FUNDRAISING FOR A CURE
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In the summer of 2008 I gave birth to my beautiful baby boy, Hadley. Everything was perfect – but just 6 weeks after Hadley was born I started to get severe stomach pains and sickness. Over the following 10 weeks I got steadily worse, lost over 3 stone in weight and I was eventually rushed to hospital. That day, they found something hidden in my intestine so I was immediately sent for scans. At the fateful consultant’s follow up appointment, just a week before Hadley’s first Christmas, the consultant sat me down and said those devastating words that nobody ever wants to hear “I’m really sorry to have to tell you this, but you have cancerous tumours in your small bowel and unfortunately it has spread to your liver.” I was just 33 years old.
He went on to tell me that I had something called Neuroendocrine Cancer, a rare form of slow growing tumours that arise from cells that are part of both the nervous and endocrine system (the same cancer that Steve Jobs of ‘Apple’ and singer Aretha Franklin had). For a week I was in a daze and feared the worst but as I watched my newborn son, I knew from the beginning that I had everything to fight for…. and by all accounts, 12 years on, it has been a fight and a half! I met my Consultant Surgeon (and knight in shining armour) Neil Pearce for the first time at Southampton Hospital on 23rd December after being referred. He spent invaluable time with me going over the disease in general, the treatments available and his plan ahead. On Christmas Eve I started twice daily injections to help with the symptoms and to prepare myself for the forthcoming difficult surgeries. Between February 2009 and August of 2013 I had 6 rounds of surgery which included:
- Liver embolisation (Hepatic segment of 7th Artery).
- Removal of the primary tumour, my Appendix, 6ft of bowel and 4 stomach glands.
- Laparoscopic Liver resection including approximately 10cm of diaphragmatic and peritoneal tumour deposits.
- Neck dissection for removal of a tumour in the left clavicle.
- Gallbladder removed along with two stomach tumours, 2 liver tumours and 5 stomach glands.
- Tumour removal on my aorta (the largest artery in the human body)
Thank heaven for self administering morphine and pink fluffy bunny rabbits dancing round the end of your hospital bed! Although clocking up over 40 hours of surgery and feeling like I had been hit by a bus each time, the surgery in each intervention was luckily a success.
In 2017 I had PRRT treatment in London (Peptide Receptor Radionuclide Treatment) – A kind of specialist targeted radioactive treatment – but that sadly failed with little or no effects on my growing tumours in the liver, spine, medastinum and peritoneum. Currently (2020) I am on a chemotherapy clinical trial (which I started during COVID 19 lockdown) and doing well.
Back in February 2009, at the lowest point of my illness, sat in my hospital bed after a day long bout of major surgery, feeling like my life had truly fallen apart, I promised myself two things:
I would see my sons first day at school
As soon as I was physically able, I would do everything I could to raise money and promote awareness of NETs
I saw Hadleys first day at school. Today he is 12 years old and starting senior school next week – something I never imagined I would see back in 2008! In 2011 along with my surgeon Neil Pearce and Radiologist Brian Stedman we set up PLANETS Charity. Since then PLANETS has raised over £1 million for local regional cancer services and patients – dedicated to defeating Pancreatic, Liver, Abdominal and Neuroendocrine Tumours (NET’s).
Although I feel that I have been on a roller-coaster of extreme highs and devastating lows in the last 12 years, my perspective of life has undoubtedly changed for the better. I am constantly overwhelmed with the love and support given by my wonderful family, friends and colleagues from the moment I was diagnosed to date. I have no doubt this unconditional love contributed to my recovery during some very hard times and helps to keep me fighting on. Furthermore, I am and always will be, eternally grateful for the guidance and support of my surgeon, CNS nurse , radiologist, oncologist and the world class medical team at UHS that I am truly privileged to have met. I am hell bent on seeing a cure for cancer in my lifetime, as I feel deeply for those people who are today walking into a consultant’s clinic only to be told the same devastating news.
I truly want to see a day when this no longer happens.
READ ABOUT HOW FUNDS ARE USED
PLANETS has thanked its supporters after completing a £1 million fundraising campaign and making the final payment for a pioneering radiotherapy machine. PLANETS Cancer Charity has been fundraising for the past six years to fully purchase Mobetron, a revolutionary mobile device which delivers radiotherapy during surgery – known as intraoperative radiotherapy (IORT). When the charity […]
Thank you to John Greenwood, Trustee of the The Hospital Saturday Fund, for visiting us on Monday and bringing this incredible grant of £10,000 to support our IORT (Intra Operative Radiotherapy) machine. This will enable us to continue delivering this lifesaving treatment at University Hospital Southampton – the only centre in the UK currently offering […]
PLANETS have funded a psychotherapy programme, after a successful pilot course, to help NET patients see their diagnosis in a ‘new view’. We all know that different people deal with their neuroendocrine cancer diagnosis very differently. Initially there are lots of scary tests and Doctor appointments. Then there are lots of talk about […]
A woman from Salisbury has become the first patient in the UK with head and neck cancer to receive radiotherapy in the operating theatre during surgery to remove a recurrent tumour. Jayne Garrett, 53, underwent major surgery at University Hospital Southampton on 25 April after suffering a recurrence of her cancer following conventional treatment […]
It was an honour to present the fantastic work and great initial results to medics from all over the country at our 1st National IORT (intra-operative radiotherapy) Symposium on Friday June 21st at University Hospital Southampton. After a lot of hard work and fundraising in order to bring IORT to the UK for the […]
A dietitian funded by PLANETS Cancer Charity and the Robert White Trust Fund is due to start work to develop and provide a comprehensive dietetic service to patients diagnosed with Neuroendocrine Cancer (NETs). Ruth Lee will be based at the Dorset NET service, which is part of the Wessex European Neuroendocrine tumour society centre […]
PLANETS are excited to share the news that University Hospital Southampton have secured £200,000 funding from the Robert White Trust for a research project that aims to gain a better understanding of NET biology which may lead to a greater range of treatment options for patients with this rare disease. Robert White was a former […]
We are thrilled and proud to update our supporters that a Southampton bowel cancer patient has become the first in the UK to receive radiotherapy during surgery using the IORT machine that PLANETS has funded. he 58-year-old male, who completed a combination of conventional chemotherapy and radiotherapy in August, underwent major surgery at Southampton […]
SOUTHAMPTON CLINICIANS PIONEER USE OF REVOLUTIONARY CANCER DEVICE PLANETS founders Neil Pearce and Brian Stedman, together with fund manager Layla Stephen successfully launched our long awaited IORT machine last night. The Mobetron is the first portable system able to administer the treatment in this way – known as intraoperative radiotherapy (IORT) – and will […]
PLANETS are thrilled to announce that the eagle (finally) has landed! 2 tons of intra-operative radio-therapy machine (IORT) arrived from the USA this week – currently undergoing acceptance testing. This is the UK’s first ever mobile electron beam radiotherapy machine for treating cancers during surgery. Thanks to everyone who has supported our fundraising which has […]
You may have notice that Southampton was mentioned in recent media stories regarding The National Tumour Bank that is carrying out important pancreatic cancer research? Colin Johnson, Professor of Surgical Sciences at University of Southampton, has this to say about the project: ‘The National Tissue Bank is a major development in pancreatic cancer research. Several […]
A big thank you to Sainsbury’s Hedge End for donating two digital radios to PLANETS to be used in the lead lined Gamma Scanner Rooms at Southampton General. Pictured presenting the radios to staff in the scanner rooms are PLANETS Fund Manager, Layla Stephen, and Dr Brian Stedman.
PLANETS Charitable Fund are excited to have committed to provide a grant over a two year period for a pancreatic research project: ́The role of Eps8 in αvβ6-dependent functions in pancreatic cancer invasion’ to be undertaken by Dr Jo Tod. Pancreatic adenocarcinoma (PC) has one of the worst outcomes of any cancer; only 3.7% of patients […]
[social_button button=”facebook” flayout=”standard ” fwidth=”450″ faction=”like” fcolorsheme=”light”] UHS magazine Connect featured a fantastic article about NET patient Maureen McKenzie who, in July 2013, became the first Southampton patient to receive PRRT (peptide receptor radionuclide therapy). The equipment for this treatment was jointly funded by UHS and PLANETS showing just how important and valuable the […]
[social_button button=”facebook” flayout=”standard ” fwidth=”450″ faction=”like” fcolorsheme=”light”] Pancreatic cancer affects over 8000 patients each year in the uk and remains the fifth biggest cancer killer in the UK, despite this its has been underfunded for many years and currently receives just 1% of total cancer research funding in the UK. NETs are a rare form […]
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