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Chris Geiger: I went under cover to expose cancer claims

Image caption Chris Geiger (right) and his TV "wife" - played by a BBC producer experienced in undercover filming - prepare for the consultation

This week's Inside Out West investigates a self-styled spiritual healer who claims to be able to treat cancer using a special diet.

Dr Corascendea Cathar, who has no medical qualifications, claims her "Dhaxem" healing can treat cancer. Dr Cathar, from Cheltenham, insists her treatments can help patients - but medical experts disagree.

As part of the investigation former cancer sufferer Chris Geiger, from North Somerset, went undercover to secretly film an appointment with Dr Cathar. This is his story:

I'm not writing this from a hospital bed nor, thankfully, while receiving cancer treatment.

However, sadly there are hundreds of thousands of newly-diagnosed cancer patients in the UK each year who are receiving treatment or looking for a way to deal with their disease.

I've served my own cancer apprenticeship - I had a tumour the size of a dinner plate buried in my chest. For almost two years, I received traditional treatments like chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

However, along with successfully destroying cancer, the treatment managed to effortlessly and successfully cause me to lose weight, destroy my taste buds, stripped my body of hair and forced me to learn the skill of vomiting quietly without choking and with pinpoint accuracy too.

As if by magic, it also induced blinding headaches and caused mouth ulcers to randomly appear.

Thankfully treatments have improved enormously since my experience 20 years ago, yet they are still unpleasant. So I fully appreciate why people seek other methods of cancer treatment.

Yet frustratingly, annoyingly and illegally there are unqualified healers out there offering to treat vulnerable sick people who are desperate to free themselves of this life-destroying illness.

Image caption Undercover filming of the treatment

So when I was made aware by the BBC of a spiritual healer, who offers dubious advice on internet cancer forums and unproven treatments through her own website, I agreed to help them secretly film an appointment to reveal the nature of her claims.

A few days later, I nervously booked an appointment under the glare of the BBC cameras. Then, I met my TV Wife for the purposes of the appointment - a BBC producer experienced in undercover filming.

We spent an hour getting to know each other, rehearsing answers as if we were about to appear on Mr and Mrs. Then, with cameras hidden, we headed off for my appointment.

Now, I'm sure we've all experienced that unusual sense of anxiety normally only induced when sitting in front of a doctor.

However as I entered the 'consulting room', which at best could be described as a scruffy, damp brick outbuilding sitting in the back garden of the healer, any nerves strangely evaporated.

Perhaps this was because the room was the size of a bus shelter and the temperature of a butcher's walk-in freezer; or because she seemingly believed my cover story.

What I heard and saw shocked me but I'm not going to spoil the documentary by revealing the end of the story here.

However, my genuine hope is that before anyone takes medical advice or seeks treatment, they obtain verification they are dealing with a qualified registered medical practitioner.

And to those unqualified healers offering to treat vulnerable, desperate people for financial gain, let this be a warning to you - you never know who is going to walk into your treatment room.

The full story can be seen on Inside Out West on BBC One on Monday at 19:30 GMT and afterwards on the iPlayer.

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