MESA, Ariz. -- Margaret Manning is a vibrant, caring mother of six and grandmother to more than a dozen. But on, of all days, her 53rd birthday, she got devastating news. X-rays revealed she had mantle cell lymphoma.
"I was in the fourth stage, the beginning of the fourth stage, it was throughout my body," Margaret said.
At best, she had only three years left to live.
"I was like in shock, I just couldn't believe it," she said.
"I remember talking to people about it and thinking about what could happen with my life if my mom was gone," said Margaret's son, Thomas.
Margaret's husband, Larry, was also in shock
"I was numb at the thought that she might not be with us much longer," he said.
That night, Margaret's family and friends rallied around her and threw her a last minute surprise birthday party. She's brought to tears remembering that night.
"They had cards, big cake, food, everything, but I knew I was going to live," she said. "I said, 'You guys, I know I'm going to live. I know I'm going to live I just don't know how.'"
While Margaret turned to her faith, her children began doing their own research. That research led them to Dr. Stanislaw Burzynski. He's a Polish immigrant who has spent three decades fighting the Food and Drug Administration over his non-conventional cancer treatment.
"Most cancers can be cured this way and there's no effects from radiation and other things so why not go this route?" Thomas said.
So, Larry and Margaret flew to Burzynsky's Houston clinic to begin treatment. They had to raise $20,000 for the visit. When they arrived, Larry said "it was like walking into Emerald City. We were on the yellow brick road."
"I just knew I was supposed to go there. I was going to follow, with exactness, everything he told me to do," Margaret said.
But what Margaret was told to do goes against conventional medicine. Instead of undergoing chemotherapy, Margaret said, "I was given his antineoplastons that attack just the cancer cells. The cancer just started going away, quickly. The medicine that I was put on is not FDA approved, but it is FDA approved for other cancers, but for my particular kind, it's off label."
Using off-label drugs is just one of many issues the Food and Drug Administration has with Burzynski. Larry wonders, "So why doesn't the FDA broaden the scope? They don't. That's a question that we all ask.
A question others in the medical community want answered as well.
"I think it's really important for the FDA and other academic institutions to look at what he's doing," Dr. Sam Benjamin said.
The FDA claims they are looking but don't like what they see.
Burzynski's treatment specifically attacks the genes responsible for the growth of cancer cells. As Margaret explains, "Every three months they would do another CT-Pet scan and then more of the cancer would be gone."
Larry couldn't believe what was happening.
"After thinking that we might lose Margaret, it was incredible to see," he said.
Today, Margaret says she's cancer free, but when she shares her story with others, "I try to tell people that did you know that there is a cure for cancer? They don't really understand and a lot of people really don't want to listen. They just want to stick with the conventional way."
"Physicians, sadly, are trained right from medical school with an arrogance that they have the only appropriate way of dealing or addressing with our ills or preventing disease," Benjamin said.
Which is way he believes the FDA is reluctant to work with Burzynski. He also points out, because the FDA isn't involved in Burzynski's research, "We don't really know if he's making progress or not. We have reports that people are getting better, that's called testimonials, I think we should give a lot of attention to testimonials, but I don't think we know for sure if he's making the progress that he claims."
The Mannings believe otherwise and wonder if something more isn't at play.
"If one person comes up with a cure for cancer, it ends all of their research and it ends all of the donations and the money that thousands of people are getting for their jobs to research cancer," Thomas said.
"They're making a lot of money out there trying to find a cure for cancer, but there already is one," Margaret said.
"The cancer industry is too big to fail," Larry theorized.
So in the meantime, Margaret will continue to share her story and enjoy her second chance at life.
"I'm really thankful, especially this time of year," she said.
We contacted several oncologists in Arizona, including Margaret's doctor. None felt comfortable talking about Burzynski's research.
In the meantime, Burzynski's clinical trials with antineoplastons have been cleared to Start Phase III. They are currently having the Phase II results written up and will be available in a peer-reviewed journal soon. For more information about Stanislaw Burzynski log onto www.burzynskiclinic.com..
For more information about Margaret's story, log onto www.settingthemfree.org.