It was December 2002 and I had started to exercise again. The past few months were busy and I wanted to take some time for myself. October saw us moving our business/warehouse across the river from Portland, Oregon to Vancouver, Washington. That was brutal. Long hours and heavy lifting. I was exhausted every night. In November we, my wife Laura and I, took a vacation to Hawaii, my first time, and it was so relaxing. It was almost Christmas and needless to say busy. So I was exercising again. One morning at the gym on the treadmill I noticed my balance wasn’t very good. Usually I could walk hands free and be just fine. Now I needed to rest my hands on the handles to keep steady. Christmas passed then New Years and I needed to travel for business. I flew to a trade show in Florida. I had noticed that besides the balance issue now I was sensing a lost of taste. Everything was bland even ice cream. Then at the trade show I woke up one morning and noticed something was different about my mouth. At the show I realized that I really had to concentrate to speak clearly. All this was strange. So I flew home and in the morning asked my wife if she noticed anything different about me. She said there was something but couldn’t put her finger on it. On my way to work I just decided that I needed to go see the doctor. So I went through the normal routine and finally was in the office of one of the doctors. At one point she asked me to look in the mirror and smile. She then asked, “Are you normally symmetrical or asymmetrical?” I said, “Symmetrical” as I stared at a face that was clearly drooping on the right side. She rushed me to a nearby hospital where they tested for stroke and observed me for a while. In any event I was scheduled to see a neurologist next. On my initial visit I went through the normal tests. An MRI showed a small legion in my brain and I was told it might be MS or something else. So we tested for MS with a spinal draw and the results came back negative. In the mean time another doctor looked at another MRI this time with gadolinium enhancement. The results came back in early May 2003 that I had a Brain Stem Glioma, that it was inoperable because it was so deep in my brain and the prognosis was anywhere from weeks to months to live. They recommended immediate radiation and chemo. We were shell shocked to say the least. Anyone who faces that sudden “reality” knows the jolt that it is to life, everyone’s life.
After the fog cleared a little we immediately gathered 4 or 5 sets of MRI’s and medical records and sent them to many different places for a second opinion. Somehow we felt that we weren’t ready to jump into radiation and chemo right away. I had just recently lost my father to lung cancer and had seen that disease and the treatment make him a shadow of the man that was my father. So I guess I was reluctant. AS time passed we were given different alternative methods to learn about and some we tried. I personally felt with these that they were certainly worth a try. I wanted to take care of my body as long as I could before taking the leap to traditional methods. All through this time my wife Laura was incredible. I cannot count the number of hours she spent on the computer researching, learning, reading books, talking to doctors and making sure that we had the most information we could before making a decision. While she was scouring the world for answers she stumbled on a book. This is no plug but it was helpful to us. We read “Evaluating Alternative Cancer Therapies: A Guide to the Science and Politics of an Emerging Medical Field” by “Dr. David J. Hess Phd.” In it she found several positive references to the Burzynski Clinic in Houston. Generally the message was that although Dr. Burzynski had been fraught with many challenges to his antineoplaston treatment that the results for brain tumors could not be disputed. Shortly after that Laura contacted Burzynski and was helped by one of the fine doctors on staff. She allowed us to contact some survivors and that was very positive. This was about late June early July. I was still on an alternative treatment that helped me get stronger but by late July it was obvious to Laura that my condition was worsening. So she felt that we needed to get to Houston. We arrived Saturday July 26th and Laura was anxious for the next 36 hours before we could get to the clinic. All this time she had been shouldering this burden of my life alone. Now if we could make it past this weekend she would not be alone. What a relief when Monday arrived and we were at our appointment. The clinic was great and after I was allowed in the clinical trial the process began. Tuesday I had a benchmark CT Scan and had a catheter placed so that I could begin taking antineoplastons. Wednesday training began in earnest and little by little we became more comfortable with the handling of the treatment. I with taking the ANP and Laura with caring for me. So two weeks later we were given the green light to go home. That was a relief and also frightening. I became so used to having the group at Burzynski there that to leave again on our own was to say the least anxious feeling.
We arrived home on August 13th to our 5 children and family that had been watching them as we were away. The sacrifice of family and friends was miraculous and something that will always remain with me. So we continued on treatment increasing the dose until we reached our target dose and then figured out how to manage that. After one month we had an MRI to see how things were going. We were delighted to see a 26% reduction in the legion in my brain. Another month passed and we saw a 9% reduction. This was slower but still in the right direction. That was even impressive to our local doctor who was monitoring me despite some significant concerns about our choice of treatment. November 2003 came and the MRI showed no significant change. December rolled around and this time it was a shocker. The MRI showed that now I had multiple small legions in my brain and that was concerning to say the least. We requested a PET scan. That was taken and now we found that my lungs were covered with small spot or nodules. It did not look good. The local doctors wanted to get a biopsy if we could. So early July we did a needle biopsy which was inconclusive. Then we were scheduled for a regular surgical biopsy on January 20th or so. We had that performed and the initial pathology suggested a type of lymphoma. So the good news was that it was something that was reasonably treatable but still serious. At this time from the surgery on I went off antineoplastons as we weren’t sure what to do at this point. The Mayo clinic reviewed the biopsy slides and came back with three possible things. Two that were lymphoma related and one a rare inflammation.
In any event this was March 2004 and time for another CT Scan and MRI. We had decided to try interferon since the lymphoma was slow and didn’t warrant any kind of chemo at that point. I had a CT scan on a Thursday and my first interferon injection on Friday. Monday my doctor called me and was surprised. He told me that the nodules in my lungs were going away. I was scheduled for a MRI on the following Thursday so we concluded to get that done and talk on Friday before determining to still do the interferon. He called me on Friday and again was surprised. Apparently the legions in my brain were also going away. We decided to have a CT Scan done in April and a MRI in May. We did the CT and the nodules continued to diminish. The MRI was done in May with similar results the original legions were barely enhancing and although visible were not growing. Around this time business took me to Houston so I took the opportunity to stop in and have a check up. At this time I was allowed to go on the oral version of ANP. I continued on that until we had another MRI and CT early in July 2004. Once again we were fortunate to have positive results. As a matter of fact my doctor said of the July MRI that the only scan that would be better than the one I had just had would be normal brain scan. In any event it is September 2004 steady as she goes. I am scheduled for another set of scans in October and we will see what news they bring.
I came to a realization during this experience that spiritually speaking we are saved by grace after we can do. God gave the grace because I am certain that if I was to be called home that would have happened. Due to His grace, however, I have been allowed to tarry. My wife and all the work that she did to save my life and the assistance from everyone at Burzynski as well as the care and monitoring I received from my local physicians was the “all we can do” part. In any event I am very fortunate to be here and I realize more than ever that every day is a gift and I am trying my best to make the most of every day.