Richmond Hill resident Naomi Havens overcame devastating circumstances and now uses her story and experience to help others dealing with health issues similar to her own.
Victory Haven, a nonprofit support group open to anyone dealing with a health issue, was born four years ago out of Havens’ own journey as a breast-cancer survivor.
“I am a 14-year breast-cancer survivor, but I chose not to have any chemo or radiation,” Havens said. “Instead, I chose to change my diet and lifestyle. My decision to pursue natural healing methods to heal my cancer came from watching friends and family go through chemo and radiation, as well as spending a great deal of time researching the options.
“The doctors told me I would be dead within about five years if I did not do chemo and radiation,” Havens continued. “I am currently going on 10 years past their prediction. In February, I will be a 15-year survivor.”
Havens changed her diet by cutting out processed foods, sugars, sodas, gluten and animal products, such as meat, cheese and dairy. She also cut back on oils. She only uses cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil or coconut oil when she needs oil for cooking.
“I eat a variety of fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and legumes,” Havens said. “I am not a rabbit, eating salad all the time. There are a variety of creative and delicious ways of preparing the foods I eat. Many people ask me what foods I eat. I eat the same foods as you, I just fix them differently.”
After fighting the cancer her own way and paying for it herself since insurance doesn’t cover alternative methods, Havens knew others would need support.
“I thought there should be support for those who want to battle cancer this way,” Havens said. “The purpose of Victory Haven is to come alongside people who want to avoid the chemo and radiation and do a more natural therapy. We educate them on what’s out there, how to diet and we’d like to eventually be able to help financially.”
Victory Haven was founded in 2010 after Havens saw many support groups for people battling cancer, but no support groups for those trying to battle the disease with alternative methods. She wanted to help others sift through the maze of nutrition and natural-health therapies.
“I just feel like it was God asking me to do it,” Havens explained. “I always say He’s the founder and I’m the co-founder. There’s no way I could have done it on my own, and He has just really opened the doors over and over again to the point where we are actually getting space donated to us to do nutrition classes. We’re even looking at opening a juice and smoothie bar next year.”
Havens, who has lived in Richmond Hill for 14 years, voluntarily teaches two nutrition classes on Mondays at Savannah Christian Church. There are 12 people involved in the classes. She also plans to start a class in Hinesville on Fridays and in Savannah on Tuesdays. The classes are held for 16 consecutive weeks and include cooking recipes, as well as learning about health and natural-healing therapies.
Hinesville resident Margot Rufh was in one of Haven’s nutrition classes, which ended last spring, and said she felt like her lifestyle improved because of the class.
“I joined (Haven’s) class because I like to learn more about health and how God wants us to be healthy,” Rufh said. “I like learning about health and going to natural health food stores. I learned about how to make basil pesto, raw pumpkin pie, zucchini spaghetti and more. We learned about staying focused and strong, about energy and life.
“(Havens) is very kind and helpful,” Rufh continued. “She is really trying to help people and help them eat better so they don’t get sick. There are so many chemicals in food now, and she’s trying to reach more people to give knowledge and understanding about that.”
For Havens, she said helping others learn about these alternative methods is a way of healing for her.
Her entire life, she’s wanted to become a nurse. She went to college to be a nurse, but her grades from high school weren’t good enough. Havens felt not being able to become a nurse was God’s way of telling her she wasn’t supposed to be in the nursing arena that she was pursuing.
“It’s only been in the last four or five years that I’ve come to realize why God didn’t want me in nursing school like that,” Havens said. “A lot of times, we have to come to a crisis before we go the route we are supposed to go. I think cancer was my wakeup call, and it was the road to get me down the nursing path that I am now on.
“Through teaching these nutrition classes and organizing Victory Haven, I’m helping people who are extremely tired, helping people with diabetes to get off the insulin and medication and I’m helping people diagnosed with cancer to help with healing,” Havens continued. “Even if they are going through the chemo, I’m helping them have a better experience through it.”
She said she knows everyone has different health issues and there is no “one-size-fits-all solution,” so she tries to be respectful of each person’s journey.
“With knowledge comes responsibility,” Havens said. “It would be wrong for me to hide the knowledge I’ve gained over the last 14 years. I have to share it and let people know they do have options. Helping these people puts me higher than cloud nine. It’s what I’ve had a passion to do for a long time.”
Havens is a local representative for Usborne Books and More, a publisher of children’s books. She recently received special recognition for her accomplishments with the company. She has been with the company for 20 years and is responsible for direct sales to the consumer, as well as sales to schools and libraries with an emphasis on book fairs, fundraisers and a matching donation option.
Havens was commissioned by the CEO of Usborne Books and More, Randall White, to build a sales team in the Savannah area. Through the company’s matching-donation program, Havens was able to donate books to local teachers for Richmond Hill elementary schools.
For more information, go to www.Victoryhaven.org or visit Victory Haven’s Facebook page.