The Saatchi Bill will support doctors and scientists, providing them with the opportunity to question if there is a new way of managing diseases such as cancer and the chance to develop treatments, perhaps even a cure. There is hope doctors and scientists will refuse to accept that the standard procedure is good enough and consider a new way to treat diseases, providing patients with the opportunity to test out their ground-breaking medical theories without the fear of legal recourse.
I was diagnosed with bowel cancer in February 2012 and in November 2012, told I was incurable with a life expectancy of six-nine months. Though recently my cancer has spread, I'm still here and every day fighting, hoping I will stick around long enough for that elusive cure to be found. The Saatchi Bill needs public support to become law, which is why the public consultation today is so important.
When you are in a situation such as mine, your options are dramatically reduced. Some in the medical profession see you as 'palliative' and simply can't get over the point of making me as comfortable as possible through pain relief medication. Whilst I can understand this, I'm not ready to admit defeat yet. If there is a new procedure I could try or drug I could take that would extend or save my life, I want to be given that option. I'm very fortunate to have an oncologist at the Royal Marsden, who keeps abreast of drugs as they come to market. I'm only his second patient on a newly licensed drug, Regorafenib, but others aren't so lucky. And whilst it's a new drug, the theory behind it is not ground-breaking.
The Saatchi Bill wants to challenge these old theories and move on from the traditional treatment paths for cancer of cut, burn and poison. Both my grandparents died from bowel cancer, my grandfather 35 years ago, my grandmother 15 years ago. I assumed there had been huge advancements in medical research, yet the majority of cancer patients are still only offered surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy. Whilst there have been moderate improvements on the potential side effects of traditional therapies (for example I haven't lost my hair, it's just thinned), new techniques or treatments are the exception rather than the rule.
I'm not by any means detracting from the ground-breaking work doctors and scientists are doing in the labs. There have been massive advancements in life pro-longing drugs such as Avastin and Aflibercept, which have worked to keep me here, with my young family a year over my 'expiry date' and we are detecting cancer much earlier with better screening, though for bowel cancer patients, this is from the age of 65, not much help when you're only 33!
And this is why the Saatchi Medical Innovation Bill is so important. This bill will give doctors the opportunity to consider new drugs or techniques that could go on to save the lives of people like me. People who at the moment are written off as incurable, where the best I am offered is a comfortable quality of (shortened) life.
Trials and innovation could be the answer for me surviving this disease. We need to encourage innovation, allowing doctors a more exhaustive list of treatments to try out. I need to be able to look my doctor in the eye and ask him if he really has tried everything and if not, what else can we try.
Of course R&D and drug development takes years to bring to market and for every successful drug, there are hundreds that don't make it. And there are the research hospitals that already give patients the opportunity to be considered for trials. But this bill will make it possible for me to push for a new treatment, accepting the consequences are for me to bear. It returns some control to the patient (which is something many with cancer feel is lost when they are diagnosed) and encourages better education. Surely this can only be a good thing?
As patients, we should be open to new, exciting and alternative treatments. There may not be the vast numbers of patients in new research, but if more of us consider new treatments rather than being scared by it, these figures will increase, prompting further confidence for other patients. We should be taking responsibility as much as the doctors in finding a cure, not only opting in to research trials, but also taking an honest view of what we put in and around our bodies. For me, that means avoiding things that could be considered to encourage cancer growth (sugar and dairy) and instead surround myself with things that prevent further growth of new or existing tumours (lots of green veg and turmeric).
Doctors need to be encouraged to think beyond what they have always done. As Einstein once said, 'insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results'. If we continue to treat cancer as we have for the last 40 years, we can only expect the same results - more people needlessly dying to a disease that could be curable.
Innovation has to be at the heart of the next stage of cancer research and the Saatchi Bill could be the bill that makes the difference for doctors to be able to innovate and think outside the box we have remained in.
You can read more about me and my daily life living with cancer at lifeasasemi-colon