Anal cancer survivor: ‘Cancer doesn’t have to define you’

Some people get married. Some have children. Some get divorced. Some get cancer. Nelda Blair believes that while these are all life-changing moments, none of them should become a person’s entire identity. She’s felt this way ever since she found out she had HPV-related anal cancer in February 2011. “I’m a take-charge person, and this diagnosis was not going to rule my life or alter my life for any period of time,” she says. “My attitude was: we’ll take care of this.” Coming to MD Anderson for a second opinion Nelda’s anal cancer was discovered during her first colonoscopy, which she’d put off until age 53. A local oncologist removed the tumor, but after researching her diagnosis some more, she came to MD Anderson to seek a second opinion from Cathy Eng, M.D. “Dr. Eng came walking into the room and took charge,” she says. “She answered my questions, looked me in the eye and there was no messing around. She gave me the truth and nothing but the truth, and I very much appreciated that.” Because Nelda was in otherwise great physical health, Eng wanted her to undergo three months of daily radiation and chemotherapy simultaneously. Nelda was OK with that plan, as long as she could do it at MD Anderson in The Woodlands, where she leads a busy life. Balancing life and anal cancer treatment A successful real estate lawyer, Nelda also operates a local education foundation, runs a private real estate investment company, served as chairwoman of The Woodlands Convention & Visitors Bureau, and is heavily involved in economic development and politics. And she didn’t...