Cancer Vaccine Saved My Life
My Patient’s Amazing Journey
2019 John A. Catanzaro
Hemorrhaging to Death
They told me there was nothing they could do. I was hemorrhaging to death and dying with no hope from my oncologists.
I contacted Dr. John Catanzaro and his immunotherapy treatment saved my life. Please read my story below that was written up in The Port Townsend Leader:
Port Townsend Leader 10/26/2011, Page A01
Breast cancer: Vaccine an option PT woman credits treatment with improving her life
By Allison Arthur of the Townsend Leader
Kirsten Gittins still holds the left side of her body tightly, as if to protect the breast she lost to cancer. What she hasn’t lost is her life. The 43-year-old Port Townsend woman stood in the parking lot of Discovery Physical Therapy Services in Hadlock recently, primed to do physical therapy to gain movement in her shoulder after guarding her breast so tightly for so long. Although she is being treated with conventional chemotherapy (which is not working).
Personalized Cancer Peptide Vaccine
Gittins credits much of her surprising improvement to a treatment that uses her own blood cells to create a vaccine that stimulates her immune system.
As National Breast Cancer Awareness Month comes to a close in October, Gittins says she’s an example of how more women are asking questions about treatment options, researching what’s available and exploring options such as the vaccine. “I’m empowering myself in my healthcare, looking beyond the negative prognosis and model,” said Gittins. “I’m a living example of how integrative medicine is helping, and I’m being proactive in my care.” Gittins was compelled to share her experience after reading a story in the Leader about Nicholas “Hunter” Davis, a 26-year-old man who was diagnosed with brain cancer, and his wife, who is stuck in North Wales and can’t get a visa to be near him. Davis’ story angered Gittins not just because of laws that separate the couple. “My contention lies with the health-caregivers influencing the course of treatment for the gentleman.” Davis has qualified for health care in Oregon — but only for four months. His life expectancy remains at about 18 months. He is undergoing conventional cancer therapy. It was his only choice. And that’s what grieves Gittins. She wishes more therapies such as the vaccine were available to people.
Diagnosis: Aggressive Breast Cancer
Gittins was diagnosed with stage IV metaplastic carcinoma in January 2011. She admits she knew she had a growing tumor on her left breast months before that but didn’t have it looked at for awhile. Eventually, nine nodules were found in her lungs. That was how deeply the cancer had dug itself into her body. After visiting three different cancer institutions in Seattle, Gittins said she had accepted the likelihood that she would live one year if she didn’t do chemotherapy and radiation, and only a few more months if she did get treatment. She had surgery to remove the breast and the cancer, but the cancer remained in her chest wall after surgery and grew to the point where she ended up in Jefferson Healthcare Hospital in an emergency state, essentially bleeding to death. Dr. Chris Giedt, a hospitalist at Jefferson Healthcare in Port Townsend who treated Gittins in the emergency room, said he had never seen a tumor like hers. Gittins gave permission for Dr.Giedt to talk to the Leader. “When she presented to our hospital at that time, her disease was severe, advanced, and immediately life threatening,” Giedt said. “If she has improved to the extent that she describes, it would be worthwhile to have a multidisciplinary discussion regarding which treatments may have been the key to her response,” he wrote in an email.
Her Oncology Experience Not Good
Gittins did not give permission to the Leader to talk to her oncologist. She has not been happy with some of the people who treated her in Seattle hospitals and she’s still unhappy with the physician in Seattle who knew about the naturopath she found by accident — and didn’t refer her to him. See VACCINE Page 8 ▼
“I’m empowering myself in my health care, looking beyond the negative prognosis and model.”
Kirsten Gittins recalls what it was like to be at Jefferson Healthcare Hospital earlier this year, bleeding to death, with friends offering prayers and a nurse asking if she wanted a chaplain to visit her. These days, she debates whether to drive or bike to physical therapy in Port Hadlock from her home in Kala Point.
Cancer: Vaccine gets the credit ▼ Continued from page 1
“I refused to accept what all the institutions in the Seattle area had to offer as the only hope. Had I listened to the advice given, I would be dead,” Gittins responded when the Leader asked to connect with heroncologist. “I’m in that place where I own my choices, which need no justification from an oncologist,” she said. While Dr. Giedt wishes that Gittins would allow for a larger conversation about all the factors that could have led to her improved condition, Gittins said she suspects her oncologist would probably, predictably, attribute it to chemotherapy since she started chemo and the naturopathic designed vaccine infusions virtually simultaneously.“Saying chemo is what caused my success is false. Chemo depletes my immune system, compromises my life quality and creates a toxic environment on the cellular level,” she said. And the reality is, Gittins said, before either treatment, hospital officials were coaching her
Husband Bill on what to do if she stopped breathing. She was told that bleeding to death was a peaceful way to go. Giedt acknowledged that he also thought Gittins would need hospice care when he first saw her.
Dr. Catanzaro Cancer Peptides
Instead of giving up or doing only what her oncologist wanted her to do; Gittins started researching options and asking questions.After visiting her oncologist in Seattle, she said she happened to see her chiropractor in Kingston one day. The chiropractor suggested she talk to a naturopath and the naturopath said she couldn’t help her but referred Gittins to Dr. John Catanzaro, a naturopath physician and medical director of Health and Wellness Institute of Integrated Medicine and Cancer Treatment in Mountlake Terrace. While she was undergoing treatment recently in Catanzaro’s office, Gittins asked Catanzaro to talk to the Leader and answer questions about the treatment. “It’s using her own cancer fighting cells,” Catanzaro said of the vaccine that a nonprofit he directs, HWIFC Cancer Research, makes at a separate facility. “We amplify those (cancer-fighting) signals and give them back to her.” At the clinic, between 10 and 12 tubes of blood are taken from the patient. White blood cells that fight cancer are isolated and mixed with a nutritional therapy and processed at a lab into an intravenous drip, he said.“I treat all kinds of cancers — bladder, prostrate, blood,” he said. “We see increased longevity and better quality of life as well as ability to tolerate a blended treatment of chemotherapy and surgery.” Catanzaro says he practices integrated medicine and tries to take a team approach in blending a person’s treatment “to reach a good outcome.” In fact, it was Catanzaro who encouraged Gittins to start oral chemo, which he told her was “another tool in your toolbox,” she said. Gittins was so worried about the effect of chemo on her body that she had filled the prescription, but hadn’t started taking it. “I work with an oncologist because it’s recommended by Dr. Catanzaro, and what he provides is not an alternative in my mind, but complementary to the allopathic approach.” Catanzaro said that while his nonprofit is moving to obtain Federal Drug Administration (FDA) approval for the vaccine, that will take millions of dollars and possibly years to achieve. While getting the treatment approved for general public use may be years away, one-on- one private pay treatment is a patient’s option. And Gittins took it.
28 Days to Receive The Vaccine
Wait game it takes about 28 days from the time the blood is taken from the patient to create the vaccine. Gittins said she wasn’t sure if she would live that long. “I gave blood, urine and tumor for peptides amd cell culture in March and waited for my cells to grow. They were very slow the first time. The reached 80 percent viability. It just seemed like I wouldn’t live long enough to get them to grow. They were the hardest weeks of my life,” Gittins said. After she was given the first round of vaccine, she was told it would take two or three weeks to see results. “Again, I thought I’d gotten it too late. Home health was still coming in every day,”she said. “I really believed I wasn’t going to live long enough, but I didn’t tell anyone that,” she said. “Then two weeks after I finished (taking the vaccine), the tumor on my chest wall started coming off in large pieces. I had chunks coming off me and in a three-week window, the entire tumor had come off. They couldn’t believe it. The home health nurse said she hadn’t seen anything like it.” “I went from a moment from death to a five-mile bike ride yesterday,”she said in early October — a matter of months after being told to prepare to bleed to death.
No Medical Coverage
The cost the vaccine Catanzaro creates is not covered by insurance and he admits it is pricey. It costs anywhere from $15,000 to $20,000 for a round of treatment and rounds are done every three to four cycles a year. “It is costly, but it’s not as costly as chemotherapy,”Catanzaro said. Chemotherapy can cost upwards of $100,000, he said. Gittins, whose husband is in the U.S. Coast Guard, said her family has gone into debt, tapped a life insurance policy and while they have a home, “we’re prepared not to have one.” Although she has had some help, she said her family has paid for the vaccine on their own. Gittins also received financial help from Edensaw Woods owner Jim “Kiwi” Ferris, whose company and employees help cancer survivors.
A better life ultimately, for Gittins, improved health is what matters. “I was discharged from home health months ago. I do all my own wound care. I no longer have blood transfusions, no need for surgery, which was not an option anyway I was told and I’m able to go for five-mile bicycle rides. I couldn’t do anything on my own before. I couldn’t bathe or wash my hair and I lived in a compression wrap.” “I’m taking oral chemo and am getting the vaccine. I have no hair loss, no nausea, don’t need anti-nausea meds. No weight loss, sad to say.” Gittins also says she has no less than probably 1,000 people praying for her and she attributes faith also for helping her. What bothers her, she says, is that the oncologist in Seattle she was seeing told her that if there was a“go-to” person in the United States for her cancer, “he would put me on the plane himself.” That same doctor, she said, knew about Dr. Catanzaro but didn’t mention the vaccine as an option. And that’s why she’s dispensing Catanzaro’s business cards. She even hands them out while she’s at that oncology office in Seattle, telling anybody interested in listening to her about the vaccine she says is making her better. When she visits her doctor, Kirsten Gittins has a drawing made of the wound site where she lost her breast. The sticky notes show the size of the wound shrinking.
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Copyright © 2011 The Leader 10/26/2011