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My name in Liam and in July 2007 I was diagnosed with inoperable pancreatic cancer. Prior to a holiday in Turkey, I had undergone investigations at my local hospital, as for several months I had been suffering with abdominal symptoms (diarrhoea, loss of appetite and weight loss). Whilst on my holiday I noticed that I had also become jaundiced.
On my return from Turkey, I attended my local hospital, where I had to undergo surgery to insert a stent into my bile duct to try and relieve the jaundice. It was during this hospital admission that I received the devastating news that I had inoperable pancreatic cancer. My doctor told me that there was little that could be done for me apart from a course of chemotherapy which might extend my life by months. In short, I was told I only had a matter of months left to live.
It was around this time that my sister Ann read an article in a local newspaper about Alan Bowley, who had recently travelled to America for CyberKnife treatment for an inoperable tumour. My sister immediately contacted the Bowley’s, who provided me with lots of information about the treatment. I remember how when reading the article Alan urged other sufferer’s not to give up hope as there was a possibility of a cure.
We immediately contacted Georgetown University Hospital in Washington DC, where Alan had had his treatment. I quickly sent my scans to them but unfortunately they informed me that they could not offer me treatment. Undeterred, I found out there was a CyberKnife centre at the Anadolu Hospital in Turkey. It seemed such a coincidence as my wife Jane and I had a holiday home in Turkey. My sister contacted Turkey and they requested a copy of my recent medical records and also a copy of my latest PET/CT scan. The last scan I had had at my local hospital was just a CT scan, so I decide to attend a local private hospital to have a PET/CT scan performed, as these type of scans are not available on the NHS.
Incredibly, the hospital in Turkey replied within 24 hours of receiving my scan pictures, with the news that they thought they would be able to help me and urging me to arrive in Turkey as soon as possible. A week later I arrived in Turkey and had a consultation with the Oncologist. Professor Onut recommended that I undergo 3 months of chemotherapy, with a view to then having CyberKnife treatment after completing it.
Having a holiday home in Turkey, I decided to undergo the chemotherapy in Turkey; besides at least the weather would be warmer than the UK! In February 2008, following completion of my chemotherapy, I underwent 2 CyberKnife sessions on 2 consecutive days. I found the procedure straightforward and completely painless.
In May 2008, I returned to Turkey for my 3 month post CyberKnife PET/CT scan. Incredibly, the scan showed that there had been no growth of the tumour and the cancerous activity of it had also reduced. I was just amazed and so relieved.
In August 2008, I again returned to Turkey for my 6 month post CyberKnife scan. Although the scan showed my pancreatic tumour had still not grown, unfortunately, the scan showed that the cancer had now spread to my liver. Although the lesions were only very small, the Professor recommended I commence on Xeloda; a chemotherapy drug. On my return to the UK, I was informed that the drug was not available on the NHS but they could offer an alternative drug, no doubt an inferior drug but I could only obtain Xeloda if I went private. I was told that spread to the liver was common with pancreatic cancer and they had no experience of anyone living beyond 24 months – I thought I will show them!
I decided to return to my holiday home to continue the chemotherapy in Turkey, where I knew I could obtain Xeloda without any trouble. Whilst in Turkey, I had another PET/CT scan which showed that both the pancreatic and liver tumours were in remission. I was advised to continue with the chemotherapy.
I underwent a PET/CT scan in December 2008. The Professor advised me that of the 4 lesions in my liver, 2 of these had disappeared completely but 2 had remained. He also advised me that there was no cancerous activity at all in my pancreas. I was advised to have further CyberKnife on my liver lesions, in the professor’s words – “to get rid of them”. I duly had this done and am due to return to Turkey at the end of February 2009 for a follow up scan.
At this moment in time, I feel great. I have no pain, am gaining weight and living life to the full. Overall, despite the reoccurrence in my liver, I feel my current prognosis is good news in my fight against this disease. I believe that my life will be significantly extended by having the CyberKnife, if not potentially cured.
The care in Turkey was fantastic. They were friendly and caring and nothing was too much trouble for them. We even got picked up and dropped of at the airport by the hospital staff each time we were in Turkey! The fact that the Professor recommended 3 monthly PET/CT scans, I’m sure was a significant factor in the detection of spread of the cancer to my liver at such an early stage.
Do not give up hope, as I believe that CyberKnife treatment has given me a great chance of putting my pancreatic cancer into remission. Keep faith that this type of treatment can give you a normal life again like it has for me.
Sadly, Liam passed away on 21st March 2009 whilst in Turkey. His sad death was not related to his cancer. His recent scan had shown that his cancer was inactive. His family are happy for Liam's story of his CyberKnife journey to be still told to others. They are so thankful that CyberKnife was able to give Liam the chance of living a full and happy life right up until his death.
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The Stan Bowley Trust is a registered Charity No.1144398 working in partnership with the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Charity registered Charity Number 1093989