[March 1999] I recently spent 10 days at the CHIPSA hospital in Playas de Tijuana, Mexico. I went primarily to begin my treatment with Coley's toxins, and also to find out if the Gerson program might be a useful adjunct to the toxins. I have follicular small cleaved cell NHL, low grade, stage 4 with bone marrow involvement, dxed in 1995. I have had 2 "spontaneous" remissions and am doing well. My only perceptible tumors are as follows: right groin, a small swelling; left groin, a node of about 4 cm in length, and some generalized swelling in the larger area, as well as a residue of a large (half golfball size) node protruding from the side of the groin into the abdominal area; a small (1 cm) node in my right breast, at about 10 o'clock position. Some fatigue.
I decided to undergo treatment with the toxins so that we have more of a corroboration of the role the toxins can play in lymphoma treatment. I am in good health, with my immune system uncompromised by chemo or radiation, and so I feel I am in an excellent position to benefit. I will report here on my experience at CHIPSA, and periodically add more news on how I am doing. I expect to do the treatment for about a year.
CHIPSA is a small private hospital in Playas de Tijuana, a suburb of Tijuana. It is located on a side street, about 4 blocks from the ocean, in a mixed neighborhood -- small stores and restaurants, residential streets, an occasional church, some empty lots. Oceanside is strewn with rubble and stinky sewers, but there is a walkway along the rocky beach about 20 min from the hospital that is mostly nice, and will take a person to a health food restaurant used by those patients who need a break from the hospital fare.
Most patients come with companions, and I highly recommend this if possible. CHIPSA is not a cheerful place to be, and a friend or relative can lighten the load, and create a sense of being cared for in a personal way, as well as the assurance of having someone watching out for your interests in case something should go wrong. I was fortunate to have my mother in law with me, and it made a big difference.
CHIPSA has about 75 beds, but when we got there, there were only 7 patients there. During our stay, a few more came, and a baby was born. The facility is adequate, but is poorly maintained -- the impression is that there has been no investment in the facility for quite some time.
The staff is friendly and accomodating. Dr Ron Carreño is usually the attending doctor, and will see each patient in the morning during the week, spending plenty of time chatting and answering questions. Day doctors speak excellent English. Weekends and nights, there is a rotation of other doctors who come in part time, and whose command of English is partial. The food is according to the Gerson diet, in the most unimaginative style possible -- dull, flavorless, and repetitious while also being organic, fresh and wholesome. Chicken or fish is available for special protein needs and for companions, done in the "English style" -- cooked to death. Great quantities of freshly made juices are available all during the day, and companions can partake as well.
Each patient gets a vitamin box which is refilled daily, and other supplements are brought as well at various times of day. It is important to learn what the different supplements look like, and to monitor one's supply every day, since mistakes are a common occurrence.
The bathroom has a tiled ledge covered by a foam pad, very handy for enema taking. Coffee and camomile tea for the enemas is available around the clock down the hall. Filtered water is available on every floor from special receptacles in the hallways; tap water cannot be trusted for anything except showers (with your mouth carefully closed). I kept a bottle of hydrogen peroxide nearby and sprinkled my hands after washing with pure water that had some peroxide in it.
The rooms are small and pretty bleak. No pictures anywhere; ours had a forlorn-looking bulletin board, and nothing else. We did have nice views of the ocean, and lovely sunsets. It is a good idea to bring one's own pillow if lumpy foam pillows are not to your liking. Also slippers since the floors are tiled. The rooms do not have heat, but electric heaters will be wheeled in as needed. There is a lounge on the 5th floor with a TV, and a roof for sunning and ocean watching. And there is a very nice bakery across the street, handy for companions going batty and in need of a treat.
The ICU room has 4 beds in it, and this is where Coley's toxins is administered. The patient is asked not to eat breakfast (tho some did eat and there was no problem). The session starts about 9 am. The drip of glucose and Coley's is hooked up, and it takes about 40 min to drip in. They then add another drip of high dose vitamin C, DMSO and laetrile. (I refused the laetrile.) By the time the vitamin drip was hooked up, I was experiencing the reaction, which lasted for about two and a half hours. While I was at CHIPSA, I did 2 IVs and 2 subcutaneous shots.
First IV: This tests the patient's reaction, and the dose is only 0.01 ml. My drip did not begin till 10 since they had trouble with my veins. I read and chatted during the drip, and felt fine, till after the drip was done. I took the precaution of putting on thick sweat pants and socks to ward off the cold and it helped a lot. I got cold, but not terribly, then my blood pressure plummetted, and I felt very sick; it was painful and difficult to move any part of my body, and I lay there moaning, floating in and out of consciousness. Was nauseous some of the time but did not vomit. I had no shakes. My temperature reached about 102.5 F (39.1 C) both times. At about 1 pm, I was unhooked from the instruments (blood pressure cuff, rectal thermometer and EKG) and carried to the bathroom where I had horrendous diarrhea, at the tail end of which I developed bad shakes. I was taken to my room at this point where my mother in law lay on top of me to quell the shakes. She was more bothered by them than I... my problem was the low blood pressure, which at its lowest was below 70. I was left unattended till evening when a saline drip was finally instituted and then another during the night. By morning, I felt human again. I was tired and strangely lightheaded the following day. Two days later, I got the same amount as sub-q in the groin. There was no reaction, except for some swelling and soreness at the site of injection.
Second IV, 5 days later: Again, I am hooked up and dripping by 10 am. The dose is the regular dose, 0.02 ml. By 11, I get the vitamin drip, get cold, mild shakes, and "go under." Wake up some time later with the vitamin drip not moving, get very mad and cuss everyone out. The worse part of the whole experience for me was being hooked up to all these instruments and the drip, and not being able to move; the vitamin drip was pretty painful in addition. Every discomfort and pain seems amplified while doing the toxins. I dozed off some more, and was taken to my room at about 2:30. Sleep, wake up and drink, sleep some more. Wake up feeling good, pink all over, and happy. Truly had the feeling like the treatment "worked" this time. Lightheadedness and a bit of fatigue followed the next day. (The lightheadedness was also reported by the other patients there who did Coley's.) Two days later, I got another sub-q shot, of the same dosage. Experienced a bit of a chill and some sleepiness.
I now have a vial of the toxins in my fridge, trying to work up the courage to shoot up. They gave me a bunch of syringes and needles to take with me, and I transported the toxins in a thermos with ice. (The customs never checked us, but I did have a letter from CHIPSA to the effect that this was prescribed treatment.)
I think the best way to get some value out of going is to fly out on Monday, do intake on Tuesday and begin the Coley's on Wednesday. (The ICU room is only available on Mon, Wed and Fri.) Then do a sub-q on Fri, another IV on Monday, and another sub-q on Wed and leave. Or stay until Fri and do a third IV then, and leave on Sat. They prefer to do only one IV per week because the treatment wreaks havoc with the patient's system but will accommodate each person's needs and wishes. In a way, I wish I could have done one more IV. But we were dying to get out, go home, take a bath...
The whole program cost me 7,400. I did not excersise some of the other options, like urea drips, or the Issels vaccine. I did get rectal ozone to heal my GI problems, and a colema (they call it kalima) which is a colonic without the machine, using gravity and a colema board.
There was no effort to teach us proper juicing, or food instructions. Only two very general lectures occurred while I was there, one by Gar Hildebrand and one by Mrs. Issels, and they were both rushed and had little time for questions. At the end of my stay, someone was to come and teach me how to do the B12/liver injections and a few other things but no one showed up. I decided to switch to oral supplements instead. I was also given high dose of Melatonin which I refused, and when I explained that it was contraindicated for hematological cancers, no one paid any attention. In addition, I was given a supplement called Autrin 600. When I asked what it is, the doctors told me it was 600 mcg of folic acid. At leaving, I got the bottle to take home, and eventually doscovered that I was given 1000 mcg of folic acid along with 350 mg of iron which I never would have taken if I had known. And there were questions I had about the integrity of adminstering certain treatments. In addition, I had brought up the potential problem of my chronic low blood pressure, worsened by presently inadequate thyroid supplementation and the no salt diet. My concern was basically ignored; only after the terrible first Coley's did they agree to add some salt to my diet.
The hospital is in transition at the moment. A consultant is being retained, by the name of Skip Bennett (whose wife healed there from some unspecified chronic problem), who has come up with a vision for the future and is raising the funds to implement it. If he is successful, the place could be much better down the road. As it is, the ludicrously high fees at the moment support the large overhead of a mostly empty hospital, and unaccountable management.
The toxin treatment itself is $2,000, and until the hospital is reorganized and brought up to snuff, prospective patients might consider staying at a local hotel, and doing the toxins on an outpatient basis, or perhaps taking a room for one night only after each toxin IV. This would also be a better option for those who are not interested in the Gerson routine. Those with a strong interest in the Gerson program might be able to combine the stay at Charlotte Gerson's clinic about a mile from there, and coming to CHIPSA for the toxins, assuming that the costs there are lower and instruction is better, something which would need to be investigated.
I have felt unhappy over some of the aspects of my care there. On the other hand, mainstream hospitals also have their problems. And the staff at CHIPSA seems to be very interested in helping each patient get better, and has a refreshing proximity to patients... in the sense of lacking some of that professional detachment that is normal in our society. My main concern is the fact that one simply does not get good value for one's money there. I have recently heard of a clinic in Germany that makes Coley's available, which is reportedly run in a very professional manner. The stay there costs about $200 per day (and one does not need to worry about the water). This seems to me a fair charge. For the money they charge at CHIPSA, one could stay in a wonderful spa with all sorts of amenities, in wonderful surroundings, with healthful beautiful delicious food made by imaginative chefs. And given the facts that nothing they do apart from the Coley's has proven value in lymphoma (tho the diet, urea and Ukrain etc. may be worth investigating), such money would be better spent on something sheerly delightful as well as health-promoting.
Well, these are my thoughts, right now. I am dealing with a sense of regret... not for having done the toxins, that I am glad of... but over what I spent the remaining $5,400 on.
As for the toxins themselves, my thought is this: I do not believe that a person needs to be in intensive care for the drip. A patient's vital signs can easily be checked manually every half hour, and the resultant increase in comfort would make a big difference in the overall experience. The doctors at CHIPSA strongly argue for doing the toxins only once a week because they have noticed considerable disturbances in the blood chemistry panels, CBCs and immune profiles, and because Dr Issels had noticed the same in his German clinic. They feel that the patient benefits more if the body is allowed to properly recover between treatments. I came there thinking that more frequent applications would be best for me but left pretty much in agreement with them -- the treatment takes much out of the patient and recovery time is important. This must of course be balanced with the time crunch each patient deals with as they come for only a brief stay. (And only a proper comparison trial would identify the best spacing for the treatment.)
Is it even necessary to do the toxins via the drips? Dr Coley treated most of his patients via intramuscular or intratumor injections. I am not sure. If I had access to the toxins from medical channels in the States, I would at present prefer to go to an outpatient clinic for the drip as I don't relish the thought of doing it myself. But once I get into it, my perspective may change.
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Written by Vera Bradova © 1999