Monthly Archives

January 2016

Pancreatic cancer patient embraces proton therapy

By | Cancer, Culture of Care, Pancreatic cancer, Patient Experience, Patient Hospitality, Proton Ambassadors, side effects, Stories, surgery, Uncategorized | No Comments

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.”


Enjoy healthy comfort food this winter—recipes

By | Exercise & Nutrition, Patient Experience, Uncategorized | No Comments

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.



Provision responds to Biden push for cancer cure

By | Breast Cancer, Cancer, Innovation, lung cancer, Patient Rights, Prostate Cancer, Proton Therapy, research, Scott Hamilton, Screening, side effects, surgery, Survivors, Technology, Uncategorized | No Comments

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!”



Prostate cancer brings professor to Provision

By | Clinical Care, Culture of Care, Patient Experience, Patient Hospitality, Prostate Cancer, Proton Therapy, side effects, Stories, surgery, Uncategorized | No Comments

Whether a career change or cancer treatment, Bill Raffield is the kind of man who goes for what he wants.

He started out with a B.S. in physics and a career in the Air Force where he planned and evaluated instructional systems for the military’s intercontinental ballistic missiles program during the Vietnam War. He became a captain, serving as combat crew commander and wing instructor and discovered he enjoyed “arranging resources to accomplish the mission,” he says. “At the time, I didn’t know what that was called, but in business, that’s operations.”

After his military career ended, Raffield didn’t settle into the field he had chosen but embarked in a new direction, starting out as a territory sales manager for Michelin Tire and ending up management and operations for Truckstops of America and Universal Tire.

“I tended to say, ‘I’m going to do what fits me,” he says.

While in the military he had earned a master’s degree in public administration and later he received a doctorate in industrial management with an eye toward another goal: teaching.

Since 1991, he has been at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn., where he has served as business professor, Director of the school’s Division of Business and Senior Associate Dean of the business college. Six years ago he chose to leave his administrative positions to return to teaching as an associate professor of operations and supply chain management.

“I tend to rebel at being painted into a corner,” Raffield says.

That mindset help Raffield look closely at all his options when diagnosed with prostate cancer after his PSA levels began an upward climb last year. His brother-in-law, who lives in Knoxville, had had proton therapy for prostate cancer three years prior, so Raffield knew something about the treatment. He also knew that with an active career and family life, including grandchildren who live nearby, he didn’t want to struggle with the side effects that came with other treatment options such as surgery and brachytherapy.

“My brother-in-law was amazed at how little impact there was in terms of side effects and everything else. Several friends elected to do brachytherapy and experienced significant side effects from the treatment. With surgery, a lifetime of incontinence and impotence was no deal,” he says. “But first and foremost was the cure rate for proton therapy—as good or better than anything else out there. Putting it all together, it was pretty clear proton was the way to go.”

Although Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., had recently opened, Raffield opted for Provision because it had been in business longer, because nearby family afforded a shorter daily commute (Rochester is a 100 mile trip from Raffield’s home in Forest Lake, Minn.) and because Provision offered a one-time hydrogel injection as an alternative to the balloon, which is inserted daily into the rectum of prostate patients prior to treatment for protection from radiation exposure.

“The hydrogel was icing on the cake,” he says.

And while the time away from his wife and grandchildren in Minnesota has been difficult, Raffield says he appreciates Provision’s support system of employees and the patients he met along the way.

“It’s a happy place,” he says. “I came down here two weeks after my diagnosis, and I was just blown away by the culture and atmosphere of Provision. That sealed the deal. I felt and continue to feel at home here.”

Raffield is one of several patients featured at





Provision’s “Caring Plate” receives $21,000 donation

By | Breast Cancer, Cancer, Knoxville Comprehensive Breast Center, Pediatric Cancer, Prostate Cancer, Provision CARES, Uncategorized | No Comments

A donation from that L5 Foundation will provide 3,500 meals for cancer patients and their families through the Provision CARES Foundation‘s Caring Plate program.

This week the foundation gave $21,000 to the initiative, which is operated through the Knoxville/Knox County Community Action Commitee‘s Mobile Meals program. Provision CARES launched the program with CAC in 2014 in order to provide patients with healthful, nutritious meals during their cancer treatment. Since then, the Caring Plate has suppled more than 5,600 meals to cancer patients and their families. Patients from the following medical centers qualify for the program: East Tennessee Children’s Hospital, Knoxville Comprehensive Breast Center, Provision Center for Proton Therapy, Provision Radiation Therapy, Tennessee Cancer Specialists and the University of Tennessee Cancer Institute.

“The Provision CARES Foundation is honored that the L5 Foundation believes in our unique partnership with CAC to make The Caring Plate program available to families battling cancer throughout our region,” said Provision CARES Foundation Executive Director Les Fout. “The Caring Plate would not be possible without the L5 Foundation and other generous donors who want to make cancer patients cancer survivors.”

The Provision CARES program helps provide a needed service to the community, said Susan Long, director of CAC’s Office on Aging.

“Working with The Caring Plate just seemed like a natural fit,” she said. “It has always been our goal to grow the Mobile Meals program to serve more people of all ages and needs in our community who need nutritious meals to stay healthy and independent in their homes. Preparing meals for and delivering them to the homes of cancer patients just seemed like an obvious next step, and we were thrilled when Provision CARES brought the idea to us. We are happy to see the program taking off like it has and serving more people throughout Knox and surrounding counties who are fighting this disease.”

The L5 Foundation supports five cancer related causes: breast cancer, prostate cancer, lung Cancer, colon cancer, and childhood malignancies.

Provision CARES Foundation is a not-for-profit foundation formed as a world class cancer-care organization that provides cancer awareness, education, wellness, research and patient assistance for patients, their families, and the public in East Tennessee.

Read full press release here.