Wednesday, June 18, 2014

It ain't over

Just a quick update....
We thought Tim would have his surgery and be done. We thought he would be coming to Duke this week to get stitches out and for a routine follow up. 

The call came late last week that this occurrence  of melanoma was more serious than we thought. The pathology report on the removed tissue showed quite a bit of melanoma cells. Over the phone, chemo and radiation were mentioned. Today we meet with the surgeon, the medical oncologist and the radiation oncologist.

In our own research, the chemo drug suggested has lots of side effects with a less than stellar success rates. We haven't seen anything that has shown radiation to be effective for melanoma. We will see what the Drs. have to say this morning.

We are continuing to research alternative approaches. There are many out there that appear to have better sucess rates without the serious side effects.There are many decisions ahead of us. 

We have been blessed by the support we have received, in many forms, from our friends, family, church, and co-workers. This is a scary road to walk down. Your love and support has made it easier and taken some of the stress from us during this time. 

Thank you.

Saturday, June 07, 2014

Give a Broody Hen a Job

Right now we keep about 100 laying hens. Their main job is to produce eggs, but they have other jobs too. Some of their other jobs include eating bugs and scraps.

We raise chickens for meat in batches of 100. They have one obvious purpose. Getting them to that purpose can sometimes be challenging. When they first arrive on the farm there are challenges with keeping them at the right temperature, with pasty bottoms that need cleaned, and other issues. As they get older, the main issue becomes predators. Our LGD, Stella, has greatly helped keep the fox and raccoon away, but hawk have been a problem the last couple of years also.

Every now and then a few hens will go broody. This is their natural instinct to sit on their nest and hatch eggs. I love when our hens hatch out their own chicks, but we've never had success with hens sitting in the chicken house. The only successful broody hens we've had have always made their nests somewhere hidden outside. So, when a hen is broody in the hen house we try to discourage her by removing the eggs under her daily. They will come out of their broodiness, but while they are broody they are not producing eggs, or going outside to eat bugs. They just sit in their boxes.

Last year we had a hen go broody while we had 100 meat chicks in a brooder box that was in the hen house. She could not get in the pen with the chicks, but she could see them and was determined to be their momma. She would sit next to them clucking to them through the fence. She kept a watchful eye on them. When they were large enough to go outside, we moved them to a different pen for finishing on pasture. That momma hen found her 100 babies. This time she was among them, and able to mother them in a whole new way. One day Kellen was feeding the meat birds, and witnessed momma raising a ruckus and defending her babies. She was chasing off a red tailed hawk.

Currently we have about 6 hens sitting broody in nest boxes in the hen house. On Tuesday, we got 100 new meat chicks. One of those broody hens got a new job. Her job is momma. It was very cute to watch her when we put her in with the chicks. She looked a little overwhelmed at first. Can you blame her? It didn't take long for her to start clucking and calling them. Of course she can't brood them all, but she tucks ten or so of them under her, and keeps a watchful eye on the rest who warm under the heat lamps.

Hen is happy and productive. Chicks are happy. Farmers are happy.

Thursday, June 05, 2014

Round Two

The Drs. are calling Tim's second bout with melanoma a transient melanoma. This new lump was very near the original area, and the cancerous cells were likely there before at a microscopic level. The surgeon told us that often when there is a second occurrence the cancer has spread through the body. Thankfully, that is not the case for Tim. His PET scan and MRI are clear.

He had surgery last week to remove a larger area around the lump. That is it this time. They have no other treatments for this stage of melanoma except the interferon chemo he took last time. It is a treatment that is supposed to help boost your immune system against melanoma. Interferon helps some people, but not all. They told us that up front. Obviously, it didn't help Tim.

The surgeon was up front with us about this occurrence. We can hope that this is the last little bit of it, but there really is no way to know. Microscopic melanomas don't show up in the scans. We just wait and watch closely.

Yep, that is it. No treatments for this stage. They have new and exciting (sarcasm) treatments if the melanoma progresses to stage 4, but at this point it is just wait and see. Their only advice for prevention is to use sunscreen. No mention of diet or any other lifestyle changes that might help the body fight this. We can only wait and see if this happens again.

That's not good enough.

Our bodies are designed to heal themselves. They are designed to fight off disease. Why not cancer too?

I like our doctors. They are kind. They are doing what they think is best. What I don't like is that our medical profession only teaches doctors to cut and medicate. I can't believe that is the only choice. I can't believe there is nothing more we can do, but wait and see. So, we are reading. There are plenty of books out there, and there are doctors who take a more holistic approach (though they are rare in WV.)

On our trips back and forth to Duke we listened to Whole by T. Colin Campbell. The author was a research scientist for years when he found a link between animal proteins and cancer. He did a lot of studies on this connection and wrote another book, which we are reading too, called The China Study. He studied rural populations of China, with mostly plant based diets, and their incidences of heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. In  Whole he gives evidence for why nutrition is so important, why eating a plant based diet is best, and looks at the reasons he believes the studies about nutrition and disease do not reach mainstream popularity. He doesn't hold any punches pointing fingers at politics, professional self interest, pharmacies, media, and more.

I read this book Defeat Cancer Now by Tamara St. John. She was never formally diagnosed with cancer. She had no medical insurance, and did not go to the doctor, but based on lumps, swollen lymph nodes, and other symptoms self diagnosed herself with breast cancer. Her book is about how she put into practice various protocols of natural healing including The Budwig Protocol, elements of the Gerson Therapy, alkaline diet, and others.

Another book in our reading queue is Outsmart Your Cancer: Alternative Non-Toxic Treatments That Work. The author of this book began researching alternative cancer treatments when a family member was diagnosed. She puts the information all together in this book that summarizes the different protocols out there.

There is a lot information to wade through in these books, and many more books out there on the market. Almost all that we've read so far involve a diet change to a diet that includes no sugar or meat, and some call for a diet that includes no animal proteins. We are still reading. We are still sorting through the application of this information in our life. We have already made some changes. We are juicing. Most of our meals have been meatless. We are buying a lot more that is organic, and are thankful that our chemical free garden is starting to produce for us. Tim has been a rock of self control when it comes to sugar. (I wish that I could say the same.) Beyond that, we are still figuring things out.

The diet changes we are incorporating now are not hurtful. Anyone can agree that adding more fruits and vegetables to your diet is healthy. We are still looking at other treatments we are reading about. We will also be talking to a nearby holistic doctor who has experience with cancer. Tim is not actively fighting cancer (that can be detected by scans,) but changing nothing, and just waiting around to see if another melanoma pops up is not acceptable. Having another one pop up and removing another chunk of Tim's shoulder is not acceptable. Having it progress to stage four and undergoing chemo with some new drug is not acceptable. We pray. We do what we can to prevent this from happening again, and then we wait and see.