Pat Atherton is a warrior fighting a war which claims casualties every day. Many survive – and Pat plans to be one of them. He shares in his own words below on how, like a bolt from the blue, he was diagnosed with cancer in August 2019 and the brave fight for his life he’s been waging ever since.
Hear more about his inspirational resolve to win this war when health expert Vanessa Ascencao interviews him live on Coyne Healthcare’s Instagram channel on Thursday 9 July, 17h00 (SAST).
Pat Atherton’s war on cancer
“Ten months ago, I took a deep breath, donned my body armour and went to war. A war I had no idea how to fight, with strength I never knew I had. It would be the most valiant fight of my life – one I will have to fight for the rest of my life.
This is my story: #FightingForPat
It began on 21 August 2019 when I woke up at 3am with violent seizures and was rushed to hospital. It was the scariest experience of my life. I thought I was dying. My entire body was convulsing. I couldn’t talk and I felt my body fading away.
At the hospital I had another seizure. The doctors ran all the usual tests, found nothing wrong and told me to go home. But, I was having none of it. Something wasn’t right. I insisted -against the doctors’ wishes – on an MRI.
They scanned three times and found something which concerned them. We spent the entire day at hospital and, devastatingly, the day ended worse than it started – the MRI revealed a tumour (4cm by 5cm) in the left frontal lobe of my brain. Fearful and bewildered, I was sent home.
The neurosurgeon saw me the following Tuesday and told my wife, Jess, and I that the tumour was cancerous. An area of it was aggressive and growing fast and they advised we operate within the week to remove this part. I was told it was not possible to remove the entire tumour without affecting mobility on the right side of my body. This was not an option, given that sport and exercise is a crucial part of my life. The neurosurgeon told me I would need two weeks in hospital to recover and would be in a rehab facility for four to six weeks afterwards. I decided to go ahead with surgery but to leave the part of the tumour which controlled my mobility.
Over this period, I’ve received amazing help and resources in my personal war. These include the owners of @sweat_1000, Andrew and Paul Rothschild and rehabilitative yoga teacher at @activeflowyoga, Jeannie Holmes who selflessly dedicated time to teach me mediation and breathing techniques to calm me down as I was scared beyond belief. It was then that I truly revived my faith in God.
Soon after this, I had surgery for 6.5 hours and woke to the best news in weeks – it was successful! I walked out of hospital four days later.
I began reading Anticancer – A New Way of Life which helped me understand my battle. I began a vegan adventure and introduced Frankincense and CBD drops into my routine.
First battle conquered.
My biopsy results confirmed my cancer was aggressive. The tumour was an anaplastic astrocytoma – a high-grade cancerous tumour and research indicated I only had a 50% chance of living for another five years. There was no way I was going to surrender to this statistic.
An extremely helpful resource has been an Aubrey Marcus podcast with neuroscientist, Dr Joe Dispenza, which blew my mind. I also read one of his latest books Becoming Supernatural and I’ve since been using his healing meditation techniques.
Next encounter: radiation
A few days before I started radiation, I had another MRI scan which showed residual tumour and some brain tissue damage. On 7 October, I started 31 sessions of double dose radiation, every day for six weeks.
Ten days after surgery I did my first Sweat1000 class and continued to every morning before radiation treatment. I was also working with Jeannie from Awake Yoga Studio who taught me about the power of the mind. If it were not for these powerful techniques keeping my mind strong, and the daily sweat1000 sessions keeping my body strong, and the incredible support of my wife, I may not have made it through this battle.
A brain tumour is similar to an acquired brain injury. The damage caused by the tumour and by the treatments, surgery, chemo or radiotherapy add up to a potentially very serious injury. Additional challenges compared to other cancers include the impact on the patient’s neurocognitive abilities.
And now, chemotherapy
After 31 sessions of radiation, I began six months of chemotherapy – five days on, 23 days off for recovery. Throughout chemo, I maintained my daily meditation, attended sweat1000, and did yoga. It was a huge challenge as I fought nausea, fatigue, body cramps and depression. But movement is medicine and to keep my head in the fight, I needed to keep moving. The results of the scan in March showed no tumour progression and that the radiation had killed the remaining tumour cells around the tumour bed. My oncologist said that these results were very rare.
I then saw Vanessa Ascencao of VDA Nutrition and Felicia Rubin from Coyne Healthcare and began taking Coyne’s AHCC and Salvestrols supplements. Two days before lockdown I started introducing fish and chicken (only Farmer Angus) into my diet as well as intermittent fasting.
I have since made extraordinary progress but I’m hesitant to celebrate. I know that this battle is far from over, but I have a real fighting chance here. What’s become clear is that, to win a war, you may need to fight any battles.
I will beat this cancer.
I will win this war.
God is by my side.
When I go through moments of weakness, I remind myself of the verse: “I can do all things through him who gives me strength”.