So this is my story. It’s hard to know where to start. Let’s try diagnosis.
The words ‘I’m sorry to tell you but you have cancer’ we’re the last words I actually listened to. Then my mind shut off and started to digest this impossible fact. I’m 41 – how can I have prostate cancer? The average age for men who get this is in the 70’s.
In fact the only reason I had all the tests was because I was part of a study at the Royal Marsden that I had volunteered for. In fact, the previous examination, blood tests and MRI were all clear so the biopsy results were just a formality. I didn’t even have any symptoms. I only popped in to get my results before I met my partner later that afternoon. I was feeling jovial, looking forward to the sunny day and meeting my friends in the evening to watch the England Versus Iceland football match. It was 12.08pm on Monday 27th June. I know because I looked at my watch because the doctors were 8 minutes late which is rare for them – they were normally so punctual. Perhaps they were rehearsing.
My father died of prostate cancer you see – meaning if I had a hereditary form of it, the tests in the study would help the Royal Marsden identify the causes and possible genetic links. I have a 5 year old boy (Alex) and a 7 year old boy (Aedan) and if this cancer was genetic, I wanted to improve their chances of an early diagnosis later in their own lives and even maybe help offer them a possible future cure. I was thinking of them. Not me. Trying to do my bit. Volunteering probably saved my life. Karma eh? That old devil!
Back to the diagnosis. I was handed my booklet on prostate cancer and I left. I needed to pop to the toilet before I left the building. I went in, shut the door behind me and stared at myself in the mirror. I had then what can only be described as a panic attack. I couldn’t breathe. Adrenaline was screaming through my veins and I fell to my knees. What was happening? Until 5 minutes ago I felt fine.
My partner, Ania was meeting me afterwards and we were popping to a different doctor that she was seeing for another minor issue – so I thought I would tell her afterwards so as not to worry her. I pulled myself together, acted like normal, met her and we walked toward the other appointment. Now picking up my results for all the tests had become a bit of a habit for me, so Ania never really asked how they were as we were only ever expecting good results. But for the first time ever she asked me how the appointment went. So I said ‘Fine, normal, you know how it is’. She said nothing and impressed with my acting, I carried on. But she asked again ‘So what did they say?’. ‘Nothing really’ I said, ‘the usual’. ‘What’s the usual?’ she said. I mean seriously. The one time I have something bad to say and she’s digging for more information. This is a girl who knows me too well.
I looked her in the eyes and said. ‘I have cancer’. Then I proceeded to cry like a baby in the middle of the street. What a horrible world ‘Cancer’. Saying it out loud made it real. Made it scary. ‘What do you mean Cancer?’ she said? Then I told her I had been diagnosed with early onset prostate cancer. She looked me in the eyes, and said ‘It’s OK baby. We’ll get through this together. It’s going to be OK’. I had never needed to hear those words more. We stood in the street, both of us crying, holding each other, not sure what to do. And there we stayed for some time.
I am very lucky. Ania is incredible. She is so loving, thoughtful and supportive. Without her in the street that day, I don’t know what I would have done. We had a relatively normal day after that, and met my friends and the England football team got beaten. In other words, it was a normal day other than the diagnosis. I told my friends of course. One of them, Chris had had testicular cancer ten years previously. He hugged me when I told him and once again I fell apart. Never have I more needed a friend. I saw hope in him – he had been clear of cancer for years. Hope. Something to hold onto. I cried again. Then again when I told my other friends. I felt ashamed and stupid. The beer probably wan’t helping me much. Nor England’s shameful defeat.
I was worried that I was going to die. My sons would grow up without a Dad. My partner would be left alone. My little sister would be devastated. I gave up my career in banking 2 years ago to become a professional actor – what would I do financially if I got really sick? How would I cope? Would I ever realise my dreams or would my life be cut short?
My friends and family have been excellent – I dreaded telling them but when each one was told, the next one got easier and they were all supportive. Telling my sister was hard, who like me had had to watch my own father die of the disease ten years before – at the relatively young age of 59. But she took it well and after a very emotional call, I think I calmed her down. Actually, I know I didn’t as I know how emotional she gets but she did a good job of pretending as to make me feel better.
For the first few weeks, most of my life was a blur. I still had not come to terms with the diagnosis, but I was calm and felt okay. I had a lot of acting work to keep me busy too. Apart from a few moments of panic creeping up on me and the overwhelming thought of not wanting to die, I was okay. There was though, when I thought about it, the feeling of abandonment. Not by Ania or people I cared about, but by the health service. Where were they? What was the advice? All I had been told was ‘Remove the prostate and possible Radiotherapy’ or ‘We’ll actively monitor it’. That was it. Both horrendous choices.
Now the thing is, at 41 (now 42), removing my prostate would be potentially life changing. It’s not an easy operation and there are numerous often permanent side effects. All of these are better than dying sure, but actually I didn’t feel ready to take such a drastic step. The clinic phoned me an assured me regular PSA tests (blood tests) would be able to identify if the cancer was spreading or growing. I was okay to monitor it for now at least.
I asked the question – ‘What can I do for myself?’. The response ‘Look after yourself and make sure you take the blood tests’. No advice on lifestyle, diet, natural remedies – nothing on what I could do. So I took the step of going online to find out. Doctor Google would have all the answers. And it did. Thousands.
Thankfully, Ania was twenty steps ahead of me and had done her homework. She had dismissed all the crazy theories and unlikely nonsense (and there is a lot of that). It turns out there are a lot of things that may help. But because they are not medical solutions, doctors ignore them or simply aren’t allowed to advise on them. I was sceptical – surely the doctors knew best – surely. Then after digging a lot, I started to realise something. The medical solution to them (Doctors), is the only one. They are programmed only to give a medical solution. In fact, when it comes to treating cancer – most doctors don’t know a great deal. I mean, how could they – they can’t be experts on everything and there are hundreds of types of cancer.
There were a number of things I found out that shocked me. These are some of the things I discovered:
1 – Cancer cannot spread or grow in an alkaline environment (or at the very least it finds it very difficult). Seriously – this is a known fact – known since the 1920’s. By changing the diet to an alkaline diet, you can help stifle your cancer’s growth. It doesn’t always work, but theres a lot of evidence it helps a lot of people. Like everything though, not everybody benefits.
2 – Cancer eats sugar. Thrives on it. Stop eating sugar and it starves. Fact. I never knew this. Cancer cells love sugar more than normal cells do. Sugar is in everything you buy in the supermarkets. Don’t believe me? Check the ingredients.
3 – The body naturally produces bicarbonate of soda – amongst it’s jobs is to tell the mitochondria in the cell that it has to self destruct – after all, cancer is just a cell that forgets to kill itself and becomes immortal. Bicarbonate of soda instructs the mitochondria in the cell to kill itself. You can buy bicarbonate of soda anywhere. It kills and helps kill cancer in a number of cases. Again, it has helped some people, not others. But useful to know.
4 – Vitamin C infusions have been shown to reduce down cancers in some people, and have potentially cured some people completely. There are a number of people who believe vitamin C has cured them and in fact, it is known medically than in some cases it can be hugely beneficial in reducing tumours. Again, may not help in every case but can’t harm to try.
5 – Nutrition helps. Juicing veg and fruit and filling your body with nutrition is the best way to encourage it to heal itself. By overloading the system with goodness, you give your body all the tools to help it fight the thing. Sounds obvious really.
There are other things too. Apricot kernels, hemp, ozone, turmeric, oxygen… there are lots of things out there that you can try and there is evidence it has helped some people. But guess what – there aren’t any medical studies on them. Why not? Because often these are funded by pharmaceutical companies. Who is it that makes a fortune from manufacturing drugs such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy medicines? I’ll let you guess the answer to that. I’m not saying they do it consciously – but the world is sleepwalking through a health nightmare – 1 in 3 – now getting closer to 1 in 2 people get the disease eventually. It didn’t use to happen. But then we never used to smoke. We didn’t fill our foods with unnecessary fats, sugars, pesticides, fungicides, stimulants, salt, chemically manufactured ingredients etc. We never used to have more cars than people on the planet. We never used to microwave everything, use so much plastic, use chemicals in all our washing and cleaning products. The list of things that could contribute are endless.
Now some of these potentially helpful things mentioned above have been known about for years but there have been no serious wide-ranging studies into these things – the ones that have been done are deemed medically unproven as they haven’t been done on the scale or in the way that medical studies could be – why on Earth would a pharmaceutical firm invest money in proving that everyday available natural treatments could actually be the key? Now I am no conspiracy theorist – there’s a lot of crap on the internet but there’s also a lot on there that makes common sense.
So I have changed my diet completely. Out goes many things I enjoy (won’t bore you with those right now) and I have to be much more focussed on what might help me. Its difficult. But this is a battle to survive isn’t it? I follow the 80/20 rule – I behave 80% of the time. That allows room for the bad stuff on occasion. It’s good for the soul.
And by the way, if you think I am mad, go online and take a look at the evidence. Go to ‘The Truth About Cancer’ and ‘Chris Beat Cancer’ on youtube. Also, look at the ingredients of food you buy. Look at what they put in things. It’s horrific. I am genuinely shocked at how much crap is added to food. After removing all this stuff from my diet (and a fortnight of horrendous withdrawal symptoms) I feel better. I have lost weight, feel healthier than ever too. I even started exercising more regularly to keep myself fit. Nothing too strenuous. There is an awful lot I can do to help myself. That gives me some control back and that gives me a psychological edge over the thing inside me. I don’t have religion to keep me going – I have only faith in myself to hold on to and the love and support of others.
I know none of the above may work. But it has worked for some. So why not me? Surely I have to try? What else am I going to do? Give in? Nah – it’s just not my style. I’ve had a tough life and survived a lot of bad things – this wasn’t going to get me. I am happy – my life is good – I intend to keep it.
A few weeks after my diagnosis, I posted a message about it on Facebook and got an overwhelming response. It was a positive post about being optimistic and living life to the full. It is genuinely how I feel. The chances mathematically of even being born mean if we are here we must try and live life to the best – it’s our responsibility to this crazy universe that somehow spewed up the human race!
The thing I was not expecting were the subsequent phone calls from people who were suffering from cancer, scared they were suffering or had read my post and booked themselves in for tests. I had people phoning me in tears because they were scared they had cancer – people who had been tested but were too scared to tell anyone, people who had been recently diagnosed. Suddenly I felt this huge responsibility to calm people down and help them. Subsequently I have been on ITV, London Live and BBC to discuss my case – it was a story because I was on stage playing a guy who had cancer – and I had cancer! Crazy right? It’s news!
Cancer is everywhere. Having it is a gift for me. It gives me a chance to help others, to raise awareness and to support people who need a stranger’s shoulder to cry on. Its a privileged position to be in. I am trying my best to make it a positive thing. I am not a sick as some people who have it and my prognosis should be relatively positive short-term.
I am of course scared I am going to die of this. I am scared I will miss out out on this wonderful life. But I manage to hide that deep inside. I don’t even know it is there sometimes. Most of the time I don’t think about cancer. I try not to talk about it – other than in jest. It’s easy to laugh about it with my friends because we all have a silly sense of humour and that normalises it. I have even got used to the word. I hate the word, but it is a part of who I am now. But it will not define me. I will use it as something to spur me on to better things, to help other people and raise awareness. I will use it to motivate me to be a better man; a man I am proud to be. A man my sister my partner Ania and my two beautiful children, Aedan and Alex will be proud of. A man my own father would have been proud of.
Because it’s down to me to make the most of whatever time I have left – be it five years or fifty. I wish I had known this lesson when I was twenty. Maybe I would have been a better man for longer.
If you are reading this, thank you for persisting with the story. There’s a long road ahead for me. I hope some of you share the journey – but whatever you do, try and live every day as best as you can. Don’t hold grudges, always say sorry when you are wrong and forgive others for being wrong wether they sorry or not. If you are in a job or a life that grinds you down, be brave and change it. And tell your loved ones what they mean to you. You never know what tomorrow may bring.
Good luck with your own journeys. I wish you all the best of health and happiness in everything you do.