Discover Her Hope

My history with cancer began on November 22, 2013. Until this point, I had a very boring health record: nutritional eater, marathon runner, basketball player, etc. In fact, it was such a bland profile that when I arrived at my doctor’s office with some severe and sudden abdominal pain, she was certain that I just had gallstones.

And yet still I found myself lying awake in a hospital bed at 3:35 in the morning, staring at the word “lymphoma”, written in bright bold red on my chart.

I honestly didn’t even really know what lymphoma meant –

I just heard “cancer” and couldn’t stop wondering,“how could this possibly be referring to me?”

It was two days before Christmas when I got my official diagnosis: Follicular non- Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, stage three. My primary doctor is naturopathic, and didn’t have any idea what to do with cancer, so I was left to the mercy of any doctor who came into my hospital room.

Their exact words to me were, “this is not curable.”

So of course I was presented with the chemotherapy arsenal approach. They wanted to beat it back as hard as possible, and they wanted to start in January. I spent the holidays watching my children open presents, wondering if this was going to be the last time, the last Christmas.

I remember looking at my kids: a 4-month old, a 1-year old, a 3-year old, and a 5-year old, and looking back at my husband and thinking, “how is Steve going to raise these four babies?”

I had so much unrest with the first round of chemo around the corner – I’ve never reacted well to medicine of any kind, so all I could think about was how my body would react to something this intense. So I took to the Internet and started looking up anything I could do that didn’t involve chemotherapy. I found a lot of really great informational websites with several alternative ideas, and for the first time I started to see that there were other options out there.

All you think about when you hear cancer is chemo, because that’s all you know.

But within three weeks of diagnosis, my lifestyle was already beginning to change. I started juicing and drinking essiac tea, and ultimately I decided to cancel that chemo appointment so I could take some time to research a little more.

Not long after that, I took my first step into the world of integrative medicine, and traveled to a clinic down in Irvine for three weeks of Vitamin C therapy. It was a very educational and eye-opening experience, and truly set the foundation for my expectations of what cancer treatment could look like.

But that’s not to say I didn’t have my doubts. Upon returning home, my lymph nodes were still enlarged, causing me to feel nauseous all the time.

After three months of being dedicated to a natural treatment, I still had the same problems and wasn’t feeling any better in my day-to-day. I began to question myself, and at this point we had already taken out part of our home loan for the Irvine treatment. The costs just kept accruing with no improvement on the horizon, so out of money and out of faith, I agreed to accept one line of chemotherapy treatment every four weeks.

At the time, it felt like my only option: just let the insurance company pay $167k for me to go to a local clinic and my kids can stay home in their own beds.

I did this for five months: every four weeks, I’d sit in their chair and I’d take their treatment, and the whole time I’d talk to Jesus. I’d ask him, “Jesus, am I in the right place? Am I on the path that you intended for me?”

As we neared the end, I realized that even though this was my version of chemotherapy we had compromised on, the effects I felt being in that chair were not positive ones. So, one day, I turned to my husband and said,

“Honey, I have a hard question to ask you. I know that this seems right to everyone else, but it doesn’t feel right for me. Will you support me if I chose not to do this anymore?”

And he said he’d support me all the way, no matter what path God called me to.

Before he even answered, I felt instant relief. I was finally free from the mental battle. When you hear the word cancer, you don’t feel like you can really choose anything anymore.

The fear that cancer induces, it has a freezing effect; it takes away your freedom in that way, it takes away your ability to really think through your options.

But I had gotten through the hard part now. Even though I was still experiencing the same painful problems a year and a half after being diagnosed, I felt relieved, and free.

I continued doing my natural treatments at home, but I knew that something needed to change pretty soon. Then one day, as I was sifting through e-mails, I saw an article about fruit sugars that caught my eye. One of the things that I had learned early on in my personal cancer research was not to eat fruit at all, so when I saw this article, my curiosity piqued.

I thought, “Wait a second, is fruit okay? I miss fruit!”

As I’m reading this article and realizing just how much I missed fruit, I click on the link to read more about the author, and came to the Hope4Cancer website. I start exploring and reading all about the different therapies they offer there, and immediately in my heart I am just wishing I could go. As I wondered out loud how I could ever raise that much money, my oldest son, who was 7 at the time, happened to walk in the room.

“Money? I can sell lemonade, Momma!” He piped up.

“Do you know how many cups of lemonade you’d have to sell for me to go to this place? Thousands of cups of lemonade, Luke. How are you going to do that?” I asked.

And he said, “One cup at a time, Momma. One cup at a time.”

So the next thing I know Luke is designing fliers and passing them out all over the neighborhood in the summer heat, pinning them up in all the stores. My 7-year-old boy is doing all the work of a full marketing team!

The day of the sale, I’m sick in bed. I don’t even realize what’s happening until I look out the window. I guess someone called the fire station, so the fire trucks are in our driveway and letting the kids climb all over them. Soon after the news station arrives, and there’s my boy Luke with all the lights around him getting interviewed.

He made $4000 that day, and then the news link went all around the world. People I didn’t even know were sending money to my GoFundMe account! I ended up with $37,000. So all thanks to my little boy and his lemonade stand, I went to Mexico for four weeks of treatment at the Hope4Cancer treatment center.

I remember being so peaceful on that plane ride. I was alone, and still experiencing nausea and pain, but I was going in the right direction. I was at peace with myself.

There are a lot of beautiful things that came from my time at Hope4Cancer and my ongoing relationship with the people I met there. After I came home, I actually had no idea if my physical results showed any improvement, but my mind, my heart, and my energy felt better.

After waiting the advised three months to get an MRI, I found out that out of the multiple lymph nodes that were initially swollen, only one had not completely returned to a normal size.

I stayed on the Hope4Cancer home program, and one MRI later, got the best news you can get with this type of cancer. My chart came back unremarkable!

For the second time in my life, I was staring at a chart and thinking, “Is this really about me?” I’ve gotten two all clears since that MRI, and the last time I was told I can officially enter into the world of western statistics.

On November 22, 2013, I sat in a hospital room and listened to a handful of doctors tell me that there was only a 3% chance my cancer would ever clear.

Well, today I’m telling you,

I am that 3%.

I am Lisa Engelman, and I am hope.

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