Two generations receive treatment at MD Anderson

In 1980, Jack Brown was 38 and busy working in oilfield sales. When a lump appeared on his left groin, he ignored it until his wife, Bobbie, urged him to visit a doctor. His New Iberia, Louisiana doctor removed the tumor, and a biopsy showed it was cancer. “It really rocked our world,” Bobbie says. “We thought cancer was the end. Jack started making final plans.” Jack remembers asking the doctor what he suggested. “He suggested MD Anderson. The nurse called on Friday and we got an appointment on Tuesday,” he says. Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma treatment at MD Anderson Jack and Bobbie remember MD Anderson being much smaller back then. Jack met with Peter W. McLaughlin, M.D., whose team performed a biopsy and gave Jack his official diagnosis: non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. McLaughlin determined that Jack’s spleen needed to be removed to stop the cancer from spreading. After a splenectomy, Jack underwent five weeks of radiation. “They had a radiation room in the basement of the main building,” Jack says of MD Anderson in 1980. “They put lead blocks on you to try to shield and target the radiation areas. There was a big metal door, and nurses would talk to you through the speaker system.”   Jack was able to receive his year of chemotherapy treatments at the hospital back home. “They put ice bags on your head then to keep the hair from falling out. It worked for about three treatments, and then one morning it all came out in my comb,” Jack remembers. Life after lymphoma treatment After his lymphoma treatment put him into remission, Jack came to MD...

Tongue cancer teaches patient and caregiver the art of reinvention

Singer and songwriter Kimmie Rhodes holds a somewhat unique distinction: she’s supported two different people on their oral cancer journeys. The first was her late husband, writer and music producer Joe Gracey, who died of metastatic esophageal cancer in 2011, more than 30 years after his initial tongue cancer diagnosis. The second is professional consultant and life coach Corky Hilliard, an MD Anderson tongue cancer patient who became Kimmie’s friend after they met in 2012. “When a mutual friend asked me to talk to Corky about what she was facing, I thought, ‘Well, I’m either the best person in the world to do this or the worst person’ because there’s no way to sugarcoat it,” Kimmie says. “I told her, ‘Look, if you lose your voice, you’re going to hate it. But you will also find amazing ways to reinvent yourself.’” New methods of communication Kimmie’s late husband, Joe, was a master of such reinvention. After losing the ability to speak in 1979, the popular former singer and DJ launched a new career as a successful record producer. Later, he even became a food writer — a significant accomplishment for a man without a tongue. “Joe had his tongue removed surgically in 1979, so he had to throw food to the side of his mouth to chew and eat,” Kimmie says. “But he could communicate very well without speaking.” One method Joe used to communicate was a simple children’s toy on which he could scribble notes with a plastic stylus and erase them with a quick tug on a piece of cellophane. “I gave one to Corky early on since...