Very few people can stand up and legitimately claim ‘I cured myself of cancer.’ One of those who can is JOHANN ILGENFRITZ, the founder and head of UK Health Radio — an internet station which has just landed on the world’s top 15 podcast platforms, giving its health shows a potential reach of a staggering 780 million listeners across the globe.
Johann Ilgenfritz was just 47 when his oncologist told him to go home and get his affairs in order because he had, if he was lucky, just 12 months to live.
Johann, who was working as a successful fashion and beauty photographer, running a busy and award-winning studio in Hamburg, Northern Germany, at the time, says he can still remember the feel of the smart white leather chair he was sitting in when the doctor delivered that body blow, telling him there were no more treatment options because the skin cancer that had been diagnosed the year before was back … with a vengeance.
And there was nothing more to be done, except to go home and wait to die.
But there was something else that happened in the room; something that Johann still remembers vividly to this day — more than a decade after being effectively handed that death sentence.
“I heard a voice in my head which was screaming at me and telling me I wasn’t going to die,” he says. “I knew this voice was coming from me and it was also very different to my reaction when I had first been diagnosed with cancer the year before.”
Oddly, Johann’s cancer story had actually started with a heart attack.
It was February 2011 and the then 46-year-old Johann, who had a black belt in karate and was no couch potato, was playing tennis with a doctor friend when he suddenly felt as if someone had pulled the plug out and switched off his power supply as he collapsed on the floor of the indoor court.
“I know I must have collapsed because I remember feeling the texture of the indoor grass covering against my face, but I don’t remember being taken to hospital or anything else about the heart attack,” he says.
His recovery from the shock event was so slow it baffled his doctors, who decided to carry out further tests, only to discover Johann had advanced skin cancer which had spread throughout his body, even to his left eye.
“It had metastasised and so was just everywhere and that explained why I wasn’t doing so well and wasn’t thriving after the heart attack,” he says.
“Looking back now, I see the heart attack as being a kind of warning shot. If that hadn’t happened, we may not have found the cancer until it was too late.”
At that first diagnosis, Johann was offered two rounds of radiotherapy and told the treatment was ‘doable.’ He chose to put his trust in the medical profession and willingly went along with whatever was suggested.
“I always tell people now that I experienced everything radiation has to offer,” he says wryly.
But the thing that really troubled him was the fact that nobody really ever told him anything. Not what to expect, not what to do – or not do. Not what to eat – or not eat. Nothing.
“I really hated that experience of not knowing what was happening or why, and the feelings of helplessness it left me with. I wanted to be part of the process and so when I got the second diagnosis, things were very different. This time I was going to be involved in my own healing, “he says.