Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma survivor: A CAR-T cell clinical trial gave me my life back

Before I was on a clinical trial, I felt sorry for patients participating in them. I considered clinical trials a last-ditch effort, and felt they marked a really low point in someone’s life. So, when I was faced with the possibility of being on one myself, my reaction wasn’t at all what I expected. I felt grateful just to have another option — a really viable one that my doctors were excited about. And for the first time in a long time, I actually felt hopeful. The long road that led me to MD Anderson By the time I got to MD Anderson, I had already been through the wringer. I’d had my spleen removed, received every drug known to increase platelet counts, and spent 43 days in a local hospital before I finally received the correct diagnosis — diffuse, large B-cell lymphoma (a type of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma) — in August 2013. My treatment in Kansas City included six courses of “R-CHOP” chemotherapy. They appeared to work at first. But seven months later, scans revealed that the cancer had either returned or never really been gone to begin with. I started preparing for an autologous stem cell transplant, in which my own cells would be used to rescue my immune system after high-dose chemotherapy. But when the high-dose chemo failed, I had to consider the next-best option: an allogenic stem cell transplant, which uses stem cells from a donor. My husband and I weren’t ready to face the additional risks and side effects that come with an allogeneic transplant, so we sought a second opinion at MD Anderson. Even...

Kidney cancer caregiver: 4 places to re-charge at MD Anderson

My dad has been a patient at MD Anderson since July 2015, receiving treatment for stage IV renal cell carcinoma, a type of kidney cancer. Our family has taken turns accompaying him to many doctor appointments, scans and a few in-patient hospital stays. Along the way, we’ve discovered some special places at MD Anderson – a place to decompress, a place to be with nature, a place to socialize and even a place off the beaten path. As my dad approaches his third year of treatment, I find myself visiting these places often and even discovering new ones. Caregiving is a special gift that has to be nourished, and MD Anderson offers many wonderful places to re-charge. Below are a few that I recommend. Observation Deck Location: Main Building, Floor 24, near Elevator F Hours: Daily, 6 a.m. – 10 p.m. When Dad has scans scheduled, instead of waiting in the general waiting area, I grab a cup of coffee at one of the cafes and head over to the Observation Deck. Being a native Houstonian, I still find myself appreciating the vast expanse of Houston and the magnitude of the size of the Texas Medical Center from 24 floors in the sky. The space is generally very quiet and allows time for my brain refresh itself after the hustle and bustle of getting to and from appointments. The Learning Center Locations: Main Building, Floor 4, near Elevator A; Mays Clinic, Floor 2, near The Tree Sculpture; Jesse H. Jones Rotary House, Floor 1 My sister has two young girls. The oldest is 6 years old, and we worried...

Breast cancer survivor: How I talked to my kids about cancer

When I was diagnosed with stage III breast cancer in January 2017, my biggest fear was how my kids would be affected. My husband and I told our three young children right away. But we were really apprehensive about what to say, so we spoke first with Traci Newsome, a social work counselor at MD Anderson in the Bay Area. Traci emphasized the importance of using the word “cancer” rather than “sick,” to keep those concepts separate in young children’s minds. Otherwise, they might think someone needs chemotherapy just because they have the flu. She also said to be sure to say “MD Anderson” rather than just “hospital,” so the kids would know I was going someplace special to treat my disease. Explanations: Keep them simple The baby was too young to really understand anything yet, but we tried to keep our explanations simple. We told our older children that doctors had found a spot of disease called cancer in my right breast. We explained that chemotherapy and radiation were types of treatment that could make me better and that surgery would take the cancer out of my body. It was hard to make a 4- and 5-year-old understand that something which would ultimately help me get better (chemotherapy) would also make me feel really bad at first. And we knew it would be hard for them to watch me struggling. But we tried to give the kids something positive to focus on. We told them that once my treatment was done, we’d all go on vacation together and they could pick the destination. They picked Disneyworld, of course,...

Being a nurse made me appreciate MD Anderson more

As a registered nurse and a cancer survivor, I have a somewhat unique perspective: I can see things from the point of view of both the patient and the care team. When I sought a second opinion at MD Anderson after being diagnosed with cervical cancer in May 2010, I was amazed at the level of care I experienced. I’ve seen some things at MD Anderson that I haven’t found anywhere else. Beside you every step of the way The most amazing aspect of MD Anderson is the attentiveness and accessibility of the doctors. I would tell a technician I was having a side effect while receiving treatment, and within minutes, my physician would be standing right there, asking me what was wrong. I live in Parsons, a small town in southeast Kansas with less than 10,000 people. Up here, you practically have to go to an ER to see a doctor. You could go to a clinic maybe 15 times and still never see the physician. So to have my doctors right there, asking me how they could help at every step of the way, was incredible. One particularly bad day, I was too weak even to walk back to the dressing room after treatment. I felt like a truck had run over me. The technician noticed and said he was going to talk to the nurse. She came in and took my temperature, then said she’d be right back. Suddenly, my doctor was there, saying, “Let’s talk about what’s happening with you.” It turned out I had an infection. I didn’t know it, but I didn’t have...