Ovarian cancer survivor: Stay true to yourself

When Pam Scarpino was diagnosed with stage IIIC high-grade serous ovarian cancer in October 2007, her local oncologist told her she was really good at giving her patients five years to live. “That didn’t sit well with my gut,” she says. So Pam turned to the internet for advice. “MD Anderson kept coming up as one of the top places to go for ovarian cancer,” she says. But the single mother of two teenage daughters lived in Kansas City, Missouri, and she didn’t want to uproot her family. She decided to try treatment near home instead. Advice she’ll never forget During her first chemotherapy treatment, Pam went into anaphylactic shock from an allergic reaction to Paclitaxel, which is often used to treat ovarian cancer. Afterwards, a nurse gave her advice she’ll never forget: “There’s no do-over with this, so you can’t worry about hurting anybody’s feelings or whether you should not go to MD Anderson. Just do it.” With a leap of blind faith, Pam decided to go to MD Anderson. Three weeks later, Pam was in Houston meeting Pedro Ramirez, M.D., and the rest of her MD Anderson care team for the first time. Their attitude – and the time that Dr. Ramirez took to talk about everything — struck a lasting impression. “You have your medical record number, but you absolutely weren’t a number to him,” she says. “And that was something that was personally important to me. I had to have a doctor who believes in me, is going to hear me and is working in my best interest.” Pam’s treatment for ovarian cancer at MD...

Summer 2015

Cancer Newsline is an audio podcast series featuring MD Anderson experts and cancer survivors, discussing a wide variety of cancer and cancer-related topics.

Winter 2017

Cancer Newsline is a podcast series featuring MD Anderson experts and cancer survivors discussing a wide variety of cancer and cancer-related topics. Listen now.

A caregiver’s advice for preserving quality of life

Singer Kimmie Rhodes had been married to legendary music producer Joe Gracey for 28 years when he died of metastatic esophageal cancer in November 2011. The couple met in 1979, after Joe completed treatment at MD Anderson for his first bout with cancer — which involved the complete removal of his tongue. “I was actually married to a man who didn’t speak,” Kimmie says. “In a way, I became the voice he lost, but he could communicate very well without speaking.” The couple married in 1982, and Joe reinvented himself as a record producer, while Kimmie kept performing. They enjoyed almost 30 years together before Joe’s cancer returned in the spring of 2008. A long-time Austin resident, Kimmie had never heard of MD Anderson before meeting her husband. But once here, she learned a lot about being a caregiver to a cancer patient. Here’s Kimmie’s advice for other caregivers. 1. Take care of yourself The first thing Kimmie learned was the importance of taking care of herself. “People caring for cancer patients can get hyper-focused, but you don’t have to let yourself be consumed by it,” Kimmie says. “Shift your attention and think about something else for a while. Ask for help if you need it. And have hope. That’s what MD Anderson is all about.” 2. Make plans Kimmie maintained the couple’s quality of life by planning activities around town — both solo and together — while her husband was receiving treatment here. “You don’t have to think about cancer all the time,” she says. “You can still have fun. So look around and find things that feed...

How I quit tobacco and gained freedom

I started smoking when I was 17 years old. Nearly two decades later, at 36, my smoking addiction had taken ownership of my life, and I hated it. Smoking had negatively affected my finances, my ability to be physically active and even my sense of smell. But what I hated most was my inability to feel peace or enjoy any kind of social event or meeting.   Smoking was the first thing I did each morning and the last thing I did before going to sleep. I had to smoke before going anywhere or doing anything, and as soon as I was unable to smoke at my leisure, I looked for a way out. I became anxious, irritable and stressed if I knew I was going to be anywhere for longer than an hour without a cigarette. Smoking had taken hold of my life. My decision to quit smoking I’d wanted to quit smoking for many years, but I had a lot of fear and anxiety about even trying. I didn’t think I would ever be able to start my day without having a couple of cigarettes, but after each morning smoke, I told myself I had to quit. When I heard a radio ad about research studies at MD Anderson for smokers trying to quit, I made the call. Soon after, I had an appointment with a research coordinator from MD Anderson’s Tobacco Treatment Program, and I was excited. I still didn’t believe I would really be able to quit, but I was happy that I had taken the first steps by choosing to try. Participating in a smoking...