Surgery is risky but so is driving a car

Surgery is risky but so is driving a car

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

I may be stable but I still need support and surveillance

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

Neuroendocrine Cancer Forums: frighteningly good or good at frightening?

Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer, Patient Advocacy, Survivorship
OPINION When I was diagnosed, I was happy with my own research and kept away from forums on the advice of a fellow patient who said they can be negative. Just before my second major operation in 2011, I decided to take the plunge and registered with an online web forum (not a Facebook one). Looking back to that period, I wasn't really a major player, more of a 'lurker'. I found it quite 'cliquey' and I should have listened to the initial advice of that fellow patient!  So I left it. Joining Forums In 2013, I joined several large Facebook closed groups which function as forums. After 4 years, I felt more experienced and knowledgeable and I wanted to learn more about the disease to help with my blog activity. Be prepared!…
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Neuroendocrine Cancer – don’t break my heart!

Neuroendocrine Cancer – don’t break my heart!

Awareness, Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer, Survivorship, Technical NETs, Treatment
Neuroendocrine Cancer has certain unique features whereby tumours can produce one or more symptoms which are known collectively as a syndrome.  Neuroendocrine Tumours secreting excess amounts of serotonin, can be accompanied by Carcinoid Syndrome which if not diagnosed and treated early enough, can lead to an additional complication known as Hedlinger Syndrome (often known as Carcinoid Heart Disease (CHD)). However, very late diagnoses can present with CHD already in place. Excess serotonin, a hormone released by NETs into the bloodstream seems to be the prime and lead suspect for causing thick ‘plaques’ or fibrosis tissue within the heart muscle and damage to (mainly) the tricuspid and pulmonary valves on the right side of the heart which can become ‘tightly narrowed’ or ‘leaky’.  It's very similar to the reasons for mesenteric and peritoneal…
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Please flush after use!

Please flush after use!

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

Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer, Survivorship, Treatment
Cancer isn’t always a one-time event. It can be a chronic (ongoing) illness, much like diabetes or heart disease. Cancer can be closely watched and treated, but sometimes it never completely goes away. The cancer may be 'controlled' with treatment, meaning it might seem to go away or stay the same, and it doesn’t grow or spread as long as you are getting appropriate treatment. Sometimes the treatment shrinks the cancer, but the cancer is still there – it doesn’t go away and stay away – it’s not cured.  More people are living with cancer than ever before and the ratio is on the increase thanks to better treatments. For the first 18 months following my diagnosis, I underwent a significant number of treatments and tests.  As I continue living with my cancer, that tempo doesn’t…
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The C Word

General
'The C Word' or 'The Big C' - the subject which must not be discussed.  Or is this now an out of date phrase?  I read a useful article a month ago where the author debated where we might be if, 50 years ago, we were as open about cancer as we are now (there, I said the word).  Nowadays you cannot turn a page in a newspaper without seeing a story of sadness, inspiration or medical science progress. Certainly the latter has played a huge part in reducing cancer mortality rates and sending more people into remission. We now have much better tools to discover and treat cancer. Moreover, because we are increasingly open about cancer, there is more awareness. According to Cancer Research UK, as we all live longer, more than one…
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Neuroendocrine – what’s that?

Neuroendocrine – what’s that?

Awareness, Patient Advocacy, Technical NETs
[caption id="attachment_3076" align="aligncenter" width="350"] You have what?[/caption] I once met some fellow cancer advocates and the conversation turned to what inspired us to ‘do what we do’. When it came to my turn as the only Neuroendocrine Cancer patient, I was already prepared to regurgitate my usual 'spiel'. As sometimes happens, a listener queried me with the words "Neuroendocrine - what's that?".  Another focused on 'Neuro' enquiring whether my nervous system or my brain had somehow become cancerous. Deja vu - here we go again! Two days later, I was speaking to one of my online friends who was having similar problems explaining this cancer to family and friends. Again 'Neuro' was proving difficult with the assumption that it’s somehow related to the brain. Technically not far from the truth but context…
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The trouble with the NET (Part 2) – Alternative Therapies – what’s the harm?

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

Awareness, Diet and Nutrition, Patient Advocacy, Survivorship
  [caption id="attachment_3050" align="aligncenter" width="620"] “But it works… I read it in the news!”[/caption] You may remember my article entitled The trouble with the NET (Part 1) which was a lighthearted but still serious discussion about the dangers of self-treatment on the internet. Linked to that blog was a very popular article written by the scientists at Cancer Research UK debunking some cancer myths which seem to regularly patrol the NET and social media. Many well meaning people will send you articles they saw on the 'NET' about this and that treatment which claims to cure cancer.  They also post them on social media increasing the reach to thousands of people, some of whom are not in the right frame of mind to see the risks.  The vast majority of…
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Cancer doesn’t take holidays (but I do)

Cancer doesn’t take holidays (but I do)

Inspiration, Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer
[caption id="attachment_2911" align="alignleft" width="300"] Mt Jacinto near Palm Springs[/caption] After diagnosis in July 2010, with the exception of a planned holiday to Turkey prior to my 'big surgery', holidays were put on the back burner, there were too many problems and too many risks - not least of which was the lack of overseas insurance cover for my condition. After 2 years of treatment including several surgeries, I was feeling more confident and my body had become stronger, holidays were put back on the agenda, but nothing too strenuous, nothing too far away. We stuck to Europe over the period 2012-2014. However, in 2015, I was getting more confident and managed to get back to one of my all time favourite places - California.  A total round trip of 21…
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Things are not always how they seem

Things are not always how they seem

Awareness, Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer, Survivorship
[caption id="attachment_2784" align="aligncenter" width="500"] Things are not always how they seem[/caption] In 2014, Chris and I walked 84 miles along Hadrian's Wall on the English/Scottish border.  It was a fantastic experience and we met some really interesting people on our 6 day journey.  On the 4th night, I encountered a lady who was pretty rude. I wanted to say something but I was with Chris and other people were also present, so I kept quiet.  I later discovered this lady was autistic and I was therefore relieved I hadn't responded to her initial rudeness. However, It got me thinking about the number of times I had perhaps been too hasty to judge people in the past without thinking about what's going on inside their heads and bodies. Visible Illness can have awareness benefits Conversely in 2018, I was absolutely…
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Living with an incurable cancer – does mind over matter help?

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

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

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

My stomach sometimes cramps my style

Awareness, Diet and Nutrition, Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer, Survivorship
[caption id="attachment_13469" align="alignnone" width="720"] Seriously![/caption] When planning to walk Hadrian's Wall in the north of England in 2014, I carried out a number of risk assessments (as all good Project Managers do!).  In true 'Donald Rumsfeld style', I considered all the 'known unknowns' and the 'unknown unknowns' :-)  Anybody who doesn't is either reckless or supremely confident (the latter can sometimes be the same as the former......). As a Cancer patient, there were some issues I had to consider which might not have made the list for most walkers covering this sort of distance and this type of terrain.  One of the issues I occasionally experience is stomach cramps, not that frequent but problematic and quite painful when they occur.  If you've had abdominal surgery, you might be having to deal…
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Hadrian’s Wall Day 6 – Mission Complete!

Hadrian’s Wall Day 6 – Mission Complete!

Awareness, Inspiration, Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer
  [caption id="attachment_1144" align="alignnone" width="2560"] Sunset over the Solway Firth (Scotland in the distance)[/caption] The final leg of the walk took us from beautiful Carlisle to the remote coast of North Cumbria at Bowness-on-Solway.  We are staying there tonight before beginning our journey home tomorrow (via Newcastle). Amazingly our digs have a wicked view of the Scottish coastline and the setting sun - see picture above which was taken from our room.  It was pretty surreal to have finished 6 days of torturous walking but also to be able to look at such a wonderful view of the country in which I was born. Some people say final leg of the walk is pretty boring but Chris and I disagree. Yes it's flat but the first half is a wonderful…
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My right-hand woman – Chris

My right-hand woman – Chris

Inspiration, Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer, Survivorship
There's been a lot in my blog about cancer, the cancer patient and the medical teams. However, we sometimes forget to mention the close family and friends who are also a piece of the cancer jigsaw. Without these people, it's possible the patient would potentially have a much poorer quality of life. I've had tremendous support from my immediate family and many of my friends. Some of my closest friends have almost been functioning as counsellors. I'm in a much better place than I was nearly 8 years ago but I have a lot of people to thank for some excellent progress.  My son & daughter's families have all been there for me and although my 4 grandsons don't quite understand the situation, their presence in my life is a…
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