WON­DER TREAT­MENT GAVE ME HOPE

The Jewish Chronicle - - NEWS - BY LIANNE KOLIRIN

of ge­netic test­ing with their GP.

Avail­abil­ity of ge­netic test­ing is in­creas­ing and be­com­ing more stan­dard­ised across the coun­try. Peo­ple need­ing fur­ther ad­vice might like to con­tact a sup­port or­gan­i­sa­tion (for ex­am­ple, Chai Can­cer Cen­tre) for help in in­di­vid­ual cir­cum­stances.

As well as my na­tional role I con­tinue to work in the NHS it­self as the med­i­cal di­rec­tor of the Christie Can­cer Cen­tre in Manch­ester. I have also re­cently worked in a large group of teach­ing hos­pi­tals — Im­pe­ri­alCol­legeHealth­careinWestLon­don. I know at first hand the chal­lenges and op­por­tu­ni­ties for can­cer care in pri­mary care, spe­cialised cen­tres and also acute­hos­pi­tals,bu­tif weare­tomakethe step-change in can­cer out­comes called for in the na­tional strat­egy, all parts of the health sys­tem must work to­gether within the na­tional frame­work. This is an abridged ver­sion of a Jewish Care Health In­sights talk, given in part­ner­ship with Chai Can­cer Care, on Jan­uary 19. Pro­fes­sor Chris Har­ri­son is med­i­cal di­rec­tor (strat­egy) of the Christie NHS Foun­da­tion Trust; and na­tional clin­i­cal di­rec­tor for can­cer, NHS Eng­land

A lung can­cer di­ag­no­sis was the last thing Robert Geis­mar was ex­pect­ing.

“I cy­cled ten miles a day, had a healthy diet, hardly drank and never smoked a cig­a­rette in my life. It was a to­tal shock,” said the 67-year-old from West Hamp­stead.

But af­ter cough­ing up blood, a chest x-ray con­firmed the news.

“I had ma­jor surgery to re­move part of my lung but un­for­tu­nately it had spread,” said Mr Geis­mar, a semi-re­tired prop­erty man­ager.

Two cour­ses of chemo­ther­apy proved un­suc­cess­ful and a year ago tests showed the dis­ease had reached his brain.

Hope was hard to come by — un­til his on­col­o­gist men­tioned Nivolumab, a ground­break­ing treat­ment which stim­u­lates the body’s im­mune sys­tem.

Al­most a year later, Mr Geis­mar is now driv­ing again and even at­tends weekly French and Span­ish classes.

“The good news is the can­cer has al­most been re­moved.” And the bad? “It’s ap­proved by NICE but it’s so ex­pen­sive that the NHS won’t give it the go ahead,” Mr Geis­mar ex­plained. “I’ve been re­ly­ing on my pri­vate med­i­cal in­sur­ance, though they will only cover it for a year.”

Con­cerns over fund­ing have height­ened Mr Geis­mar’s anx­i­ety, but the over­all out­look is good: “I can lead about 75 per cent of the life I had be­fore, which isn’t bad. There are side ef­fects but for­tu­nately, so far, no pain. I’m re­ally, re­ally tired and it also af­fects mus­cu­lar strength.

“The prog­no­sis for lung can­cer is re­ally di­a­bol­i­cal and most peo­ple die within a year. I’m go­ing on for three years al­ready and am feel­ing quite good.

“Can­cer is to­tally un­pre­dictable. There’s no guar­an­tee that the drug will con­tinue work­ing in­def­i­nitely. All I know is that the re­sults right now are re­ally good.”

Mr Geis­mar can­not speak highly enough of Chai Can­cer Care, which he has re­lied on for coun­selling and ad­vice, mind­ful­ness, per­sonal train­ing and more. His fam­ily – es­pe­cially wife Hi­lary – have also been in­cred­i­bly sup­port­ive. “My wife has been a fan­tas­tic carer. She’s a very good, strong per­son,” he said.

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