Pancreatic cancer patient embraces proton therapy

Posted by on Thursday, January 28th, 2016


Provision does not specialize in repeat customers, but Darrell Ragland’s cancer diagnosis has brought him here more than once. And he couldn’t be more thankful.

In 2002, Ragland was diagnosed with islet cell pancreatic cancer—the disease made famous by Steve Jobs. Fourteen years later, he says he is “living with cancer”—maintaining an active lifestyle and helping support others on their cancer journey.

Ragland was treated for tumors near his spine, affecting the ability to use his arm, and in his liver. He came to Provision for treatment in April and August of 2014.

“I’m grateful,” he says. “I’m grateful for the opportunity to further my days and have a quality of life.”

He was 46, served as technical advisor for Alcoa and raising four children in Evansville, Ind. when originally diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Following surgery to remove his spleen, gallbladder and two-thirds of his pancreas, he lived five years with no other complications. Then the tumors returned in 2007, metastasizing to his liver. Using a combination of clinical trial treatments and conventional radiation, only two of 13 tumors remain.

“With islet cell (cancer), tumors can pop up anywhere,” Ragland says.

After a suggestion from a local radiologist, the Raglands began exploring proton therapy as a treatment option. The targeted form of radiation therapy allowed the tumors found in these delicate parts of the body to be treated without damaging surrounding tissue and severely impacting normal function.

After making calls, and encountering automated responses, to several centers, Ragland’s wife, Karen, contacted Provision.

“A voice answered, tears started flowing,” Ragland says. “When you’re going through it, and you get a recording saying, ‘Your call is important to us, please hold,” to hear an actual person on the other end of the line is a big deal.”

When he arrived at Provision for the first set of treatments, Ragland could not even squeeze his hand.

“It was come to Knoxville or lose total mobility in my right arm,” he says.

Today he has full mobility in his arm. And the follow-up treatment on his liver and lymph nodes was also successful.

These positive outcomes have helped open the minds of Ragland’s physicians back home, and now they solicit Provision doctors’ opinions on his follow-up scans.

Ragland credits his faith and family support system for challenging medical opinions that offered little hope—at one point a nurse informed him that they had done “everything we know to do for you,” he says.

“As a patient advocate, you have to be persistent in finding something else,” says his daughter, Channelle Ragland. “They say, ‘Well, that’s it.’ We don’t accept that. We’re just not those kind of people.”

The Raglands are channeling what they’ve learned through their education and advocacy experience into a foundation aimed at helping cancer patients navigate a complicated health care system and find the treatment that’s best for them. Although initially targeting pancreatic patients, the Darrell Ragland Foundation has come to work with all families facing a cancer diagnosis.

Ragland believes it’s important to demonstrate that cancer is not a death sentence—and to provide others with the tools he’s found to live with the disease.

Channelle tells the story of a recent encounter at the local drug store.

“The pharmacist said, ‘I didn’t know he had cancer,’” she says, “’He’s always mowing the lawn.’”

Proton therapy has been a big part of keeping him on that lawn mower and doing other things he enjoys most, Ragland says.

“I try to be grateful for my cancer,” he says. “If I can learn to thankful for the day, hopefully there’ll be a cure tomorrow.”


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Enjoy healthy comfort food this winter—recipes

Posted by on Tuesday, January 26th, 2016


Don’t let the winter blues keep you from eating nutritious meals. Chili is a wonderful way to satisfy the desire for comfort food, and here are some recipes that give you plenty of veggies at the same time! (Click here to view the entire newsletter.)

Healthy Pumpkin Chili
Serves 4
  1. 1/2 cup vegetable broth (or 1 tablespoon olive oil; for sautéing)
  2. 1 large onion, chopped
  3. 2 cloves garlic, minced
  4. 2 bell peppers, chopped (any color)
  5. 1 28-ounce can of diced tomatoes
  6. 1 15-ounce can black beans
  7. 1 15-ounce can pinto beans
  8. 1 15-ounce can pumpkin purée (not pumpkin pie filling!!)
  9. 2 cups vegetable broth
  10. 2 tablespoons chili powder
  11. 2 teaspoons cumin
  12. 2 teaspoons paprika
  13. 1 teaspoon salt
  14. 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  15. dash of cayenne pepper or red pepper flakes (optional)
  16. juice from 1 lime
  17. toppings: cilantro, avocado, jalapeños, sriracha, crushed tortilla chips
  1. In a big pot, heat up the vegetable broth.
  2. Sauté the onion and garlic until translucent, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add in the bell peppers, cook another 5 minutes. Add in the canned tomatoes, beans, pumpkin, vegetable broth and spices (excluding the lime until the end). Stir until well combined.
  4. Bring to a slight boil, turn down heat and cover to let simmer about 15-20 minutes.
  5. Turn off heat and stir in the fresh lime juice.
  6. Serve immediately with your favorite spices.
Paula Deen’s Taco Soup
12-16 servings
2 pounds ground beef
2 cups diced onions
2 (15 1/2-ounce) cans pinto beans
1 (15 1/2-ounce) can pink kidney beans
1 (15 1/4-ounce) can whole kernel corn, drained
1 (14 1/2-ounce) can Mexican-style stewed tomatoes
1 (14 1/2-ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 (14 1/2-ounce) can tomatoes with chiles
2 (4 1/2-ounce) cans diced green chiles
1 (4.6-ounce) can black olives, drained and sliced, optional
1/2 cup green olives, sliced, optional
1 (1 1/4-ounce) package taco seasoning mix
1 (1-ounce) package ranch salad dressing mix
Corn chips, for serving
Sour cream, for garnish
Grated cheese, for garnish
Chopped green onions, for garnish
Pickled jalapenos, for garnish
Brown the ground beef and onions in a large skillet; drain the excess fat, then transfer the browned beef and onions to a large slow cooker or a stockpot. Add the beans, corn, tomatoes, green chiles, black olives, green olives, taco seasoning, and ranch dressing mix, and cook in a slow cooker on low for 6 to 8 hours or simmer over low heat for about 1 hour in a pot on the stove. To serve, place a few corn chips in each bowl and ladle soup over them. Top with sour cream, cheese, green onions and jalapenos.Source:


Winter Vegetable Chili

Serves 6-8

1 recipe simmered pintos ( /recipes/1016030-a-big-pot-of- simmered-pintos)

2 tablespoons grapeseed, sunflower or canola oil

1 onion, finely chopped

1 large or 2 medium carrots, cut in small dice

1 red pepper, diced (optional) 2 large garlic cloves, minced

3 tablespoons mild ground chili (or use hot, or use more)

1 tablespoon lightly toasted cumin seeds, ground

1 28-ounce can chopped tomatoes

1 teaspoon dried oregano, preferably Mexican oregano

2 tablespoons tomato paste dissolved in 1 cup water

2 cups diced winter squash (about 3/4 pound)

Salt to taste
1⁄2 cup chopped cilantro

Grated cheddar or Monterey Jack, or crumbled queso fresco for garnish (optional)

Step 1

Time: 1 hour 30 minutes Yield: Serves 6 to 8


Heat the beans on top of the stove in a large soup pot or Dutch oven.

Step 2

Heat the oil over medium heat in a heavy nonstick skillet and add the onion, carrot and pepper. Cook, stirring often, until the vegetables are tender and beginning to color, about 8 minutes. Stir in the garlic, stir together until fragrant, 30 seconds to a minute, and add the ground chili and cumin. Cook, stirring, for 2 to 3 minutes, until the mixture begins to stick to the pan. Add the tomatoes and oregano, and salt to taste. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring often, until the tomatoes have cooked down and the mixture is beginning to stick to the pan, about 10 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste dissolved in water and bring back to a simmer. Season with salt to taste and simmer, stirring often, for 10 minutes, until the mixture is thick and fragrant.

Step 3

Stir the tomato mixture into the beans. Add the winter squash and bring to a simmer. Simmer, stirring often, for 30 to 45 minutes. It is important to stir often so that the chili doesn’t settle and stick to the bottom of the pot. It should be thick; if you desire you can thin out with water. Taste and adjust salt.

Step 4

Shortly before serving stir in the cilantro and simmer for 5 minutes. Spoon into bowls. If you wish, top with grated cheddar, Monterey jack, or crumbled queso fresco.


Advance preparation: The simmered beans can be made 3 or 4 days ahead and the chili will keep for 3 or 4 days in the refrigerator. You will probably want to thin it out with water is it will continue to thicken. It freezes well.



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Provision responds to Biden push for cancer cure

Posted by on Thursday, January 21st, 2016


Vice President Joe Biden’s recent commitment to lead a “moonshot” toward a cancer cure promises to deal a blow to the disease that has become the leading killer in the United States.

The initiative, kicked off last week, commits to bringing together a combination of therapies with “innovations in data and technology” to create treatment options that are ready for prime time—with the goal of making “a decade worth of advances in five years.”

Here at Provision, we couldn’t agree more. It’s something we work toward every day.

We believe the solution to a cancer cure is a combination of early detection along with both currently available and up-and-coming therapies that have the power to transform cancer treatment as we know it.

Here’s our view of a cancer-free future.

Ninety percent of cancer is treatable when detected early. If those at risk for a variety of cancers—particularly the big three: prostate, breast and lung—were screened appropriately, many of the cancer deaths we now mourn could be prevented.

For those who test positive for cancer, the healthcare system needs to, through research as well as financial support via insurance coverage, move toward treatments that kill the cancer but spare the patient and sustain quality of life.

Today, surgery, radiation and chemotherapy in various measures and combinations are the typical recipe for cancer care. All three of these remedies carry their own risks, from that of infection and complications in surgery to the collateral damage of radiation to the harsh toll chemotherapy takes on the entire body. Truly, the cure can be worse than the disease.

Here’s our vision of the future:

First, conventional radiation and most surgery should be replaced by proton therapy. Proton therapy is a proven, FDA-approved treatment option for those diagnosed with localized cancer such as found in the prostate, breast or brain. This non-invasive treatment reduces the side effects caused by conventional radiation therapy and surgery. A growing number of proton therapy centers are making this world-class option available to patients across the globe. We support their research in developing the best treatment plans and clinically demonstrating proton therapy’s effectiveness.

Second, immunotherapy offers the promise of a future without chemotherapy. By using the body’s own disease-fighting system to eradicate cancer, it eliminates the toxic, debilitating side effects now experienced by chemo patients and better prevents spread of the disease. Research should be dedicated to bringing this unique treatment to everyday application for cancers that now require chemotherapy.

And serious, strategic investment should be made in cancer prevention by encouraging healthy lifestyle choice and reducing environmental risks.

As Biden has said, for too long research has been stuck in silos, focused on narrow investigative tracks and lacking a clear, comprehensive, thoughtful vision that could actually move the needle on cancer mortality. Treatment is too often dictated by the financial interest of the health care industry rather than public and personal health priorities. Patients are too often relegated into the role of bystanders rather than active participants in their care.

We rejoice in the government’s fresh approach to this growing crisis. We are encouraged by the vice president’s willingness to seek the best answers to a problem that has touched his life and ours. We believe the answer is within reach—and we want to be a part of the solution. As Provision’s own ice-skating, cancer-surviving spokesman Scott Hamilton so eloquently puts it: “We want to help turn cancer upside down!”



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