As Stanislaw Burzynski heads to court again to answer charges made by a variety of patients to the Texas Medical Board, he is doubtlessly preparing by getting the testimony of current and former patients. In anticipation of this pony’s one trick, we are going to start telling the stories of patients who have testified on Burzynski’s behalf over the course of his long, dubious career and see where they are now.
Our first patient is an MD and stage-IV breast cancer patient who testified in court for Burzynski in 2012, named Elka B. She was receiving chemotherapy from Burzynski:
Elke’s obituary, which ran in early November of this year (and is lovely–you should certainly read it, as she was a staggeringly kind and generous person), encapsulates the desperation that Burzynski’s patients and their families feel:
By the time Elke’s cancer was discovered, it had spread throughout her body. Doctors gave her a 5 percent chance of living five years, [her husband] said. She lived for 12.
At one point, [her husband] took Elke to a clinic in Texas, where out-of-pocket costs ran in the tens of thousands. “I don’t care if I have to live in a barn with you,” he told her. “I just want you to live.”
We should note that we do not know how long Elke was at the Burzynski Clinic, only that she was under treatment not even two years ago.
Elke will not be testifying for Burzynski in the upcoming trial.
Denise’s story is especially sad, as she was uninsured and was left to the generosity of the free market even before she went to Burzynski. She was 49 and single–her partner, Clifford, left shortly after the diagnosis in Feb 2009. It’s a little baffling to me, a layperson, as to how the first two physicians misdiagnosed her with mastitis for 9 months given that her mother had survived breast cancer. She shares the whole story of this period in this podcast. Nonetheless, when she was diagnosed, she began the normal course of chemotherapy treatment.
Chemo was really, really harsh on Denise, however, and she made an appointment at the Burzynski Clinic on the recommendation of her father, who had read about him in Burzynski’s chum Julian Whitaker’s book. I hold Whitaker partly responsible for what happened here. I’m sure he feels nothing but remorse.
Denise was in a bad spot. She worked as a temp, and she was desperate. It comes through in every line she writes:
I don’t want to die. I Want To Live. Except I don’t have the insurance, and I don’t have the money. It’s going to be a tough fight, I know. Tougher than anything I have ever done. […]
I am more scared than I have ever been…
But I Do Not Want To Die.
This is the state that people are in when they flee to Burzynski. And he turns that to his advantage. In mid April, she is at Burzynski’s office for a consult, according to the billing records she shares with potential donors, including a few scans (look at those whopping charges!):
- North Cypress Medical Center, Outpatient Infusion Center dated 07/03/09 @ $320.00
- Burzynski Clinic (monthly charge – PB Rx and Case Management) dated 06/26/09 @ $4,620.00
- Burzynski Clinic (monthly charge – PB Rx and Case Management) dated 06/18/09 @ $4,184.88
- Burzynski Clinic (8 tabs of Xeloda Rx) dated 06/15/09 @$327.47
- Burzynski Clinic (Zometa Rx, one month, required first month purchase from Clinic) dated 05/18/09 @ $1,278.00(comparative pricing)
- Burzynski Clinic (Zometa infusion procedure, month one,required first month purchase from Clinic) dated 05/18/09 @$240.88
- Burzynski Clinic (Xeloda Rx, one month, required first month purchase from Clinic) dated 05/15/09 @ $2,620.00(comparative pricing)
- Burzynski Clinic (Zolinza Rx, one month, required first month purchase from Clinic) dated 05/14/09 @ $3,229.00(comparative pricing)
- Burzynski Clinic (Tarceva Rx, one month, required first month purchase from Clinic) dated 05/13/09 @ $5,689.00(comparative pricing)
- Northwest Cancer Center Services dated 04/23/2009
- Houston Medical Imaging, PET/CT Scan #2 dated 04/16/2009@ $1,400.00
- Burzynski Clinic (Treatment Initiation) dated 04/16/09 @$2,055.00
- Burzynski Clinic, Consultation dated 04/15/2009 @ $735.00
- Northwest Cancer Center Services dated 04/13/2009 @$45.00
- Northwest Cancer Center Services dated 04/09/2009 @$281.00
- Emergency Room Visit – Houston NW Radiology Associates, Chest X-Ray dated 03/28/2009 @ $36.00
- Emergency Room Visit – Dr. Phillip Sutton, Duplex scan of extremity veins, dated 03/28/2009 @ $77.40
- Emergency Room Visit – Physician’s Portion of Emergency Care (Houston Northwest Emergency) dated 03/28/2009 @$635.00
- Northwest Cancer Center Services dated 03/26/2009 @$311.00
- North Cypress Pathology Associates, Glucose by Device dated 03/10/2009 @ $
- PET/CT Scan #1 @ North Cypress Medical Center, March 10 2009; Bill @ $1,270.00
- Dr. Kim Keller, Port-a-Cath Installation Surgery, dated 03/09/2009 @ $370.00
- West Houston Radiology Associates, readings/interpretations, dated 03/05/2009, 03/09/2009 and 03/10/2009 @ combined $
- Northwest Cancer Center Services dated 03/04/2009 @$89.76
- Northwest Cancer Center Services dated 03/03/2009 @$125.00
- Medications (antibiotics and anti-inflammatories) – Pharmacy History, July 2008 and March 2009: Walgreens; page 1, page 2@ combined $
- Medications (antibiotics and anti-inflammatories) – Pharmacy History, Feb, March, July, November 2008 and March 2009: WalMart; page 1, page 2 @ combined $
- Medications (antibiotics and anti-inflammatories) – Pharmacy History, Feb 2008 – April 2009: Kroger; page 1, page 2, page 3@ combined $
- History of Services paid to Dr. Kim Keller – Dr who diagnosed and treated as “staph infection” from July 2008 – Feb 2009 @ combined $800.00
- Receipt for exam by Dr. Bradley Waggoneer – Dated March 23 2009, this was an “emergency visit” as my regular Dr, Dr. Ronald Taylor, was on vacation and Dr. Waggoneer was covering for Dr. Taylor. Here is the exam history from Dr. Waggoneer, page 1, page 2, page 3, with the diagnosis of suspected mastitis @ $50.00
It looks like she’s being set up for what the Clinic calls “personalized targeted gene-therapy,” but which oncologists call a “chemo cocktail“:
Tumor Markers – Baseline
I had some blood work done which will chart my tumor markers, specifically something called CEA… My last oncologist never did this test, so I have idea what my baseline was, but Burzynski Clinic uses them, as does MD Anderson, so I have to hope they mean something.
From what I’ve found online, it appears that some Drs find Tumor Markers a good resource, while others don’t place much weight on such tests as a diagnosing tool.
Notice the false equivalence. Heartbreaking.
Her April PET scan is actually really quite bad:
Let’s present the “good” news…
While the size/condition of the breast tumor has not diminished enough to be considered significant, the activity within the 6 lymph nodes Has decreased considerably. So, the “evil of chemotherapy” seems to have done Some good Despite the “totally wrong” vitamin regime I was on.
Now, on to the Bad News…
We appear to have Metastasis
So… the backache I’ve had the past 6 months is Not attributed to my weight or being out of shape, it’s most likely attributed to cancer in my bones.
Her blood work is bad too:
My liver enzymes are up very high. Too high. So high in fact, that it’s indicative of metastasis to the liver. Those results won’t be in til early next week (April 20-24), but it’s pretty much a given.
And… for the cherry on top of my party
Since we have activity in the bones and (probably) liver, we need to do a scan to check the brain cuz breast cancer typically metastasis to the bones, liver and brain.
And she follows this with, god, the most direct statement about having cancer I have seen: