One more spark of hope in battle against cancer
GARDNERVILLE, Nev. – Two months ago, Mike Biaggini got the news that his eight-year battle against colon cancer was just about over.
“I was told by my doctors that the treatment regimen would shorten my life, that it would not do my family or me any good,” Biaggini said in a recent interview from his Gardnerville Ranchos home.
The prognosis followed a gastro-intestinal bleed that sent the 55-year-old Biaggini to the hospital, one of dozens of stays since he was diagnosed with cancer in 2001.
“We, as a family, decided to seek out quality of life instead of quantity,” Biaggini said. “We decided to let nature take its course.”
The veteran Douglas County sheriff’s captain made plans to retire after 28 years with the department.
He and his wife Mary scheduled trips with their 8-year-old son Michael, including their annual vacation to Disneyland.
“I wanted Michael to have some memories to fall back on,” he said.
After the Biagginis made their decision, he returned to work and broke the news to staff and close friends who’d been following his treatment.
Then, along came retired Douglas County sheriff’s sergeant Larry Coy who now lives in Reno.
“Larry was in the same boat I was,” Biaggini said. “He came down to see me and the first thing he said was, ‘Don’t retire.'”
Coy laid out an alternative cancer treatment program he’d undergone in the Bahamas at the ITL Cancer Clinic that seemed to produce miraculous results.
Coy was diagnosed with colorectal cancer in 2006. Despite surgery, radiation and chemotherapy, the cancer spread to his lungs and abdomen.
He was familiar with the clinic through a close friend who successfully underwent treatment, living for another 19 years.
“They don’t claim to cure cancer,” Coy said. “They treat your immune system and your immune system defeats your cancer.”
Friends saw Coy in Gardnerville in late August when he attended the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office retirees picnic.
“I was so weak, I couldn’t stand up for more than a half hour,” he said.
He started the treatment in the Bahamas a month later.
“I went the first time Sept. 27,” Coy said. “At that time, tumors in my lungs had progressed to the point of restrictive breathing. I was beginning to cough.”
After eight weeks of treatment, Coy said he feels great.
“I’ve been out shoveling snow. I’m thinking about going back to work,” the 66-year-old Coy said.
“I went down to see Mike and I told him, ‘This is something you’ve got to do,'” Coy said.
Biaggini said he was skeptical.
Even more than trying to raise $25,000 for treatment, Biaggini said he didn’t know if he wanted to take precious time away from his family.
“I was really torn,” he said. “I had what I believed to be a good mind set – the battle was over, I’d have six months or so to get things prepared. Then, to have this pop up. Do I really want to do this? Take money and time away from the family? I’d hate to spend weeks away from the family if it’s not going to work,” he said.
Biaggini said he talked it over with Mary and they decided he would go to the Bahamas with Coy after Christmas.
“We ultimately made the decision to give it a shot. I’ll find out at the end of two weeks of treatment if it’s going to work. At least I’ll know I gave it that good old college try. I’ve never been a quitter,” he said.
The Biagginis friends and colleagues at the sheriff’s office have stood behind their captain through the ups and downs of his treatment.
Money has been raised through donations, bingo games and a sheriff’s office calendar.
For this chapter, Biaggini’s friends have set up a Web site for donations, at http://www.mikebiaggini.com.
“Mike is part of our family personally and professionally,” said Sgt. Mark Munoz. “We’re doing what we can to help him through this unfortunate time.”
The treatment is not covered by insurance, so it’s up to the patient to pay for it all.
Donations can be made through Douglas County Community Foundation.
Biaggini pointed out that $25,000 is the cost of two chemotherapy treatments.
As he understands it, Biaggini said the treatment re-educates the immune system to recognize cancer as bad cells.
The patient’s blood cells are separated through a centrifuge allowing doctors to select healthy cells to create a serum which the patient injects.
“I’m going to have to get over my needle phobia,” Biaggini said.
At the end of two weeks, if the treatment isn’t working, “we go our separate ways,” he said.
If the results are positive, he’ll stay six to eight weeks.
Both Coy and Biaggini say they’ve gotten what’s described as “the look” when they discuss going to the Bahamas for treatment, or immuno-augmentative therapy.
“You can tell what they’re thinking,” Coy said. “They think I’m going down there and sucking on apricot seeds. My response is to tell them it’s American research and development and because of politics, power and money, it’s forced to move off-shore.”
Biaggini said he would not risk time away from his family if he hadn’t done research that satisfied him there might be a chance.
“You don’t have a bunch of quacks at the other end,” he said. “They’ve been in existence since 1977, it’s not a fly-by-night outfit.”
Biaggini said clinic doctors assured him the treatment would not give him the side effects he suffered with more traditional therapy.
He’s lost 25 pounds in the last four months, but said he feels better since he gave up radiation and chemotherapy.
“My strength is coming back and my stamina,” he said. “For the most part I feel much better. Before, I had no drive. Unless the house was on fire, I wouldn’t get out of this chair.”
Planning the treatment has restored hope, Biaggini said. He and Coy are leaving Jan. 3.
“I’ve seen what it’s done for Larry,” he said. “He knows what he’s talking about, and he excited.”
Coy said the doctors at the clinic do not promise a cure.
“Even with as good of a success rate they have, they do not give anybody false hopes,” Coy said. “They have a great staff and great people.”
Coy said he shared Biaggini’s original skepticism.
“You’re a little panicky until you look at your situation and realize you’re not very far from death. It’s one thing to talk to someone, and something else to be there. It takes a certain kind of person.”
Biaggini is philosophical about his decision.
“There must be a reason Larry Coy came along,” he said. “We put everything in God’s hands. Did He send Larry as a messenger? You never know.”
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