Net Cancer Day Forum

Yesterday was November 10th. On the Cancer Calendar this is World Net Cancer Day. In Edinburgh the Scottish Charity, The Ann Edgar Charitable Trust hosted a forum at The Novahotel. And what a great informative event it was.

After being offered a beautiful buffet lunch, chance to meet other patients and folk interested in nets David Drummond, chairman and partner of the late Ann Edgar opened the show with a warm welcome. We were then given presentations from great speakers:

NET specialists from throughout the UK gave up their Sunday to give presentations. Offered their expertise and answered questions to patients, families, friends and people generally interested in NETS.

Margaret Boe – The Ann Edgar Charitable Trust (TAECT) . Trustee and wife of Net Cancer Patient, Norman Boe. Margaret is retiring and handing over the baton to Priscilla Fernandez.

Margaret Boe

Katie Gibson – NET CNS at Western General Hospital, Edinburgh, Talking about patient and carer support in Scotland

Lucy Dornan – NET CNS at Beatson Oncology, Glasgow. Talking about PRRT programme in Scotland.

Lucy Dornan from Beatson talks PRRT

Nikki Jervis – NET Patient Foundation. Talking about patient wellbeing.

Nikki Jervis

Professor Mark Strachan – Endocrinologist, Net Specialist, Western General Hospital, Edinburgh. Talking about whats new in NETs.

Professor Mark Strachan

Dr Lucy Wall – Clinical Oncologist, Western General Hospital, Edinburgh. Vitamin Research Project. Results to be presented in UKINETs.

Mark Strachan and Lucy Wall set up the first NET clinic in Edinburgh 14 years ago. Fourteen years since the first Net patient walked through the doors, with a great deal of progression since then. All for the good of course.

On the way to the event I had a sneaky look at my smart phone. An Apple I Phone – I have stayed loyal to Apple, the great Steve Jobs lost his battle with NET Cancer in October 2011. As I looked at my twitter feed I saw my friend Kath had promoted awareness of the disease in her local paper. Well done girl. I can relate to the piece so well, as I am sure many people with a NET diagnosis can . If you would like to read Kath’s feature please click on the link

https://www.stokesentinel.co.uk/news/stoke-on-trent-news/i-feel-like-im-sitting-3517787?fbclid=IwAR2HyssDuZs9hekMPjfDhlcWDtzBIlf5KBA9TSTgdt3IfXXD40-RunU9K3Q

On entering the hotel I turned my phone off, no interruptions. However, at the coffee break I turned on my phone. A couple of messages. From each of my sons. Both checking up on their old folks and letting us know they are doing ok. One of the texts came with a photo of Granddaughter, Alexandra – she found her Daddy’s scalextric at our house and was loving playing with it. Knowing our boys were thinking of us warmed my heart.

Our Alexandra finds Daddy’s Scalextric

As we were packing up to leave we got in the car and I turned my phone back on. Stuart and Alexandra called to say Alexandra was going back home and we would see here Thursday. Her Wee voice echoed in our car can you hear me Granny? When I let know I could she blethered away. She said I helped my Daddy put your lights up – they are very bright. Then she said I love you Granny and I love you papa see you after nursery xxxx

10th November Approaching……

For Me November has always been a fairly memorable month. I have a brother with a birthday at the beginning of the month and a sister with a birthday at the end of the month. The last day of the November we celebrate the Patron of our country – St Andrews Day. Guy Fawkes night; 5th November is a special night on our calendar – Steve and I got engaged in 1984, what a wonderful night that was. Fireworks at my parents and then a trip to Edinburgh with Steve and some university friends.

All of these dates are still in the diary, special to me, with some others added. And now there is one anniversary date that is noted worldwide. The date is November 10th every year. Its NET Cancer Day. Aiming at promoting awareness. Folks all over the world raise awareness in different ways.

Me personally, I have organised, with the help of friends, a tea party and a music night. Both events were on the weekend of the NET Cancer Day and raised money for The Ann Edgar Charitable Trust. Three years ago I did some something myself, just simply smiled every day for 21 days and asked folks to donate something, even if it was a penny. My consultant, Prof Mark Strachan, the fantastic late Linda Story and myself did a radio interview, fairly lengthy – raising awareness two years ago. Many people have coffee days – lets talk about nets.

This year, 2019 – November 2019 is a Sunday and I’m looking forward to going to The NET Forum organised by The Ann Edgar Charitable Trust in Edinburgh. There will be talks on offer from Net Specialists; Consultant, oncologist, Net Nurse. Charity Trustees. Information will include PRRT Information, Patient and Carer Support, whats New in Nets?, Relaxation.

Forums allow others to get together, whether its other patients, their family or friends, health professionals and people generally interested in finding out about NET Cancer. You get a chance to ask questions about symptoms, treatments, etc, and meet other people with the same rare condition. Its absolutely wonderful that health professionals are willing to give up their Sunday to share this time with us folks that want to go to the forum. Its great to see passion in the doctors and nurses outside the hospital. It makes me very proud and confident in our NHS.

For anyone thats interested in finding out more about The Ann Edgar Trust. You can look them up, at http://www.taect.scot They really are a good support network, our monthly net natter meet ups, chat on facebook. And at times we get together and do something together outwith the meeting. It really does help turn that frown upside down.

What and who keeps me going……………

Prof Strachan asked me to go see Prof Seckl. That day came, on walking out of the room after seeing Seckl I felt like I had hit a brick wall. He was lovely, my kind of guy; told me how it was. And certainly left me under no illusions. A lot of water has gone under the bridge since then. Many treatments, meds, sepsis, infections, peg insertion, trips to London hospitals under the care of the wonderful Prof Martyn Caplin, etc, etc.

Living with this disease is so difficult. Every day produces a challenge and no one day is the same as the other. My carcinoid syndrome can be very unpredictable and difficult to live with. The palpations, flushing, diahrea, chest pain, weight loss, sudden drop in blood sugar, malabsorption, photosensitivity – need I say more. All these symptoms have a knock on effect.

The day my consultant Mark Strachan handed me the card with details of The Ann Edgar Charitable Trust it was a lifesaver. What fantastic support network and great friends I’ve made. Cancer Patients, their families, friends get together for net natter meetings. Share like minded conversations. We know what each other are going through. The charity runs information days by health professionals for both patients, families, friends and health professionals. I’ve made some brilliant pals, sadly a few of them are no longer with us. And boy does it hurt that they are no longer here. Two of ladies in particular I miss terribly. Thats the reality of the group. Our condition is incurable and its inevitable it is going to happen. While its hard to meet folk, get close, and know they are going to leave. Well I guess that it will happen to us all one day. And I would rather have a great time getting to know these lovely folk, sharing some time, even if it is short – shorter for some than others. When we do meet we have fun; go to the pub; have a magic show, ride on a barge, go to the garden centre, go to the theatre. I just know I would have struggled to have gotten through the last couple of years without the chat and support of my cancer buddies.

Whilst I get support from the group. I get an excellent support network from my nurses. they are absolutely fantastic and I’m sure I would go completely bonkers if they didn’t come in before lunchtime and deal with my gastrostomy tube, dressings, give me my octreotide, etc etc. Oh as well as giving my labradors treats. Buddy and Bella love Nurse Evelyn very very much.

My family & friends – you guys are amazing, as always. I couldn’t get through the day without you. It isn’t only the big things like taking me to the hospital, helping clean the house, etc its the love, a smile, touch, a simple text or WhatsApp, a short phone call – no there is no such thing as a short phone call with me – that really helps me feel better.

Since I was a child I have always love motorcycles. My brothers had bikes and I loved to ride on the back of them. When my boyfriend, aged 18 got his first bike I was soon on the back. We got married, day of our wedding to get a pair of shoes for our wedding I jumped on the back of the bike, nipped into Edinburgh and bought a pair. Day before giving birth to our first son I was on the back of husband Steve. Thirty two years later, husband and two sons, Tony and Stuart all have bikes. Steve and I have changed direction and we have gone for a Harley Davidson. We have joined a Harley Davidson Owners Club – best thing we have ever done. Days I feel rubbish Steve can go out on the bike and be with the guys. We have made many new pals. Its like a big family. Who are they? The Dunedin Chapter Scotland. They have just celebrated their 25th birthday. I go on the back of the Harley Davidson with my peg feed on. Couldn’t get on it any other way. Need my sugars to stay up. Its fun, I can put all the worries to the back of my mind and enjoy the thrill of the ride. Meeting new people is great. It doesn’t have to be exhausting I can sit on the bike and get off, join in when I’m up to it, go to a hotel for a rest and if I like or come home and sleep for the week. Its worth it. Its actually really good to be exhausted and sore and say you have actually done something. Most days I’m fatigued and sore anyway. When we want to go somewhere thats a distance away I use my disabled persons railcard and Steve drives the bike, we meet up at the location. It works. We only joined the club in February and already we have met many lovely folk and have been welcomed into the body of the kirk. Steve goes on regular rides weekly and meets up with the guys. Enjoys quality time being ‘Steve’ .

Life is for living and while I am still here I want to make the most of it and spend time with my family and friends. That includes quiet time with my hubby, time with family and friends and time with Ann Edgar Charitable Trust and The Dunedin Chapter. All help me cope with the dark days, the pain and sickness and the most awful days I just feel I can’t get out of my bed. Thanks Guys.

3 years later and 3 kg lighter

Three years since I have came home from hospital with my peg feed after my sepsis.  It has been a learning curve of a journey with great deal of highs and lows.  I’m very fortunate to have a fantastic support network; the lifesaving NHS staff, including hospital consultants/nurses/dieticians, GP surgery, home visit team, CENT team and my excellent regular community visits I could not do without from my district nurses; amongst other things they deal with my dressings, peg feed and administer my lanreotide, the emotional support they offer is invaluable.

One of the members of the CENT team comes to see me on a regular basis.  I get weighed, we discuss how life has been for me.  How I have been , what meds I’m on and what feeds are going down my peg.  They are always on the end of the phone if I feel the need to talk in between visits or if I have a question/queerie/worry.  A great friendly bunch.

 

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Kat from the CENT team at Edinburgh’s Royal Infirmary came to see me on Monday.  We had a good chat and discussed my feeding regime and the speed of the pump.  I told her the great news that we managed a wee break to Ibiza.  My son Stuart telephoned the airline and told them about my medical condition and that I needed the pump feed and 4 bottles of 500ml per day and 5 bottles of 300mls per day – working out to quite a weight.   The airline agreed to give me free 30 kg baggage there and back.  Certainly cannot complain about that.  After our general discussions I stood on the scales.  Not happy; either of us.  I’m 3kg lighter than when I came home with the peg feed fitted 3 years ago.  I could have cried.  I could tell Kat knew I was disappointed, I couldn’t hide it.  Kat mentioned how well the tpn worked when I was in hospital.   I agreed, that was what saved me and put on the weight when I had my sepsis.  She recommends that she writes to my consultant and let him know and suggest that I get a central line – picc or hickman and get home tpn as well as my peg.   Got my cardiologist in December and see my consultant after the year; will discuss this weightloss and eating regime then.

 

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Fatigue

We all get tired.  Sometimes we will wake up after a nights sleep and feel like we could go back to bed again for another session.  Or sitting on an afternoon the eyelids choose to close and we need that little cat nap.  Examples of tiredness like this is common and normal.

 

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Since the diagnosis of the carcinoid syndrome I have noticed that little cat naps in the afternoon have been getting more frequent.  And lasting much longer.  I then found at times the least amount exertion and  I was tired, a tad more and then really tired, and then shattered.

I spoke to my net specialist about being so tired and he got me to describe how I was feeling, when, etc.   For those of you that know me you will know this will have been a big long winded story coming from my mouth.  So I went on to describe how I felt on one of these days.  I gave the prof an example, after putting on my creams (all over my body) I would then walk along our hall of our cottage, on walking back my legs would start to feel like a dead weight.  I was walking as if I had iron boots on.  My body felt as if I was taking a giant step for mankind,  when actually I shuffling along the hall. All my energy was getting used up concentrating to try and get from the bathroom back to the sitting room.  Gripping onto the familiar radiator.  Phew made it back to my secure safe mauve sofa.  Despite the thumping heart, jelly legs and utter need to close my eyes, I feel triumphant.  Not a big task for most, but on days like this I am pleased with myself.  Now time for some shut eye.  The conclusion from my docs ; fatigue.

Fatigue. As time has gone on I can honestly say it has became more of a problem and a darn sight more exhausting.  However, accepting it and managing everyday life is the way to go.  It was our anniversary, we jumped in the Audi convertible, a sunny late afternoon in August.  Drive into Edinburgh, we drove to?;  surprise surprise our fav restaurant Cafe Rouge for Steve to get a Steak and I enjoyed sipping a cool mixed berry spritz. Twenty minutes in the restaurant and I feel Steve gently kick my foot under the table.  Biff you are dozing off,  says Steve.   I jump up sorry, think I need to order a set of matchsticks.   Words can’t explain how bad I felt.  You would think there was glue on my eyelids pulling them together.  I was scared to talk for the dread of yawning.  Imagine, the person I am most comfortable with in the world and yet at that moment I felt awkward for the fear of closing my eyes. It was our anniversary, a date night; we hardly go out and I certainly didn’t want to ruin it or disappoint my husband.    I focussed on the room, we chatted about our day, and a few other things.  It was then time to go to The Show at The Edinburgh Festival.  Steve had got us tickets to see a live show.  It was amazing.  The music was wonderful,  we both sang our hearts out.  Turned out to be a great night.

I was at a Net Natter Meeting.  Hosted by Ann Edgar Charitable Trust.  Our Net Cancer Support Group.  You can find out more about the charity at http://www.taect.scot.  I haven’t been for a couple of months.  Barbara, Margaret, Muriel, Eric and I were talking about exhaustion and fatigue.  Eric was telling us how if he tries to do something in the garden the pains in his legs are awful.  And how the fatigue can suddenly overwhelm him.  Barbara and Margaret have similar experiences.  I told them I had been to my GP last week to get my GTN spray, while we were chatting she was very good at explaining about  fatigue and people with cancer.  In many surveys or asking  a person with cancer, fatigue is one of the worst symptoms that a person deals with .  We were sharing stories about how difficult we find things and the need to rest.  Muriel looked over at Eric smiled, turned to me and then said, think I better go easier on .  We all gave a laugh.  The friendship and sharing experiences at the group help a great deal.   I got home from the meeting after dark.  And no denying I was tired.  Next day I was shattered.  But its good to have  reason for being exhausted.

Friendship: that stands the test of time

IMG_0307           Friends.  We all have them.  What does

friendship mean to you?   How do you define a good friend?  I guess we would all have different answers. What’s important to me does not necessarily sit high in the rankings for you.  We also have friends and ‘friends’.  There are those that will be by our side for the rest of our days and there are work chums, social meet up buddies etc.  There are friends we will never meet in person; social media hook ups, pen pals.  We can build up great relationships and share common ground, learn all about their country, etc.  The support that can be gained from a friend that you will never meet in person can be invaluable.   The fellow patients and carers/friends/family that I have met through the support network charity The Ann Edgar Charitable Trust has been just fantastic.  We meet , talk about all sorts, support each other and friendships have developed.  To be honest I never thought I was one for sitting in a room full of sick folk, that want to chat about their condition, but actually making the effort to go out on a chilly evening, have a blether and a cuppa and most of the time a jolly good laugh. I usually always go home in a much better frame of mind and feeling a whole lot better than when I woke up that morning.

 

For those of you that have read my blog you will know that family is the most important thing in my life.  I’m the youngest of five.  The closest to me is Hazel with a 6 year age gap.  The other 4 are closer tother in age.  Mum and I developed a great friendship, from a young age she took great interest in activities at school etc.  I remember running home from school eager to tell her all about my day.  Mum and I spoke every day, even when I got married.  Perhaps it was just a short phone call, but the blether would take place non the less.  Mum died 5 years ago there is not a day that goes by that I don’t think of her and miss that conversation.

 

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I have talked in previous blog posts about friends.  As someone who can no longer drive and with numerous problems such as fatigue, hypos, pain, etc.  Friendship is extremely important.  Now as adults, I’m no longer that kid hanging on to my sister Hazel’s skirt and we are great pals with wonderful support.  Support and help has came in different ways from different ways .  Two friends that I value, really care about and have been particularly helpful over the last year are Sally and Louise.  My  husband, Steve, is  the best friend you could ask for.  We spend a lot of time together and never seem to tire of each others company.

There is a pal that I haven’t spoken about in my blogs.  On leaving high school I decided to go to university in Edinburgh.  on my first day I met this quiet country girl from Callendar.  We hit it off instantly.  At the end of year one I decided to leave auld reekie and study in the city of discovery, Dundee.  This in no way hampered our friendship, we remained friends through studying in different cities, marriage, the birth of both of us having our sons.  Both of us are god mother to our first born.  Tony now 30 and Scott in his 20’s, my how time has flown.  Jennifer was sitting on my sofa a couple of weeks ago on a Sunday afternoon chatting away with Steve and I.  Just the three of us, it could have been 34 years ago, with the exception of some of the conversation subjects.  Amongst other things, We had the 4 lads to talk about, Tony, Stuart, Scott and Cameron.   Over the years Jen has been a great loyal friend.  Someone I can trust, share a problem or a secret with.  In the early 1990’s when I needed breast surgery, Jennifer came early in the morning to give me a lift to the hospital, physical and emotional support before the op, just what a pal needs. While my poor hubby was rushing around with two youngsters.  When Steve was getting his radiotherapy a trip to  the country club for one week was organised by Jennifer, really appreciated it.  Since this diagnosis, Jen has been a great pal; known her place.  Text enough, but not too much.  Visited when I’ve been ‘ill’ in hospital.  visited us at home but kept away when she thought we need space.   You know your pal is your pal when you don’t feel you have to put on a face, or tidy up for them visiting.  You aren’t embarrassed if you can’t afford the bill and you can tell them.  We are made of similar cloth and I’m definitely not afraid to say anything in front of Jennifer.  Still a pal after all these years.  Thanks.

A visit to cardiology: how low is too low?

Since my recent hospital admission the chest niggles I have been experiencing over the last couple of years have been somewhat more problematic.    So an outpatient appointment with the lovely Dr Denvir at The Western General on Wednesday afternoon was arranged.  Steve accompanied me, even though it was a hospital visit, as usual it was lovely to spend time just the two of us.

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Got there with 10 minutes to spare – time for a quick pee, a plenty of time left over for walking to the clinic, getting checked in and taking seat in the not too crowded waiting room.  No sooner was my bum on the seat and my name shouted.  Weight, blood pressure and ECG all done before I saw the doctor. I took a seat back beside Steve and expected to wait quite a while.

Less than 10 minutes later Dr Denvir called on me.  Steve and I entered his consultation room.  He was wonderful gave us plenty of time to talk and ask questions, he explained everything in detail.  We discussed in depth the pain I get in my chest, how often, how I feel, etc.  I was telling him how at times the weight on my chest feels so heavy, other times the pain is worse, and my mouth gets very dry and then the saliva runs down my gums, I need to sit on the floor and wait on the pain passing. I feel very breathless.  It can take 15 minutes to go away.  He listened to my heart, had one of those poker faces – he didn’t have any kind of expression that would shout out something instantly to you,  and he did not make any sounds; no umming or ahhing, while he was examining me.  There was no guessing.   In a way it was reassuring.  He made me feel at ease.   He rolled up my trouser legs and said my your feet are very cold.

Steve told him I wear an apple watch, and told him about the heart app.  And asked how low should your heart rate go down to.  Dr Denvir asked why.  Steve told him I wasn’t looking too good so we looked at my watch to see what my heart rate was sitting at.  My heart rate was 18 beats per minute.  He looked at us,  well gadgets such as apple watches aren’t always exactly accurate, however that is low.  He went on to say,  they are sometimes 3 or 4 units out.

After our lengthy discussion, Dr Denvir has decided the best plan of action if for me to use a GTN spray when I get the pain.  He also sent me for an echocardiogram that day.  I got my heart scan on the Wednesday, so he could see what was going on.  He says that he believes that the problems are coming from my carcinoid syndrome.  He wants to see me  in 4 months, however if I feel worse before then give his secretary a phone and he will see me sooner.

As we were walking to the car,  I said to Steve he was very thorough and very nice; I like him, Yes, Steve said to me, but he didn’t say what was too low for a heart rate for normal.