Colorectal cancer made me a better version of myself

Some people say that cancer changes them. But I don’t think that’s right. I believe it’s more accurate to say that cancer enhances who you already are. It helps you focus on what’s important. In my case, a colorectal cancer diagnosis enhanced all the qualities I already had that make me who I am. It made me appreciate more of the things in life that really matter and not sweat the small stuff that doesn’t. More patience and less defensiveness Before my cancer diagnosis, for instance, I might have spent a lot of mental energy cussing out the person who cut me off in traffic or didn’t allow me to merge on the freeway. But today, I’d rather take a deep breath and just take it easy. So, my patience level has increased substantially. I also mind a lot less if someone disagrees with me or won’t take my medical advice. I understand that their differences and refusals come from having another frame of reference, and that’s OK. I don’t take it personally. A deeper appreciation for nature … and love I appreciate nature more now, too. A sunset or sunrise rarely passes by unnoticed. And I find I can enjoy any type of weather, whether it's scorching or freezing or storming. They all offer lessons in sublime beauty. Most importantly, though, love never escapes me the way it used to. I still remember times when I was going through chemotherapy that my kids or wife were fighting about pointless matters. I would sappily tear up because I understood that they were only fighting with each other because they...

Gynecologic oncologist: Specialization let me achieve my professional dream

As a gynecologic oncologist, I see women with every type of cancer related to the female reproductive system, except breast cancer. I treat women with ovarian, uterine, cervical, and vulvar cancers. And I routinely perform surgery, prescribe chemotherapy and suggest clinical trials. I decided to specialize in gynecologic oncology after figuring out what was really important to me in medical school. I realized one day that I didn’t just want to operate on my patients. I wanted to take care of them long-term. Being a gynecologic oncologist allows me to do that: I see women from the time they’re diagnosed though their whole cycle of cancer care. And that is really satisfying. What goes into every diagnosis Part of each new patient’s evaluation process is obtaining the imaging, pathology slides and reports from any previous treatment, so that our pathologists and radiologists can review them. Because about 20% of the time, the diagnosis we render is slightly different from the one patients got originally. And that difference can change our treatment recommendations. That’s why a lot of people come to MD Anderson: for a fresh set of eyes. But my patients aren’t just getting my personal opinion. We have 23 full-time gynecologic oncologists on staff. And I rely on my colleagues and their expertise to help me provide each patient with the best possible options to choose from. Every time I make a recommendation, I consider the current standard of care, as well as any clinical trials available. Those could deal with new therapies or new combinations of existing therapies. Sometimes, there’s even a novel treatment that’s only available...

Breast cancer surgeon: Why people should choose MD Anderson first

When I was growing up, it always amazed me how my pediatrician could ask just five or six questions, and then magically know exactly what to do or which medicine to prescribe. That was one of the reasons I became a doctor. In medical school, I focused on breast cancer because it interested me. I became a surgeon because I could better direct patients’ care. And I chose to work at MD Anderson because I admire its multidisciplinary approach. What sets MD Anderson apart As a physician myself, I want to go wherever people specialize in whatever is being treated. That’s why I tell people to come to MD Anderson first for cancer treatment. Because your first shot is your best shot at beating cancer. And when patients come to us after they’ve already received treatment elsewhere, their cancer treatment is often more challenging, due to mistakes made along the way at other places. Patients are not just a number or a disease process here. MD Anderson’s patient-centered approach brings physicians from various subspecialties together to make a plan. This approach is what sets us apart. And it leads to better outcomes, so we have a lot of happy endings. How cancer treatment has changed Cancer is an ever-changing field, and it advances very quickly. Even since I completed my residency four years ago, we’ve found new ways to attack the disease, more diverse treatments (such as targeted therapy), and more cures. One of the biggest changes in our approach to cancer is offering less surgery. Instead of removing all lymph nodes from a particular area, for instance, we...