This page has the background and links to the newspaper and television coverage of 2011 – a story within a story – and at the bottom the link to the Daily Mail article published in December 2012.
2011 was the year that Sam’s story hit the mainstream media. It all started when the freelance reporter Angela Carless found this blog through Steve Lowton’s blog. She had already written an article on their adoption of 2 Chinese children, published in The Mirror on 1st April. Having then found a link from Steve’s blog to my blog she was drawn in to our family’s story – especially how we have all been coping with what has happened to Sam. She had handled the Lowton family’s article really well so when she made contact and asked for an interview we felt reasonably secure in saying yes. Actually, I was rather scared of the publicity it might bring and thought Martin would veto it – but to my surprise he said it was a great opportunity and I should definitely do it. I don’t think he realised then what a star role he himself would take!
After several phones calls and a personal visit to meet us all, Angela’s article was published in The Mail on Sunday on 31st July 2011. She had focussed the piece around the tensions between Sam’s alternative approach to his illness and Martin being a cancer specialist; their relationship became the focus of what followed in both the television interviews as well.
If we had known then where it would lead would we have done it at all? I look back at the decisions I made to write and publish my journey on-line… It started with Stories from the Street, so perhaps I could blame Steve! Stimulated by the opportunity that site gave I had found myself with an outlet for my newfound – and very therapeutic – creative streak and without that breakout in 2009 to early 2010 I wouldn’t have found my blogging voice later in the year. But it was only my choice, no-one else’s, to publish my inner struggles on the internet! As for Sam’s part in going public – of course he had to agree to it to tell his part – he was convinced to participate by the offer of a £1000 fee!
You take one step and something else comes into view – you keep walking, one day at a time: one day you look back down the road and say ‘how did I get here?’ The answer is always ‘one choice (or non-choice) at a time’. Do I regret my choices? No… but every decision has it’s pros and cons and whatever the positive outcomes there is a price to pay.
For us the Mail on Sunday article was quite painful. Angela had done a really good, sensitive, balanced job and told the truth about us – even if she didn’t have space to tell all of the truth. But unfortunately in the on-line version a few editorial changes – which have been mostly altered since – had sensationalised things and put Martin, and even me, in a bad light. Internet comments made without really reading the piece were very unkind to Sam’s medical dad and hurt us – as we have been nothing but supportive of Sam’s crazy schemes! We learned what everyone who goes public knows – it is a very vulnerable place. We also had the added pain of re-living the past as we read in black-and-white about what we had been through the year before: there is no escape from the plain facts 😦
At the same time we did have very many kind and sympathetic responses – and some from most unexpected sources; notably Martin’s patients, apparently all regular Mail readers, seemed to have seen it and there were a number of emails from strangers across the world. In fact that was how we first knew we had woken up on publication day! Many of them came with various questions and suggestions aimed at Sam – via his Professor dad, which in the case of the alternative medicine brigade and considering Martin’s publicised stance on that, was somewhat illogical! But Sam’s trip to Canada for 2 months at the end of 2011 was a direct result of a lady in Australia seeing the Mail On-line, googling Martin and writing to tell him about her niece in British Columbia who had tried cannabis oil for her brain tumour and had since had 2 clear scans – and as of December 2011, 3 clear scans…
BBC Radio Leicester
The other people showing an interest in us were radio and television stations. Martin and Sam were asked to do interviews for BBC Radio Leicester talking about their different perspectives. Sam was pre-recorded and the reporter told me ‘he gave a superb account of himself as I’m sure you knew he would. He was incredibly eloquent, intelligent, positive and I think – an inspiration. I would have loved to play the whole 25 minute interview on Monday but it’s impossible.’ I think Sam began to get a sense of vocation and evangelistic zeal in his message at that point.
But when Martin went into the studio before work on Monday 8th August he didn’t know what would be fired at him – a live interview is nerve-wracking at just the time one needs to be succinct and not forget all the important points! They actually picked a bit of Sam’s pre-recording about juice diets and the book ‘There are no incurable diseases’, which definitely knocked his dad back with no small amount of disbelief and despair. People will believe anything to escape death – that is what the search for ‘alternative treatments for cancer is really about – but Martin really wanted to touch on the need to actually face up to our mortality… We don’t have a recording and I can’t recall what he did say, only sitting sleepily at the kitchen table, tuning into Radio Leicester for those few minutes and rooting for the man I love.
I am more than proud of my very own Professor Dyer, Leukaemia and Lymphoma Specialist at the Royal Infirmary, broadcasting at breakfast time to his very own Leicestershire catchment area, many of whom already or at a future date may have to put their trust in him in their individual battles against cancer: he came over really well 🙂
We were amazed to get an email from The One Show. It took some time for Sam to agree to do it, but now he could see some value in having a voice in the public domain and with their repeated requests he eventually responded. Gloria Hunniford and a film crew came to our home to do the filming on Friday 2nd September – which was amazing enough in itself, having a house full of cameras and a celebrity. Sam turned up with a look of determination and his notebook – though I did have to be ‘wardrobe-mistress’ and borrow him a proper shirt from our lodger as he had elected to wear a T-shirt with an alien on the front, sure to undermine his desire to be taken seriously: for once he took my advice on such things! And he got on very well with Gloria Hunniford 🙂
We nervously awaited the showing of the edited clip of around 8 hours of filming. By the end of the day, in his clinic room at the hospital, Martin had been heartily sick of being questioned about his opinions on the helpfulness of alternative/complementary treatments (“No, I wouldn’t recommend this for my patients!”) He was really concerned that the programme may make him say things he had not said… but in the end he need not have worried.
We were amazed: The One Show editing was superb, bringing out the father/son relationship and particularly Martin’s affection and support for Sam in a moving way. It turned out that was the message that we had not expected at all – the tenderness, the balance, the family feeling is palpable – accentuated by Gloria’s own tragic story of losing her daughter to cancer, despite trying every known sort of complementary therapy. Sam also came over as mature, thoughtful and brave: I am so proud of both my boys.
Only 24 hours later Martin and Sam set off for London for an overnight stay and a Friday morning appointment at ITV’s studios. This Morning had booked their slot a few weeks before – probably why BBC quickly snuck their film in on the Wednesday evening of the same week. This was to be a live interview: less possibility of being badly edited, but more challenging to be broadcast ‘as is’ and get any sort of message across when being directly questioned. I was at home watching on our TV… such a strange feeling to see my husband and son on screen instead of beside me watching! It had been a particularly difficult couple of days at home too as Sam had a major fit and we didn’t know whether he was really well enough to travel to London – we didn’t know if he was suddenly getting worse or it was just a blip. But knowing how much this meant to him we all played it down and kept it quiet – until to our horror at what the ignorant family would say – he announced it to the nation on live TV! Meanwhile they were having fun in the studio with Eamon and Ruth Holmes, as the photos Martin brought home showed. Again it was a wonderful portrayal of family solidarity despite differences, and this time Sam was able to talk fully about his belief in cannabis resin as an anti-cancer agent. This has earned him no small measure of fame among the pro-cannabis community – he is seen as a spokesman now! – and the satisfaction that he has got his controversial opinions – his ‘message’ out there.
On the heels of all this he has gone to Canada – to the contact made through the Mail article – to try an intensive course of medicinal cannabis to try to prove his point and shrink his tumour: he is nothing if not focussed. Angela Carless always hoped that her writing would lead to some contacts and help for Sam – on top of the cheque she got from the newspaper for him – perhaps someone or something who can give us some hidden keys… We will see whether or not there is anything in it: I am sure this is one time that Martin wouldn’t mind being wrong.
As for what the message really is… hopefully we are – God’s message written on human hearts.
Postscript December 2012
12 months after Sam’s visit to Canada, he has continued to be well. Despite the 2 months plus of cannabis oil, however, a scan in May showed little change to the tumour, but physically, emotionally and mentally he is flourishing. He would put this down to intensive work with an acupuncturist faith/energy healer friend who has been a lifeline this year.
As a response to another controversial brain tumour story in the press we were contacted again by the Mail and an updated version of the July 2011 article was published in the Daily Mail on Friday 14th December. You can see the on-line version of this here.