Fuda Cancer Conference Aug. 15, 2014
I am honored to be sharing the stage today with such distinguished doctors and researchers who are making so many wonderful contributions to the advancement of cancer treatment. I know it is unusual for a patient to be given such an honor and I thank Dr. Xu for inviting me. As a patient who has benefitted from new thinking on how best to treat cancer, I am especially happy to be among you today! It was 11 years ago that I talked to Dr. Peter Littrup of the Karmanos Cancer Center in Detroit, Michigan regarding cryoablation for my multi-focused breast cancer. I wanted to try cryoablation to avoid a mastectomy. It was the first time Dr. Peter had used this technique on breast cancer and it worked beautifully.
I am not a scientist. My career is in the arts and I’m going to show you some of the paintings I did during the last 11 years of my recovery to tell you my story.
But first, I would like to give you a challenge:
Because I firmly believe:
It’s Time for Cryoablation to Replace the Mastectomy.
I would like to see cryoablation move from being “experimental” to becoming the new “gold standard” for breast cancer treatment
It’s time for the world to learn that cryoablation and immune system stimulation are a far better alternative for all women than the mastectomy and that the odds of beating cancer and surviving is a superior combination than the mastectomy combined with chemotherapy, the current “gold standaed”.
So this is my challenge to the fellow participants of this conference. To help Cryoablation, combined with immune therapy, become the new Gold Standard for Breast Cancer. It’s time for Breast Conservation to become part of the picture and for women to learn that keeping your breast, rather than removing it, can actually increase their chances of survival.
Now I will begin with my story:
I want to begin by quoting my husband from our book.
“Cancer hits your life like a tsunami. It crashes through buildings, finds you at night, and drowns you. Cancer wrenches your life around, forcing you to pay attention to it with a constant fearful reminder-I have cancer, my wife has cancer, my husband has cancer, someone I love has cancer”.
I was hit by my cancer tsunami when I was diagnosed with multi -focused breast cancer early in 2003. It was
Valentine’s Day in America, a day of love and tenderness. I looked on my body with love and did not want to lose my breast to a mastectomy as my doctors had recommended, even though they assured me the mastectomy was the highest standard, the Gold Standard, of care.
At the time of my diagnosis, my third child and daughter Emma, who is here in the audience today, was 13 years old. Emma is now 25. (Introduce Emma).
It is my biggest desire and highest hope that doctors like those assembled here in this room today will move cyroablation as a treatment for breast cancer from being experimental to being widely available and covered by insurance by the time my daughter and her friends are the age that they may be faced with their own breast cancer diagnosis.
I was also 13 when my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. She was treated with a mastectomy. She died 4 years later.
I had 35 years after my mother’s death to think about what I would do if I got breast cancer.
I didn’t want to just SURVIVE cancer I wanted to DEFEAT it!
Having a body part removed seemed like the cancer would have won a victory over me. I hated cancer for taking my mother and I didn’t want it to have that victory. I didn’t want to leave MY three children mother-less. I set my intention to find a way to save my breast and be medically proven to be cancer free
This painting, entitled “Leap”, helped me make the decision that a new technique called cryoablation might be what I needed to achieve my goal.
In the painting, we see a woman confidently jumping out of a tree, yet we don’t know where she’s going to land! In the same way, I made my decision to keep my breast, but I didn’t know how I would do that.
I trusted a new technique that had advanced my ability and brought success.
I believed Dr. Littrup was a great artist of this new technique he helped pioneer and I knew in my heart it would work. If it didn’t, I reasoned I could still get the mastectomy that my doctor offered. But I wanted to try cryoablation first.
This painting, Juggle, also helped me decide. It was the last painting I did before I found out I had breast cancer. In fact getting ready for an important exhibition in San Francisco, which this painting was included in, was the reason I was late in getting my annual mammogram. Not getting my mammogram sooner was probably the reason my cancer was not found early enough to allow a lumpectomy.
In the painting there is a mysterious third hand holding a round white ball, much like the freeze ball used in Dr. Littrup’s treatment.
It was as if my subconscious had premeditated I would need a helping hand that wasn’t my own. The fact that that third hand in my painting had a white ball, much like a freeze ball used in cryoablation-well, that just felt like it was a sign from Heaven that Dr. Littrup was going to save me, like the 3rd helping hand in the painting.
The operation was a big success and I’ve remained cancer free for 11 years.
During that time my husband and I developed a website, keepingthem.com, to help other women know about this possibility for them. I’ve talked to a lot of women who also want to save their breasts.
Over the years I’ve been surprised by the fact that at least half the women who have contacted me are just as interested, if not even more so, in the immune boosting effect of cryoablation rather than breast conservation. In fact, I’d say it’s about 50-50. Half want to save their breast but are glad they might also be getting an immunity to their breast cancer, and half want to get the immunity but are glad they would also be saving their breast.
I’m proud to say that about two dozen women followed me to Karmanos to be treated by Dr. Littrup.
We were all so excited and hopeful about my successful outcome that we wrote this book, They’re Mine and I’m Keeping Them, based on my journal going through the process, interviews and writing by Dr. Littrup and expertly narrated by my husband Alex. Alex also included reference support. This book is now available online through Amazon in both Kindle and paperback . I have copies for the fellow presenters so let me know if you’d like a copy.
Our hope is that writing and releasing this book will help let women know that cyroablation works and may be a superior way to both conserve, “keep”, their breasts and get an immune effect. We want woman to know that this is a better way to treat breast cancer.
I’d like to encourage you doctors to also share the success stories of your patients and to follow the lead of Fuda’s Dr. Xu and his wonderful book, “Nothing But the Truth”. His book has been a great inspiration for patients and their families being treated at Fuda. It is a
terrific tool in spreading the word about cryoablation. Even if you don’t write a book, I hope you will make yourself available to speak about your work using cryoablation and share the stories of your successes.
My treatment was not without some difficulties due to lack of knowledge about cryoablation and I thought you doctors might like to know of a few.
There were three main problems:
The first involved the immune effect.
I returned to my home in Oregon on the West Coast of the United States three days after my treatment in Detroit, Michigan where Dr. Littrup was. Soon after my return I developed
fevers and chills with no other symptoms. My doctors were as confused about it as much as I was. It was a years later that one of the women contacting me through the website told me this reaction was most likely a sign the immune effect was kicking in.
Anecdotal information like when the immune effect does kick in and what symptoms this creates in a woman’s body might be something researchers would like to keep track of.
Sharing information like this would be very helpful to potential patients considering this treatment. They will still be patient pioneers like I was and would like to know if symptoms they weren’t expecting have a reason for happening.
The second problem I had was how to read my checkup MRI’s. I got my follow up treatment in Portland, Oregon, where cryoablation is unknown as a treatment for breast cancer. My operation had been done in Detroit in a different hospital system. The new healthy tissue replacing the frozen tissue in my breast looked to my doctors in Portland like the cancer was returning. Dr. Littrup explained to them that the new growth was not cancer but they disagreed and said his treatment was a failure and never should have been tried.
To resolve this issue I was invited back to Detroit and Karmanos where I spent much of my day in a MRI machine getting a special test that was interpreted by
three very smart looking specialists. This was the type of test that only was available in a very sophisticated facility like Karmanos. At the end of the long test I was declared cancer free in every cell of my body. This was the medical confirmation I had originally set out to get with my intention and a dramatic conclusion for Dr. Littrup’s experiment on me. Cryoablation could successfully be used on women’s breasts for breast cancer.
The third problem came when I had to begin radiation three months after my operation. My health insurer insisted on the same protocol as post-lumpectomy. Dr. Littrup believed in radiation as a follow up treatment as well but told me to put it off as long asI could so that my hematoma could be eaten by my immune system as much as possible before radiation started. While the hematoma had reduced by at least a half to 2/3’s, the radiation effectively stopped my body’s ability to eat up my hematoma and I was left with a still largish hard fat necrosis. It went from grapefruit size to about the size of a peach pit. Eventually it became infected and needed to be surgically removed. Luckily my original surgeon had stuck with me and performed the operation.
Despite this set-back, I eventually won over the respect of my Portland doctors. My Oncologist and Radiologist both took on other patients from my location that had gone to Dr. Littrup for cryoablation on my recommendation.
My final remarks will be about my friend and Fuda Patient, Fe Zahorordriuk, of Alberta Canada.
Dr. Littrup’s Cryoablation Program was closed down 3 years ago due to Government over-regulation of the health care industry. His hospital no longer allowed women to self-pay for his services. But women where still coming to my site asking where to get cryoabltion done. I needed someplace I could end them.
I had known about Fuda Hospital in Guangzhou from my husband and my Internet research about cryoablation. I knew that Dr. Littrup had been to China in the late 90’s on a trip hosted by the UN where he helped spread the word about it. I knew they treated breast cancer at Fuda and it might be a good option if only I could persuade women to go. But nobody wanted to go to a place that far away or that foreign for something still so new and still considered experimental.
Fe’s sister in-law found my website and I first talked with Fe by phone in the fall of 2012. Her husband had found FUDA on his Internet searches and she was planning to go.
She asked if I thought it was a good idea to go to Fuda.
Fe was having a reoccurrence of an aggressive breast cancer. Not only did I tell her I thought it was a good idea, I told her I thought it may be her only real hope as she surely needed the immune response to attack her metastasized cancer. I asked if I could cover her story for our site. That’s when she said I should come with her to check it out in person.
I didn’t have time nor money for such a venture, but I knew in my heart that no western woman, at least no American woman, would ever believe in Fuda unless another western woman checked it out.
I asked my film maker son Louie to help me make an
Internet fundraiser and was delighted when our friends and family quickly raised enough money to buy a plane ticket to China. My husband added enough funding for Louie to join me. Louie is now working on a documentary of our trip.
As it turned out, Dr. Littrup was going to be at Fuda during our stay, attending a similar conference to this one. The stars had aligned for me again!!
Not only did I get to be reunited with Dr. Littrup, I learned a lot by being able to attend the conference. And I had Dr. Peter to help me understand some of the treatments going on with Fe.
Part of what I learned was the terrific effect of Fuda’s Combined Immunotherapy for Cancer. It was very central to Fe’s treatment. I learned that this CIC boosts the immunes system’s ability to attack cancer throughout the whole body, killing cancer cells before they have a chance to form into tumors and attacking remote sights of small tumors that have formed. I knew the immune effect did this but I found out that adding CIC helps prevent a reoccurance.
I was so impressed by Fe’s results and those of other Fuda patients using CIC that I brought my husband with me back to Fuda last April for us both to receive CIC treatment.
Alex had prostate cancer in 2010. His tumor was ablated with Hi Fu, high intensity focused ultrasound. This left his immune system with the ability to see the tumor cells in the same way that cryoablation does, so he was a candidate for CIC as well as myself.
Fe happened to be back at Fuda in April then too, getting more CIC herself so we were happily reunited at Fuda as fellow patients and had more time to find out what was working best with her treatment. She also had a lot of success with radiation seed implants and Herceptin treatments which she was back at Fuda to get more of.
I was so impressed with Fe’s successful diminishing of her cancer symptoms during my first Fuda visit that Alex and I added her story to our book.
I gave a copy of our book to Dr. Xu last April. His reaction to it was asking us if he could publish the Fuda part of our book. We of course hope that this too will spread the word.
Fe is such a wonderful spirit and a keen fighter! For what she has been up against I am so impressed with her energy and general good spirits and health and I’m so impressed with the care she received at Fuda.
Dr. Littrup made an astute observation about Fuda when we were here together in 2012. He said China came into the allopathic cancer treatment business rather later than most western countries. As a result, they were able to pick and chose the most effective treatments and put them together in innovative ways..
Perhaps another reason the Chinese have embraced cryoablation that I’ve also observed is their tremendous respect for the immune system, which is at the heart of the centuries old Traditional Chinese Medicine. I totally appreciate that Fuda has a traditional medicine department who treatments are very often included in a patient’s care.
Another huge strength is Fuda’s personal approach for each patient, recognizing the uniqueness of each individual. In the west we tend to get protocols that one size fits all. One of the first things I was exposed to At Fuda was the doctor/ patient meetings where everyone gets an equal say in a patient’s treatment, even the patient. Wow!
One of my biggest challenges was the coordination of my doctors care especially as I was trying to coordinate two different hospital systems. Coordinating care will be a big challenge for other women choosing this method until it is widely available.
My final image is of Fe herself and her sister Jelly, who has been her faithful companion and supporter on all her trips to Fuda.
The reference image for this picture was taken behind the Sun Yet Sin Autorium here in Guangzhou.
Fe hadn’t seen much of China nor Guangzhou on all her trips to Fuda so one lazy rainy Sunday we hired a tour guide and took she and Jelly for sight seeing tour.
As you know Sun Yat Sen is considered the father of modern China having helped get the revolution going that separated control from the emperor, giving power to the people. This was the location where the revolution got started.
We, those of us in this room, are starting a revolution of sorts for how cancer is most effectively treated. I think this painting then is a fitting image for my closing remarks. I’ll let my ending words come from Dr . Sun Yat Sen himself:
“In the construction of a country, it is not the practical workers but the idealists and planners that are difficult to find.”
All of you here today are attempting to build a new way of treating cancer patients and in many ways this is as difficult a task as building a country. Cryoablation is a better way of treating patients because it is less morbid, less expensive and more effective at killing cancer.
So I encourage you to become more than practical workers, I ask that you become idealists and planners to insure that cryoablation is used throughout the world.