A fit and healthy dad diagnosed with stage four cancer says he looked like the ‘Nightmare on Elm Street’ after a horrific reaction to chemotherapy left him too embarrassed to go to cricket matches in her young son – and now hopes to save his life with a breakthrough vaccine.
Geoffrey Seymour, 41, a shopper, enjoyed playing tennis, basketball and cricket and had always been healthy until just before his 41st birthday when he started having blood in his stool .
Geoffrey was aware it was a symptom of cancer because of the adverts on TV, so he quickly went to his GP.
Geoffrey, who lives in Richmond, London, with his wife Santa, 44, and their son Marco, 10, was diagnosed with stage four colorectal cancer, which had spread from his colon to his liver – a situation so serious and seemingly desperate that he compared it to “being wrapped in a burning paper bag”.
He also had a bad reaction to chemotherapy, causing severe blistering of the skin on his face and, according to Geoffrey, making him look like Freddy Krueger from the 1984 horror film, Nightmare on Elm Street.
Chemotherapy stopped working, however, and now, in an attempt to save his life, Geoffrey has traveled to Germany for dendritic cell therapy – where a personalized vaccine is created in a lab to boost the immune system.
Research in this area is in its early stages, according to Cancer Research UK, and so the treatment wasn’t cheap – a single injection in Germany on October 17 cost £17,000 and Geoffrey is now waiting to see if it’s was enough to help him, while continuing to raise funds to pay him.
He said: ‘I couldn’t even wait for the fundraiser to be over to do it just because I’m so worried the disease will spread.’
Geoffrey was determined to find a new approach after three rounds of five doses of chemotherapy didn’t work and left him with such severe side effects that he no longer wanted to go out in public, even to see his baby boy play cricket .
“I had a really bad reaction to my face, it was full of painful blisters that made my face feel like it was on fire,” he said.
“I just got to the point where I looked a bit like Nightmare on Elm Street. Unless you went there with a bag over your head, other people would come up to me and look at me thinking, ‘What the hell is this? who’s wrong with this guy when i’m happy enough to blend in with the crowd.
Geoffrey’s ordeal began in April 2021, just two weeks before his 41st birthday on March 4, when he received the first warning signs of cancer.
After spotting blood in his stool, Geoffrey decided to see his GP as he knew it could be a symptom of cancer. And in late March, at Kingston Hospital, she was diagnosed with stage four colorectal cancer, which had metastasized to the liver.
After the diagnosis, in March 2021, he had five cycles of chemotherapy every three weeks which initially reduced the damage to his liver. At this point, he says he felt “optimistic”.
In December 2021, he underwent surgery to have a third of his liver removed, and the medical team began prepping him for radiation therapy that was going to be used on his colon — he even got markers tattooed radio for laser alignment.
A month later, a CT scan showed more tumors in his liver, so he had another round of chemotherapy. This time it was a success and liver surgery was booked for June 2022.
But, just as things were looking up, a few weeks before the operation, a CT scan revealed the progression of the disease. Geoffrey was put back on chemotherapy with another agent and the operation was cancelled.
After just two cycles, blood tests and a scan again showed progression of the disease, while the side effects were becoming unbearable for Geoffrey.
He said: “The side effects got worse, more and more, and now the chemotherapy is no longer effective, the body is used to it.”
Explaining why he reacted badly to a chemotherapy drug, he said: “Essentially it kills all of your fast-growing cells, which includes your cancer cells, but also your hair and nails. I had a really bad reaction to that on my face.
Determined to find an alternative, Geoffrey began to do his own research by searching online and came across dendritic cell therapy, only to be told it would not be available to him in the UK.
He decided to fly to a lab in Ulm, Germany to undergo the week-long treatment on October 17, 2022. His friends and family gathered to contribute to his Go Fund Me appeal, which resulted in raised over £14,000 and helped pay for the £17,000 injections.
“I’m still in pain, I’m in a lot of pain, and I’m trying to find a good balance between very strong medications,” he said.
Geoffrey is due to meet his oncologist on November 1 in the UK, but knows he may have to pay for further doses of the vaccine and more treatment abroad and is continuing to raise funds to pay for this.
Caroline Geraghty, cancer information nurse at Cancer Research UK, said: “Dendritic cell therapy is a type of vaccine that can treat cancer. Dendritic cells help the immune system recognize and attack abnormal cells, such as cancer cells.
“To make the vaccine, scientists grow dendritic cells alongside cancer cells in the lab. The vaccine then stimulates your immune system to attack the cancer. It is still being researched, so the evidence base is not yet strong enough for it to be available in the UK.
“Decisions about the best treatment should be based on strong evidence of benefit – so it’s important that patients talk to their doctor about any alternative treatments they might be considering.”
She added: “Thanks to ongoing research developments, many new cancer drugs continue to show efficacy in clinical trials, providing potential options for people with cancer.
“But while regulators have improved the speed at which they assess them for routine NHS use, there are still, unfortunately, times when certain drugs are not yet readily available to people who might benefit from them. We understand how frustrating this can be.
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