Unusual chamber helps Rochester woman beat stage 4 cancer
Rochester, N.Y. - Back in the fall of 2015, doctors prescribed Sabrina Gauer to six weeks of radiation therapy after a large tumor was removed from her mouth.
"When they did the surgery, they removed half of the tongue. They reconstructed it with muscle from my arm and they removed 41 lymph nodes on the right side of my neck," said Gauer, who was diagnosed with stage four oral squamous cell carcinoma. "They were going to radiate both sides of my neck, and my throat and my neck. I would've had a feeding tube and I wouldn't be talking. I would not be able to speak the way I'm speaking right now."
Gauer said she wasn't ready for radiation, and didn't have a "peace about going into that." She began looking into alternative ways to treat her cancer, and after doing some research and having conversations with other cancer survivors she decided to try hyperbaric oxygen therapy.
"Instead of six weeks of radiation, I did six weeks of hyperbarics and this was all my own thing. I just decided to see what would happen," said Gauer.
The 28-year-old is now going on 20 months in remission. "I went in for my first scan February 2016 and I was cancer free."
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is often called taking "the dive," as it was first developed to treat decompression sickness experienced by deep sea divers.
The chamber looks like a pill, large enough for a person to lie down inside. Oxygen is then pumped into the chamber, and the air pressure is described to feel like going to the bottom of a pool, or being on a plane.
Craig Danehy is the owner of Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy of Western New York on Goodman Street, the only business of its kind in Western New York.
"The real art of it is how it gets into the plasma," said Danehy. "We're boosting the cells, we're boosting the red and white blood cells, but it actually gets into the plasma and saturates the body from that part of the body."
Studies show the increased air pressure allows the lungs to gather more oxygen.
However, this is not a cancer treatment endorsed by doctors or the FDA.
The FDA says hyperbaric oxygen therapy is not clinically proven to cure or be effective in treating cancer, autism or diabetes.
In a statement, the University of Rochester Medical Center warns:
"Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is effective for a variety of therapeutic needs-including treatment of diabetic wounds, compromised skin grafts or flaps, and effects of radiation treatment. We are glad to see Ms. Gauer doing well. However, we must emphasize that hyperbaric oxygen therapy is neither recommended nor FDA-approved for the treatment of cancer."
Gauer says she understand healthcare is a personal choice, and for her, she feels empowered by the choices she has made.
"I think we think of ourselves as indestructible until something happens," said Gauer. "It's always been a mindset of you're healthy until you're sick, instead of being above the wellness line and being an activist of your own health and wellness."
Gauer emphasizes she absolutely needed the surgery that removed the tumor. She also credits lifestyle changes made after her diagnosis to her health, which include her diet and nutrition, use of essential oils among other changes.
Gauer currently works at Just Juice 4 Life on University Avenue and says her job also reflects her holistic lifestyle.
As always, discuss medical treatment options with your doctor.