How Russell Weatherspoon Beat Terminal Lymphoma at CHIPSA Hospital!
Russell Weatherspoon was given 6 months to live back in 2018 after his non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma spread to his skin. But now, nearly 14 months later, he is alive, well, and eager to share his story.
Russell’s journey began when he noticed a swollen lymph node near his elbow back in 2016. None of his doctors believed it was cancerous, so Russell moved on with his busy life and kept pushing off his follow-up scans. But when he finally did get around to going, the lump was biopsied and came back suspicious for cancer. A second opinion confirmed his worst fears: Russell had lymphoma.
At first, Russell followed the standard treatment protocols recommended by his oncologist. After his lymph node was surgically removed, he received six cycles of chemotherapy as his first-line treatment. All seemed well when a follow-scan showed that nothing was visible at the time.
10 months later, however, Russell’s cancer relapsed. His lymphoma was now in his skin, and it became suspicious for another kind of lymphoma called Mycosis, which originates in the skin. His cancer then started to become visible, as lesions developed everywhere on his skin. He also had enlarged lymph nodes in his groin, which were biopsied and confirmed to also be primary lymphoma.
After chemotherapy, Russell followed his doctor’s recommendation to try a targeted therapy focused on the protein CD30. Although he was supposed to undergo 6 rounds, he had to stop after the fourth because of the debilitating symptoms. He had horrible neuropathy, lost all of his hair, and became very sick. “The chemotherapy actually made him look sick,” said Paula, Russell’s wife.
The second line therapy that Russell tried did have less side effects, but the black box warnings of possible “death” made them anxious. His oncologist told him that the only “curative” therapy for his cancer was to complete the 2nd line therapy and undergo a high-dose chemotherapy with a stem-cell transplant.
According to Paula, even looking into the stem-cell treatment was “horrifying.” They wouldn’t be able to have any more children, Russell would have to be quarantined, and there was still a big chance that it wouldn’t even work.
“We only got 7 minutes to talk to an oncologist when my husband’s life was on the line,” said Paula. “The relationship wasn’t there. The support wasn’t there.”
The Weatherspoons were starting to become more and more skeptical of the conventional treatments that were taking so much from their lives. It didn’t seem to make sense that Russell continue to poison himself with no real chance of a cure. It was taking a huge toll on them. They felt that other options were out there, and they began to look for them.
That’s when they discovered CHIPSA. A friend of theirs from church recommended the website “Chris Beat Cancer,” which sparked so many avenues of research that led them to the immunotherapy hospital in Tijuana.
In weighing his options, Russell knew that either choice was a risk, but he wanted to be sure that he made a calculated one. His doctors at home offered him therapies that were curative 30% of the time for a 3-year survival. “I have a 3-year-old daughter,” he said. “30% chance of 3 year survival didn’t seem curative to me.”
After having his second relapse, Russell also knew that he could develop chemotherapy resistance. “I felt like what they had left for me, based on the data, didn’t seem like it was going to produce a cure.”
On the other hand, immunotherapy seemed to offer a bigger opportunity for healing. “People respond to treatments like immunotherapy because it can overcome your innate and adaptive immune system and the resistances,” said Russell. “That’s what led me to go to CHIPSA. I knew you were using advanced immunotherapy as part of your treatments.”
That’s what drove Russell to CHIPSA. All of the treatments are centered around getting your immune system involved in the battle against cancer. “When the body is healthy, tissue can wake up and sense that it’s hurt. When you get the immune system rallied, you can do some damage,” said Russell.
But what stood out the most to the Weatherspoons was the standard of care at CHIPSA. “The experience is highly personable,” said Paula. “When you walk through those doors, you don’t feel like you’re at a hospital. You feel like you’re with family. Everyone is there to support you and help you get better. The doctors never rushed us and always had time for both of us. Even for me, not as the patient, but as the companion, I always felt welcomed and involved. That involvement supported both of us in being able to do this when we got back home.”
Russell walked into CHIPSA with hundreds of lesions all over his body. Shortly after he began treatments, he and his wife watched them disappear. By the end of his stay, he only had four or five left.
Russell was told he had 6 months to live. That was 14 months ago. His last PET scan showed up all clear. “Nothing was detectable,” he said.
Why does Russell believe he was so successful?
Well, firstly, he had a great support system. His wife Paula traveled with him to Mexico and learned all she could about the treatments so that she could help him to continue them at home. As Paula said, the treatments at CHIPSA are like a jump start. The rest of the healing happens at home.
“CHIPSA fully prepared us to do this at home,” said Paula. “We were given all the resources we needed. We had the CHIPSA support group for questions. You can text the doctors anytime and they get right back to you. It’s not really a diet or a protocol. It’s a lifestyle change. We have our juicer running on the daily. The coffee enemas are still going strong. Seeing that it works is more than enough for us.“
For Russell, it was also important to maintain your will to survive. “You have to want to do this,” he said. “It takes discipline and consistency. There will be a lot of day that you wake up and you don’t want to do it. But you do it anyway. That’s how you get the results — from following through.”
The Weatherspoons are grateful that Russell is still alive and well, and they hope their story is an encouragement to anyone considering CHIPSA Hospital for treatment. “Don’t hesitate,” they said. “It will be worth it. It will change your life for the better. I know it’s scary to consider Mexico for medical treatments. But we’ve done it, and it wasn’t scary.”
“The United States sees a hospital as a place to get physically well. But CHIPSA is a place to get entirely well. It involves your mind, it involves your spirit, and it involves your body.”