September 12, 2022 at 6:56 p.m.

Davisons battle cancer while farming

Benefit to be held in their honor
Keith and Jacqui Davison take a break Aug. 18 at the dairy near Hillsboro, Wisconsin. The Davisons are both battling cancer while farming full time. A benefit will be held in their honor Sept. 24.  PHOTO BY ABBY WIEDMEYER
Keith and Jacqui Davison take a break Aug. 18 at the dairy near Hillsboro, Wisconsin. The Davisons are both battling cancer while farming full time. A benefit will be held in their honor Sept. 24. PHOTO BY ABBY WIEDMEYER

By Abby [email protected] | Comments: 0 | Leave a comment

HILLSBORO, Wis. – When her husband was diagnosed with colon cancer in January 2021, Jacqui Davison’s mantra was, “It could be worse; it’s not one of the kids.” A year later, it got worse when Jacqui was diagnosed with breast cancer.
 A benefit is being held for the family from noon to 6 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 24, at the Rockton Bar in La Farge.
“The benefit is very overwhelming so I’m just pretending it’s a really big party,” Jacqui said. “That’s easier to digest in my brain right now than the full scope of what’s happening.”
Jacqui farms with her family near Hillsboro where they milk 800 cows and farm around 1,200 acres. Jacqui’s husband, Keith, works at a grain farm in the area. The couple has four children: Ira, Dane, Henry and Cora. Jacqui and Keith have remained positive throughout their cancer treatments by focusing on what they are grateful for.
“For as many things as he or I could give you, a list of body aches and complaints, we could probably give you a longer list of things that we’re grateful for,” Jacqui said. “We have really good people in our lives.”
At the farm, Jacqui is responsible for herdsman duties along with her brother, Peter. Her sister, Stacy, is around to help when she is not working as a teacher, and her dad, Jim Mlsna, is on the farm full time. The family also relies on hired help for other chores, calf duties and fieldwork.
Keith was diagnosed after symptoms led him to consult a doctor. He underwent chemotherapy and radiation last year before surgery to remove the infected section of colon. Keith’s cancer had metastasized to his lungs and some spots still remain. He has had a break from treatments all summer and continues to follow up with doctors. He will know more about whether the cancer has progressed this fall.
“I hate that I’m in the situation that I have to be the recipient of the benefit,” Keith said. “But, I feel grateful that we can be in that spot, if that makes any sense.”
Jacqui’s diagnosis came after a routine mammogram. She has the same type of estrogen receptive breast cancer her mother died of.
After having surgery to remove a breast and multiple lymph nodes, Jacqui underwent chemotherapy treatments every other week all summer. Her last treatment was at the end of August. She continued working at the farm throughout her treatments, even while dealing with side effects.
“The chemo makes my legs really tired so I just drive the lawn mower to the barn because then I have enough steam to milk the cows,” Jacqui said. “Upright and moving is what I go for every day.”
Jacqui said she believes staying active on the farm has helped her cope with side effects from the cancer treatments which are known to make people forget things and develop a type of brain fog.
“My biggest fear was that chemo brain was going to make me forget my cows,” Jacqui said. “But, I think the fact that I’ve pushed myself to be in the barn has helped me not feel like a zombie. I’m still moving all the time and still trying to pay attention to what’s going on with the cows.”
Besides keeping up with the herdsman work with the help of her family and hired help, Jacqui has also remained active in the kitchen. She said with all the kids – her sister’s children are on the farm most days – and people to feed, she feels motivated to keep active in the kitchen and the barn.
“Being able to milk cows, being able to feed people and feel like I’m doing something are things that I know make me, me,” Jacqui said. “I hold tight to those things because those things are important to me.”
Jacqui said her faith in humanity has been restored by the generosity of friends, family and strangers alike. Some people have shown support by bringing meals, sending kind letters in the mail and offering to help before she has to ask.
“I absolutely knew there were good humans in the world, but there seems to be a lot more than I thought,” Jacqui said. “They’re just kind of everywhere and it’s amazing.”
The family plans to soldier through whatever comes their way next with the help of the people around them. Jacqui said they would like to get back to doing the things that make them who they are.
“I think that we push cancer to the back of our minds and focus on other things when we can,” Jacqui said. “Cancer is part of our world but not our whole world.”


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