A fit and healthy dad diagnosed with stage four bowel cancer has told of his horror diagnosis after spotting blood in his stool – which he recognised as a warning sign.
Geoffrey Seymour, 41, who lives in Richmond, in west London, is hoping a ground-breaking vaccine might give him a lifeline, after he suffered a bad reaction to chemotherapy which had failed to treat his cancer.
Geoffrey had loved playing tennis, basketball and cricket and had always been healthy before he spotted the warning sign of the cancer.
After spotting the blood in March 2021, just weeks before his 41st birthday, he went to his GP to have it checked out.
He was sent to Kingston Hospital and subsequently found out his cancer had already spread from his colon to his liver.
After the diagnosis, he had five cycles of chemotherapy every three weeks, which initially reduced the lesions in his liver – leaving him feeling “optimistic”.
In December of that year he had surgery to have part of his liver removed and the medical team started to prepare him for radiotherapy, the Independent reports.
When a scan showed up more tumours in his live a month later, he had another round of chemotherapy. This time it was a success and he had liver surgery booked in for June 2022.
However, a few weeks before the surgery a scan revealed disease progression, meaning Geoffrey was put back on chemotherapy with a different agent and the surgery was cancelled.
This time, it didn’t work and the side effects began to become unbearable for the Londoner.
“The side effects have gotten worse, worse, worse, and now, chemotherapy is just not effective anymore, the body’s gotten used to it.”
A bad reaction to a chemotherapy drug manifested on his face, which Geoffrey claimed left him looking like the “Nightmare on Elm Street” and subsequently too embarrassed to go out to his young son’s cricket games.
“I had a really bad reaction in my face, it was full of painful blistering that made my face feel like it was on fire,” he said.
After undertaking his own research, Geoffrey began fundraising to get access to dendritic cell therapy in Germany. A Go Fund Me appeal raised over £14,000 – close to the full amount needed for the first round of treatment.
The treatment, in which a personalised vaccine is created in a lab with the aim of stimulating the immune system, is not funded in the UK.
As research in this area was at an early stage, one injection cost Geoffrey £17,000. He is now waiting to see if it was enough to help him, while continuing to fundraise to pay for it.
He said: “I couldn’t even wait until the end of the fundraising to have it done just because I’m so worried that the disease was going to spread.”
Geoffrey, who said he was still in a “lot of pain”, was due to meet with his oncologist this month, but knows he may well need to pay for further vaccine doses and more treatment abroad.
He was continuing to fundraise to pay for this.
Specialist cancer information nurse at Cancer Research UK Caroline Geraghty said Dendritic cell therapy was a type of vaccine that could help treat cancer, by helping immune systems recognise 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’s still being researched, so the evidence base is not yet strong enough for it to be available in the UK,” she said.
“Decisions about the best course of treatment must be based on sound evidence of benefit – so it’s important patients talk to their doctor about any alternative treatment they might be considering,” she added.
She said that ongoing developments in research meant there continued to be many new cancer drugs showing effectiveness in clinical trials, but regulatory systems meant there were times in which particular drugs weren’t yet easily accessible for those that may benefit.
She said she understood “how frustrating” this could be.