A journey through cancer

Chris Drury, Land artist

Published in JHH15.2 – Healing journeys

I am an internationally known land artist, or an eco-artist, or an art and nature artist. I also collaborate with scientists, doctors, technician, ecologists, farmers and small local indigenous communities. My work has taken me to every continent including Antarctica. I work mostly to commission and the context gives rise to the form, materials and process, which I deem most appropriate to the situation.This could be a large land work or sculpture outside, or it could be a film or video, a digital work or a small work on paper for exhibition inside.The mushroom’s ability to break down dead matter back into soil on which new life grows has been an ongoing preoccupation.

I was beginning to look at as many ways as possible to work on the disease – hit it from all angles Click To Tweet In the summer of 2014 I was getting prostate problems – mainly running to the loo and feeling tired. I went to my doctor who said he thought it was nothing but sent me for a blood test. A week later I phoned the surgery to find out what the results were and was told by the receptionist who was reading from my notes ‘that no further action was required.’ Relieved I went to Norway where I was mounting an exhibition.

A few days before my return I received a text saying not to forget my hospital appointment in the urology department at The Royal Sussex Hospital – a complete surprise. Luckily it was for the day after I returned, some six weeks after my blood test. Here I learned that the doctor had referred my blood test results straight to the hospital and not told me. I had a PSA (prostate specific antigen) of 45 and it was likely I had prostate cancer. That was a shock; a big shock.

I was given an appointment in two weeks for a biopsy, then I would wait six weeks for the results, but I knew they would also need to give me an MRI scan and they would have to wait a further six weeks for that, and several weeks for the result. I realised that with the cockup with my GP, this was all taking too long. So I paid for a diagnosis at The Prostate Centre in London. This took 10 days. I was seen by a doctor from Guy’s who gave me an MRI scan, a biopsy, urine flow test, and a bone scan. The cancer covered most of my prostate and they thought surgery was out as it may have been in the seminal glands and surgery would simply spread it. There was nothing visible in the bones, so they thought that with radiotherapy, they would get it. I asked the consultant if I could come under him on the NHS at Guy’s and he agreed. He said to me, ‘You are young and fit and you will come through this’. My GP was not in a position to refuse me, but complained that it would cost his practice 20% more for me to be treated outside the area.

I was immediately put on hormone pills and then three monthly injections and we went on a somewhat wobbly holiday to France. I had the radio[1]therapy at St Thomas’ Hospital travelling to London every week for seven-and-a-half weeks over Christmas and into January 2015. At this point I was just dealing with radiologists.

By the summer my PSA had come down to 0.5 and I thought I was done. I was still having hormone injections. I had read a lot about cancer and had put myself on a vegetarian diet with no dairy, eggs or sugar. 2015 and 2016 were busy years for work; I was travelling all round the world – Sri Lanka, Australia, South Korea and Montana with a heavy workload. In the summer of 2016 my PSA started to climb, and the doctors kept an eye on it. By November it had climbed to 3.7 and I was called into Guy’s and finally met my new consultant who sent me for a PET (positron emission tomography) scan at the end of the month.

On 1 December 2015 I went to see a healer in Lewes, who said he thought he could see half a split pea in my prostate, my seminal glands were shot (by the radio[1]therapy) and I had increased white blood cell action, my immune system was depleted and working overtime and something was going on.

On the 6th, I had another appointment with the consultant at Guy’s. Kay, my wife, came in with me. My consultant was abrupt and weird. He kept hovering in and out of the room. Eventually he said that the cancer had gone into my bones, extensively in the ribs, pelvis and spine and they could no longer cure it, only contain it and there was nothing I or my wife could do about it. With that he backed out of the room leaving us with a rather shocked registrar. Kay burst into tears and I was shaking with fear. I just thought ‘this is it I am going to die and this may be my last Christmas.’ On the web it said people in my situation had between one and three years left. I felt very isolated and alone. But many friends rallied round, especially those who had survived cancer. And a good friend offered to be a support whenever I needed it.

Somehow I got through Christmas and New Year, and I started to do a lot more reading about cancer and diet. I was now on a strict vegan diet: no dairy, eggs, meat, fish, or sugar. I found Sophie Sabbage’s book called The Cancer Whisperer, which has a huge amount of information and links to films. One of the films showed how researchers had found that there was a direct link from the mouth to the prostate in men, and to the breasts in women. When I was diagnosed the first time, I also had a strange gum disease, which another department in the Royal Sussex Hospital said I would probably have to live with for the rest of my life. I had blisters on my gums and it was very unpleasant. Seeing the films, however, allowed me to make the link between prostate cancer and amalgam fillings and root canals. In the film you could see in the scan of one patient a line from the left jaw to the left breast.

This was a revelation. I rang up a dentist in Germany who said there was no proof of this, but I was taking no chances, so over about six weeks my own dentist changed six fillings and took out the root canal (under which she found infection – who knows how long that had been there?). The dentist (a trained homeopath) was brilliant and plied me with homeopathic remedies to heal. In three months the mouth ulcers had more or less gone. I had a feeling that this could have been the cause of the prostate cancer, and now that I had got rid of the cause I had to chase the consequences.

Through The Cancer Whisperer I contacted a researcher, Dr Dana Flavin, in Germany, who had been studying cancer all her life, and her reaction was: ‘Yes, I can reverse this. Don’t worry – we can get rid of it’. This was the first positive reaction I’d had and potentially a life-saver. It is incredible what a few positive words can do to the spirit.

So it took two long Skype calls followed by a strict regime of supplements, herbs, vitamins and drugs – about 60 pills a day in all, some of which she prescribed through chemists in Germany and Glasgow. I had to follow the strict diet I was on anyway, take daily carrot juice plus three enemas a week, plus hot baths with Quercetin tablets. I also had to mix up a number of essential oils including CBD (Cannabidiol) oil to rub on my bones every day.

The idea of her protocol was to build the immune system, block all pathways for the cancer to spread, and finally reverse it by allowing my body to do the work. I could email her at any time if I wanted more information or to change some things. In Montana I had been told about Essiac tea, a Canadian Native American three-herb remedy which was known to reverse cancer. Dr Flavin recommended this too. I had also heard about the efficacy of turmeric to stop cancer. I found out how to make a paste with olive oil and pepper and I take two small teaspoons of this a day.

By this time I was very angry with the attitude of the consultant at Guy’s and asked my doctor in February if I could be referred back to Brighton Cancer Centre, of which I was hearing good things.

I came under a Dr Savage, who immediately said that the bicolutamide I was given by Guy’s was more or less useless, so he put me on a fairly new chemo drug called enzolutamide, which I had to take daily. It smashes any remaining testosterone I might have after the hormone injections – not much fun.

In the beginning it made me feel very dizzy and ill and I refused to take any more. But when Philip Savage heard I had stopped taking the drug, he rang me up from a car park in Brighton and insisted I take it immediately, or else I might be in real trouble. He was also giving me a drug which Dana had asked me to get and was only available on the NHS. I had also heard that mistletoe, as a homeopathic remedy, was very good at reversing cancer. I think it was the cricketer John Edridge who maintained he was cured by iscador (homeopathic mistletoe remedy). A friend had got this treatment free from the Royal London Hospital for Integrated Medicine. My GP refused to refer me, saying that it was not proven, However Dr Savage referred me, and for a year I was seen by the wonderful Dr Kassab in London. Sadly, Westminster City Council has recently stopped funding homeopathic remedies and I will now have to pay for it, which I may well do.

So I was beginning to look at as many ways as possible to work on the disease – hit it from all angles. I found a brilliant psychotherapist who works with a lot with cancer patients and used to be an NHS nurse. She works out of a shed in a wood. She made me weep and gave me the psychological and psychic tools to deal with my fears and to visualise ways to attack the cancer by digging up powerful imagery from my past – visions I’d had as a child and archaic dreams. All these I started to use in daily meditations as tools to work on imagining the destruction of this thing within me. Later when I went to a healer in Brazil, this imagery became very useful. Meanwhile, I took plenty of exercise, did yoga in the mornings and briefly tried Qi Gong. I joined Sophie Sabbage’s Cancer Whisperers’ online forum. My PSA was slowly coming down.

In February 2017, a friend sent me the link to a friend of hers who had been cured of colorectal cancer by a healer in Brazil. I was fascinated by this account even though it went against some of my instincts. Basically, he went to this world-renowned healer in Brazil who thousands of people visit on a daily basis. He went six times in all because the ‘entities’ working through the medium called Joao de Deus (John of God), a 75-year-old illiterate Brazilian peasant, said that he would be healed but did not tell him when or how. At home he was refusing surgery from his consultant, while doing roughly what I have been doing – a bit of everything. I think he was taking more pills than me. His tumour became so large and he was in such pain that the oncologist told him he would die without the surgery. So he agreed, but by that time the tumour was too large to operate on and his doctor said that they needed to reduce its size first with radiotherapy. He agreed but said he was going to Brazil first. On his return he had a course of radiotherapy and returned to Brazil, where he was pronounced cured. On his return there was nothing to operate on and the cancer had completely gone.

This was 20 years ago and he set up a website for those visiting the Casa in Aberdiania, Brasilia, and returns on a regular basis out of gratefulness. Also a mutual friend of both of us had his two-year-old daughter cured in one go of the female version of haemophilia. Doctors thought she would not live long. After their visit to Aberdiania with the child, she needed no more blood transfusions. I spoke to him on Skype, and if anything, he is a very pragmatic and no-nonsense guy, but his experience in Brazil and what he saw there changed him and his daughter is now a healthy 18-year-old. I looked at all that the web had to say about John of God, some of which is very negative, and decided I needed to go there and see this for myself. At the time I was just following what was coming towards me and this was one of those things. I went in May 2017 with my daughter.

I found it an extraordinarily profound experience, for which nothing in my life had prepared me. I was just one of the thousand or so people that line up for their 10 seconds in front of the medium three days a week. Everything is in Portuguese and you have to find a translator to tell you what is said, and you follow to the letter what you are asked to do. Everything is free including a daily soup for those joining the various lines. John of God is no easy option and you do more than 50% of the work of healing yourself. As I mentioned, I was able to use the imagery, which I had rediscovered with my psychotherapist, to explore some very extraordinary imagery which was coming into my mind during five-hour meditations.

After two weeks, I had not had an answer on whether I could be cured, just that they were working on me and I should return. A year later I am going back to Brasilia for three weeks and I guess I will have to keep doing this until, and if, they give me the all-clear. This is not a cheap option, even though the medium is free, there are still flights and accommodation.

While I was there last year, a German woman staying in the same pousada (small hotel) told us that she believed that she had been cured by Mother Meera of breast cancer 20 years previously. On our return my daughter discovered that Mother Meera was coming to London for three days and maybe we should go. She is a very extraordinary powerful woman who is regarded as an Avatar (manifestation of the Divine) who allows the universe to work through her. You join silent, kneeling, shuffling queues to reach her, much as in Brazil (which is much noisier!). When you arrive, she says nothing, just puts her hands on your head and you stare into her liquid brown eyes. The whole thing lasts 15 seconds and you shuffle away again. People say that she performs small miracles. A day after our first visit and after Dr Flavin had been urging me to get back to work I received a very unexpected book offer. The second time I went more recently, I received an award worth three years’ finance. Synchronicity – yes of course – I don’t really care though: for the next three years I don’t have to worry about money and I will keep going back to Mother Meera! You can even join her online in real time silent meditation.

In 2017 I decided I had to take a year out to get well and strangely during that year I had no offers of work and it was a fantastic thing that I could just concentrate on staying well; with all the various protocols and regimes I was following, there was little time for anything else. Luckily with 2016 being a very good financial year I could do this. During 2017 I could just enjoy each moment. It was a year when my life came full circle. People who I hadn’t seen in decades made contact and I was able to spend much more time with close friends and family. Kay has been an incredible support throughout.

During that year The Centre for Resilience at the University of Westminster asked me if I would take part in their Resilience Lab 360. Part of this meant that I wore a miniature heart rate variability monitor attached to my chest for three days. Those three days were in fact very stressful: Dr Savage was worried the cancer might have gone into my brain so he ordered an immediate brain scan – very scary. However, on the graph, which showed red when the body was stressed and green when it was recovering, I managed to get straight back into the green after those stressful events. The researchers wondered why and sent my findings off to experts in Finland. I have spent a lifetime making art through slow meditative processes and I think that this habit simply kicked in.

This year as I prepare to return to Brazil I am again very busy with work. I see Dr Savage every three months, and I was reminded recently by the nurse who looks at my blood tests every month and speaks to me on the phone that I must stay on this drug indefinitely while it is still working. My PSA at the moment is 0.05 – virtually undetectable. The prediction is that the drug will become ineffective eventually and the cancer will find ways around it and will take over my body. The prognosis is one to three years and I have had a year-and-a-half since the cancer went metastatic. Dr Flavin says that it is a combination of all the things I have been doing that is reversing the disease. I remain optimistic, while being aware of reality. Optimism and a passion for life can in itself cure, whatever happens. Whether I live, or die soon, it has been a fascinating journey.


  • Sabbage S (2015) The cancer whisperer. London: Hodder & Stoughton.