Mary Ann and Ron Barnes, November 2001
As a youngster, Ron Barnes just knew he wanted to be a farmer. He also
knew he would need a farm. So he set out early in life to realize his
dream. At the age of 18 years, he left high school and jumped into his
first job at the Simpson Insulating Board Plant in Shelton, Washington.
Work went on around the clock -- as did Ron. Ron worked the rotating shifts
and then some, logging countless hours of overtime. He saved every penny
he could, hoping one day to have enough to buy a few of God’s Green Acres.
Funny thing was Ron didn’t know a thing about farming. Despite that,
in 1970, at the age of 32, Ron quit his job at Simpson, and he and his
wife, Mary Ann, sold their house in Shelton and bought a dairy farm in
Ron had learned how to hay in Shelton, and he had spent a few weekends
prior to moving with the previous owner of the dairy farm as the more
experienced man taught the novice a few things about how to keep the farm
up and running. With their new neighbors only too glad to instruct them
from time to time, and their five children helping out, for 30 years Ron
and Mary Ann made their farm flourish. They dreamed of retirement and
travel sometime in the future.
NOT THE KIND OF TRAVEL THEY HOPED FOR
So, after 30 years of working 12 to 16 hours per day, seven days a week,
milking 65 cows twice a day, building barns, mending fences, maintaining
his vast dairy enterprise and somehow nurturing a family, Ron Barnes is
finally traveling. Once a week, he makes a 200-mile round trip from his
home and dairy farm in Randle to his doctor’s office in Olympia,
Washington, for his periodic dose of chemotherapy. Not exactly a relaxing
Just over six months ago, Ron was still working the farm as he always had
-- milking the cows, baling the hay, collecting silage and conducting
everything else necessary to run a dairy farm, as well as getting ready
to turn the reins over to his son, Todd. In June, however, in the midst
of baling over 12,000 bales of hay, Ron began developing a nagging cough.
At first, he ignored the cough, attributing it to the dusty activity;
however, as the cough persisted until September, Mary Ann insisted he
visit a doctor.
Barnes Farm in Randle, Washington
Ron went to see Dr. Hansen at the Morton Medical Center in Morton, Washington.
Upon examining Ron, Dr. Hansen immediately ordered a chest film. From
the film, he could clearly see fluid build-up on the right side of Ron’s
chest cavity. Ron underwent a thoracentesis, and approximately one liter
of fluid was drained from his chest. The fluid was sent to the pathology
lab for testing. Cytological tests on the fluid were positive for an undetermined
malignancy. Dr. Hansen referred Ron to Dr. James Lechner, an oncologist
in Olympia. Dr. Lechner could not be certain about the diagnosis and subsequently
conducted further tests in addition to draining another liter of fluid
from Ron’s chest. The the tests resulted in a diagnosis of malignant
DR. VALLIERES' EPP PROTOCOL
Dr. Lechner referred Ron to Dr. Eric Vallieres at the University of Washington
Medical Center in Seattle. A member of the Science Advisory Board of the
Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation (MARF), a 501(c)(3) non-profit
charity whose mission is to eradicate mesothelioma as a life-ending disease,
Dr. Vallieres is a prominent thoracic surgeon and treater of mesothelioma.
After examining Ron on September 24, Dr. Vallieres believed that Ron was
in stage one and concluded that in view of his overall health, Ron was
a candidate for the rigorous multi-modality therapy that he offered at
the University of Washington. Dr. Vallieres’ protocol consists of
pre-surgical induction chemotherapy, and if the tumor responds to chemotherapy,
as evidenced by CT scan, extra-pleural pneumonectomy, followed by radiation.
An extra-pleural pneumonectomy is considered to be a radical surgery with
a significant patient mortality, depending on where the patient undergoes
the procedure. It is controversial, as other doctors would instead recommend
a pleurectomy / decortication, which calls for sparing the lung and removing
the visible tumor only. See http://www.mesothel.com/pages/brauch.htm.
The selection process itself is difficult, as from the number of patients
screened since 1997, only 37% have been accepted to the initial phase
of chemotherapy for the protocol at the University of Washington
. Of those, only 70% went through with the surgery with just under six percent
dying due to complications from the surgery. The survival rate following
surgery is better, with the entire group lasting almost a year, although
at twelve months, only about half the group remains. The encouraging news
about the surgery is that more than ten percent do live for three years
following surgery, and a select few even longer. For a complete profile
of the above statistics, please see Dr. Vallieres’ notes presented
to MARF on their website at www.marf.org.
When performing the EPP, Dr. Vallieres removes the patient’s affected
lung and the pericardial sac (along with the diaphragm) and replaces the
same with a new lining made of Kevlar®. Several weeks after surgery,
after the patient has partially healed, radiation therapy is applied to
the affected area in an effort to eliminate all traces of the tumor. Eligibility
for surgery, however, relies entirely on the patient’s response
to chemotherapy. If, after two rounds of chemotherapy, the tumor has not
shrunk, the patient may not continue with the treatment protocol and surgery.
RON AND HIS FAMILY GET READY FOR THE NEXT STEP
Ron agreed to participate, and thus far, has completed two full rounds
of chemotherapy and is gearing up for his third. He has had two doses
of Cisplatin and has alternated between more frequent dosages of velbanine
and methotrexate. He has endured nausea and night sweats and lost weight,
and the long drives to Olympia and Dr. Lechner’s office, where he
receives his chemotherapy, are taking their toll. His CT scan in December
indicated that Ron is responding well to the treatment; however, his tumor
is not shrinking. He has developed a cough, and he begins another round
of chemotherapy this week. He will undergo a PET scan in February, and
at that point, his doctors will determine if he is eligible for surgery
and a better shot at life.
The Barnes family is close. They have worked hard together. The children
built their houses together on the 140 acres, and they feel fortunate
enough to have spent the holidays together on the farm. Until the results
in February and for longer than that, the Barnes family will rally together
to help Ron get through this. We will keep you posted on the progress
of this tenacious and united family.
POSTED JANUARY 25, 2002
An Update -- 1/30/02
To whom it may concern
I just wanted to comment on your profile of my Uncle. It was very accurate
on the points of his wanting to farm and the closeness of his family.
What it didn't say was what the rest of of us know.
Ron and Mary Barnes are wonderful people who are loved by
ALL who know them. They have touched many lives with their warmth, caring and love.
Uncle Ron and Aunt Mary hosted most, if not all, family reunions. We are
not a small family. At the last reunion one count had between 60-75 people
roaming and playing around their wonderful home. There were probably more
than that there, but nobody stayed still long enough to get an accurate
count. All children love this man. He has a way of making them feel like
they have his undivided attention. He plays with them, teases them and
loves them like only he can. As busy as he was on that wonderful farm,
he always had time for us kids.
An Update -- 4/3/02
Ron and Mary Ann Barnes returned from Seattle, Washington, yesterday where
Ron went through routine post-surgery tests to determine his progress.
Ron underwent an extra-pleural pneumonectomy with Dr. Vallieres in Seattle
on March 14, 2002. During the procedure, Dr. Vallieres removed Ron's
right lung, part of his diaphragm and a portion of Ron's pericardial
sac. Cytological tests on the biopsied tissue from Ron's pericardial
sac revealed that, despite the chemotherapy he had endured prior to surgery,
cancerous cells had still found their way to his pericardial sac.
After surgery, Ron's white blood cell count skyrocketed to more than
21,000, and it wasn't until April 2 that doctors measured his white
blood cell count at around 11,000 -- still above normal, but short of
the critical levels it had reached. Additionally, Ron has been prescribed
a large supply of painkillers -- normal procedure following such radical
surgery -- and he has been battling fluid build up. Constipation and dehydration
have not been absent. He is trying to walk without aid, and little by
little, he tries to eat more every day. He is doing everything he can
to build up his strength for the grueling radiation treatments that will
start in about four to six weeks. With a genuinely sweet but determined
Mary Ann by his side, Ron hopes that he just might be the one to beat the odds.
An Update -- 8/1/02
Ron completed radiation treatment three weeks ago. He handled the radiation
better than expected, however he has lost 30 lbs. since he began his surgical,
chemotherapy and radiation regimen. Prior to beginning radiation, Ron
had a feeding tube installed in anticipation of him developing a sore
throat from the treatments; fortunately this never became an issue. He
did develop a little cough and soreness in the chest area. Ron's doctors
want to give him a little time to recover before they remove the feeding
tube. He is scheduled to return mid-August for a follow-up X-ray. After
having spent six weeks near the Olympia Radiation Clinic, Ron and Mary
Ann are just happy to be back home. Ron feels like he's making progress
in his recovery from the radiation, his appetite is making a comeback
but he is concerned about his increased shortness of breath. There are
days when he over-exerts himself, so now he has to guage what he can and
cannot do. Mary Ann says they deal with each week differently, as one
problem solved is quickly replaced by a new one.
An Update -- 10/27/03
From Mary Ann:
Ron is doing well. He just had a CT scan on October 20 and saw his physician
on October 21. The doctor was pleased with the scan results. There are
still signs of fluid build-up, but not enough to warrant having it drained.
Ron keeps busy around the farm. After being advised by his doctor to stay
out of dusty environments, Ron decided he'd buy himself a tractor
with a cab to shield him from the dust while working the fields. Ron will
continue to get CT scans every three months.
An Update -- 3/17/05
Mary Ann is very pleased to report that Ron is really doing great. Every
now and again something will come up, especially when the weather gets
cold and he experiences discomfort in his chest. Ron is still keeping
busy on the farm. His follow ups with his physician have now been extended
to every six months. Mary Ann says she believes it is Ron's positive
attitude and sense of humor that keeps his recovery on the right track.
Mr. Ron Barnes passed away on June 8, 2005