Survivor: Have anal cancer? Get some humor

I’m really blessed that I found out about my anal cancer diagnosis early on. That’s a big part of the reason why I’m living without any evidence of disease today. A friend of mine who’d been diagnosed with late-stage rectal cancer told me he experienced bleeding for months before he finally went to a doctor. So when I started exhibiting the same symptom in October 2015, I remembered his cautionary tale and immediately scheduled an appointment with a gastroenterologist. That led to the discovery of my tumor. Even though I lived in Florida, I came to MD Anderson because all of my research — and even my doctors – pointed me in that direction. As soon as I met my radiation oncologist Dr. Cullen Taniguchi, I felt really safe. He has an incredible way of explaining things. There’s lots of hugging whenever my daughter and I go see him. This has certainly been an interesting journey. Here’s my advice for coping with anal cancer treatment. Learn to laugh through awkwardness If you get anal cancer, you better have a sense of humor. If you can’t laugh, then you better learn how before treatment starts. Radiation therapy for anal cancer is … awkward. Not only are you usually sitting in an uncomfortable position, but female patients also use a vaginal dilator to push away delicate tissue and protect their cervix from radiation. The method, which is unique to MD Anderson, is actually a great idea because it reduces scarring and prevents complications with future Pap tests. But to get past the reality of the moment, I made light of the...