Cancer is a scary disease. You can be the healthiest, fittest person on the planet and still get cancer. 41-year-old Geoffrey Seymour can attest to that. A fit, healthy dad, he had no reason to think he would get cancer. That is, until he noticed blood in his stool, which shortly after landed him with a stage-4 bowel cancer diagnosis. Now, he is fighting for his life using an experimental cancer treatment. This is his story.
Fit and Healthy Dad Diagnosed With Stage 4 Bowel Cancer
Geoff Seymour has always been an active guy. Prior to his cancer battle, he regularly enjoyed playing tennis, basketball, and cricket. He also enjoyed going to watch his 10-year-old son play in his own cricket matches. All of that came to a halt, however, when just prior to his 41st birthday, he noticed something that he knew was not good: Blood in his stool.
He’d seen advertisements on TV about the symptoms of bowel cancer and knew he needed to speak with his doctor right away. He was right to worry, as he was soon after diagnosed with stage four colorectal cancer (aka bowel cancer) that had also spread to his liver. Quickly the doctors began advising a treatment plan starting with chemotherapy. (1)
Treatment Gone Wrong
In March 2021 began five cycles of chemotherapy, with one cycle every three weeks. At first, the chemo seemed to be working, successfully reducing the lesions in his liver. The family was feeling optimistic. The next steps were surgery to remove two-thirds of his liver and radiotherapy to treat the cancer in his colon. Unfortunately one month later more tumors grew in his liver, requiring more chemo and moving the surgery date back. This time, however, his body didn’t respond well to the chemo. Not only were the tumors still growing, but the side effects were becoming unbearable.
After a couple of cycles, his skin began to react extremely poorly to the new chemo. The skin on his face and next broke out into a terrible, blistery rash. His face felt like it was on fire and he was too embarrassed to go out in public – not even to watch his son play cricket. That’s when he decided to start doing his own research on alternative treatment options. He found one promising one called dendritic cell therapy.
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Dendritic Cell Therapy
Dendritic cell therapy is a new, upcoming cancer treatment that generates tumor-specific immunity in patients. It involved inoculating dendritic cells and tumor cells to create a vaccine that helps the body’s own immune system fight the cancer. Dendritic cells are a special type of immune cell found in the skin. They boost the immune response by showing antigens its surface to other cells of the immune system. Unfortunately for Geoff, this treatment is not yet approved for the UK. This meant that he had to travel to Germany for the procedure. (3, 4)
“Dendritic cell therapy is a type of vaccine that can treat cancer. Dendritic cells help immune system recognise and attack abnormal cells, such as cancer cells,” explained specialist cancer information nurse at Cancer Research UK Caroline Geraghty. “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.”
On October 17, 2022, he flew to Ulm, Germany to have the week-long treatment. This, of course, comes at quite a high cost. Just one injection costs £17,000 ($19,600), and he will likely need more. With the help of his friends and family, he raised £14,000. Concerned that the longer he waited, the worse the cancer would get, he had to have the procedure done before he was able to raise all the money. Now, he awaits results as to how his cancer responded to the treatment, which will determine whether or not he needs to go back to Germany for more. Until then, it is all about pain management for Geoff.
Signs and Symptoms of Bowel Cancer
There are three main symptoms of bowel cancer: Blood in the stool, changes in bowel habits such as more frequent, looser stools, and stomach pain. These symptoms, however, are quite common and can be caused by a number of things. Blood can be caused by hemorrhoids, and bowel changes and stomach pain can be caused by something you ate. Still, if the symptoms persist or get worse, go talk to your doctor. This is especially important if you are over the age of 60, because nine out of ten people diagnosed with bowel cancer are 60 or over. (4)
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- “Fit and healthy father diagnosed with stage 4 bowel cancer reveals first warning sign.” Independent. Molly Powell. November 2022.
- “Cellular immune therapy for refractory cancers: novel therapeutic strategies.” Science Direct. Karen K.Ballen, et al. December 2005.
- “Dendritic cell.” Cancer
- “Bowel cancer.” NHS Inform