Eddie Babbage – Perspective of a Patient’s Companion

My name is Eddie Babbage. My wife Gay has stage 4 lung cancer and we came to the ChemoThermia Clinic from London – United Kingdom.

Many believe that Turkey is indeed a third world country but when you arrive here you will soon understand that it certainly is not. Although there have been some explosions in Istanbul the streets are full and the routine of daily life progresses as efficiently as any cosmopolitan city on earth. As soon as we began to consider a visit to the ChemoThermia Clinic in Istanbul for treatment for my wife’s lung cancer it soon became clear that many friends thought we were grasping at straws. We had previously looked at the obvious options of oncology clinics in Germany, America, Mexico and Cuba and in fact had made a visit to a leading clinic in Germany which did look impressive… but Turkey?! We were eventually persuaded by the fact that we had to resort to more chemo at the Marsden as the NHS had nothing better to offer us. The ChemoThermia Clinic in Istanbul has over the years adapted an integrated approach to chemotherapy that has less harmful side effects than the standard treatments but more importantly has resulted in some very successful outcomes.

My wife has survived more than 6 years of treatment in the UK from a diagnosis of stage 4 adenomacarcinoma that followed difficulty in breathing in 2010. The conventional NHS route consisted of the standard 4 months of chemo, followed by Tarceva at the Royal Marsden under the fantastic Dr Popat and then a trial at the Christie in Manchester for Targrisso, albeit with some less conventional treatments, diet and lifestyle adaptations thrown in over the years. We luckily managed the disease very well until progression occurred again the NHS ran out of options and Dr Popat could only offer ‘that’ chemo again.

It is always difficult to know what is the correct approach to the protocol that exists between patient and primary oncologist when considering alternative private treatments. We have had a great relationship with Dr. Popat and even greater respect for his counsel but his situation as head of the lung unit at The Royal Marsden is restricted by the limitations of the NHS funding. We did not want to burn our bridges there but nevertheless I commenced to exchange medical notes over email with Dr. Slocum at the ChemoThermia Clinic. He was efficient, responsive and fully conversant in English and understood exactly the treatment path we had been following over the 6 years of the disease. We soon agreed on a week’s visit which was to include consultation, PET scan and routine tests followed by recommended treatment path dependant on the results.

Time is of the essence when dealing with the progression of this disease and so only a week later we were boarding the 3 hour flight to Istanbul to be greeted at the airport by the clinic’s driver and taken to our hotel situated around the corner from the clinic. The following morning after a meeting with Dr. Slocum we went for the PET scan, had a brain MRI and some further routine tests… All very efficiently executed and we returned a day later to hear the results.

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It had been our belief that we would be benefitting from the integrated chemo regime that this clinic is especially known for, but to our surprise after Dr. Slocum and his associates, the eminent Professor Burkarda and Assist. Professor Iyikesici had reviewed my wife’s immediate condition with us, they in fact recommended a very similar treatment path to that of Dr Popat. Great minds think alike! It had always been his intention to get my wife onto a UK trial for the drug Crisotinib for inhibiting the progression of the disease for patients who have the C-MET mutation. Only 2% of all cancer patients exhibit this mutation, so although she was lucky to have this mutation she was unlucky not to have been accepted on 1 of the 2 trials that were running in the UK at the time. However it was a very reassuring recommendation. In Turkey the drug is a little more than half the cost of the drug in the UK. We accepted the treatment plan with some various additions that added to the efficacy of the drug itself; hyperbaric oxygen therapy, hyperthermia, and some infusions and complementary drugs to stimulate the body’s natural immune system. There is one further intervention that we are to follow, that of integrating the Ketogenic Diet into our life… Absolutely minimal sugars and carbohydrates that metabolise into the glucose that those tumours cells adore; so mainly proteins and unsaturated fats from now on!

So we return to the UK much invigorated by a very positive experience in Istanbul and hopeful for a good result when we return in a month, at which time the prescription is to be renewed and further PET scans will reveal the success of this integrated approach to this terrible disease which kills 20,000 people a day across the world. We hope that the NHS and our oncologist there will continue to support us where they can and furthermore will be intrigued by this novel approach to their more orthodox medical discipline.

Turkey is by no means a third world country. If the ChemoThermia Clinic is a barometer of the development that has taken place over the last couple of decades then there is a bright future is sight, not only for the medical expertise it has to offer but for the country as a whole.

Logistics:

Daily flights from the UK start from around 170euros return. Visas are required and can be obtained easily over the Internet at around £55 directly from the embassy.

The clinic is situated in a district known for its medical facilities on the 7th floor of a modern ‘office’ block very close to The Nisantasi district, a bustling commercial and shopping area 800 meters away… About 10 lira in a taxi if you can’t walk up steep hill! Taxis are abundant and inexpensive but take your hotel card with you if you want to return there easily… most drivers don’t speak English.

The clinic will book your hotel and there are a number to choose from. We stayed in the Semsan Hotel, around 300 meters from the clinic for 40euros per night B & B. The clinic had negotiated the price. It is clean, very comfortable and the staff a friendly and helpful.

There a a few very local restaurants… The Modus Hotel; evening meal for two is about 50 lira pp. Delicious lunch at the restaurant below the clinic 20 lira pp. A large supermarket complex, The Real, can be found across the road from the clinic and prices reflect the low cost of living found across the country. If you are a bit more adventurous and feeling well then the Nisantasi district offers a large choice of eateries, we particularly enjoyed the Bi’Garip Meyhane with its contemporary Turkish food and local laid back music. Further away, about 35 lira taxi ride is the amazing Sultanahmet district where you can wander around the Grand Bazaar, Blue Mosque and the Topkapi Palace between treatments!

The clinic charges will of course vary with the treatment regime you receive but it seems to be the least expensive of any clinic we have researched. For example the drug we have been prescribed is over £5000 per month in the UK but only Es3200 here… nearly half price!