Elizabeth's Healing Journey in Mexico

November 12th, 2022
Over the Gulf of Mexico, 33,000 feet high

I am on my flight to Cancun – so excited to meet the folks at Immunocine! Very grateful for this opportunity. I feel like I won the lottery and I know my angels are watching over me now (if I’ve ever doubted).

How will my mindset change when I no longer have cancer?

For four years the bulk of my focus has been on getting through this crazy diagnosis, on how to live longer to defy the odds. Now what? Who will I be if not the resourceful lady fighting stage four ovarian cancer in my own way?

And back in time we go, two months earlier ......

September 10th, 2022
Valle dell’Erica, Santa Teresa di Gallura, Sardinia

A Heal Navigator email titled “Cancer Treatment in Cancun!” had shouted at me as I checked my in-box during siesta time in Sardinia. My French aunts had gifted me a trip to this Italian island paradise for my 60th birthday and I was near the end of my seven week vacation. Two more weeks and I would be back in Virginia doing chemotherapy again to continue stalling my cancer, fingers crossed.

It seemed too good to be true and my first thought was to ignore it. I aimed for the “Delete” button when “dendritic cell immunotherapy” caught my eye. I backed up and read the email. Dendritic cell immunotherapy had interested me a lot the first year after my diagnosis but I hadn’t qualified for the one offered at the alternative cancer clinic I had gone to.

Dendritic cell immunotherapy, eh? A very promising therapy. I changed directions and hit the “Apply Here” button.

Fast forward two and a half months ......

November 29th, 2022
Playa del Niño, Puero Juarez, Cancún

And now here I am, seventeen days in, on the beach writing THIS.

My heart is full of gratitude for the caring, professional, amazingly competent staff of the Immunocine Cancer Center. They have carried me every step of the way with long conversations and answers to my questions, by phone, text and email in the United States at first, then later in person too in Cancun.

They assigned me to Nicole, a warm, kind patient coordinator who really listened to what I wanted to say about my journey so far. Unlike with many medical situations, I felt seen.

Nicole carefully gathered my medical records and communicated the medical staff’s requests for more testing. She also facilitated a conversation for me with the director of Immunocine, Matt Halpert, who has a PhD in Immunology and who helped develop this therapy in the US.

This in turn led to an introduction between him and my incredibly smart UVA Charlottesville gynecologist and surgeon, Dr. Leigh Cantrell who had said to me “Go do this, Babette. You know we have no cure for you – the best I can offer you is more time.”

Becoming an Immunocine Patient

Nicole let me know late on a Wednesday evening just after Halloween that I had qualified as a patient, and my housemates jumped for joy with me. I had been nervous to take the call, and tears sprung briefly.

Nicole then put me into Lucía’s calm, competent hands in the Cancún office for coordinating all my logistics related to travel, transportation, and appointments, and for accompanying me on my first appointments in the hospital.

Over my first week I met Dr. Najera, Antonio Zamudio, Dr. Ortiz, Susana Hernandez, Jay Hartenbach, Dr. Ferbeyre, Oncologist, and Dr. Viramontes. The whole team has been fully engaged in my care.

From blood draws and Covid/flu testing to daily injections four days in a row at my Airbnb to raise my white blood cell count, to door-to-door transportation for all my appointments including to the Galenia Hospital for my biopsy to gather the cancer cells needed to make my immunotherapy potion, the facilities have been immaculate and the care impeccable.

 

I was carefully monitored for five hours the following day during apheresis to harvest my white blood cell surplus with attendance by not one but two Immunocine MDs and their steel-trap-minded biologist who runs the lab and puts the immunotherapy treatments together.

I also had two appointments with their top oncologist who gave me an alternative viewpoint of some of my scans, and consistently answered my questions in a concise, to-the-point manner, sometimes even with humor! The subtle differences in how oncology is practiced in Mexico by Immunocine’s top-notch medical and research superstars has been enlightening and interesting.

Immunocine clinic nursing staff

Can we say impressed?

As a holistic health practitioner myself, having helped many cancer patients, this has all been fascinating for me.

It took a week to grow the immunotherapy cells and join them in a powerful reaction where the dendritic cells, the generals of the immune system, take charge of teaching the more immature and/or different types of white blood cells how to recognize cancer cells and attack them.

Cancer hides itself from the immune system and that is what Immunicine’s work is all about – harnessing the body’s own immune system and its know-how rather than introducing medical therapies with toxic side effects. Immunocine’s simple genius is to teach patient dendritic cells to see and attack their specific cancer cells, so they can in turn direct the entire patient immune system in this attack. Cancer can no longer hide. And once taught, the immune system doesn’t forget. No cancer cell is spared its demise, and repeat therapy is not typically needed.

food cancun immunocine clinic
babbet healing journy cancun
babbet Immunocine journey

My week off saw me bobbing around in the waves at gorgeous Playa Delfines, relaxing in the calmer but equally beautiful waters of Isla Mujeres, and eating fresh fish, papaya, and Mexican style vegan food out with new vegan friends. My first morning in Cancún I had gone for a walk and met Angela, an engaging, enlightened young Canadian with a sunny personality and MS – she was staying just down the street from me, and we had a lot to talk about given our respective health journeys.

This past Saturday I had the first of three injections of my very own magic potion and an immune boosting injection to help my dendritic cells go into the tumors to do their jobs. I am just beginning to feel a bit achy and tired like I have the flu, which is good because it shows the immunotherapy is working.

And I don’t mind – I get to sit on the beach in the cool breeze under a thatched roof parasol or lay on my comfortable Airbnb bed and make plans for the coming years and decades … the universe and God willing.

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