From beneath a flop of chestnut brown hair, two hazel eyes glint at you and a wicked smile spreads unevenly across pursed lips. This is Andrew Scarborough; a young man who, like any other single chap of just 28 years of age, has so much life both within him and ahead of him – and rightly so too.
A fitness fanatic with a penchant for football, Andrew has always been interested in the importance of well-being. An ardent supporter of Arsenal FC, Andrew was delighted to meet former Arsenal goalkeeper and England team legend David Seaman at The Big Match recently at the Madejski Stadium. Andrew was also a keen badminton player in previous years although the regime of travelling over to Maidenhead for practices at county standard were too arduous to fit into his already hectic routine.
Andrew also had a keen academic interest in sports sciences and studied Exercise Nutrition and Health at the University of Roehampton, gaining his BSc with flying colours in 2009. He worked for two years as a Gym Instructor, Personal Trainer and an Exercise Class Instructor at the prestigious Lensbury Spa in Teddington, Middlesex, before leaving to concentrate on his post-graduate study at the University of Westminster, London, specialising in Nutritional Therapy.
2012 was quite a year for Andrew. He experienced the “once in a lifetime” chance of being an Olympics Games-maker in the London 2012 Olympic Games Opening Ceremony. Andrew featured as a Brunelian character during the Industrial Revolution segment of the Ceremony, acted out and narrated by award-winning and world-renowned actor Kenneth Branagh. He also had the pleasure of appearing as a seagull in the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Paralympic Games.
Andrew recalls his Olympic double-debut with pride: “I heard that the Olympic Games organisers were looking for young men with a sense of rhythm. As I do fitness, exercise and teach Zumba classes I decided to apply. I had to do an audition to camera involving some pieces of dance; it was great!”
However, things started to change towards the end of 2012 when Andrew noticed more frequent headaches and spells of dizziness. Not normally one for taking tablets, Andrew found himself reaching for the painkillers more and more often to quell the pounding headaches he was experiencing. Friends suggested it might be down to stress as he was working hard at his studies, however Andrew’s symptoms worsened. In February 2013 he lost his speech for a few minutes and this prompted him to seek medical attention. In April 2013 and Andrew found himself on the receiving end of what can only be described as the most traumatic telephone call of his life.
“It was a Friday afternoon; quite late,” Andrew explained, “I got a phone call after having waited for six weeks for my test results. I had cancer. The caller said that the cancer ‘wasn’t curable but was treatable’. I was in a bit of shock to be honest.”
Andrew continued: “To receive that sort of news in a phone call and so late on Friday afternoon with no support, help or advice was a shock. It was strange that I’d just attained a personal best for my 5k running the week before my diagnosis!”
Andrew was diagnosed with a grade 3 Anaplastic Astrocytoma, a fast-growing and aggressive form of brain cancer. He was put onto medication to control the seizures and symptoms, and eventually had surgery to remove the tumour although it wasn’t removed in it’s entirety. Chemoradiotherapy and radiotherapy also formed part of his treatment regime.
Andrew subsequently found that the medication he was on was worsening his symptoms even though it controlled the condition. Using his studious and analytical frame of mind, Andrew set to task in extensively researching the importance of diet and the epileptic seizures he was experiencing due to his cancer. His detailed self research found that a ketogenic diet, (which is a high-fat, mixed chain tri-glyceride diet) helps alleviate those symptoms. It is believed, according to research, that a ketogenic diet can be used to treat difficult-to-control epilepsy. More about the findings of a ketogenic diet can be found here. Andrew’s neurologist wanted to increase his medication to control the symptoms, but Andrew has managed to reduce his symptoms and halve his medication intake which he believes is by the introduction of his ketogenic diet.
Andrew’s mother explained: “Andrew is a very strong-willed person. He’s also a very analytical person and wanted to know more. He did his research into diet and found out about the ketogenic diet. We use ground almonds instead of flour, and use coconut milk and coconut oil too, in addition to eggs and vanilla essence.”
“It’s not something you can just start out on”, she added, “The ketogenic diet has to be done under supervision and slowly introduced – to do it completely from the outset can be harmful.”
Andrew’s mother makes cupcakes using the recipe and Andrew holds cake sales to raise funds for charity. He is extremely thankful to charity Matthew’s Friends, which specialises in dietary treatments for epilepsy, and is eager to raise awareness and funds for them in addition to The Brain Tumour Charity. Andrew is keen to point out that his ketogenic diet is under the close supervision of a senior dietician as part of his treatment programme.
To raise funds and awareness for both Matthew’s Friends and The Brain Tumour Charity, Andrew will be holding a ketogenic cake sale in the Church Hall at Ascot Life Church, which is on New Road, Ascot SL5 8PX. The cake sale takes place on Monday 14 July 2014 between 9:00am and 10:30am and all proceeds will go to the two charities.
Andrew meets his hero, David Seaman at The Big Match recently held at the Madejski Stadium.
Andrew still has the same dreams and hopes as any other young man would, in spite of his condition. Rightly so, too. Andrew is still Andrew and will not allow his cancer to overshadow his identity first and foremost as a young man with a life to look forward to. His love of sport has not diminished and he still longs for some level of freedom although his cancer does impede that greatly at present. There are no facilities or organisations, charitable or otherwise, who assist in helping young cancer patients achieve semi-independence and enjoy some liberty whilst living with cancer. For many organisations, the cut-off point for assisted day trips out and leisure activities is 25; Andrew is 28 and falls outside the remit.
Like many cancer patients above the age of 25 Andrew is in limbo. The logistics of arranging an outing on a regular basis whilst ensuring medication, care and supervision is upheld is a task which is greatly beyond Andrew or indeed his mother who cares for him on a daily basis. This means that Andrew has a current lifestyle which is a very stark opposite to that which he used to enjoy pre-diagnosis. His medication, though greatly reduced with the aid of his ketogenic diet, hinders his ability to be outdoors and the need for supervision due to his condition means he now experiences a sedentary lifestyle at home looked after by his mum. For any young man, let alone a young man living with cancer, this can be immensely frustrating, and Andrew hopes that by raising awareness, something can be done to either instigate a support group or encourage a charity to step forward to meet this social aspect need for young people over the age of 25 dealing with cancer.
In spite of the limitations which his condition places upon him, Andrew remains determined in his efforts. His background of studying nutritional health added to the extensive research he has unearthed into his specific cancer, Andrew is driven to help raise more funds to go towards research. “I knew Stephen Sutton,” he concluded, “we were in contact with one another and also talked about charity work. We talked at length about the Bobby Moore Fund, as Stephen had bowel cancer, as well as the money he was raising for the Teenage Cancer Trust. The last time I spoke to him was in April this year. He was about to embark on some new treatment and we were both at the Marsden in London. I said to him that it was great what he was doing for the Teenage Cancer Trust, and asked him if he had thought about raising money for research into cancer as I was raising money for the Brain Tumour Charity for further research. At that time Stephen was full of life, sprinting about on his crutches. That was the last time we spoke.” Sadly, Stephen passed away on May 14, but had raised over £4m at the time of his death.
Cancer hasn’t stopped Andrew from still aiming to achieve his dreams. He has designed, developed and patented a new form of fitness equipment. Invented before his diagnosis, the “Gym Buddy” is a portable personal gym and Andrew remains keen to get the idea from the concept into reality. He is open to guidance and suggestions on how to achieve this whether through a Kickstarter programme or other crowd-funding source. People can get in touch with Andrew via Xn Media, and we will pass on their details to him.
Details about Matthew’s Friends and the ketogenic diet can be found on their website at www.mfclinics.com. The Brain Tumour Charity are the largest dedicated funder of brain tumour research in the UK. Details about their work, research and more can be found at their website at www.thebraintumourcharity.org. They can also be followed via social media on Twitter @braintumourorg.
To support Andrew’s efforts to raise funds for research into brain tumours and cancers, please visit his fund-raising page which can be found at www.justgiving.com/andrew-scarborough.
Andrew Scarborough with some of his tasty ketogenic cupcakes.
Pictures: Lynda Bowyer