Disclaimer: The information contained in this story is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It is provided for educational purposes only. We are not doctors, just parents trying make a difference in the lives of those with cancer.
This is the story of our little boy, Mason, who changed our family’s life to the extreme, and impacted many more through his amazing testimony. This journey, as a family, really began in 2006. We had been searching for property, and in August of that year, we finally found the land of our dreams. It was beautiful – complete with a lake and plenty of open pasture. Nicole and I were constantly downloading house plans, looking for the perfect house to go on this perfect piece of property; however a month later everything changed.
In early September of 2006, Mason our 3 year old, had been frequently and inexplicably throwing up, while also being very constipated. Nicole took him to the pediatrician, where the doctor felt a sizable lump in his abdomen. The doctor thought it was a blockage in his intestines, due to his constipation, and told us to give him an enema and keep her posted. We gave it to him and he finally went to the bathroom, but the lump was still there.
We walked in and they immediately got him started on his 2 hour contrast beverage and prepping him for the CAT-scan. The actual scan was over in less than ten minutes and back to the waiting room we went. Five minutes later, we received the phone call that rocked our world. It was his pediatrician on the phone and asked to speak to Nicole. She stepped over to the nurses’ stand and the next thing I heard was her screaming and crying. Tears ran down the side of my face. I knew it was bad news and all I could do was try to not lose it in front of my little boy. Nicole came back to the room and said to me, “He has a tumor and there is a very high chance it is cancer.” The look in her eyes said more to me than any words could do justice. My wife was hurting and I was so confused. Mason’s doctor immediately called the pediatric oncologist and made an appointment for us the next day.
The ride home was hard. We were an hour away from the hospital, but it seemed like an eternity. I really couldn’t tell you what the conversation was about. I guess it was about the unknown or whatever people that experience something very traumatic talk about. It was just a blur.
The next morning we headed back up to the hospital to meet with his new doctor. The news wasn’t good. After looking at the scan, he said he had Neuroblastoma and was a stage 4. He told us to stay off the internet and he would schedule the surgery for a week out. Again, tears, head spinning, with tons of questions and no answers. The whole time Mason was so positive. He truly believed that God would protect him and he wasn’t worried. He certainly was our faith champion. We made phone calls to our parents, pastor and close friends and explained to our older son, Camron, what was happening to his little brother.
The morning of the surgery, we had to be at the hospital extremely early. I remember feeling like I was losing any control I had. They called him back to the prep area and gave him some silly juice (kind of knocks them out before they give him the anesthesia). I didn’t want him to leave. We were both so scared. Finally, the medicine kicked in and he was nearly asleep. They wheeled him back to the operating room and as the doors closed behind him, my stomach just sank. The next few hours were nail biting, as we waiting anxiously for him to get out of surgery.
The surgeon finally arrived in the waiting room to give us the details of his surgery. He told us he removed the tumor and all that was left was cancer in his lymph nodes on the left side of his abdomen. Shortly after, they wheeled Mason in front of the waiting room so we could see him before they took him into ICU. He was very swollen and still sedated from the surgery. I remember tubes coming out of his nose, full of blood being sucked from his stomach and the catheter was causing him great pain. My wife didn’t sleep. She watched over him all night, attending to his every need.
The next afternoon, they moved us to a new room on the cancer floor. I’d never seen so many babies that had cancer in all my life. I felt broken in so many places. How could this be happening? It was happening! Reality set in yet again when Mason’s doctor came to check on him. He said “We need to speak in private. Can someone sit with Mason so we can talk?” Ok, neither one of us could stand more bad news, but it looked like he had another spoon full for us to swallow.
We went with him to a meeting room just down the hall from Mason’s room. As we sat there, the doctor pulled out his file and a couple of binders, and said “Mason will need to have chemotherapy.” He then proceeded to tell us about the treatment plan and how long Mason would need to be in the hospital. The cost was unbelievable. Then the doctor moved on to the side effects, which were… hearing loss, possible kidney and liver failure, possible heart transplant, won’t be able to reproduce, may get leukemia from the treatment and will end up losing his teeth. He topped it off by saying “but you’ll be able to enjoy having him around for a while, as he could live until the age of 40.” The way he nonchalantly explained this, made me feel like he was selling us a used car and whatever happened after we pulled off the lot wasn’t his problem. It was sickening. With those odds, how could a parent feel good about making a judgment call on the life of their child? How could his doctor act like this was no big deal? That was our baby in that room; he is not a car getting a timing belt replaced!! I was hurt, angry, confused. So if we allowed the doctors to give him this chemo, he’s going to get another form of cancer? Really!!!
His doctor told us we needed to get a picc line put into his chest. This line taps right into the main vein/artery going to the heart. I guess they do this now because the chemo would typically burn up the veins in the hands and arms. This was a much bigger, harder to burn up vein (going to the heart).
We told our doctor we wanted more proof that he needed chemo. We asked that he send the results of Mason’s tests to the top three children’s cancer hospitals in the country, to see if they agreed with his recommendation. The doctor wasn’t thrilled, but obliged and told us there was no way they would all come back in agreement. He said it would take a few days to hear back.
That evening, Nicole and I prayed for the results to be unanimous. A few days later, our doctor came by and wanted to discuss starting chemo treatment later that day. We asked if there was any response yet from the other doctors and he said he would check to see. A few hours later, he came back and said he was very surprised that all three doctors had the same response. They all agreed that we should do routine MIBG and CAT scan tests and watch for any progression. An answered prayer - Thank God! We told the doctor we would not be going through chemo and we were leaving. He wasn’t very happy with us, but we had faith and hope. We weren’t going to give our child toxic chemicals for the sake of the doctors sales pitch.
Bringing Mason home was a challenge at first. We had to sterilize everything and we had to adjust to the line in his heart. It had to be flushed twice a day so he didn’t get any clots or infection. Mason developed an allergic reaction to the adhesive patch that covered the open wound in his chest, which made cleaning the area painful for him. Once his MIBG and CAT scan came back clear, we told the doctor to take the line out. Chemo wasn’t an option for us any longer.
During this time, I began to read case studies and research papers about his cancer. I wanted to know where this came from and my research led me to pesticides as the main contributor. But how? I’d been growing food for a long time and it was grown organically. Yes, I bought veggies from the store, but we washed them. Then we watched a documentary called "The Future of Food" by Deborah Koons Garcia. I was horrified by the current state of our food. I remember being very intrigued by the information Dr. Charles Benbrook shared.
Then I stumbled across Dr. Benbrook's phone number and decided to call him. I give him credit, he didn't know me and spoke to me at length about pesticides. I guess he heard the urgency in my voice. He explained how pesticides that are sprayed on the plants are absorbed by the leaves and roots. They are also absorbed into the cells of the fruits and vegetables we eat and can’t be washed off. Also, most of these fruits and vegetables are sprayed with not one, but sometimes two or more pesticide chemicals and we end up consuming a pesticide cocktail. My brain was once again spinning. The information he gave me was a lot to swallow.
Next we discovered GMO’s, and I was again sick, angry, and disturbed that none of this information was out there for the general public. I guess cancer is a better option than a massive revolt in the food system, from the government’s perspective. After all, they wouldn’t want the lobbyist money from the big food companies to stop coming in, would they?
I wanted to know more. I read everything I could get my hands on. I discovered Joel Salatin, Will Allen, Michael Pollan, The Organic Center, The Gerson Institute, Elliot Coleman, and many others. Raw fruits and veggies, juicing, grass fed meats and organs (especially liver), and raw milk; my head was spinning in a good way. All of these things were foods God provided, unaltered, righteous, and wholesome. The way it should be.
Our diet changed. No more going out 4 nights a week or cooking meat with a side of meat. Now it was heavy vegetables with a small portion of meat. Juicing was becoming the norm. We read labels, either grew or bought organic, and opted out of the grocery store foods as much as we could. Going to a restaurant now is an occasion or special event.
We found a great grass fed meat source and a raw goat milk source too. We discovered the benefits of apple cider vinegar, Omega 3 fatty acids, cod liver oil, and whole food vitamins. The pain in my joints from lupus, an auto-immune disorder, was gone. In the past, I would routinely have ice on my knees at night because of the swelling, but no longer since we’ve changed our diet.
Our boys were healthy and Mason’s cancer was gone. Completely healed! The cancer that was in his lymph nodes had calcified and sealed completely. Changing our diet to organic didn't cure him of cancer, however, it did give his body the proper ammunition to heal.
Mason’s testimony was transforming us. The anger we had was changing to “What can we do with what we have?” The medical bills depleted our savings, but we still had our land. Nicole and I wanted to do more than just grow food for ourselves, but also for our community. This information was too important to sit on and do nothing with.
We decide to start a non-profit organization on the land we had purchased. We called it “180 Degree Farm”, a turn in the right direction. “GROW-GIVE-TEACH” would be at the core of our foundation and we hoped to impact many lives in our community.
Today, 180 Degree Farm has a CSA program, a Farm to Hospital program and market, a Therapeutic Garden for cancer patients (2020 completion), as well as many teaching and speaking engagements throughout the year. We produce fruits and vegetables, lamb, and chicken & duck eggs.
Since opening in 2009, we’ve conducted educational workshops, hosted several food and farm related documentary screenings, and donated over 60 thousand pounds of organically grown foods to people in need; thanks to partners like Summit Church, CTCA, Hilton, and Trinity Church. Over 75% of our customers are sick. Illnesses like cancer, severe food allergies, autism, auto-immune disorders and many others, so these foods are important to them.
We've invested heavily in our soil and strive to produce the most nutritionally dense foods we can. We also teach quarterly at CTCA (check our Speaking Engagements page for dates and times) on food awareness and nutrition, based on what we have learned through Mason's journey back to good health. Furthermore, we continue to research and learn better ways nutrition can help the body heal from disease and sickness. This will never stop, thanks to your support!
Today, Mason is a thriving 17 year old with dreams of becoming a great chef. His testimony has changed his perspective on food, and how to transform it into something delicious with as much of the retained nutrients as possible.
His goal is to own his own restaurant and merge innovative new cuisine with organic ingredients from the farm - bringing the principles of seasonality & integrity based farming directly to the table.