When I heard Val Hoff had breast cancer my heart dropped. Another woman, another friend, fighting the fight.
Val has been in the homes of Atlantans for nearly 25 years. That’s a long time in this town. She’s currently the weekend morning anchor and the “Ways to Save” reporter on 11Alive News. But now Val has a bigger job — beat breast cancer.
I try not to use the word “hate”, but I HATE cancer. My father died 2 years ago from brain cancer and sadly I’ve had numerous other dear friends who’ve lost the battle or are fighting right now. I’m sure most all of us know someone with the disease or someone who has battled it. We need to figure out why this is happening.
I’ve known Val for a long time — probably 15 years. I landed her job at CNN Airport Network after she left for 11Alive. Over the years, we kept in touch, bumping into one another out in the singles world and later, on stories while I was at Fox 5. I remember one day sitting in a court room with her and talking about trying to get pregnant. We both struggled with fertility but eventually and thankfully got our babies. Last Summer, I started freelancing at 11Alive. It was great for us to be on the same team.
Val is a remarkable woman and one who doesn’t give up easily. She and her husband Derrick are the proud parents of 8 year old Nicholas and 6 1/2 year old Jhenya who was adopted from a Siberian orphanage. Jhenya was 33 months old at the time and had spent most of his life in a crib. The story is both heartbreaking and heartwarming. Of course Val always sees the positive side of things and mainly reflects on the great experience it was to go to Russia and the joy they now have as a family. That’s Val.
Go ahead, grab a tissue because when you read this… you will see how spectacular this woman is. She is positive, strong, cares deeply about others and is now a Cancer Warrior.
CT You have been on Atlanta television for a long time, so I know you feel very connected to the community. Is this a part of why you immediately decided to use your breast cancer diagnosis as a platform for other women?
VH The reason I wanted to make my diagnosis public is because I found the lump three months after a clear mammogram. I feel like it’s almost my responsibility to share that with other women. You are not home free just because you are getting a yearly mammogram, regular self exams are just as important. I have told hundreds of women this past week, “go check your boobs.. NOW!” And for each and every one who has told me they scheduled a mammogram or did a self exam because of my situation, I have felt better and better and better about being public with this. The other reason is I didn’t feel like there were many other options anyway. People get curious when you take medical leave and news travels fast! So why not just put it out there and use my cancer as a positive?
I think if I had elected to sit home and hide and cry, I would not feel as useful as I do right now. When people thank me for saving them money or saving their boobs, that is the most gratifying part of my job and I plan to continue helping in those ways long after I’m gone from TV some day. And also, it’s just what girlfriends do for each other!
CT You told me that you often cook with lots of kale, garlic, vegetables, etc… so I know this diagnosis came as a surprise. Do you plan to change your cooking and eating habits in your home?
VH My family eats very healthy food on a regular basis. For years my boys thought McDonald’s was Old McDonalds because they’d only been there about once or twice!! We eat a lot of fresh, healthy foods like broccoli, kale, greens, salmon, tofu and fruits so we’ll continue that. We avoid trans fats and high fructose corn syrup. I’m really lucky my boys are really adventurous eaters; they love sushi and lobster! I buy organic vegetables when it makes sense; I try to follow the Dirty Dozen guidelines and buy organic when the foods are most likely to contain pesticide residue, for example strawberries and apples. I think continuing to eat healthy will be one of many weapons to help fight the cancer but I’m not averse to having a rare steak or rack of lamb on occasion.
CT I understand you will be going through both chemo and radiation. Is there a chance you will lose your hair? If so, how do plan to do your job as an anchor?
VH I’ve been told to plan for chemo and radiation. After my MRI and meeting with my surgeon, I’ll know more. But if that’s what it takes to kill each and every little miniscule cancer cell, I’m in! There are dozens of news anchors across the country who have gone through cancer and lost their hair. Fake hair is kind of trendy these days between wigs, extensions, falls and eyelashes. Sherri Shepherd wears a wig on The View every day!! I’m more worried about feeling too sick from chemo to go to work, so I’ll just have to wait and see.
CT You have 2 beautiful and very active boys. How did you break the news of your breast cancer to them?
VH Derrick and I told them over dinner. We said Cancer can be cured and I plan to be just fine but may feel sick or lose my hair. They know all about hospitals and surgery because I had a four level spinal fusion surgery 18 months ago. We told them I’d be having surgery to remove the cancer. This may be TMI but I let them just kind of reach under my top to feel the lump. Jhenya was very curious about it, since they are boys they know little or nothing about girl parts! Nicholas said “this is really inappropriate” lol.
CT Share with us something fun you do with your boys and with your diagnosis, will anything change in your household?
VH They both play baseball and are on the Chastain Tidal Waves swim team. Both activities are usually fun. Usually, I say! Jhenya loves to cook with me. I recently taught Nicholas how to play Poker, 5 Card Draw. Don’t judge, I figure it could help math skills! I volunteer at their school. We take vacations and go to the beach. We cuddle a lot! They creep into our bed way more often than most parents would like but some day they’ll want nothing to do with us so we’re okay with that now. We’re just your average family.
The diagnosis hasn’t changed a thing so far but I anticipate not feeling very well later on. Right now I feel great and just want to work out and get in as good shape as I can before surgery. Derrick does just as much around the house and with the boys as I do, including their laundry so he’s amazingly supportive both logistically and emotionally.
CT When I saw the piece you did with Brenda Wood and your other colleagues, you seemed so strong and positive. How are you coping? Are you scared at all?
VH I AM strong and positive! I’m so fortunate and blessed that I didn’t let this go and went and got it checked and diagnosed early! I was a bit scared the day I found out March 23rd. If it were stage 4 or terminal, I would be scared. I get a little sad at times but over all, I have very little to be sad about and a lot to celebrate. If Derrick or the boys were sick, I’d be scared to death. I’m coping by the love and support of family and friends. I have lost two sisters to other situations not related to cancer and have had to deal with a lot of back and knee problems plus infertility, so my coping skills are, in my opinion, very, very good! Infertility turned out to be a precious gift that brought us Jhenya, who knows whether cancer is some weird gift too!
CT What are your hopes and dreams with your boys and for your family?
VH I hope and dream of raising two happy, healthy, responsible and well educated young gentlemen who do the right thing even when no one is looking. And I hope to be the best mom and wife I can be and when I fail, I’ll start over the next day and look forward, not back.
Is she amazing or what? Thank you Val for sharing your story with us. I know you will impact so many others. May God continue to bless you and your family. I am on your team!
If you want to keep up with Val and her progress you can follow her here.
Please make a comment below and show your support for Val. I know she will greatly appreciate it. And, if you haven’t done so already today, do a self exam and be sure to schedule your mammogram.
Here’s some great information about fighting cancer.
1. Every person has cancer cells in the body. These cancer cells do not show up in the standard tests until they have multiplied to a few billion. When doctors tell cancer patients that there are no more cancer cells in their bodies after treatment, it just means the tests are unable to detect the cancer cells because they have not reached the detectable size.
2. Cancer cells occur between 6 to more than 10 times in a person’s lifetime.
3. When the person’s immune system is strong the cancer cells will be destroyed and prevented from multiplying and forming tumors.
4. When a person has cancer it indicates the person has multiple nutritional deficiencies. These could be due to genetic, environmental, food and lifestyle factors.
5. To overcome the multiple nutritional deficiencies, changing diet and including supplements will strengthen the immune system.
6. Chemotherapy involves poisoning the rapidly-growing cancer cells and also destroys rapidly-growing healthy cells in the bone marrow, gastro-intestinal tract etc, and can cause organ damage, like liver, kidneys, heart, lungs etc.
7. Radiation while destroying cancer cells also burns, scars and damages healthy cells, tissues and organs.
8. Initial treatment with chemotherapy and radiation will often reduce tumor size. However prolonged use of chemotherapy and radiation do not result in more tumor destruction.
9. When the body has too much toxic burden from chemotherapy and radiation the immune system is either compromised or destroyed, hence the person can succumb to various kinds of infections and complications.
10. Chemotherapy and radiation can cause cancer cells to mutate and become resistant and difficult to destroy. Surgery can also cause cancer cells to spread to other sites.
11. An effective way to battle cancer is to STARVE the cancer cells by not feeding it with foods it needs to multiple.
What cancer cells feed on:
a. Sugar is a cancer-feeder. By cutting off sugar it cuts off one important food supply to the cancer cells. Note: Sugar substitutes like NutraSweet, Equal, Spoonful, etc are made with Aspartame and it is harmful. A better natural substitute would be Manuka honey or molasses but only in very small amounts. Table salt has a chemical added to make it white in color. Better alternative is Bragg’s aminos or sea salt.
b. Milk causes the body to produce mucus, especially in the gastro-intestinal tract. Cancer feeds on mucus. By cutting off milk and substituting with unsweetened soy milk, cancer cells will starved.
c. Cancer cells thrive in an acid environment. A meat-based diet is acidic and it is best to eat fish, and a little chicken rather than beef or pork. Meat also contains livestock antibiotics, growth hormones and parasites, which are all harmful, especially to people with cancer.
d. A diet made of 80% fresh vegetables and juice, whole grains, seeds, nuts and a little fruits help put the body into an alkaline environment. About 20% can be from cooked food including beans. Fresh vegetable juices provide live enzymes that are easily absorbed and reach down to cellular levels within 15 minutes t o nourish and enhance growth of healthy cells.
To obtain live enzymes for building healthy cells try and drink fresh vegetable juice (most vegetables including bean sprouts) and eat some raw vegetables 2 or 3 times a day. Enzymes are destroyed at temperatures of 104 degrees F (40 degrees C).
e. Avoid coffee, tea, and chocolate, which have high caffeine. Green tea is a better alternative and has cancer-fighting properties. Water–best to drink purified water, or filtered, to avoid known toxins and heavy metals in tap water. Distilled water is acidic, avoid it.
12. Meat protein is difficult to digest and requires a lot of digestive enzymes. Undigested meat remaining in the intestines will become putrefied and leads to more toxic buildup.
13. Cancer cell walls have a tough protein covering. By refraining from or eating less meat it frees more enzymes to attack the protein walls of cancer cells and allows the body’s killer cells to destroy the cancer cells.
14. Some supplements build up the immune system (IP6, Flor-ssence, Essiac, anti-oxidants, vitamins, minerals, EFAs etc.) to enable the body’s own killer cells to destroy cancer cells. Other supplements like vitamin E are known to cause apoptosis, or programmed cell death, the body’s normal method of disposing of damaged, unwanted, or unneeded cells.
15. Cancer is a disease of the mind, body, and spirit. A proactive and positive spirit will help the cancer warrior be a survivor.
Anger, unforgiving and bitterness put the body into a stressful and acidic environment. Learn to have a loving and forgiving spirit. Learn to relax and enjoy life.
16. Cancer cells cannot thrive in an oxygenated environment. Exercising daily, and deep breathing help to get more oxygen down to the cellular level. Oxygen therapy is another means employed to destroy cancer cells.