I’m eating lunch at 12:20 p.m. today in front of my desktop computer and surfing around Facebook when I chance upon this announcement on a friend’s page: “BARUCH DAYAN HA EMES: Our Beloved Friend NEIL DUBLINSKY (“Neil Dee” on Facebook) passed away earlier this morning. There will a memorial service this Sunday @ 1:00 pm at Beth Jacob 9030 W. Olympic Blvd., Beverly Hills, CA 90211 . Neil’s leviah will take place in New York.”
Neal Dublinsky? It can’t be the Neal Dublinsky I know. I just saw him a few months ago at the Happy Minyan. He seemed full of life.
Is it the Neal I know?
I message a couple of friends and hear back: “Yes you definitely knew him. He passed away from complications due to lung cancer Friday morning (he never smoked in his life). Please come to the service if you can.”
Whoa. Jesus H. Christ. How did my friend die and I didn’t even know he was sick? How disconnected am I? I know I’ve pulled back over the past two years, but how did this happen? How far have I fallen? What happened to my humanity?
A blog doth not a life make.
I put on my black undertaker suit and step foot inside Beth Jacob for the first time since October of 2001 when Rabbi Steven Weil kicked me out.
Neil knew all about my conflicts with rabbis and he always bucked me up when I was feeling down. Knowing more of the masorah than 99% of the Jews I knew, he encouraged me to keep writing my heart out.
Today I clasp a copy of The Sabbath World by Judith Shulevitz. Neal was familiar with my nervous habit of carrying a book with me everywhere (nervous in case I waste time better spent studying). He got a kick out of it.
I don’t expect to read much this afternoon. I just need a firm rest in case I take notes. I can’t write on top of a prayer book or Bible.
I see his coffin up front and there’s his picture and only then does it fully hit me that Neal is dead.
Over the next 80 minutes of a memorial service, I find out about the contours of his life.
He never talked much about himself to me. I knew he was a litigator. That he often returned to New York to see family and friends and to go on dates. A lot of my Orthodox male friends fly to New York for dates because there are many more fertile unmarried Orthodox women in New York than in Los Angeles.
I mainly saw Neal at Jewish singles events and we’d mainly talk about my favorite topic — me. He was a loyal reader of my blog and would constantly tell me which of my posts were his favorites. Once, when I ran into him at Starbucks on Pico-Robertson, he gave me $20 to take Danielle Berrin out for a drink.
I didn’t know that Neil used to be a body builder. I didn’t know that he was valedictorian at Yeshiva University. I didn’t know that he knew Rabbi Moshe Feinstein. I didn’t know that he excelled at yeshiva and was a brilliant lawyer.
Rabbi Yisroel Kellemer runs the memorial service. The other speakers include Neal’s cousin David Schwartz (the attorney), Neil’s brother Harry (a C.P.A. in New York), David Sacks (of Happy Minyan fame), and Neal’s Chabad rabbi cousin from Camarillo.
Afterward, I’m walking down Olympic Blvd behind the hearse with people who worked with Neal and we’re talking about ’80s metal bands that Neal loved such as the Scorpions and this old lady hobbles up and asks for a ride home. After no one else responds to her, I offer a ride. She accepts.
So I rush off to my rusted dented vehicle and drive back to Beth Jacob — and my friends in their fancy suits are standing around this posh shul — to pick her up and she takes one look at my mode of transport and says, “Oy gevalt! This won’t work. I better wait for my husband.”
P.P.S. I just Googled “Neil Dublinsky” and found this:
I first learned of Dr. Burzynski in 1992, while I served as editor and writer for my friend Burton Goldberg as we created the landmark health encyclopedia, Alternative Medicine: The Definitive Guide. Soon after I began working with Burton, he introduced me to Neil Dublinsky, whom Burton had hired as a consultant to help us prepare the Guide’s cancer chapter. Neil was (and remains) a very knowledgeable and enthusiastic person and I was repeatedly impressed by what he knew about cancer and all that is necessary to recover from it. One day, over lunch, I asked him how he’d learned so much. He told me that he’d had to because cancer had almost killed him.
I was shocked to learn this because of how healthy and energetic Neil looked (as he still does today). He shared his story with me, then told me that Dr. Burzynski had saved his life. I felt that story of Neil’s recovery was so important that I included a detailed account of it in both editions of the Guide. Briefly, here’s what happened.
In November 1987, Neil, fresh out of law school, was beginning his career as a lawyer when he was diagnosed with an advanced case (stage IV) of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. His doctor discovered a that he had a large, bulky tumor that had spread throughout his entire abdominal area, causing serious fluid buildup in his lungs. “I was shocked when I got the diagnosis,” Neil told me, and was in extreme physical pain. My doctor told me I had to undergo chemotherapy if I wanted to live. I didn’t know any better, so I did it.”
Neil endured four months of chemotherapy treatments consisting of an aggressive combination of six different drugs. This was followed by a three-week course of radiation treatments. Afterward, follow-up testing revealed that no progress had been made. Neil still had cancer, and now he was also suffering from a wide range of serious side-effects caused by his treatment, including total hair loss, severe gastrointestinal problems, near physical incapacitation because of how exhausted the treatments had made him.
By now other doctors had been called in to aid in Neil’s treatment. They ordered Neil to have a bone marrow transplant of his own bone marrow, which Neil and his parents consented to. “This was the worst time of my life, but once it was over, it looked like I would be all right.”
But he wasn’t! Only four months after his bone marrow transplant, his doctors discovered a new tumor had formed in his pelvic area that was compressing his right kidney. He was told that there was little more that could be done for him. As far as his doctors were concerned, Neil’s cancer was terminal and he did not have long to live. All they had left to offer him was another round of even harsher chemotherapy drugs in the hope that they would buy him a little more time.
Rather than accept their prognosis and any further chemotherapy, Neil took matters into his own hands. Long before the advent of the Internet, he put his lawyerly skills to bear and began researching everything he could find on alternative cancer treatments. He read every book on the subject he could get his hands on, and began contacting cancer support groups with information about alternative treatments. And that was how Neil learned about Dr. Burzynski’s antineoplaston therapy.
”I spoke with ten of Dr. Burzynski’s former patients,” Neil told me. “They had all responded well to his therapy and had suffered from similar kinds of cancer as my own. They spoke of Dr. Burzynski in glowing terms and encouraged me to see him. I decided to follow their advice, but ultimately my decision to go was a leap of faith, because my doctors’ attitudes about alternative therapies were dismissive. I figured if I was going to die, I was going to die fighting.”
One year after his initial diagnosis, in December 1988, Neil entered Dr. Burzynski’s clinic to begin receiving antineoplaston therapy. “The first thing I noticed, “Neil says,” was that the treatment was not painful.” Within weeks, his biochemical profile improved, along with his liver and kidney function. His energy level also improved and—most importantly—his tumor steadily began to shrink.
Neil continued his treatment for ten months, as an outpatient. This was followed by a period in which he received four injections of antineoplastons a day, together with oral capsules. Six months later, Neil was in complete remission. As a precaution, he continued to take the oral capsules for 18 more months. Today, 20 years after he first met Dr. Burzynski, Neal remains in good health.
I was so impressed by Neil’s account that, after I completed work on the first edition of the Guide in 1994, I drove to Houston, Texas in order to meet with Dr. Burzynski myself. As I entered his clinic, I was struck by how warm and inviting it was, unlike most conventional hospitals and cancer clinic. I also noticed the demeanor of his staff. Everyone I saw exuded an aura of good cheer and confidence, which, I soon realized when Dr. Burzynski came to greet me, reflected his own demeanor.
Perhaps the best illustration of what needs to be done when a person is diagnosed with cancer comes from the experience of Neal Dublinsky. In November 1987, Neal, then 24 years old and recently embarked on a career as a corporate attorney in Los Angeles, was diagnosed with the most advanced stage of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, Stage IV. The bulky tumor had spread to his entire abdomen and there was fluid build-up in his lungs. “I was shocked when I got the diagnosis, and was in extreme physical pain,” Neal recalls. “My doctor told me that I had to undergo chemotherapy if I wanted to live. I didn’t know better, so I did it.”
Neal received chemotherapy for 4 months. The treatments reduced the tumor but the reduction was short-lived. The treatments also caused traumatizing side effects, including total hair loss, a feeling of being poisoned, and high level of gastrointestinal distress. “During this time, I was taking an aggressive combination of six different drugs, and every 3 weeks I received more chemotherapy,” Neal says. “Afterwards, I was completely incapacitated, and each time I returned for another treatment, it got worse.”
After the 4th month, Neal underwent radiation therapy for 3 more weeks. “The radiation only took a minute,” Neal notes. “But within an hour I would be violently ill and retching from my core, and I could no longer eat solid foods.” After the daily radiation treatments ended, Neal then underwent a bone marrow transplant using his own bone marrow.
“That was the worst time of my life,” Neal continues, “but once it was over, it looked like I would be all right.” Only 4 months later, a new tumor emerged in his pelvic area that was beginning to compress his right kidney. At this point, all Neal’s doctors could offer was the prospect of another series of even harsher chemotherapy to buy him a little more time, but with no hope of a cure.
Neal had lost faith in what conventional medicine could do for him by this point. “The physician who performed my bone marrow transplant knew everything about transplants, but almost nothing about other treatment options,” he says. “It was that way with each of my doctors. Even though they meant well and were experts in their fields, none of them were able to put it all together and see the big picture.”
Instead of giving up, Neal contacted alternative cancer associations, including the International Association of Cancer Victors and the Cancer Control Society. He also bought books and read voraciously, educating himself about every alternative therapy he could find. In addition, he phoned over twenty cancer survivors to learn about their experiences with the therapies he was discovering.
Neal was particularly intrigued by the antineoplaston therapy developed by conventionally trained physician Stanislaw Burzynski, MD, PhD, of Houston, Texas. “I spoke with ten of Dr. Burzynski’s former patients,” he relates. “They had all responded well to his therapy and had suffered from similar kinds of cancer as my own. They spoke of Dr. Burzynski in glowing terms and encouraged me to see him. I decided to follow their advice, but ultimately my decision to go was a leap of faith, because my doctors’ attitudes about alternative therapies were dismissive. I figured if I were going to die, I was going to die fighting.”
In December 1988, Neal began treatment. The first thing he noticed was that it was not painful. Dr. Burzynski put him on an IV drip of antineoplastons that ran 10 hours a day. For 10 months, Neal remained on the drip as an outpatient. “Within weeks of beginning the treatment, my biochemical profile improved,” he reports. His liver and kidney function progressed, and he started to feel better. His tumor was gradually regressing, showing slow and steady improvement.
After the 10 months, Neal received four injections of antineoplastons a day, together with oral capsules. Six months later, he achieved complete remission. He stayed with the treatment for another 18 months, taking the capsules for maintenance, then he was taken off the medicine altogether. During this time, he also adopted a dairyless, vegetarian diet, augmented with nutritional and herbal supplements. He underwent a series of localized hyperthermia treatments and colonic irrigations, as well, and had his mercury amalgam fillings removed from his teeth. “I began to incorporate elements of many health programs, because I wanted to survive,” he says.
He has. Today, Neal continues on in good health. When asked about his experience with conventional medicine, he becomes angry. “I feel I was ripped off,” he says. “I should have been told about antineoplastons in the first place. The chemotherapy may have temporarily shrunk my tumor, but it did not resolve my underlying problem. It was only after I met Dr. Burzynski that I started to make progress. I’m eternally grateful to him, because as far as I’m concerned, he saved my life.”
Neal’s suggestion to others diagnosed with cancer is simple. “Learn about all the alternative therapies,” he says. “You should know more than you will ever use. Read, explore, and research everything, keeping an open mind. Visit the clinics. Consult with the doctors. Interview patients, especially those whose histories, type of cancer, stage, and background are most like your own, because different therapies have better track records for different types of cancer. Most importantly, don’t become passive. Your treatment is a choice. Don’t let others make it for you. Take charge and face it head on.”