When a functional nutritionist was diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma, she unexpectedly found the optimal course of treatment in chemotherapy PLUS natural approaches to reduce side effects and optimize healing.
In late 2018, Kylene Terhune noticed a lump in her neck, but shrugged it off as most likely a swollen gland.
But concern from her family, and time spent “Googling” what it might be, led her to get it checked out.
Over the next month or so, Kylene was poked and prodded until, eventually, a biopsy gave her an unexpected answer.
At the age of 32, she was diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma, a cancer that begins in white blood cells called lymphocytes.
“I was very surprised,” she says. “You’re surprised by the fact that you’re living this life, going along and you don’t really expect it. But knowing what I now know and working in the career that I now work in [health] and looking back at a decade prior to when this would have actually been triggered in my body, I was not surprised in that aspect.”
Chemo for Hodgkin Lymphoma
Amid the initial jolt of her diagnosis, Kylene dove into research about Hodgkin’s diagnosis and treatment.
She learned that her cancer had probably been developing for anywhere from seven to 14 years. And in fact, scrolling through photos on her phone, she could clearly see the lump going back at least two years.
Fortunately, they caught it early, at stage 1. Still, she would need aggressive treatment.
Because of the location of the lump, surgery was just too risky.
While chemotherapy was the recommended course, Kylene initially wasn’t so sure about that route – knowing how tough it would be on her body.
She had spent the preceding few years healing her digestive issues and hormonal imbalances naturally by finding and fixing the underlying causes.
That even led to a career change: to transition from being an opera singer to a functional diagnostic nutritionist (FDN). Every day, she worked with clients on bettering their digestion.
Thus she set out determined to treat her lymphoma in a non-conventional way. But unexpectedly, a conversation with a functional medicine oncologist changed her mind.
“Interestingly enough, conventional medicine is over 90% effective for Hodgkin’s specifically,” she says. “Of all the cancers out there, this is a very, very rare cancer that they can treat really, really well. And so that went into my decision-making. But when I decided to choose to go with the conventional, I also knew that I wanted to support my body.”
She learned that the recommended form of chemotherapy can damage the heart and lungs, cause nausea and fatigue, and severely impact the gut.
“As a gut health coach, I wanted to make sure I was protecting this at all costs and giving my body as much opportunity to recover,” she says.
Complementing Chemo with Alternative Health
Kylene paired chemotherapy with nutrition and other natural approaches in hopes of reducing the side effects and expediting her healing.
For her integrative approach (combining conventional and natural approaches), she built a powerhouse care team: her local oncologist, Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA), a functional medicine oncologist, emotional coach and a detox specialist.
Before beginning her treatment, however, she took the time to harvest her eggs in case she wanted to try for pregnancy in the future.
Then Kylene began what would be three months of ABVD chemotherapy, the typical course for Hodgkin lymphoma.
But throughout her chemotherapy and beyond, she took numerous steps to bolster her immune system and buffer her body from the effects of the treatment:
Diet – Already gluten-free, she continued to diligently avoid gluten, and minimized dairy, sugar, processed food and alcohol. She loaded up on organic fruits and vegetables (the latter cooked for easier digestion), plus grass-fed meats and wild-caught fish.
Nutritional support – Kylene estimates that she took about 20 supplements – daily – during chemo. Those included L-glutamine, acetyl L-carnosine, probiotics, vitamins B6, D and E, CoQ10, beef liver, a Chinese herb blend called Marrow Plus, a multivitamin, alpha-lipoic acid, Biocidin and fish oil.
Additionally, she received high-dose vitamin C IVs to fortify her immune system, with help from naturopathic oncologist, Dr. Heather Paulson. She cautions, however, it’s important to get tested to determine if you have a rare deficiency called G6PD. For those with this genetic condition, vitamin C IVs can be life-threatening.
Emotional healing – An emotions coach applied emotional code therapy to identify trapped emotions and help Kylene release them. For that, she turned to naturopathic doctor, Louise Swartswalter. “You can’t ignore the emotional aspect of disease,” she says.
Prayer and positive mindset – While there were ups and downs, Kylene actively fostered a positive mindset with prayer, visualization and focusing on the future. What did she want life to look like at the end of treatment?
“If you’re focusing on how you’re feeling right now, it’s probably going to be pretty miserable,” she says. “When you live in a sense of hope and thinking of things that you want to accomplish in the future, there’s such a benefit to that.”
She also drew strength from the many friends, family and fellow Christians that brought her food and gifts, and prayed for her.
Gentle exercise – As she felt like it, Kylene walked and practiced Pilates.
Detox – About six months following chemotherapy, Kylene started detox that included gentle liver cleanses and then later, infrared sauna sweats. She stresses it’s important NOT to detox during chemo or too quickly after or you risk countering the actual treatment.
While chemotherapy did leave Kylene with the usual nausea, fatigue and changes in taste, she experienced considerably fewer side effects, she believes. No mouth sores, pain, menstrual changes or digestive issues such as diarrhea and constipation. Her gut stayed as regular as ever, in fact.
Officially in Remission from Hodgkin Lymphoma
At the end of her chemotherapy treatment, Kylene was scanned again. To her relief, her tumors were no longer cancerous. Officially, she’s in remission from Hodgkin lymphoma.
“Every time I get a scan, my tumors continue to get smaller,” she says.
But her work isn’t over, she knows. To continue healing and avoid relapse, she prioritizes sleep and maintains the diet she followed during active treatment, except for an occasional cocktail or gluten-free dessert. At times, she does a three-day modified fast with only green smoothies.
She tests her hormones regularly to ensure they’re still within normal levels and adjusts as needed.
Kylene also continues to detox with occasional gentle liver cleanses and infrared saunas.
She went on to document her experience in an inspiring, information-packed book, Healthy Through Hodgkin’s: How One Woman Combined Conventional Medicine with Natural Methods to Cure Her Cancer and Support Her Body. It’s designed to inspire, educate and support those newly diagnosed or in the midst of treatment. The back of her book lists tons of her favorite resources and she offers support through a free Facebook group, Healthy through Hodgkin’s.
No matter what course of treatment you follow, Kylene urges those diagnosed to take their time in making treatment decisions and remain positive about the outcome.
“You have to tell yourself that it’s going to work,” she says. “You’ve got to keep yourself in that positive place.”
Kylene’s Recommended Resources
- Her book: Healthy Through Hodgkin’s
- Beating Cancer with Nutrition by Patrick Quillan
- Ben Greenfield’s podcast
If you enjoyed this story, you might also like: How a Physician Complemented Chemotherapy and Sent His Lymphoma into Remission.
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