Tuesday, November 28, 2023

2023 Is Nearing An End

 This year I had lots of big plans. I had my greenhouse ready for spring planting. I had my vegetable garden planned out. Our barns were finally squared away for the goats. 

Mid March I started having severe flank pain that sent me to the ER. Within a few days doctors decided I had a tumor obstructing my colon and they performed emergency surgery. After a few pints of blood, life saving surgical resection and pathology tests they determined that I had adenocarcinoma colon cancer, stage IIb w/perforation and my tumor pT4aN0M0. That was not how I expected spring to begin. 

I was blessed to be treated in an amazing local hospital. The doctors, surgeons, and nurses were compassionate and supportive. What should have Ben the worst ten days of my life were calm and healing.

Fast forward about six weeks and I was flying to City of Hope Chicago (formerly Cancer Treatment Center of America) to begin chemotherapy with the platinum based CAPOX protocol. This hospital is dear to me. They treated my baby sister for two different types of thyroid cancer back in 2014 and she is doing well today. The Los Angeles City of Hope facility treated two of my sisters in law for breast cancer years ago and they’re both thriving today as well. 

I spent summer on chemo. My protocol lasted three months broken down into 3 week cycles. I would start each cycle on day 1 with a 3.5 hour infusion of the platinum based chemo drug Oxaliplatin. I’d fly home and start 14 days of oral chemo pills Xeloda (Capecitebine). Day 15-21 I was drug free for a week of rest and then I’d start the cycle again. The first two cycles weren’t bad. I was able to rest following infusion, and get through the cycle able to eat. It wasn’t fun feeling nauseated all the time, but the alternative was worse. 

Cycle 3 was harder. I was pretty sick. The night before the fourth and final cycle began I was still sick from the third cycle and was in the ER at the cancer hospital for iv hydration and tests. The next day I managed to get through that infusion and fly home. Two days later I was hospitalized with some pretty severe side effects. I spent the next two weeks in hospital unable to keep food or drink down. I lost almost 25 pounds. The muscles in my mouth and throat were temporarily paralyzed so I was unable to swallow the last cycle of oral chemo pills. It took a speech therapist to help me recover the use of the muscles in my mouth and throat so I could swallow to eat and drink again. 

That last infusion did its job. I could hardly support my own weight to get up and walk from my bed to the restroom or living room because the chemo did it’s job well, it was killing cancer cells and it was also killing red blood cells that should have been oxygenating my muscles etc.  I wasn’t moving enough. Within a few days of being discharged from the hospital for the chemo side effects, I was back in the ER and admitted to the ICU for a week with acute massive pulmonary embolisms. It was so bad the hospital wasn’t going to keep me. They waited for several hours on a cardiothoracic surgeon in surgery so they could try to convince him to accept me. They were planning to fly me to his hospital via helicopter. Once he learned I was a cancer patient on chemo he refused because he didn’t believe he could help me, my situation was grave. The hospital only had two options, ICU on an iv of Heparin and if that didn’t stabilize me soon the last resort was a drug that would break up the blood clots filling my lungs, but they feared the potential for brain bleeds with that drug could also kill me. 

I’ve never been so afraid as I was that first night in ICU. Fortunately, my body responded to the heparin and my heart was soon out of danger, my breathing was improving and the pain was manageable on medication and j was back home a week later recovering.

In September the CT scan could find no evidence of metastasis, so they pronounced me (NED) no evidence of disease. That was a great feeling! I’ve learned that my tumor was advanced. It was large (softball sized), had perforated the colon and had completely obstructed the colon so the tumor itself was staged at pT4a which puts it at high risk for recurrence in a phenomenon called the survivor paradox. Basically, that tumor gives me a higher risk of recurrence and of a worse survival outcome than someone with stage 3 cancer whose tumor isn’t as advanced. Knowing that, I’ve been doing what I can to eat as anti-cancer as possible. I’m exercising and doing what I can do to support my team and to try to stay healthy. 

The surgery that saved my life last spring also left me with a temporary ostomy. I recently learned that my case is complex for reversal so I’m heading to the Mayo Clinic for testing to see if I will be able to have the procedure. I will know my fate next month after I see one of the best colon oncology surgeons in the country, at Mayo. 

I’m hoping to close out 2023 in good spirits, NED, and with the hope of reversal surgery in my immediate future. I plan to get a few Christmas gifts made for friends and family and I am planning my spring garden. This garden will be different as I plan to get some kind of walipini (greenhouse dug down below the frost line) set up in 2024 so I can continue into winter here in South Dakota with important organic veggies to keep me healthy. Those are the goals I hope to meet so far. Do you have plans or goals for your 2024 ???

Tuesday, January 31, 2023

January in South Dakota

The frost envelops the trees at night, and we awaken to a winter wonderland. It was -8' F this morning when I took the photo above. No wind thankfully. 

We have record snowfall for the season, over 40" so far. This region has been in a drought for a few years, so the white stuff is a welcome sight. That picnic table sits in our front yard. Thankfully, the snow doesn't all fall at once and some melts in-between storms, so we are able to get in and out of the property with relative ease on most days.


Farm Update 2023

Hello World! We are back online again after a few very busy years. I have a lot of exciting changes to share with you. Here goes...

  In the summer of 2020, we were evacuated multiple times due to fires close to our home. The SQF Complex fire came within two miles of our farm and produced dangerous dense smoke for months that left me and a few of my goats with long term lung issues. We made the tough decision to leave our birth state and everyone we love behind and decided to move east.

  We sold the house quickly, put everything in storage and boarded our animals with friends and headed east on Interstate 80. We searched all over Utah where my BFF now lives, but property prices there were higher than those in California for small homesteads. We continued north to Idaho which had little available at that point too, so we kept moving east through Wyoming and into Nebraska and then north to South Dakota. We then traveled east to Virginia, checking properties along the route.  

  My heart was set on The Mt Rushmore state. The plains are beautiful. The Black Hills are majestic. The people of South Dakota are warm and friendly and they helped me win over My Hubby.

  Escrow closed Spring 2021 on our latest small farm and I trailered my goats here myself to begin our journey.  We bought a historic homestead with a farmhouse that was built on this lot in 1909. We have just six acres, but they're all level and tillable. We have two older barns Jerry has been remodeling for maximum comfort for the animals, a large chicken coop and the soil here in The Missouri River Valley is so fertile it is amazing.  

We finally have high speed internet again, after many years stuck in the Sierras with only satellite internet so I plan to start blogging again. I am eager to share some of the things I've been working on. Stay tuned.



Friday, December 6, 2019

We have a website for our nigerian dwarf dairy goat herd

I have been raising nigerian dwarf dairy goats since 2013. This is one of my passions.  I am a member of the American Dairy Goat Association as well.  It's amazing to me just how many changes I have witnessed in this industry in such a short period of time.  We show, milk test, and appraise our herd.  We test annually for all the major caprine diseases. We recently started a website just for our goat herd.  It's slowly being populated with members of the herd, our breeding schedule, news and updates.  If you're interested in learning more about these special little goats check out our site here.

Sunday, February 3, 2019


Kidding season is just around the corner at Tres Rios Ranch and I am eager to see the next generation of nigerian dwarf dairy goats born to our herd.  This year we are freshening more of our own homebred does than ever before. Hooray!

It's an opportunity to see how much I have actually learned about dairy goat conformation during all the lectures, classes, shows, linear appraisal sessions, and my own experience milking my does for the last several years.

Stay tuned.