Faith key as Crystal Lake woman fights brain cancer

CRYSTAL LAKE – Without her faith, Sandi Kavanagh might listen to doctors who say her time is short. With it, she listens to a different voice.

“I have every intention to beat this cancer,” said Kavanagh, 48, of Crystal Lake. “I don’t care what the odds are. I don’t care what people say. I know the power of my God.”

Kavanagh was diagnosed in January with glioblastoma multiforme, an aggressive form of brain cancer. When traditional radiation and chemotherapy treatments made no progress against the cancer, Kavanagh and her family started researching alternative ways to attack it.

Eventually, Kavanagh learned about a treatment using antineoplastons, which is available only through a trial at the Burzynski Clinic in Houston. Kavanagh decided to undergo treatment at the clinic and her physicians on Oct. 5 gave her two to three months to live.

Before starting, patients at the clinic undergo an MRI as a baseline for treatment. Somehow, in between traditional treatment and the antineoplastons therapy, Kavanagh’s tumor shrank 33 percent.

She calls it a miracle.

“Lots of people were relooking at it,” she said of her MRI. “They finally called us up and said we have no explanation for this.”

While the smaller tumor is a welcome surprise, Kavanagh’s cancer ultimately will have to respond to treatment through the Burzynski Clinic.

Antineoplaston therapy is controversial and hasn’t been approved by the FDA for the prevention or treatment of any disease. The treatment was developed by Dr. Stanislaw Burzynski in the 1970s.

Made up predominately of amino acids and peptides, antineoplastons are groups of chemical compounds that tend to run low in cancer patients, according to Burzynski’s research. In the absence of sufficient antineoplastons, the body can’t control the buildup of abnormal cells that leads to tumors, Burzynski says.

Most research of the treatment has been conducted by the Burzynski Clinic, and researchers outside the clinic have failed to report similar findings, according to the National Cancer Institute.

But Burzynski’s team has reported cases in which patients go into remission.

“I believe Dr. Burzynski is on to something that works,” Kavanagh said. “I believe that it’s time that people start to recognize this type of medicine.”

The diagnosis has brought out the best in the people surrounding Kavanagh, she said.

Friends and family have arranged a dinner and raffle benefit event for Kavanagh from 2 to 6 p.m. Sunday at the VFW Post 5040, 240 N. Troop St., Woodstock, to defray some of the costs of the treatment that insurance won’t cover.

Kavanagh now is home from the clinic in Houston. Her husband, John, will continue to administer antineoplastons.

She will have another MRI on Dec. 13, and another about a month after that. If neither shows progress against the cancer, she’ll be taken off the treatments.

She can accept that knowing it’s God’s will if that’s the case, she said.

“She’s been extremely strong,” John Kavanagh said. “Between her faith and her family, she’s gotten through it so far.”

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