Pablo Kelly was given months to live after doctors found a terminal tumour in his brain.
He rejected chemotherapy in favour of a specialist, meat and fat-heavy diet and is still alive two years later.
At 25 years old Pablo, from Wrangaton, was diagnosed with stage 4 glioblastoma multiforme – a terminal brain tumour. Due to the tumour’s position in Pablo’s brain it was also inoperable.
“I was devastated,” Pablo said.
“I hadn’t slept in weeks just waiting for the results. I was quite calm that morning, I knew the news wasn’t going to be good.
“My partner went white and nearly threw up and my mum was just squeezing my hand so hard.
“Within 10 minutes it hit me and I went crazy, I was just really angry. They told me to just let it out.”
Pablo’s symptoms had begun that year with migraines. He put them down to the summer heat, but after nearly fainting at work one day he decided to book an appointment with his doctor.
“All they could suggest is that is was a migrainous aura which is feelings and symptoms you notice shortly before the headache begins,” Pablo said.
“Then a few days later, I was walking to meet my partner, it was scorching hot and I went to take a drink. My mouth started to droop on one side. My left side was dropping. I thought, why am I having a stroke? I’m 25 years old. I’m healthy
“I went to my doctor and he said he could prescribe some painkillers. It happened again a week or so later. After not going to work I went back pushed myself and then I had another seizure.”
Pablo was concerned and asked for a CT scan and when that came back showing only ‘haziness’ he got a second opinion from a neurosurgeon. In just two weeks, he found himself at Derriford being given the shocking news that he was dying.
“I decided it wasn’t going to break me, that we would figure something out,” Pablo said.
When doctors offered Pablo radiotherapy and chemotherapy, he decided he didn’t like the idea of a diminished quality of life and opted for a treatment that is not recommended by the NHS – a high fat, low carb food plan known as the ketogenic diet.
“The doctors said the only option they could give me was chemotherapy,” Pablo said.
“The survival statistics for people my age were about three per cent and that’s for a maximum of 15 months with chemotherapy, without it, based on my health and age, they gave me six to nine months.”
The ketogenic diet relies on measuring ketones – an acid remaining when the body burns its own fat. The theory is that by reducing the intake of carbohydrates it is possible to starve a tumour of fuel and therefore stabilise it.
“Doctors told me the ketogenic wouldn’t help me in any way,” Pablo said, “I’ve had five stable scans since January 2015 on this diet.”
Pablo restricts his calories and fasts regularly. His only source of carbohydrates comes from green vegetables. He cannot eat processed foods, refined sugars, root veg, starch, breads, or grains. He also has to measure his blood sugar twice every day and takes supplements and anti-inflammatories to ensure his body gets everything it needs.
“It’s all quackery in the eyes of modern medicine but it’s clearly helping because I’m still alive,” Pablo said.
“To my knowledge, I’m the only person with this type of brain tumour that isn’t having therapy or surgery and is still alive today.”
Pablo isn’t able to take a job as his seizures prevent him from working and his supplements and therapies cost an estimated £11,000 a year which he has to pay for using his disability benefits. This often means that Pablo has to analyse which supplements are imperative to his survival and which he can live without. He refers to an American company, Nutritional Solutions, for advice in these matters.
“This brain tumour is trying to kill me right now. This diet involves a lot of work, but it’s a matter of life and death for me. The next step is to try and shrink it. Hopefully I can be an advocate for people to use this diet.
“The tumour is still there, but I can live and love my family and hopefully start my own family one day.”
Pablo, his family and friends fundraise constantly to pay for his supplements, food and therapies. To support The Pablo Fund, visit www.gofundme.com/fkft14. You can also follow Pablo on Twitter @pablosbrainjourney