Antineoplastons have become the life raft that is bringing us safely through the dangerous sea of treatment for pediatric brain tumors.
In October of 1995, when David was 16 months old, he was diagnosed with an astrocytoma in the left thalamus region of the brain. An operation was performed immediately, and 75% of the tumor mass was removed. David had surgery at the University of California at San Francisco. Doctors there recommended 70 weeks of chemotherapy (vincristine and carboplatin). David could only take it for 30 weeks.
Ethically, we had problems because we felt we were poisoning our son even though the benefits promised by the doctors were only vague and indefinite. We prayed, and our friends prayed, too. At the same time, we were hearing of other anticancer regimens in the vast sea of treatments. We tried several that attempt to strengthen the body in its fight against the devouring disease. Although health regimens have helped many people with cancer, brain tumors usually do not respond well to these treatments.
In 1997, David's brain tumor showed signs of growth. The doctors recommended another operation. We declined, a decision that appeared foolhardy to David's doctors but one we had come to after 2 weeks of prayer. Over the next 10 months, David lived a perfectly normal life. Then in December of 1997, he began having headaches. We took him for an MRI, which showed a greatly enlarged tumor mass. Another operation was necessary. The doctors assumed that David would have radiation therapy afterward because the tumor mass was still in his thalamus.
Although the radio-oncologist was sensitive and very kind, we had to pull and squeeze out of her a clear statement of the side effects of radiation therapy. She couched them in the nicest and most positive language imaginable. "And maybe David will tolerate it well," she said. When I asked David's neurosurgeon about the side effects of radiation therapy, he told us that it was very likely that David would be permanently paralyzed and that a decrease in his IQ was almost certain. The doctor said, "But, you know, Mr. Doherty, that is something he can live with." The answer that did not occur to me at the time was more the truth: "Don't you mean, doctor, that it is something he will die with?" Irradiating David's tumor held little hope for a long-term cure; however, that was not made clear to us. Only later did we discover the statistics. David would have begun his journey to death paralyzed.
We were ready to give up. We began to go through the motions and agony of preparing to submit David to radiation therapy. Our hopes for a humane treatment for him seemed to evaporate before our eyes because David continued having headaches. And, in January of 1998, another MRI showed that in only 1 month, the remaining portion of the tumor had doubled in size. While looking at the frightening scans, I said to David's oncologist, "So it's obviously too big to irradiate safely." (A small tumor size is much safer to irradiate, and in children, radiation therapy normally is only successful when the tumor mass is very small [depending on the tumor type]). The oncologist replied, "It's never too late to radiate." I felt it was conspicuous that he left our the word "safely."
I drove home with David, not knowing how to tell his mother the news, thinking, "What will we do." As I look back on it, what happened to me during that car ride was amazing. The idea just popped into my mind -- follow-up on Burzynski. A holistic doctor from Santa Cruz had told us about Dr. Burzynski 2 years earlier. Because David was on chemotherapy at the time and because of the problems the doctor was having with the FDA trying to indict him, it wasn't an option for us. It hadn't even been a thought in almost 2 years. Then, as we drove home, the idea came to me. We were on a plane to Houston in 1 week.
Before we went to Houston, I asked the doctors at UCSF what they thought of Dr. Burzynski. "We can't recommend him," they said. "It is not normal for a doctor to charge patients so much money. It seems as if he is taking advantage of patients in their time of crisis." Somehow, we decided to go anyway.
While in Houston, I read The Burzynski Breakthrough into the night. To my astonishment I found that UCSF was conducting its own clinical trials on phenylacetate. When we arrived home from Houston, I called UCSF and talked to a doctor involved in the trials. I said "I heard you are testing phenylacetate derivatives. Do they work?" Dr. Horn replied, "Yes. On some patients they show anticancer properties, but our clinical trial is full this month. Perhaps we could sign up David for next month." I replied, "Actually, we are also using phenylacetate, but David is being treated by Dr. Burzynski."
I can only describe Dr. Horn's response as an explosion of jargon, buzz words, anger, and surprise. She said things such as "He never tells anyone what is in his drug." "He doesn't submit to peer review." "He is dangerous and is making a lot of money from his patients." I later contacted my MediCal worker, who informed me how much had been paid to UCSF for chemotherapy and oversight of David's case. The amount turned out to be much more than what Dr. Burzynski charges.
David began antineoplaston treatment in February of 1998. Four weeks prior to that, his tumor had doubled in size. After 11 months of stable disease on antineoplaston treatments, on January 12, 1999, an MRI showed a sudden 40% reduction in tumor size. Best of all, David is still running around, pretty much like a normal boy his age. We pray that he continues to improve.
Our first 2 weeks in Houston were great. It was a time of hope and encouragement. Patients must go to the Clinic every day to learn how to care for and manage administration of the drugs. At the Clinic, we met people who were doing the 2-week initiation and people coming back for regular checkups. While there, I met a man whose son has the same type of tumor David has. His son had been on the treatment for 18 months. Just as we were talking, a doctor came into the waiting room to tell my new friend that his son's tumor could no longer be seen on the MRI. We hugged, cried, and rejoiced together, right there in the office. That is what I want for my son.
However, it doesn't work out like that for everyone. Of the four people (and families) we befriended who were doing the 2-week initiation at the same time, all have since passed away. However, all had radiation and chemotherapy before they received antineoplaston treatment.
It is rightly said that antineoplastons are generally nontoxic; in contrast, the treatment is complicated. Those two things should not be confused. There is a great commitment of time and energy on the part of David's mother. David also must shoulder the burden of carrying the pump and bags full of medicine and of having a catheter.
Our personal recommendation is to try antineoplaston therapy before radiation and chemotherapy. As people with cancer know, treatment decisions placed on your shoulders can be brutal. Yet, if we had listened to our highly paid medical advisors at UCSF, our son would now be paralyzed and, at best, would have only a couple of years of life left, a life that would be difficult and "medicalized."
Because we chose to go to Houston and Dr. Burzynski, we now find ourselves on a stable life raft that steadily is moving us closer to our goal, that beautiful island called Remission. Moreover, we are giving our son the gift of life while maintaining his quality of life. We will not have to face the guilt of knowing we poisoned our son and destroyed his brain function. Dr. Burzynski's treatment corresponds to our ethical ideals of how the human body should be treated and, as a result, it is cleansing to our consciences, not to mention curative for David.
Anika and Michael Doherty