Larry Burkett’s Cancer Experience: The Undemocratic and Monopolistic American Medical System for Cancer Treatment

Larry Burkett was the founder and president of an nonprofit ministry called the Christian Financial Concepts. In early 1995 he was diagnosed with kidney cancer that had spread to his shoulder blade. He shared his cancer experience in his book, Hope When It Hurts.

Hope when it huerts Larry Burkett

The following are quotations from his book.

  • In the space of three weeks – Monday, March 13 to Monday, April 3, 1995 — doctors not only discovered two malignant tumours in my body, but I underwent radically invasive surgeries to remove them.

Round one – removing my right kidney

  • March 20, 1995 – my right kidney removed. The procedure itself lasted for nearly four hours, and it was completed without a hitch. The results came in a “good-bad news” format. The bad news — the tumour was definitely renal cell carcinoma … the good news was the lack of any other detectable cancer in the tissues surrounding the kidney.
  • I left the hospital within four days.
  • Little did I know at that time that the surgery, called a radical nephrectomy, would cause me great grief over the next year. It seems that one of the primary nerves from the area of incision got trapped inside the scar tissue and it became inflamed. As a consequence, it has hurt ever since.

Round two – removing my left shoulder blade

  • Two weeks to the day after my kidney surgery I went back to the operating room, this time for removal of my left shoulder blade (scapula).
  • Prior to my second surgery, the doctors explained that I would have very limited use of my left arm after my scapula was removed. A total scapulectomy is a very rare procedure. The scapulectomy itself went smoothly, even though it lasted nearly five hours. The aftermath was much more painful than the first surgery.
  • The doctors could find no evidence of cancer in the surrounding tissues. Their report was, “We got it all.”
  • In fact, the doctors were quite mystified about how the primary kidney tumour metastacised to my left shoulder but failed to spread other tumours elsewhere. Normally when a soft tissue tumour has metastacised, cancer has spread into other organs of the body.
  • Five days after my left shoulder blade was removed, I was released from the hospital.
  • Everything became an effort. It was an effort to sit up. It was an effort to move. Every day presented a new battle with pain. Sleep was elusive. I was so fatigued that I’d doze off, only to be awakened by the intense pain.
  • I found myself getting depressed as I viewed the future. The combination of still facing a future with cancer, as well as a significant disability, began to weigh me down.

The road to recovery

  • About a week or so after my second surgery, I returned to Emory University Hospital for a check-up and to get the staples removed from my shoulder.

Dr. Graham, who specialises in cancer of the urinary tract … shared a very sobering statistic with me.

  • Only some 20 percent of renal cell carcinoma patients who had a metastasis like I did survive more than two years, and only a small fraction survive more than five years.
  • Once my kidney and tumour had been removed … there were very few treatments available for renal cell carcinoma, and most of those didn’t work very well. Traditional chemotherapy would be of no virtual value to me … radiation wouldn’t be of much value. In fact, when renal cell carcinoma is exposed to radiation, although the tumours do shrink back, they very rarely ever disappear.
  • So, essentially, I was looking at a cancer for which there is no treatment, outside of surgery, and virtually no cures anybody knows of.
  • The next logical question I asked Dr. Graham was, “What do we do next?”
  • “Wait,” he said. “There’s nothing else to do. If something else shows up in your body, then we will aggressively try to treat that. In the meantime, you just have to wait.”
  • I felt this was like asking a skydiver who had just jumped out of an airplane without a parachute to wait and see if he could land on something soft when he hit the ground. Possible, but the chances aren’t very good.
  • Weak as I was physically, I left the doctor’s office that day with a renewed determination to find some type of proactive treatment — something that I could do to strengthen my body’s war against the reappearance of cancer cells.

Search for an alternative treatment

  • Bill White …. said, “Larry, I would like to share something with you. A good friend of mine has been diagnosed with cancer … his doctor gave him only a few months to live. His son … started looking all over the world for any treatment that might help. After careful research, they settle on one in Prague in the Czech Republic.”
  • All too often, we have the tendency to think if we aren’t doing something here in America, then it can’t be done, and that’s simply not true. Doctors in other nations are doing excellent research also.
  • A friend said, “But Larry these alternative treatments are untested and unreliable. We don’t know what risks they present. There are no hard statistics on how effective these alternative treatments are.”
  • Larry asked, “Okay, how about this? One treatment I heard about is toxic to the human body. Doctors typically purchase it for $50 per dose and sell it for $2,000 per dose to the patient, and many patients who take this treatment do not survive more than five years. Would you allow doctors to continue treatment like that?”
  • I just described what many patients on chemotherapy are facing. The FDA is applying a more stringent standard to new treatments than they have to traditional chemotherapy.
  • Somehow, there has to be a better way to treat cancer than chemotherapy and radiation, without all the negative side effects. And until we can find it, it seems logical to me that we as Americans should be able to choose a treatment of choice, especially if it can be proved that the treatment is not inherently harmful to the human body.
  • In the United States we still employ the same basic treatments that we available twenty-five years ago, namely, chemotherapy and radiation. Based on the number of people I’ve known who didn’t survive these debilitating therapies, I have to ask myself, “Is this the best we can do? Are the current cancer treatments good enough …?
  • Obviously medical experts are looking for better treatments, but the complex rules established by the FDA leave only the largest companies with the resources to get new therapies approved. I suspect that all too often the incentive to develop cheaper, less toxic treatments conflicts with the return needed on previous drugs.
  • You must take the initiative to become informed and take responsibility for your treatment.

The three criteria for alternative therapies

  • To evaluate all of the options, I narrowed my search for an alternative treatment by establishing three criteria.
  1. Scientific Merit: The treatment I chose to use had to have some scientific merit. It couldn’t consist of chicken bones, chants, or magic potions. When examined, the information had to have some scientific proof, based on repeatable, verifiable data.
  2. No Harm: The treatment I chose should pose no further harm to my body. On other words, it had to be nontoxic.
  3. Referrals. I insisted on talking to people who had taken the treatment and survived. From the scientific viewpoint, that’s called anecdotal or testimonial data. There had to be survivors with whom I could talk. In other words, it had to have some measurable degree of success.

Alternative Treatment in Prague

  • The treatment offered in Prague, Czech Republic, caught my attention for (these) three reasons… and the more I learned, the more convinced I became to try it.
  • The treatment in Prague was very simple. I received twenty injections over a twenty-four day period. After that initial treatment, I have to take booster shots about once every six months. That’s all.
  • The entire trip, including treatment, airfare, lodging and meals for two costs about the same as one day in the hospital here in the US!
  • The cost was quite reasonable (about $2,000 at that time, plus travel and lodging).
  • I’m not in a position to make claims and promises for anyone else regarding this treatment. What I can tell you is that six other people who were diagnosed with renal cell carcinoma at about the same time I was have all died within the last year. I’m still alive.
  • I feel good and I’m not suffering from cancer at this point.

It’s time to reform the FDA

  • I personally think it’s ridiculous that this treatment and others like it are not available to patients here in the United States. The treatment is not legal because it can’t pass the stringent requirements passed by the FDA.
  • I might add that the many chemotherapy drugs, vastly more toxic and harmful to the human body than the majority of these alternative treatments, are legal and available.
  • Although the FDA asserts they’re trying to protect the interests and well-being of the public, the fact is that they continue to make it difficult and costly to use new, NONTOXIC cancer therapies, while continuing to approve the use of highly potent and toxic chemotherapy drugs.
  • One can only conclude that money, and not the well-being of patients … dictates what will and won’t be available on the market.
  • In my judgment, if a particular treatment can be proved to be nontoxic, and it has a reasonably verifiable track record of helping people, the FDA should get out of the way and let American citizens make their own decisions about what treatment to pursue. This is a free country, and we’re supposed to be free people.
  • Even if a particular treatment doesn’t cure cancer, I should still have the right to make my own choice. What upsets me is that there are existing treatments that CAN help people but the system won’t even allow doctors to mention them.
  • I am concerned that the current system exists to protect some large and politically influential financial interests, rather than to serve hurting people who are desperate for help.
  • I know there are literally thousands of cancer patients around the country who are dying because they either can’t tolerate the traditional medicines — chemotherapy or radiation — or because they don’t work for them. There is no excuse for such limitations on medical options for people living in a free country.
  • Is there a risk associated with alternative therapies? Of course. There’s a calculated risk regardless of the treatment you choose. But if you’re a terminal patient dying with cancer, you’ve got a 100 percent risk of dying if you do nothing.
  • So the way I see it is, if all normal options are exhausted, any risk you take can only improve your opportunity to live longer, with a better quality of life. If the price is reasonable and the patient agrees, I say, “Go for it.”

FDA- Protecting Patient’s or Protecting Cronies’ Interests?

  • Martin adds the following insight into why scientific studies have been so difficult to come by to validate alternative treatments. “To understand why a lot of therapies have not be tried to date is to understand the relationship between the academic centres and the corporate centres. For instance, if you tell a professor you would like to do a certain study, he likely would reply, “I don’t know where to get the money.” But if you suggest using a drug from a certain corporation (for the study), he knows where he can get the money.
  • According to Ralph Moss … the pharmaceutical companies have been in collusion with some of the big cancer treatment centres in the country and they are out to disprove all EFFECTIVE natural cancer therapies. Naturally, the big drug companies don’t want competition, and the easiest way to undermine any new effective treatments is to get some well-funded medical school to prove the treatments don’t work.
  • The pharmaceutical companies in America have a huge vested interest in pushing their drugs, which yield billions of dollars in annual profits. Ant it’s certainly not in their best financial interests to pursue inexpensive alternative therapy that might work.
  • I think the problem boils down to greed: the simple love of money.
  • He who has the gold, makes the rules — the result is that medical students are never taught methods of treating cancer, other than the “big three” treatments — chemotherapy, radiation and surgery.
  • It is a criminal offense for doctors to engage in medical treatments that lack FDA approval, which is the case for a great many alternative cancer therapy treatments.
  • Remember, many of these doctors have spent more than a decade in their preparation to practise medicine .. a great many doctors find themselves in quite an ethical bind. Do they …keep the priority of seeking the health and well-being of their patients? Do they take the risk of being jailed here in the US or being fined by the FDA or losing their medical license? Many elect to remain quiet, sticking to what they were taught in medical school, where they learned to dismiss the field of alternative cancer treatments as “quackery.”
  • Most oncologist stick to surgery, chemotherapy and radiation as the only options available. Some literally don’t know any better. Others are motivated by their own financial gain and … use fear tactics to get their patients to do what they want. “Choose anything other than these three choices, you’ll die” they say. What they don’t say is that chemotherapy and radiation can kill just as readily as the actual cancer.
  • I asked Dr. Dan Clark, about the toxicity of chemotherapy and he reflected, “How can you cure cancer with poison? When you read about (chemotherapy drugs), every one of them causes cancer … They cause a destruction of the intestinal tract lining, cause damage to the liver cells, interfere with the endocrine gland function, cause sterility and weaken the immune response … So how can that work? It’s illogical.”

The Big Bully and the FDA Raid

  • Let me say here that I was taking an alternative therapy available in Tennessee. This therapy consisted of an electromagnetic device invented by an acclaimed physicist. The device had been proven harmless … the physicist had used it on himself and it did no apparent damage to him. The magnetic field that he was using was only a fraction as powerful as that used in an MRI machine.
  • Unfortunately, either through ignorance or otherwise, he began accepting terminally ill cancer patients as test subjects before FDA investigative device permits were sought (he later told me the potential costs were prohibitive).
  • As words got out, this physicist found himself with cancer patients knocking on his door — many of whom had been given up by the medical system— asking if he could help them. Not having the heart to turn them away, he began to treat patients.
  • I personally had been treated on this machine several times and though I didn’t have any visible tumours, I did have some indication that the machine was helping me.
  • The FDA, along with state and local authorities, raided the facility where this machine was located, leaving behind them a federal court summons. The charges were operating harmful devices without permit, extorting money from patients, and using unapproved medical devices for the treatment of cancer.
  • The friend who … was operating this facility never charged anybody a dime.
  • My question is, isn’t this still a free country? And shouldn’t consenting adults … be allowed to choose the therapies they want, provided those therapies can be shown to be no more harmful than the traditional therapies now being used by the medical society….?

They Did it Again

  • Let me share with you another story that was told to me by an attorney.
  • In 1993, a physician in Atlanta and a cardiologist from Emory University invented a machine that he was going to use to treat cancer.
  • A terminally ill AIDS patient was provided to this doctor and went through the same procedure: recycling the blood through an external heating machine, then cooling it back down and putting it onto the patient’s body. The effect was that the patient showed no HIV indications subsequent to the treatment.
  • With that success … a second patient was provided and the same procedure was repeated with the same results.
  • The anesthesiologist who assisted (in the procedure) was so impressed by what he saw that he … called one of the local newspapers and one of the local TV stations in Atlanta and explained what the doctor had done — a revolution in AIDS treatment and a potential cancer treatment as well.
  • In a few weeks, this doctor’s office was raided by a combination of the FDA and local law enforcement agencies.
  • The machines were confiscated … all records were confiscated and this doctor’s licence was suspended.
  • Pressure was brought to bear, to force this doctor to recant any involvement that he’d had with the machine… he was pressured to sign a statement that the device was fraudulent and would not work on other patients. The threat behind that was the loss of his medical licence for the rest of his life.
  • The physician who had referred the two patients was pressured under the same threat: If he did not sign a document stating that these two patients DID NOT have AIDS …his medical license would also be denied and he could no longer practise medicine within the United States.
  • The doctor who invented the machine was fired from his hospital with the research university.
  • I have no personal, firsthand knowledge of these events, but I know (the attorney who told me this story) very well. He’s an honest, ethical man and he represented the doctor who invented this machine and assures me that the scenario that I just explained to you did happen.
  • These are just two of the many horror stories of what has occurred throughout the United States. In my opinion, it’s time we put a stop to it and reasserted our rights as American citizens to choose the treatment we want, as long as we’re knowledgeable, consenting adults.

Note: Unfortunately the Aliatos clinic in Prague, Czech Republic has since disappeared!

Read more:

Cancer — What to do next?

Looking at Cancer From a Christian Perspective by Larry Burkett