Living Proof: A Medical Mutiny (2003) by Michael Gearin-Tosh
Guest Review by Mr Chris Wollams, and originally published in Icon magazine
This is the inspiring story of one man following a diagnosis of cancer, and the decisions he faced.
This book is both excellent and controversial. Over a six month period, Michael Gearin-Tosh found out about the options available for treatment of Myeloma including chemotherapy, but in parallel, he became more intrigued by the Gerson Therapy and embarked on his own personal treatment plan. The Gerson Therapy is time consuming and not for everybody and it must be remembered that cancer is a very individual disease.
But Michael believed in the Gerson Therapy and this, coupled with his self-belief and natural energy, has seen him through the last eight years. All credit to him; he should be an icon for cancer patients and his book an essential read. His book does highlight the extraordinary gulf between ‘conventional’ medicine and ‘alternative’ medicine and the success of Michael Gearin-Tosh in controlling his cancer has significant implications for us all.
Sir David Wetherall FRS, Regius Professor of Medicine at Oxford University said in his letter to the Sunday Times about the book, “Though I do believe passionately in scientific medicine, I have not got to the stage of being so blinkered that I cannot believe that at least some aspects of the more complementary approach may have a lot to offer. I think they could be put to the scientific test, and should be, but whether this will happen is far from clear. But of one thing I am sure; regardless of what a patient is suffering from, their personal reaction to their situation and their state of mind is of critical importance, and to ignore them in the face of high technology and medical practice is to court disaster”..
‘Nobody receives a diagnosis of invasive cancer with anything but fear and dread’
In 1994, I was diagnosed with a malignant cancer of the bone marrow, multiple myeloma. The consultant does not tell me much, but I am a Fellow of St Catherine’s College in the University of Oxford, where I teach English literature. I decide to go to our library: each Oxford college includes most disciplines, and we take medical students. I find a book, Rees, Goodman and Bullimore: Cancer in Practice (1993) – it is still in print today as a cancer textbook. I look in the index. Myeloma is on p.193 which reads: ‘Multiple myeloma is incurable’.
The median survival time from clinical confirmation to death is under a year in untreated patients, and two to three years with treatment. Some 15% die within the first three months. Underneath there are symptoms and signs, including bone pain, pathological fracture, anaemia, symptoms of hypercalcaemia, renal failure, and fever due to infection.
So here is my bone pain: I slipped a disc in 1989 that went on for months, and I am still sore if I sit for any great length of time.
And here is “fever due to infection”: it was a bout of pneumonia after a trip to Moscow that led to my doctor taking the blood tests that discovered myeloma.
Cancer is a shock. Even in the chill language that oncologists use to their colleagues, and which is not intended for patients or the general public, you can read that “patients dealing with a diagnosis of myeloma are confronted with a terrifying reality”. (Malpas, Bergsagel, Kyle and Anderson, Myeloma: Biology and management (2nd ed. 1998) p. 493).
The point is also made by John Diamond who wrote “Nobody receives a diagnosis of even the least invasive cancer with anything but fear and dread”
It is not that I am against so-called orthodox medicine – I find the distinction one that is misleading and should be replaced
On top of cancer itself, this “fear and dread” is highly dangerous. It has two results. Your mind is numbed and you do not think as well as you might.
Secondly, your spirits are lowered which gives the cancer an evil boost.
In my book ‘Living Proof :A Medical Mutiny’, I describe how five consultants, independently of each other, were urging me to start chemotherapy: if I did not, they said, the probability was that I would be dead in a year.
But a famous Professor of cancer, now in old age, told me through a friend to avoid chemotherapy. I started to explore so-called alternative treatments.
I write so-called alternative because it is often forgotten that these alternatives were devised by highly qualified and experienced doctors, qualified in orthodox medicine, and also in my case by a winner of two Nobel prizes.
My instincts were that the extremeness of many chemotherapy treatments was likely to damage the body’s immune systems. Instead, I follow a series of therapies that I describe in ‘Living Proof: A Medical Mutiny’.
They involve diet, vegetable juices, vitamins and coffee enemas. It is not that I am against so-called orthodox medicine – I find the distinction one that is misleading and should be replaced. I take an advanced form of the orthodox drug bisphosphonate to protect my bones. And I am monitored by Professor Ray Powles of the Royal Marsden Hospital.
‘Multiple myeloma is incurable’
But I am against extreme cancer treatments which have a questionable track record, and I give some attention to this matter in part 2 of ‘Living Proof: A Medical Mutiny’.
I should add that the manuscript of my book was read by some of the world’s most eminent medical researchers and cancer specialists, including Professor Sir James Gowans FRS, Professor Robert Kyle of the Mayo Clinic and Professor Sir David Weatherall FRS of Oxford University. The third part of the book is a technical essay on why the so-called alternative therapies might have worked in my case.
This essay is by Carmen Wheatley and it is peer-reviewed by eminent orthodox authorities.
It is of particular interest that Professor Kyle that ‘Michael Gearin-Tosh’s statement “be proof against being rushed to treatment” is a most important concept.’ Carmen Wheatley and I are also thrilled that a Professor of the eminence of Dr Kyle should write that many of us are looking for more effective chemotherapeutic agents, biologic intervention, etc, but the role of the “unorthodox” therapies in this case report deserve scientific scrutiny and study.
‘Be proof against being rushed to treatment’
Depression is the second great danger of the shock of being told you have cancer. Mind and body are closely linked in disease. I found immense help in a Chinese breathing exercise, followed by visualizations, which I discovered in ‘Cancer and Leukaemia: An Alternative Approach by Jan de Vries. I then tracked down Dr de Vries and was given a consultation. He told me he had discovered the exercise while working at a country hospital in China: “it could be very ancient”.
I describe in detail the exercise and results for both of us.
In summary, I have had no chemotherapy or radiation, and I continue to do my job eight years later.
Sadly, Michael Gearin-Tosh passed away on 29th July 2005, over 10 years after he was diagnosed with multiple myeloma.
He was, quite simply, an inspiration to us all. He showed everyone with cancer that you do not have to accept the ‘status quo’ of orthodox medicine and its gloomy statistics. And that by being open-minded, doing your ‘homework’ and then being disciplined on a course of action you can give yourself seven or eight times more life expectancy than the medical world alone can offer.
But let us be clear. Here was an exceptional man, who was charming, intelligent, and with a wonderful command of the English language. He chose to undertake the Gerson Therapy, but not to the total exclusion of orthodox medicine, although he saw little point in taking ‘poisonous drugs’ that would probably only extend his life by a year or so at a cost to both his general well-being and his life style. He became a founding patron of CANCERactive and believed fervently in an integrated approach to treating cancer: The best of all that is available.