Ever wonder how you’d react if you lost the person closest to you? Meet Randy Clemens, who has turned his personal tragedy into a life-saving opportunity for 18-year-old Jonathan Hernandez.
When Randy Clemens learned that his mother’s lymphoma had returned, and in a more aggressive form, he didn’t shut down or give up. He went online and found the Gerson Therapy. When he realized that his family was lucky enough to have the resources for treatment but many others weren’t, he didn’t just complain about the injustice, he started a fundraiser. When, a few weeks into the treatment at home, it became apparent that his mother Bonnie didn’t have the energy to continue fighting the cancer, he didn’t force her to fight, and he didn’t look for someone to blame.
No, he decided to keep working to ensure that someone who still had the energy to fight for health had the resources they needed to do it.
Randy has already raised over $3,000 to help 18-year-old Jonathan Hernandez go to the Gerson clinic in Tijuana. And once you hear this incredible story, I think you’ll want to help as well.
Meet Bonnie and Randy
Three months ago, Ally – the guru behind the Institute’s website, blog and and assorted social media sites – Skyped me, “You’ve got to see this blog post!” When Ally tells me I should check out a link, I listen. I went to www.randyclemens.com. I was immediately captivated by the blog. Randy Clemens is a food writer and a cook, who wrote The Veggie-Lover’s Sriracha Cookbook and co-wrote a book with Stone Brewing Company here in San Diego. Randy is not only a great cook, he is a great story teller.
I clicked on his most recent post, in which he wrote movingly about his mother Bonnie’s cancer battle, and their decision to take on the Gerson Therapy. Not only was he in the midst of assisting his mother and making preparations to go to the clinic in Mexico, he was also launching a fundraising campaign.
Most people who start Gerson fundraisers or who ask me for advice do so because they need help raising the funds to cover the cost of treatment for themselves or for a close family member. And I completely understand why. Going to a Gerson clinic is expensive – as is getting the right type of juicer, the supplements, not to mention the 20 lbs of organic produce you need each day! And, frustratingly, insurance won’t help cover the costs.
However, what I read in Randy’s post was unusual, and quite amazing. Unlike most families I speak to, the Clemens family was able to cover the costs of the clinic and the ongoing therapy. As Randy wrote in this first blog post about his mother’s cancer battle:
Luckily, I’ve put a few pennies aside from my book sales, and both mom and I have been fortunate enough to be on the receiving end of some inheritance, so it’s something that we are able to afford. Not without batting an eye, mind you, but we’ve looked at it and thankfully, it’s doable.
Randy wasn’t holding the fundraiser to help cover the costs of his mother’s treatment. He was doing it to give another family a chance at healing.
When I am going through a personal tragedy, I get so caught up in my own grief that I don’t usually have much emotional energy left to spare for others in need. Randy did. That’s what makes Randy so special and so unique.
A few weeks later, I met Randy and his mother Bonnie after their return from the clinic in Tijuana. By the time they came to the Institute for lunch, I already felt like I knew them thanks to Randy’s blog. As I talked with Randy during lunch, I marveled again at the dedication and perseverance of Gerson families.
Many people think the Therapy is simple: just eating a lot of veggies and drinking some juice. They think that sounds “too good to be true.” Well, if that’s all you think the Gerson Therapy is, then yeah–it is.
The time and energy needed to prepare true Gerson food and juices is intense and all-consuming – not to mention the supplements, coffee breaks and the effort to meticulously avoid exposure to environmental and household toxins. It’s a lot hard work that requires total commitment, determination, and what Charlotte Gerson calls “stick-to-it-ive-ness.”
While we talked over different tips and strategies he’d found for managing the Therapy schedule, Randy told us that he’d bought his mother a weekly medicine tray for each day. He filled them up on Sundays so he had her supplements laid out for the week. Looking slightly exhausted but still with a warm smile, Randy confided, “It’s good to have the supplements all ready. It’s hard to miss a supplement in the morning. You start out feeling defeated.”
As I watched Randy and Bonnie, I thought about my own mother. I marveled at how Randy could find time, not only to act as a Gerson caregiver, but to write about it and share with others.
Meet the Hernandez Family
What makes this story even more incredible is the timing. Just weeks before, I had begun talking to a woman named Diana Janica. Her seventeen-year-old son Jonathan had been battling metastatic osteosarcoma, a bone cancer that had spread to his lungs.
Jonathan has been following the Gerson Therapy to a “T” for over two years, and while X-rays of his lungs show improvement, his body is still having trouble breaking down a very large tumor on his femur. The family felt that going to a Gerson clinic, where certified Gerson doctors could examine Jonathan and adjust the protocols under their expert medical supervision, would provide Jonathan’s body with the jump-start it needed to start really breaking down the tumor.
However, there was a problem. The Hernandez family, like many others, didn’t have the $11,000 needed to cover the two week stay at the Tijuana clinic. Diana is a school teacher and her husband is a preacher. They work different shifts so that one of them can be at home with Jonathan at all times, to help him on the Therapy. They have already been working closely with their local community to raise funds – since just keeping Jonathan on the Therapy at home involves a monthly organic produce bill of nearly $2,000.
Although I tried to be positive when I talked with Diana, I felt a little lost. I agreed that a clinic stay was probably what Jonathan needed to push his body into active healing. But the family was already doing all the things I normally recommended. They were already fundraising within their local community to support Jonathan’s needs on a daily basis. They live in a small town, and having more events to raise money for the clinic would have made it difficult to do more events later when Jonathan returned home to cover the cost of produce.
I had been working on a couple of other events for Jonathan—including one event that went really well, a supporter named Dina Varlamova ran a marathon and raised over $700 for Jonathan!– but nothing was moving along until Ally showed me Randy’s blog. It felt like a miracle!
The Story Takes a Sad Turn…
The doctors in Mexico gave Jonathan provisional acceptance to go to the clinic. Randy had already raised quite a bit of money, but his campaign needed greater exposure if he was to make his goal. So, I started planning ways for the Institute to work with Randy and the Hernandez family onthe fundraising campaign. I juggle a lot of plates here at the Institute, though, and between event planning, sending out membership renewals and working on a major fund appeal, it kept getting moved to “next week”… for several weeks.
Despite being distracted by my busy workload, Randy and Jonathan were frequently on my mind, and I would daydream about seeing them all together after treatment, smiling and healthy – Bonnie, Randy, Jonathan and Diana.
Sadly, that day is not to come. I came into work two weeks ago to learn that Bonnie had passed away. Bonnie decided to stop the Gerson Therapy. She was exhausted. And her son Randy did one of the bravest and hardest things we can do for those we love – support them even when they make decisions that we don’t agree with fully.
Even though I didn’t know Bonnie well and the Bonnie I met, tired from extensive chemotherapy and in pain, wasn’t the same Bonnie that her loved ones remember best, I had a deep sense of personal loss. During lunch, I caught glimpses of the energetic, incredible woman Randy talked about. And I had hoped that with the Gerson Therapy, this Bonnie, Randy’s Bonnie, would return and I would have the privilege of knowing her better.
The story is not going to follow the script I had imagined; life rarely does. But, I have to remember that this does not mean things have gone “wrong.” Although the Therapy helps many people recover – many who have tried conventional treatment and then been told by the doctors that there isn’t anything else that can be done – it doesn’t save everyone. Some bodies are simply too exhausted and some people are too tired.
Bonnie stopped the Gerson Therapy and finally succumbed to the aggressive lymphoma that had been destroying her body, but her story isn’t finished yet.
Continuing Bonnie’s Legacy of Compassion and Generosity
In raising her son Randy, Bonnie passed on her values. As Randy says in a blog post he wrote after his mother’s passing,
“My mom always took care of others…and it’s this trait I’m perhaps most proud of inheriting. It all boiled down to one simple principle: Do unto others as you would wish others to do unto you.
Be tolerant. Be kind. Be strong. Be generous. Forgive others and forgive yourself for honest mistakes, but be sure you learn from them. Accept that people have different views, and it doesn’t mean that one has to be wrong and one has to be right… they can be simply that… different.
Not only is that OK, it’s beautiful, and it’s why the world will never be a boring place to live. Approach it with curiosity, awe, wonder, humility, and excitement.”
This generosity and compassion – as well as a sense of enthusiasm and curiosity for life – shines brightly in her son Randy, even today, as he faces the loss of his mother. Randy said:
While we were able to scrape together the money for ourselves, we really wanted to do more and turn this ugly circumstance into something positive…. Should you wish to contribute to her legacy and give someone else a renewed chance at life where hers ended, click here to contribute to the fundraiser we began three months ago.
Thanks to Randy and Bonnie, another Gerson patient will be able to go to the clinic and get the treatment he needs. Jonathan Hernandez’s family has been fighting his sarcoma at home for over a year with fierce determination, hoping to scrape together the funds to get him to the clinic. Thanks to Randy and Bonnie, they’ve raised a third of the funds they need.
Here’s Where YOU Come in
But the Hernandez family still has a ways to go before Jonathan can go to the clinic. You can help. By donating to Randy’s fundraiser you can help give eighteen year-old Jonathan the resources he needs to heal. You can be a part of this incredible story.
Anyone who’s met Randy, or even just read his blog, can’t help but recognize how much he loved Bonnie and how important she was in his life. But he made a choice not to let his own grief paralyze him and turn into anger. Instead, his grief fueled his desire to work even harder to help someone else; someone he’s never even met before. And by making this choice, Randy does indeed get to see his mother live on.
Diana Hernandez shared with me an email that she sent Randy this weekend, thanking him and his mother. In it, she said:
Your mother’s story is a love story! And you are part of it! This is what we mothers want for our children. We want them to continue our legacy of love…
This story made us cry, made us see there was still hope. It is one of the most beautiful love stories ever. We are grateful you and your mother are part of Jonathan’s miracle of life. Your mother’s life did not end, it is still alive.
We will remember her all the time, when we see Jonathan graduating from high school, college, getting a job and becoming an adult.
In Bonnie’s memory, let’s all join together to do what we can to honor her legacy of generosity and compassion, by helping another young Gerson patient kick cancer and get his life back.
If you can, please make a donation to help Jonathan get the medical attention he needs. Because he’s only eighteen. He isn’t tired, and he’s not ready to give up. Jonathan is ready to keep fighting for his health. But he needs your help to keep going.
Thanks to all our amazing supporters, we’ve met our goal in just 2 days. Jonathan is going to the clinic, and it’s all thanks to you!
A note about donations:
All money raised through Randy’s Crowdrise campaign is clearly marked! Any money donated through Crowdrise will be used exclusively for patient treatment. Should funds over and above the cost of Jonathan’s treatment be raised, the remaining funds will go towards helping other families in need of resources to either follow the Therapy at home or go to a certified Gerson clinic.
Not a dime of these donations will go towards the Institute, and won’t be used for office supplies, electricity or phone bills or paying rent on our building. (All of which are important and essential to keeping us running! However, you can donate directly through our website if you want to help cover the Institute’s everyday operating expenses).
Every single dollar the Institute receives through this Crowdrise campaign will go directly to patients in need.
About the Author
Mikhaela Payden-Travers is the Gerson Institute’s Development Coordinator, managing the Institute’s various fundraising programs. A grassroots fundraiser with experience working for small organizations in the United States, Guatemala and Mexico, Mikhaela joined the Institute in the summer of 2009.
She is currently enrolled in the Nonprofit Management Masters program at the University of San Diego, but when she’s not at school or at the Institute, she enjoys running, reading Umberto Eco and rescuing Tijuana street dogs.
In Loving Memory of Bonnie Rae Clemens, April 1952 – June 2013