Fundraising Countdown

The support and fundraising that has happened on my behalf has touched my heart and has made alternative cancer treatment a possibility for me. Donations continue to be my primary funding for healthy food, supplements, living expenses and medical bills. If you feel moved to give to my Health and Wellness Fund, please follow the Paypal "Donate" button below. To avoid Paypal's 3% fee, checks or cash can be sent to Zachariah Walker, 1003 Chipeta Ave, Grand Junction, CO 81501. Blessings!

*CRITICAL ANGELES HOSPITAL VISIT: CURRENT ESTIMATED COST = $25,000. AHHH! PLUS UNEXPECTED CRISIS CONTROL AND 4 DAYS IN ICU*

Donate to Zachariah's Health & Wellness Fund

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Camping Diaries part 1


June 18th, 2012- Camping off Forest Rd 254, Grand Mesa
            Quite a lapse in my journal since the last entry.  I guess you could say quite a lapse of time.  My last entry was early March; I was pondering what was going on with my health… 
I find myself lounging inside the protective bubble of my tent.  The seasons are early this year in Western CO, including mosquito season.  I have been here long enough that many of them that were frosted onto the netting have given up.  Still, a dozen or so, with the leg-span of a quarter, hopefully await my departure from the tent.  I imagine this will come soon and I will navigate their buzzing and parasitic nature.  I should free my pup as well.  I have quarantined Beacon to the back of the truck for her own protection.  The pathetic look on her face earlier expressed her own solemn irritation at the onslaught she was suffering.  We’ve both napped the morning away.  I’ve also put a nice dent in my book, Mom’s Marijuana… (AND WHOOO! At that very moment a large cinnamon colored bear just lumbered across the field in front of me.  I am suddenly energized!)  My thoughts seem unimportant now- I have been blessed by bear medicine, introspection.  Perhaps my thoughts are important now! 
            I remarked to Larkin a few days ago that I am tired of reading books about cancer stories.  It reminds me too much of my reality.  I have been living lately with such life.  No fears or concerns around my AML diagnosis or the “failure” of the two rounds of chemo I’ve been through.  I’ve been to Tijuana and back on a crazy adventure the whole time optimistic and completely confident in success.  At times I’ve wondered if I’m in denial, but I know I’m not.  I’m carrying the mindset that will cure me.  But reading the book, today’s account of a bone marrow biopsy with ravaging chemotherapy after a Hodgkin’s relapse, and me, in the grandest solitude I have felt in months… the “what ifs” arise.  The ache in my elbow joint, the occasional throbbing in my shinbones, what is happening in my body, my blood, my marrow?
            I am so content here in my MSR bubble.  The natural world is moving all around my stillness.  A ground squirrel has twice walked up to the mesh of my tent and hopped on.  Fearing rips in the delicate yet protective barrier, my protesting feet sent it fleeing up and over to slide down the slick rainfly attached to the aft half of the tent.  What levity!  The chorus of feathered ones has been a constant meditation since sunrise.  Thankfully, the irritating rattle of tree squirrels that woke me originally has long since passed.  Occasionally, the relative silence is broken by a gust through treetops.  The rush through the aspens and evergreens sounds like a long wave crashing to the shore.  Back in the silence, the large firs in front of me subtly ungulate like anemones in a tide pool, each branch independently swaying.  With an unfocused gaze that takes in the complete scene there is sweetness.  The view from my mesh bubble has me sandwiched between sky blue and various shades of green Earth.  I like it here, certainly better than in the tattling pages of my compelling book.


June 18th, 2012
Leeches and Lilies

The lure of the Buddha in lily pads drew me to this mesa lake sitting spot.
Dragonflies with medieval enchanted magic, charged from illuminated pedals in bloom,
dance the Hop to Hop and hover in stillness, pausing for realness.
Like I’ve done on this “getting out.”

My gaze drops below to the watery realm and unmoving current.
Wildlife viewing of leeches, in mass, beyond reaches,
take me to parasitic actions I know.
Daydreams ensue of abdominal strife, healing cuts of the knife,
And this battle I should now be waging…

That moment or more, past,
once my eyes took the shore, refocusing my sight on the surface.
There, stillness and charm, an unbothered account of surface beauty.
Present, the length of the pond.

There the vision stays, until the mind betrays with fears of my Beyond.
And back to the surface, to the practice of Beauty.
The Buddha in lily pads.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

From the Desk of David Letterman


Top 10 Reasons why to come to Tijuana for Cancer Treatment:

1. The immune masks are way more Ninja!

2. Doctors who answer every question with both feet in the door.

3. The “Healing Garden” is quiet, soft, green… and alive!

4. Because you’ve always wanted to learn a second language.

5. Pudding and “health shakes” OR celery, tilapia… and more celery?

6. Sleep.  It’s an honored part of your treatment program.

7. Getting there is half the fun!

8. Incentive programs: If you’re healthy and strong by April take a trip with Dr. G to Nepal and Everest base camp.

9. Sun therapy is encouraged because Vitamin D is muy importante.

10. A needle in the groin… OR …seven days of chemotherapy?


Tuesday, June 12, 2012

No Apparent Side Effects


It is Tuesday morning and tomorrow marks two weeks since I've been at Angeles Hospital in Tijuana.  There is a bittersweetness to this timing as Larkin and I will be leaving tomorrow.  It has been a phenomenal experience here.  However, I am certainly ready to get out, despite how comfortable, accommodating and nurturing it is, it still is a hospital.  As I have calculated, I have spent 42 of the last 64 days of my life living and being treated in a hospital setting.  I have dialogued many experiences and the side-effects of treatments, particularly the traditional chemotherapy aftermath.  Though, honestly I have spared many of the graphic details and have some pictures that might make the weak-hearted queazy.  There are a number of things I have learned along the way, I guess you could call them secondary side-effects, that I've felt worthy of noting before they are distant afterthoughts.

One cool thing that could likely earn me some money making bets at a party is my ability to accurately predict how much pee I am holding in my bladder.  I have become very tuned-in to my ins and outs.  While in the hospital they measure your intake (food and liquids) and your output.  As I explain it to the enfermeras here, "mi numero uno y mi numero dos."  That feels a little more adult that "mi poo-poo y mi pee-pee."  I have taped a nice chart next to the toilet to document my daily dos (or do-dos, I guess you could say).  One amazing discovery is the body's ability to maximize the volume of the bladder while laying down.  I have been amazed at my ability to fill a urinal in the middle of the night.  My record so far is 1400cc, that's 1 and 1/3 Nalgene bottles! (Ha, that reminds me of my flight here and a near emergency over St. George that Christopher does NOT have documented on his iPhone).  In comparison, my standing rate averages around 500cc.  My mother has noted how she has noticed some striking Haussler characteristics that are more evident with my lack of facial and head hair, but my bladder must certainly come from the Walker side.  Just ask any of the Haussler spouses on a road trip!  (Ma, I'm not gonna get in trouble for that one, am I?)

In an abstract way I have also learned to drink from my jugular vein.  This, of course, first requires the installation of special equipment, in my case a Hickman port.  The trick then is learning how to run the machine that hooks up to the port.  There's nothing like the incessant beeping coming from the IV pole to motivate a quick study.  It's kinda like riding a bike too, I learned when I was young and it comes back quick.  During one of my stays at St. Mary's the nurses were excited about the new pumps that quickly made the old ones obsolete.  About three days into it I was training new nurses who were coming on shift for the first time.  I could only stand to watch them scratch their heads for so long.  The funny thing is, while there I always felt like I was undertaking a covert operation.  Adding an extra 50mLs to empty my IV so I didn't have to wait around chained to my pole waiting for a nurse to show up.  My heart would race a bit, what if I get caught!?  I kinda liked it... yes, searching for excitement!  It was a whole new challenge once I got to Mexico.  The pumps are in Spanish using abbreviated word that are far out of my range of vocabulary.  The first time the beeping started I stared at the pump in awe, what a rush!  Using deductive reasoning I eliminated half of the buttons as possibilities.  Some of the others had picture icons.  Stopping the beep temporarily was easy, but that wasn't good enough.  Another button and the screen changed, uh oh, a moment of panic...  My buzz was quickly killed when a kind nurse came in and showed me how to do it.  WHAT!  I have permission?  On to figuring out the Tequila drip...

As I mentioned in my last Blog, it has been such a relief to receive therapy that is not fear-ridden.  I have experienced some night sweats and headaches from the cell therapy, and of course four injections into my groin wasn't fun, but a walk in the park compared to chemo.  The first injection was the worst by far.  Naturally, the true test will be results.  While there might be indicators in a periphery blood test or smear, there is no way to really know what is happening with the cancer process until undergoing another bone marrow biopsy.  I will be adding more dots to the star cluster of scars on my iliac crest.  However, indications from my CBC blood tests look very positive.  My white blood cell count is now higher than it's been since the start of this ordeal!  The healthy range of WBC is between 5 and 10 K/mm^3 (I believe that's 'thousand per cubic mm of blood').  My first reading back in February was a 2.0, a "critically" low value.  I have climbed the past two weeks from a 1.1 upon arrival to a current 2.8.  As Dr. Garcia said, when I come back in 2 months I'll be eating tacos from street side vendors with no problem.  I am way more inspired by the notion of no longer wearing a mask in public, neurotically sanitizing my hands, and ingesting a daily regimen of antibiotics.  I know a lot of my loved ones were really nervous about the notion of me coming to Tijuana for healthcare.  I really hope the following video dispels any concerns around these worries.


video

First Take (bloopers)
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Sunday, June 10, 2012

How are You Doing...?

Started June 5th:
Yesterday, my pink-haired loved-one asked, after a nice conversation and catch up, “How are you doing… emotionally?”  A pretty heart-felt question for a 19 year-old.  Of course, I’ve come to expect that from Danielle who I’ve watched grow up since first meeting her as a reserved sixth grader.  She’s always been ahead of her peers in awareness and intelligence, and on so many levels just simply ahead of the human curve, young and old.  I sat in silence for a moment considering the question, considering my reflection…  (I had risen that morning to look in the mirror, peering into my own eyes to distinguish some recognition.  The mirror, that’s when I question who I am, what is and has happened to me.  Amazing how engrained the reflection becomes and once changed how confusing it can be.  I thought I knew those eyes so well, maybe I have forgotten how long it’s been since I’ve really looked into them.  What are THEY really saying?  There in lies the answer to the question.)
I commented on truly how well I’ve been.  Having settled into some knowns here at Angeles I have felt content with my decision to be here.  Christopher and I have been more light-hearted and full of laughter on a more consistent basis than we have been in a long time, certainly since some time before this ordeal began.  There is really a heightened sense of enthusiasm and appreciation.  I have felt this time of being “stuck” in the hospital as a retreat, an opportunity to truly focus on personal healing.  No schedules, no distractions, no to-dos, other than treatment.  And the treatment is not anxiety-laden like chemotherapy.  I’m not worried about how I might suffer and I’m not fixated on how to prevent it.  And I’m not sitting with the reality that no matter how hard I try to holistically support the chemo treatment, I WILL SUFFER.  There will be no gnarled sausage-sized blood clots to faintly flush down the toilet after sitting in an ozonated sauna for a week and a half.  There is peace in that truth.
“How are you doing… emotionally?” is a fair question for everyone directly and indirectly connected to my situation.  The circumstances surrounding cancer stirs up deep wounds for so many who have witness and experienced it before.  I see it happening all around me.  The bigger question of mortality brings up the utmost fears, especially in a culture that has not coped well with its reality for centuries.  A culture that has not accepted it as a natural part of life.  I have mentioned to many friends, when considering the fact that I could be dead and gone in a matter of months, that I feel like I am handling it better than just about everyone else.  I do have some experience after all.  I’ve faced my mortality square in the face twice before, at age 13 and 29.  And, not in just a moment of time where the possibility of death flashes before your eyes.  I have sat with it day after day after day, at times wishing for its arrival.  So, while the prospect of departing is not appealing, it certainly is far from terrifying.  I have found enough understanding in my life experience to, at least theoretically, have some peace with the notion.  However, that being said, I have also felt confident that this is not my time to go.  Ironically, since the day my bone marrow biopsy, following the second round of chemo, reported a still active cancer, I have had more confidence in this belief.  I have spent little time pondering the possibility of death since then.
I have recognized over the years my habit of portraying the best, despite my circumstances.  Optimism certainly is a noble quality.  It’s a key ingredient to living with happiness, and, I believe, to surviving dire situations.  So, I continue to do my best to live with optimism, but this is not to say it is unyielding.  And here, the matters of emotions, real and true, come to a head.  The weekend before departing for Mexico I was offered the opportunity to face my own ugliness and anger.  After an empowering gathering and meditation with friends I stood on the back porch of the house with Larkin and Chris processing the experience, and naturally the bigger experience.  The details of the discussion are unimportant, however, their concerns, the expressions of their experiences in that moment, though supportive in nature, were deflating to me.  I felt the wind leave my sails and seeds of doubt plant in my mind.  After days of feeling empowered and positive I felt an energetic shift within my being.  I began to stew, I remember brushing my teeth feeling resentment rise within me.  I woke irritated and instigated a relieving debrief with Larkin.  It was short-lived however.  Just hours later I discovered that someone, for no apparent reason, had busted the window out of my van.  I absorbed the scene and imagined busting faces and an intensity was ignited within me.  Anger began to well up: about my van, about my stolen credit card, about our conversation… of course, those were the surface agendas.  I spiraled into the storm cloud of my mind for the rest of the day.   
         In retrospect, I know the anger was about a lot more.  It was about a lot more than a cancer diagnosis and a lifetime of digestive issues.  It was about a lot more than a fucked up medical system that only offers destructive and torturous therapies based only on pharmaceutical treatments.  It was about a lot more than the state of medical debt I’ve been in for a good portion of my life.  It was about all the wrongs of the world that I have witnessed since the beginning.  While in the storm cloud, I observed myself project my anger on those closest to me.  This natural phenomenon, that we are all guilty of, is the saddest part of the emotional experience.  We suffer, and blame, and pull those who care about us the most into our story and likely create a bigger drama out of it.  Like in our allopathic medical system, the root causes of our symptoms are ignored while we tear off the scabs of our wounds and medicate with coping mechanisms.  It’s the model we’ve been taught, or more accurately, it’s about the model we have not been taught.
         My dear Larkin, being the forefront witness to my experience, naturally had her own experience.  I watched her take on the responsibility of my mood shift and simmer in her own guilt.  Clearly in my eyes, it was not her fault and not her responsibility.  My emotional reaction to the original conversation was about me.  It was about how I let the experience of others, even my most loved ones, effect me.  And more importantly, it was about how this surface ripple stirred up the deeper emotions within me.  The same can be said for her and her experience.  The same can be said for all of us.  From the limited wisdom I have garnered in this young life of mine I will say that our emotional experience, at its source, is based on our feelings and the relationship we have with ourselves.  It’s the scariest thing to face.  It is what we see in our own eyes when we truly look into their depths.
         Nurturing this relationship is a lifelong process.  It is the essence of our spiritual growth.  It is the root of all our healing.  I would even venture to say it is our purpose, our path of personal evolution.  Yesterday, while in the midst of this writing I casually opened the front of my current book Embrace, Release, Heal written by another cancer survivor, my friend Leigh Fortson.  The passage I glanced at was so appropriate for my thoughts: “On an emotional level, healing means releasing what tethers us to our sense of separateness, of being wronged, superior, inferior, lacking, and so on.  It means giving up our habits of resistance and ‘against-ness,’ whether they are being directed toward our spouses, our bosses, our children, our parents, our friends, the government, corporations, or most especially, toward life, ourselves, or God.” 
         So, Danielle, to answer your question, I think I’m doing pretty damn good emotionally.  I’ve allowed myself to cry when I need to cry.  I spent every morning the first week I was in the hospital emptying my reservoir of tears to prepare for the day.  And, there have been many tears since.  At those times I’ve felt strong I’ve been able to offer support to those close to me.  The anger has come up, and though it didn’t feel good, I experienced it and allowed it to teach me.  It showed me the work I have yet to do because, ya, I’m angry at corporations and the FDA and pharmaceutical companies and politicians and Haliburton and…  The important thing I noticed was, though I projected my anger towards loved ones in my mind, I recognized it before fueling drama and instead instigated healthy and nurturing conversations.  My days have also been filled with genuine laughter, love and appreciation.  I have spilt more tears of gratitude for the kindness and support I’ve received than I’ve shed to sadness around my circumstances.  Acceptance has been part of my mantra.  I have accepted this challenge, I have accepted my role in the greater mystery, and I have accepted, to the best of my knowing, whatever the outcome will be.  And, I am confident in my ability to heal and overcome this because of one most important thing.  Though I still don’t recognize my bald self at a glance, when I look in the mirror and gaze into my own eyes I like who I see.  I feel empowered, I feel gratitude, I feel love.  My ongoing mantra is working.  “I am passionate and courageous.  I am happy, healthy, strong and whole.  I live fully aligned with my Highest Self with ease, grace and acceptance.  I am loved, I love, I AM Love.”  These are the things I HAVE TO BELIEVE.  This belief is my practice.  It is my religion.  It is my healing.  It is my salvation.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Free Press Article: Part 4

Here is the final article from the series that Dr. Lepisto has been writing for one of our local papers.  If you missed and are interested in the preceding articles here are links to them:
Free Press Article: An Unfolding Journey with Cancer
Free Press Article: Part 2
Free Press Article: Part 3

LEPISTO: Treatment notes from south of the border

MANY THANKS
Zachariah is grateful for all the donations he has received. Since none of the alternative treatments Zachariah chooses will be covered by his insurance, he is seeking an additional $13,000 to cover his substantial costs for treatment. If you would like to donate to Zachariah's health and wellness fund, please visit around-z-world.blogspot.com.
Editor's note: Dr. Lepisto presents the fourth in a series of columns on dealing with cancer. The following story is revealed with the consent of the patient and family, and is consistent with HIPAA regulations.

A week ago Wednesday, Zachariah Walker “Z” and I had just arrived at Angeles Health International Hospital in Tijuana, Mexico, and were nervously awaiting the receptionist, who couldn't seem to find us in the system. There was a moment of panic in our minds.

“I'm sorry, who are you? Why did you come? Where were you planning to stay tonight?” We were both playing out the possible scenarios of being forgotten or having somehow found ourselves in the wrong city/country/planet. This all dissolved quickly as we were graciously welcomed, enrolled and escorted to Zachariah's home for the next few weeks while he undergoes intensive treatment for his acute myelogenous leukemia.

His accommodations look straight out of a fine hotel, with artwork, faux-wood floors and a massive tiled shower. “Well Zachariah, don't you-a worry. We a-going to treat you very nice,” cooed Carmen, his day nurse.

By conventional terms, Z has “failed” two rounds of chemotherapy, meaning his cancerous process is not in remission. He has been recommended a third round of chemotherapy, with statistics in the paltry 20-30% range for success. This is not to say that he has not considered this therapy.

In the meantime, he has chosen to travel to Mexico for an integrative approach, and it is very clear that here, the patient comes first. Several times already the staff, including the doctors, have waited patiently while he completed a meal, finished some time in the sun, or returned from a walk.

From my perspective, many things are done well at Angeles International. This is a clean, professional but relaxed hospital environment. They offer integrative assessment with internists, specialists, a clinical nutritionist, a biologic dentist and a psychologist. They serve 100% organic food, including a curious focus on one particular vegetable, celery. Because it has literally shown up in almost every single meal, we have taken to calling it the “Celery Conspiracy.” The known medicinal qualities of celery include its ability to clear water from the system, soothe digestion, reduce inflammation, and relax and calm the nervous system. The latter may explain why celery also has gained a reputation of being a potent male aphrodesiac. Just relax and eat this celery, baby.

The therapies I have witnessed here are based on the best available science, following most closely what would be considered a German model of care. Zachariah has begun intensive treatments (individualized for him) of IV vitamin C and glutathione, transdermal (across the skin) ozone, steam, magnetic and bio-immune cell therapy using natural killer (NK) and dendritic cells. The cell therapies are the primary reason he has come, as they are inaccessible in the U.S except in limited clinical trials that often include radiation and chemotherapy. Another therapy, systemic ozonated hyperthermia, is not available in the U.S. unless the patient elects to receive radiation concurrently. For many, the thought of using a cancer-causing treatment to remedy cancer is absurd.

For a science-minded doc like myself, the autologous (self-donated) NK and dendritic immune-cell therapies have been fascinating. Last Saturday they drew six large syringes of Z's blood, performed multiple tests and concentrated his NK and dentritic cells in order to multiply them from 10 into 1,000,000 cancer-clearing warriors. The NK cells were delivered all within five minutes in what Z described as a rather “anti-climactic moment.” I guess he was looking for some kind of blue-gowned haz-mat lockdown like they do when delivering chemotherapy. He also seemed disappointed when he didn't get any power-line surges as cells entered his Hickman port, which is installed directly into his jugular vein.

The dendritic cell treatment was a different story. Pre-treatment included numbing ice and a xylocaine injection into his groin. Research has demonstrated that the dentritic cells work best when injected just under the skin, very close to lymph nodes. They migrate directly into the lymphatic system, where they circulate the body and have shown success even in stage IV patients with cancer who have failed other therapies. Pain at his injection site did occur, but even Z said that it was minor compared to the pain of bowel obstructions. With the possibility of eliminating his leukemia, it was completely tolerable.

He will also be getting Nupogen, a drug which will stimulate his body to build more white blood cells (Z has a critically low white blood cell count). Additionally, an immune system cytokine (messenger) called IL-2 will be used to cause a fever, making it intolerable for cancer cells to survive in his body. This is in stark contrast to conventional medicine, which sees fevers as an indicator of a potentially life-threatening infection to immune-compromised patients like Z.

From my perspective as a naturopathic doctor, there are a few approaches to treating people with cancer that are missing here. There is clearly a focus on nutrition, however Z mentioned that it would be nice to get a description of what foods he is being served and why. However, I admit that it has been a pleasurable pastime, trying to identify yet another delicious but mystifying Mexican fruit juice. Perhaps the most fun was figuring out that today's mystery meat was actually ostrich. We're still not 100% sure, but it definitely didn't taste like it had once squawked, mooed or bugled.

There has also been no discussion of herbs or supplements, but perhaps that is because they know that I have been handling the cancer-specific turmeric, green tea, mushrooms and Vitamin D that Z has been taking, along with the other custom supplements I have tailored specifically for him. More than once I have noted that they would benefit from a naturopathic doctor on staff.

So what happens next? Time will tell. Tracking his blood indicators will tell us whether or not his immune system has successfully responded to the therapies and another bone marrow biopsy is currently the only way to identify if his leukemia has receded or is in remission. For any patient with cancer, the waiting game can be excruciating. For now, Z will continue to blog his experiences, put on another Netflix movie and have a tall glass of celery juice.

Dr. Christopher Lepisto graduated as a naturopathic doctor (ND) from Bastyr University in Seattle, Wash. He is a native of Grand Junction and opened his practice here in 2004. Lepisto practices downtown near Fourth and Main. For more information, visit www.grandjunctionnaturopath.com or call 970-250-4104. 

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

I KnoW YoU GoNNa DiG THiS!

Today was a changing of the guard, so to speak.  My lovely girlfriend Larkin made the journey to San Diego from Grand Junction to take over duty from Christopher.  He will grab a shuttle at 8 in the morning after witnessing a Systemic Hyperthermia treatment with another patient here at Angeles.  On par with the rest of our experience here, Dr. Chris asked my primary doc, Dr. Garcia, if he could join him for rounds.  "No problem" and he went out of his way to arrange it.  I know Chris has gotten a great education here and will take great perspectives back to his practice in the Grand Valley.  The first two video are a talk-umentary on our overall experience here during the first week of consultation and treatment.
  
. video         video

And the second two videos... Well, they're a rhyme-mentary brought to you by the Loco Amigo Posse.  Give it up for Professor SkyWalker with the Freestyle-Abilities, Warrior One on Beat Box, and the one and only LB, as in Lil' Beauty, kickin' it with backup vocals and dance moves.  "I know you gonna dig this!"

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Tuesday, June 5, 2012

DC Therapy

A needle in my leg and an unhappy guise.
Today I started the second part of the Bio-immune Cellular Therapy that I am receiving here at Angeles.  As I explained in the previous post, yesterday's NK cell treatment was rather anti-climatic.  A five minute I.V.  I probably should have settled for less than exciting.  The dendritic cells are administered subcutaneously, an injection under the skin near the lymph nodes.  Today was the first of four I'll receive, all in different areas.  The injection site was my left inguinal lymph, or left groin.  After ten minutes of ice, a delicate (yet frickin' long!) needle was inserted into my thigh to inject topical anesthetic.  While this was happening I eyed the syringe of cells which sat on the table with a considerably larger needle.  To my relief, the lab tech unscrewed the syringe leaving the needle buried and replaced it with the DCs.  No need for a second poke!  However, the slow injection quickly intensified as the liquid bulged under my skin.  Yes, painful!  Though, as I explained to Chris, nothing really compared to a bowel obstruction.  The needle was removed, a topical pain relief gel was applied, and I was told not to move for 15 minutes.  Of course, the detailed instructions were given in Spanish and interpreted.  Though I understood generally I wasn't sure if that meant don't move my leg or don't get off the bed.  I really wanted to move my leg and shake out the pain.  Never the less, I sat in stillness breathing through the discomfort imagining those cute little kick ass dendritics absorbing into my lymph nodes.  If yesterday's NK cells were the Marines I guess these guys are Special Ops.  Though really, in my new-agey ways, I imagine them all as Peaceful Warriors.

I did a quick Google search for more info rather than adjusting and adding the info from the hospital's info packet (as I did yesterday).  I've added the links to these pages if you're interested in more information.  The first link includes a video titled "Using Dendritic Cells to Create Cancer Vaccines" and the second link includes a list of articles with in-depth information.  Of course, this is just one site, I believe from Stanford Medical.  There is plenty of info out there coming from research outside the country as well.

Introducing Dendritic Cell Therapy

Dendritic Cell (DC) therapy represents a new and promising immunotherapeutic approach for treatment of advanced cancer as well as for prevention of cancer. As Dr. Harmon Eyre, the VP of Research at the AMA commented: “Patients’ responses are far out of proportion to anything that any current therapy could do”. For decades, cancer researchers have been interested in immunologic treatments against cancer but with little progress. However, recent advances lead to successful implementation of Dendritic Cell therapy with reports of complete responses even in stage IV cancer patients who have failed all other therapies. Dendritic Cell (DC) Therapy or so-called Dendritic Cell vaccine is a newly emerging and potent form of immune therapy used to treat cancer.

What is DC Therapy?

Dendritic Cell (DC) Therapy or so-called Dendritic Cell vaccine is a newly emerging and potent form of immune therapy used to treat cancer. Only recently (2010) approved by the US FDA, dendritic cell therapy is an immune therapy which harnesses the body’s own immune system to fight cancer. The dendritic cell itself is an immune cell whose role is the recognition, processing and presentation of foreign antigens to the T-cells in the effector arm of the immune system. Although dendritic cell are potent cells, they are not usually present in adequate quantity to allow for a potent immune response. Dendritic cell therapy thus involves the harvesting of blood cells (monocytes) from a patient and processing them in the laboratory to produce dendritic cells which are then given back to a patient in order to allow massive dendritic cell participation in optimally activating the immune system.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Natural Killers!


My Natural Killers, in a bag!

I just finished one of the most significant treatments I will receive while being here at Angeles.  And, it only took five minutes!  The Bio-immune Cellular Therapy offered here at Angeles is unavailable in the United States, except through limited clinical trials (which often include drug therapies and radiation).  Today, specifically, I received an I.V. of my own NK cells (a type of white blood cell) which had been extracted from my blood on Friday and multiplied in the lab over the weekend.  The idea is to boost my own immune system to fight the cancer cells in my body.  The experience, I have to say, was rather anti-climatic.  The same lab tech that drew a bag of my red blood on Friday returned with a bag of cloudy liquid today.  She hung it, attached the line to my port, and drained it into my bloodstream in minutes.  The analogy often used for immune cells such as these is the soldiers of your immune system.  So I guess you could say the Marines have been called to duty and are now on an important mission to eradicate the invaders.  NKs vs. AML, it is on! 

For those interested to know more a quick Google search will turn up plenty.  I've also attached information from the "Functional Oncology Approach at Angeles Hospital" packet that outlines their treatment program.  I've first attached a blurb on Bio-immune Cellular Therapy and then the more specific Natural Killer info.  The packet was clearly translated from Spanish, but I think I've cleaned it up.  I want to add their statement from the cover of the packet, a synopsis of why we've chosen to come here.  "Angeles Function Oncology Treatment Centers recognize the importance of treating the whole person, and not only the symptoms of disease.  We take the approach of addressing the mind, body, and spirit as equal components of  health and well-being."  Also, check the links on the right for a video from Dr. Perez that explains the therapy philosophy here.


Bio-immune Cellular Therapy

Bio-immune cellular therapy is the most advanced therapy of its kind.  Throughout the extraction, manipulation and culture of specific linages of cells from the immune system (white blood cells) it is now possible to provide a high concentration of a particular cell line, such as Dendritic cells, NK cells, and CD34 cells.  These cells improve, enhance, reinforce and balance the immune response needed to fight disease.  Their proven uses array from autoimmune disorders, chronic infections, HIV to cancer.  Cell based Immune-therapies are proven to be effective for cancers where the immune cells such as lymphocytes, macrophages, dendritic cells, natural killer cells (NK Cell), cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTL), work together to defend the body against cancers and attacks by “foreign” or “non-self” invaders such as bacteria and viruses. Cancer immunotherapy attempts to stimulate the immune system to reject and destroy tumors.  In the beginning Immunotherapy treatments involved administration of cytokines such as Interleukin with an aim of inducing the lymphocytes to carry on their activity of destroying the tumor cells. This therapy lead to the extraction of the lymphocytes from the blood and culture-expanding them in the lab and then injecting the cells alone to enable them to destroy the cancer cells.

Natural Killer Cells

NK cells are a type of cytotoxic lymphocyte that constitutes a major component of the innate immune system. NK cells play a major role in the rejection of tumors and cells infected by viruses. They kill cells by releasing small cytoplasmic granules of proteins called perforin and granzyme that cause the target cell to die by apoptosis. Natural killer (NK) cells have been at the forefront of immunology for two decades. During that time, a great amount of information about these cells has been obtained. They are important in anti-infectious and antitumor defense and shape the adaptive immune response. In addition, they can act as immuno- regulatory cells. In recent years, the therapeutic potential of NK cells in cancer immunotherapy has become increasingly evident.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Hospital Angeles: Day 3

From Facebook Post: Noon Saturday
Buenos dias! Well, it is on. After two full days of consultations the doctors here at Angeles Hospital have offered an individualized treatment plan for my leukemia case. I am currently hooked up to a Vitamin C IV for mega dosing (25,000 mg, that's 25 packets of E-mergency in 4 hours!). Behind the scenes I am having my own NK and Dendritic cells extracted from my blood to create "vaccines" that will boost my own immune system's ability to fight the caner cells in my body. In addition I will have Hyperthermia treatment where fever is induced in my body at a level that cancer cells can not survive, but is not damaging for healthy cells. Other treatments will include Transdermal Ozonated therapy, Bioenergetic treatment and Glutathione IVs. As my inner scientist continues to understand these treatments and how they work I will indulge interested readers on my Blog site. It looks like I will be scheduled finish these treatments and be on my way back home a week from Wednesday where I will have an at home treatment plan. In the meantime, Christopher Lepisto and I are doing a great job of enjoying ourselves with laughter, boldness in our attempts to communicate in Spanish, yoga sessions in the coastal sun, and creating slap-happy Blog videos late at night. I am certainly happy that the madness surrounding the circumstances in getting here have settled into the laid-back yet proactive attitude of this place. Estoy muy contento!


Chillin' in my room, receiving mega dose of Vitamin C
and designing my new and improved Blog!

Friday, June 1, 2012

The Celery Conspiracy

No matter where you go there seems to be evil-doers out to take advantage of us everyday folks.  We've begun to suspect the same here.  Even in the midst of all possible goodness, the smell of corruption is lurking.  The odor is earthy and green.

video