Fraser’s fantastic five-year survival story

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Martin Moodie
Martin Moodie is the Founder & Chairman of The Moodie Report.

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“Hi Martin,

“I do hope this finds you well. I write to you today on my 5th year anniversary, (since original diagnosis), so a rather odd day as you will know… although a good one too – all things considered.”

The day in question was last Wednesday, 30 April. The e-mail was from Fraser Dunlop, Global Head of Category at World Duty Free.

It was an important note that made the spirit soar. Let me tell you why.

Fraser is, as long-time readers of this Blog will surely know, a walking, talking miracle man. Diagnosed with theoretically incurable stage four secondary cancer (and given a less than 1% chance of survival) on 30 April 2009, Fraser was told by his oncologist to go and say goodbye. To his wife and children (a new-born baby and a two year-old), to his wider family, friends and colleagues at World Duty Free.

In August 2011, he recalled those moments in the most memorable interview that I will ever have the privilege to conduct. If you, or any loved one, have ever had to confront cancer (or, maybe even more, if you haven’t), I urge you to read (and listen to) it via these links.

1) A Survivor’s Story – Part 1

2) A Survivor’s Story – Part 1

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That interview happened some 13 months after my own diagnosis with stomach cancer. It was an emotional interview – listen to the podcasts on the links above and you will hear the acute poignancy of Fraser’s recollections.

I’ll let his words say it better than I can. “April 30 was D-Day. April 30, 2009. After many more tests and scans, PET scans, an endoscopy, a colonoscopy, everything… they said you have stage four advanced cancer. You have multiple tumours all over your liver, inside, outside, on the surface. And the bad news is that it’s not (primary) liver cancer. That’s the secondary cancer.”

 The doctors couldn’t find the primary for another week. They eventually found it in the corner of the food pipe and the stomach, right at the gastroesophageal junction (the join between the oesophagus and the stomach).

The specialist said:  “ ‘Your primaries are nearly blocking your food pipe. The secondary [cancer] is all over your liver. You’ve also got it on your lymph nodes and on your left adrenal gland above your kidney.’

 “And he said ‘This is as serious as it gets.’ I said ‘What do you mean?’ And he said ‘Well, this is incurable and this is also inoperable, unfortunately, because we can’t take your stomach out, cut your food pipe and then re-attach your stomach – it’s too dangerous. You’ve got cancer in so many places.

 “So, it’s inoperable, it’s incurable and it’s stage four advanced cancer.’ ”

“When the doctor told me, the first thing I said was, ‘What will I tell my wife… what will I tell my wife?’ It’s the oddest thing… it’s the first thing that came into my head. ‘What’ll I tell her?’

 “He went… ‘You’re just going to have to tell her the truth.’

 “ ‘What’s the truth?’ ”

“ ‘The truth is…’ ” There’s a long silence. This is close to the bone for both interviewee and interviewer.

“In the nicest possible way what he was essentially and politely trying to say was ‘Go home, tell your wife, tell your family, tell your work… tell them goodbye, really, because you’re not going to live.’ “

Five years is a big, big benchmark for cancer patients. By many (not all) studies, it makes you a statistic, a ‘survivor’. Cancers vary wildly in their recurrence times and rates but if you’ve got out to five years and you’re still going strong, you’ve done well. In Fraser’s case you’ve defied unimaginable odds.

Footnote: As I was writing this Blog the tragic news came in of former British number one tennis player Elena Baltacha, who has died of liver cancer, aged just 30. She only learned she had the disease in mid-January 2014, two months after retiring from professional tennis and only a few weeks after marrying.

Research and the skilled treatment that results from it was unable to save Elena’s life. But it has saved and prolonged many others, including Fraser’s, the equally inspirational Lynn Arce of DFS, mine and several others close to The Moodie Report team. Survival rates are soaring worldwide (see the latest UK figures below). Cancer will directly affect one in three of us during our lifetimes. The Moodie Report Foundation will announce a further critical donation to research into one of the deadliest cancers in coming days.

In the meantime, please support your local cancer research organisation, or give to www.cancerresearchuk.org

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  • Even the sound of the C work strikes terror in the soul – regardless of the position in the body of cancer.

    I read Fraser’s story when it was first published – and now to see and read that the magical 5 year milestone has been reached is a miracle.

    Well done Fraser – you are more than 1 in a million, and thank you Martin for ensuring that the story is available to all of us.

    Liz x

  • Thanks Martin for sharing this remarkable story with us your readers. Dutyfree, travel F&B, airports and those of us working in and around are a small and closely connected group. The visibility you have given to this story credits your humanity and I think resonates with all of us. Fraser, yourself and those who are brave and courageous are truly inspirational.

  • Fraser Iam soooooo happy for you and all your loved ones and don’t have words to express this. This is the first time I have read and heard about it. PRAISE BE TO THE GOOD LORD and may his blessings be with you Fraser . God Bless

    Martin thank you for sharing this amazing account .

    Rakhita