Steve Hewlett is 58 and a journalist who works for the BBC, presenting The Media Show on Radio 4. About a year ago he was diagnosed with stage 4 oesophageal cancer.
For past few months he has shared his experiences every Monday on Radio 4, on the PM programme, interviewed by Eddie Mair. The link below gives the chance to download or listen to the podcast.
I have never met Steve and never will, but I am sure everyone will like him. His dry wit and sense of realism about his situation are in evidence every week and he has a sensitive collaborator, in Eddie Mair. Every part of his journey is covered from the discomfort experienced during treatment to how to help the family cope as well. Some interesting questions arise such as how will cancer patients fare as the NHS faces a shortage of funds and overwhelming demand.
Sadly Steve passed away on February 20th, however the podcasts should be available using the link for many months.
As the year comes to an end, members enjoyed a Christmas lunch at our home base, The Olde House, with a final social evening taking place next week. Near the top of our thoughts were friends absent through illness or voluntary work commitments. Every one present won a raffle prize and the choices of “Secret Santa” presents seemed to go down very well.
We can look back on 2016 as a year where we have continued to develop the support we provide. Recently we provided a boogie board to a patient about to have a laryngectomy, to assist with communication on the ward and back at home. Our member list now includes patients/carers beyond our traditional remit of head and neck cancer. This reflects the lack of specific support groups for many types of cancer.
Tonight, on BBC1’s The One Show, there was a film about a laryngectomee, Doreen, who has been left with no voice. She now uses Art to express herself. The program may be seen following the link below. The relevant section starts around 39 minutes in.
This will only be available for a few weeks so the video will be posted on our video page soon.
In the meantime we can see her attitude in the picture below:
It has to be said that the majority of laryngectomees find a voice. For the minority, like Doreen, that do not then tablets and mobile phones can offer an alternative way to communicate.
In 2015 NICE updated its guidelines relating to patients presenting to GPs with suspicious lesions or lumps in the mouth. It involved referral to a dentist within 2 weeks for assessment for a possible oral cancer.
Why are the patients not being directed to a hospital at once? Delay in diagnosis always worsens the likely outcome. Given the strong link between social deprivation and these cancers how many of the patients will have a dentist to see?
The Daily Express (Nov 22) and others reported on concerns about these guidelines, expressed in the British Journal of Oral and Maxillo-facial Surgery.
(The first concert in West Hampstead)
Losing one’s voice box does not mean that singing or joining a choir is impossible. I recall hearing Clifford Hughes, who once performed with Scottish Opera, singing at a NALC event in Scotland, despite having had a laryngectomy.
Dr Thomas Moors has launched a charity, aimed at using singing as an aid to laryngectomee rehabilitation. The idea of a choir whose members have no larynx may appear to be fanciful but the results contradict that notion. Just click below to listen to a recording the choir made as a tribute to the UK paralympians!
As well as being a very satisfying hobby, singing in the choir has benefits for members including a boost in confidence and improved breath control, helping with speech.
For more information see
SHOUT AT CANCER
We returned to the historic Eyre Chapel for our second fund raising coffee morning. Once again we were raising funds for NALC as well as our own group.
It was a damp and rather gloomy morning but by 11-00am the room was full of guests. Marjorie Thorne’s baking, as always, was selling well, not just for immediate consumption but for taking home for tea!
With a raffle, table sale and a “guess the cake’s weight competition” as well we managed to raise around £200. We thank everyone who turned up to support the event and for their generous donations.
The end of the summer holidays will see a crowded calendar for our members.
On August 30th we will have a stall at a “Living With and Beyond Head and Neck Cancer” event at Chesterfield Royal Hospital. Our members have assisted with an ambitious new initiative from Abi Miller, SLT. She has devised a programme of support to help patients cope with the lasting effects of treatment. The marketplace event we are attending concludes the programme.
On September 13th we welcome representatives from ATOS and Countrywide Supplies to advise us (and guests) of new products and developments in prescription items for laryngectomees.
September 19th-23rd is European Head and Neck Cancer Awareness Week. We will be holding a Coffee Morning at The Eyre Chapel to raise funds for NALC and HNChelp and also publicise the early symptoms of head and neck cancer.
This year we organised our Summer Meal at our “home base”, The Olde House. Despite competing with the England football match against Slovakia, there was a healthy turnout of members, who were able to follow the score from the cheers and groans from a nearby bar.
The National Cancer Research Institute (NCRI) is looking to recruit new head and neck cancer patients or carers to join the Head and Neck Clinical Studies Group . The CSG meets at least twice a year and there are Subgroups and/or Working Parties, which meet in the intervals between the main Group meetings.
NALC has had members on the group for many years. New members are given lots of training and support. If you are interested please follow the link below.
On Monday May 16 our Secretary, Malcolm Babb, was re-elected as the NALC President, having first been appointed to this office in 2013.
These are uncertain times for NALC, with Macmillan phasing out its funding. Clubs, members and other individuals have responded magnificently to the challenge of raising funds, but maintaining an office and two staff sets a high bar.
The Annual Report gives a clear indication of NALC’s work done for public benefit. The officers, staff and committee of NALC are determined to continue to support laryngectomees in adjusting to their life-changing surgery, as they have done for over 40 years, with the assistance of members of our 60+ affiliated clubs.
(The Annual Report will be available shortly on our resources page)