Ivonne: Changing the Course of Lymphoma

Ivonne Vielman describes how she reversed stage III lymphoma (cancer) through a 21-day water fast at TrueNorth Health Center. 

In 2012, at age 40, I had a hysterectomy and bladder suspension surgery, and ever since then my pelvic area had been sensitive and tender, so I would periodically massage it. Two years later, as I was doing this, I felt something hard in my right abdominal area. I wasn’t sure if it was scar tissue or something else, so I made a doctor’s appointment right away.

On June 24, 2014 my doctor examined me and then asked about my family’s medical history. When I told her that my dad had died from cancer, she immediately called the imaging department to request an emergency CT scan. She wanted to be sure of what she had felt and wanted to rule out any unnecessary concerns. I had a gut feeling that the results were not going to be good. The day after my scan, I received a call from my doctor asking me to come in to review the results. My intuition was right. She told me that the scan had revealed tumors on both sides of my abdominal area, and that she needed to refer me to an oncologist.

That word, “oncologist,” brought up many sad and uncomfortable memories for me. Ever since my dad died, I feared that one day I might receive the same diagnosis. I wondered if I had brought it on myself, if I somatized my dad’s illness because I always feared cancer. To me, “cancer” meant no cure and death. I was in shock, and I didn’t know what to say. I felt a warm energy rushing through my body. My husband was with me, and I turned to him and said, “We are going to take care of this. I’ll be fine.” I let go of my emotions and I could not help but cry. I knew I had to fight and that I needed to be strong.

The oncologist my doctor referred me to was very kind and open to my request of wanting to avoid conventional treatment. He told me that my cancer was a non-Hodgkin, slow growth, follicular lymphoma, and requested more tests and biopsies (one of the scans of my chest also revealed other small tumors under my right armpit). The doctor then explained that having found tumors on both the upper and lower parts of my body, and on both sides of my body, elevated the cancer to Stage III.

His recommendation was not to treat the tumors with chemotherapy or radiation at all because they were too numerous and too small. He said the chemo would cause more damage than good and that my disease was not curable. His only course of action was to monitor me every three months. I was actually pleased to hear his recommendation of not getting chemotherapy or radiation because I already knew who I was going to call and where I was going to go for treatment.

From Guatemala to the U.S.

I grew up with a dad who ate meat and a mom who did not, but I was mostly vegetarian. Growing up vegetarian in Guatemala was very easy, as the culture is open and mostly inclined to homeopathic, naturopathic healing, and healthful eating. Guatemalan dishes are mostly vegetable stews along with fresh fruit and grain dishes. We ate almost no packaged foods, and families shopped daily at the markets for the food they were going to eat that day (most families ate home-cooked meals).

Families do eat meat in Guatemala but not as often and as much as in the U.S. When I moved to the U.S. in my twenties, I gained weight because I started eating a lot of fast food and junk food. The lifestyle here is busier and families are always on the go, so people are drawn to quick meal preparations and pre-packaged foods. After I had kids, I was conscious about their food, and we mostly ate home-cooked meals, but we were consuming packaged foods and a lot of salt, oil, and sugar.

In 2004 I was nine-months pregnant and living in California at the same time my dad passed away in Guatemala. I was unable to travel to be with him during his last days on earth, which was very hard for me. I was daddy’s girl and I always had great admiration for my dad’s determination, positive outlook, enthusiasm, and generosity. He was a fighter and little could defeat him. He was determined to win his battle against cancer, but unfortunately he did not. He was treated with chemotherapy, and I watched how it eroded his health and inner strength.

I didn’t know about TrueNorth Health Center or much about natural healing therapies in 2004, but I had a friend who suggested that my dad drink a juice made of kale, beets, and green apple. My dad would drink this juice two to three times a day. He knew that nutrition was important, but he remained a carnivore. After my dad’s passing I felt guilty and devastated that I had not done enough to help him find alternative healing methods. Distance also didn’t help us; I had just started a family, and there were many situations that prevented me from helping him as I would have liked. I told myself that if I was ever diagnosed with cancer that I would not get chemotherapy or radiation, or anything that would harm my body.

Becoming Mindful of Health

In 2011, I started researching how to live more healthfully and avoid cancer, and I was lucky enough to have discovered Dr. Alan Goldhamer and Dr. Michael Klaper of TrueNorth Health Center in Santa Rosa, California. I had watched their videos on YouTube, and from these I knew that I had to make serious changes in my family’s diet and lifestyle if I wanted to avoid cancer. I went on to watch more videos, including: Forks over Knives; Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead; Food, Inc.; and The Truth about Dairy, just to name a few. I also read The China Study, and watched Dr. Joel Fuhrman’s and Dr. Doug Lisle’s videotaped lectures.

The more I learned, the more I understood how disconnected we all are from the truth and reality of human nutrition; how we have been taught that certain foods are good for us and how wrong this information really is. I felt ignorant but glad that all of these doctors and researchers had worked so hard to share the truth. Soon after learning these truths I consulted with my family, and we made the unanimous decision to become vegan in 2011.

The first thing I did after I left my oncologist’s office in 2014 was to contact Dr. Klaper. He asked me to schedule an appointment right away to discuss my test results and treatment. I had consulted with him in 2011 for my seasonal allergies and again in 2012 prior to my hysterectomy and bladder suspension surgery, and I always felt comfortable talking to him. I trusted his approach and recommendations. He really listened to me as if I was the only patient that mattered. He is extremely caring and passionate about his work, and offers his wealth of knowledge toward helping others get well. Dr. Klaper is, in my opinion, brilliant.

Diving into Water-Fasting

After reviewing my test results, Dr. Klaper said, “Ivonne, you are a good candidate for fasting.” So, on November 3, 2014 I checked into TrueNorth and was scheduled to do a water-only fast for 14 days. During my fast I met a veteran faster who shared with me her story of healing. After hearing about her progress, I decided to ask about fasting for a longer period. I was on my tenth day of fasting, and during morning rounds I asked Dr. Klaper if it would be okay for me to extend my fast. All of my lab results as well as my mind, body, and spirit were aligned, and he gave me the thumbs-up! I ended up extending my fast to 21 days.

The first three days of water fasting, as the doctors will tell you, can be the most challenging. But after the third day it becomes easier. I was fortunate not to have experienced any severe symptoms (nausea, dizziness, fatigue). I was energetic and focused on my healing, and I listened to my body and rested when I needed to. The doctors visited me twice a day to check my vitals and to answer any questions or concerns I had. Once a week I had a blood test, and one thing that I found extremely helpful was that in each room’s library of videos there was a video by Dr. Klaper explaining how to read blood test results. I felt safe and found comfort in knowing that the doctors and interns were always available to answer my questions.

I kept busy by reading and watching videos. I attended all of the lectures and activities, as these helped me stay focused and busy, yet relaxed. The lectures helped me learn what was happening to my body internally, and the yoga and meditation helped me emotionally and spiritually. The cooking classes were essential to my success at home. I learned how to prepare many different types of wholesome and delicious SOS-free (salt-, oil-, sugar-free) meals.

Each patient at TrueNorth is given guidance on re-feeding. My fast was broken systematically as solid food was slowly introduced. My first meal was vegetable broth (it was quite tasty and satisfying), and a day or two later I had my first vegetable juice, which took me about two to three hours to drink. I thought I would be extremely hungry, but the flavors of the juice were intense. I could now taste each individual vegetable because my taste buds had been cleaned out and reset. I consumed only vegetable juice for the next six days before I began to gradually add in raw vegetables. I was well monitored from the day I arrived to the day I left.

I was on a roll, and I felt happier than I had ever been in my life. I knew that great things were happening inside my body, and that I was doing the right thing for me and my family. All I could think of was my kids and how they needed me to stick around longer than the expiration date traditional medicine had given me: 20 more years. I would be 62 by then, and I certainly did not want to die the day after I retired. My family was my inspiration, my strength, and my motivation. Every day during the fast I would wake up thankful for another day, feeling happy that I was giving my body the needed time to heal. My fast at TrueNorth was one of the most life-changing and awe-inspiring experiences in my life.

Getting Results

My water fast led to incredible reductions in the size of my tumors: On June 23, 2014 the right inguinal node measured 4.5 x 2.0 cm, and now 2.6 x 0.3 cm. My left inguinal lymph node measured 2.1 x 1.5 cm, and now 1.1 x 0.2 cm. My right axillary node measured 2.8 x 1.9 cm, and now 1.5 x 1.0 cm. These results are truly amazing. My oncologist is pleased with the results and has asked me to keep doing what I am doing. He is very supportive of my fast and diet. Initially, he had indicated that he would observe me every three months, and now he says every six months is fine since I am making such good progress.

My family and friends are impressed with my results and many of them have made significant changes in their diets as well. I’ve consulted with Dr. Klaper and Dr. Goldhamer since my fast, and am planning on doing a second fast later this year. Through my fasting and dietary changes my tumors have shrunk, and will continue to shrink and eventually disappear.

When we allow the body to rest, heal, and regenerate, the results are impressive. I was fortunate to have met remarkable people, who like me, were there to get better, and all of whom were determined to have successful outcomes. I sincerely believe that it’s all about our will and positive attitude, and our determination to get well and stay healthy. My water fast changed my life, and I plan to continue to eat a wholesome, plant-based, SOS-free diet for the rest of my life. This is my medicine, this is my treatment.