Colon cancer symptoms: A fit and healthy dad diagnosed with stage 4 colorectal reveals the first warning sign
Decent and healthy father diagnosed with stage four cancer says he was left looking 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 hopes to save his life with a breakthrough vaccine.
Geoffrey Seymour, 41, a procurement specialist, loved to play tennis, basketball and cricket and was always healthy until just before his 41st birthday when he started experiencing blood in his stool.
Geoffrey was aware of that this is a symptom of cancer from the commercials on television, so he quickly went to his general practitioner.
Geoffrey, who lives in Richmond, London, with his wife Santa, 44, and their son Mark, 10, was diagnosed with stage four colorectal cancer, which had spread from his colon to his liver – a situation so difficult and seemingly hopeless that he compared it to is “wrapping in a burning paper bag”.
He also had a bad reaction to chemotherapy that blistered his face and, according to Geoffrey, made him look like Freddy Krueger from the 1984 horror film. A Nightmare on Elm Street.
However, the chemotherapy stopped working and now, in an attempt to save his life, Geoffrey traveled to Germany for dendritic cell therapy – where a personalized vaccine is created in the laboratory 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 it was enough to help him, while continuing to raise funds to pay for it.
He said: “I couldn’t even wait until the end of the fundraiser to do it just because I’m so worried about the disease spreading.”
Geoffrey was determined to find a new approach after three sessions of five doses of chemotherapy failed and left him with side effects so severe 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, there were lots 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. Unless I went there with a bag on my head, other people would come up to me and look at me thinking, ‘What’s wrong with this guy?’ when I’m perfectly 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 noticing blood in his stool, Geoffrey decided to see his doctor, because he knew it could be a symptom of cancer. And at the end of March at Kingston Hospital, he was diagnosed with colorectal stage four, which had metastasized in the liver.
After his diagnosis, in March 2021, he had five cycles of chemotherapy every three weeks which initially reduced the lesions on his liver. At the moment, he says he was feeling “optimistic”.
In December 2021, he had surgery to remove a third of his liver, and the medical team began preparing him for radiotherapy to be used on his colon – even getting radio markers tattooed for laser alignment.
A month later, a scan showed more tumors in his liver, so he received another round of chemotherapy. This time it was successful and the liver surgery is scheduled for June 2022.
But just as things were looking up, a few weeks before the operation, a scan revealed the progression of the disease. Geoffrey was sent back to chemotherapy with a different agent and the surgery was cancelled.
After just two cycles, blood work and scans again showed progression of the disease, while the side effects were becoming unbearable for Geoffrey.
He said: “The side effects got worse, worse, worse, and now the chemotherapy is no longer effective, the body has got used to it.”
Explaining why he reacted badly to the chemotherapy drug, he said: “Basically it kills all your fast-growing cells, including cancer cells, but it also includes your hair and nails. I had a really bad reaction to it on my face.”
Determined to find an alternative, Geoffrey began to do his own research by searching the internet and found dendritic cell therapy, only to be told that it would not be available to him in the UK.
He decided to fly to a laboratory in Ulm, Germany on October 17, 2022 for a one-week treatment. Friends and family rallied to contribute to his Go Fund Me appeal, which raised over £14,000 and helped pay for £17,000 of injections.
“It still hurts, it hurts a lot, trying to find a good balance of very strong drugs,” he said.
Geoffrey is due to meet his oncologist on November 1 in the UK but knows he may have to pay for extra doses of the vaccine and extra treatment abroad and is continuing to fundraise for this.
Cancer Information Specialist Nurse at Cancer Research UK Caroline Geraghty 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 laboratory. 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 strong evidence of benefit – so it’s important that patients talk to their doctor about any alternative treatment they might be considering.”
She added: “Thanks to the constant development of research, there are still many new anti-cancer drugs showing efficacy in clinical trials, providing potential options for people with cancer.
“But while regulators have improved the speed at which they are assessed for routine NHS use, unfortunately there are still times when certain medicines are still not readily available to people who could benefit. We understand how frustrating this can be.”
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