MS survivor: A stem cell transplant gave me the chance to watch my sons grow

I might be the only MD Anderson patient who never had cancer. Or, at least, that’s how I felt on that winter day in 2008 when I first entered the Main Building and began my MD Anderson journey. Actually, my journey began 2 1/2 years earlier, when I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS). I was a distance runner, and when I started tripping for no reason, I knew something was wrong. After a few months, my symptoms escalated to numbness in my toes, strange tingling sensations and bouts of dizziness. In the fall of 2005, I received my MS diagnosis.  It didn’t feel real at first. I was young and healthy! My husband and I had three little boys ages four and younger. How could I be sick? But reality soon began to sink in. After only a few months, I could no longer run. My neurologist changed my medication several times, hoping that something would work, but by fall 2007, we had run out of options. I was walking with a cane, but even that was difficult. I woke up every morning afraid to find what else I could no longer do. My MS was extremely aggressive, and my husband and I both knew that unless a miracle occurred, I wouldn’t be around to see our little boys grow up. The stem cell transplant clinical trial that gave my family hope Our miracle came in the form of a clinical trial called HALT-MS, a joint effort between the neurology department at Baylor College of Medicine and MD Anderson’s Stem Cell Transplantation and Cellular Therapy Center. Multiple sclerosis...

5 ways to distract yourself during cancer treatment

One of the things that I learned as a testicular cancer patient at MD Anderson is that distraction is the name of the game. Our brains are not good at doing two things at once, so anything that requires a fair amount of analytical thinking or concentration can help keep your mind off your problems. Here are five ways I have found to distract myself during cancer treatment. Throw a party. What do you do when you don’t know what to do? I threw a big party. We called it a prayer party, but it was also a head-shaving party. I knew I was going to lose my hair from chemotherapy at some point, so we made a thing out of it. All of my friends came. And they took turns shaving my head. Then they tied knots in a blanket while praying to create a prayer quilt. I took the quilt with me when I went to the hospital, so I had all of these people’s prayers over me. It was really beautiful. Listen to uplifting music. My dad purchased a new laptop for me so I could watch movies in the hospital, but I also used it to listen to music: mostly hymns and folk songs that I heard while visiting Taiwan. I chose that type of music because it was very profound. And I learned a long time ago that if I listened to songs that had angry undertones, they would make me angry. The reciprocal is also true. If I listen to music that is calm and peaceful or joyful and hopeful, it’ll make me...