Peter Archer, a student of alternative cancer therapies, is turning his research lens on himself, now that he has been diagnosed with untreatable lung cancer.
A natural health practitioner from Kerepehi on the Hauraki Plains south of Thames, Peter is studying for a Massey University master's degree in medical anthropology. He was about to start interviewing people who had reported recovering from cancer after using alternative therapies and changing their diets when he became sick himself in June and had to scale back his research work.
He thought he was simply run down from the stress of his studies. But when he saw a GP in September after experiencing a cough and a bad digestive disorder, she ordered an x-ray.
Two days later he was diagnosed with lung cancer. Later, a lung specialist at Waikato Hospital told him that because of a kidney problem, Peter could not have chemotherapy or radiation therapy. Surgery was out too, because of the location of the tumour against the chest wall in his right lung.
"He said that because of my pre-existing medical condition ... the prognosis would be really bad. 'We won't be offering any treatment'."
This would be a crushing blow to many, but Peter says he did not find it grim. He cites Kelly Turner, author of Radical remission, surviving cancer against all odds, and says, "The people who recover from serious illness are the people who don't lie down and die; they say, 'I'm going to beat this thing, whatever it takes'."
He dived into radical dietary changes and began taking white tea, neem leaf powder, turmeric, "super-food" broccoli sprouts and other alternative or complementary therapies.
Peter has adopted the ketagenic diet, cutting out bread, greatly reducing refined carbohydrates and sugar and increasing healthy oils. He wanted to have high-dose vitamin C injections but decided against it because of a risk it might worsen his kidney problems.
He said his doctors had not discussed with him how long he might survive.
"I'm feeling the best I've felt for several years. My symptoms have improved. I was coughing a lot and the pain in my right lung, it's gone."
"I had lost weight. My BMI was 16.5 - drastically low. Within five weeks of changing my diet I put on the 5kg I had lost. I'm still low, at 58kg."
He is now looking at starting his research interviews and says his search for information on the therapies he is using will form part of his master's thesis.
But he has found the therapies and medical care costly and a friend, Sascha Stoddart, has started a givealittle fundraising page to help out.
"By donating to this appeal," Sascha says, "you will be not only helping save Peter's life, you will be helping to fund an ongoing research project, that could help many more cancer patients in the future ..."
Cancer specialist Dr Mike McCrystal told the Herald that apart from St John's wort, which interferes with many cancer drugs, most alternative therapies are unlikely to cause any problems, but he urges patients to discuss any therapies they are considering taking with an oncologist.
"The ketagenic diet can be quite restrictive. When you're getting drugs that are putting a lot of strain on the system and you need a lot of repair work from the body, a good, balanced diet is what we would advise, rather than the ketagenic diet."
Some of Peter Archer's therapies
A laboratory study found some evidence suggestive of potential anti-cancer benefit, according to the US National Centre for Complementary and Integrative Health
There are preliminary findings from animal and laboratory studies suggesting that a chemical found in turmeric - curcumin - may have anti-cancer properties, but these findings have not been confirmed in humans, the national centre says.
Many studies have looked at cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower. Some have found no associations; others have found higher rates of consumption are associated with lower rates of several kinds of cancer, says the US National Cancer Institute.