Patient story – Simon Lawrence

Simon Lawrence, 60, was diagnosed with mesothelioma in March 2017 and given just three weeks to live. Three years later, he is still here and writing a self-help book, Dare To Live.

Simon, a photojournalist and cinematographer from Hampshire, has always believed in the power of the mind and is certain that the mind is stronger than the body. During his career, he has written countless articles about how positive thinking can help people tackle many problems. And so, when he was diagnosed, one of his first thoughts was “Good, I can write a book about this.”

Unusually, Simon says that he did not feel frightened when the consultant gave him his diagnosis. He saw it as a challenge, an opportunity to prove what he had been writing about for years – that the mind is more powerful than the body.

Even as he was on his way home from the hospital, he came up with the title for the book he was going to write – Dare To Live. Simon was determined not to simply accept his three-week prognosis and feel helpless; he knew that he had a choice to do something.

It was in 2016 when Simon first noticed that he was feeling unwell and slightly breathless. He put it down to pollution in the atmosphere in London, where he was working. He wasn’t overly concerned though and was still able to cycle several times a week.

A few months later he woke with a pain in his shoulder. He thought that he had just slept awkwardly on it. Simon admits that he felt that he was getting a bit slower at things but, at 57, simply put it down to getting older.

It wasn’t until January 2017 that he eventually sought medical help after he experienced some visual disturbances. A friend feared that he may be having a stroke and called an ambulance. At the hospital, Simon was told he had had optical migraines and was sent home.

When his vision was affected again a month later, Simon visited his GP. As a non-smoker, Simon wasn’t a priority for a CT scan but was booked in when Simon mentioned that he had been exposed to asbestos in the past (in his 20s, he had photographed factories containing asbestos).

Simon was sent for a CT scan a few days later and three days after that was given a diagnosis of sarcomatoid mesothelioma and told to put his affairs in order as it was likely that he only had three weeks to live. It transpired that he also had a tumour pressing on his jugular vein which was what had caused the problems with his vision.

Following the diagnosis, Simon immediately took action and began researching things he could do to beat his prognosis. Two months later a healthier diet – organic, no sugar, alcohol or caffeine – and exercise, combined with a positive mind-set saw Simon feeling much stronger.

In June 2017 he was offered chemotherapy and had 6 rounds over an 18 week period and 13 rounds of radiotherapy. After the third chemo treatment, there was a reduction in the tumour which did surprise everybody. Since then, Simon’s been in stable, partial remission stage and his outlook has remained positive. He has had no further treatment, apart from regular scans.

Simon said: “What I want to do with my book is show people that you can get through this. You don’t have to give away all your power to a medical person who tells you that you are going to die.

“You can fight back. I did and I’m here at 60, believing I can get through this and enjoying every moment of my life.”