I remember the day clearly, a day that would change the course of my life forever, in October, 1996 when I was diagnosed with a very rare form of cancer called esthesioneuroblastoma. There was very little information or data about esthesioneuroblastoma at the time, and roughly 300 cases had been documented at the time. The otolaryngologist at the Kaiser HMO in Hayward, California who had made the initial diagnosis referred me to a well-respected head and neck surgeon at Kaiser's HMO in Redwood City, California, and after several more rounds of cat scans, MRIs and other tests we agreed that a cranial facial resection procedure followed by radiation would be the best path to take. As this had been my first experience with a life threatening disease, my main concern was to remove the tumor as soon as possible and return to as normal a life as quickly as possible. I wanted to be cured of cancer. Knowing that the tumor discovered along the left olfactory nerve was not growing quickly provided some momentary relief. Surgery was scheduled several weeks later in early December, 1996. I was still not quite at peace with this decision.
A few weeks later in November, 1996 I sought a second opinion at the tumor board at Stanford University's medical school on the recommendation of some friends who were knowledgeable about this facility. The specialists at Stanford told me about another less invasive surgical procedure to remove the tumor that had a much better chance of preserving my sense of smell and sense of taste. The cranial facial resection would, unfortunately, result in the total loss of smell while ensuring removal of the entire tumor. The Stanford specialists could not guarantee their procedure would completely remove the tumor but assured me that most of my sense of smell and taste would be preserved. Was my ability to smell and taste important enough to risk not removing the tumor entirely, or could I live the rest of my life not being able to smell anything and only being able to detect salt, sweet, bitter and sour flavors on my tongue? I also discovered that my health insurance with Kaiser HMO would not cover treatment provided by Stanford Medical School. If I paid out of pocket, the total cost would have been close to $100,000.00 USD.
Several days passed and then I received a call from Kaiser's Redwood City scheduling office in which they informed me that they wanted to reschedule the surgery for February, 1997. When I asked why, the scheduler told me that the doctors working on my case would be out on vacation and other activities for the next couple of months. Despite feeling a sense of urgency to deal with the cancer as soon as practical, I told the scheduler to let me know as soon as possible if there were any changes in the doctors' schedules. There was no sense in getting upset as this would have only elevated my stress levels. This was not a good sign and I felt as if I were starting to fall through the cracks of a large medical system and would soon be an afterthought.
A few days later, a good friend at work told me about a hospital in Tijuana, Mexico that was having good success in treating cancer and other degenerative diseases. My friend's younger sister worked there. I had the good fortune of speaking with Dr. Michael Culbert, the hospital's chief information officer at the time, by phone for about an hour. Even though the hospital did not have any experience with esthesioneuroblastoma per se, Dr. Culbert's argument was that cancer, regardless of how it expresses itself in the body, is the direct result of a disorder in the body's immune system. It did not matter if it were breast cancer, leukemia, bone cancer, pancreatic cancer, prostate cancer, etc.
What was important to recognize was that there was something wrong with the immune system and that Bio Care Hospital approach was to help stabilize and strengthen the patient's immune system, thus enabling the patient to manage the cancer and live a life of good quality. While a complete cure of cancer is completely possible, Dr. Culbert did not ever use the word "cure" during our discussion. No "silver bullets" were ever proffered by Dr. Culbert or any other member of the Bio Care Hospital doctors and nurses.
Bio Care Hospital took an integrative approach-dealing with the patient in his or her entirety on physical, emotional and spiritual levels--that is non-toxic and as non-invasive as possible to treating cancer and other degenerative diseases. After thinking more deeply about Dr. Culbert's argument and doing more research on integrative medicine, I decided that the integrative approach as practiced at Bio Care Hospital made much more sense as it would strengthen the body's own ability to heal itself to the best of its ability. Standard allopathic treatment including surgery, chemotherapy and radiation would always be available in the event that the integrative approach failed. My objective changed from cure to management of cancer by strengthening my immune system as much as possible.
My first stay at Bio Care Hospital began as an outpatient shortly before Christmas, 1996 when my wife, son and I drove from northern California to Tijuana and stayed initially at the Americana Motel in San Ysidro. We decided to undergo the hospital's 3 Â½ week long cancer crisis program that would involve daily treatment. One of the hospital's drivers would kindly pick us and other patients up and transport us to the hospital Monday-Saturday. After a week of traveling back and forth across the border, we wisely decided to stay in one of the very clean and comfortable apartments adjacent to the hospital, and thus avoid the stress and strain of slow moving traffic across the border.
My daily treatment regimen included a customized mixture of EDTA chelation, live cell therapy, dioxychlor, DMSO, amygdalin and Ukraine. We ate delicious vegetarian meals prepared by the hospital's expert cooks and nutritionists. It is critical to note the importance that Bio Care Hospital placed on proper diet and nutrition including supplementation. Keeping the digestive tract as clean as possible is a major part of successful treatment of patients at Bio Care Hospital.
The nursing staff at Bio Care Hospital was without equal. All are well trained and attend seminars and conferences every year to keep their skills and knowledge up to date with the latest practices and technologies. Elias Gutierrez, the head nurse in the hospital's outpatient clinic, deserves special mention. Elias has a certain magic that makes all patients smile and feel at peace. He also has the ability to find and place catheters into veins of the arms of some patients who have already undergone long rounds of chemotherapy and radiation in the US. In many cases, radiation and chemotherapy cause veins to recede, thus making it very difficult to locate them and insert catheters. I have been in some hospitals in the US and in Asia in which the phlebotomist jabs the needle into a patient's arm or wrist up to a dozen times before finding an adequate vein. The pain and aggravation are maddening. Elias is customarily successful on his first or second attempt of locating an adequate vein and getting a catheter properly seated.
After the initial stay at Bio Care Hospital, I felt a huge improvement in my health and well-being. Ongoing blood and urine tests indicated that I was well on the path to getting in control of the cancer. My doctor at the time, Dr. Jose Luis Burgos, and I decided that I would return again in 6 weeks for a quick booster including some measurements of the tumor to see if any shrinkage had occurred.
By June, 1997, I was feeling very good, and while the tumor showed no signs of further growth, it was still there. After several discussions with the head and neck surgeon at Kaiser HMO in Redwood City and Dr. Burgos at Bio Care Hospital, I decided to go through with the originally planned cranial facial resection to remove the tumor. Surgery was scheduled for July, 1997. The procedure lasted 12 hours and I was moved several times to various departments within the intensive care unit over the next 3 days. The surgery team, which included the head and neck surgeon, a neurologist and an oncologist, had planned for me to be hospitalized for 14 days following surgery. By the end of the 6th day, I was ready to be released from the Kaiser Redwood hospital because I was healing so quickly.
The doctors were baffled and could only scratch their heads. But I knew the reason I was healing so quickly was because of the treatments I had received at Bio Care Hospital. Michael Culbert would later validate this experience with some of his own.
Several weeks later I began a 5 week program of radiation therapy as this was known to be effective for esthesioneuroblastoma post operatively. Standard chemotherapy was not required. At the same time, I continued to visit Bio Care Hospital to help counter any side effects of radiation and keep my immune system functioning at as high a level as possible. My treatment regimen was modified slightly to include primarily EDTA chelation and live cell therapy. Due to all of the health benefits received at Bio Care Hospital, I made the commitment to return at least once per year for an immune system booster lasting 6-7 days. Sometimes I return twice per year. I will make time to do this for the rest of my life. The reason is simple: the treatments I receive are helping to extend my life and the quality of my life. I have also met some of the most interesting and fascinating people in my life during my stays at International Biocare Hospital. Each has an amazing story to tell about their struggles in the US health care system, how they discovered Bio Care Hospital and the improvements they saw in their health after being at this great hospital.
In summary, I cannot thank Dr. Rodrigo Rodriguez, the original founder of International Bio Care Hospital, enough for his long-term vision to help people extend their lives and live more fully. He is a great leader in the field of integrative medicine, and the loyalty, compassion and kindness that he shows to his staff everyday is reflected in the warmth and deep care that each patient individually receives because no two patients are ever alike. And therein lies the key to the success of International Bio Care Hospitalâ€”each patient is treated as an individual with unique needs. And they are treated with respect, uncommon kindness and great care.
I would also like to thank my doctor, Dr. Javier Vazquez, for the ongoing and inspiring care he has provided me for many years. I also express my gratitude to Drs. Park and Chavarin. And last but certainly not least, I thank Sergio for always meeting me at San Diego Airport at some of the most inconvenient times to take me across the border to International Bio Care Hospital. To Socorro, Carmen, Enedelia, Elias, Juan, Teresa, Rene, Julio, Miguel, Jesus, Victor, Juan, Jorge, Angela, Maria Elena and Lupe, I am eternally grateful to each of you for helping keep me alive and pushing forward in life.