Think zebra not horse

Most people in life know someone with cancer. Or are knowledgable about signs or symptoms of some kind of cancer. However the rarer less known conditions need the help of Doctors, writers, patients, etc to promote awareness to get their name out there and help others know what to look for. “Doctors are taught ‘when you hear hoofbeats, think horses not zebras,’ meaning a doctor should first think about what is a more common and potentially more likely—diagnosis. In oncology zebras have to be thought about. If a clinician isn’t as familiar with rare conditions, they may spend too much time looking for the proverbial horses. One such rare disease is Neuroendocrine Cancer and carcinoid syndrome. November 10th is Net Cancer Day. For the patient and the diagnosis it is all so important for the doctor in the big important Think zebra not horse.

Getting a diagnosis of Net Cancer can be difficult. It often goes misdiagnosed and the diagnosis is delayed and very often a person is told they have the cancer once it has spread to other organs and is incurable.

Living with Nets and carcinoid syndrome isn’t always easy. There are days it can really take over your life and just getting out of bed is a real struggle. However, there are great treatments and support networks out there to help you on your way. Looking after your body, eating the right things, meeting up with people and talking can all help in your cancer journey. I certainly know meeting up with likeminded people from The Ann Edgar Charitable Trust and sharing experiences has been a lifesaver. Making super friends along the way, the only down side is losing some dear ones to this damn condition.

On this eve of Net Cancer Day I think of the amazing buddies I have made since the day I was told I had carcinoid syndrome. I keep up with and chat to friends we share what’s going on in our medical life. I have lost and miss some lovely zebra, including Ann, Didi, Pam, Janny, Margaret, Becky, Norman, Linda. Celebrity zebra have included Audrey Hepburn, Steve Jobs, Aretha Franklin.

Audrey Hepburn’s son did a newspaper interview – you can view it HERE

Common symptoms of NETs include:

  • Flushing (redness, warmth) in the face or neck without sweating.
  • Diarrhea, including at nighttime.
  • Shortness of breath, rapid heartbeat/palpitations.
  • High blood pressure.
  • Fatigue, weakness.
  • Abdominal pain, cramping, feeling of fullness.
  • Unexplained weight gain or loss.
  • Wheezing, coughing

The symptoms of a neuroendocrine tumour depend on where in the body it is and what hormones it produces.

Diagnosing neuroendocrine tumours

Many tests can be used to diagnose neuroendocrine tumours, including blood tests, urine tests, scans and a biopsy  (where a small tissue sample is taken for closer examination).

Types of scans used include:

Treating Net Cancer and Carcinoid Syndrome

Every patient has their treatment plan tailor-made for them. No one person is exactly the same. They may have the same germ cell. Could have been diagnosed with almost literally the same diagnosis – it does not mean the treatment will be the same. All our bodies react differently, we give off different hormones, etc. And to be honest we may not have the same attitude to the consultants conversation in the room.

Treatments Include:

For some people surgery is an option.

Somatostatin Analogues may be used to help control the secretion of hormones if abnormal levels are being produced

Embolisation Treatment that blocks the blood supply using chemotherapy, radiotherapy or radiofrequency ablation

Treatments used for some Inoperable and metastatic cancer:

Everolimus is taken as a tablet, sunitinib is taken as a capsule and lutetium is given into a vein.

Let’s Talk About Nets

What has made me smile today?

Over the last few months life has certainly had its up and downs. As usual getting the usual carcinoid syndrome treatment. Not feeling the best at times and all that comes with it. However on the plus note covid restrictions have been a lot better, I have seen my family much more, Steve has been on the Harley-Davison®. We managed an evening out to see Del Amitri live in Edinburgh, at the Queens Hall. Our youngest son graduated from university. I got head hunted for a job from a very reputable company. We have a lot to be grateful for. As I was sitting working on my computer my phone gave a familiar bing. I looked over, it was letting me know my screen time was down. Most likely because I have been writing more this week, and I have gave the social media platform Facebook a wider berth over the last few weeks; mainly due to seeing the same old…… Although I have to confess I did see a few things on it today that made me smile, and other things that put me off…… on reading down the page I thought what has made me smile today?

Firstly waking up and being alive makes me smile. Every day is a bonus. I love where I live and who I live with. I open the curtains, roll up the blind in the morning, look out my bedroom window and the view of my back garden is a huge field where I enjoy walking my loyal Labrador Retrievers.

Buddy sitting at the front door

My boy Buddy is my assistance dog. He takes great care of me. Knows when my glucose levels drop. When my heart is misbehaving. He was such a great chap and tapped my nurse on the knee on Wednesday when she was attending to me, I asked her to check her blood sugar level it was sitting at 3.9 – he knew she was hungry.

My family not only make me smile they make me laugh. We have fabulous times together. Play old fashioned games, sit and talk, sing together, dance in the house and most importantly love each other.

Writing keeps me sane as well as makes me smile. Jotting down in a diary, keeping a journal, and writing for a living. I simply love it.

Listening to music most definitely made me smile today. Whether it is music on Apple Music, reminiscing about times gone by, Steve strumming his Martin guitar and beautifully singing along or Alexandra practicing her heart out on the violin or getting a guitar lesson from her Grandad. All those tunes give me such a warm feeling inside. It made me remember about that time……well will keep this one to myself…….

Remembering yesterday, listening to stories about the trip out pumpkin picking and dancing around the house and face painting.

Has anything made you smile today?

A grand day out at Newhailes House

It was the bank holiday weekend and the sun was shining. For more than a year I could only fantasise of meeting up with friends or going out to events with fairly large numbers. The run up to the weekend was fairly difficult, my gastrostomy site was leaking, the pain set in and my skin became red raw. By Wednesday, treatment day with my nurses I was needing a swab taken and had a bit of a temperature. GP phoned me at 7.45am on Thursday morning to let me know antibiotics were ready for me. Woo hoo, what kind of person gets excited about antibiotics. One that wants to feel better. This weekend would normally be TITG® – our annual bike rally hosted by The Dunedin Chapter in Aviemore however it was cancelled due to Covid. Fortunately there was still time for fun and an alternative weekend in store for us down here in East Lothian. It still included some time with some Chapter members and the Harley – on Sunday I had a grand day out at Newhailes House.

As Alexandra and I arrived at Musselburgh the honest toon was looking very busy. Families walking in the direction of the estate of Newhailes House. This Sunday was a special day, there was an open day inviting members of the public. It was mainly a classic car event, with other super side lines. Dunedin had the Harley-Davidson® motorcycles, there were some sports bikes too, the fire brigade were there, the police, a fantastic array of stalls, and of course amazing classic cars. Plenty to keep us occupied.

Alexandra loves this tractor

As we walked into the grounds of the estate we could hear a very familiar sound. The roar of her Grandfather’s Fatboy. Parked in a line – the Dunedin Chapter Members and their Harley Davidson® Motorcycles. There was an eager bunch of kids waiting to sit on the bikes, lots of smiling faces. As we walked up towards Fattie we saw Steve giving a demonstration to a happy lad.

Alex and I walked round, thoroughly enjoyed the sights. Totally loved the cars, bikes, stalls, etc. Soaked in the atmosphere. Sat on motorbikes, looked at beautiful classic cars, clambered on tractors, enthusiastically stood in the long queue for the sit in the fire engine. We had a fabulous day all on our doorstep. I’m sure the Dunedin members enjoyed their day.



London, the city that keeps me alive more ways than one

My first memory of London; I am 11 years of age and in London with my Mum and Dad, we are passing a lamppost with ER printed on. Dad says “Biscuits look at that Elizabeth Reigns, you work hard sweetheart and you can be a boss too” My folks always gave me the encouragement and love needed to go forward in life. They helped me feel safe and secure. In 2012 I took the train with my hubby to London, this time not for a holiday but to see the expert Professor Caplin at The Royal Free. Despite needing diagnostic tests and treatment for incurable stage 4 neuroendocrine cancer and carcinoid syndrome Steve and I found time to explore new avenues. See museums, art galleries, The Tower, take in a show. One thing I am most certain of London, the city that keeps me alive more ways than one is my most favourite city.

Since 2012 I have been and continue to travel up and down the train tracks between Edinburgh and London. Had countless appointments with the Prof, attending clinics, grateful for but not particularly enjoying gallium pet scans, various treatments, glowing like the Readybrek kid, setting of alarms here there and everywhere, and many many blood samples on ice and some taken in special light conditions and immediately put in a Black bag. So tired that when I escape from the delightful cancer team we go to the West End show – We Will Rock You. A musical I have wanted to see for some time, the first half I sit, smile and sing along, the second I sleep right through, with the audience loving the show, singing at the top of their voices. The staff at the UCL Hospital and The Royal Free in London have been outstanding and for that I thank them from the bottom of my heart.

The last year we have had a year of corona, crisis and challenges. But let us not forget that the breakthrough of the vaccine has allowed us to start to come out of lockdown and find some sort of normality, try our best to get back to work, start socialising and enjoy life.

Steve and I in London with the Fatboy

July 2021 we decided not to go to London tandem but to go with my sister Hazel and her husband Alan. The boys rode the Harley-Davidson® motorcycles down and Hazel and I took the train first class from Edinburgh to London Kings Cross. I have always wanted to ride pillion over Tower Bridge. As well as having a fabulous 4 days Finally got my wish. Riding over Tower Bridge was as good as I expected, it was very busy, both lanes used, cyclists going as fast as us. Beautiful red double deckers travelling along with smiling faces looking over the Thames. Black cabs going no where fast. All of us sitting in the two lanes travelling along at 10 miles per hour, superb for me as a pillion taking in the view, people watching, loving the sights. Gathering my thoughts.

We crammed in what we wanted to do, Steve and I have done lots before including The Tower, The British Museum, various parks and lots more. This trip was to be relaxing, however there were a few places we wanted to tick the boxes. Namely Ace Cafe, The Bike Shed and Warrs Harley-Davidson®

Alan and Hazel

very popular arrival at Ace Cafe

Inside Ace Cafe

A selfie at Ace Cafe

Friday morning we gathered our bearings had a doddle around on foot, enjoyed some squares such as Russell and Tavistock Square, walked through St James’s Park, had lunch at The Hard Rock Cafe, Picaddily Circus, saw some of the sights on foot and then took a taxi back to the hotel looking forward to Friday night on the bikes.

We teamed up with our Sena Communication kits and rode the Harley’s up to Ace Cafe on Friday night. Friday night is bike night. Oh boy what a fabulous evening it was. There were car park Marshalls when we arrived, 20 minutes later I could see why. The entire car park was full of bikes. I’ve got to say anyone we spoke to was so welcoming and friendly. We first off hooked up with 4 young lads with Harleys. They don’t belong any Chapter, just friends riding their bikes. Went into the cafe for a cola and a scout around the shop. Came out and if possible it was busier than before. A familiar Harley fist bump came my way from Gerry; a member of The III Rivers Chapter, there were two members together, they welcomed us into their abode; great guys. Looking out onto the road there were motorcyclists doing wheelies up and down the road, burning tyres. Revving their engines, screaming up and down. So loud, vibrant and exciting. Gosh it makes a girl’s heart fair beat. One of the highlights of the evening was the calm Great Dane in the sidecar, sitting watching all going on taking in everything. What an unforgettable night.

Saturday we took the bikes for a tour of London, did what I’ve always wanted and rode over Tower Bridge, drove through Marble Arch, passed St James Park, Covent Garden. We followed our Harley-Davidson® noses to London’s Dealership Warrs. The Dealership is fabulous, as well as great bikes, superb range of accessories and clothing, they have a museum including Evel Kineval’s bike. Not to mention their very helpful outstanding staff; Holly and Edwardo. They sponsor the HOG Chapter Chelsea and Fulham. We met a lovely Chelsea and Fulham Chapter member at Warrs : Steve. He came with us for a tourist ride round London. Then the five of us went to the amazing Bike Shed, terrific experience from start to finish. As we arrived we were shown where to park, the great think is you can ride the bikes right in and ride passed tables as folks have a drink. Undercover safe parking, so secure you can leave your helmet on the seat of your bike. The staff warmly greeted us, we were an hour early, she asked if we could be fitted in would be like an earlier table – hell yes! We toddled the dozen steps to the shop, treated ourselves to a t shirt and some patches for our cuts, had a good look round, amazing bikes. There is a barber shop too.
Our table was ready and the food did not disappoint.

As always I enjoyed my time in the big city. Our final evening after packing and getting organised we ventured round to quiet Bloomsbury for a cocktail.

Steve, Hazel and Alan at London Eye

Steve and I in St James’s Park

Warrs

Fist Bump

It’s me Colin, I’ve got Huntington’s Disease. Are you listening?

I’m nearly 55 years of age and the words Huntington’s Disease are heard and said without thinking. Not thought of as strange or unusual. Why because I first officially heard the actual word Huntington’s when I was approaching my teenage years. My aunt (my Dad’s sister in law) was diagnosed with it. My auntie Josie was a beautiful lady; inside and out. Anyone that knows me will know that I am a dog with a bone, when I hear something I want to know everything about it. Curiosity killed the cat but satisfaction brought it back. Thats me. In the mid to late 1970’s it wasn’t something you shouted from the roof tops. And the ‘grown ups’ discussed things behind closed doors. I heard this word ‘Huntington’s’ getting mentioned often and then started seeing a change in my beautiful aunt. As a family we all spent a lot of time together. I spent quite a lot of time with my aunt and uncle’s 4 children. One day I came out with it, I was almost 14 years of age and I felt I needed to know more, those days you just couldn’t jump on a computer and search google. My aunt was amazing, she was actually brutally honest. She told me she loved my honesty and gumption for asking. She said when the time would come that no-one would be able to understand her talking properly, in fact she may hardly not be able to be understood at all, she herself would still be able to hear and would understand everything. She said she was nervous of being a prisoner in her own body. She laid her hand on mine, my heart thumped so hard I could hear it echoing in my ears. She asked “you will still talk to me”. I took her hand with my other and said, “am I my Mother’s daughter am I not. I can talk for Scotland. Of course I will”. She said to me if any of my children get this I beg for a cure in the future. Huntington’s disease is hereditary and there is a 50% of inheriting it. Bang on in my aunts family the two younger children, Susan and Colin were diagnosed. Colin chose never to marry, however prior to getting confined to a wheelchair if Colin was still here today and was promoting awareness he would say It’s me Colin, I’ve got Huntington’s Disease. Are you listening?

Colin

So what is Huntington’s Disease? It is a devastating rare hereditary disorder of the brain. Your chances of getting diagnosed is 50% if you have a parent with the disease. It affects the nervous system of the body; the network of tissues in the brain and the spinal cord that coordinates your body’s activities. Everyone with Huntington’s through time will deteriorate physically, cognitively and emotionally. Till eventually they are fully dependent on the help of others, whether it is family, carers or nursing staff; or a mixture of all. Symptoms usually rear their ugly head between the age of 30 an 50 years of age, with symptoms getting worse over a period of 10 to 25 years until the person dies. Huntington’s affects between 1 and 10,000 and 1 in 20,000 people in the UK. Unfortunately, as yet there is no cure and very little awareness.

The Month of May is Huntington’s Disease Awareness Month. The wonderful organisation; The Huntington’s Disease Alliance UK and Ireland are running a campaign Family Matters. The Alliance consists of four independent charities throughout UK and Ireland. The four independent charities all have the same goals and strive to help those affected by the disease, promote awareness and do their best to increase the understanding of UK wide of Huntington’s Disease.

Charities like these are important to get the message out there. Also to help those living with the illness, offer support, put you in the right direction in a time of need.

My auntie Josie was such an inspiration to me. Despite her own fears and worries she brought up with her supportive husband, my uncle, 4 lovely children. In her early days she was a Sunday school teacher. A loving mum, a super aunt. My Mum said she made not just a great sister in law but a great sister. It seemed so quickly that her speech became slurred and for many they didn’t know what she was saying. Her hands and legs were turned inwards as time went on and walking went from slow, to staggering to not at all. In the early days some people would assume she maybe had a glass of wine or six. But soon it was apparent that it was much more. I always remembered the conversation we had that day, and I would blether and tell her of my day, and would not care how long it took, I would wait till she finished asking me the question. It was usually, how was my brother’s children? or or the like. One thing she never lost, despite getting this cruel debilitating condition was her caring nature. Life for my auntie Josie was difficult, but yet she had very happy times, such a loving caring devoted family surrounded by love. For my aunt her husband was her rock. He cared dutifully for her in the latter stage, with the four children rallying round as and when they could.

As a family we are all very close. Close brothers and sisters, nieces, nephews, aunts and uncles and cousins. We all saw and still see each other fairly regularly. Most definitely keep in touch. I spent many a day in my summer break with my Johnston cousins. One thing we certainly all do is look out for each other. Try and help or offer advice if we can, when we can. The four children that were born and could be carrying the gene did not get treated any different. Laughter, games, studying, work, etc went on. Then came the time for the tests. The two youngest, Susan (same age as me) and Colin tested positive.

Colin, is a fun character. My punk rocker cousin in his tartan suit. Who drove stock cars. Loved classic cars. Collected them, looked and drove them. Was a fabulous boxer, with numerous trophies. An independent soul. He never married or took a partner. Lived with his Dad then moved to his own home, he loved his own house. He loved his music even more and travelled to punk rock festivals. He went on cruises. Loved his family dearly. His nieces were everything to him. When he started to struggle with walking he took his two nieces Leah and Kara on a Cruise, they loved him so much they helped care for him at times when he was less able. Colin liked a rum and a dance, and when he had to get his peg feed and was in his wheelchair, he didn’t let things get him down. He would put a little rum down his tube and he took to the floor on his wheels in his tartan suit. The sad fact is Colin had to get a peg feed because he lost his swallowing function; this was a decision he didn’t make lightly. It was probably one of the hardest decisions he had to make. And I’m not entirely sure he really wanted it. For someone that was so active and loved to sing, dance etc. This disease is so cruel to watch. To see my beautiful cousin struggle to tell me he still loves me was so hard. But at the same time it was so good to see how courageous he was, putting all his strength into a conversation, that love was still there and he definitely could still make me smile.

A very happy memory I have is a family BBQ held by Susan and Colin’s sister Karen. We had a super time. As you walked into the garden you were welcomed with smiling faces, the sound of children laughing and adults chit chatting and generally having a great time. Karen’s children, Kara and Heather and Susan’s girls, Leah and Billy would get up at any time needed and automatically fell into the role of carers without looking like a carer. Just that help with a sip cup, or cutting up the food to the correct size. A beautiful caring family that looked after each other without having to ask; the automatic care, willing ear to listen, physical help, loving unconditionally.

Family Does Matter

Colin’s symptoms worsened. It became impossible to live in the house that became his beautiful safe home and despite having carers in several times per day and family popping in the heart wrenching decision of moving swiftly came into his life. Colin needed to go into residential care, the difficulty was finding one that took a person diagnosed with Huntington’s Disease. Much to Colin’s disappointment Colin lived the last days of his life in Balhousie Rumbling Bridge Care Home. Colin was no longer a five minute drive or a 15 minute walk from his sisters and nieces and close proximity to his brother, Billy, but a drive across the Forth. He was still easy enough to visit and my sister Hazel visited on occasions too, and at times took my Dad. Colin loved to get a visitor, whether it was a sibling, cousin or friend. Rumbling Bridge Care Home did a fabulous job in looking after Colin. Sadly we lost our Colin to Huntington’s Disease. We had a funeral in Edinburgh in true punk rock fashion at Colin’s request.

Susan, Colin, their Dad Bill & Susan’s granddaughter

Susan continues to battle with Huntington’s Disease every day. I spoke to her on chat yesterday. And to her daughter Leah, we are so looking forward to the restrictions of covid getting lifted so Leah can drive her Mum down to mine for a visit. It’s a bit of an expedition, but will be worth it. Leah has room for Mum’s wheel chair in her car. I live in the country, the house is a detached, parking right at the front door. Plenty of room. And certainly no trip zones. So all good. I am so looking forward to seeing Suzie Pie, I haven’t seen her personally for a while especially due to covid restrictions. Susan’s speech is now slurred and walking worsened she needs the chair. I am so heartened she has a devoted compassionate family. Although it’s heartbreaking to see my cousin deteriorating so rapidly from the last time we met, the person I know and love is still there. Life for my beautiful cousin is like living on a knife edge. A simple meal, something most people take for granted is a terrifying ordeal. Every meal, literally any piece of food or drink that goes down is dangerous. Just recently Suzie pie aspirated into her lungs and then had to get treated for a severe chest infection. Unlike her brother Susan does not have a peg feed and is now passed the point of being able to get one. I long for our next meet up so we can have something that hasn’t been allowed for what feels like an eternity an almighty hug and we can spend some time together. We always share “cousin time” it just takes a little longer to have the conversation. But as they say Good things come to those who wait but better things come to those who are patient.

This disease changes the daily lives of everyone that is affected with it. The person that is diagnosed is eventually trapped inside their own body. Forced to get help from others, be it physical and emotional. Even the fittest and most ambitious of us, as time goes by, our bodies get consumed by HD. Families and friends do their ultimate best to help and care both physically and emotionally. However at times they feel the pressure and need reassurance; we need to remember they too are fighting their own battle. Living with Huntington’s Disease affects the daily life of the person with it, but those living around them. It can have a massive impact on those who live in the home. When symptoms start to worsen and physical symptoms begin to progress equipment starts to invade the house. Yes its a fabulous help. But at the same time, another tick of the box that the disease is progressing in the direction you were hoping would take a little longer.

I hope by reading a little about my aunt and cousins you have been able to open your eyes to Huntington’s Disease and I’ve managed to raise awareness of this crippling disease that only takes over the body of those diagnosed but can haunt the minds of all those affected.

The awareness month of May is what is needed to spread the word. Let people feel more relaxed and knowledgeable about the disease. Family Matters. Absolutely fabulous, please take a look at their website. I have also been heartened to see on the television on the BBC drama Casualty, A&E Doctor Ethan Hardy has tested positive for HD.

The Family Matters Campaign is to raise awareness of Huntington’s Disease. This can only be a good thing. They are inviting those who have experience of Huntington’s to send in any information they would like to share, in the form of pictures, words, thoughts; it can be a poem for example, a quote, a few photographs. These will be shared on a digital community space called The Living History Project – it will be shared on The Living History Wall

To help promote awareness of Huntington’s it is important to share information not only by talking about it, reading pamphlets, etc, but moving on to the digital age. Sharing on television, websites, social media, etc. As I said earlier the BBC have brought it in on the storyline on Casualty which is fabulous for raising awareness. Charities such as #FamilyMatters help so many people and work so hard especially promoting awareness of #HuntingtonsDisease during #HDAwarenessMonth of May. You can find a relevant organisation in your area:

@HDA_tweeting – England and Wales

@HDAssocNI – Northern Ireland

@HDAI_ie – Ireland

@ScottishHD – Scotland

The Scottish Huntington’s Association avidly campaigns for Huntington’s disease charities. Olympic medalist and double world champion rower, Sarah Winckless is patron. Huntington’s is in Sarah’s family on her Mum’s side. Sarah herself has tested positive for the gene.

One thing I have to say I have rarely met a person with Huntington’s that has been a complainer in life. They have such a hard deck of cards to deal with in life and yet always seem to make the most of it.

So while you may have been complaining about being trapped in your 4 walls for a few weeks or months due to Government restrictions remember the people that are fighting a battle to get out there all the time.

Talking about nutrition

Over the last year I have been missing out in meeting up with chums and support network at net cancer support meetings organised by TAECT We have however had zoom meetings. Had a chance to chat and share a story or two over the internet. Our last meeting we had a guest specialist. The zoom meeting was different this time it was a question and answer session with dietician/nutritionist, Tara Whyand specialising in net cancer and carcinoid syndrome. On a Wednesday evening we were talking about nutrition

The zoom meeting was very well attended with a great variety of questions. It was informative and interesting. Living with a peg feed you may wonder why I want to take part in the discussion. Primarily because I miss my chums and want to see familiar faces. I physically miss seeing the friends I’ve made through the group, including Barbara, Margaret, the two Alistairs, Muriel & Eric, David & Isobel. It feels like a lifetime ago that we were all together in Pencaitland bowling club at the Tea Party I pulled together and the music night. Not only raising money for Scotland’s Net Cancer Charity but promoting awareness of the cancer and making new friends. Pre Covid we would meet up physically these meetings would be called Net Natter Meetings. Things have to change slightly for now and technology is fabulous letting us all join in and natter together.

It may seem strange that someone like myself with a gastrostomy tube attends a nutrition chat. However, I found it great. Tara mentioned one of the most bothersome symptom; diarrhea. We discussed this. Spoke about flushing. Also pellagra. We discussed taking supplements such as creon and vitamin B. All in all it was very informative and helpful. I’m sure everyone got a lot out of it.

As the covid vaccine has been rolled out and the restrictions are getting lifted I hope we will be meeting up soon and we can start to have regular Net Natter Meetings again.

Give to charity without costing me a penny

Since the day my consultant told me I had to give up driving my online shopping has increased tenfold. I purchase my weekly grocery shop online. The Sainsbury’s van could drive its way to our cottage on its own I’m sure. I have to admit I purchase nearly everything online, and from everywhere. I was so happy when I found out I was able to shop and give to charity without costing me a penny.

As most of my regular blog readers know I regularly attend Net natter support meetings with The Ann Edgar Charitable Trust. (TAECT) Scotland’s Neuroendocrine Cancer Charity. They are an invaluable support network as well as offer information days and zoom meetings. I got an email from TAECT letting me know that they had registered with Amazon Smile and Give as You Live.

So me being me, an avid online shopper and a huge supporter of TAECT started going onto Amazon Smile rather than my regular Amazon. I shop on Amazon frequently. I am an Amazon Prime customer and purchase several items per week. So thought it best to support the Charity. All I do is make a purchase as normal, pay the price like usual. The charity gets 0.5% of the sales every time I shop at no cost to me.

I then decided to register for Give a you live, its so simple. Register for free, and then shop online to different retailers. The retailer donates a percentage of sales to the charity. Its that simple. Companies that participate include, John Lewis, B & Q, Dunelm, H & M, Argos, Marks & Spencers, Pets at Home, Screwfix, Ebay, plus many many more. In only one week, I have shopped in John Lewis, Dunelm and Boden. £7.71 has been donated to charity without costing me any extra money.

Both schemes are a wonderful way to donate money to charity, there are a great deal of charities to choose from and many on your doorstep. All without leaving your arm chair and only for the cost of. the goods. Its a win win situation.

You can have a look at smile Amazon here. And Give as you live here. I’m sure you will agree they are both fabulous ways to help the income of charities.

So the next time you are going on Amazon to shop, instead of the regular Amazon, go on Amazon Smile. Register a charity and donate 0.5% every time you shop. If you are buying a gift for someone, treating yourself to something, getting a much needed product for the house, go through give as you live and donate a percentage to charity. It really is that simple and no extra cost to you at all.

A comfortable place to die

As I have grown older I have came to realise that there aren’t many guarantees in life. The only certainties in life are birth,death and change. We are born, changes take place and we die. To make things more pleasant all round and something we take for granted in the United Kingdom is that we will always have somewhere to go when we are sick. Get taken care of free of charge and when the inevitable happens are granted A comfortable place to die.

When a person is faced with a terminal illness, at some point thoughts come racing in to the mind where do you want to spend the last days. People’s answers are very personal ones. For some being at home and spending every last possible moment being cared for in the family home is their wish. Others prefer to be cared for in a hospice or hospital environment. Either way, the experience I have witnessed personally the care given has always been outstanding. The nursing staff making sure in the last weeks, days and right down to moments comfort is paramount.

There is no getting away from it making a choice where you want to end your days is far from easy. There is an awful lot to consider. However even when all the pros and cons are weighed up and it’s been decided home, hospital or hospice sometimes it just doesn’t go as smooth as you would expect.

We may choose to stay at home and be cared for by your loved ones and supported by district nursing team. Most of the time it goes well and you get your wish and you can stay at home. The district nurse team and Marie curie nurses that cared for my Father in his home gave him a caring, dignified last few days. For that we cannot thank the wonderful medical team enough and will forever be in their debt. Home nursing teams work very hard looking after the patient, ordering drugs, equipment, supplies, communicating with other health professionals. We are lucky to have such good staff working on the NHS, providing us with with amazing service. They are dedicated, take care of the patient and make sure the family are coping too. At present I have the most amazing team of District Nurses that come in to my home and give me injections, service my stoma/gastrostomy tube, change dressings, etc. They also look out for my nearest and dearest.

However for some there can be a time that everything is all set up and there is a spanner in the works and you need shipped off to hospital and you no longer get the home care you so wished for. In a snap decision one of most difficult decisions of your life has been literally taken out of your hands. What we have to remember is things happen for a reason and getting sent into hospital is most likely with best intentions.

When we make a decision to end our days in a hospice it’s a choice that certainly does not come lightly. Whilst you get fabulous care and are in a safe and secure environment, it’s not home. Although hospices have a much less clinical feel than hospitals you can’t quite move your pet in. The biggest problem at the moment is the waiting time to go in. Main reason being there just isn’t enough palliative care beds to go around. It’s heartbreaking but the practicality is that we are actually waiting on someone passing away to then offer a bed. In the UK we get used to getting our health care and this includes all our cancer treatments free of charge. All us human beans in UK take our health care for granted; go to the doctor and don’t think about the cost. Many people think more about putting money away vet bills for our pets or saving for a holiday than donating to a charity.

Hospices, such as Marie Cure and St Columba’s, home care nursing from Marie Curie and Macmillian are not NHS or big private hospitals, they are self financing. They are charities. Rely on donations and fundraising. They offer their services free to patients who need them, at times it may be respite care where a patient goes in for a few days then goes home, or the nurses go to a patient’s home and takes care of them; gives the family help with washing the patient, changing pyjamas, changing sheets, etc, and patient staying in hospice for life end care.

On thinking about the charities, I believe we need to try and chip in a tad if we can. Next time you are eating that McDonald’s and you are about to have a Mcflurry with it; what’s the cost for the ice cream? Couple of quid? Perhaps think about matching the couple of pounds in a donation, I definitely will.

I’m in my mid fifties and have known people very dear to me that have died by their own choosing at home, in hospital and in a hospice. All very well cared for, and I can see the benefits and down sides of all. For the person that is going to meet his Maker and for those that are left behind. Me? If I mange to get my wish I will not be at home and I will not be a burden on anyone. Let’s hope this works out.

Fabulous afternoon at the dog park

My Labradors are content at our holding. Buddy never really leaves my side, goes wherever I go, literally with me into the bathroom, etc. The clever clogs knows when my unusual body is playing up and despite having my peg feed on my blood sugars drop and he comes to my assistance. He knows when my heart is banging so hard I can feel it pounding. Buddy is a wonderful assistance dog to me, my right hand boy. He wanders around the house, pads up and down the long hall. If I was to put a pedometer on him I could imagine his step count each day just in the house, never mind the garden would be pretty high. Bella gets a free reign to. They love their runs in the back field, especially with granddaughter Alexandra. However, when my sister Hazel said she had booked www.unleasheddogparks.co.uk for Buddy, Bella and her young border collie Jed I never anticipated what was in store – a fabulous afternoon at the dog park

Unleashed dog park is only literally a three minute drive from our home in Boggs Holdings, Pencaitland. It provides a wonderful safe environment to let your dog run free and get plenty of exercise. There are great quality equipment for the dogs to play on, a sensory area, a sandpit.

The massive bonus for us is you drive your car into the field you will be using. With my health the way it is, I’m certainly not up to walking my babies a long walk. Places like the dog park in my area are just perfect for a treat. They enjoy running around as they do on our wide open fields but with the added extras of the sensory garden, the equipment to climb on. A fabulous and safe place to train or treat your pampered pouch.


Buddy on his favourite ramp


My only disappointment was photography is a huge passion of mine and I neglected to take my Nikon camera with me I took all my photos on my phone. Don’t get me wrong I was really pleased with the results on my Apple

Bella eager to get going, but will pause for a photo if you bribe her 😝

“Look at me go”, says Border Collie, Jed

Bella ready for an adventure

Since March 2020 life has been a funny old world for us all. The arrival of Coronavirus and the devastating effects it has had on us. Many of us have had life changing situations and learned to live with a new normal. We have lost people we love, heartbreakingly not been able to be with them in their hour of need. Staff have courageously battled on through conditions many have never seen before. For all the dedication of workers, volunteers, families, friends, loved ones, etc I thank you. Without the help and love of others it’s difficult to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Now sitting writing this on this Thursday morning in April 2021 in my sitting room, I feel a whole lot more positive than I did this time last year. The vaccine is going well. Yes we are concerned about blood clots, but that’s a whole different story and I believe the benefits outweigh the risks. The restrictions are lessening here in Scotland.

My District Nurse, Jennifer was in yesterday she commented how peaceful and relaxing our home is. I told her yes with my carcinoid syndrome fatigue is a huge problem as well as nocturnal diarrhoea so quietly listening to music and writing is relaxing and helps a great deal. Buddy and Bella help too. Snuggling up on the sofa with my Labradors can be just what the Doctor ordered.

The stressful year has affected us all. For me the best way I cope is having my glass half full not empty. Taking the dogs to the dog park such as Unleashed helps blow away the cobwebs. It benefits both the human beans and the K9s.

If you haven’t been to a dog park before and you are swithering, give it a try, Buddy is ten years old, Bella eight and my sister’s border collie, Jed is only nine months. They all had an amazing time. Got home tired out and I’m sure they are looking forward to their next visit.

This Saturday we will spring forward

It’s coming up to the final Saturday in March and here in the UK we are all going to lose an hours sleep. We usually associate lack of sleep with things like stress, or going on a night out, or maybe the baby has kept us up crying. But this time we are getting told YOU WILL HAVE ONE HOUR LESS THROUGH THE NIGHT LIKE IT OR NOT. Are most of us going to complain about this? Heck NO! Why, it’s British Summertime. This Saturday we will spring forward.

Since March 2020 for many of us life has been pretty difficult one way or another. We have had many an incident to try us. Covid-19 struck and the world has never been the same again. Worldwide 125 million have been diagnosed with covid, 2.75 million people have died from covid. Countries have been in lockdown, many of us still have restrictions. Businesses closed, lots of folks unable to work or changing their way of working and working from home or making adjustments to their workplaces to ensure the safety of the workforce and customers. Education has been a huge challenge for both students and staff. Everyone in life feeling some sort of pressure in some way or another.

What we have to remember is everything that has been done is in the interest of all of us. When we have been told to stay at home it is for our own good and to help save lives. The vaccine is being rolled out and ticking along nicely. The elderly, frontline workers and the vulnerable were the first to get their injections. Now centres are busy working round the clock making sure we all get immunised.

As the beautiful daffodils dance in the March winds, they bring hope and I believe happiness. Our front garden has many daffodils. As the dogs run up the grass and the sun shines down on them as they pass them you can’t help but feel a warmth in your heart, even on a cool day. Yesterday my sister Hazel and my 5 year old granddaughter Alexandra walked my Labradors. They all had a lovely time. Including me; I maybe wasn’t on the walk, however I so enjoyed hearing about it when they came back and loved to see my delightful labs looking so happy. Tails wagging franticly, bottoms wiggling and big doggie cheesy smiles.

Hazel, Alexandra, Buddy and Bella out for a walk


Hubby Steve came back home and Alexandra was very excited to see her Papa. Out she went and jumped on the lawn tractor. And rode up the garden, her beautiful curly hair naturally blowing back showing her delightful smiling happy face. Afterwards she came striding back to the house, grinning from ear to ear with a bunch of daffodils in her hand from the garden; won’t they look nice in the window Granny, Alexandra said with pride. And how right she is.


Tonight I will be going to bed, and setting any manual clock one hour ahead. Big benefit in UK is daylight saving. Next weekend is Easter. I’ve got a busy week ahead, stoma nurse specialist video call on Monday, big discussion and specialist training to get discussed. Specialised training to get booked in. My nurses will be in on Wednesday for Gastrostomy full service, dressing change and octreotide injection.

Lets hope the weather starts to get warmer, and life will certainly start to look an awful lot brighter for all of us.

Daffodils on the windowsill

Alexandra walking Bella at the back of the house