A fit and healthy father who was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer says he looked like a ‘Nightmare on Elm Street’ after a horrific reaction to chemotherapy left him too embarrassed to go to his young son’s cricket matches – and now hopes to save his life with a groundbreaking vaccine.
Geoffrey Seymour, 41, a procurement specialist, loved to play tennis, basketball and cricket and was always healthy until his 41st birthday when he began to experience blood in his stool.
Geoffrey was aware that this was a symptom of cancer from the TV commercials, so he quickly went to his GP.
Geoffrey, who lives in Richmond, London, with his 44-year-old wife Santa and 10-year-old son Marco, has been diagnosed with stage four colon cancer that has spread from the colon to the liver – a situation so severe and seemingly hopeless that he compared it to “being wrapped in a burning paper bag”.
He also had a bad reaction to chemotherapy which caused severe skin blisters on his face and, according to Geoffrey, made him look like Freddy Krueger from a 1984 horror movie, A Nightmare on Elm Street.
The chemotherapy has stopped working, however, and now, in an attempt to save his life, Geoffrey has traveled to Germany for dendritic cell therapy – where a personalized vaccine is being created in the laboratory to stimulate the immune system.
Research in this area is in its early stages, according to Cancer Research UK, so the treatment wasn’t cheap – just one injection in Germany, on October 17, cost £17,000 and Geoffrey is now waiting to see if it will be enough to help him while continuing to raise money 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 didn’t work and left him with side effects so severe he no longer wanted to go out in public, even to watch his little boy play cricket
“I had a really bad reaction on my face, it was full of painful blisters that made my face look like it was 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 over my head, others would come up to me and look at me thinking, “What’s wrong with this 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 his first warning signs of cancer.
After noticing blood in his stool, Geoffrey decided to visit his GP as he knew it could be a symptom of cancer. And in late March at Kingston Hospital, he was diagnosed with stage four colon cancer that had metastasized to his liver.
After his diagnosis, in March 2021, he had five cycles of chemotherapy every three weeks, which initially reduced the changes in his liver. At this point, he says he felt “optimistic”.
In December 2021, he underwent surgery to remove a third of his liver and the medical team began preparing him for radiation therapy to be applied to his colon – he even had radio tags tattooed to set up the laser.
A month later, a scan showed more tumors in his liver, so he had another round of chemotherapy. This time it worked and liver surgery was booked for June 2022.
But as the situation improved, a few weeks before the operation, the examination showed the progression of the disease. Geoffrey was given chemotherapy again with a different agent, and the surgery was cancelled.
After only two cycles, the blood tests and scan again showed the disease progressing while the side effects were becoming unbearable for Geoffrey.
He said: “The side effects got worse, worse, worse, and now the chemotherapy just isn’t working anymore, the body has gotten used to it.”
Explaining why he reacted badly to chemotherapy, he said: “It basically kills all fast-growing cells, including cancer cells, but also hair and nails. I had a really bad reaction to it in my face.
Determined to find an alternative, Geoffrey started his own research by searching the internet and found dendritic cell therapy but was told it would not be available in the UK.
He decided to fly to a lab in Ulm, Germany, for a week of treatment on October 17, 2022. Friends and family gathered to support his Go Fund Me appeal, which raised over £14,000 and helped pay for the £17,000 injection.
“I’m in pain all the time, I have a lot of pain that I’m trying to find a good balance of very strong medication,” he said.
Geoffrey is scheduled to meet his oncologist on November 1 in the UK, but knows he may need to pay for further doses of vaccines and further treatment abroad and is still raising funds to pay for this.
Cancer Research UK Cancer Information Specialist Nurse 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 create a vaccine, scientists grow dendritic cells alongside cancer cells in the lab. The vaccine then stimulates the immune system to attack the cancer. It is still under investigation so the evidence base is not yet strong enough to be available in the UK.
“Decisions on the best course of treatment must be based on solid evidence of benefit – so it’s important for patients to talk to their doctor about any alternative treatments they may be considering.”
She added: “With continued research advancements, many new cancer drugs continue to emerge and show efficacy in clinical trials, 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 unfortunately still situations where certain medicines are not yet readily available to people who might benefit from them. We understand how frustrating this can be.”