Chapter 30: Did you know it’s NET Cancer Awareness Month?

There are so many designated days and months that it’s really hard to know what is what. Only when your life is impacted by “a cause” do you really start paying attention! I’m sure you can relate. And there are so many important causes out there … diseases, social action, legislative action, reasons to show care & compassion. It’s impossible for me to choose just one to rally around. But of course, I am “all heart” as my sister likes to say. (I think it’s a compliment??)

But as luck would have it, NET Cancer chose us. Cancer is random like that, ya know? I’m so pleased to report that Don is doing great. He is feeling good and working like a dog (which in Don’s world means he is feeling good). My man is anything but lazy! But in honor of NET Cancer Awareness month, I wanted to share with you some facts & figures. I hope you never have to deal with this, but you just never know. This info provided by the Neuroendocrine Cancer Connection might be helpful to you or someone you care about.

Carcinoid cancer and related neuroendocrine tumors (NETs) are small, slow growing tumors found mostly in the gastrointestinal system, but can be in other parts of the body such as the pancreas and the lung. Since most of these grow very slowly, compared to other cancers, it usually takes many years before they become sizable or cause symptoms.

Carcinoid tumors and other NETs usually originate in hormone-producing cells that line the small intestine or other cells of the digestive tract. They can also occur in the pancreas, testes, ovaries, or lungs. Carcinoid tumors can produce an excess of hormonelike substances, such as serotonin, bradykinin, histamine, and prostaglandins. Excess levels of these substances can sometimes result in a diverse set of symptoms called carcinoid syndrome. Other NETs can produce other hormonal substances causing a variety of other syndromes.

When carcinoid tumors occur in the digestive tract or pancreas, the substances they produce are released into a blood vessel that flows directly to the liver (portal vein), where enzymes destroy them. Therefore, carcinoid tumors that originate in the digestive tract generally do not produce symptoms unless the tumors have spread to the liver. The hormones secreted by other NETs, particularly those in the pancreas, do not necessarily require spread to the liver to cause symptoms.

When carcinoid tumors have spread to the liver, the liver is unable to process the substances before they begin circulating throughout the body. Depending on which substances are being released by the tumors, the person will have the various symptoms of carcinoid syndrome, insulinoma syndrome, Zollinger Ellison syndrome, VIPoma syndrome, etc. Carcinoid tumors of the lungs, testes, and ovaries also cause symptoms without having spread, because the substances they produce bypass the liver and can sometimes circulate widely in the bloodstream.

Did you know that just last week Governor Roy Cooper here in North Carolina has made a proclamation recognizing November as NET Cancer Month and 11/10 as NET Cancer Day? So I guess our mysterious little disease is getting some traction. This is good news!


NC Governor Roy Cooper declares Nov. 10 NET Cancer Awareness Day

Meanwhile, the planet somehow keeps spinning. The boys are off to a good start to the school year. Colin seems happy in his sophomore year and is doing well. AP World History is a challenge, but he’s doing a great job of staying on top of things. Marching band season just ended and now the high school swim team season has begun. Don’t worry, plenty of grass still grows under this kid’s feet … but of course it’s all under his bed where he seems permanently planted when he’s home. LOL. Sam has wrapped up his first season of middle school tackle football (7th & 8th grade). We have enjoyed watching him play … all 20 seconds of the playtime he gets in the games. Ha ha. But that’s how it goes when you are the rookie. And he still loves it! He has done a really good job keeping up with the academic load on top of the athlete stuff – we are proud of him. Fingers crossed this continues into the winter & spring!

So here in 2017 we have learned to roll with the punches. Each of us will have a turn to deal with something challenging. As a friend recently said to me, “It stinks to adult” and there are many days when I agree with this sentiment. But even on the tough days, we still have our faith, our loved ones, our friends, our work, our interests & passions … if not all of those everyday, definitely some of those most days. And it’s those things that help keep us grounded and help keep us focused on all the good that there is, even amidst the bad. I am so grateful for your friendship & support this year – and all the years – but especially this year. It has been my beacon of hope during the darker days. As we launch into the holiday season, be sure to take a moment and enjoy your time with your loved ones and enjoy the music. I especially like how these folks did!