A man with an “inoperable” brain tumor and given just months to live is still alive eight years later — and he credits the ketogenic diet.
Pablo Kelly, 33, was diagnosed with incurable brain cancer in 2014 and told he had just six to nine months left. But he said he has now surpassed doctors’ – and his own – expectations by avoiding “conventional” medical treatment. He’s even fulfilled his wish to become a father.
Kelly, of Wrangaton, Devon in England rejected the traditional forms of cancer treatment in radio and chemotherapy. He instead followed a regimented diet of meat and high-fat foods, known as the ketogenic diet. The dad of two says doctors remain astounded at his current health, labelling it “miraculous” and telling him he’s “very lucky,” but continue to offer chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
His best advice to others? “Listen to your gut,” he tells South West News Service. “Science is never proven and it is something that is ongoing. So many people die with this illness because they don’t ask the right questions and explore the different options that are out there.
“I have two incredible children, and this is something that wouldn’t have been possible until I made the decision not to give into fear,” he continues. “I let go of the guilt, hate and resentment that came with my brain tumor, and from that moment I was able to intuitively do things to get out of the mess I was in. My mantra will always be live with love.”
Kelly’s journey began when he started suffering from headaches, migraines and severe fatigue. The symptoms started two years after he met his fiancée Rebecca, who are set to get married later this year. He was working at Plants Galour in Devon in June 2014, when these “random” and sporadic headaches started taking a toll on his mental and physical health.
“Once I had a click in my neck, then I heard a crunch, and got vertigo straight after. I remember grabbing one of the plant crates and asking if I could sit down for 20 minutes,” he recalls. “I missed a week of work due to migraines, but had to go back because I needed the money. One day I was walking up the road and my neck clicked again, my jaw sagged, then the whole side of my left body just went numb – it was all the symptoms of a stroke but I was actually having a seizure. It was so scary.”
Extremely concerned about his health, Kelly got a doctors appointment the next day. But his physician dismissed his condition as typical migraines and reassured him not to worry. But he was not satisfied with the doctor’s answer, so decided to conduct his own research. He demanded a CT brain scan at Derriford Hospital in Plymouth.
The scan came back showing normal results, apart from a “hazy dark patch” in one part of the brain. Kelly says the doctors classified it as a CT error. However, doctors invited him back for an MRI “because it might be something more.” He was left with an anxious two-and-a-half month wait before results.
It was during this time he started looking up natural alternatives for how to stop and prevent seizures and he came across the keto diet in relation to a study helping epileptic children. He was eventually called into the hospital again in September, with doctor confirming his worst fears: he had a Grade 4 glioblastoma.
“I just started to cry. I was there with Rebecca, who was sobbing and looked as white as a sheet. My mum was just in shock but I was already prepared,” he recalls. “In my fear, doubts and frustration I confronted them, reassuring them that it was going to be ok and it was at that moment that I made a promise: that I was going to live for love, these relationships, and for myself.”
Kelly says he was then fast-tracked into radiotherapy during what he thought was a discussion with his oncologist.
“I turned up with a pretty caveman looking beard and they told me I needed to be clean shaven. I just went along with it and was just thinking ‘I don’t want to do this,'” he says. “So they got some standard office scissors because they couldn’t find a shaver anywhere and they just hacked at my beard for like 20 to 30 minutes – leaving it scruffy.
“I was already in such a negative space and came out looking like a tramp, to be honest it was completely traumatic,” he continues. “So I got the mask moulded to my face, they got me into the room where they were going to measure me to the machine for the radiotherapy and in the pit of my stomach I felt sick. “After meeting the oncologist I just said what sort of longevity am I going to get if I go down the route of chemotherapy and radiotherapy? She said ‘statistically, with treatment 12 to 15 months, but without six to nine months’ – literally a year, that is nothing.”
In his prior research, Kelly had come across a few case studies that led him to then contemplate a ketogenic diet. He said one woman he met had managed to change her once Grade Four tumor to a low grade status whilst going keto.
Already convinced what route he wanted to take, Kelly suggested trying a ketogenic diet to the oncologist. But he said she didn’t think it would do him any good and dismissed it due to the lack of scientific data.
Kelly was not happy with the side effects of opting for chemotherapy in respect of losing his hair and possible infertility. Just 24 at the time, he recalls: “I vividly remember my grandad dying of liver cancer four years before, and he had no idea what was going on, I recall him wasting away through his chemo and radiotherapy it was so vivid – I said I couldn’t do it.
“I was at point in my life when I wanted to get a house and start a family, so not having kids just wasn’t an option and I remember saying to the oncologist that isn’t good enough for me,” he adds.
Kelly says he then embraced his newfound lifestyle change and went “cold turkey keto.” He’s stuck to the diet for 89 months now and has surpassed the oncologist’s life expectancy by eight years. And even better, he is now the very proud father to two young children: Luna, 3, and Malakai, who is going to be 1 in June.
According to Pablo, another miraculous event that he believes came about from his keto journey is it caused the tumor to change shape, making an originally inoperable tumor, now operable.
“Essentially from my understanding of it, over the course from 2014 being on the ketogenic diet helped keep the tumour at bay. It changed shape and made it more accessible for surgeons,” he says.
Operations on the brain are long and high-risk – patients are required to stay awake during surgery and Kelly is now recovering from his second craniotomy. He’s stopped experiencing seizures, and he said for nine to 12 months there was “no visible appearance of the tumor”.
While 90% of the tumor can be removed, some of it still remains on Kelly’s brain. He is currently making a recovery but he says his “brain isn’t what it used to be.”
“I can’t work, I can go for medium to long walks, but my stamina just isn’t what it used to be,” he says. “My ability to push my brain is reduced significantly, to the point that if I was ever to overexert it I would have a seizure.”
That said, Kelly still has terminal brain cancer, but that has not stopped him from inspiring others with his story. He now offers advice via his blog or by booking a one-to-one with him on his website, Pablo’s Brain Journey.
But due to living with the disease for so long, his immune system has been severely weakened and he fears his mercury fillings could be causing him some serious issues. He is now seeking help to raise £8,000 to have them removed holistically at a dental center in London.
Article by South West News Service writer Lauren Beavis