Irish flag

The Bravest Irishman I’ll Ever Know

Sitting here with my headphones on trying to figure out a way to put all of the words together. Facing the fact that as you get older, you lose more people in your life, can be difficult. Not just friends who drift away but family members who you were close to. I don’t believe that there’s ever a right time or that we can make ourselves ready, even if we know it’s coming.

When I take part in Race for Life next month it’s going to be a very emotional day.

This isn’t only because of the huge crowds supporting Cancer Research UK. The run in Manchester takes place on the same day as my auntie and uncle’s ruby wedding anniversary. I’ve got to do this. I’ve got to help others who aren’t aware of neuroendocrine tumours.

My uncle might have been stubborn at times but his heart was always in the right place. Throughout all of my life, he was always there and he always cared. He welcomed anyone and everyone into his life. And we all know when getting a taxi home from his and auntie Linda’s, uncle Dom would always go out to the taxi driver to make sure you got you home safe.

Growing up as a child, uncle Dom always made me tea and toast for breakfast.

And I mean, he would pile loads on a plate to make sure you were full. Whenever I was sent home with a bad migraine from work he was there to let me into his house to either give me a blanket to lie on the couch with or send me up to bed with a glass of water. When we were little and I stayed over with my friends, he used to come into the room at night with a torch on his face and pretend to be a ghost.

I remember sitting there with you in the living room watching Fifteen to One after school. Every time I see a cowboy or Christmas film I’ll think of you.

There’s no one quite like you.

Your love for Man United, Rex and Tyson, Poker on your laptop, Irish music, a can of beer, and love for your family was like no other.

Uncle Dom you’re no longer in pain. The world is going to be such a different place without the crazy ‘Irish Salfordian’ in town. Here’s to you and all of the good times you brought into our lives. Miss and love you always.


If Cancer Research UK is close to your heart please support me as I run in memory of uncle Dom and to help others facing cancer. Donations can be made via our Cancer Research UK Giving Page. 

ribbon rolled out

Neuroendocrine Tumours and Race for Life with Cancer Research UK

Sadly, news has hit that my uncle has neuroendocrine tumours. Although it’s a short time to train, the news gives me more than enough motivation to start fundraising for Cancer Research UK. Anyone who knows me, understands how much raising money for charity means to me, especially when it comes to family. It’s been a couple of years since my last charity run but me and Danny will be taking part in Race for Life next month in Manchester.

Did you know that neuroendocrine tumours are rare?

According to Cancer Research UK, over 4,000 people in the UK each year are diagnosed with Neuroendocrine cancer also known as ‘Neuroendocrine tumours’ (NETs). Neuroendocrine cells are in the majority of organs in our body including the stomach, lungs and pancreas.

I want more people to know about this type cancer because of how rare it is. My uncle knew something wasn’t right when he was struggling to empty his bowels for weeks. Other symptoms have included, loss of appetite, sickness, weight loss and change of skin colour (grey).

His GP diagnosed uncle Dom with diverticulosis due to age. It wasn’t until he went into hospital that there was something more. It took a little while but the doctors and consultants carried out several tests including a biopsy, bloods and PET scan.

The motivation I need to take part in Race for Life

I want to raise as much as possible to help promote more awareness and more research towards fighting cancer. It’s something we hear about so often these days but there’s still no easy way of breaking the news to someone.

My uncle isn’t the first person in my family to face cancer so there’s even more reason to make taking part in this year’s Race for Life. I hope that by raising awareness, I will encourage others to participate. Don’t let the word ‘race’ put you off. Honestly, you can go at whatever pace works for you. Remember the real reason why you’re taking part.

All donations can be made on Tasha and Danny’s Race for Life. Thank you so much for everyone’s donations so far. It means the world to us and my family.

I’m ready to do this. And I hope that at least one of you out there will be too.

chia seeds on sprinkled with wooden spoon

Diet for Slow Transit Constipation

Have you been diagnosed with slow transit constipation? One of the important things to think about if you haven’t already is your diet. A healthy diet is essential for everyone but there are certain foods which can you eat to increase your chances of going to the toilet.

Here are some foods I include in my diet for slow transit constipation which have helped me.

Prunes

Prunes? Ugh, they don’t sound nice do they? Well I thought that until I discovered Activia prune yoghurts. I started off with the prune ones and blended with the yoghurt flavour it’s actually really nice. You can also buy a multipack of different flavours including fig and rhubarb.

Chia seeds

Mixed with something that you eat most days, e.g. porridge, yoghurts, salads etc. chia seeds are really good as they’re high in protein. They give you energy so they’re also beneficial to eat if you go to the gym or keep active and exercise. Also, they are very healthy for your digestive system and can help to relieve constipation.

Mackerel

I aim to at at least one portion of oily fish each week. Mackerel is part of my plan to maintain my this I think it goes well with salad and makes a nice dinner at work. As someone with hypertension, it’s also great that it helps to lower blood pressure too.

Plenty of water

It goes without saying that hydration is an important factor of a healthy diet. I’ve learnt the importance of drinking more water at work not just in the evenings at home. It can be so hard when there are a lot of tea bellies at work!

Remember, each individual is different. Our bodies work in their own ways. What works for some may not work for others. This post has solely been based on my own experiences that might help someone else with slow transit constipation.

Share your tips for the best diet for slow transit constipation in the comments box further down the page.

daisy on a woman's stomach

Slow Transit Constipation Diagnosis

Slow transit constipation (STC) is a neuromuscular problem where the muscles of the large intestines have delayed movement. It’s also associated with a ‘sluggish bowel’.

A bit of a background with my diagnosis… It had been a couple of years since I had my visit to the doctors explaining that I was constipated. But back then, I felt like my body became accustomed to feeling the way it did and it wasn’t the worst thing in the world.

That was until a while later when my body just wasn’t right. No lifestyle change or dietary improvements were helping. I’m an active and healthy person, I eat my oily fish once-twice a week, drink plenty of water throughout the day etc. However, I was lucky if I could go to the toilet (to empty my bowel) for at least two weeks at a time. And even then, I’m talking small hard pieces, not a proper poo! No matter how much bloat was building up, a very tiny amount of coming out of me.

There’s more to the side effects of slow transit constipation than people think.

Not only that but I could no longer eat, I was being sick in the morning and throughout the day when I attempted to eat. It caused me to feel anxious whenever I could manage a small amount of food because it would either harden my stomach or come back up.

Feeling dizzy was a regular occurrence, probably because I had zero energy levels. I felt sad all the time and didn’t want to see friends. It’s awful to admit that I punched my stomach a few times because it was so swollen. I hated how I looked in clothes – one big ball of bloat.

It’s got to the point where I had an awful amount of fear and embarrassment about eventually needing the toilet. To this day, I still get the urge to go and can’t miss the opportunity but still have pain. My left abdomen suffers the most. But more recently, I’ve started to feel a sharp pain my right side too.

What’s worse is the frequent urge to need a wee but not always being able to go. The pressure from my bowel is the cause of this.

Once you’re diagnosed with slow transit constipation.

After feeling my left abdomen, the consultant said he could feel an unusual sized hard lump. He gathered this was due to a build up of impaction. Afterwards I had an internal examination, which resulted to the decision of booking in for a colonic transit study.

In the meantime I had a trip to A&E. I had to leave work because I was experiencing an excruciating pain in my left abdomen and I was throwing up. The same abnormalities were picked up but there was nothing they could do other than prescribe more laxatives. Eventually I was booked in for the colonic transit study after waiting 6 weeks for a letter or phone call. But that’s another story.

During the study, you take a capsule which has lots of tiny radiopaque markers inside.  On day 5 you go back into the hospital to have an x-ray. This reveals where all of the little markers inside have reached. To their surprise but not mine, I had more than 20 markers left inside, some of which hadn’t even reached my small bowel and there was also some faecal residue in my colon.

The consultant said, “Yes, it confirms you have slow transit constipation.” And when I asked how I move forward with this, he said try more laxatives or there’s a tablet you can take which he suggested my GP to prescribe me.

Guess what happened next? I was passed back to my GP which he for one, couldn’t understand how it had ‘been dealt with’ and why my follow-up appointment was so rushed. I took a course of the medication and it didn’t work. This was after I tried Laxido, Lactulose, Senna, Movicol, Dulcolax etc. so you can imagine how frustrating it was.

Moving forward with slow transit constipation…

As advised from the consultant, there’s no way to cure slow transit constipation. But it was interesting to hear that it’s a symptom rather than a condition on its own. Whenever I look up slow transit constipation, I see a lot of web pages relating to slow transit constipation being more common in children than adults.

It’s quite annoying because my body always seems to be, let’s say, a bit odd. For example, my diagnosis of hypertension (high blood pressure) at the age of 23. I often wonder if the constipation, high blood pressure, migraines and sensitivity to coldness causing blue/grey hands are all linked together in some kind of way – perhaps thyroid related? However, blood test usually reveal ‘borderline’ or ‘normal’ results.

The slow transit constipation doesn’t go away but I’ve just got to learn different ways of coping.

I try to eat less portions but still make sure I’m having enough food and fluids intake. Mostly, chia seeds and prunes help me to digest food. My stomach can go from flat to a huge ball and it’s very uncomfortable. Just the other day, my boyfriend asked me when did I last go to the toilet. Other than a night out where one drop of Malibu had me running to the nearest toilet, I honestly can’t remember.

There are still occasions where I cry because of the pain. Digesting food is the most important thing for me. Without it I’m weak and let’s face it, a little grumpy too. We all need food!

If you suffer from slow transit constipation share your experiences below.

red heart shapes on wooden table

Why You Should Give Blood If You Can

Danny has given blood regularly for a number of years. He attends the blood donor centres in Manchester to make his blood donations. He tells us why you should give blood if you can.

When did you decide to give blood and why?

As soon as I knew I was old enough I decided to give blood. I was 16 or 17-years-old.

How many donations have you given?

To date, I’ve given 18 donations – this includes donating platelets. To give a whole blood count, it’s every 3 months for men and every 4 months for women.

How do you feel about giving platelets?

I prefer to give them rather than whole blood now because I have A- blood type which means I’m eligible for platelet donation. 60% of platelet donation go to patients with cancer. And group A platelets can be given to all ABO blood groups.

What are the best places/people that your blood has been donated to that you’re aware of?

All blood donated goes to good places that need it. But knowing it goes to a prenatal ward is a good feeling. Oh and an A&E department too.

Do you think you’ll always give blood given that your health is maintained?

Yes. As long as I can I will because you never know who needs help. And you never know if one day, I’ll need it too.

What would you say to people who are considering to donate their blood for the first time?

Do it. It’s a great feeling knowing you can and that you’re doing something amazing. And what have you got to lose? Ask if you can give platelets. You can give them every 2 weeks and 1 donation goes to 3 adults or 12 children.

Danny will be returning to the blood donor centre in Manchester very soon. Visit the NHSBT website to see if you can give blood and where the nearest donation centre is near you.

raspberries and 3 pieces of chocolate

3 Reasons Why I’m Taking Part in Dechox

That’s right, Dechox, a detox from chocolate. The British Heart Foundation are running this campaign with the aim to get people to give up chocolate for the whole of March. To all of you 20,000 dechoxers, think about all the chocolate you can indulge in once it hits Easter Sunday on 1st April.

I have a history of supporting the British Heart Foundation. There are people who face heart conditions and circulatory disease every day. Taking part in Dechox is just a small thing you can do, right? Below are my reasons for taking part.

The research has proven to help those with heart conditions

The British Heart Foundation list over 20 heart conditions on their website. Their Heart Helpline helps to offer advice and information on a healthy heart. If you’re worried about your heart, you can ring the helpline on 0300 330 3311. Their expansive research into diagnosis and treatment has been recognised across the UK. Having lost someone to coronary heart disease, it makes my heart beat faster just thinking about it.

I wish grandad’s heart bypass would’ve lasted much longer

He knew it and so did we. There’s a limit on the time you can have when you’ve had a heart bypass. That doesn’t mean to say it makes it any easier when you lose them. Some people will do their utmost to live the healthiest life possible. And others will want to make the most out of life in their own way. The British Heart Foundation’s research fights for people to have more heartbeats. I wish that grandad’s heart could’ve beat some more.

My blood pressure journey

In 2015 I had a few minor blood pressure problems which lead to a 24 hour monitor and an ECG. I’m not sure what happened in between then and now. But nearly 6 months ago, I began to have blood pressure problems again. I no longer drink caffeine hoping that would help. I came off the pill after 4 years as urgently advised by the doctor in October. Yet, still no change, none of those were a factor.

After many blood pressure readings, I was put on medication which has now been doubled, along with a number of trips to see the doctor and nurse. Today was another one of those days for yet another blood test. I’m sure it was my fourth one in the last few months. This was to check my kidneys are functioning properly. I’m sure they are working just fine but I just hope they’ll be able to pinpoint what’s going on somewhere along the line.

Perhaps it’s hereditary? My beta blockers that I’ve taken for migraines for 7 years, are known for reducing hypertension but clearly my body wants to be different! I seem to have followed dad’s migraine history (but for a much longer period in my life than he did). I have to remember how dangerous it is to stress and worry. And I remind myself of the time when dad had a mini stroke.

Are you participating?

Are you taking part in Dechox? What are your reasons? Show the British Heart that you’re supporting this campaign by using #DECHOX on Twitter.

Please sponsor me

I would be very grateful for your support. £1 can go towards the extensive research that the British Heart Foundation carry out. To do this you can visit my JustGiving page. Thank you.