Katie’s Cancer

In February 2012, Katie developed a big lump protruding from her shoulder above her left front leg.
Doctors at Tufts Veterinary Hospital in Massachusetts diagnosed the lump as an aggressive soft-tissue sarcoma and also discovered a large tumor buried in her chest between her heart and lung.

Did Katie’s service as a nuclear radiation monitor cause her cancer?

Did her ingestion of strontium-90, strontium-89, cesium-137 and other radionuclides, all carcinogens, from Millstone and Indian Point, cause her dread illness?

Nobody can say with certainty that Millstone and/or Indian Point radiation releases caused Katie’s cancer.
At the same time, nobody can say with certainty that they did not. They certainly increased her risk.

We do know that ingestion of cesium-137 is associated with soft-tissue cancers of the type Katie has. And we know that while Katie was living near Millstone and producing milk for her babies, the levels of cesium-137 in her milk, as tested by Dominion, were the highest of all the goat milk sampled at varying distances from Millstone. If the cesium-137 was in Katie’s milk, cesium-137 was in Katie and it may have caused her cancer. The strontiums and their radioactive “daughters” are also associated with soft-tissue cancers

The doctors advised against surgery and other radical treatment due to Katie’s age (Katie’s at least 15 years old) and the stresses related to treatment and rehabilitation.

So Katie returned home to Redding to resume her position as matriarch of a family of friendly goats utterly devoted to her.

The waning winter was hard on Katie – the Tufts doctors had shaved big swaths of Katie’s fur to perform ultrasound scans and during the frigid nights she missed those patches of thick winter fur. But she had no trouble getting around and keeping busy.

She was well enough in March to travel to Hartford, Connecticut, to give a press conference about her illness, chomp on the State House lawn and to try to meet with the Governor. (He declined.)

To mark the first anniversary of the Fukushima triple nuclear meltdown on March 11, Katie made plans to go to the White House to try to meet with the First Lady and the Obama Family. The plan was to offer Katie’s latest grandchild, Dana Blue-Eyes, as a gift to the First Family, to be a pet and to be the First Family’s own White House nuclear radiation monitor. A letter outlining her request was delivered to the First Lady, who pronounced the idea “fantastic,” but ultimately declined the gift. Nevertheless, Katie held out hope to meet with the First Lady and went to the White House with Dana Blue-Eyes.

The First Family was not in sight, but Katie and Dana attracted a fair measure of attention as goats are not often seen in front of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Everybody extended their best wishes to Katie.

Since that exciting trip, Katie has greeted both the beautiful spring and now the summer in Redding. As in years past, Katie returned to her favorite places in her meadow to browse on the sweet green buds – emerging leaves from the lilac bush, maple trees, pricker bushes. Finally the sweet green grass.

These hot days of July, Katie rests in front of a fan in her barn, shaded from the bruising sun. She is limping noticeably now and no longer goes on her forays to the meadow to satisfy her hungers.

So the meadow comes to Katie.

Handfuls of fresh-plucked grasses are her favorite treat. Invasive wild grape leaves are next, followed by just any of the –to humans – tall leafy weeds. If they’ve developed dried flowers at the tips, all the better. Katie’s affinity for the wild meadow grasses supersedes her interest in manufactured goat feed and timothy hay cubes. She seems to know what’s best for her. Several times a day, Katie devours bouquets of greens just picked from the garden – curly mustard, three kinds of kale, dandelions, chard, beet greens, parsley and collards.
For snacks, Katie eats her broccoli, a new-found favorite, along with green apples, red beets, carrots, banana peel and papaya skins.

As Katie eats, Kiddo, her latest grandson, hops upon her back to nibble her ears. Katie enjoys the ear massage and tolerates his antics in good cheer.