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Woman ‘almost died’ trying to cure cancer with juice diet

Former model Irena Stoynova (Irena Stoynova/PA)
Former model Irena Stoynova (Irena Stoynova/PA)

A woman who almost died trying to cure her cancer with a juice diet has warned others against “cutting out” traditional medical advice and trying to source alternative information online.

Medics tried to get Irena Stoynova to use conventional cancer treatments after she was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma in June 2021, but she “shut them out”.

The former model said instead of chemotherapy, she sought alternatives online and took the advice of a man, who has hundreds of thousands of followers on social media, and claims the human body can “heal itself” with help of a radical lifestyle and diet changes.

Ms Stoynova, from Crondall in Hampshire, followed various diets and holistic therapies for two-and-a-half years, which left her emaciated with fluid on her lungs.

Doctors said she was on the verge of death when she was taken to Frimley Park Hospital by ambulance in May last year.

She was told by Dr Clare Rees that she would likely die without treatment for her cancer – which was stage three – but Ms Stoynova continued to refuse for a number of days before finally agreeing to receive chemotherapy.

Irena Stoynova cancer treatment
Irena Stoynova in intensive care unit at Frimley Park Hospital (Irena Stoynova/PA)

Ms Stoynova spent 50 days in the hospital’s acute dependency unit.

She said when she was first diagnosed that she decided against traditional treatments after “reading about and watching many doctors and professors talk about the success rate of alternative therapies online”.

The 39-year-old, who now works in sales, said she did a juice diet for two-and-a-half years, but also tried a raw diet, intermittent fasting, boiling herbs and special teas.

Speaking about her diagnosis, she told the PA news agency: “I was devastated, the whole world just closed around me and I felt really alone.”

She said that she was advised to start chemotherapy, but she turned to the internet to find alternative advice and “everything started from there”.

Irena Stoynova cancer treatment
Former model Irena Stoynova, who almost died after trying to treat her cancer with a diet of juice, boiled herbs and special teas (Jonathan Brady/PA)

“I found an American guy who has millions of followers who promoted holistic treatment,” she said.

“He had a podcast where he interviewed very knowledgeable doctors and professors who are talking about holistic treatment and they called standard treatment ‘outrageous’.

“They said that people who had chemotherapy are ‘lazy’ and don’t want to put in hard work of holistic treatment.”

Ms Stoynova continued: “The guy has three or four books on how to heal cancer holistically – how to make salads, use different herbs, juicing, intermittent fasting – there were so many testimonials, so many people that did it.

“I spent £2,000 on juicers – one for smoothies, one for carrots, one for citrus and one for everything else. I spent two to three hours a day making juice for the next day.

“I was fanatic. It was like tunnel vision.”

She added: “I didn’t stop (when I should have), I was just so weak, I had sleep deprivation and hallucinations. I didn’t even have the strength to open the door for the delivery man.

“I couldn’t breathe because there was fluid on my lungs, I lost about 20 kilograms because of the dieting.”

Irena Stoynova cancer treatment
Ms Stoynova has warned others against cutting out’ traditional medical advice (Jonathan Brady/PA)

She was admitted to hospital in May 2023, but even an emergency hospital admission was not enough to stop trying to treat her cancer holistically.

Medics described “frustrating” conversations with her, but eventually after 10 days in hospital she agreed to start chemotherapy.

Dr Rees, consultant haematologist at Frimley Health NHS Foundation Trust, said: “It took about 10 days since Irena’s admission until she started chemo and there was some very, what I found, very frustrating conversations during that time.

“About five days into Iran’s admission, I genuinely thought that, despite what we were saying, she was going to say ‘no’ and as a result die in the very near future, which I found quite devastating actually.”

Ms Stoynova, who is now in remission, added: “I now say to people that the side effects from chemotherapy are a piece of cake compared to the side effects that I got from trying the holistic treatment.

“When you have Instagram, Facebook, or even Google there are going to be millions of people who are going to say that they healed cancer holistically with organic carrots and parsley and celery.

“What I would say is it’s great to have beliefs, it’s great if they’re backed by science, and please don’t cut off your consultants.

“I cut off consultants and everything connected with standard medicine and I almost lost my life.”

She added: “If you have cancer, you need something much harder than organic carrot juice and celery.”

Dr Rees continued: “This is an extreme scenario and genuinely in the first 24 hours of Irena’s admission, I was unclear whether she would survive this or not.

“But the problem is that misinformation often spreads faster than the truth and obviously, if someone’s given the option of juice versus tablets or chemotherapy and injecting drugs into their bodies, you can see why they they would prefer to do some it if it will give them the same outcome – but the problem is that is not evidence-based practice.

“We always encourage people to go to Lymphoma Action or Macmillan Cancer Support for genuine information.”