Tuesday, January 25, 2011


Betting with THE BEST! PennMedicine
My buddy Brinson tells me ALL CAPS means I'm shouting. YES, I AM. Shouting it from the mountain top on which we live. I have great news. After meeting with my NHL specialist, Sunita Nasta, MD, at the Perelman Center for Advanced Medicine in the Abramson Cancer Center, I know officially that my cancer has waned. Burned itself out in some areas, and smaller than when diagnosed in March, 2010. Significantly smaller. Cause for celebration.

Having a mobile blood cancer means it can transport itself elsewhere, but since mine momentarily has not morphed or moved, I have cause to give thanks for this blessing. Do I understand that at a later date, the news could reverse. Absolutely. But living in the moment, I am definitely grateful.

6 adult females and 1 male cria, 4+ months, 90+ lbs.
I asked my doctor what could make that difference, and the world of medicine just does not know. I asked myself what was different and shared that non-rhetorical with Nasta. Excercise. Winter on the mountain with a herd of llamas, even a small herd,  and a cria, keeps me outdoors a lot! On a snow day when my students and most teachers celebrate a free day, mine still begins at 4:30 AM and ends for a break about noon. Then, I'm back at the barn around 3 PM for another good hour. Not a complaint; a choice. One I welcome with alacrity. And this choice just might be life enhancing, although when I ventured into the world of llamas, I did not know I had cancer, so that choice would, in time, become serendipitous.

The why is simple. From Ottowa, Ontario, March 8, 2008.
Llamas may look harmless, but their immune system harbours some unique weapons against disease. In the 1990s, biologists in Belgium reported that unlike other mammals, the camelid family – which includes llamas, camels and alpacas – produce not one but two types of antibodies: the conventional Y-shaped molecules consisting of four protein chains; and smaller, two-chain antibodies. Within these two-chain antibodies, the part that recognizes and clings to foreign molecules, called "antigens", during an immune attack has been dubbed a single-domain antibody (sdAb).

Despite their modest size, single-domain antibodies can grasp their antigenic targets as firmly as conventional antibodies. What's more, they are hardier than monoclonal antibodies, the current standard antibody format for therapeutic purposes.

Winter Farmlife
I am not naive enough to believe that just being around llamas, breathing in their breath daily as they say hello and hang out with me, has a medical impact. But it does have a therapeutic benefit. I'm outdoors, surrounded by sensitive loving creatures who share my life in a place I love. Keeping a farm comes with differing seasonal challenges, but one constant remains. Physical exercise in the elements.

Inside Perelman
I began this post with an image of the best cancer center in PA, NJ, and DE. My hospital. My choice after much research. I will always bet on the best. If I must have cancer, my choice continues to be PennMedicine.

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1 comment:

  1. Such great news! I agree that life with llamas probably has a lot to do with your prognosis. The human mind has some amazing abilities that we cannot even begin to understand. Attitude has a lot to do with it!