Breaking the NET

General
I was both interested and perplexed to see that a story about the colours of a dress was the most discussed topic on the news and social media yesterday. I would have thought there were more important things to talk about but I take my hat off to the marketing people who made that one go viral. According to the UK news, this story "broke the internet". I wish some marketing gurus would make a NET Cancer story go viral!  I'm making inroads though. In the meantime, do you think this zebra is mainly white and gold or black and blue?  
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Do you suffer from NET Brain?

Do you suffer from NET Brain?

Awareness, Humour
[caption id="attachment_2728" align="aligncenter" width="300"] This isn't me by the way![/caption] The acronym 'NET' (NeuroEndocrine Tumour) can be advantageous to NET advocates and organisations because it occasionally attracts readership from outside the Cancer community when links are accidentally found by 'surfers'. NET just also happens to be a common truncation of the word 'Internet' or 'Network'.  The vast majority will realise the irrelevance (to them) and move on but 1 or 2 might just hang around and take a look.  Bingo - we have spread a little bit of awareness! However, these unintended awareness opportunities are not confined to 'NET'.  According to my blog statistics, other than my name, the most common search phrase which leads to my blog is "No Fear" - the title of one of two blogs I wrote on so-called 'scanxiety'.  However, I suspect many…
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Surgery for NETs – Chop Chop

Surgery for NETs – Chop Chop

Technical NETs, Treatment
[caption id="attachment_2707" align="aligncenter" width="550"] Liver tumour debulking[/caption] At the end of 2014, I was feeling pretty good celebrating 4 years since my first 'big' surgery in 2010. It prompted me to write an article Surgery - the gift that keeps on giving. In that particlar article, I really just wanted to say I was grateful for the early surgical treatment and as I was just about to spend another Christmas with my family, I was reminiscing what a wonderful gift it was at the time. Other than some detail of the surgery, I didn't get too technical, I just wanted to generate a thankful and festive mood. However, a recent private message from a subscriber prompted me to study the current benefits of surgery for Neuroendocrine Tumours (NETs) in more detail just to ensure my understanding…
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Colonoscopy Comedy

Colonoscopy Comedy

Humour, Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer
  [caption id="attachment_2643" align="aligncenter" width="500"] No more prep please![/caption] Last year I wrote a series of blogs on the 'coping' side of cancer, one of which was about still being able to have a laugh. This was my way of saying no matter how tough life is, you need to stay positive and maintain your sense of humour. When I think back to some of the treatments I've had, I sometimes have a little laugh even although I wasn't laughing at the time!  My favourite 'treatment laugh' is the 'suppository story' which occurred in hospital shortly after my first major surgery - it wasn't funny at the time but I smile when I think back to it. On a similar subject, I had a colonoscopy around 21 months prior to my actual NET Cancer…
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Lanreotide – Four more years

Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer, Patient Advocacy, Survivorship, Technical NETs
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 followers.  He took the top spot from Justin Bieber but was then overtaken last year by Ellen De Generes's famous mass celebrity selfie. Four years ago, I thought Twitter was only for famous…
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Intelligent patients – just what the doctor didn’t order

General
  [caption id="attachment_5440" align="aligncenter" width="309"] This blog was featured by Carcinoid Cancer Foundation[/caption]   I'm extremely pleased and honoured to have been selected as the first guest contributor to feature in the Carcinoid Cancer Foundation's blog site! I've been following these guys since I was diagnosed.  They have been serving the Carcinoid/NET Community for over 44 Years and they are in my opinion the largest and most respected Carcinoid Cancer organisation on the planet. The Carcinoid Cancer Foundation began as the ‘Carcinoid Tumor and Serotonin Research Foundation’ in 1968 when the NIH fund for rare cancers was terminated. The name was changed to the Carcinoid Cancer Foundation in 1995. It is a non-profit organization chartered by the State of New York for the purpose of encouraging and supporting research and education…
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The Mother of all Surgeries

The Mother of all Surgeries

Treatment
[caption id="attachment_2338" align="aligncenter" width="500"] Surgery[/caption] My plan for this week's blog was to continue with a surgery theme using the story of a lady who had what was described as the "Mother of all Surgeries" after being late diagnosed with a very rare and advanced type of appendiceal cancer. With NETs, surgery is a topical subject as not everyone will be able to have it and some might not even need it. Check out my blog "to cut or not to cut". I suggested in a previous blog that 'Surgery is a gift that keeps on giving' and that is probably true for many cancer survivors. However, I then added that NETs were one of a small number of tumours for which surgical debulking can provide some survival advantage for those with metastatic and incurable disease. In my own case, I've…
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Neuroendocrine Cancer – not an exact Science

Neuroendocrine Cancer – not an exact Science

Awareness, Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer, Patient Advocacy, Technical NETs
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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Neuroendocrine Cancer – early diagnosis, not early misdiagnosis?

General
The papers and social media seem to be full of awareness and early diagnosis articles this month.  This coincided with world NET Cancer Day on 10 Nov and world Pancreatic Cancer day on 13 Nov.  Social media was, therefore, buzzing with messages from organisations supporting and advocating for both of these cancer types.  These issues also made it to the conventional media outlets of newspapers, radio and television.  Last week I watched a clip from the UK national news, where 7-year survivor of Pancreatic Cancer Ali Stunt was telling the nation about the top 3 symptoms of Pancreatic Cancer and I was struck by the similarities with NET Cancer. However what really caught my ear was Ali saying how important it was for individuals to think whether the symptoms they…
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Every Day is NET Cancer Day!

Every Day is NET Cancer Day!

Awareness, Inspiration, Patient Advocacy, Survivorship
Opinion.  In 2014, I experienced 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 major surgery.  Read about this here - I even woke up on November 10th after major surgery. The build up to these events normally doesn't start in earnest until around 3 months prior to 10 Nov. On or around this day, people meet up, patient conferences and support meetings are held, thousands of tweets and Facebook posts are published, people make and eat cakes, and money is raised. I suspect awareness of NETs benefits but these things can quickly be forgotten outside the rather small world of NET Cancer patients, specialists,…
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I woke up on NET Cancer day

I woke up on NET Cancer day

Awareness, Inspiration, Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer, Survivorship, Technical NETs, Treatment
[caption id="attachment_2130" align="alignnone" width="600"] what I mainly remember was my wife Chris holding my hand which gave me a great deal of much-needed comfort and security[/caption]   [caption id="attachment_10856" align="alignnone" width="300"] Featured this post[/caption] [caption id="attachment_10865" align="alignnone" width="252"] Featured this post[/caption]   It was 10th November 2010 just after midnight. I gradually woke up after a marathon 9 hour surgery - the first of what was to be several visits to an operating theatre.  The last thing I remembered before going 'under' was the voices of the surgical staff. When I woke up, I remember it being dark and I appeared to be constrained and pinned down by the dozen or so tubes going in and out of my weak and battered body.  I can still remember the feeling today, it was…
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The Human Anatomy of Neuroendocrine Cancer

The Human Anatomy of Neuroendocrine Cancer

Awareness
OPINION.  Sometimes when I'm searching for cancer information, I'm presented with a 'pick-list' of types which mostly tend to be anatomy based.  I do find it annoying when I cannot find my own cancer on the list .....some respectable organisations are just not as up to date as they should be!  I can now totally understand why so many Neuroendocrine Tumour (NET) patients have become their own advocates and why they have to shout quite loud for recognition and understanding. One of the key facets of NETs is that it is not tied to a particular part of the human anatomy. Unlike (say) lung cancer, where the primary is in the lung, or breast cancer where the primary can be found in the breast, neuroendocrine tumours arise from a cell type which can be present more or less…
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Neuroendocrine Cancer – shh! Can you hear it? (…..I didn’t)

Neuroendocrine Cancer – shh! Can you hear it? (…..I didn’t)

Awareness, Patient Advocacy
[caption id="attachment_4472" align="aligncenter" width="550"] shh! - can you hear it? I didn't.[/caption] The sooner any cancer can be correctly diagnosed, the better chances of a curative scenario for the person concerned.  However, some cancers are in the 'difficult to diagnose' category.  Neuroendocrine Tumours (NETs) are in this category due to the vague symptoms which may be mistaken for other diseases and routine illnesses. This is one of the reasons there have been many lengthy diagnostic delays.  In many cases, it can be very quiet leading to incidental diagnosis at an advanced stage. It's SNEAKY! In some cases it can be a little bit noisy. For example, some of the most common misdiagnoses appears to be Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), asthma, or menopause.  Patients complain of abdominal pain, wheezing, shortness of breath, diarrhea, flushing, palpitations and a whole…
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Awareness, Awareness, Awareness

General
When Tony Blair swept to power in 1997, he said:  "Ask me my three main priorities for government and I tell you education, education, and education".  His approach of repeated word emphasis has been copied and recycled by many others replacing the words with something to suit their own message.  I'm now guilty of similar plagiarism! NET Cancer is rare and as a consequence has a small community of sufferers and specialists. It does not get the same levels of publicity, funding and research that the bigger patient population and more common cancers receive.  It therefore needs 'team work' to send a bigger and more powerful awareness message.  Thus why the World NET Community formed in Berlin in March 2010.  This is a group of NET cancer patient organisations from countries as…
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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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Childhood Neuroendocrine Cancer – 1 in 7 million!

General
September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month!  The newspapers and social media will no doubt be featuring many child cancer articles and I notice the UK's top soap Coronation Street is already featuring such a story. I personally cannot begin to imagine what it must be like to be a parent who has a child with cancer. I would just hope my child would be placed into the care and safe custody of experienced medical teams and would be able to get access to the best treatments available.  I don't know that much about Childhood cancers but the Cancer Research UK site has a nice summary on this page.  You will note that over half of childhood cancers are either Acute Leukaemias or Brain Cancer. I do know a lot about Neuroendocrine Cancer…
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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 much more difficult to diagnose than others and this increases the need for more awareness and education campaigns. Under-diagnosed or Under-reported? Like many other Cancers, Neuroendocrine Cancer (known as Neuroendocrine Tumors or NETs) is one of a number of 'difficult to diagnose' conditions with some of its variants more difficult than others.  It's a less common form of cancer but with a fast rising incidence rate, possibly the fastest rising incidence rate of all cancers. In fact, its fast rising incidence rate has been a positive in some ways, contributing to awareness and the introduction of new treatments. In some respects, the incidence rate increase is due to people knowing more…
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Glass half full or half empty?

Inspiration, Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer
Most people have probably heard of the saying "is your glass half empty or half full".  If you said 'half empty', you have more of a pessimistic view on life; if you said 'half full', you tend to have more of an optimistic or positive outlook. I don't think a positive outlook actually means you permanently wear 'rose tinted glasses' and act like everything is fine. I think it just means you approach potentially negative situations in a more positive and productive way.  I agree that sometimes it’s hard not to veer into negative thoughts or actions from time to time. I'm only human and I've been in some dark places in the last 5 years since diagnosis. However, I believe to continuously be in 'half empty mode' can have a…
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Four years on

General
On Saturday, I glanced at the calendar on my phone and recognised the date as some sort of anniversary - 26 July.  It was exactly 4 years to the day I received my diagnosis of Metastatic Neuroendocrine Cancer. It all began 2 months previously with a routine asthma clinic appointment when I mentioned to the Nurse Practitioner that I thought I'd lost half a stone in weight.  She immediately said "did you mean to lose the weight" and the answer was "no" on the basis that I just simply thought I was heavier.  As a precaution she sent me for a set of blood tests and then a retest.  I later marched into the GP's office (having been asked to come to the surgery) to hear the GP say "I…
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Laughter is the best medicine

Humour
How many times have you heard it said that laughter is the best medicine?  I can certainly remember this phrase being said when I was a child.   There is some Science in Medicine (more applied than pure), so where is the scientific evidence for this claim?  Well after all this time, someone has decided to carry out a study.  Apparently when we laugh, we exercise our muscles, get blood flowing, decrease our blood pressure and stress hormones, improve sleep patterns and boost our immune system. It's a new area of research known as 'Psychoneuroimmunology' - the study of how emotions affect our nervous and immune systems. It's still a relatively new area of research, but the insights are promising. The study looked at 20 healthy older adults in their 60s…
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My stomach sometimes cramps my style

My stomach sometimes cramps my style

Awareness, Diet and Nutrition, Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer, Survivorship
[caption id="attachment_13469" align="alignnone" width="720"] Seriously![/caption] When planning to walk Hadrian's Wall in the north of England in 2014, I carried out a number of risk assessments (as all good Project Managers do!).  In true 'Donald Rumsfeld style', I considered all the 'known unknowns' and the 'unknown unknowns' :-)  Anybody who doesn't is either reckless or supremely confident (the latter can sometimes be the same as the former......). As a Cancer patient, there were some issues I had to consider which might not have made the list for most walkers covering this sort of distance and this type of terrain.  One of the issues I occasionally experience is stomach cramps, not that frequent but problematic and quite painful when they occur.  If you've had abdominal surgery, you might be having to deal…
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My right-hand woman – Chris

My right-hand woman – Chris

Inspiration, Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer, Survivorship
There's been a lot in my blog about cancer, the cancer patient and the medical teams. However, we sometimes forget to mention the close family and friends who are also a piece of the cancer jigsaw. Without these people, it's possible the patient would potentially have a much poorer quality of life. I've had tremendous support from my immediate family and many of my friends. Some of my closest friends have almost been functioning as counsellors. I'm in a much better place than I was nearly 8 years ago but I have a lot of people to thank for some excellent progress.  My son & daughter's families have all been there for me and although my 4 grandsons don't quite understand the situation, their presence in my life is a…
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North of the wall is a dangerous place – you must never go there!

Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer
  There was a 60 minute silence last night as another episode of Game of Thrones was aired.  Not a Facebook post or tweet in sight.  This has to be 'up there' in a list of the best TV series ever?  Don't know about you but I'm sometimes confused about who is who and how they are related and/or connected!  (see useful chart at the bottom of this post) Chris and I love the introduction bit.  She likes the music, I like the geography.  There are some obvious correlations there, e.g. 'The Wall' is meant to relate to Hadrian's Wall with those horrible barbarian Scots to the north :-)  Thank God Hadrian's Wall and the climate in particular, isn't as bad as portrayed on GOT!   I did contemplate using 'trousers' as…
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From Blagging to Blogging

From Blagging to Blogging

Inspiration, Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer, Survivorship
[caption id="attachment_12740" align="aligncenter" width="500"] 84 mile walk along a 2000 year old structure[/caption] Well I've been blagging it for years so now decided to 'blog' my blags.  This is a new skill so bear with me please! The aim of this blog is to post a running commentary of a walk of Hadrian's Wall with my wife Chris. The walk commences 26 May 14 at Wallsend in East Newcastle and completes on the evening of 31 May 14 at Bowness-on-Solway. The walk is for two purposes: 1.   To raise awareness of Neuroendocrine Cancer 2.  To promote and fundraise for PLANETS Charity (Pancreatic, Liver And Neuroendocrine Tumours). As a lead up to the actual walk itself, I'll be blogging daily with an A to Z of my life changing experience together…
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