Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer – HALF A MILLION views

I am totally astonished to have been able to accumulate 500,000 (half a million) views of my blog. When I first set it up in Apr 2014, it was just to help spread awareness whilst I was walking the 84 miles of Hadrian’s Wall with my wife Chris. I never for thought for one minute I would still be doing it today and accumulate over 11,000 followers across all my social media sites, from all over the world.

Can’t stop, won’t stop. Onwards to 1 million views for Neuroendocrine Cancer awareness.

My key aims are international level awareness, advocacy, campaigning, and support for NET patients via all my social media accounts. I realise I’m not your regular NET advocate and I do things differently. However, I’m fairly certain that has played a part in getting to this stage.

My main sites are here:

Blog – ronnyallan.NET – 500,000 blog views as at 7 March 2018. Click here.

Twitter – @ronnyallan1 and @netcancerblog

Facebook – I have numerous accounts:

NET Cancer Blog (my main site with around 6000 as at March 2018) – click here and ‘Like’
Ronny Allan – additional output – click here and ‘Like’

Newsletter – extending the reach into wider areas via a daily newsletter from twitter and other sources. click here to subscribe.

Instagram – click here to follow

Many of you who read this will already be on these sites so please ‘Follow’ or ‘Like’ as appropriate – be careful you don’t ‘Unfollow’ or ‘Unlike’.

There are so many other sources of routes into my blog and I’m grateful to the many patient advocate organisations, patient advocates, the healthcare community in general and many, many, more. If you’re reading this, thank you so much.

Please note:
All information provided on this Facebook page or any of my social media accounts does not constitute professional medical advice. See my disclaimer here: DISCLAIMER

Message me here: http://m.me/NETCancerBlog

I also have a private Facebook group, let me know if you’re interested.

Thanks for reading

Ronny

I’m also active on Facebook. Like my page for even more news. I’m also building up this site here: Ronny Allan

Disclaimer

My Diagnosis and Treatment History

Most Popular Posts

Sign up for my twitter newsletter

Read my Cure Magazine contributions

Remember ….. in the war on Neuroendocrine Cancer, let’s not forget to win the battle for better quality of life!

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Things to do today

When you live with any illness, getting through the day can be tough. Trying to get a diagnosis, dealing with a diagnosis, undergoing treatment and then learning to recover and adapt.

I’ve been living with my condition for almost 8 years and I’m a big advocate of keeping busy, keeping active and keeping my mind occupied. Despite this, there are times with a chronic disease, an invisible disease, an incurable and long-term disease including cancer, occasionally just doing nothing can be very productive in the long term!

Of course, sometimes you have little choice if you’re ill from your condition or something routine.

So now and then, I just breathe in and breathe out (then repeat). It’s very enjoyable!

Take a break if you need one.

Thanks for reading

Ronny

I’m also active on Facebook. Like my page for even more news. I’m also building up this site here: Ronny Allan

Disclaimer

My Diagnosis and Treatment History

Most Popular Posts

Sign up for my twitter newsletter

Read my Cure Magazine contributions

Remember ….. in the war on Neuroendocrine Cancer, let’s not forget to win the battle for better quality of life!

 

wego blog 2018 winner

Cancer Isn’t All About Me

As featured by Cure Magazine
It’s about others too

Since my diagnosis of incurable and metastatic neuroendocrine cancer in 2010, it’s really all been about me. I didn’t see the trauma coming, and my family has supported me throughout every single step. I really don’t want to be the focus of attention as that mantle was normally evenly distributed. However, there’s nothing like a cancer diagnosis to put you into the spotlight.

Facing an uncertain future with regular scans, injections, treatment, pills, examinations and blood tests has made me the center of attention, whether I like it or not. The focus is on me because these things are necessary to keep me alive for as long as possible and also because I live with the consequences of cancer and its treatment which provides further challenges. A good quality of life is not only a motivator for change, good planning and constant surveillance, but it’s also hard work and has an additional impact on the whole family. It means all activities including work, holidays, days out, social activities and, even the simple act of eating, might all need to be organized around me due to the vagaries of my condition. It will never stop, it will never end and it will always be about me!

This has gone on for seven years and counting. “Cancerversaries” are on the calendar alongside birthdays and wedding anniversaries. Tumor marker tests and scans are reviewed twice yearly so the relentless attention continues, often peaking at these test milestones and worrying moments in between. The detailed analysis of unusual pain or other disturbances are documented. The attention is on me.

Then, my wife finds a lump. The local doctor investigates and refers her for a mammogram. The mammogram check leads to an ultrasound which then leads to a biopsy of some fibrous tissue. We have a two-week wait before the all clear is given but the worry doesn’t immediately dissipate as another check was scheduled for three months (done, no issues).  The following check 6 months after on 7 Aug 2018 is also no change.   Hang on a minute … this is not about me!

I’m starting to realize it shouldn’t be all about me and it needn’t be all about me. It’s about other people, too. There is nothing in the rule book that allows cancer to be limited to a single family member. Cancer doesn’t really care how many in your household already have the disease – anyone is a target. It’s bad enough having one cancer patient in the house without another cropping up. One thing is for sure, when it comes to a cancer diagnosis in the family, I really want it to be all about me.

Thanks for reading

Ronny

 

Postscript:  Very excited to share my first article published in CURE magazine. This is a real story about recent events involving my own family. As a long-term cancer patient, it can seem like it’s always about ‘me’ and then something happens which changes that perception. It’s actually about others too, and always has been. If you want to talk about something similar in your life, please share with others in your comments below or  message me. 

This is the beginning of a new phase in my activities and another opportunity to spread awareness of Neuroendocrine Cancer to new audiences, something I promised I would do.  I hope you will support my first contribution to an exciting organisation brand.

It would be great if you would take the time to read the article directly on the Cure site here, and any likes, comments and sharing would be appreciated. 

The article can be found here

caricture

You may also enjoy my second Cure Magazine article “Poker Face or Cancer Card”

Ever wonder what caused your NET?

DNA strand and Cancer Cell

OPINION.  When you’re diagnosed, you go through a whole host of emotions. It’s not just the initial shock, the disbelief, the anxiety and morbid worry produced by the words “you have cancer”, it’s other stuff such as anger and denial.  With the latter, the denial normally wears off as you finally accept the predicament.

In hindsight, the anger is interesting because there can be a mixture of thoughts including “why me“, “what could I have done to head this off“; and would you believe I was even angry that my diagnosis was going to affect my performance at work and even my personal credibility.  We all react differently but in general terms our experiences can be categorised into 3 main areas: initial reaction, distress and then adjustment.

Initially, I was frustrated I didn’t know what had caused my cancer, perhaps my thinking was that I could warn others.  Those feelings soon wore off as I discovered that no-one really knows why people succumb to certain cancers.

If you don’t know what caused your NET, you’re not alone.  According to several studies in the past 10 years, around 40% of cancers are preventable indicating that up to 60% might just be plain bad luck. Clearly this figure varies between cancer types with the biggest culprits being Lung and Skin cancer with too much exposure to tobacco and ultraviolet light respectively. However, the reports also pointed out that people can and will still get these cancers without significant exposure to the commonly preventable causes. The latest study is interesting because it raises the issue that some cancers may be totally unavoidable as they are caused by random errors associated with DNA replication.  This study remains controversial because it undermines government prevention strategies. There’s a balanced article from Cancer Research UK which is a useful read (interesting quote … “Even if, as this study suggests, most individual cancer mutations are due to random chance, the researchers admit that the cancers they cause may still be preventable”).

I carried out some research and discovered the only currently known causes of NETs are heredity/genetic in nature and this only affects a small proportion of all NETs.  As for the remainder, will we ever know?  Perhaps one day but in my opinion, not anytime soon.  One interesting find is a study funded by NET Research Foundation which is designed to discover the molecular causes of a Small Intestine NET (SiNET).  In addition, they will investigate potential environmental causes, including epigenomic and infectious causes.

I often think about what actually caused my NET but I no longer worry about what the answer might be.  I’m the first to admit I could have led a healthier life (like many others) but that may not have had any impact or involvement in my cancer diagnosis.  There doesn’t seem to be any point worrying because the clock cannot be turned back …..even if I knew, I would still have metastatic NETs. However, if the cause of my cancer was connected to a heredity condition, clearly this would be important to know. That’s only my own opinion though.

Thanks for reading

Ronny

I’m also active on Facebook. Like my page for even more news. Help me build up my new site here – click here and ‘Like’

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My Diagnosis and Treatment History

Sign up for my twitter newsletter

Check out my Podcast Interview (click and press play)

Remember ….. in the war on Neuroendocrine Cancer, let’s not forget to win the battle for better quality of life!


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patients included

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NETwork with Ronny © – Community Newsletter JUNE 2017

 

Hi NETworkers!

Welcome to my monthly ‘Community’ newsletter. This is June 2017’s monthly summary of Ronny Allan’s Community news, views and ICYMI (in case you missed it!).

NET News

The following news items may be of interest:

  • NETs in the UK National News.  Great publicity.  Featuring NET Patient Foundation.  Click here.
  • Personalised PRRT is highlighted.  Click here.
  • Everolimus and Sunitinib. In England, NICE approves Everolimus (Afinitor) and Sunitinib (Sutent). Read more by clicking here.
  • Videos from LACNETS.  I’ve not watched them all yet due to holiday but they are always great!  Click here.
  • PRRT.  News of a PRRT trial being set up for Inoperable Pheochromocytoma/ Paraganglioma. Not yet recruiting but read more here.
  • Immunotherapy.  Merkel Cell Carcinoma is already benefiting from an FDA approved drug with another pending.  Check out this link.
  • Awareness.  Giovanni from LACNETS generates awareness in her local area – I have no doubt that awareness saves lives.  Read here.
  • Lanreotide.  Ipsen announces approval in Japan for treating NETs.   Click here.

NET Cancer Blog Activity

June was a slower month in ‘new’ blogging terms mainly due to holiday but even during this holiday, I’m being invited to external projects and a continuing flow of private messages. I’m still suffering with back pain but patiently waiting to see a physiotherapist. However, despite a low month for brand new blogs, I still managed for the first time to break through the monthly blog view figure of 20000.  ……..Thank you all so much, a lot of this was down to your support for some scheduled posts whilst I was on holiday ♥

I continue to receive a steady flow of private contacts, mainly from patients seeking information.  I don’t have an issue with private contact but please note my disclaimer.  Please also note that I cannot accept telephone calls on a one to one basis.  The number of non-patients contacting me for other reasons (mainly to help with something) continues to grow and this is producing some great publicity and awareness.

I’ve been nominated for the 2017 WEGO Health Awards in three categories so far, Blog, Patient Leader Hero and Lifetime Achievement.  If you remember last year, I made it to the final in two categories of Blog and Community and won the latter.   The nominations period ends on 7th July and I’ll let you know how you can vote for me. A vote for me is a vote for Neuroendocrine Cancer awareness.

BREAKING NEWS (…ish).  I’ve been accepted as a ‘Cure Today’ contributor which means my articles will get a wider distribution than they do now.  I’ve not contributed yet but clearly they will be posted on all my social media outlets for you to read.   You can see my profile here: http://www.curetoday.com/community/contributors

 

New (or significantly updated) Blogs Published

Due to the vagaries of Facebook inner workings, some of these may not have even shown on your Facebook timeline.  So, ICYMI …….here’s a summary with links:

Awareness Activity in June 2017

New Audiences for NET Cancer.  From Day 1, I said it was my aim to find new audiences for NETS rather than just share stuff within our own community.

  • I’m ‘extremely’ active on twitter and I find a lot of my research stuff there. I also use it to support other conditions and it’s mostly returned (i.e. others help with NET awareness and are made aware of NETs in the process). There is so much on twitter that I could swamp the community Facebook site so I started a twitter newsletter via an app called Nuzzel which seeks out stuff I normally like. Click this link and sign up if you think this is something you’d be interested in receiving.  Currently 239 subscribers – up 25% on last month.
  • I continue to be featured by ‘external’ organisations such as WEGO and my PODCAST is reaching new audiences – click here.  Other irons are in the fire but unable to bring you firm news just yet.
  • I’m proud to be a ‘Community Champion’ on the Macmillan Cancer Support Forum helping outliers from the NET community there. I’ll be reporting more on this in the coming weeks.  This is the biggest cancer support organisation in the UK.
  • I’ve been accepted as a ‘Cure Today’ contributor which means my articles will get a wider distribution than they do now.  I’ve not contributed yet but clearly they will be posted on all my social media outlets for you to read.  Click here to read more.

Speaking Engagements

  • On 7 July, I’ve been invited to speak for 10 minutes at the PLANETS patient conference in Southampton.  This is special for me as it’s where my major treatments took place and some of my medical team will be there.
  • On 5th October, I’ve been invited to speak for around an hour at the Cardiff (South Wales) NET Patient meeting (moved from July due to forecast low attendance)  Things are starting to happen in this area and I already know Dr Mo Khan who is a NET specialist working hard on behalf of patients.  I’m really looking forward to visiting and talking to this group.

Writing and other types of Engagement (external)

On 12 July, I’ve been invited to speak to Ipsen (UK). Still setting up this short notice meeting, details to follow in a separate post.  Additionally, I was interviewed by a health reporter and separately by a health consultant. I’m not at liberty to provide details yet but if anything is published in the public domain, I will of course publish it on my social media channels.

Remember …….

Social Media and Stats

Blog Milestone.  In June, I tipped over 310000 views! Thank you all so much Keep sharing! On track for 400000 by end of the year.

Facebook Milestone.  I’m aiming for 5000 followers by year-end and this is on track. The Facebook page is now my biggest outlet for awareness and education so please please please recommend this page to anyone you think would be interested.

Instagram

I’m expanding into Instagram to see how that goes. I’ve amassed over 200 followers to date. Initially, I’ll just be posting pictures of things that inspire me, mostly scenic photos of places I’ve been or want to go!  You can follow me here:  Click here to go to my Instagram page

Figures

Where did June 2017 Blog views come from? – Top 10 countries:  Germany on the up (wunderbar). And thanks to USA!

 

For interest. the 10 Ten Facebook followers by Country – Germany still sneaking up (wunderbar wieder).  Interestingly Canada always reads more than Australia despite fewer followers.

 

WOW!  – that’s an amazing amount of awareness and hopefully, support for others.  However, I cannot do this without you guys liking, commenting and sharing!  The likes give me motivation, the comments (and private messages) give me inspiration (or at least a chance to explain further) and the sharing gives me a bigger platform.  A bigger platform generates more awareness.

Thanks for your great support in June.  Onwards and upwards!

Thanks for reading

Ronny

Hey, I’m also active on Facebook.  Like my page for even more news.

Disclaimer

My Diagnosis and Treatment History

Most Popular Posts

Sign up for my twitter newsletter

Check out my Podcast (click and press play)

Remember ….. in the war on Neuroendocrine Cancer, let’s not forget to win the battle for better quality of life!

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Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer – 8 tips for conquering fear

8 tips for conquering fear

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.

Stabilised

Following diagnosis, I got quite a lot of attention in the first 2 or 3 years as I went through various surgical and other types of treatment, and I eventually earned the accolade of ‘stable’.  Not cured, not in remission, not totally free of disease, just ‘stable‘. I guess I’m one of millions of people who now have a condition to live with for the rest of their life.

I may be stable but I still need support and surveillance!

But I haven’t really been left alone, I have meetings with my specialists every 6 months plus routine surveillance testing. I have my GP (PCP) on tap via same day appointments. Thankfully, my tumours are slow growers and the biochemistry results that check their growth and function have been normal for some years now.  I also have my specialists’ telephone numbers in the event of an emergency.  The other great thing is that I’m lucky to have a direct line to a specialist Neuroendocrine Cancer Nurse for routine stuff.  So I can sit back and relax, right?  ……… Sounds good but not really the whole story.

I’m in tune with my body

I can honestly say I’ve never been more in tune with my body – there’s nothing like a cancer diagnosis to force you into a change of attitude. Not just about how you look after your body but learning how to read the signs and assess risk. However, the difficult area with this disease is that many of the side effects of treatment can mimic the symptoms of a recurrence or further spread and vice versa. And sometimes there can be no rhyme or rhythm (or logic) when patients experience these things. I once wrote about the “Neuroendocrine Cancer Jigsaw” where patients had pieces called Signs, Symptoms, Side Effects, Secondary Illnesses, Syndromes, Comorbidities and Coincidences.  I also include the proverbial ‘missing piece’ as part of the jigsaw! However, I do think the ‘missing piece’ can sometimes be a metaphor for an instantly contactable NET expert or even some experience and education by the patient or a trusted advocate.

Sorting out the symptoms

The comorbidity and coincidence pieces were belated add-ons to the list because sometimes it not all about the cancer – even cancer patients get regular diseases and ailments. The difficulty is working out if there is a connection or not. Take my 2017 issue of back/hip/leg pain for example. I analysed all the timings in my diary (…top tip, keep a diary), there were no common connections to any particular occurrence or activity for all occurrences of the pain.  I got some pain killers and decided to tough it out.  After 14 days, I got fed up and saw my GP (PCP). I also ran it past my NET Specialist Nurse for assurance.  After 22 days, I was still doing pain killers, waiting on a physiotherapy appointment; and doing back exercises at home. Why is my back pain suddenly a lot worse?  My Calcium and Vitamin D are checked regularly and everything is in range. I’ve been receiving somatostatin analogues for over 6 years, so that might be a factor.  I also reminded myself I’m no longer 21 (so did my NET Nurse!).  Three months later, after seeing a physiotherapist, things improved. However, I would be lying if it didn’t cross my mind that the problem could be bone metastasis.  I studied the symptoms of bone metastasis and concluded that I have none of those other than the pain. I analysed my recent scan which said there were “no bony lesions”. I also registered the fact that my biochemistry results are rather good and have been for 6 years.

And then there were the 3 episodes of constipation where the possibility of a bowel obstruction floated around in my thoughts.  However, time was once again a healer (along with some quick advice from my specialist NET Nurse!).

A couple of years ago, I thought I felt a lump on my right clavicle by the sternum.  However, an MRI later dismissed it as nothing.  Due to a piece of metal in my body, to be honest I was more scared about the MRI than the potential lump!

I always remember a great quote from Dr Eric Liu Even NET Patients get regular illnesses“.  He’s right.  But it’s also right that people living with a long-term cancer can live in perpetual fear of a worsening state of health or a recurrence of the cancer. For the incidents I highlighted above, the fear that these things were related to cancer growth or recurrence did go through my mind.

Fear can actually be a side effect of cancer

I think all those living with cancer need to be alert and be proactive via education and communication with their medical team and GP (PCP).  However, stopping yourself thinking that anything wrong with your body is somehow connected to the cancer, perhaps needs a different approach, particularly if you have a higher than average risk for recurrence. Fear of cancer relapse or recurrence, is said to be associated with poor quality of life, greater distress, lack of planning for the future, and greater healthcare utilisation.  However, if you do suffer from this type of fear, you’re not alone.  A recent study stated that 50 percent of all cancer survivors have moderate to high, or clinically significant, fear of cancer relapse, which could persist over the whole trajectory of their illness.  Younger patients might have a bigger challenge on their hands as their future is uncertain.  Patients with young children have an additional concern, that’s another fear area and a very difficult and tough one.  And those on the older side who initially thought they might not see grandchildren, or see them growing into adults, that is something I personally found tough.

Ever ‘warriors’ can be fearful.  Are you a warrior or a worrier?

WORRIER OR WARRIOR (2)

Psychological problems – another unmet need? Probably.

Conquering fear is difficult and no one size fits all. However, in the most general terms I would suggest the following 8 tips:

  1. Accept your diagnosis – you have cancer, it has the potential to change your life, you most likely need to make adjustments. But this is not to say you also accept that improvements cannot be made and things will not get better …. because they can. This is particularly important for those with incurable cancers needing treatment for the foreseeable future. I accepted my situation very early on and I think that has been helpful in the long-term. Prognostic detail is a worrying thought and a difficult one. However, no-one really knows for sure. After 8 years with an incurable metastatic cancer, I’m still here and continue to be heartened by comments such as these here (click here).
  2. Accept that your road will probably not be straight and smooth.  There will be bumps and bends and you will need to deal with them as and when they arise.  Don’t try to second guess what the bumps and bends might be and then worry in case they happen. No-one really knows for sure and they might not happen.
  3. Identify your triggers – what is it that is triggering your thoughts? For me it’s more physical things like the lump, constipation and back pain. Other triggers for some might simply be an anniversary of a diagnosis or a treatment etc (or both), or an upcoming treatment. Think about how you can get past these obstacles. For example, on ‘cancerversaries’, plan to be doing something that’ll take your mind of it. For physical things including upcoming treatment, it’s all about what I said above, education, risk management and communication with your medical team ….. put yourself in control. I also have great sympathy for younger patients and those with young dependent children. I can’t put myself in their shoes and all I can suggest is that these tips are still relevant in some way.
  4. Talk about it. Family, friends, other patients, your medical team. I don’t’ have any issues talking about it – writing posts in my blog is also really therapeutic for me (even this one!) and I hope others appreciate it too. Patient forums can be frighteningly good but …. be careful, many can also be good at frightening and stressful.
  5. Social Media and the Internet. Although talking about your cancer can be a stress reliever, clearly social media can actually be fraught with danger. As I said above, patient forums can be frighteningly good but also good at frightening.  You can extend this issue to the entire internet, which is full of false claims of internet cures spreading false hope, out of date prognostic data causing unnecessary fear and anxiety. Pick your social media and internet sites carefully, fake news, incorrect healthcare news, and bad advice is very easy to find.
  6. Focus on Wellness.  This is a huge area and it’s pretty much up to you to resolve. Yes, some willpower is involved and it includes both physical and mental wellness. For me I try to do exercise when I can (mostly walking) and I try to make sure I get 8 hours sleep (this is a fairly recent tactic which is really helping with fatigue). With diet, I try to avoid anything that greatly exacerbates the side effects of my treatment. Travelling, family and visiting places with fantastic views is most definitely a tonic for me (and that normally means exercise to get there). Anything that makes you relaxed!
  7. Be patient.  Fear of your condition taking a downwards movement will probably never completely go away but perhaps as I said above, time is a healer.  It took me over 3 years to become more relaxed about my own future.
  8. If all the above doesn’t work, perhaps professional counselling is required?  There are specialists who work with cancer patients to help them accept that fear of recurrence/relapse is a normal part of the cancer experience. They can help you develop strategies to cope with your fears and move forward with your life.

If you think your psychological issues are unmanageable, I strongly encourage you to talk with your doctor or a counsellor.  In fact, you may appreciate this excellent video from NET Patient Foundation presented by Kym Winter, a qualified Psychotherapist and Counsellor – click here.

I also liked this video by Dr Michael Burke, a Psychiatric Oncologist – click here

Remember …….. “Googling your symptoms when you’re ill can sometimes be the most efficient way to convince yourself you’re dying”. Anon

Join my group – a helpful bunch!

 

Stay well all

Thanks for reading

 

NETwork with Ronny © – Community Newsletter MAY 2017

Hi NETworkers!

Welcome to my monthly ‘Community’ newsletter. This is April 2017’s monthly summary of Ronny Allan’s Community news, views and ICYMI (in case you missed it!).

This year, it’s occurred to me that I’ve gone beyond just being known as a ‘blog’ and have transformed into something with a much wider focus within the NET Community and beyond. I’ve added a new section called NET News. This is a catch up of stuff I’ve accumulated over the past month but perhaps not yet posted or simply want to emphasise what I think is significant news about NETs or might impact or influence NETs  This section replaces ‘Highlights’ which will be renamed to ‘NET Cancer Blog Activity’ and cover my efforts to generate awareness and to help others.

NET News

The following news items may be of interest:

  • PRRT.  Advanced Accelerator Applications (AAA) the manufacturers of Lutathera for PRRT have announced they are on track for a mid year resubmission of the data (NDA) to the US FDA for their consideration and hopefully approval.  They also indicated that the EMA authorisation may happen in Q3 (period 1 July – 30 September) – this would be key for UK where the treatment was withdrawn from routine service in 2015.  Read more here.
  • New Trial.  Based on use of an immunotherapy drug ATEZOLIZUMAB (Tecentriq) combo’d with BEVACIZUMAB (more well known as Avastin) which is a type of biological therapy.  Click here.
  • Everolimus and Sunitinib. In England, NICE approves Everolimus (Afinitor) and Sunitinib (Sutent). Read more by clicking here.

NET Cancer Blog Activity

Like April, May was a slower month in ‘new’ blogging terms due to a number of external projects and a continuing flow of private messages. I continue to suffer back pain but my GP is now sending me to a physiotherapist (I sometimes forget I’m a patient too!). However, despite a low month for brand new blogs, I still managed to accumulate the third biggest monthly blog views ever.  ……..Thank you all so much ♥

I continue to receive a steady flow of private contacts, mainly from patients seeking information. I don’t have an issue with private contact but please note my disclaimer.  The number of non-patients contacting me for other reasons (mainly to help with something) continues to grow.

BREAKING NEWS:  I’ve been nominated for the 2017 WEGO Health Awards in two categories so far, Blog and Patient Leader Hero.  If you remember last year, I made it to the final in two categories of Blog and Community and won the latter.   I’ll bring you more details in due course.

Speaking Engagements

On 7 July, I’ve been invited to speak for 10 minutes at the PLANETS patient conference in Southampton.  This is special for me as it’s where my major treatments took place and some of my medical team will be there.

On 13 July, I’ve been invited to speak for around an hour at the Cardiff (South Wales) NET Patient meeting.  Things are starting to happen in this area and I already know Dr Mo Khan who is a NET specialist working hard on behalf of patients.  I’m really looking forward to visiting and talking to this group.

Writing and other Engagements (external)

I contributed to an article written by the CEO of WEGO Health about the spread of fake health news (miracle cures etc).  You can read the post here –On Facebook fake news can be life or death

I wrote an article for Macmillan Cancer Support which is due to be published on 5 Jun 2017 (will post next week).  This is part of Macmillan Volunteers week and I volunteered to write about my recent experience in becoming a Macmillan Community Champion.

I took part in a Macmillan poster campaign last year and finally got to stand next to a working poster in my home town of Dundee!  Here’s me here next to the poster:

There are one or two others but they are not firm yet – but you’ll be the first to know when I know!

New (or significantly updated) Blogs Published

Due to the vagaries of Facebook inner workings, some of these may not have even shown on your Facebook timeline.  So, ICYMI …….here’s a summary with links:

Awareness Activity in May 2017

New Audiences for NET Cancer.  From Day 1, I said it was my aim to find new audiences for NETS rather than just share stuff within our own community.

  • I’m ‘extremely’ active on twitter and I find a lot of my research stuff there. I also use it to support other conditions and it’s mostly returned (i.e. others help with NET awareness). There is so much on twitter that I could swamp the community Facebook site so I started a twitter newsletter via an app called Nuzzel which seeks out stuff I normally like. Click this link and sign up if you think this is something you’d be interested in receiving.  Currently 192 subscribers – up 20% on last month.
  • I continue to be featured by ‘external’ organisations such as WEGO and my PODCAST is reaching new audiences – click here.  Other irons are in the fire but unable to bring you firm news just yet.
  • I’m making new friends in the interventional radiologist community and am waiting on a video featuring a NET Patient (will bring you details in due course) and I’m learning more about these technologies from reading their tweets – I had no idea how many different jobs these guys do! I’m also seeing an increase from the Pathology community.  The trailer for the documentary which will feature a NET Patient can be found by clicking here.  The actual documentary is now available on Vimeo and Amazon Prime.
  • I’m proud to have been asked to become a ‘Community Champion’ on the Macmillan Cancer Support Forum helping outliers from the NET community there. I’ll be reporting more on this in the coming weeks.

Patients Included.  A new campaign for 2017. I was excited to have been invited to the first ever joint Patient-Physician symposium at the annual ENETS conference in Barcelona 8 – 11 March. I have really good information which will feed into my blogs, either as updates or new blogs. This new blog is a result of attending this symposium but it’s from an existing campaign run along the ‘Consequences’ campaign run by Macmillan Cancer Support for all cancers. In the war on Neuroendocrine Cancer, let’s not forget to win the battle for better quality of life

the first question to the first ever joint patient-physician symposium. Hardly any voice due to a winter cold

Social Media and Stats

Blog Milestone.  In May, I tipped over 290,000 views! Thank you all so much Keep sharing!

Facebook Milestone.  I’m aiming for 5000 followers by year-end and this is on track. The Facebook page is now my biggest outlet for awareness and education so please please please recommend this page to anyone you think would be interested.

Instagram

I’m expanding into Instagram to see how that goes. I’ve amassed over 200 followers to date. Initially, I’ll just be posting pictures of things that inspire me, mostly scenic photos of places I’ve been or want to go!  You can follow me here:  Click here to go to my Instagram page

Figures

  • Facebook 4689.  This is a key outlet for my blog – please encourage others to like my page (if you’d like to know how to use your Facebook to invite others to my page – let me know, I can provide you with a step by step approach). Please also join my 2017 awareness campaign event here (select ‘Going’)
  • Twitter3915 / 3017 Follow me here @RonnyAllan1 / @NETCancerBlog
  • Total Blog Views: 292,626
  • Blog with most views: 9211The Anatomy of Neuroendocrine Cancer 
  • Most blog views in one day:  2043 on 15 Jan 2017.  Why the spike? ….. The Anatomy of Neuroendocrine Cancer” 
  • Most blog views in one month: 19,303 in Apr 2017.  Why the spike? …. too many to list – see above!

Where did May 2017 Blog views come from? – Top 10 countries:  India on the up.

 

For interest. the 10 Ten Facebook followers by Country – Germany sneaking up.  Interestingly Canada reads more than Australia despite fewer followers.  India reads a lot!

 

WOW!  – that’s an amazing amount of awareness and hopefully, support for others.  However, I cannot do this without you guys liking, commenting and sharing!  The likes give me motivation, the comments (and private messages) give me inspiration (or at least a chance to explain further) and the sharing gives me a bigger platform.  A bigger platform generates more awareness.

Thanks for your great support in May.  Onwards and upwards!

Thanks for reading

Ronny

Hey, I’m also active on Facebook.  Like my page for even more news.

Disclaimer

My Diagnosis and Treatment History

Most Popular Posts

Sign up for my twitter newsletter

Check out my Podcast (click and press play)

Remember ….. in the war on Neuroendocrine Cancer, let’s not forget to win the battle for better quality of life!

community_titled_transparent_2013-10-22

NETwork with Ronny © – Newsletter April 2017

Hi NETworkers!

Welcome to my sixth ‘Community’ newsletter. This is April 2017’s monthly summary of Ronny Allan’s Community news, views and ICYMI (in case you missed it!).

Highlights

There are two main highlights for April which stood out for me:

  1. The publication of my WEGO Health Award PODCAST.  This was a radio interview prior to the announcement that I had won the WEGO ‘Best in Show Community’ award.  It was designed around a red carpet scenario where the nominees are entering the award ceremony (everything in the virtual world of course).  If you missed it, you can listen to it by clicking here.
  2. The announcement of new USA database figures for incidence and prevalence of NETs. This confirms it is now mathematically impossible for NETs not to be a rare disease in 2017.  I’m not in any way surprised by the authoritative data provided and I’ve been forecasting this for 2 years.  You can read all about the conversion of NETs from rare to less common by clicking here. I truly believe a new and more compelling awareness paradigm must now be adopted by the community.

April was a slower month in ‘new’ blogging terms due to a number of external projects and a continuing flow of private messages. Not forgetting two weeks of lower back pain (don’t forget, I’m a patient too!).

I don’t have an issue with private contact but please note my disclaimer. However, despite a low number of brand new blogs, I still managed to accumulate the biggest monthly blog views ever.  ……..Thank you all so much 

New (or significantly updated) Blogs Published

Due to the vagaries of Facebook inner workings, some of these may not have even shown on your Facebook timeline.  So, ICYMI …….here’s a summary with links:

Other News in Apr 2017

New Audiences for NET Cancer.  From Day 1, I said it was my aim to find new audiences for NETS rather than just share stuff within our own community.

  • I’m ‘extremely’ active on twitter and I find a lot of my research stuff there. I also use it to support other conditions and it’s mostly returned (i.e. others help with NET awareness). There is so much on twitter that I could swamp the community Facebook site so I started a twitter newsletter via an app called Nuzzel which seeks out stuff I normally like. Click this link and sign up if you think this is something you’d be interested in receiving.  Currently 192 subscribers – up 20% on last month.
  • I continue to be featured by ‘external’ organisations such as WEGO and my PODCAST is reaching new audiences – click here.  Other irons are in the fire but unable to bring you firm news just yet.
  • I’m making new friends in the interventional radiologist community and am waiting on a video featuring a NET Patient (will bring you details in due course) and I’m learning more about these technologies from reading their tweets – I had no idea how many different jobs these guys do! I’m also seeing an increase from the Pathology community.  The trailer for the documentary which will feature a NET Patient can be found by clicking here.
  • I’m proud to have been asked to become a ‘Community Champion’ on the Macmillan Cancer Support Forum helping outliers from the NET community there. I’ll be reporting more on this in the coming weeks.

Patients Included.  A new campaign for 2017. I was excited to have been invited to the first ever joint Patient-Physician symposium at the annual ENETS conference in Barcelona 8 – 11 March. I have really good information which will feed into my blogs, either as updates or new blogs. This new blog is a result of attending this symposium but it’s from an existing campaign run along the ‘Consequences’ campaign run by Macmillan Cancer Support for all cancers. In the war on Neuroendocrine Cancer, let’s not forget to win the battle for better quality of life

the first question to the first ever joint patient-physician symposium. Hardly any voice due to a winter cold

Social Media and Stats

Blog Milestone.  In Apr, I tipped over 275,000 views! Thank you all so much Keep sharing!

Facebook Milestone.  I’m aiming for 5000 by year-end and this is on track. The Facebook page is now my biggest outlet for awareness and education so please please please recommend this page to anyone you think would be interested.

Instagram

I’m expanding into Instagram to see how that goes. I’ve amassed over 200 followers to date. Initially, I’ll just be posting pictures of things that inspire me, mostly scenic photos of places I’ve been or want to go!  You can follow me here:  Click here to go to my Instagram page

Figures

  • Facebook 4522.  This is a key outlet for my blog – please encourage others to like my page (if you’d like to know how to use your Facebook to invite others to my page – let me know, I can provide you with a step by step approach). Please also join my 2017 awareness campaign event here (select ‘Going’)
  • Twitter3836 / 2955 Follow me here @RonnyAllan1 / @NETCancerBlog
  • Total Blog Views: 275,904
  • Blog with most views: 8261 – The Anatomy of Neuroendocrine Cancer 
  • Most blog views in one day:  2043 on 15 Jan 2017.  Why the spike? ….. The Anatomy of Neuroendocrine Cancer” 
  • Most blog views in one month: 19,303 in Apr 2017.  Why the spike? …. too many to list – see above!

Where did Apr 2017 Blog views come from? – Top 11 countries:  Large increase from Germany.

For interest. the 10 Ten Facebook followers by Country – Germany now appears!

WOW!  – that’s an amazing amount of awareness and hopefully, support for others.  However, I cannot do this without you guys liking, commenting and sharing!  The likes give me motivation, the comments (and private messages) give me inspiration (or at least a chance to explain further) and the sharing gives me a bigger platform.  A bigger platform generates more awareness.

Thanks for your great support in April.  Onwards and upwards!

Thanks for reading

Ronny

Hey, I’m also active on Facebook.  Like my page for even more news.

Disclaimer

My Diagnosis and Treatment History

Most Popular Posts

Sign up for my twitter newsletter

Check out my Podcast (click and press play)

Remember ….. in the war on Neuroendocrine Cancer, let’s not forget to win the battle for better quality of life!

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Don’t believe the hype – Neuroendocrine Cancer Myths debunked


Don't believe the hype - 10 myths

OPINION.

There’s a lot of inaccurate and out of date information out there.  Some of it is propaganda but most is a combination of misunderstanding and patient forum myth spreading …….

Myth 1:  All Neuroendocrine Tumours are benign

Not trueBy 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.  However, The World Health Organisation (WHO) 2010 classification for digestive system is based on the concept that all NETs have malignant potential, and has therefore abandoned the division into benign and malignant NETs and tumours of uncertain malignant potential.  This has been reinforced in the 2017 update to include clarification for other endocrine organ types of NET including Pheochromocytoma. Read more here.  The word ‘Carcinoid’ is inextricably linked with this issue – read here why we need to stop using the term to help fight the benign myth.

Kunz His belief these tumors did not metastisize

Myth 2:  Neuroendocrine Tumours is a terminal condition

Not true.  By any definition of the word terminal in a medical diagnostic context, most NET patients have a good prognostic outlook, even those with metastatic and incurable variants of the disease. Read more here.

being_there_front
Graphic courtesy of Ellie McDowell

Myth 3: Carcinoid is another word for Neuroendocrine Tumours 

Not true.  Carcinoid is a very old term and was phased out years ago.  Carcinoid is not mentioned in the latest WHO Classification schemes for Neuroendocrine Neoplasms (a term covering Neuroendocrine Tumours and Neuroendocrine Carcinoma). Unfortunately, the problem is exacerbated by organisations and individuals who still use the word.  Also, those who use the following terms:

  • “Carcinoid Neuroendocrine”,
  • “Neuroendocrine Carcinoid”,
  • “Carcinoid and Neuroendocrine”,
  • “Neuroendocrine and Carcinoid”,
  • “Carcinoid NETs” or “CNET”

These are all contextually incorrect and misleading terms (not to mention the bad grammar). ENETS, NANETS and NCCN publications are gradually phasing the word out except in relation to Carcinoid Syndrome (and even then there could be easy solutions for this). Read more here and here.

carcinoid vs neuroendocrine

Myth 4:  All NET patients get ‘carcinoid syndrome’

Not true.  Firstly, many NET cancers are non-functional; and secondly, carcinoid syndrome is only one of a number of “NET Syndromes” associated with the various types of NET. However, the issue is further confused by those who use the word ‘Carcinoid‘ to incorrectly refer to all NETs and use Carcinoid Syndrome to refer to all NET Syndromes.  Read more here.

Early signs of a late diagnosis (2)

Myth 5:  Neuroendocrine Neolasms are rare

Not true.  As a collective grouping of cancers, this is no longer accurate. Read more here.  Also check out my post about the “Invisible NET Patient Population“.

Yao not rare

Myth 6:  Steve Jobs had Pancreatic Cancer

Not true.  Steve Jobs had a Neuroendocrine Tumour of the Pancreas.  Ditto for a few other famous names. Read more here.

steve jobs 2010
The last few years have reminded me that life is fragile

Myth 7:  I’m not getting chemotherapy, I must be doing OK?

Not true.  For some cancers or some sub-types of cancers, although it remains an option, chemotherapy is not particularly effective, e.g. some types of Neuroendocrine Cancer (NETs). In general, well differentiated NETs do not normally show a high degree of sensitivity to chemotherapy, although some primary locations fare better than others. However, many of the treatments for NET Cancer are somewhat harsh, have long-term consequences, and have no visible effects. NET patients are often said to “look well” but that doesn’t mean they are not struggling behind the scenes or under the surface.  Read more here.  P.S. Afinitor (Everolimus), Sutent (Sunitinib) are not chemo – Read more here.

chemotherapy-hand-and-arm

Myth 8:  All diarrhea is caused by carcinoid syndrome

Not true.  It could be one of the other syndromes or tumor types or a side effect of your treatment.  Check out this post.

NETCancer Diarrhea Jigsaw

Myth 9:  Neuroendocrine Tumours is a ‘good cancer’

Not true.  Simply, no cancer is good.  Some are statistically worse than others in prognostic terms, that’s true…… but living with NETs is very often not a walk in the park. However, no one cancer is better to get than any other – they’re all bad.  Read more here.

Good-Bad

Myth 10:  Every NET Patient was misdiagnosed for years

Not true.  Many NET Patients are correctly diagnosed early on in their investigation and in a reasonable time.  This myth is perpetuated because of two things: firstly, on forums, the ratio of long-term misdiagnosis is high creating a false perception; and secondly, the method of capturing patient surveys is not extensive enough – again creating a false perception.  In fact, the latest and largest database analysis from US indicates earlier diagnosis is improving, with more and more NETs being picked up at an early stage. Read more here.

if your doctors dont suspect something

Myth 11:  Somatostatin Analogues are a type of Chemotherapy

Not true.  Somatostatin Analogues (e.g. Octreotide and Lanreotide) are not chemotherapy, they are hormone inhibiting drugs.  They are more biotherapy. As the drugs latch onto somatostatin receptors, they are more targeted than systemic. For the record, Everolimus (Afinitor) and Sunitinib (Sutent) are not chemotherapy either. Read more here.

chemo-or-not-chemo

Myth 12:  Stuart Scott (ESPN) and Audrey Hepburn had Neuroendocrine Cancer. 

Not true. This is a common misunderstanding within the community.  They both had Pseudomyxoma Peritonei (PMP).  Read more about PMP here.

 

 

 

Myth 13:  I’ve been diagnosed with Neuroendocrine Tumours – my life is over

Not true.  Many patients live a very long time and lead fairly normal lives with the right treatment and support. It’s difficult but I try not to use ‘I can’t’ too much. Read more here.

I CAN

Myth 14:  There are only a handful of Neuroendocrine specialists in the world

Not true.  There are many specialists in many countries. Get links to specialists by clicking here.

10 questions to ask your doctor

Myth 15:  The Ga68 PET scan is replacing the CT and MRI scan in routine surveillance for all NET Patients

Not true.  It is actually replacing the Octreotide Scan for particular purposes,  or will eventually.  Read more by clicking here.

PET-CT-Scanner

Myth 16:  All NET Patients are Zebras

Not true.  They are in fact human beings and we should treat them as such. Please don’t call me a zebra and please don’t use the term on my social media sites, I refuse to perpetuate this outdated dogma.

hoofbeats

Myth 17: Multiple Endocrine Neoplasia (MEN) is a type of Neuroendocrine Tumour

Not true. Multiple Endocrine Neoplasia are syndromes and inherited disorders.  You can have MEN and not have any tumours.  However, these disorders can put people at more risk of developing Neuroendocrine or Endocrine Tumours. Read more here

genetics

Myth 18: Palliative Care means end of life or hospice care  

Not true. Palliative care is specialized medical care that focuses on providing patients relief from pain and other symptoms of a serious illness. A multidisciplinary care team aims to improve quality of life for people who have serious or life-threatening illnesses, no matter the diagnosis or stage of disease. Read more here

The P word

Myth 19: Serotonin is found in foods

Not true. Serotonin is manufactured in the body. Read more here

brain-neurotransmitter-serotonin

Myth 20: NETs cannot be cured

Not true. If caught early enough, some NETs can be treated with curative intent (totally resected) with little or no further follow up.  It says this in ENETS and NANETS publications which are authored by our top specialists. If we can’t believe them, who can we believe? Read more here.

cure quote

Myth 21: Pancreatic Enzyme Replacement Therapy (Creon etc) is only for pancreatic patients

Not true. It’s for any patient who is exhibiting exocrine pancreatic insufficiency. Read more here.

PERT

More to follow no doubt

For general cancer myths and the dangers of fake health news, please see my ARTICLE HERE

Thanks for reading

Ronny

Hey Guys, I’m also active on Facebook.  Like my page for even more news.  I’m also building up this site here: Ronny Allan

Disclaimer

My Diagnosis and Treatment History

Most Popular Posts

Check out my Podcast (click and press play)

Remember ….. in the war on Neuroendocrine Cancer, let’s not forget to win the battle for better quality of life!

patients included

wego blog 2018 winner

Poker Face or Cancer Card?

As featured by Cure Magazine

 



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 getting on with whatever needed doing. 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 age, I truly believed a “poker face” was necessary for “street cred” but I guess that was ingrained in the military mindset.

Even out of the military environment, old habits die hard as I adopted the same attitude. The “mission” comes first and my health second. A few “civilians” once suggested I go home after coughing, sniffing and sneezing my way through a day in the office. I responded in the only way I knew by saying I would only be leaving the office early on a stretcher having lost consciousness. To get them off my back, I made sure there was no hint of banter or joviality in the statement. This tactic didn’t really work and they laughed at something they perceived as a joke. However, little did they know, I was deadly serious. Little did I know, my gung-ho attitude and poker face were to become seriously deadly.

In 2010, along came cancer. For a couple of years before diagnosis, I had not been sufficiently focused on my health and soldiered on, ignoring what I now know to be key symptoms of neuroendocrine cancer. Even leading up to diagnosis, I was dismissive, refusing to acknowledge this was a threat. Other people get cancer, but not me! I even landed in the hospital via the ER as I refused to slow down after a biopsy. Still in denial, I thought I could beat cancer not knowing that cancer knew with 100 percent certainty that it could beat me. I went on to have surgery and other treatments, but apart from that, I basically marched on as it nothing had happened. However, as the effects of cancer and the consequences of the treatment started to bite, I accelerated my learning on how the disease might affect me in the future. This knowledge has enabled me to manage risk and make better assessment/decisions about seeking help. But it took a while, and gradually over a period of three years, I shifted the focus from work to health.

It’s not been easy to learn how to live with my incurable disease since diagnosis. Finding a balance between how I want to live and how to stay alive has been difficult. My “stiff upper lip” combined with an appetite for work didn’t really help in the end. In 2013 (three years after diagnosis), I finally found the time to work on the reasons for fatigue and many other symptoms. I made some really good improvements to my quality of life. I still have issues, but my cards are no longer close to my chest – they’re now more frequently on the table, particularly when speaking to doctors and close family. My poker face is still there for special occasions, just more relaxed!

“It’s the cancer,” can sometimes be the most convenient excuse to not do stuff. I can play the “cancer card” as well as the next person, and it will trump all others! I also understand that motivation can be difficult with a chronic illness. However, I don’t want to fall into the trap of doing nothing all the time. That’s not a good outcome. Consequently, I try not to use the metaphorical cancer card too much. In fact, I sometimes even say “I can” when I actually feel like playing the cancer card. I’m nearly always glad I did.

Just my way of coping. How about you?

Thanks for reading

You may also enjoy my first Cure Magazine article “Cancer, it isn’t all about me”

Thanks for reading

Ronny

I’m also active on Facebook. Like my page for even more news. I’m also building up this site here: Ronny Allan

Disclaimer

My Diagnosis and Treatment History

Most Popular Posts

Sign up for my twitter newsletter

Read my Cure Magazine contributions

Remember ….. in the war on Neuroendocrine Cancer, let’s not forget to win the battle for better quality of life!



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Endoscopy for NETs – taking the camera to the tumour


endoscopy

An Endoscopy is a procedure where the inside of your body is examined using an instrument called an endoscope. This is a long, thin, flexible tube that has a light source and camera at one end. Images of the inside of your body are relayed to a television screen. Endoscopes can be inserted into the body through a natural opening, such as the mouth and down the throat, or through the bottom.  The mouth route is more accurately called a Gastroscopy and the anal route is called a Colonoscopy (or a reduced version called a Sigmoidoscopy).  An endoscope can also be inserted through a small cut (incision) made in the skin when keyhole surgery is being carried out.

Gastroscopy

During a routine 6 monthly check-up at the end of 2016, I mentioned to my Oncologist that I was experiencing what appeared to be very minor heartburn and that it was an unusual symptom for me. He called forward my annual Echocardiogram and also ordered up a Gastroscopy.

I received the Gastroscopy paperwork from the hospital for an appointment on 26 Jan 2017. It offered an option for sedation, either a throat spray to numb the area or a sedative where I would probably not know what was going on. My initial thought was the latter even though it meant a longer visit to the hospital with some other constraints. It also meant I would need to check the sedation to assess the risk of NET Crisis. However, having discussed this issue with the department nurse, I was persuaded to go for the throat spray – apparently 80% of people opt for this method. I just couldn’t resist the statistical challenge!  There were many advantages to selecting this option including getting rid of the sedation risk, plus I could walk out of the hospital immediately after the 5 minute procedure.  The sedation option meant that I would need to remain in the hospital for an extra hour to recover, not drive for 24 hours and be supervised by an adult for 12 hours.

My blood pressure was checked prior to the procedure and systolic was around 145, 10-20 points above my normal ‘cool as a cucumber’ figure.  Clearly, despite my deceptively stoic façade, something was making my heart work faster!

I was really put at ease by all 4 people in the room, two nurses, an endoscopic expert and a technician. However, the procedure itself is not what I would call a ‘breeze’. The throat spray was disgusting and said to taste of rotten bananas but personally I thought it was more like rotten fish!  For the first 60 seconds (total guess) I found myself wishing I had gone for the sedation but the next minute was better after I had stopped ‘gagging’ and was now breathing fairly normally. I found swallowing easy despite the tube and a nurse was also extracting excess saliva using a similar tool used in a dental procedure.  I was also aware that my eyes were watering!  The natural reaction of ‘gagging’ came back at least once but only for a second or two. I would be lying if I said it wasn’t scary at the time.

The procedure seemed to be in parts, he checked the oesophagus, pumped air into my stomach for a better view, sprayed some water (not sure why), took a peek in the duodenum which required an extra swallow from me, using another tool, he took a painless routine sample from the stomach lining to test for CLO (Helicobacter Pylori – a bacterium in the lining of the stomach that can cause peptic ulcers), extracted the air, and then the extraction of the endoscope out from the gastrointestinal tract.  These endoscopes really are like swiss army knives!

The best bit was the extraction!  The other best bit was when he told me there were no real issues.  So it was all worth it in the end!  If anyone wants a copy of my comprehensive and easy to read 6 page Gastroscopy guide, let me know.

Colonoscopy

The other main type of Endoscopy is the Colonoscopy which enters the gastrointestinal tract in the opposite direction.  I’ve had actually both a Gastroscopy and Colonoscopy before in 2008 before I was diagnosed.  I offered the mandatory request to do the endoscopy first if using the same scope 🙂 He’d heard it before! On this occasion I was fully sedated. One minute I was talking to the Gastroenterologist, then the next thing I remember was waking up, job done.  Less stressful but more time intensive. That said, the preparation for the colonoscopy is no joke. You can read about this in my blog Colonoscopy Comedy which also includes a light-hearted story about the preparation phase. If you need a laugh, this is really funny.

Although I have not had these, for completeness, I want to mention several associated procedures. 

Endoscopic Ultrasound (EUS)

endoscultrasound_2012_1_2_59_117741_f1
The head of the Pancreas on the left surrounded by the duodenum, stomach to the right

For patients who have, or who are suspected of having pancreatic disease, their doctor may recommend that they undergo a type of procedure called an endoscopic ultrasound, or more often known as EUS. An EUS is a type of endoscopic examination. The EUS is a scan rather than a camera but a camera attachment will be used at some point, perhaps to do additional checks on the way (endoscopic equipment is quite advanced and reminds me of Swiss army knives).  It involves the insertion of a thin tube into the mouth and down into the stomach and the first part of the small intestine. At the tip of the tube is a small ultrasound probe that emits sound waves.  These sound waves bounce off of the surrounding structures, such as the stomach, small intestine, pancreas, bile ducts, and liver.  These sound waves are then recaptured by the probe and converted into black and white images that are then interpreted by your doctor.  Because the pancreas sits next to the stomach and small intestine, EUS allows the physician to get very detailed images of the pancreas.  This procedure is typically performed in an outpatient setting, and usually takes between 20 and 45 minutes.  One of the advantages of performing an EUS is that pancreatic biopsies can be obtained at the time of the examination.  These biopsies, often referred to as FNA, or fine-needle aspiration, can allow for your physician to collect tissue samples which can later be analysed under a microscope.  Special needles, designed to be used with the EUS scope, allow the physician to insert a small needle through the wall of the stomach or intestine directly into the pancreas. This video explains better: Click here.

Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP)

ERCP is performed on an outpatient basis under sedation (rarely under general anesthesia). Using a “side-viewing” endoscope, called a duodenoscope, the duodenal “papilla”-(a mound-like structure that houses the opening of the common bile duct and the pancreatic duct)- is identified and manipulated. These areas can be examined and x-ray taken of the pancreatic duct, hepatic duct, common bile duct, duodenal papilla, and gallbladder.The endoscope is passed through the mouth and down into the first part of the small intestine (duodenum). A smaller tube (catheter) is then inserted through the endoscope into the bile and pancreatic ducts. A dye is injected through the catheter into the ducts, and an x-ray is taken. Also called ERCP.

Capsule Endoscopy (camera pill)

capsule-endoscopy
“Camera Pill”

Shortly after I was diagnosed, this was mentioned as an option for me as my diagnostic scans were just showing a “mass” and it wasnt 100% clear where my primary tumour was located.  It didn’t happen in the end. Capsule Endoscopy involves swallowing a small capsule (the size of the large vitamin pill).  The ‘cam-pill’ contains a colour camera, battery, light source and transmitter. The camera takes two pictures every second for eight hours, transmitting images to a data recorder about the size of a portable CD player that patients wear around the waist.

Capsule endoscopy assists in diagnosing gastrointestinal conditions in the small bowel such as: bleeding, malabsorption, chronic abdominal pain, and chronic diarrhoea.  Once swallowed the camera moves naturally through the digestive tract. Approximately eight hours after ingesting the camera, patients return to the Endoscopy Unit where the recording device is removed by the nurse, the images are downloaded to a computer and evaluated. The Capsule is disposable and will be passed naturally in the bowel movement.

Sigmoidoscopy

sigmoidoscopyA flexible sigmoidoscopy is a procedure that is used to look inside the rectum (back passage) and lower part of your large bowel (descending colon) and so is like an abbreviated version of a colonoscopy.

Bronchoscopy

bronchoscopyBronchoscopy is a procedure that allows the doctor to examine your trachea (windpipe), bronchi (branches of the airway) and some areas of the lung. A short thin flexible tube with a mini camera built into its tip, called a ‘bronchoscope’, is used for this procedure. The bronchoscope is usually passed through your mouth or nose, into your trachea and bronchi. The doctor can then get a clear view of your airways. During the procedure, the doctor may take samples of tissue (biopsy) or respiratory secretions for examination.  Bronchoscopies can also be used for ablation purposes. You may be interested in this award-winning biopsy and ablation service offered by the Royal Free Hospital in London UK – Innovation at Royal Free – Lung Biopsy and Radio Frequency Ablation Service

Thanks for reading about how physicians can take the camera directly to the sites of suspected tumours!

Thanks for reading

Ronny

I’m also active on Facebook. Like my page for even more news. I’m also building up this site here: Ronny Allan

Disclaimer

My Diagnosis and Treatment History

Most Popular Posts

Sign up for my twitter newsletter

Remember ….. in the war on Neuroendocrine Cancer, let’s not forget to win the battle for better quality of life!

patients included

Keep your light burning

candle_candle_light_4013

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 you can pick up where you left off 30 years ago as if it was only yesterday and ‘bravado’ is not only allowed, it’s expected! A week later, I received a very nice Christmas card with a message which included “…… the old light is still burning brightly“.  It was a metaphor but something I needed to hear.

Neuroendocrine Cancer can damage or take our body parts, cause us pain and discomfort, disrupt our lives through constant treatment and surveillance, giving us much uncertainty and anxiety in the process. It will most definitely try to kill us. Despite that, we must keep our lights burning as bright as we can.  The flame of hope never goes out.

Ronny

https://www.facebook.com/NETCancerBlog/

 

 

 

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

chemo

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 has to 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 have pretty awful side effects for most. I watched my daughter-in-law go through 3 or 4 months of this treatment where she was literally confined to a combination of her bedroom and her bathroom.  And it did shock me to see her without hair.  I would never want anyone to go through that and it really brings it home when it happens to a close member of your family.

Despite its bad press in regards toxicity and it’s awful side effects, chemotherapy is widely used in many cancers.  Statistics show that it does work for many patients (….. my daughter-in-law is still here looking after two of my four grandsons and my son still has a wife ♥).  However, I suspect it has a limited future as more efficient and less toxic drugs and delivery systems come online downstream.  Immunotherapy is often touted as a replacement for chemotherapy but this may be a while yet.  So for now, millions of cancer patients worldwide will continue to be prescribed chemotherapy as part of their treatment regime.

However, for some cancers, chemotherapy is not particularly effective. Neuroendocrine Cancer (NETs) is one such cancer. In general, NETs do not show a high degree of sensitivity to chemotherapy. For example, it’s often inadequate for the treatment of well-differentiated tumours with a low proliferation index but can be more effective in particular anatomical locations. The one exception is for high grade tumours (known as Neuroendocrine Carcinoma if poorly differentiated) where chemotherapy is much more likely to feature.  I’m not saying that the lower grades will never receive chemotherapy – that door is always left open for those with progressive cancer who perhaps have run out of treatment options.  Putting Grade 3 to one side, I’ve heard people say that NETs is the ‘good cancer or the ‘good looking’ cancer often citing the chemotherapy thing as some justification. That is of course a stupid thing to say.  I accept that not everyone will lose their hair and not every chemo will cause hair loss.

Here’s the rub.  Many other treatments come with pretty challenging side effects. Moreover, the side effects and the consequences of these other treatments can last for some time, and for many, a lifetime. For example with NETs:

Surgery can be pretty extensive, in some cases radical and life changing.  Many cancer patients receive surgery for NETs which is still the only real ‘curative’ treatment, although for most, it’s cytoreductive or palliative in nature.  If you lose bits of your small intestine, large intestine, liver, spleen, cecum and appendix, gallbladder, stomach, rectum, lungs, pancreas, thyroid, parathyroids, pituitary gland, adrenal gland, thymus gland, ovaries, oesophagus (…….I could go on), this comes with various side effects which can present some quality of life issues.  There can be huge consequences of having this treatment.

Other ‘consequences’ of cancer surgery include (but are not limited to), pulmonary emboli (blood clots), lymphedema, short bowel syndrome, gastrointestinal malabsorption, diabetes.

Somatostatin Analogues do a great job but they do add to some of the effects of surgery (mainly malabsorption).

Even the so-called ‘silver bullet’ treatment Peptide Receptor Radio Nuclide Therapy (PRRT) can have pretty severe side effects and presents some risk to kidneys and bone marrow as a long term consequence.

I’ve not had chemotherapy and I would rather avoid it if I can. However, as I’ve hinted above, there are other harsh (….perhaps harsher?) treatments out there. Moreover, whilst hair normally grows back, your small intestines, lungs and pancreas won’t.  Many people will have to live for the rest of their life with the consequences of their cancer and its treatment.

It sometimes appears that every other cancer article involves someone undergoing chemotherapy.  I just wish someone would write an article about my lack of terminal ileum and ascending colon, the malabsorption issues as a consequence of that, my missing mesenteric lymph nodes, my retroperitoneal fibrosis, not forgetting to mention my diseased liver, my left axillary lymph nodes (and the mild lymphedema I now have after their removal), my left supraclavicular lymph nodes, my suspect thyroid lesion and my hypothyroidism which may be due to that, my small lung nodule and my pulmonary emboli which after nearly 6 years of daily injections means my abdomen looks and feels like I’ve done 12 rounds with Mike Tyson.  However, it just wouldn’t be a good picture nor would it be as powerful as one of a person with no hair.  Just saying!

I look well, I still have all my hair – but you should see my insides!

insides
(you may also like this blog – click above)

I’m not playing ‘Cancer Olympics’ with this post as I wish all cancer patients, regardless of type, regardless of treatment regimes, the very best outcomes.

Thanks for reading

You may also enjoy these similar and related articles:

Things not to say to a cancer patient – click here

Shame on you! – click here

I look well but you should see my insides – click here

Things are not always how they seem – click here

Not every illness is visible – click here

Not the stereotypical picture of sick – click here

An Ode to Invisible Illness – click here

Poker Face or Cancer Card – click here

Thanks for reading

Ronny

I’m also active on Facebook. Like my page for even more news. I’m also building up this site here: Ronny Allan

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Remember ….. in the war on Neuroendocrine Cancer, let’s not forget to win the battle for better quality of life!

 

Neuroendocrine Cancer – the diarrhea jigsaw

NETCancer Diarrhea Jigsaw

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 such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). Yes, believe it or not, NET Patients can get normal diarrhea causing diseases too!

Define Diarrhea

I want to give a general definition of diarrhea as there are many variants out there. In general, they all tend to agree that diarrhea is having more frequent, loose and watery stools. Three or more stools per day seems to be the generally accepted threshold, although some sites don’t put a figure on it.  It’s not pleasant and just about everyone on the planet will suffer it at some point in their life, perhaps with repeated episodes. Normally it’s related to some kind of bug, or something you’ve eaten and will only last a few days before it settles (acute diarrhea). Diarrhea lasting more than a couple of weeks is considered chronic and some people will require medical care to treat it.  It can also be caused by anxiety, a food allergy/intolerance or as a side effect of medicine. Pharmacists and GPs will be seeing many patients with this common ailment every single day of business.

Diarrhea induced by a Syndrome

When you consider the explanation above, it’s not really surprising that diarrhea related symptoms can delay a diagnosis of Neuroendocrine Cancer (and most likely other cancers too, e.g. pancreatic cancer, bowel cancer). For example, diarrhea is the second most common symptom of Carcinoid Syndrome (Flushing is actually the most common) and is caused mainly by the oversecretion of the hormone Serotonin from the tumours. Please note diarrhea in other types of syndromes or NETs may be caused by other hormones, for example it may also be caused by excess calcitonin in the case of Medullary Thyroid Carcinoma or VIP in the case of a functional pNET known as VIPoma. I’ve heard stories of people being told they have IBS or something similar for years before they received what is now a late diagnosis and at an advanced cancer stage. This is only one of the reasons why NETs is not an easy condition to diagnose, although it is possible that some people actually had IBS and it was masking the NET. Even after treatment to remove or reduce tumours, many people will remain syndromic and need assistance and treatment to combat diarrhea induced by a NET syndrome (see below).

Diarrhea as a Consequence (Side effect) of Treatment for Neuroendocrine Cancer and Other Conditions

All cancer treatments can have consequences and Neuroendocrine Cancer is definitely no exception here. For example, if they chop out several feet of small intestine, a chunk of your large intestine, chunks (or all) of your stomach or your pancreas, your gallbladder and bits of your liver, this is going to have an effect on the efficiency of your ‘waste disposal system’. One effect is that it will now work faster! Another is that the less effective ‘plumbing’ may not be as efficient as it was before.  There are also knock-on effects which may create additional issues with the digestive system including but not limited to; Malabsorption and SIBO.  I recommend you read my posts on Malabsorption and SIBO.

Surgery can often be the root cause of diarrhea.  A shorter gut for example, means shorter transit times presenting as increased frequency of bowel movements.  Another example is the lack of terminal ileum can induce Bile Acids Malabsorption (BAM) (sometimes known as Bile Salts Malabsorption) in degrees of severity based on size of resection. Lack of a gallbladder (common with NETs) can also complicate.  Bile Acids are produced in the liver and have major roles in the absorption of lipids in the small intestine. Following a terminal ileum resection which includes a right hemicolectomy, there is a risk that excess Bile Acids will leak into the large intestine (colon) via the anastomosis (the new joint between small and large intestines).  This leakage can lead to increased motility, shortening the colonic transit time, and so producing watery diarrhea (or exacerbating an existing condition). Although this condition can be treated using bile acid sequestrants (i.e.  Questran), it can be difficult to pinpoint it as the cause.

Surgery of the pancreas can also produce effects such as exocrine pancreatic insufficiency which can lead to a malabsorption condition known as steatorrhea which may be confused with diarrhea (although some texts call it a type of diarrhea).   It isn’t really diarrhea but it may look like it given the presentation of the faeces and patients may suffer both diarrhea and steatorrhea concurrently.  Patients will recognise it in their stools which may be floating, foul-smelling, greasy (oily) and frothy looking. Treatment options will mainly include the use of Pancreatic Enzyme Replacement Therapy or PERT for short (Creon etc).

Many non-surgical treatments can also cause diarrhea, including but not limited to; somatostatin analogues (see below), chemotherapy, biological targeted therapy (e.g. Everolimus, Sunitinib), radiotherapy.

Somatostatin analogues are an interesting one as they are designed to inhibit secretion of particular hormones and peptides by binding to the receptors found on Neuroendocrine tumour cells. This has the knock-on effect of inhibiting digestive/pancreatic enzymes which are necessary to break down the fat in our foods leading to Malabsorption of important nutrients.  This may worsen the steatorrhea in pancreatic NET patients but also lead to steatorrhea in others with non-pancreatic locations who have been prescribed these drugs.

Other conditions may actually be the cause of the diarrhea or the treatment for those conditions.  For example, it is possible that people actually do have Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).  Treatment therapy for common conditions may also be contributing, for example the use of Proton Pump Inhibitors for acid reflux.

Clearly, I cannot offer any professional medical advice on coping with diarrhea, I can only discuss my own situation and what I found worked for me. Don’t forget, like many diseases, what works for one, might not work for another. However, I did tackle my problems following the advice of an experienced dietitian who specialises in NET Cancer. That said, I was ‘sleep walking’ for over 2 years thinking my issues were just part of the way things were after my treatment.  I was wrong about that!

Treatment for Syndrome Induced Diarrhea 

Like many other NET patients, I’m on a 28 day injection of somatostatin analogues (in my case Lanreotide).  Both Octreotide and Lanreotide are designed to reduce the effects of NET syndromes and therefore can often make a difference to syndrome induced diarrhea. These drugs also have anti-tumour effect and so even if you are not syndromic or they do not halt or adequately control syndrome induced diarrhea, they are still a valuable contribution to NET treatment.

Some syndromic patients find they still have diarrhea despite somatostatin analogues and they end up having ‘rescue shots’ or pumps for relief (both of these methods tend to be Octreotide based).  (Hopefully they are not getting confused between diarrhea caused by the non-syndrome effects – see above).  Some have more frequent injections of the long acting versions of somatostatin analogues which has the effect of increasing the dosage.  There’s a new drug available for those whose carcinoid syndrome induced diarrhea is not adequately controlled or perhaps they are unable to have somatostatin analogues as a treatment. Telotristat Ethyl works by inhibiting tryptophan hydroxylase (TPH), a chemical reactor involved in the manufacture of serotonin, which is the main cause of syndrome induced diarrhea.  It was approved by the US FDA in February 2017, EU areas in September 2017, and is on the way to being approved elsewhere.  Read about this drug here.

telotristat-etiprate-clinical-trial-serotonin-as-a-key-driver-of-carcinoid-syndrome

Sorting out the symptoms – post diagnosis

I like to describe this as the Neuroendocrine Cancer jigsaw. It’s a really difficult one and sometimes you cannot find a piece, or the pieces won’t fit. However, metaphorically speaking, the missing piece might be a NET specialist presentation, a comment, statement or view from another patient, a link to an article from a reputable source, or even something you do to improve your lot – there might even be trial and error involved. It might even be this blog post!

How do you work out whether diarrhea is caused by a hormone producing tumour or by the side effects of treatments? There’s no easy answer to this as both might be contributing. One crude but logical way is to just accept that if you have normal hormone markers, for example 5HIAA (there could be more for other tumour/syndrome types), and you’re not really  experiencing any of the other classic symptoms, then your syndrome might be under control due to your treatment (e.g. debulking surgery and/or somatostatin analogues, or another drug). My Oncologist labels me as ‘non-syndromic’ – something which I agree with. I’m 99.999999% sure my issues are as a result of the treatment I’ve had and am receiving.

This disease is so individual and there are many factors involved including the type of syndrome/NET, patient comorbidities and secondary illnesses, consequences of the surgery or treatments performed, side effects of drugs – all of which is intermingled with suspicion and coincidence – it’s that jigsaw again!  I always like to look in more detail to understand why certain things might be better than others, I always challenge the ‘status quo’ looking to find a better ‘normal’.  I really do think there are different strategies for syndrome induced diarrhea and that which is a result of treatment or a side effect of treatment.  There’s also different prices, with inhibitors costing thousands, whilst classic anti-diarrhea treatments are just a few pennies.  Adjustments to diets are free!

When I was discharged from hospital after the removal of my small intestinal primary, I was in the toilet A LOT (I was actually in the toilet a lot before I was discharged – check out my primary surgery blogs here) .  My surgeon did say it would take months to get back to ‘normal’ – he was right and it did eventually settle – although my new ‘toilet normal’ was soft and loose and several times daily.  My previously elevated CgA and 5HIAA were eventually back to normal and my flushing had disappeared.  I didn’t have too many issues with diarrhea before diagnosis.  Deduction:  my issues are most likely not syndrome induced.

I read that many people find basic ‘Loperamide’ (Imodium) helps and I tend to agree with that if you are non syndromic and just need that little bit of help.  I decided long time ago I would not become ‘hooked’ and only really take it for two purposes:  1) if I have a bad patch and 2) if I’m going on a long journey (i.e. on a plane perhaps).  I estimate I’ve used 4 packets in as many years.  Loperamide decreases the activity which causes intestinal motility (peristalsis). This has the effect of increasing the time material stays in the intestine therefore allowing more water to be absorbed from the fecal matter.  Ideal for those with a shorter bowel due to surgery and advice from a medical professional is always advisable.  To reduce the risk of malabsorption induced diarrhea and steatorrhoea, both of which can lead to loss of valuable nutrients, the use of Pancreatic Enzyme Replacement Therapy (PERT) might need to be introduced as required by your NET specialist.

Have a look at Enterade – the results from trials look good.

enterade

As for my own strategy, I filtered out the advice from a NET specialist dietitian and have managed to make quite a difference to my Quality of Life (QoL) without resorting to really expensive drugs (which come with their own side effects).  Here’s things that helped me:

  • made some changes to diet (they were not huge changes),
  • included supplementation where necessary,
  • reduced stress as far as is practical to do,
  • exercise,
  • maintained a diary to help with monitoring progress or setbacks,
  • hydration is also important (….still working on that one).
  • started taking PERT (Creon) on 23 Dec 2017 (still assessing as at April 2018) but looks reasonably positive so far.

With no fancy and expensive drugs, I’ve gone from 6-8 visits to 1-2 visits (as a daily average, it’s actually 1.6).  This didn’t happen overnight though, it took a lot of time and patience.  All of this doesn’t mean to say I don’t have issues from time to time …… because I do!


In summary, I think it’s important that people be sure what is actually causing their diarrhea after diagnosis so that the right advice and the optimum treatment can be given.

Listen to Dr Wolin talking about this particular jigsaw puzzle – click here

Also see a nice article that come out of NANETS 2017 – click here

Of course, some people sometimes have the opposite effect but that’s in another blog here – Constipation

Thanks for reading

Ronny

I’m also active on Facebook. Like my page for even more news. I’m also building up this site here: Ronny Allan

Disclaimer

My Diagnosis and Treatment History

Most Popular Posts

Sign up for my twitter newsletter

Read my Cure Magazine contributions

Remember ….. in the war on Neuroendocrine Cancer, let’s not forget to win the battle for better quality of life!

Ronny Allan is an award winning patient leader and advocate for Neuroendocrine Cancer.

 

Please Share this post for Neuroendocrine Cancer awareness and to help another patient

WEGO Health Patient Leader Ronny Allan – Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer

This is what taking part in the WEGO Awards means to me

Jack WEGO NETs

Background

In 2016, I was nominated for 6 awards, got to the final for 2 (Blog and Community) and then won the Best in Show Community award.

In 2017, I was nominated for 3 and got to the final in all 3 – unfortunately I did not win any of them due to fierce competition.

Here we are in 2018 and I’ve been nominated for 5 awards and made to the final in the Blog category.  This is not only another great opportunity for me as a blogger and health activist but also a further opportunity for Neuroendocrine Cancer awareness.

blog finalist 2018

The winners of the 2018 awards will be announced over the period 26-28 Sep 2018.

Check out WEGO’s information on the awards here –  click here

Check out my WEGO Health Profile – click here

Listen to my WEGO Finalist podcast in 2016 – click here

I’m very grateful for your help in achieving the above

Thanks for reading

Ronny

I’m also active on Facebook.  Like my page for even more news.  I’m also building up this site here: Ronny Allan

Watch my videos on the Ipsen site Living with NETsclick here

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Remember ….. in the war on Neuroendocrine Cancer, let’s not forget to win the battle for better quality of life!


 

Stop talking about it, just go do it!

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Medicine!

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, I’ve no intention of laying back waiting to shuffle off this mortal coil. As far as I’m concerned that just leads to lethargy and all that goes with it.

Stop talking about it, just go do it!

I don’t do poetry but I thought this quite apt as I stood by a stone monument in the Cairngorms engraved with this on four sides.  The orange structures in the picture are places to sit and ‘behold’

Take a moment to behold

As still skies or storms unfold

In sun, rain, sleet or snow

Warm your soul before you go

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Cairngorms viewing point

 

Thanks for listening

Ronny

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https://twitter.com/RonnyAllan1/status/705391786328510464

Exercise and Cancer: Forward is Forward

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For Cancer patients, it’s not just about how fast, how high, how heavy, how much …………… it’s about DIRECTION.

One of the very first blog posts I wrote was about exercise. Basically I said it was medicine.  I have not changed that view, I really believe it.  All cancer patients should attempt to keep active and this is even more important if you are being treated for long-term cancer. Why? Because keeping active will not only help your physical condition but it will also help you cope mentally. There are numerous pieces of research which confirm cancer patients are at risk of succumbing to depression and anxiety in addition to issues with their physical condition. Research also indicates that exercise can help.

In my blog “Exercise is Medicine“, I discussed how it had benefitted me when I was in a bit of a rut.  I have not looked back since.  The positivity you see in some of my blog posts comes partly from the fact that I did something I didn’t think I would ever be able to do again. Moreover, it refocused me on what was really important and it helped me physically and mentally.

Now ….. I did get some feedback from various people claiming they are not able to do any exercise because of their condition. I understand that and I also understand some people will have physical disabilities that prevent them being as mobile as they would like.  However, I’ve always emphasised that “exercise” does not mean you need to run a marathon or climb Mount Kilimanjaro; or that you need to do something difficult every single day. If you can actually do that, great!  Exercise can also mean simple things such as gardening, walking to the mall or a block or two, lifting some weights, do a couple of press-ups, swim, anything to get your limbs moving. You can start small and then build up to whatever is comfortable and beyond if you then feel sufficiently challenged.  The most important thing is to do something and you should feel better after you’ve done it.

Here’s some professional advice from the American Cancer Society:

“In the past, people being treated for a chronic illness (an illness a person may live with for a long time, like cancer or diabetes) were often told by their doctor to rest and reduce their physical activity. This is good advice if movement causes pain, rapid heart rate, or shortness of breath. But newer research has shown that exercise is not only safe and possible during cancer treatment, but it can improve how well you function physically and your quality of life. Too much rest can lead to loss of body function, muscle weakness, and reduced range of motion. So today, many cancer care teams are urging their patients to be as physically active as possible during cancer treatment. Many people are learning about the advantages of being physically active after treatment, too”.

For Cancer patients, it’s not just about how fast, how high, how heavy, how much…………….. it’s about DIRECTION. Forward is Forward.

Listen to my video –CLICK HERE

For those concerned about the effects of exercise on their condition, please consult your GP/PCP for advice.  Macmillan Cancer Support also has some great advice on exercise here.

Finally, can I ask yiu to  ‘like’ my tip on Macmillan Cancer Support?  Just click on the following link and then click on the black star shaped like button. Thanks, CLICK HERE

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What you don’t know might kill you

Barbados
In Barbados Heaven.  I didn’t know I had metastatic cancer but was about to find out on return to UK

6 years ago today Chris and I flew off to Barbados on holiday.  Both of us were looking forward to a nice break after a hectic start to 2010.  When we got back, we both agreed it was the most relaxing holiday we had ever been on.  It was heaven.

However, whilst I was lying on a sunbed soaking up the Caribbean sun drinking ‘pina coladas’, Neuroendocrine Tumours were growing in my small intestine, spreading into my mesenteric lymph nodes, into my liver, into my left armpit and into my left clavicle area.  The excess serotonin being released was causing a dense fibrotic retro-peritoneal reaction (desmoplasia) encircling my aorta and cava almost blocking the latter. That problem alone might have been the end of me.

Just prior to going on holiday, I knew I had an issue with a low haemoglobin blood test and was waiting to be told what would happen next.  However, I wasn’t even the slightest bit worried, this was ‘something and nothing’ despite the fact that I’d been ignoring a minor flushing sensation for 6 months.  When we returned from holiday, there was a letter of referral to a local anaemia clinic in 5 weeks time. To cut a long story short, I bypassed that and went straight to a Gastroenterologist and was diagnosed very shortly after with metastatic Neuroendocrine Cancer.

Neuroendocrine Cancer can be quiet and it loves when people ignore its devious and vague signs.  Fortunately I was able to get to NET Specialists and I’m still here to tell the tale.

The saying “what you don’t know won’t kill you” is not always accurate in the context of cancer.  Any cancer can kill. The consequences of cancer will also try.  

Education and awareness reduces the risk.

 

Thanks for listening

Ronny

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Let’s talk about living with NETs

being_there_front
Graphic courtesy of Ellie McDowell

There’s a frequently asked question on certain forums along the lines of how will I die of my Neuroendocrine Cancer?. 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.  I can see a list of search terms for hits on my blog site (I don’t know who searched just what was searched). Would you believe this also appears from time to time?  I just hope they found this post!

I don’t tend to dabble in death – it’s just quite difficult to talk about it in a blog which is part designed to be positive and offer hope. So why am I talking about death inside this positive blog? Well, apart from thinking the thread mentioned above might scare readers who are already frightened by their diagnosis, perhaps quite recent, and do not want the answer to this question, I also think it might be perceived as a bit ‘glass half empty’. Both of these things are not good, thus why I believe the question should be between the person wanting to know and a specialist.

I also believe the “how will I die of Neuroendocrine Cancer” question is a really big assumption about the cause of death. Why? There’s an increasing chance a person with cancer today will die of something else. For example, in UK today, more than one in three (35%) of those people who die having had a cancer diagnosis will now die from other causes. This is up from one in five (21%) 20 years ago. By 2020 this will improve further to almost four in 10 people (38%). This means the number of people who get cancer but die from another cause has doubled over the past 20 years. The cancer story is changing and a quick bit of research confirms it’s changing on a worldwide basis.

On a similar subject, for those looking online for NETs prognostic data, I offer the following advice:

  1. Be careful surfing the internet, some sites have NETs prognostic data from the ark.
  2. Even if you find the very latest data, interpretation is difficult due to the heterogeneity of NETs, different stages and grades, comorbidities, age and no doubt many other factors. Please also note the ‘very latest’ data is probably a few years old.
  3. It’s a difficult question even for a specialist.
  4. I’ve lost count of the number of people who have told their story about being told a period of time from their specialist (including use of the word ‘terminal’) and they are still here a significant period after, in some cases 10 x what their specialist said.
  5. AND DEFINITELY Check out the comments on this Facebook post – here (over 400 people like this post so far – so press that button!)

Here’s a much better question people should be asking ……How do I live with NETs?”

Fear won’t stop you dying but it might just stop you living.

Thanks for reading

Ronny – 8 years and still a newbie

I’m also active on Facebook. Like my page for even more news. I’m also building up this site here: Ronny Allan

It’s scary searching Cancer online

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that’s me in the middle

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 know it was totally out of date!  I’m still here! 

Fast forward 6 years and I now confidently prowl the internet, I know where to look, I know what to ignore, I know what is current and what is out of date.  I understand the disease and am able to put most things into context. Even today with much more positive stuff out there about new treatments and much better prognostic forecasts, I suspect for newly diagnosed patients, it will still be scary.

When I established my blog and then my ‘front end’ supporting Facebook site, I decided to put this experience to good use to help others (including myself!). I like to help people navigate the muddy waters of Neuroendocrine Cancer.  This can bring with it some tough questions so I’m always careful to manage expectations.  Fortunately, I have a number of ‘go to’ sites, people and organisations that I use once I’ve established someone’s requirements.

I’m often reluctant to recommend particular patient forums to anyone as I think many of them can fall into the scary category, particularly those without any form of monitoring or ‘community champions’ who are experienced or trained to handle the issues that can occur online.

Around a year ago, I decided to join the Macmillan Online Community Information site, and was pleased to see it had a blogging app. I found it to be an excellent site and it has a ‘one stop shop’ of supporting tools and information.  It’s very easy to navigate and use.  You can read the content but you need a logon to blog or comment on any discussion (pretty standard).  Their information on many of the issues faced by cancer patients is second to none (Finance, Work, Emotions and many others). I know some NET patients are wary of technical information about NETs online but of all the sites that are designed for supporting multiple cancers, Macmillan is one of the best ones for general NET information. There is also a discussion app (a forum) which I try to monitor and help those who find this site and are struggling to find answers to certain questions. There isn’t really a strong presence in the Neuroendocrine Cancer section but it is a less common cancer. They have a number of ‘Community Champions’ on their forums who are absolutely fantastic and they make you feel comfortable. Moreover, they make you feel like you are not fighting cancer alone.

I’m also a heavy supporter of Macmillan on twitter as some of their campaigns directly benefit Neuroendocrine Cancer. More and more people are now living with Cancer and there has to be more focus on maintenance and support, in particular for the consequences of cancer. Macmillan is at the forefront of these campaigns and they are an organisation that can make a difference.  I have listed some Macmillan twitter accounts to follow below.  If you’re a tweeter, your help with their campaigning would be appreciated. UK patients can also sign up as an e-campaigner – this is an easy task involving half a dozen 10-minute online activities per year – so you too can help make a difference by adding your voice.

In terms of Neuroendocrine Cancer awareness, the Macmillan blog site is now my 6th biggest referral point to my Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer blog and they have also featured several of my posts and used some as guest blogs.  I was therefore both delighted and honoured to have been chosen to feature in their ‘Community Information’ campaign poster which you can see as the header picture in this blog. During the photo shoot, I also got to meet the fantastic staff from Macmillan Cancer Information and Brand Awareness departments.

Finally, please note that Macmillan have advertising space booked and you may see my face as you’re driving through the UK streets or stood at a bus stop. Now that is scary!

Thanks for listening

Ronny Allan – Macmillan Cancer Voice

for those on twitter, please consider following and supporting these twitter accounts:

Macmillan Consequences of Cancer

Macmillan Recovery Package

Macmillan Cancer Information

Macmillan Campaigns

Macmillan Cancer (main account)

 

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Living with Cancer – Turning points

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Day 4 of 6 – entering Cumbria from Northumbria

In 2014, Chris and I completed the 84-mile route of 2000 year old World Heritage site of ‘Hadrian’s Wall’ in Northern England. Some people saw this is a charity walk and a chance to make some money for a good cause. It was. However, it was MUCH MORE than that. Much much more.  

A few months before this trek, I had come to a crossroads and I was unsure which direction to go.  That anguish and a thousand other things were contributing to a degradation of my overall health, it felt threatening. I was not that long out of the main treatments for my metastatic Neuroendocrine Cancer and it was still a delicate period as I waited for signs of some stability.

I was getting into some old habits at work (e.g. working long hours) and in hindsight, I can now see that was impacting on my search for normality and stability. However, at the time, it conveniently aided the image of invincibility which was my way of saying “get lost Cancer”. I was reaching out for something I could call normal and for a long time before diagnosis, me working hard was normal!  I had always loved a bit of stress but not if it was going to help Neuroendocrine Cancer kill me!

And then boom! – a thyroid lesion is reported.  I suddenly realised I had too many balls in the air and I  was no longer the expert juggler I was previously. The mask on my poker face was slipping and something needed to change. The thyroid lesion (more on that later) was not the turning point but it was definitely one of a number of signs that I was not invincible, my situation was delicate and I needed to be more proactive on finding the normal I was so desperately seeking.  Work was no longer the route I needed to take.  To cut a long story short, I decided to retire early BUT in an effort to maintain personal challenges, I set myself some fitness targets which lead to the Hadrian’s Wall walk over 6 days. I actually set up this blog site simply to document the walk and that was the only reason at the time.

Four years on, Lanreotide injection 100 is coming up shortly, my thyroid lesion is not causing any issues although I have recently been prescribed medication to support my borderline hypothyroidism, I have much less stress in my life and I’m fitter and leaner than I was at diagnosis. I found a new normal and I liked it! Maintaining and improving it is a challenge though.

My Hadrian’s Wall blog was an acorn which has now grown into a nice little Oak tree and I’m truly thankful to everyone for their fantastic support. There’s still plenty tree left to grow

In November 2018, the blog passed three quarter of a million views and I’m on track for the magic one million in summer 2019.

I CAN DO IT! 

I can do it v2

Thanks for reading

Ronny

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Remember ….. in the war on Neuroendocrine Cancer, let’s not forget to win the battle for better quality of life!

 

Don’t worry, I really am OK!

dont-worry-im-ok
I really am OK!

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:

  1. Talking about Cancer

  2. 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 about it and managing the illness.

There appears to be a lessening of this way of thinking in the past 30 or so years. However, I think this trait remains prevalent, particularly (but not exclusively) in the more senior citizens. I’m not convinced that a stiff upper lip is something confined to the UK as I learn how some of my overseas friends cope. I also think it might be more prevalent in men, you just need to look at the gender split on cancer forums to see that.

As someone with a cancer blog which has fielded a quarter of a million views, I can hardly be accused of keeping quiet about my cancer.  However, that is a relatively new thing since diagnosis in 2010. Following that diagnosis, I kept my cancer ‘secret’ to close family, a few selected friends and only those at work who actually needed to know for administrative purposes. As I said in my blog “Sorry I’m out of service”,  …..the image of ‘invincibility’ was important to me at that time and I thought I could deal with it and still have the same ‘look and feel’ in my life as I had before. Someone suggested that I should go home one day and my response was “the only way I’m leaving this building early is in an ambulance. Foolish? Absolutely (but in hindsight of course!).  It eventually became impossible to find the same ‘look and feel’ and it took me 3 years to come out of my cancer closet.

I suppose people have such varying personal circumstances and different characters will deal with managing their illness in different ways. Some rely totally on their medical team (I get this but I wouldn’t rely 100% on this strategy).  Some rely on support groups. For example, take patient forums where there is a broad range of patient engagement types. Some people talk a lot about their issues, every cough, sneeze and ache is a worry. I suspect they are simply looking for support or they might be frightened and worried about a particular problem. Perhaps some are more reserved or they already have enough support elsewhere. Maybe they simply get some support by reading about the experiences of others with the knowledge they have that safety net if they felt they ever needed to ask a question. Of course, when you compare the ‘guesstimate’ of NET patients vs online patient forum numbers, the vast majority of NET patients are not on a forum. Interestingly, I have many people following my blog on Facebook, twitter and WordPress, who are not on any forum – in some ways, this might be a good option for some.  That said, I’d like to think my own group offers a good service.

I find myself managing my illness on a day to day basis.  I like to assess any issues carefully to avoid wasting other people’s time and generating unnecessary alarm and drama. But do I have a stiff upper lip?  Yes – I think I’ve always been like that and the ‘going home in an ambulance’ statement above confirms that.  However, I suspect I’m now more of a realist i.e. I’m aware of the signs, aware of the risks and I know there’s a possibility of me becoming ill in a short space of time. I need to avoid that. Sometimes I have a ‘battle’ with my ‘stiff upper lip’ but it’s normally a question of judgement and risk assessment.  Key questions I ask myself are: ‘Is what I’m experiencing normal’ and if so ‘it is dangerous’. If it’s not normal, ‘is it connected to NETs’ or ‘is it a regular illness’.

I remain alert but I won’t normally suffer in silence for too long.  Please don’t either.

Thanks for reading

Ronny

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I Can

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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”.

When I wrote my blog “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 article “Neuroendocrine Cancer – is normally slow growing BUT …..” an attempt to invoke some sort of ‘pity party’. Neither of those things are my style. Despite the metaphoric angle to the post title, it really does take guts to live with a life threatening condition due to many of the ‘buts’.

Despite my positive sounding blogs and my generally focused and determined nature, I sometimes have bad periods where I feel I’m not coping well living with cancer. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’d planned to do something and then put if off for various reasons.  When you live with cancer or long term chronic disease, it can be really easy to become almost permanently inactive and lethargic – that is not a good outcome and I fight hard not to fall into bad routines. Fortunately, my wife Chris helps me get through some of this.

‘It’s the cancer’ – this can sometimes seem like the perfect reason to say I can’t.  It’s difficult, particularly if you’re not feeling well or still recovering from treatment.  I find it helps if you have someone providing motivation, a partner, a friend or even just by reading an inspiring post. I’ve been contacted by many people who have simply said “I needed to hear that today”.  Personally, I’m perked up when I read stories about patients trying to change or improve their outcome (reduce symptoms, increase quality of life), even simple day-to-day things that gives them a little victory, a chance to feel some normality, it all helps. For some it can be a turning point.  I do long walks and climb hills just to piss my cancer off – I’m not suggesting you do it (unless you feel capable of course!) but anything which brings some normality and a better quality of life has to be better than nothing.
I can do it v2
Sometimes there is a fine line between ‘poker face’ and ‘cancer card’.

And sometimes it’s not even about the cancer!

Thanks for reading

Ronny

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I’m only as good as my last scan

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Scanning – a piece of cake!

“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 IT YOU CAN DETECT IT! (click here for a post about scans)

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Octreoscan vs Ga68 PET

Scans are also important at the diagnostic phase and I’m sure like myself, many people had their first ever scan at this point.  You can have many checks, investigations and tests but for most, the scan is normally the main test that is going to confirm the presence of tumours.  This then leads to further checks to confirm the staging and grading (i.e. a biopsy) and then hopefully, a proper diagnosis.

I don’t mind scans, they are probably the test that is going to alert my team to anything odd going on.  Thus why I don’t mind doing them – in fact, they are a piece of cake!

Thanks for listening

Ronny

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Patient power – use it!

patient doctor team
Team Effort

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 doctor-patient relationship.  I certainly believe this is the case with NETs and is indeed something evident on most forums. I’ve touched on this subject a few times including a much earlier blog entitled Passive patient or active advocate?  As I said in this article, whilst I have a great medical team, I also like to be my own advocate and this means understanding what medical people tell me!  I have no intention of becoming a passive patient anytime soon!  I realise this is not for everyone but I know some patients have others functioning in this way on their behalf.  That’s fine too!

I spotted another excellent discussion article on Cancer Knowledge Network and although the context is patient advocacy at committee level, I thought it applied nicely to many scenarios including the most simple one where a patient decides to learn about their disease in order to better represent themselves at meetings with their nurses, doctors and specialists.

The author, who is both a Doctor and a Patient, describes 5 myths about the usefulness of patients that can sometimes be present within medical circles .  I actually believe the patient is the most underused person in healthcare and so I found myself nodding my head to much of what she had to say.  Let me know if you were nodding too 🙂

You can read the article by CLICKING HERE

Thanks for reading

Ronny Allan

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Sometimes you just need to climb that hill!

It was wet, windy and very cold and that was at the bottom of the hill I’m looking up at. It wasn’t a terribly big hill but I knew it would need considerable effort and perhaps some temporary pain. Whilst the rain splashed onto our jackets and the wind howled, Chris and I looked at each other and we almost simultaneously said “do we really want to go up that in this weather?”  Oh yes ……. no pain, no gain! So we went up the hill and it hurt.  Up there, it was wetter, windier and colder! However, the ‘euphoric high’ was worth it.  It was like medicine healing the body and mind.

The 'euphoric high' is kicking in!
The ‘euphoric high’ is kicking in!

Of course, the ‘hill’ is also a metaphor which might be a number of things from simply venturing outside the house to a full-blown adventurous holiday. It might be a simple bit of gardening, a walk to the shops (mall), 30 minutes on a treadmill at a leisurely pace.  Or it might be something more physically demanding like a marathon. It doesn’t even need to be anything physical, for example, starting a diary, trialling a change in diet, learning about specific aspects of your condition. In general, the “hill” is a state of mind and you metaphorically climb it to fight cancer and improve quality of life.

Whatever your ‘hill’ is, two of the common elements required to ‘climb it’ are motivation and willpower. However, if you’re fighting cancer and you’re being affected by the symptoms or the side effects of treatment, it can be easy to opt to stay within your ‘comfort zone’ even though you know the ‘hill‘ might do you some good. I suspect this is a common predicament for a cancer patient, do I ‘climb that hill’ or do I walk away? Sure, I walk away from the “hill” occasionally but I try not to make a habit of it.

Sometimes you just need to go and climb that hill!

Thanks for reading

Ronny Allan

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The original edition of this blog was featured by Macmillan

Thanks for reading

Ronny

I’m also active on Facebook. Like my page for even more news. I’m also building up this site here: Ronny Allan

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Remember ….. in the war on Neuroendocrine Cancer, let’s not forget to win the battle for better quality of life!

Ronny Allan is an award winning patient leader and advocate for Neuroendocrine Cancer.

 

 

“Trust me, I’m a Doctor”

0c56a9eOne of the most frequent posts on 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 secondary care level, certain less common conditions still need dedicated specialists and these services may not be located at every hospital. Clearly with Neuroendocrine Cancer, the optimum scenario is to be treated at a NET specialist centre or at least be overseen by them.  However, these can be thin on the ground and/or the medical system in place is not able to provide access to these experts. Geography may also be playing a part causing further anxiety and this is not helpful if you are already fighting cancer.  Communications and relationships between patients and doctors can therefore be more difficult even with the right diagnosis.

I see so many issues on forums ranging from people who are simply looking for a specialist to people who still don’t think they got the right treatment from the specialist they eventually found.  Emotions directed at physicians range from ‘god-like adulation’ to offers of violence!   If you only looked at forums, you would believe there are only a handful of NET Cancer specialists when in fact there are many more than this. Check out the most up to date lists inside this article – click here.

I know from talking to other patients that some have not had the ideal experience with their doctor(s).  Even those who found a NET specialist report the odd issue and feelings of unhappiness.  I never cite these issues publicly, in particular the hospital or the doctor, because for every one of these stories, you can find dozens of good patient experiences with the same hospital and doctor.

It’s a really complex area and it can be compounded by the health system in place but many things are common across the board.  One of the reasons making it complex is that it can be about relationships and communication – both ways!   Thus why I was interested to read an article by a physician who listed a number of tips for patients which I think are as relevant to Neuroendocrine Cancer as they are to other conditions (……in fact some more so!).  Relationships and communication will not cure or reduce your cancer; or debulk your tumours – well not directly ….. but it can help along the way.  And although the article appears to be written in a post diagnosis context, some of it is also relevant to pre-diagnosis.

The top 8 tips are:

  1. Know your own communication style and preference for informing and being informedThis is an interesting point which I hadn’t really thought about.  That said, some of the response to this tip can be addressed in some of the other tips.  I guess in hindsight, asking my doctors not to hide stuff and to just “hit me with it” is an indication that I had set my preferences early on. I wanted to know the real problems I was facing.  Additionally, my Oncologist knows I like copies of all tests and reports and he obligesI always take notes.
  2. Think about how you prefer to hear important health information such as the results of a biopsy or a scan and then convey that to your doctor or nurse.  I think this is partly addressed above.  I see my MDT face to face every 6 months but if it is for bad news, I would certainly like some notice in order that I can be accompanied by my wife. I don’t think I’ve made that clear enough so an action for me here.
  3. Prioritize your concerns, if you present your doctor with a very long list of questions or symptoms at the very end of the visit, it’s quite likely that you will both end up frustrated.  I have experienced this issue many times but gradually I’ve learned how to improve this form of communication.  It’s easy to forget your physician has other patients and only has a finite time to spend on your case.  I now send my Oncologist a summary email with my top 3 or 4 concerns and I do this around 2 weeks prior to each appointment.  I copy in the specialist nurse who is mostly already aware via frequent communications.  This not only gives them some time to read but also prevents the scenario above.  It’s starting to work better.
  4.  Make your needs known, doctors and nurses cannot read your mind.  This is an absolutely key tip as far as I’m concerned.  I believe the patient is the most underused person in healthcare.  Patients have a part to play in their own  diagnosis phase and this continues all the way through to ongoing treatment (including wary of the doctor).  Patients must have a voice and patients must use this voice to describe what’s going wrong with their body and what’s troubling their mind.  Doctors and nurses cannot read your mind but they must listen to your voice.
  5. Trust the clinicians involved in your care and think of them as partners.  I think all clinicians want us to trust them after all they’ve done the 10 years training and we have not!  However, with less than common conditions, I suspect patients probably need to be wary and advocate more. I think of myself as a partner (part of the MDT for the period of my consultation) and so by default, I already think this way.
  6. Beware of the common trap of thinking in terms of all or nothing or rushing to conclusions.  This is an interesting one for incurable but treatable cancers.  I think with incurable Neuroendocrine Cancer, you need to be prepared for a long haul and the occasional bump along the windy road.  Services and inspections will need to be done and tyres will need to be changed.  It’s not a perfect journey and don’t trust the SatNav!
  7. Share the burden of not knowing how things will ultimately work out.  This is a difficult one and I suspect each person will have their own concerns and their own way of dealing with it.  I’m thinking this might be more important for younger patients who have young families to look after.  I’m a ‘glass half full’ person so it’s an awkward one for me.  I guess as I’m feeling confident I’m not leaving anytime soon, it’s something still stuck in the back of my mind.
  8.  Find ways of being at ease, even during frightening or turbulent situations.  Easier said than done!  Again, we all have different ways of dealing with our situations but I do believe if you have addressed all the tips above, this should make it easier.  I also think that learning a lot more about your disease really helps to communicate about it better.

——————————————-

I’m often shocked to hear that people ‘fire’ their doctor but I guess if you are paying out of your own pocket, it can be an apt word to use! Clearly if the service you receive is not working to your expectations, then a move might be beneficial for both parties.  It’s a big decision though and for those who have moved on, I sincerely hope the grass has been greener on the other side.

You can read the full article from Cancer Knowledge Network here: Reflections on patient-physician communication

You may enjoy my article – Diagnosed with Neuroendocrine Cancer? – 10 Questions to ask your Doctor

And this one – 7 tips for conquering fear

Thanks for reading

Ronny

I’m also active on Facebook.  Like my page for even more news.  I’m also building up this site here: Ronny Allan

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Remember ….. in the war on Neuroendocrine Cancer, let’s not forget to win the battle for better quality of life!

 

 

Neuroendocrine Cancer – Incurable vs. Terminal

Incurable is not untreatable

OPINION. When I was being officially told I had an advanced and incurable cancer, I did what most people seem to do on films/TV ….. I asked “how long do I have“.  The Oncologist said ” … 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 Oncologists!

I continue to see quite a few posts and articles about death and dying and I noticed some patients were using the word ‘terminal‘ to describe Neuroendocrine Cancer, despite in some cases, having been diagnosed some years ago. This label is not just confined to use within Facebook forums, I’ve also seen this on wider social media including twitter, blogs and newspaper items. For some, this appears to be the prognosis given to them by their doctors. I find this surprising. However, I’m much less surprised to see many comments on forums from people who had been told the worst by their doctors but were still alive and kicking WAY beyond those worst case prognostic statements.

Definitions are important so what does ‘terminal cancer’ actually mean? 

I’m conscious there are legal ramifications with the definitions (wills, life insurance, disability etc) and that these may differ on an international/federal basis.  I therefore intentionally confined my searching to a couple of ‘big hitter’ and ‘authoritative’ sites:

Cancer Research UK defines terminal as “When cancer is described as terminal it means that it cannot be cured and is likely to cause death within a limited period of time. The amount of time is difficult to predict but it could be weeks to several months”.

The American Cancer Society defines terminal as “an irreversible condition (it cannot be cured) that in the near future will result in death or a state of permanent unconsciousness from which you are unlikely to recover. In most states, a terminal illness is legally defined as one in which the patient will die shortly whether or not medical treatment is given.”

Can terminal as defined above be applied to Neuroendocrine Cancer? 

I’m sure it can, e.g. with very advanced and very aggressive disease and for any grade when taking into account the condition of the patient and other factors (secondary illnesses/comorbidities, refusal of treatment etc). Clearly, that is a terrible situation.  I’m also conscious that some people do eventually die because of this disease or its consequences and that is also terrible.

How long is a piece of string?

I think with most Neuroendocrine Cancer patients, “how long do I have” can be a tough question to answer. Thinking back to my own situation, although it was an obvious question to ask my Oncologist, I can see it might have caught him unawares.  I suspect he was erring on the side of caution as I don’t believe he had formulated my treatment plan ….. i.e. my case had not yet been looked at by a Multi-Disciplinary Team (MDT), a bit like a ‘Tumor Board’.  I had already been confirmed Grade 2 (via liver biopsy) and my CT scans were indicating widespread disease.  I was yet to have an Octreotide scan and the conventional biochemical markers (CgA and 5HIAA).  I suspect, faced with my question, he went for the worst case, based on the statistics he had access to at the time. What I now know is that, in the year of my diagnosis, the median survival was 33 months in patients with advanced Grade 1/Grade 2 NETs with distant metastasis.  These statistics are certainly better today but my Oncologist was probably on the right track.  However, at no time did he use the word ‘terminal’.

The Cancer story is changing

What I also found during my research is that as more and more people in the UK are now living with cancer (all cancer) rather than dying from it, there is a new class of patients emerging – Macmillan UK call this “treatable but not curable” and I believe this is very relevant to Neuroendocrine Cancer.  I touched on this in an awareness blog entitled “Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer – it takes guts“.  You will find some data in this blog about a major increase in the amount of people with cancer who eventually die of something else (…… basically it has doubled). For many, Cancer is no longer a death sentence.  I do accept that it can be difficult to live with certain cancers and this is also covered in my “it takes guts” blog linked above.

Survivorship and Hope

You can find numerous examples of long-term survivors of advanced Neuroendocrine Tumours on the ‘airwaves’, many with a relatively good quality of life (QoL).  I don’t normally pay much attention to prognostic data, I take my lead from the huge number of patients living a long time with Neuroendocrine Cancer.  However, I was particularly interested to read a set of USA statistics from NOLA (Boudreaux, Woltering et al) which said “Our survival of stage IV midgut NET patients that we performed surgical debulking on was published in the Journal of the American College of Surgeons in 2014. It showed our 5, 10 and 20-year survival rates were 87%, 77% & 41% respectively. It’s also worth noting the comparison with the 2004 SEER database analysis which listed the 5 & 10 year SEER survival at 54% and 30% respectively”.  Clearly, the NOLA figures are guidelines (and only for midgut) but they do seem to reflect my previous statement about seeking out positives rather than dwelling on the negatives.  The SEER 2012 figures stated “Survival for all NETs has improved over time, especially for distant-stage gastrointestinal NETs and pancreatic NETs in particular, reflecting improvement in therapies.

Exciting times ahead

Recently, there’s been a plethora of new treatments coming online and more entering and progressing through the approvals pipeline.  Check out my blog entitled Exciting Times Ahead Also listen to a NET Expert along the same lines.

Summary

Following my diagnosis in 2010, I went on to receive really good treatment and it continues to this day with Lanreotide backed up by a rigorous surveillance regime (and this is backed up by my own advocacy!).  However, I have totally accepted the fact that I have metastatic Neuroendocrine Cancer and that it cannot be cured.  By the way, I intentionally used ‘metastatic’ rather than Stage IV.  Mention of Stage IV can set off alarm bells and therefore send the wrong message to the recipient. I don’t believe Stage IV has the same ‘red flag’ meaning for well-differentiated NETs as it does with more aggressive cancers of the same stage. Given what I know now, I would certainly challenge any doctor who told me I had a ‘terminal disease’ and also told me I had a slow-growing well differentiated Neuroendocrine Cancer.

I live with this disease (….and it’s consequences) and do not feel like I’m dying of it.  Moreover, I most certainly do not see myself as a ‘terminal’ cancer patient, particularly as I’ve now been living with it for almost 8 years. Rather, I like to focus on how I can live better with it.

Whilst we’re on this subject, please note Palliative Care is not just end of life / hospice care.  That’s another misunderstanding bordering on mythical status. Read more here.

being_there_front
Graphic courtesy of Ellie McDowell

 

Thanks for reading

Ronny

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Alcohol – the NET Effect

Opinion.

Social Media is currently full of ‘Dry January’ articles and of course many charities will benefit as people will be motivated if they are abstaining from alcohol for a good cause. Nothing wrong with that and no doubt some individuals will also see it as a way to cut down or at least lessen the effects of a very wet December!

I’ve never been a big drinker but I do like the odd beer now and then.  When I was diagnosed with metastatic Neuroendocrine Tumours (NETs), I hadn’t really thought much about how this might affect my body. It wasn’t until I studied a bit more about my disease and the consequences of my treatment, that I decided I would cut right down.  This turned out to be a pretty drastic cut as I can count the number of alcoholic drinks I consumed in the past year on one hand.

So what’s the deal with alcohol and Neuroendocrine Cancer?

There are some who might say that any alcohol is not good for any cancer patient. However, if your digestive system and your liver have been compromised by both disease and treatment, then is it perhaps best not to ‘stoke the beast’?   In fact, there are specific references to alcohol and its potential effect on a Neuroendocrine Cancer patient, particularly those who suffer from the syndromes associated with Neuroendocrine Cancer, e.g. Carcinoid Syndrome.

Alcohol is frequently mentioned as a trigger for Carcinoid Syndrome symptoms particularly flushing and this is possibly due to the levels of ‘syndrome triggering amines’ that it contains. It is in fact one of the 5 E’s using its synonym of ‘Ethanol’.  Many of us do feel a warm sensation in our faces (and beyond) when we drink alcohol as it can dilate blood vessels.  On the basis that some will react worse than others (…flush), then you can see why alcohol can be a trigger for flushing.  However, despite other reasons existing for alcohol related flushing, these triggers can often be important clues in diagnosing carcinoid syndrome.  Alcohol is second only to large meals in the list of foodstuffs reported to provoke reactions according references here.

But the odd beer does not make me flush?

I guess I’m lucky in that respect as I have read stories from people who cannot tolerate a single drop!  But there is another reason why I will not be rushing down to the pub to ‘sink a few’ and I guess this could apply to anyone who has a compromised system.   Food in your diet (and this includes alcohol) must be digested before being absorbed by your cells.  The problem with alcohol however, is that it flows directly through your body’s membranes into your bloodstream and your bloodstream carries alcohol to every organ in your body.  I don’t really want to add too much fuel to the smouldering remains of my body.

There is emerging scientific evidence linking alcohol to certain cancers – read more here in this excellent article from Cancer Research UK.

However, like anything in life, you can assess and then manage and mitigate the risks associated with an activity.  Things that can be potentially harmful in large amounts can still be enjoyable with disciplined moderation.  So, I will still be maintaining my very conservative alcohol regime but I doubt I will ever hit double figure beers in a single year.  A beer is now a very special treat at Birthdays, New Year, ‘Cancerversaries‘ and special holidays …….a reminder that I still live.

Cheers!
Cheers!

NET Cancer Blog – 2015 in review

The WordPress.com stats team have prepared a 2015 annual report for my blog.  Special thanks to those who got a mention! Why not review my posts which received a 2015 Mention in Despatches ?

Here’s an excerpt:

Madison Square Garden can seat 20,000 people for a concert. This blog was viewed about 62,000 times in 2015. If it were a concert at Madison Square Garden, it would take about 3 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Neuroendocrine Cancer – a Doctor’s experience

Richardson-Michael
Dr Michael Richardson – NET Cancer Patient

UNFORTUNATELY, MILL HILL TIMES HAVE REMOVED THE DOCTOR’S STORY FROM THEIR WEBSITE BUT I’M TRYING TO OBTAIN THE SCRIPT ELSEWHERE.

When I was undergoing my initial treatment and surgery I didn’t really have the knowledge I have now.  I was initially treated by experienced Neuroendocrine Tumour (NET) specialists in an established NET Centre and I guess I felt comfortable with what was happening.  In hindsight, I wish I had studied the disease earlier as I would have understood at the time what was actually happening to my body and more fully understood the treatments I was to undergo.

As we all know, Cancer knows no boundaries and even Doctors can succumb to his disease. Despite this, I was still surprised to read a story by Dr Michael Richardson from North Carolina USA.  Diagnosed in 2011, he talks about his diagnosis and treatment for Neuroendocrine Cancer which is the basis of my blog.  Although Dr Richardson was not a Neuroendocrine Cancer expert at diagnosis, he has been able to put his medical knowledge and clinical understanding to great use.  Not only has he carefully interpreted his diagnosis and his treatment plan, he has also been able to explain the detail in a very understandable way – great for patients but also very useful for medical staff not familiar with Neuroendocrine Cancer.

 

This blog is to consolidate his patient story written in sections and as far as I can see it only appears to be published in his local newspaper where he is a guest contributor.

His story so far is written in three parts comprising a number of sections as follows:

Section 1 – Parts 1 – 4.

Section 2 – Parts 5 – 7.

Section 3 – Parts 8 – 9.

Section 4 onwards will follow when I have it (if you like my Facebook page, you will see future updates as they are published ) – click here and ‘Like’

Thank you for reading

Ronny

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The Ecstasy of Neuroendocrine Cancer Survivor Wilko Johnson

Wilko Johnson - Neuroendocrine Cancer Survivor
Wilko Johnson – Neuroendocrine Cancer Survivor

I recently blogged about a well-known BBC political reporter who has a Neuroendocrine Cancer with a Lung Primary.  However, in the usual media ‘double speak’ which can sometimes pervade the coverage of such events, he is said to have Lung Cancer.  As I said in that article, sometimes with Neuroendocrine Cancer – the devil is in the detail and you just need to dig to find it!

No sooner had I published the Nick Robinson article, I was alerted to the broadcasting of a film about rock star Wilko Johnson who has the most amazing story to tell. Wilko is a former member of Dr Feelgood, a famous British R&B band who were pretty popular in the 60s/70s/80s and remain so today.

In 2014, Wilko was diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer and was told he had a year to live.  One year later, a photographer friend Charlie Chan (who just happened to be a doctor) commented that he looked too well and was still doing his routine and fast-paced musical performance, that something was perhaps not right about this diagnosis.  To cut a long story short, he was retested and re-diagnosed with a Neuroendocrine Cancer with a primary in the pancreas.  However, it was a large tumour (the size of a melon) and the surgery was ‘extreme’ with a lower than normal chance of survival.  He seems to be doing OK so far. However, the ‘double speak’ is also being used in his case as nearly all reports and news articles state he has Pancreatic Cancer.

Until I saw the film on BBC1 a few days ago, I hadn’t realised the film was even being made. The first half of the film is really about a man who thinks he is going to die and he doesn’t really have an issue with this – he misses out all the usual emotions moving straight to acceptance.  He also decided to do a ‘final’ gig teaming up with Roger Daltrey (The Who) – you can watch this from a link below.

I suspect the film sponsors were totally surprised to be continuing the film to include his re-diagnosis, his surgery and the beginning of his recuperation (I suspect Wilko was more surprised though).  Having now watched the full 90 minutes, I can say I enjoyed it (particularly the second half) but I suspect it won’t be everyone’s ‘cup of tea’.  However, it gives an insight into the man himself along with his journey. Some of the music clips will get your feet tapping. A little bit of me wants to get to know him more as I hadn’t realised he is a bit of a philosopher (ex-English teacher) and an astronomer in addition to being a rock star and generally down to earth ‘geezer’. There are some good quotes in the film including “if the cancer is going to kill me, I don’t want it to bore me”. This probably explains his very positive attitude when told he would die and decided his ‘new normal’ would be his usual normal!

There is not a single mention of Neuroendocrine Cancer (unfortunately).  However, the film came out on DVD 11 Dec 2015.  There might be limitations on playback in non-UK countries but WATCH THE TRAILER by clicking here

I have in fact had an online chat with Wilko Johnson who said he would help with Neuroendocrine publicity (not yet seen though). Check out the conversation here:
wilko-response

There’s also an interesting interview with Roger Daltrey (member of The Who and friend of Wilko).  There is more detail of this “other” cancer and his recuperation but again the word Neuroendocrine is not mentioned. WATCH HERE

Here is the gig with Roger Daltrey, which Wilko thought this would be his last. WATCH HERE

Having watched the film, I now have more sympathy with Wilko’s position and there’s a bit of me thinking we might hear some more about his condition downstream ………..

23 May 2016 – two new clips to add to the story:

1.  Newspaper interview 21 May 2016.  Click Here.
2.  Interview with Victoria Derbyshire on 23 May 2016.  Click Here.

Good luck Wilko!

Thanks for reading

Ronny

I’m also active on Facebook.  Like my page for even more news.  I’m also building up this site here: Ronny Allan

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Remember ….. in the war on Neuroendocrine Cancer, let’s not forget to win the battle for better quality of life!


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Neuroendocrine Cancer – my initial surgery – a patient experience (part 2)

 

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Surgeon Mr Neil Pearce and Interventional Radiologist Dr Brian Stedman

The surgery on 9 Nov 2010 had lasted 9 hours but according to my surgeon Mr Neil Pearce, I tolerated it well.  My first week was quite tough and I outlined how this went in my blog ‘patient experience’ part 1.  If you’ve not read it yet, please click on this link before reading any further.

By this stage of my stay, I’m now minus most of the temporary tubes attached to my body, a good sign of recovery. The one which seemed to offer me the greatest freedom when removed, was the urine catheter. It doubled my speed down the hospital corridor during my daily exercises.  It was also so much easier to get to the toilet, a much frequented area at the time 🙂

Surprisingly, the comfortable and very adjustable hospital bed was starting not to seem so comfortable and I was really looking forward to my own bed back home.  Moreover, daytime TV was starting to become repetitive and boring!

However …… I had a pain right in the middle of my chest and it gradually became intolerable.  To cut a long  story short, a CT scan confirmed the presence of a postoperative seroma (a collection of fluid) and a minimally invasive aspiration was ordered. The radiologist covering my post diagnostic scans was also an ‘Interventional Radiologist’ so was able to carry out this procedure guided by CT scan.  There was a long list of scary risks explained by Dr Brian Stedman and I was put more at ease when he told me he had carried out this procedure more than anyone else in the south of England.  It was amazing to watch and it reaffirmed the amazing skills I knew this guy had.  The liquid was successfully removed (pale yellow/beige) and it later tested negative.

As a consequence of this issue plus an elevated white blood count (indicating a possible infection), I was unable to go home as planned.  However, I was in exactly the right place to continue my recovery.  I had already been ‘declared’ fit to go home by the Physio, so used the additional time to improve my mobility and strength.  The antibiotics dispensed for the suspected infection played havoc with my bowels exacerbating the post-operative problems already being encountered.

On 26 Nov 2010, I was released after 19 days of 24 hour care, doctors and nurses ‘on tap’.   I’ve read it’s normal for patients to feel insecure when leaving hospital after very close support from trained medical staff.  Although I was to be well looked after by close family, I still felt a little exposed as Chris drove me away from the hospital complete with a plethora of various drugs I would need to continue my recuperation at home.  The next few weeks were also tough but that’s another story for another day.  However, it was good to be home!

Read about my Liver surgery which took place some 4 months after this one.  LIVER SURGERY

Thanks for reading

Ronny

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Remember ….. in the war on Neuroendocrine Cancer, let’s not forget to win the battle for better quality of life!

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Neuroendocrine Cancer Surgery – a patient experience (part 1)

Neil
Chris and I with our friend and hero Mr Neil Pearce – my surgeon.

First Surgery – 8th – 26th November 2010

Memories 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 NET Cancer is one of a small number of cancers for which surgical debulking can in many cases confer some survival advantage in a metastatic scenario. However, the nature of Neuroendocrine Cancer means that treatment and surveillance will need to continue for many patients.

Prior to being diagnosed with Cancer, my experience with hospitals was very limited and I had always been a tad squeamish when it came to routine injections. So having major surgery with a projected 10-14 day stay in hospital was a massive challenge. However, I remember being fairly relaxed leading up to this event.  I suspect I had accepted my situation; and that a combination of pragmatism and trust in my surgical team had conquered any fear.

The surgery, which lasted 9 hours, was really in two parts, firstly to get rid of my primary in the small intestine plus any accessible locoregional stuff.  Basically the surgeon removed 3 feet of my small intestine, carried out a right hemicolectomy, and also removed ‘oodles’ of lymph nodes in the mesenteric region, with careful blood vessel reconstruction required. The second part comprised a careful removal of retroperitoneal fibrosis which was threatening major vessels.  This is an issue which has returned in 2018 and you can find an update by clicking here.

Spookily, I woke up from the anaesthesia just after midnight on 10th November, I woke up on NET Cancer Day.

I’ve not spoken too much about the first week in the hospital after surgery – mainly because some of the details remain scant. However, there are four stories I remember in some detail and they even make me smile, although I wasn’t laughing at the time!

Physio (a synonym for pain!)

One of the key things I remember was the extraordinary amount of tubes and other things connected to my body. Had I drawn a picture, it would have looked like the map of the London Underground. Some of them were taking things out of my body (temporary ‘toilet’, wound drains, etc) and others were for putting things in (drugs, pain killers, nutrition, etc). My legs had ‘circulating leg wraps’ to prevent the formation of blood clots. They were very uncomfortable and sweaty but important.  I appeared to be pinned very tightly to the hospital bed – any thoughts of escape were quickly subdued by the sheer weight of equipment.  It was, therefore, a total surprise to me how soon the Physiotherapists arrived to administer torture 🙂  The difficulty of arranging all the tubes in order that I could just even sit up led me to believe it would not be possible.  However, they persevered and I had of course forgotten, this is what they do for a living! Putting the tube issue to one side, the very act of sitting up and putting your feet on the floor with a 12″ north to south abdominal wound still repairing is one of the most difficult and painful things I’ve ever done (even after activating my Pain Controlled Analgesia (PCA) – more drugs!). However, and I say this in hindsight, this is a very important part of the healing process and patients need to be compliant!  I eventually got used to it and starting off with a walk around my bed, a walk to the nurse desk, a walk up and down the ward….. this eventually led to a walk around the hospital once some of the tubes were removed.  However, I was feeling so bad one day, I refused physio which resulted in a lecture from my surgeon (see photo above) later that night – the discussion ended with the words “You are a winner”. It helped as I sprinted up and down the ward corridor next day!  Isn’t it amazing how a kick in the ‘ass’ can also function as medicine?

Pain Control

The Pain Controlled Analgesia (PCA) button was never far from my hand.  After surgery, it isn’t completely painless, but the PCA does help.  It normally contains morphine which helps kill the pain but comes with other side effects including sleepiness (handy), foggy brain, inability to focus, strange dreams and on occasion mild hallucinations (I swear the people