it's not perfect!).I've dabbled in this…
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Road ahead closed – Bowel Obstructions

Road ahead closed – Bowel Obstructions

Diet and Nutrition, Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer, Survivorship, Treatment
OK - we've gone through diagnosis; we've gone through treatment and now we need to live with the consequences of cancer and its treatment.  Not a day goes by when I don't feel some twinge or some minor pain, and I think 'what was that?'.  Fortunately, many things can just be day-to-day niggles or in my case, the perils of getting older! The natural tendency is to think your cancer is causing these things.... easy to say, but very often not easy to prove.  However, for Neuroendocrine Tumour (NET) patients who have had surgery, anything that seems like a bowel obstruction is quite a scary thought (I suspect this is also an issue for other cancer types).  In fact, even before diagnosis, a bowel obstruction can be how the condition is…
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Neuroendocrine Cancer: Nodes, Nodules, Lesions (and false alarms!)

Neuroendocrine Cancer: Nodes, Nodules, Lesions (and false alarms!)

Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer, Survivorship, Treatment
A fairly common disposition of Neuroendocrine Neoplasms is a primary with associated local/regional secondary's (e.g. lymph nodes), and often with liver metastases. Technically speaking, the liver is distant. However, many metastatic patients appear to have additional and odd appearances in even more distant places, including (but not limited to) the extremities and the head & neck. Certain things are known about the behaviour of Neuroendocrine Neoplasms (NENs) (a term for Neuroendocrine Tumours and Neuroendocrine Carcinoma) and specialists will be analysing many factors when working out the type of NEN and how it might behave. This is useful in cases of unknown primaries as it can give them clues to the possible location(s). Read more about these issues in my article "Needle in a Haystack".How does cancer spread? In addition to…
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Surgery for Neuroendocrine Neoplasms – to cut or not to cut?

Surgery for Neuroendocrine Neoplasms – to cut or not to cut?

Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer, Patient Advocacy, Survivorship, Treatment
Reviewed and edited 26th September 2021Surgery can sometimes be a tough call (......to cut or not to cut?)It is an area where I have some sympathy for physicians and surgeons who sometimes have tough decisions to make. Surgery is risky, particularly where people are presenting in a weak condition, perhaps with very advanced disease, secondary illness and comorbidities. I also suspect age is a factor (I was surprised to find myself considered 'young' at 55). Physicians and surgeons need to weigh up these risks and the consequences of the surgery against a 'watch and wait' or alternative non-surgical approach. This would normally be discussed via a 'Tumor Board' or Multi-Disciplinary Team (MDT) meeting. However, and although imaging helps, the situation is not really 100% clear until the surgeon 'gets inside'.…
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Keep your lights burning

Keep your lights burning

Inspiration, Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer, Patient Advocacy, Survivorship
I recently met a colleague who I hadn't seen for 30 years. He was more than just a colleague, he was once my 'Commanding Officer'. He had been made aware of my illness but after asking how I was, he was content with my short explanation "I'm not dead yet". The great thing about soldiery is that it's perfectly acceptable to make simple and light hearted statements about very difficult situations. The other great thing is that you can pick up where you left off 30 years ago, as if it were only yesterday.  And 'Bravado' is not only acceptable, it's mandatory! A week later, I received a very nice Christmas card from my old friend with a message which included "...... the old light is still burning brightly". It was a metaphor but something I…
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Palliative Care – it might just save your life

Palliative Care – it might just save your life

Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer, Patient Advocacy, Survivorship, Treatment
When you've been diagnosed with cancer at an incurable stage, certain words start to mean more. Take 'palliative' for example.  Before I was diagnosed, I had always associated the word 'palliative' with someone who had a terminal disease, and this type of care was to make the final days/weeks as comfortable as possible. So, it was a bit of a shock to find out in 2010 that my treatment was palliative in nature. However, I'm still not dead and I'm still receiving palliative care. Go figure! The answer is simple - the cancer story is changing. What was once feared as a death sentence is now an illness in which many people survive. As survival rates increase, so too will the number of people who live with the legacy of…
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“You must be doing OK, you’ve not had chemotherapy”

“You must be doing OK, you’ve not had chemotherapy”

Awareness, Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer, Survivorship, Treatment
If there's a word which is synonymous with cancer, it's chemotherapy.  It's what most people have in their mind when they are talking to a cancer patient...... 'have you had chemotherapy' or 'when do you start chemotherapy'.I was nonchalantly asked by a friend some time ago 'how did you get on with chemotherapy' - he was surprised to hear I hadn't had it despite my widespread disease.  Cue - lengthy explanation!  I wasn't annoyed by the question; I just think people automatically assume every cancer patient must undergo some form of systemic chemotherapy.  If you read any newspaper article about cancer, they do nothing to dispel that myth, as many articles contain a story about a cancer patient with no hair.Sure, chemotherapy is not the nicest treatment to receive, and it does…
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Neuroendocrine Cancer – If you can see it, you can detect it!

Neuroendocrine Cancer – If you can see it, you can detect it!

Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer, Survivorship
BackgroundScanning is a key diagnostic support and surveillance tool for any cancer.  Even though you have elevated bloods or urine (....or not), a picture of your insides is really like a thousand words.... and each picture has a story behind it.  Scanning can be a game changer in the hunt for tumours and although scans do not normally confirm the cancer type and grade, they certainly help with that piece of detective work and are key in the staging of the cancer.When I read stories of people in a difficult diagnosis, I always find myself saying 'a scan might resolve this' and I always suggest people should try to get one.  Even in the case of a story about late diagnosis or a misdiagnosis, I find myself thinking 'if only they had done a scan…
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Neuroendocrine Cancer – Exciting Times Ahead!  

Neuroendocrine Cancer – Exciting Times Ahead!  

Inspiration, Survivorship, Treatment
In the last 12-24 months, there seems to have been announcement after announcement of new and/or upgraded/enhanced diagnostics and treatment types for Neuroendocrine Cancer.  Scans, radionuclide therapies, combination therapies, somatostatin analogues, biological therapies, etc.  Some of the announcements are just expansions of existing therapies having been approved in new (but significant) regions. Compared to some other cancers, even those which hit the headlines often, we appear to be doing not too badly.  However, the pressure needs to stay on, all patients need access to the best diagnostics and treatments for them; and at the requisite time.  There's even more in the pipeline and I'm hoping to continue to bring you news of new stuff as I have been doing for the last year. Some of these new diagnostics and treatments will benefit eligible patients who are…
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Living with NETs – a patients included award winning site

Living with NETs – a patients included award winning site

Awareness, Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer, Patient Advocacy, Survivorship
It's no secret that I and other patients (see picture below) have been helping Ipsen Group and their website consultants (Kanga Health) with a new site designed to support and help all Neuroendocrine Tumour patients.  It was subsequently launched on NET Cancer Day 2016 and is very aptly named 'Living with NETs'.  Very pleased to see all this hard work recognised at the 2018 Eye for Pharma awards for the Most Valuable Patient Initiative.  And, this is great awareness for Neuroendocrine Cancer at a major pharma event. I'm also delighted to be speaking alongside Ipsen as the EyeforPharma Patients Summit event in London on Oct 16th 2018. I'm quite excited about this new initiative from Ipsen Group (the manufacturers of Somatuline (Lanreotide)) and not only because I feature on the site…
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Neuroendocrine Cancer: Hurry up and wait

Neuroendocrine Cancer: Hurry up and wait

Awareness, Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer, Patient Advocacy, Survivorship, Treatment
Share on facebook Facebook Share on twitter Twitter Share on pinterest Pinterest Share on whatsapp WhatsApp Share on email Email When I was diagnosed with metastatic well differentiated Neuroendocrine Cancer on 26 July 2010, I just wanted them to hurry up and fix my body so I could get back to normal. My expectations of speed turned out to be wildly inaccurate and in hindsight, I was also wildly naïve. You see, with Neuroendocrine Cancer, particularly well-differentiated, low or medium grade tumours, it sometimes doesn't work as fast as you would think and there are good reasons for that. The complexity of the condition needs some consideration as the physicians work up a treatment plan. I'm quite happy and content they took their time, rather than rush into the wrong…
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Did you hear the one about the constipated NET patient?

Did you hear the one about the constipated NET patient?

Awareness, Diet and Nutrition, Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer, Survivorship, Treatment
In my neck of the woods, "did you hear the one about the ........." is normally a precursor to a witty comment, or a joke.   However, constipation for NET patients is not actually funny - read on.Certain types of Neuroendocrine Cancer are very heavily associated with diarrhea, either as a symptom of one of the NET Syndromes (yes there is more than one .....); or as a result of surgery or certain other treatments.  Occasionally, these symptoms and side effects can all combine to make it quite a nasty and worrying side effect.I must admit to being surprised to find myself with feelings of constipation from around 4-5 years after my treatment and I set about trying to find out why that might be. To understand why I got to this…
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Neuroendocrine Cancer – were you irritated by your misdiagnosis?

Neuroendocrine Cancer – were you irritated by your misdiagnosis?

Awareness, Diet and Nutrition, Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer, Patient Advocacy, Survivorship
Look on any site about Neuroendocrine Tumours (NETs) and you'll find the term IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) frequently mentioned. That's because it's a common misdiagnosis for many before being formally diagnosed with NETs.But what exactly is IBS, why is it such a common misdiagnosis for many NET patients and how can these misdiagnoses be prevented or reduced in future?  I just spent a few hours doing an online training course on IBS and I want to pass on some stuff I found to be very useful. I have never been diagnosed with IBS but having researched the issue through some training, I can understand why it might be in the thoughts of a general practitioner for many scenarios.  Much of my research was focussed on the British Society of Gastroenterology (BSG) who sponsored the online course I completed which also used…
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Steve Jobs – the most famous Neuroendocrine Cancer Ambassador we NEVER had

Steve Jobs – the most famous Neuroendocrine Cancer Ambassador we NEVER had

Awareness, Diet and Nutrition, Inspiration, Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer, Survivorship, Treatment
Steve Jobs died 5 Oct 2011. RIP Steve, you certainly made a difference to the world of technology and that is still being felt today. I have a number of google alerts setup and every day the emails arrive in my inbox. The longest email is always the Steve Jobs one, i.e. Steve Jobs is written about more than Neuroendocrine Cancer and other connected subjects. That's interesting because Neuroendocrine Cancer is the type Steve had, not Pancreatic as is frequently reported.There are huge differences between Pancreatic Cancer and Neuroendocrine Cancer with a pancreatic primary - click here to read more. I've mentioned Steve Jobs a few times previously, mainly in my blog The Human Anatomy of Neuroendocrine Cancer. I wrote that blog when I was frustrated about the constant misreporting…
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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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“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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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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Not every illness is visible

Not every illness is visible

Awareness, Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer, Survivorship
I personally don't see myself as 'disabled' but I do have an invisible illness. I'm fit, can walk for miles, I even look quite healthy.  However, I live with the consequences of Neuroendocrine Cancer. These consequences differ from person to person but I know that some people with this disease have even met the criteria to be officially classed as 'disabled' through government schemes.  Judging by what I read, I have less debilitating issues than others, so I feel quite fortunate. That's not to say I don't have any issues at all - because I do! [caption id="attachment_13469" align="aligncenter" width="720"] Situation normal, right?[/caption] I was therefore delighted to see news of an initiative supporting invisible illnesses by Asda (for those outside UK, Asda is a major UK wide supermarket chain).  Asda have now recognised that many conditions can be classed as ‘invisible disabilities’ and…
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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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Living with #Cancer – if you’re reading this, you’re surviving

Living with #Cancer – if you’re reading this, you’re surviving

Inspiration, Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer, Survivorship
Life after cancer is about more than just survival. It’s not just the length of life that matters, but also the quality of that life. Join us as we #CelebrateLife and raise awareness of the challenges of cancer survivorship on National Cancer Survivors Day, June 5 - look out for more posts closer to the time #NCSD2022 You may sometimes feel like you're not surviving but if you're reading this then you most definitely must be! For the first few years after my diagnosis, I avoided using the word 'survivor' in relation to my incurable cancer. I had no idea what was gong to happen. It just didn't seem to sit right despite the fact I'm a 'glass half full' kind of guy. However ........ I was studying the term…
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Neuroendocrine Cancer: Troublesome Thyroids

Neuroendocrine Cancer: Troublesome Thyroids

Awareness, Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer, Survivorship, Treatment
In 2013, just when I thought everything seemed to be under control, I was told I had a 'lesion' on the left upper lobe of my thyroid.  At the time, it was a bit of a shock as I had already been subjected to some radical surgery and wondered if this was just part of the relentless march of metastatic NET disease.  The thyroid gland does in fact get mentioned frequently in NET patient discussions but many of the conversations I monitored didn't seem to fit my scenario - cue relentless study! I've been meaning to write this blog for some time but here is a synopsis of my research translated into 'patient speak'.  This is intentionally brief, it's a big subject.  I'll finish off with an update on where I…
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Let’s talk about living with NETs

Let’s talk about living with NETs

Inspiration, Survivorship
Snoopy has a point Opinion. There's a frequently asked question on certain forums along the lines of "how will I die of my Neuroendocrine Cancer?". I also see it occasionally in a list of internet search terms that led to a hit on my blog site (I don't know who searched, just that this search term led to my site being viewed). I just hope they found this post! Personally, I find it slightly unsettling, although I can understand why certain people might ask. I accept it as a question, but I believe there are times and places for it and that a public forum is not the place to have it. The vast majority of people do not go to a forum to find out how they might die…
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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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Neuroendocrine Cancer – it takes guts

Neuroendocrine Cancer – it takes guts

Survivorship
The majority of Neuroendocrine Tumours (NETs) are slow growing (well differentiated).  However, many tumours can be silent (non-functioning) for some years before they start to 'function' and inform you of their presence.  Even then, it may take some time to work out the real cause as the symptoms can mimic regular ailments.  Moreover, in most cases, the appearance of a functional tumour often indicates the disease has metastasised and could now be incurable. Some tumours will grow and metastasise without syndromes, i.e. they are non-functional. These may become functional at some point in the future.However, with most slow-growing NETs, this does not mean terminal as there are various treatment options even at Stage IV.  In fact, NETs are one example where surgery at the metastatic stage can often provide prognostic advantages denied…
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I’m only as good as my last scan

I’m only as good as my last scan

Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer, Survivorship
[caption id="attachment_5240" align="aligncenter" width="600"] Scanning - a piece of cake![/caption] "I'm only as good as my last scan". I received this comment last week in response to one of my posts and I thought it was a very pragmatic thing for someone to say. A NET patient under surveillance has regular tests at determined intervals but the one that is most likely to spot disease progression, stability or regression is a scan. Markers such as (say) Chromogranin A (CgA) or 5HIAA are clearly useful but in an ongoing surveillance scenario, they alone would not be used as a firm declaration of progression, stability or regression. Every picture tells a story and a scan is normally the confirmation required whether it's a CT, MRI or PET (etc). IF YOU CAN SEE…
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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:  My experience with Lanreotide (Somatuline Autogel/Depot)

Neuroendocrine Cancer: My experience with Lanreotide (Somatuline Autogel/Depot)

Awareness, Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer, Survivorship, Treatment
On 9th December 2021, I celebrated 11 years of Lanreotide - click here to read about that.My Lanreotide ExperienceWhen I was discharged from hospital following major surgery in Nov 2010, I knew I would shortly be commencing long-term monthly 'somatostatin analogue' treatment and had assumed Octreotide (Sandostatin LAR) would be the drug of choice. However, my Oncologist prescribed Lanreotide (known in the UK as Somatuline Autogel and elsewhere as Somatuline Depot).  Technically this is a hormone therapy (it's not chemo).Somatostatin Analogues (Octreotide/Lanreotide) are mainstay treatments for many Neuroendocrine Cancer patients and their introduction is a very significant factor in the improvement of both prognostic outcomes and quality of life.  Both drugs are designed to control Carcinoid Syndrome (but can be used selectively in other NET syndromes) and both have anti-tumour effects.  Check out…
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Neuroendocrine Cancer Surgery – Small Intestine NET, my own experience (part 1)

Neuroendocrine Cancer Surgery – Small Intestine NET, my own experience (part 1)

Survivorship, Treatment
This is a personal story but a more technical description of Small Intestine surgery for a NET can be found by clicking here.  This is not normal bowel surgery. Often the decision to cut or not to cut is a tough one. My own experience 8th - 26th November 2010Memories of my 18 day stay in hospital from 8 - 26 Nov 2010, are not only reminding me of how important that particular treatment was to be, but also how surreal it felt at the time. Some of it is still a blur, particularly the early days where the morphine was in control.  For many NET patients, surgery can be a mainstay treatment, even for those with metastatic disease.  In fact, I now know from my own research that NETs is…
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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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Your Money or Your Life

Your Money or Your Life

Inspiration, Survivorship, Treatment
As I have a 2 year old post about Danielle, I wanted to preface it with this message. It is with great sadness that I let you know Danielle Tindle passed away at the end of August 2017 after a prolonged battle with Neuroendocrine Carcinoma. She had been fighting cancer in one form or another for 12 years and became passionate in campaigning for more attention for young cancer patients.  I've been following her story for almost 2 years and she has really inspired me.  The title of this article is based on the title of a TV programme about her and her campaign to gain access to new drugs.  I had chatted with Danielle online about some of the story below and I hope I've interpreted it correctly.   RIP…
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Scanxiety – I just don’t get it!

Scanxiety – I just don’t get it!

Inspiration, Survivorship
OPINION The internet is full of blogs and articles about a subject which is described as 'scanxiety' - the joining of the words 'scan' and 'anxiety'. I also noted some authors using the words 'scanxiety' and 'anxiety' interchangeably which in my opinion is clearly wrong as by definition it is only an anxiety about scans and I guess incorporates the results of scans.  Not that we need separate names - at the end of the day, it's just anxiety regardless of whether it is waiting on the results of a biopsy, blood test, urine test, or anything else related to an illness.  No-one goes around saying 'blood-testxiety' or 'biopsyxiety'. Why just scans? ‘Scanxiety’  - I just don't get it  ......or more accurately I just don't get overly anxious about having…
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I look well but you should see my insides

I look well but you should see my insides

Awareness, Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer, Survivorship, Treatment
I'm sat next to patients waiting on their chemotherapy treatment - the "Chemo Ward" sign above the door gives it away.  I'm here for my 28-day cycle injection of Lanreotide which will hopefully keep my Neuroendocrine Tumours at bay.  I look all around; the temporary beds and the waiting room are full and all I can see is people who don't look as well as I do.  Some have hats or bandanas partly disguising the loss of hair. I feel for them.No matter how many visits I make, I can't help feeling out of place on a Cancer ward. I'm not sure why I feel like this; after all, I've had some very scary surgery and I've been having treatment since 2010. However, this thought doesn't seem to balance it out - some of these…
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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 Cancer Nutrition Series Article 2 – Gastrointestinal Malabsorption

Neuroendocrine Cancer Nutrition Series Article 2 – Gastrointestinal Malabsorption

Diet and Nutrition, Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer, Survivorship, Treatment
This is the second article in the Neuroendocrine Cancer Nutrition series. In the first article, I focused on Vitamin and Mineral deficiency risks for patients and there is a big overlap with the subject of Gastrointestinal Malabsorption. Those who remember the content will have spotted the risks pertaining to the inability to absorb particular vitamins and minerals. This comes under the general heading of Malabsorption and in Neuroendocrine Cancer patients, this can be caused or exacerbated by one or more of a number of factors relating to their condition. It's also worth pointing out that malabsorption issues can be caused by other reasons unrelated to NETs. Additionally, malabsorption and nutrient deficiency issues can form part of the presenting symptoms which eventually lead to a diagnosis of Neuroendocrine Cancer; e.g. in my own case,…
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Surgery is risky but so is driving a car

Surgery is risky but so is driving a car

Survivorship, Treatment
I enjoyed reading an article written by Dr Eric Liu entitled The Complications of Surgery. In his article, Dr Liu, himself a surgeon, explains that surgery comes with risks, and patients should be made aware and be able to discuss these risks with their doctors. This got me thinking about my own experience which goes back to the autumn of 2010 when I first met my surgeon. At that time, there were a few articles about whether surgery or 'biochemistry' was the best treatment for certain types, grades and stages of Neuroendocrine Tumours (NETs).To some extent, these debates continue, particularly for pancreatic NETs. Surgery for certain NETs in certain scenarios is a controversial issue for NETs - as outlined in this article - to cut or not to cut. I've…
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