My Story: Part Three: Oasis of Hope Cancer Clinic
One day, while waiting for the UCLA doctors to call and give me a date for my surgery, I was eating lunch with my friend Lauren at Gratitude Cafe. I was telling her all the latest drama of the tumor and having trouble getting a surgery, when suddenly a woman sitting at the table across from us, interrupted our conversation.
“I’m sorry…I just heard the word ‘tumor’ and my ears perked up, and I couldn’t help but eavesdrop…but I had stage 4 breast cancer last year and am now completely cancer-free. I never had chemo or surgery. I healed through natural therapies.”
She had my attention.
Oasis of Hope
A thirty minute conversation ensued. She told me about an alternative therapy cancer clinic in Mexico called Oasis of Hope where she had gone on and off for the past year and credits their program and at-home protocol (mostly nutraceuticals) for saving her life.
She was with her husband and three small children. As we said goodbye, she said, “…and my name is Crystal, and here’s my info if you have any questions.”
“How funny,” I said. “My name is Crystal, too.” I took her information and went home and looked up this clinic in Mexico. I spoke with the doctors. But the price tag was steep: around $30,000 for three weeks of in-house treatment, including a dendritic cell-vaccine, the holy-grail of their treatment, followed by several months with an at-home nutraceutical protocol, which basically means taking a bunch of vitamins and supplements every day, up to 70 pills. I was seriously considering it. What if, I didn’t have to have the surgery?
That week, Mutsu, my on again/off-again-long distance boyfriend/ex-boyfriend of six years (it’s complicated) flew from his hometown in El Salvador to be with me for three months, the maximum amount of time he could stay with his visa. Sometimes life-threatening illnesses have a way of making us realize what we really want in our lives though our love for each other had never gone away.
Our relationship struggled more on the logistics of me not wanting to live in El Salvador (though I loved to visit) and him not wanting to live in California. But we’d always stayed in touch, visited each other often and despite not seeing each other for six months at times, our love for one another remained constant.
I talked to Mustu about Oasis of Hope and we decided to just go. After I went for a tour, it just felt right. UCLA still hadn’t called me about a surgery date. The treatment program here was only three weeks.
What did I have to lose? Well, besides all my money. I actually didn’t have the money so I maxed out four different credit cards and the rest I paid for with money from a Go Fund Me account my friends had set up.
Off to Tijuana I went, fingers crossed, hoping for the best. My desire to heal outweighed my desire for financial stability. What good is it to have money in the bank if you don’t have your health. Plus, at the very least, since I did have an aggressive tumor, at least this would slow it down or stop it from growing.
I have nothing but good things to say about the Oasis of Hope Hospital. It’s a welcoming, healing environment with freshly-cooked, healthy vegetarian meals, green juices and daily coffee enemas.
After breakfast, most of the day is spent getting high dose Vitamin C infusions and other alternative therapies such as Ozone therapy, heat therapy, and the best part: a dendritic cell vaccine, which has been shown in multiple studies to supercharge your immune system enough to fight off cancer. Of course, it doesn’t work for everyone.
Every day I was seen by the nurses who took my vitals and the oncologists I had a chance to meet with a couple times a week. I met some beautiful people there and formed solid friendships. One woman in particular, Jackie and her husband, I really connected with. If I missed the cooking class because I was in treatment, Jackie would bring me the dairy-free date brownies they had made.
I noticed Jackie also walked around with books by Deepak Chopra (Quantum Healing) and Joe Dispenza (Becoming Supernatural). “Oh, you have to check out Joe Dispenza, she said. “Whenever I’m feeling down, I just watch his videos on YouTube and it’s like a switch from sad to happy.” I made a mental note to look him up later.
Two weeks into my treatment, I don’t remember what the reasoning was, but the doctors decided to give me a CT scan. I expected it to be smaller because I was feeling good. I even kept accidentally forgetting to take my pain medication.
Plus, here I was in this state-of-the-art hospital getting natural chemotherapy (high dose Vit C), downing green juices, having daily coffee enemas along with other cutting-edge treatments like HBOT and other oxygenated therapies. I was even surfing.
Yes, Mutsu and I brought our surfboards to a cancer clinic in Tijuana. Because it was right on the beach, and there were waves, and it was August. My pain had subsided enough by that time, or maybe the pain meds were just doing a better job, so that I could surf small waves. The doctors and pretty much everyone else got a kick out of it. The doctors would look at my MRI and then back at me. “How is that you’re surfing?”
I knew I stood out walking in and out of the hospital with a bikini and a surfboard. When I’d go in for my treatments, the medical staff kept mistaking me for someone who was there simply accompanying a patient, instead of the actual patient. In every part of the hospital for the first two weeks, I was told “this area is for patients only.”
“I AM the patient,” I would insist. I just didn’t look the part.
But when the results of the CT scan came in, I was in shock. The tumor had increased in size. “Perhaps we’re slowing down the growth,” the doctors said. But I was in tears. I didn’t have any more room in my body for this tumor. Why was it still growing? More fear poured into me.
Towards the end of my last week, I had a final meeting with the oncologists on site: Dr. Contreras and Dr. Cecena, both renowned American-educated oncologists whom I respected. From the beginning, they weren’t fans of this morbid surgery. What I didn’t realize was that they had been doing some research on my behalf.
They told me that day that they’d uncovered some studies of Chordoma patients who had undergone Proton Beam Radiotherapy as an alternative to surgery. They told me Proton Beam Therapy was an alternative form of radiation, explaining how it was more targeted, and thus much better than traditional photon radiation.
However, because Chordoma is such a radio-resistant tumor, the only catch was that very high doses of the protons are necessary. And according to the studies, the survival rates are just as good as those with surgery as long as high doses (77Gy) are used. Plus, they told me, the proton beam therapy has a synergistic effect with the dendritic cell vaccine.
This wasn’t the first time I had heard about Proton Beam Therapy as an option. But when I had brought it up to the orthopedic oncologists, all three dismissed it as something that did not have good results. If I chose this route, “I would likely die within five years” they said.
Proton Beam Therapy had not been around for very long which is why there were very few studies or cases on treating Chordoma with it in the absence of surgery. However, some small scale studies had been done on people who either refused to have the surgery, or were just too old for their bodies to handle the surgery, so they took on the next best thing: high doses of proton beam therapy.
So that’s how I decided that I would do Proton Beam Radiotherapy instead of surgery. On my last day at the clinic, the doctors at UCLA called telling me they’d scheduled my surgery for the following week. I called them back and told them, I’m not doing your stupid four-man, state-of-the-art barbaric surgery. There’s a new treatment in town and his name is Proton.