Detoxing Can Be Fun!


DE Face Mask-Ivonne and John_IMG_0031October 10, 2014


Chemo is meant to kill or slow the growth of cancer cells, which grow and reproduce rapidly. However, it also can kill normal, rapidly dividing healthy cells including those in the digestive tract, skin cells, nails, red and white blood cells, those responsible for hair growth, and more. As the healthy normal cells are attacked, one may feel side effects including nauzia, intense fatigue, inability to eat or swallow, both constipation and diarrhea, dizziness, severe itching, rashes, etc.  The Chemo meds are powerful, but they also contain strong chemicals that the body may treat as very foreign and toxic.  This is why people experience such strong side effects from the Chemo meds.  The skin is also our biggest organ, which is why itching, prickling, rashes, and sores tend to be some of the common side effects of Chemotherapy.


I was starting to feel some itching and prickling-like sensations on my face after the 3rd session of Chemo.  So we turned to the ever-powerful (food grade) Diatomaceous Earth for a little detoxing.  John mixed a bit of it up with spring bottled water creating a paste-like cream, and we used it as a facial mask!  We let the mask dry for about 20 minutes before gently rincing it off.


The DE mask worked like magic – the itching and prickling was gone, and my skin felt beautifully soft and smoothe!  It was awesome to get such a relief and to cleanse my skin naturally!


**Diatomaceous Earth – food-grade — is a mineral/powder that 89% Silica.  The human body needs Silica for many natural body functions and for absorption of vitamins and nutrients.  You can learn more about DE at**







Pericardial Effusion Part II

October 5, 2014

The Coxsackie Virus


I decided to check in with my main naturopath, Dr. Rich Olree regarding my Pericardial Effusion.  He told me that the extra fluid could be a result of a virus called Coxsackie.  His recommendation was to take a specific type of Golden Flower Chinese herb.  Never having heard of such a virus I immediately turned to Google as my research tool!  Below is information from Web MD,


What is coxsackievirus?

Coxsackievirus is a member of a family of viruses called enteroviruses. Enteroviruses are made up of a single strand of ribonucleic acid (RNA). The enteroviruses are also referred to as picornaviruses (pico means “small,” so, “small RNA virues”).

Coxsackievirus was first found in the town Coxsackie south of Albany, New York.

What are the types of coxsackieviruses and what can they cause?

There are two different types of coxsackieviruses: A and B. Type A viruses cause herpangina (sores in the throat) and hand, foot, and mouth disease. Type B viruses cause epidemic pleurodynia, and inflammation in the chest. Both types A and B viruses can cause meningitis (inflammation of the spinal cord or brain), myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle), and pericarditis (inflammation of the sac surrounding the heart). They also may have a role in the development of acute onset juvenile (type 1) diabetes.”

Wow, I couldn’t believe I had just read that…Perhaps this was the cause of my Pericardial Effusion!

When I asked Dr. Raisinghani about the Coxsackie Virus,he told me two things:
1. How do you know about Coxsackie? (I just smiled…)
2. No, not likely to be Coxsackie; well, Western medicine doesn’t typically test for the Coxsackie virus, and there are no medications to treat it.
Interesting to ponder?  Yes, mainly because it seems much more economical to test for a virus than to go for an MRI.  Sure, the MRI is an extremely useful tool, but it could be the second/next step after investigating something like a virus!
Nonetheless, I also realize that at this point, time is of the essence since I need to resolve the Pericardial Effusion cause in order to proceed with the next steps of treatment.  My corse of action now is to start taking the Golden Flower Chinese herb, go for the Cardiac MRI, and get blood drawn to check my Thyroid function.  Then Dr. Raisinghani will repeat the ECG in two weeks as well.
Stay tuned for the results of all of these tests!

Pericardial Effusion Part I

October 3, 2014

ECGs and EKGs


It’s time to start investigating why there’s a bit of extra fluid around my heart, which is known as Pericardial Effusion.  So today I met Dr. Ajit Raisinghani, a cardiologist who is part of the University of California San Diego Healthcare system.  At the UCSD Medical Center Dr. Raisinghani is Director of Cardiology Clinics, Director of Non-Invasive Laboratory Chief of Clinical Services, and associate professor. He enjoys cycling quite a bit too, and enjoys spending time with his wife and two sons!


I was greatful that Dr. Raisinghani was able to see me on such short notice.  He conducted an Echo-cardiogram (ECG) and an Electro-Cardiogram (KG). If you’re like me, you may be wondering about the difference between these two kinds of tests.


As I learned, an ECG is a test that creates pictures of the heart through the use of sound waves.  The pictures created allow the Dr. to see the heart’s beating ability, the heart’s valves and chambers, and enables the detection of several things including:

  • Abnormal heart valves
  • Abnormal heart rhythms
  • Congenital heart disease
  • Damage to the heart muscle from a heart attack
  • Heart murmurs
  • Inflammation (pericarditis) or fluid in the sac around the heart (pericardial effusion)
  • Infection on or around the heart valves (infectious endocarditis)
  • Pulmonary hypertension
  • Ability of the heart to pump (for people with heart failure)
  • Source of a blood clot after a stroke or TIA

**Information found on**


Think of the ECG as an ultrasound.  A gel is applied to the center and left areas of your chest and on the upper abdomen.  Then a probe is used to slide around these areas while it sends out the sound waves that pick up your heart.  It was a pretty neat experience because there are times throughout the exam when you can hear how your heart beats, how it speeds up and slows down depending on your breathing, and the difference in sound from when the probe is on your chest versus your abdomen.


On the other hand, an EKG records the electrical activity of the heart.  Basically, an electrical signal travels from the top to the bottom of the heart each time the heart beats.  As the electrical signal moves from top to bottom it causes the heart to contract and to pump blood.  It is these signals that set the rhythm of the heart beat.

An EKG shows:

  • How fast your heart is beating
  • Whether the rhythm of your heartbeat is steady or irregular
  • The strength and timing of electrical signals as they pass through each part of your heart

Doctors use EKGs to detect and study many heart problems, such as heart attacks, arrhythmias (ah-RITH-me-ahs), and heart failure. The test’s results also can suggest other disorders that affect heart function.

**Information found on**


The Findings:

Dr. Raisinghani told me that he suspected three potential causes of the Pericardial Effusion:

1. Potentially caused by a low Thyroid function (perhaps a result of all the Chemo meds)

2. The Docetaxel Chemo med has Pericardial Effusion as one of the risks associated with it.

3. Potential metastasis, highly unlikely given no metastasis was found in my latest scans and blood work.


now, the next steps are to have some blood drawn to check my Thyroid, have a Cardiac MRI done, and repeat the ECG in two weeks to see if the fluid has changed.


Stay tuned for more!




Final Recommendations Are In

September 26, 2014


Today was a day full of information to process as I received results from all of the lab work and imaging I have undergone the last couple of weeks.  Thankfully my Mom and John were with me, and I am grateful for their unwavering love and support!


The results shoe that my bladder has healed extremely well after the resection of the tumor back in June and there are no new growths.  The mass that was seen on my T6 vertebra on my spine is unchanged; this is also good news as it reaffirms that it is not cancer.  The fibroids in my uterus are unchanged; this is a bit of a mixed bag as the Dr. explained.  Typically, if a mass shrinks after Chemo is administered, or it if grows, it is a likely sign of cancerous cells and the mas being malignant.  If the mass, or fibroids, don’t change in size this could mean that they are either benign, or that they just didn’t respond in any way to Chemo.  It turns out that there is no way to biopsy these fibroids in my uterus, which is mind boggling.  How is it that open heart sirgury can be done, brain sirgury can be done, but a biopsy of the fibroids in the uterus cannot be done?  The uterus expands to hold and deliver a child, and yet no one will do a biopsy of the fibroids in it.


I did get the explanation that Drs. think there is to grate a risk involved in biopsying uterin fibroids, including puncturing surrounding organs.  So the only way to really know if fibroids are cancerous is to have a historectomy done.  Once the uterus has been removed, the fibroids can be biopsied, sent to the lab, and a diagnosis achieved…The troubling aspect of all this is that the biopsy can come back negative, meaning that the fibroids are “not” cancerous.  If this is the case however, there’s no turning back because you cannot reattach the uterus into its owner’s body…


The last result of the day was a new and shocking finding.  There seems to be an increased amount of fluid in my heart as of the last MRI.  This is known as a Paracardial Effusion.  When I heard this news, I broke down in tears.  All I could think of was, “please, not my heart!”  NThe concern this raises is that extra fluid around the heart can put pressure on the heart limiting its ability to function normally.  Then there is the concern of not knowing where or how this extra fluid came from, or what caused it.


The next step then is to figure out what is going on with my heart.  Perhaps it is just a fluke with the MRI, but this needs to be investigated.  Once this is settled then I’ll be able to proceed with either bladder sirgery, or with a historectomy and bladder sirgery.  The bladder sirgery would be a “Partial Resection” of the bladder, which means that the piece of the bladder where the tumor was found would be removed, and my bladder would be stretched and resown together forming a smaller bladder.  The historectomy would involve removing my uterus but keeping my ovaries in order to keep my hormone production as normal as possible since I am still young for menopause.


For now, John and I need to return home.  I have a lot of thinking to do about what I would like to do with regards to the bladder and the uterus surgeries, and I need to follow up with a Cardiologist.  In short, there’s more yet to come.  Emotions are high, and I am scared of what this new finding could lead us to discover.  Yet there is a part of me that is determined to continue fighting, to continue finding answers and figuring out what I can do to help my body heal…I have been praying a lot as well, and deep down I know that I will find my way through this as well.  It’s a journey that is teaching me so much, and I hope we can share with each other what we all learn along the way.





The Runner’s Stop, and My 1st Pair of Spikes!


Picture of Ivonne and Ellen, Runner's Stop Owner.

Picture of Ivonne and Ellen, Runner’s Stop Owner.

September 12, 2014


Today was all about rest and recovery after yesterday’s extremely long day at the hospital.  I went through lots of testing, CT scan, MRI, and consultation with my Oncologist, Dr. Keohan. Fortunately, my Dad, Cristobal (who goes by Cris), and John spent the long day with me keeping me company…


It’s a beautiful day today in Lynbrook, New York.  The sun is out and the temps are pleasantly warm with low humidity.  So we went for a walk around town.  Along the way we had tasty thin crust Pizza for lunch at Angelina’s, and happened to stumble upon a store called The Runner’s Stop!   It’s a small but incredibly well stocked shop with tons of sneakers and spikes!  Yes, I’ve been talking with my running coach, Joaquim Cruz, about trying out spikes for the 1500 meters event!


I’ve never worn spikes before, never even tried them on before because it’s been extremely difficult to find a pair that fits since I have such small feet- I wear a size 5 or 5.5 in street shoes.  Track spikes need to fit like a glove, really snug.  So I wasn’t expecting anything at all when we entered the Runner’s Stop.


To my surprise, Patty, the woman who greeted us, was super friendly and super eager to help.  Suddenly John and I were pulling floor models off the shelves, and Patty was checking sizes for me in the stores stock room/area.  In no time, tons of boxes were appearing next to me!  It was so cool to have so many options!


Long story short, after trying on various styles, and mini testing them as John and I ran through the store, I settled on a pair.  I chose a Brooks pair.


As we were paying for my brand new spikes, we also learned that Ellen, the store’s owner, is a Cancer Surviver!  Wow, I thought, what a coincidence…Or was it really a coincidence?  Perhaps not so much a coincidence as a “this was meant to happen; I was meant to stop into this store to find my 1st pair of spikes, and to meet Ellen.  Perhaps meeting Ellen is a sign of hope and encouragement for me, a sign of healing, of life, a sign of what the future holds in store for me too.”


Ellen and Patty are also runners.  This helps a lot when a fellow runner is shopping for shoes, because runners can be very picky looking for “just the right fit”!  This means we can spend a lot of time shopping and trying things on!


I am greatful for having met Patty and Ellen.  Many thanks to them for the awesome tanktop with the store’s logo on it too.  I’ll be sure to take a picture of me wearing it at the Olympic Training Center!  I also can’t wait to let them know how things go with my spikes. It’ll be a dream come true to wear and race in them on my way to Rio!





Runner’s Stop

20 Atlantic Ave, Lynbrook, NY 11563


IN NYC For Follow-ups!

September110 2014


I’m in New York City for follow-ups with my team of Doctors at Memorial Sloan Kettering, MSKCC.  There will be a series of MRIs, CT Scans, blood work, a cystoscopy of the bladder with the urologist, a check-in with the Gynocologist for the uterus, and then review of all the results.  I’m looking forward to having the remaining pieces of my treatment plan finalized.


John and I will be staying with my Dad for a few days.  It’ll be a treat to spend some quality time with my Dad, which I haven’t done in ages.


To all reading, I’m am feeling excited, anxious, but overall moving forward with “Faith and courage”.  I’ll share what I learn soon!





All The Hair Comes Off!


photo 5Coach Cutting Hair

Picture of Ivonne, Jimmy, Andy, and Barber John!

Picture of Ivonne, Jimmy, Andy, and Barber John!

Picture of Ivonne, Coach Joaquim Cruz, and guide Anne Shadle.

Picture of Ivonne, Coach Joaquim Cruz, and guide Anne Shadle.

September 5, 2014


Since my hair has thinned and fallen out so much, I decided to shave it all off!


John and I had a little ceremony to mark the occasion, and to keep things light! I sang the National Anthem, my running Coach, former Olympian Gold Medalist Joaquim Cruz took the 1st cut of my hair, two Dining Hall staff members shaved their heads along with me, and we all enjoyed some refreshing watermellon!


I was touched to have such incredible support from the Sports Med Staff, Jimmy and Andy (Dining Hall Staff members), fellow Track and Field athletes, my current guide Anne Shadle, and my wonderful husband!


“My newly bald head feels a bit weird, but totally refreshing!  I’m looking forward to going for a run and feeling the wind on my head!”



Thank you to everyone for joining me today!







Edible Arrangement From The Awesome USOC Staff!


Picture of Ivonne with the Edible Arrangement.

August 26, 2014


A knock on our door late this afternoon delivered a surprise.  It was an Edible arrangement from the wonderful and thoughtful staff from the US Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, CA.  The fruit included pineapple, strawberries, mellons, and more.  It reminded me of Hippocrates’ famous words, “Let food be thy medicine”.


I am so touched by this gesture of kindness, and the get well wishes.  This is a memorable gift, and I send them my heart-felt gratitude and appreciation!  Thank you to all!




A Touching Gift From The Vartorella Family


Picture of Ivonne wearing the Fraas Hat and Scarf.

August 21, 2014


It’s been a rough few days since Session 3 of Chemo.  I ended up being admitted into the hospital because of intense stomach pain, and severe nausea and vomiting; I just couldn’t keep anything in my system.  This is the first time I’ve really felt any side effects from being on Chemo, and it was intense.


After 3 days in the hospital and of being on a liquid diet, I finally recovered well enough to go home!  To my surprise, when John and I returned to our hotel, (which had temporarily been home), I had a FedEx package waiting for me!  It was a gift from the Vartorella family – my dear friend Rosie, her usband Rick, and her two sons Leo and Harry.


The gift was a beautiful hat and scarf from the Fraas Company – They use a phenominal material called Cashmink, which is so soft and luxurious!  I was so touched by the love and kind gesture from Rosie and her family.  Plus, it certainly felt like a “welcome home” gift after being in the hospital for a couple of days!


The hat fits my head perfectly, and the scarf is delightfully soft and light!


With Love and Gratitude to the Vartorella Family,