Best of Cancerwise 2017: Advice from our patients and caregivers

If you — or your child — were diagnosed with cancer, what would you do? How would you handle the treatments and the side effects? How would you keep your spirits up? These are just a few of the topics our patients and caregivers discussed on our Cancerwise blog this year. Here’s some of the best advice they shared in 2017: On making treatment decisions When 8-year-old Elise Robinson was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, she faced a tough choice: let doctors amputate her right leg above the knee, replace her diseased bone with an implant, or perform a mobility-preserving procedure called a “rotationplasty,” that would turn her right ankle into a functional knee joint. Read how Elise’s mother helped her make that decision. On approaching cancer treatment with a sense of humor Being treated for anal cancer provided Pam Patterson with many awkward and embarrassing moments to live through. But whether recovering from “accidents,” adjusting to unexpectedly intimate equipment, or enduring uncomfortable positions during treatment, she approached it all with laughter and levity. See how else Pam coped with her experience. On finding meaning in life after a loved one’s diagnosis When Audrie Luna’s father was diagnosed with stage IV renal cell carcinoma in July 2015, she struggled to reconcile what she imagined her life would be like with what it actually was. But by creating new rituals to enjoy with her father, she learned to maintain a positive outlook. Here are other ways Audrie found meaning. On managing the urge to ‘hurry’ after a cancer diagnosis As celebrity chef Hans Rueffert learned when he was diagnosed with stomach cancer,...

Best of Cancerwise 2017: 11 inspiring quotes from our patients and caregivers

Many cancer patients have mantras — or inspiring sayings — that they do their best to live by. Some are reminders that good things can come even out of bad situations, while others provide hope and encouragement when the going gets tough. Here are some of the most inspiring mantras our patients and their caregivers have shared with us on our Cancerwise blog over the past year. We hope at least one of them will speak to you, too. “Cancer doesn’t have to define you.” — Nelda Blair, anal cancer survivor “Every day is a chance to create a memory and to love a little more.” — Jessi Hooks, melanoma survivor “Don’t give up. Every day is worth it.” — Hashmat Effendi, breast cancer survivor "Difficult roads can lead to beautiful destinations." — Kia Wynn, oral cancer survivor "There’s always hope beyond what you see." — Cora Connor, kidney cancer caregiver "It’s possible not just to survive, but to thrive and to live a healthy, wonderful life again." — Erika Evans, leukemia survivor "Life is 10% what happens to us and 90% how we react to it." — Leslie Medley-Russell, ovarian cancer survivor "Cancer is like a teeter-totter. Sometimes you gotta go down to go back up." — John Kennedy, colon cancer survivor "Being positive is the best medicine you can take." — Maggie Howard, sarcoma survivor "Enjoy every day without worrying about the next." — Diego Zamora, pancreatic cancer survivor "Don’t pass up the cherry pie." — Eddie Yarmer, myelofibrosis survivor What’s your mantra? Tell us on our Facebook page. Request an appointment at MD Anderson online or by...

Best of Cancerwise 2017: The most-read insights from our experts

Cancer often brings a lot of questions and unknowns, especially when it comes to treatment options, side effects and what to expect — and when. And even if you don’t have cancer, you may have questions about cancer symptoms or what to expect at your cancer screening exam. The good news is we have experts who can help answer all of these questions, and they did just that in 2017. Here are 10 of our experts’ most-read blog posts from this past year. They cover everything from sugar and cancer treatment to cancer treatment side effects to our Moon Shots Program to what to ask at your stem cell transplant consultation to common cancer symptoms and risk factors. Sugar and cancer treatment: 4 things patients should know There are a lot of myths surrounding sugar and cancer. But what do cancer patients really need to know? Get insight from MD Anderson dietitian Erma Levy.  Radiation therapy for cancer treatment: What to expect More than half of cancer patients will receive radiation therapy, but how does it work? Does it hurt? And what are the side effects? Learn everything you need to know from Cullen Taniguchi, M.D., Ph.D. Cancer treatment side effect: Chemobrain Forgetful? Having trouble concentrating, or dealing with periods of slower thinking, mental confusion or “fogginess?” You’re likely dealing with a common side effect called chemobrain, which research confirms is real. Learn more in our Q&A with Jeffrey Wefel, M.D. MD Anderson’s Moon Shots Program: 5 things to know While its name was inspired by President John F. Kennedy’s ambitious goal to put a man on the moon,...

Best of Cancerwise 2017: 10 of our most-read patient stories of hope

In 2017, dozens of our cancer patients shared the stories of their diagnosis, treatment and life after cancer here on Cancerwise. As they told us about their challenges and fears, they revealed their strength, courage and resilience. And in the process, they each gave us hope. Here are 10 of our most-read patient stories from 2017. Ovarian cancer patient thankful for immunotherapy clinical trial When Cathy Tompkins complained of an unusual pain near her sternum, doctors took an X-ray and told her she was likely constipated. But when her pain persisted, a friend encouraged her to seek a second opinion. She was shocked to receive a stage IV ovarian cancer diagnosis. Find out how Cathy’s benefiting from an immunotherapy clinical trial that’s part of our Moon Shots Program™. Hodgkin’s lymphoma survivor adjusts to life after cancer treatment Like many cancer patients, Kimberly Hill thought the hardest part of her lymphoma diagnosis was behind her when she learned she had no evidence of disease. But as she’s discovered, the start of this new chapter – life after cancer – is where the real journey begins. Learn how she’s coping with lingering side effects. Young desmoid tumor survivor gets life back with 17-hour surgery On the back of Alicia Bennett’s favorite T-shirt is her design of a tree with the words, “Go out on a limb.” The shirt honors the 17-hour cancer operation that removed the 23-year-old college student’s watermelon-sized tumor, along with her right arm and breast, chest wall, sternum and six ribs. Here’s how she’s moving forward after cancer treatment. From tonsil cancer survivor to HPV vaccine advocate Scott...

BRCA1+ carrier: Why I chose prophylactic surgery

I’m lucky. Because although I’ve worn the all-too-familiar MD Anderson patient wristband off and on since July 2015, I’ve never actually had cancer. And I have my doctor and MD Anderson to thank for that. During a routine checkup several years ago, my physician asked if my mother had ever been tested for hereditary cancer syndromes. She knew that my mom is a 20-year breast cancer survivor whose family has a long history of that disease. So I asked my mother about it. Mom said she hadn’t ever been screened, so a few months later, she underwent genetic testing. And to our surprise, she tested positive for the BRCA1 mutation, which increases a carrier’s risk for breast and ovarian cancer. What being a BRCA1 carrier meant to me Knowing the risks of inheriting that genetic mutation, my sister and I decided to get tested, too. We reflected the odds perfectly — my sister was negative; I was positive. As an engineer, odds are important to me. And the odds of eventually being diagnosed with cancer if you have the BRCA genetic mutation are high — far too high for me to risk it. That’s why I contacted MD Anderson right away, where I entered the high-risk surveillance program under Banu Arun, M.D. I knew I’d be tested at least twice annually there for both breast and ovarian cancers. But as I approached my 40th birthday this fall, I decided to have preventive surgeries, too: a prophylactic bilateral mastectomy and a hysterectomy. After watching a dear friend struggle with her own cancer journey, it was not a difficult decision. And...