A fit and healthy dad diagnosed with stage four cancer says he looked like ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street’ after a horrific reaction to chemotherapy left him too embarrassed to attend his young son’s cricket matches – and now he’s hoping to save his life. with a revolutionary vaccine.
Geoffrey Seymour, 41, a purchasing specialist, loved playing tennis, basketball and cricket and was always healthy until he started experiencing blood in his stool just before his 41st birthday.
Geoffrey was aware that it was a sign of cancer from the adverts on TV, so he quickly went to see his GP.
Geoffrey, who lives in Richmond, London, with his wife Santa, 44, and their son Marc, 10, was diagnosed with stage four colorectal cancer, which had spread from his colon to his liver – a condition so serious and seemingly hopeless which he likened. it is “wrapped in a paper bag that burns”.
He also had a bad reaction to chemotherapy which caused severe blistering of the skin on his face and, according to Geoffrey, made him look like Freddy Krueger from the 1984 horror film, A Nightmare on Elm Street.
But the chemotherapy has stopped working and now, in a bid to save his life, Geoffrey has traveled to Germany for dendritic cell therapy – where a personalized vaccine is created in the lab to stimulate the immune system.
Research into this area is at an early stage, according to Cancer Research UK, so the treatment has not been cheap – just one injection in Germany on October 17 cost £17,000 and Geoffrey is now waiting to see if that will be enough to help. and at the same time continues to collect for payment.
He said: “I couldn’t even wait until the fundraiser was over to do it, just because I’m so afraid of the disease spreading.”
Geoffrey was determined to find a new approach after three sessions of five rounds of chemotherapy failed to work and left him with such side effects that he no longer wanted to go out in public, not even to see his little boy play cricket.
“I had a really bad reaction on my face, it was full of painful blisters that felt like they were on fire,” he said.
“I just got to the point where I looked a bit like A Nightmare on Elm Street. If I didn’t go there with a bag on my head, other people would come up to me and look at me and be like, ‘What’s wrong with that guy?’ when I’m quite happy 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, knowing it could be a sign of cancer. And in late March, he was diagnosed with stage four colorectal cancer that had metastasized to his liver at Kingston Hospital.
After his diagnosis, in March 2021, he had five cycles of chemotherapy every three weeks, which initially reduced the lesions in his liver. At this point, he says he was feeling “optimistic.”
In December 2021, he underwent surgery to remove a third of his liver, and the medical team began preparing him for radiotherapy to be used on his colon – even tattooing radiomarkers for laser alignment.
A month later, a scan showed more tumors in his liver, so he had another round of chemotherapy. This time it was successful and the liver surgery was booked for June 2022.
But just as things were progressing, a scan a few weeks before the operation revealed the progression of the disease. Geoffrey was put back on chemotherapy with a different agent and the surgery was cancelled.
After just two cycles, blood tests and a scan again showed progression of the disease, while the side effects were unbearable for Geoffrey.
He said: “The side effects got worse and worse and worse and now the chemotherapy is just not effective anymore, the body has got used to it.”
Explaining why he had a bad reaction to the chemotherapy drug, he said: “It basically kills all your fast-growing cells, including cancer cells, but also your hair and nails. I had a really bad reaction to it in my face.”
Determined to find an alternative, Geoffrey began doing his own research by looking online and finding dendritic cell therapy, only to be told it would not be available to him in the UK.
He decided to fly to a laboratory in Ulm, Germany, to undergo a week’s treatment on October 17, 2022. Friends and family came together to contribute to his Go Fund Me appeal, which raised more than £14,000 and helped pay for the £17k injection.
“I’m still in pain, I’m in a lot of pain that I’m trying to balance with very strong medication,” he said.
Geoffrey is due to see his oncologist on November 1 in the UK but knows he may have to pay for more doses of the vaccine and further treatment abroad and is continuing to fundraise to pay.
Caroline Geraghty, cancer information specialist 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 a vaccine, scientists grow dendritic cells together with 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 to be available in the UK.
“Decisions about the best course of treatment must be based on reliable evidence of benefit – so it is important that patients talk to their doctor about any alternative treatment they may be considering.”
She added: “Thanks to constant developments in research, there are still many new cancer drugs showing efficacy in clinical trials and providing potential options for people with cancer.
“But while regulators have improved the speed with which they assess them for routine NHS use, there are still unfortunately times when particular medicines are not yet readily available to people who can benefit. We understand how frustrating this can be.”