I Was Given Monthe to Live. Four Years Later I've Tried Everything from Herbalism to Faith Healing. I Simply Won't Give Up the Fight

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TELEVISION commercials designer/director Paul d'Auria, 37, lives in south London with his wife Caroline and six-year-old son Charlie. Five years ago he discovered he had cancer. When mainstream medicine failed to cure him, he turned to alternative therapies. Here, he tells his inspiring story to JOANNA MOORHEAD.

DECEMBER 31, 1999, will be a big night for me. Not only the start of a new millennium, but a huge personal achievement, because being there that night is the goal I've set myself, the date I'm aiming to be around to celebrate.

Living to see in the millennium might not sound like much of an ambition for a 37-year-old, but it's not something I can take for granted. These days, I don't take much for granted. When I renewed my passport two years ago, it was a major milestone. When my father retired the year before, the fact that I was there to see it was something to celebrate.

Setting goals, and reaching them, is a big part of my strategy of surviving cancer. So is being positive, and being open to alternative therapies when they feel right. At the moment I'm seeing two faith healers, a therapist, a Chinese herbalist, an aromatherapist, and a psychic surgeon.

It might sound desperate, but a lot of things change in life when you find yourself seriously ill. And the main thing is that I'm still here, four-and-a-half years after being given just months to live.

In a way, being told I had only a short time left was my first realisation that conventional medicine didn't have all the answers. To start with, the doctors were wrong, because I'm still here.

But, more importantly, it's such a terrible thing to do to someone; it feels like you've had the rug pulled from under you. You feel you've completely lost control of your life.

By the time they told me I was dying, I'd known I was ill for some time.

The first inkling had been a terrible chest pain on the night my son Charlie was born in August 1990. A lot later, I realised it must have been because the tumour was growing there.

But it wasn't until nine months afterwards that the cancer was diagnosed, after I was admitted to hospital for an operation for a ruptured diaphragm.

It should have been quite minor, but after a few days nothing much seemed to be happening.

One day I said to a passing doctor, jokingly: `You'll be telling me it's cancer next.'

`Actually,' he said, `we think it is.'

Two days later I was in the theatre for a major operation, and the surgeons removed three tumours, one the size of a grapefruit, from my chest wall.

When I finally came round, after almost a week of haemorrhages and more operations to stem the bleeding, they said it was definitely cancer, it had definitely spread, and the outlook was bleak.

I was referred to the Royal Marsden hospital in London, where the news was a bit more hopeful. A new regime of therapy was showing good results. It was a horrendous prospect, but I thought if I did as I was told and followed the regime, I'd get better, get my life back to normal again. And that was how it seemed when, in August 1991, I was told the disease had gone.

That was a fantastic day. I was alive, the nightmare was over. As I left the hospital, I felt I was tasting life for the very first time. It was a brilliant feeling. A few days later, we celebrated Charlie's first birthday, and it felt great to be there.

I started to pick up the pieces of my life, and was back at work at my TV production company the following month. Christmas was very special, and the new year started well. I was having scans every three months, and all looked good when, in June, they said the cancer had come back.

That's when I was given the most terrible news of all; that I had only six to 12 months to live.

It was unbelievable. At first I was numb, but later I felt horribly cheated. …