Keeping Fit Helps Man Beat Deadly Mesothelioma Cancer

Australian Broadcasting Corporation
Broadcast: 05/24/2001
Reporter: Rebecca Baillie

KERRY O'BRIEN: Australia has one of the highest rates of the disease mesothelioma in the world, with about 500 new cases of the asbestos-related cancer diagnosed here each year. There are few treatment options for mesothelioma. Most patients die within six months of diagnosis. But one man at least has so far beaten the statistics. When Paul Kraus was diagnosed nearly four years ago he was told conventional therapies would not work in his case, and that he had just months to live.

But Paul refused to give in. After radically changing his lifestyle, he's still going strong.

Rebecca Baillie reports.

PAUL KRAUS: I was told very shortly after I was diagnosed to accept the diagnosis, but to forget the prognosis. And that is just so vital.

REBECCA BAILLIE: Paul Kraus is in training. While this exercise is keeping him fit, Paul believes it's also helping to save his life.

PAUL KRAUS: I have what's called peritoneal mesothelioma. I was diagnosed four years ago and as far as I've been told, I'm the longest surviving mesothelioma patient in Australia.

REBECCA BAILLIE: Mesothelioma is a cancer of the lining of the lung, or, as in Paul's case, the lining of the abdomen. It's usually caused by asbestos exposure.

DR JIM LEIGH, THORACIC SPECIALIST, CONCORD HOSPITAL: The average survival from diagnosis is usually about six months.

REBECCA BAILLIE: So, how unusual is it for someone to have survived four years so far?

DR JIM LEIGH: You do get the occasional case that does survive four years, but they are extremely unusual.

REBECCA BAILLIE: Paul has been performing his exercise regime twice daily for four years since he went into hospital for a routine hernia operation and awoke to some devastating news.

PAUL KRAUS: I'll never ever forget the look on his face. He just kept shaking his head and saying, “Look, I'm sorry, I don't think we're going to be able to do very much in your case.”

SUE KRAUS: I walked into the hospital room and he just said, “I'm riddled with cancer”, and I mean, this was a man who that morning looked extremely well and I just could hardly believe it. The doctor -- for the doctor then to tell him that he had, he thought, 3-6 months to live. It was June and he would not see Christmas.

REBECCA BAILLIE: But Paul didn't accept defeat and he and his wife Sue immediately changed their lifestyle and their attitude.

SUE KRAUS: That's been our philosophy right through this -- what can we do to improve the situation? Also, make living with cancer quite an exciting journey.

PAUL KRAUS: My lifestyle has been turned upside down. But it's a rewarding lifestyle, an exciting lifestyle and a healing journey, as I love to call it, that I wouldn't -- the ultimate irony is that cancer has enriched my life.

REBECCA BAILLIE: Paul's recipe for survival includes a healthy diet, low fat, no sugar, plenty of organic fruit and vegetables and vitamin, mineral and herb supplements.

PAUL KRAUS: In the morning I have a herb called cat's claw which has strong anti-cancer properties.

REBECCA BAILLIE: What does it taste like?

PAUL KRAUS: I better not tell you on camera. It's -- but I'm quite used to it now.

SUE KRAUS: He really believes that he can do a great deal towards healing his body and four years on, he's as determined as he was in the very beginning.

REBECCA BAILLIE: Paul's discipline isn't just based on physical health, but also on having faith and a healthy mind.

PAUL KRAUS: In meditating, and I meditate twice a day, I just focus on quietness, on -- well, if you like, on God's presence within me, of God's power to heal and I visualise my body responding positively to it. To this silence. I've written a couple of books and I regard that as having been very, very therapeutic. Creativity is very therapeutic pursuit.

REBECCA BAILLIE: Have you rejected conventional therapy?

PAUL KRAUS: Absolutely not. No way. Had I been in those early days told that a course of chemotherapy or radiotherapy or if surgery, especially if surgery, would have held out a strong hope of cure, I would have jumped at it.

PROFESSOR AVNI SALI, SWINBURNE UNIVERSITY: It is surprising when someone has a cancer of his kind and when you'd expect that they generally would not do well -- however, he was very positive about getting better.

REBECCA BAILLIE: Professor Avni Sali is a leading surgeon and head of the world's first school of integrated medicine Melbourne's at Swinburne University. The school teaches doctors to use complementary therapies as well as conventional treatments.

PROFESSOR AVNI SALI: They are becoming integrated and I think in future they will become one particular type of medicine. In other words, complete medicine, rather than incomplete medicine and why use only one arm when you can use both arms? It is important, of course, that whatever medicine is practised, it is best of course if there is scientific evidence to actually back it up.

DR ECKARD ROEHRICH, GENERAL PRACTITIONER: The cancer is under good control to say the least.

REBECCA BAILLIE: Dr Eckard Roehrich is Paul Kraus's general practitioner. While he says that his lifestyle seems to be working for him, it won't necessarily work for everyone.

DR ECKARD ROEHRICH: This is not a cancer cure we are talking about. What we can hope for for any cancer sufferer is it will improve their lifestyle, that it will improve their survival chances or at least the quality of life.

SUE KRAUS: I don't think we've found a miracle cure. I think we've simply found a formula for living well with cancer.

REBECCA BAILLIE: While the medical community remains divided about the effectiveness of complementary therapies, for the Krauses the fact that Paul is still alive is proof enough.

PAUL KRAUS: Never give up hope. Hope is a fundamental ingredient of the human spirit and it is a powerful ingredient of survival.

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