by Michael Gearin-Tosh
The diagnosis is cancer.
The hospital tells me to start chemotherapy at once.
Without it I will die in months; with it I may live for two to three years.
I ask for a second opinion.
The advice is the same : start at once.
Then a world authority on cancer says that if I touch chemotherapy, I am 'a goner'.
Which advice do I take? Should I look elsewhere? Do I have time?
The opposite of the phase Living Proof is , I suggest, dead wrong.
Or, if you will, wrong and dead.
The stakes are high.
What am I to do?
Dear Michael, If you have to die, I am sure no one will do it better. And if you have decided you want to die, that is fine. But I have a profound objection to physicians who deliver death sentences.
How can your consultant know what is going to kill you? There are so many variables in the course of a disease. Even with something as dire as Aids, there are cures - even if unexplained.
I am convinced that, the will of God apart, what happens next is much more in your hands than you might suppose. I do not know what your thoughts are on the subject. But the power of mind over matter is almost magical, if you have once experienced it.
Dennis is not a bad example. [ Dennis Horgan, my senior colleague]. He has been dying twenty years, when most normal people would have fallen at the first huddle. And we cannot have him outliving you . . .
You have always been so strong and vital, I am sure you have great resources.
Forgive me, Michael, If I am adopting a hectoring, evangelising tone. It may be inappropriate, and I can almost see you wincing. But I have a suspicion that you give too much weight to your consultants' words, are already planning your funeral party, and may be leaving any decisions till after the summer when you could well have lost critical ground.
If I were you I would want to collect the maximum amount of information on your condition now and evaluate all possible avenues of treatment now. Get hold of the medical text books, papers etc.
I hope that you will get further opinions sooner rather than later, and preferably in the next week or two. I have written to a friend who is a doctor to see who he would recommend.
But finally remember that doctors can be very fallible. To give you a personal example, eight years ago Charlie [Carmen's partner, Dr Charles Lane, a biochemist] was diagnosed as having a brain tumour, by a very reputable Harley Street man. He was given the news in a waiting room full of patients. It took us several months of alternative opinion seeking, and two trips to the United States for tests and scans, to establish that it was a false diagnosis. You can imagine that life was like till then.
If Charlie had gone along unquestioningly with that consultant, he would have been subjected to some dangerous and potentially life-threatening tests and treatment.
Charlie is trying to track down some information on the latest treatments for myeloma in America from his oncologist contacts there. I will forward anything as soon as I have it. I am also going to ring one of my oldest friends, an anaesthetist with a special interest in pain relief, to see if he has anything to offer. But let us hope you will not need that.
If there is anything else that I can do, just call. I do have a beautiful upstairs room with a balcony and view over Wychwood Forest. It is quite separate from the main house, and if you need a rest, you are welcome here anytime, for as long as you like, with or without a friend. You would be well cared for!
and take good care,
'I was told I had cancer and that I must expect to die soon. Almost eight years later I still do my job and enjoy life. I have not had conventional treatment. Did my cancer simply disappear? Did I do nothing? Far from it. A number of things happened, some by accident, most by design.' - Michael Gearin-Tosh.
He was diagnosed with cancer when he was 54. Living Proof is the story of his quest to overcome illness, but this is certainly no passive cancer patient following doctor's order. IT is a celebration of human existence and friendship, a real life story of how a man learns to steer, in his own way, between conflicting advice, between depression and seemingly inescapable rationalism, between the medicine he rejects and the doctors he honours.
The final part is by Carmen Wheatley, a more technical medical case history of Michael Gearin-Tosh : The Case of the .005% Survivor.
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