AN Army veteran who has beaten the odds against a deadly brain tumour says he owes his life to his kids.
Inspiring dad Archie Douglas, 45, from Edinburgh, believed there was no hope of recovery after doctors discovered a tumour the size of his hand five years ago.
But the father-of-two embarked on experimental treatment and his own regimented military style programme to beat the disease.
He has stunned medics after his latest scan shows the tumour has “vanished”. Archie said: “They couldn’t see the tumour on the scan. They told me if it’s there, it’s too small to measure.
“It feels like a miracle.”
The former soldier was first diagnosed with the tumour in October 2013, after his son James told him to get his worsening hearing checked. “My son got so fed up that I couldn’t hear him. I had bad hearing for years in the Army and always thought it was from service.”
A specialist found a growth in his right ear and Archie’s heart sank when a shadow on the scan turned out to be a tumour in his brain.
He said: “They were astounded that I could walk and talk. It was so big it had shifted the centre of my brain.”
Surgery removed the growth in his right ear leaving Archie deaf in that ear and struggling to walk. A month later he was diagnosed with epilepsy and now suffers terrifying seizures.
Doctors monitored the tumour on watch-and-wait.
“I learned to walk with sticks and it felt like I was getting my strength back.”
Archie’s oncologist got him onto a clinical trial but surgery only removed 40 per cent of the mass – then the tumour jumped in size. He said: “It was much more aggressive than they first thought. I found out I could have just a few years to live.”
Archie served 20 years with the King’s Own Scottish Borderers and their successor battalion, 1 SCOTS, Royal Regiment of Scotland, and rose through the ranks to Major. In his last tour in Iraq he was advisor to the Commanding General of the US Marine Corps as they took over from the British Military in Northern Helmand.
He saw friends go home in body bags. But nothing prepared him for the shattering news that his tumour was malignant.
“It was like a bag of sand around my neck and the more they told me, the heavier it got and I felt I couldn’t breathe,” he said.
It wasn’t until Archie broke the news to his kids that he knew he wasn’t ready to give up. “They told me they didn’t want me to die. I couldn’t cast a shadow over their future.”
“I had to show my kids that no matter how steep the odds, no matter how impossible things seem. Never, ever give up.”
Doctors warned intense treatment of radiotherapy and a year of chemotherapy could cause even more damage to his brain, already scarred from seizures and surgery.
But Archie had to do it for his kids. “After so long away from home I wanted any chance of extra time. They said the treatment would be hard but it could buy me up to six years to see my kids through high school.”
During treatment Archie was dealt another crushing blow.
He said: “My wife wanted a divorce. I ended up homeless and depressed. I thought about just curling up waiting for the lights to go out.”
Instead his military training kicked in. He launched a tough “beat the beast” challenge with help of his kids, Heather, 17 and James, 14.
Archie has cycled, hiked and climbed through seizures and gruelling cancer treatment raising over £17,000 for charity. “My kids supported me through the Challenge, even getting their friends to sponsor me.”
And he has met the love of his life, Allie, 46. The pair recently celebrated their one-year anniversary.
He said: “I stuttered but finally got my vows out – ‘till death do us part’. Those words mean so much for us.”
Now Archie is determined to “retrain” his brain through acting to tackle his speech and memory loss, as part of his strict “balanced daily lifestyle programme” researched with a nutritionist.
He said: “You can’t cure cancer – or trick it. But you can attack it from all directions. I had excellent care and medical treatment from NHS, I do physical training for twenty minutes twice a day and a diet that can cause cancer cells to die.
“The right fruit, vegetables and nuts can fuel your body like a formula one racecar. It’s so simple – but I believe it can make all the difference to helping your medical treatment work.”
He has taken up acting and says his struggles disappear when he takes to the stage, “My speech is normal when I act. The dream is to star in a movie. My confidence is coming back again!”
A NHS Lothian spokesperson said: “Archie took part in a clinical trial that compared radiotherapy versus radiotherapy with chemotherapy. He has responded positively to his treatment and we are pleased he is doing well.”
‘There’s no silver bullet’
“There is no silver bullet when it comes to beating cancer.
But with the wonders of modern medicine targeting the cancer I decided to do what I could to strengthen my body’s ability to fight back, by eating better and moving more.
It seemed so simple but it takes a lot of hard work and determination. To start, I quit smoking.
Every day I get in at least twenty minutes of intense physical activity. For me it’s cycling or hiking up hills. Then I do another 20 minutes moderate activity on top of that. You have to get the heart racing and get out of breath.
This pumps the body’s systems and gets them working and healing as they should.
Every day I eat disease-busting foods that strengthen the body’s ability to attack the disease and cause apoptosis – that’s like programmed cell death in cancer cells. That has to be good!
I have done the maths to balance the diet, according to guidelines available from the NHS Choices website and other sources to make sure this balanced daily diet fuels the body as much as possible.
In my bag I always carry prepared healthy lunch with tender stem broccoli, cherry tomatoes, raw carrots, brazil nuts and poached egg.
Always get advice of your medical team before you take on moving more – and no matter how rubbish you feel, no matter how badly life is going, no matter
how tired you feel the
most important thing with the programme is
NEVER EVER GIVE UP.”