Cancer di­ag­no­sis re­lief

Napier Courier - - Front Page - BY BRENDA VOWDEN brenda.vowden@nzme.co.nz

Feel­ing eu­phoric after be­ing di­ag­nosed with lung cancer is prob­a­bly not your av­er­age per­son’s re­ac­tion, but Deb­o­rah Burn­side is hardly your av­er­age per­son.

Ac­tor, author, busi­ness owner, sportsper­son and event co­or­di­na­tor, Deb­o­rah can now ten­ta­tively add lung cancer sur­vivor to the list.

“I’m in my first year post surgery — the lymph nodes taken were clear — but I’m on a reg­u­lar re­view for five years be­fore I can be of­fi­cially de­clared cancer free,” she says.

Deb­o­rah found out after a CT scan in Oc­to­ber last year she had a 1cm nod­ule in her lung. After “pes­ter­ing” her spe­cial­ist, she was told it was cancer

“Re­ally I knew as soon as I had the PET scan though.”

With the at­ten­tion to de­tail of a pub­lished author, Deb­o­rah had been send­ing her symp­toms in writ­ing to physi­cians since 2015.

“I had all the clas­sic lung cancer symp­toms — breath­less­ness, night sweats, a cough and chest pain — at the time ev­ery­body had a post winter cough, the night sweats were dis­missed as sim­ply my age and the breath­less­ness was in­ter­mit­tent.”

Deb­o­rah didn’t let it rest and says she felt deep down some­thing was very wrong.

“I’m a get on with it sort of per­son — it was easy for these things to be brushed off — I wasn’t con­vinced though.”

She says the di­ag­no­sis was a huge re­lief to find out she was right.

“I’d suf­fered a lot of se­vere symp­toms from en­dometrio­sis for a long time in the past and been in­cor­rectly di­ag­nosed on that is­sue, so had gone through quite a bit to get to the stage of fi­nally hav­ing the tu­mour in my lung con­firmed.”

Deb­o­rah says her di­ag­no­sis was an eas­ier pill to swal­low for her than her fam­ily.

“Be­cause I’d been liv­ing with a nag­ging sus­pi­cion for so long, I was fine — it took a lit­tle longer for the rest of the fam­ily to catch up and process that it was cancer — I let all my im­me­di­ate fam­ily know all to­gether.”

■ In­for­ma­tion and key facts about NET can­cers in NZ

Neu­roen­docrine tu­mours are tu­mours that grow in­side the cells that gen­er­ate hor­mones. There are mul­ti­ple places neu­roen­docrine tu­mours can grow in­clud­ing the glands, pan­creas, lungs, in­testines and stom­ach. Not all neu­roen­docrine tu­mours are can­cer­ous, but some are. Can­cer­ous tu­mours may spread cells through­out the rest of the body. Be­nign tu­mours don’t

The di­ag­no­sis of a neu­roen­docrine tu­mour, or NETS, was the best type of one of the worst kinds of cancer in New Zealand to have.

“I was an ex­cel­lent sur­gi­cal can­di­date and had a right mid­dle lobec­tomy at Mercy in Auck­land. I am very grate­ful for health in­sur­ance as it was head­ing to Christmas and pub­lic sur­gi­cal units were closing for the holiday period and the young doc­tors were strik­ing.”

Be­cause of the kind of tu­mour it was — pri­mary and en­cap­su­lated — move. The most com­mon NET symp­toms are ab­dom­i­nal pain, flush­ing, di­ar­rhoea, wheez­ing, heart pal­pi­ta­tions, skin rashes and heart burn. As the symp­toms mimic other more com­mon con­di­tions NETs are of­ten mis­di­ag­nosed. The di­ag­no­sis is only made once they have spread (metas­ta­sised) to other or­gans. From on­set of symp­toms to cor­rect di­ag­no­sis is five to seven years at which time the can­cers have usu­ally metas­ta­sised.

Deb­o­rah has not had chemo­ther­apy or ra­di­a­tion.

“If the tu­mour had been larger or my lung func­tion worse, things could have been very dif­fer­ent for me. That’s why the Lung Cancer Foun­da­tion of NZ is cur­rently pre­sent­ing to govern­ment about declar­ing lung cancer a na­tional health emer­gency.”

Deb­o­rah’s de­ci­sion to be part is part of the INCA (In­ter­na­tional Neu­roen­docrine Cancer Al­liance), with mem­bers from 26 dif­fer­ent coun­tries work­ing to­gether on an an­nual global awareness cam­paign, is per­sonal.

“Be­cause I know, right now, out in our com­mu­nity there is some­body just like me who is go­ing to die be­cause their dis­ease will not be di­ag­nosed early enough. I had ev­ery clin­i­cal symp­tom of lung cancer and each of them was brushed off and ig­nored. Ad­di­tion­ally for NETS suf­fer­ers many of the treat­ments are not funded. It was only re­cently that I even found out about the NETS sup­port in NZ through the Uni­corn Foun­da­tion.”

Fri­day, Novem­ber 10 is World NETs Awareness Day — col­lec­tion buck­ets and pro­mo­tional cups of cof­fee will be avail­able at Drop­shot Kaf­fee, Angkor Wat and Cafe´ and Larder No.5.

“If any other cafes would like to par­tic­i­pate all they have to do is get in touch or dona­tions can be made di­rectly to the Uni­corn Foun­da­tion www.uni­corn­foun­da­tion.org.nz/. Ul­ti­mately we know when our own bod­ies aren’t right, so don’t give up, keep search­ing for an­swers. It’s prob­a­bly not go­ing to be cancer, but bet­ter to know ear­lier rather than later if it is.”

Deb­o­rah Burn­side de­liv­ers cof­fee cups to Drop­shot Kaf­fee owner Karen Kriese-Wise, for the up­com­ing NETs Awareness cam­paign.

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