How One Woman Treated Hodgkin’s Lymphoma With Diet and Holistic Healing
Elissa Goodman, 61, has a passion for helping people discover the power of plant-based nutrition and holistic healing, just as she did in her 30s when she was diagnosed with cancer. Born with a low white blood count, she was always "the sick kid" in school who was too weak to do sports. In her 30s as an advertising executive, she was having a massage, when her therapist felt an enlarged lymph node and suggested she get it checked out. At 32, Goodman was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma. She started treatment with radiation but felt weak from the treatments, and quit halfway through. Instead, she turned to diet, stress management, meditation, and anything else she could find to help her get healthy. Eleven years later, she was cancer-free, raising two daughters when her husband died of cancer. He was 45 years old.
These life events might have made someone else collapse in despair, but Goodman believed she could persevere. Her secret to overcoming these challenges was staying positive, never giving up on herself, and switching to a fully plant-based diet. It led her to switch careers and become a nutritionist, holistic healer, and entrepreneur. She launched a popular cleanse meal delivery called S.O.U.P, which she sells at Erewhon Market in LA." I feel better now than I did in my twenties, thirties, forties," she says.
Goodman uses a plant-based diet, regular juice cleansing, yoga, and other mental health practices to help her manage stress. She prioritizes sleep and daily journaling. It has worked for her. Anyone battling cancer should work with their doctors on the right course of treatment for them, but for Goodman, a weak immune system since childhood made enduring radiation untenable. She researched alternative healing and found that through a holistic approach, she could stay healthy. She now shares her journey with others and provides helpful ways to reduce stress and promote healing.
Being the "Sick Kid," Took a Toll on Her Mental Health
"I was always the 'sick kid,' in school, which undermined her confidence. Classmates and teachers called her "fragile," and "weak" so when she tried to prove she was capable of playing sports, it was draining. "I always felt like I was going to have to learn to live with illness and having low energy," Goodman recalls. The doctors she visited at the time didn't know how to treat a compromised immune system.
She had a hard time making friends and felt alone, lacking family support: "I had two parents who were just dynamos, very successful, running circles around me, so it was physically and emotionally challenging. I always felt like I was in a hole and I was trying to dig myself out to get some air and sunshine, I knew life had to be better than this." Goodman's mother removed all sugar from the house as her way to help, but Goodman said it made her crave processed foods and she would overeat brownies and cookies at the neighbors' house.
When Goodman moved from her childhood home in Arizona to New York City, she worked at an ad agency and "climbed the corporate ladder" during her 20s. But she wasn't taking care of herself. "My diet was bad because at the agency we needed to entertain and keep the costs of food low." She wanted to eat healthier but it was hard while "running the rat race."
When Goodman met her husband they agreed to move to the west coast to get some sunshine. Goodman worked at Vogue Magazine, feeling ready to take on this new chapter in her life. But, six months into the job, her life was shattered. She was on the massage table and the masseuse felt a lump near her collar bone and said she should get that checked. "I was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma. That was my major wake-up call,"
Goodman Was Diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma at 32 Years Old
Just 32 at the time, she told the magazine she needed time off for health reasons and went to the doctors, who recommend she have chemo, radiation, and freeze her eggs. "They asked if I had a donor," she said. "I was so scared," The last thing she wanted to do was get treatments with a compromised immune system. "I was really worried that chemo would destroy my immune system, and I wouldn’t come back from it. These kinds of things have come so far now, but it really scared me in those days."
Instead of going along with the traditional treatments, Goodman sat with a holistic radiologist who started the session by asking her three questions: Are you happy? Do you like what you do? Are you passionate about your life? Goodman burst into tears. "I never had someone ask me those questions," she said. "The answer was 'No' to all three questions. I was always playing catch-up. My self-esteem was low, and I was running a race to nowhere.". The doctor replied, "Cancer is a mental game and one of the most important steps would be getting your mental health in check too."
Goodman Went Vegan, Tried Different Natural Remedies, and Began to Heal
Goodman sought therapy and read every self-help book she could get her hands on. She cleaned up her diet and went completely vegan. She tried juicing, acupuncture, all of the known natural remedies that would boost her spirits and health. "I’m one of those people who, when they dive in, they dive in big," she said.
Doctors recommended she go ahead with radiation, so Goodman followed through but dropped out after half of the treatments, which meant she had to find different doctors who believed in a holistic approach. "This was scary in its own way but good in the long run."
In her research, Goodman learned about the health benefits of juicing, which made her try all kinds of juice cleanses. "The juicing was really helpful, and it gave me lots of energy. I was clearly the right road," she said. She also learned how to let go of stress, bolster her low self-esteem, and how to stop stress eating. She cut all of her sugar cravings and learned that she had been striving for emotional peacefulness and self-understanding.
After one year, her cancer began to retreat. Goodman checked in with her doctors periodically over the next ten tears and they could not find any sign of lymphatic cancer. "I always had the feeling that I was going to get past it. I knew that this was my wake-up call. This gave me time to work on myself, to take a break from work, to just stop and see what was working and what wasn’t," she said.
Goodman says she healed herself by taking care of her mental health. She worked with an unconventional doctor who helped her get to the root of her complications, recommended diet protocols, foods, and supplements. She also worked with therapists and healers to help her mental health. "I love all the different modalities of healing, and these are the processes that have given me the self-love that I’ve been looking for all my life."
Goodman recommended reading Radical Remission: Surviving Cancer Against All Odds by Kelly A. Turner, for anyone who wants to explore the mind, body connection. The book outlines "nine factors that can lead to a spontaneous remission from cancer—even after conventional medicine has failed."
Goodman's Three Personal Tips on How to Heal the Body Naturally
1. "Believe you can do it, believe you can overcome illness."
2. Juice with vegetables, but no fruit or sugar. She drinks at least two every day. "It fully hydrates the body, it can lower pathogens and bacteria loads, it can help the organs detox."
3. Manage your stress by journaling. "When the body is stressed everything shuts down." She recommends journaling and writing thoughts down to get them out of your body and mind. "I often journal my anxieties and fears in the morning to help me release them, and at night I’ll write down things I’m grateful for. It puts me into a great headspace." Also, to help manage stress she recommends meditation, but not for long. "I’ll take five or ten minutes during the day for a guided meditation to get back in touch with myself." Goodman also said sleep is massively important.
Let go of your past and live your life
After she got healthy Goodman and her husband started a family but she always worried about passing her genetics to her children, and whether they would inherit her health complications. Then, she had no idea that cancer could come down from both parents. The Goodman's had two daughters, Jordan and Sam who were young at the time their father was diagnosed with cancer. Her husband went the traditional medical route and had several bone surgeries and ended up passing away from pneumonia a year and a half after his diagnosis.
Goodman needed a break from corporate life to help her daughters and family grieve and heal. But, she knew she had to get back on her feet and find what truly made her happy. She never dreamed of being a holistic nutritionist or in the health field, but went back to school for Western and Eastern nutrition. "I realized I had found something that was really going to help me personally, and I knew that if I was passionate about it I could help others," said Goodman. Having a research background helped her when her daughters asked questions about their own fears of getting cancer.
From Advertising to Nutrition
When Goodman graduated as a nutritionist, she went to work for Cafe Gratitude, a health cafe based in LA. She created a five-day juice cleanse for the company and brought her background in advertising and marketing to the job. She stayed about four and a half years and afterward had an offer to do the same thing for another restaurant. When Erewhon asked Goodman to create the same program for them she launched a line of juices and her signature protein bars to sell at the upscale natural market. "I was seeing the stars align, and I was thrown into this new world and I really loved it," Goodman says. She spent most of her time working for the cafe and the products for Erewhon and hired staff as demand picked up.
"I just feel so lucky. The most gratifying thing in the world is to help someone get to the other side of their health issue," she says, "and to help them see the light of what they can do. It gets them back in control of their health."
Six years later, a fan of her products at Erewhon stopped her and asked Goodman if she would cook for her family. I'm not a chef but my assistant loves to cook," so she was hired on the spot. Goodman and her colleague ended up developing a five-day cleanse from their own recipes, a program that would kickstart her entrepreneurial career. "We’ve been running that program for about six and a half years in LA, and it sells out every time we do it. It’s just been massively successful," she explained. The S.O.U.P, cleanse provides five days of plant-based nourishment: Soups, salads, juices, vegetables, broths, and tonics. S.O.U.P stands for Superfoods. Organic. Uniquely. Designed and is completely vegan.
Now, Goodman is also known for her super seed bars that sell at markets including Erewhon. She's currently looking for a kitchen to expand her business, and more partners to work with. "When you love what you do, the doors just open up for you. I love to nurture and nourish people, I’ve always been a people person, I can relate to the people I talk to, and so I really love what I do."