The 5 E’s of my daytrip

The 5 E’s of my daytrip

Inspiration, Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer, Patient Advocacy
Those who know about the 5 E's of (so called) carcinoid syndrome will get the meaning of this story straight away. For those unaware of those 5 E's, read about them here. I sometimes need motivating and it's really easy to put off doing 'hard things', instead opting for your comfort zone of staying at home. It's often easier to say "I can't" than it is to say "I can". And yet, each time I hesitate about saying "I can", I always end up refreshed, enthused, and happy I didn't say "I can't". So this is the story of the my daytrip last week. Exercise Everywhere you look, there are experts telling us that exercise is good for us, even those with cancer can benefit. There's even programmes being introduced…
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Living with Cancer – Worrier or Warrior?

Living with Cancer – Worrier or Warrior?

Awareness, Inspiration, Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer, Patient Advocacy, Survivorship
  If you only believe what you see on social media, you would probably classify cancer patients into two main groups, warriors or worriers.  I guess people have, or adopt, these traits from their cancer experience but I suspect many people are simply 'wired' that way.  I also believe there are many people who have a bit of both, perhaps slanting to mostly warrior or worrier, I mean who doesn't worry about a single thing?  However, the extent of worrying can often have a negative effect on quality of life. You're not going to stop worrying by simply reading this article but if you read no further, at least check out the lead graphic, it might help putting things into perspective. Warriors I used to do that for a living…
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Things to do today

Things to do today

Inspiration, Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer, Survivorship
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…
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Weight – the NET Effect

Weight – the NET Effect

Diet and Nutrition, Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer, Survivorship, Treatment
[caption id="attachment_11145" align="aligncenter" width="500"] Weight - The NET Effect[/caption] Firstly, let me say that I have no intention of advising you how to lose or gain weight!  Rather, I'd like to discuss what factors might be involved and why people with NETs might lose or gain weight either at diagnosis or after treatment.  Clearly I can talk freely about my own experience and associated weight issues. If nothing else, it might help some in thinking about what is causing their own weight issues. I once wrote a patient story for an organisation and the headline was "Did you mean to lose weight".  Those were actually the words a nurse said to me after I nonchalantly told her I thought I'd lost some weight (....about half a stone).  I answered the…
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Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer – 8 tips for conquering fear

Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer – 8 tips for conquering fear

Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer, Patient Advocacy, Survivorship, Treatment
  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…
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Don’t believe the hype – Neuroendocrine Cancer Myths debunked

Don’t believe the hype – Neuroendocrine Cancer Myths debunked

Awareness, Diet and Nutrition, Inspiration, Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer, Patient Advocacy, Survivorship, Technical NETs, Treatment
  OPINION. There's a lot of inaccurate and out of date information out there.  Some is just a lack of understanding, often with a combination of patient forum myth spreading. Some can only be described as propaganda. Myth 1:  All Neuroendocrine Tumours are benign Not true.  By any scientific definition, the word 'tumour' means 'an abnormal mass of tissue that results when cells divide more than they should or do not die when they should. Tumours may be benign (not cancerous), or malignant (cancerous)'.  Sure, some NETs will be benign.  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…
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In the war on Neuroendocrine Cancer, let’s not forget to win the battle for better quality of life

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

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

Poker Face or Cancer Card?

Inspiration, Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer, Patient Advocacy, Survivorship
[caption id="attachment_11078" align="alignleft" width="150"] As featured by Cure Magazine[/caption]   Before I was diagnosed, I had my share of illnesses. Fortunately, many of them were the routine stuff that most people tend to get from time to time, and most did not stop me 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,…
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Neuroendocrine Cancer – the diarrhea jigsaw

Neuroendocrine Cancer – the diarrhea jigsaw

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

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

Inspiration, Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer, Patient Advocacy
[caption id="attachment_6521" align="aligncenter" width="500"] For Cancer patients, it’s not just about how fast, how high, how heavy, how much ............... it’s about DIRECTION.[/caption] 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…
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Living with Cancer – Turning points

Living with Cancer – Turning points

Awareness, Inspiration, Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer
[caption id="attachment_5953" align="alignnone" width="480"] Day 4 of 6 - entering Cumbria from Northumbria[/caption] 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…
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I Can

I Can

Inspiration, Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer, Patient Advocacy, Survivorship
Opinion.  Most people with an incurable Cancer will go through both good and bad periods.  I quite liked a quote by a fellow patient who described that as the 'ebb and flow' of living with cancer and said the flow would always return at some point.  I also liked a quote from a fellow blogger whose blog catchphrase is "Having a bad day shouldn't mean having a bad life". 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…
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I’m only as good as my last scan

I’m only as good as my last scan

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

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

Sometimes you just gotta climb that hill!

Inspiration, Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer
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! Whatever your 'hill' is, two of the common elements required to 'climb it' are motivation and…
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“Trust me, I’m a Doctor”

“Trust me, I’m a Doctor”

Living with Neuroendocrine Cancer, Patient Advocacy, Survivorship
One 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…
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Scanxiety – I just don’t get it!

Scanxiety – I just don’t get it!

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

General
  [caption id="attachment_3902" align="alignleft" width="300"] Screw that diagnosis and get on with it![/caption] Every now and then I see a positive story during my travels around the internet.  When I saw this one from K**** in Pennsylvania, I had to share.  If you're feeling a little bit down and need cheering up, dig out this blog and take a read :-) K**** wrote: "I began my Carcinoid journey about 7 years ago, newly married to a wonderful man and his daughter at the age of 43.  I was also newly retired (from CPA and also Large Animal/Equine Surgical Veterinary Assistant) and was looking forward to a nice, peaceful, fun, loooong life. But, things get in the way and can get bumpy - cancer, being one of them (and a now, 16yo…
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Sorry, I’m not in service

Sorry, I’m not in service

General
Featured by Macmillan Cancer - check out this link. Featured by Cancer Knowledge Network - check out this link. It's good to be busy, it can take your mind off stuff you don't really want to think about. That was my tactic after being diagnosed with incurable Neuroendocrine Cancer.  I just kept working and working and was still sending work emails and making telephone calls on the day I was being admitted to hospital for major surgery. After all, how could they possibly function without me? Although I was banned from work after the surgery, I still dropped an email to let them know I was doing cartwheels down the hospital corridor. They expected nothing less. I guess the image of 'invincibility' was important to me at that time.  It was part of my personal…
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I may be stable (..ish) but I still need support and surveillance

I may be stable (..ish) 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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The trouble with the ‘NET’ – Part 1 – Cancer Myths

The trouble with the ‘NET’ – Part 1 – Cancer Myths

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

General
  I suspect we all know exercise is good for us but it does sometimes take quite a bit of effort to get out there and do some! Apparently the older you get, the harder it becomes (I can confirm this is true!).  I did write about this in 2014 (Exercise - it's a free prescription).  In fact, my blog  was actually created to document my return to fitness and good health 12 months ago! I was prompted to write this blog after discovering a piece of advice for NET Cancer patients, specifically those with carcinoid syndrome. The advice is one of those catchy 'single letter' lists called the "5 E's" of things to avoid - one of which is 'Exercise'.  Clearly 'Exercise' needs putting into some context as everybody needs…
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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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