Foreign cancer treatments offering victims false hope?
A Wisconsin family well known in the sports arena after their son wins a gold medal in speedskating is now making a name for themselves in a new arena, one that deals with life and death.
The Fitzrandolph family knows what it's like to take on a challenge. Their son's gold medal pursuit meant a lot of sacrifices for many years. The family's new challenge? Standing behind their daughter's alternative path to healing her cancer. Casey Fitzrandolph won speedskating gold at the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics. His biggest supporters? His family. But these days the Fitzrandolphs are facing a bigger challenge.
"When I felt it, it wasn't small by any means," says Casey's sister Jessi.
She found the lump in her breast when she was 33-years-old. It was cancer. Doctors also found it in her bones.
"First I did a mastectomy on my left breast," Jessi remembers.
Then Jessi underwent chemo. However, there were complications and at stage 4, her diagnosis was not good.
"When they said you have a 50 percent chance of living 5 more years that's kind of like 'well, I don't agree with that,'" Jessi says.
Her parents, Ruthie and Jeff, didn't agree either.
"It's not good enough. There's got to be something else out there. We're going to find a way to keep this girl alive," they explain.
They turned to alternative medicine. The idea behind the approach is to heal the body so it can help fight off the disease and give patients quality of life.
"They're non toxic. They're not harmful to the body and they also reduce pain," says Jeff Fitzrandolph.
Jessi follows a number of different alternative protocols. She has a magnetic pulser that helps with the pain. An elecromedicine device emits a continuous air wave like a small radio tower. It reportedly turns cancer cells back into normal cells. However, the big push in alternative medicine is rebuilding the immune system.
"Everything before just destroyed the immune system," Jessi explains.
Jessi takes daily supplements and follows a strict diet.
"All the veggies and fruit is organic," she says.
She even drinks special water from a spring up near Rock Springs, Wisconsin.
The Fitzrandolph's have also left the country for care. They have traveled to Germany and now to a small, private hospital, International Bio Care, in Mexico. Both hospitals offer hypothermia treatments.
"When the body temperature is that high the chemo is supposed to go directly to the cancer cells," says Jessi.
And treating cancer with heat is slowly catching on in the U.S. including at Froedtert and the Medical College of Wisconsin.
"What we've found is the heat actually improves blood supply and helps us get better concentration of chemotherapy to the areas," says Dr. Kiran Turaga with Froedtert and the Medical College of Wisconsin.
As for clinics in other countries, Dr. Turaga warns patients some are just offering false hope.
"It's something we are very skeptical of because there is no data, there's no way they're able to support what they're doing."
For now, Jessi is staying on the alternative path with the belief it saves lives.
"I don't have a lot of new pain going on so that to me is a good sign," Jessi says.
Positive thinking is part of the cure but it has still been a frightening journey. Jessi is now 35 and she says if all else fails she will go back to conventional treatment. The Fitzrandolph family is writing a book about the alternative approach to healing cancer. It will most likely be out by Winter 2014.