Best of Cancerwise 2018: Advice from our patients and caregivers

How do you explain cancer — or the effects of cancer treatment — to a young child? How do manage everyday life when one of your own children has cancer? How do you make the most of your support system when facing a cancer diagnosis yourself — even if you’re hundreds of miles away from home? These are just a few of the topics our patients and caregivers explored on our Cancerwise blog this year. Here’s some of the best advice they shared with us in 2018. On managing everyday life when a child has cancer When Sara K. Parker’s daughter was diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma in 2016 at age 9, she rejected the assertion that she’d soon adjust to a “new normal” with cancer. But the mother of four quickly learned that taking care of herself was critical to supporting her daughter. Find out what else she learned while her daughter received treatment. On explaining cancer to young children  When Ashley Rivera was diagnosed with stage III breast cancer in January 2017, her biggest fear was how her three young children would be affected. She and her husband, Bryan, met with a social work counselor at MD Anderson to find the right words to discuss it. Read about how they kept their explanations simple — and the conversation going — to reduce their children’s anxiety. On making the most of your resources In April 2013, Dr. Anatole Karpovs was a 37-year-old pediatrician with a busy practice and a hectic family life. He didn’t have time to be sick. But bloody stools, bowel changes and abdominal pains led to...

Best of Cancerwise 2018: Helpful insights from our experts

A cancer diagnosis can provoke a range of emotions and prompt endless questions. So throughout the year, we shared dozens of insights from our experts to help patients and caregivers find the information they need to make decisions and feel more confident as they face cancer. Here’s some of our experts’ most-read guidance from 2018. 9 things to know about CAR T-cell therapy 2018 brought a lot of buzz surrounding a new type of cancer treatment called CAR T-cell therapy. But what exactly is it? And who should consider it? Find out about this new type of immunotherapy from our Sattva Neelapu, M.D. The keto diet and cancer: What patients should know There’s no one food that can cure cancer, but that doesn’t stop such myths from circulating. Among the diets rumored to cure cancer is the keto diet. Learn the pros and cons in this Q&A with dietitian Maria Petzel. Cancer patients and the flu: What you should know When it comes to the flu, cancer patients are among those most vulnerable to infection. Read what our Roy Chemaly, M.D., wants cancer patients to know about the flu and how to protect themselves. Should you get a central line for chemotherapy? Many cancer patients receive chemotherapy as a part of their treatment plan. Sometimes, chemotherapy is delivered through a standard IV line. Other times, infusions are given through a central line catheter, such as a PICC, CVC or port. Our Tam Huynh, M.D., shares the differences between the options and how to know which one is right for you. Updated colorectal cancer screening guidelines: What to know This past spring, the...

Meet the husband-and-wife geneticists dedicated to cancer research — and each other

It hasn’t stopped being fun yet – and that applies both to their science and their marriage. Nancy Jenkins, Ph.D., and Neal Copeland, Ph.D., – together – are big in the field of cancer genetics. Both are members of the prestigious National Academy of Sciences, an honor that puts them in rare company in the scientific world. They’ve co-authored more than 800 papers and have been referenced in medical journals more than 30,000 times – together. They say the science is just as much fun as when they started more than 38 years ago. And they hope to pass this motivation along to young researchers. Cancer research model pioneers Giulio Draetta, M.D., Ph.D., chief scientific officer ad interim and senior vice president for Therapeutics and Discovery, was thrilled when the couple agreed to come to MD Anderson in 2017 as mentors and collaborators, although they no longer run laboratories. “The knowledge, fresh perspective and inspiration they can share with our trainees and researchers is invaluable,’’ he says. Happily ever after The two met 42 years ago, as post-doctoral students at Harvard Medical School. When they married, they made a deliberate decision to run a lab together and do exactly the same kind of science. “We didn’t want to compete with each other because that wouldn’t lead to happily ever after,’’ Jenkins says. They also made a conscious decision not to have children so they could focus on their research careers. “Of the 80 post docs who were on our floor, half were women … and only two of us ended up staying in academic science,’’ Jenkins says. “We had...

Paget disease survivor is grateful for care, support

When the small spot first appeared on her nipple, Karrie Morgan didn’t think much of it. She was shocked nearly a year later when she learned it was a symptom of Paget disease, a rare type of breast cancer that affects 4% of patients. Over the course of that year, the spot had grown. When Karrie began covering it with a bandage, she started to suspect that something wasn’t right. Then, during a routine exam, her gynecologist recommended she see a dermatologist. Her dermatologist biopsied the spot and delivered Karrie the results on April 18, 2018 – the day before her 38th birthday. “I thought that when it came to breast cancer, you were looking for a lump,” Karrie says. “Now I know that women should look for any change in their breasts as a possible breast cancer symptom.” Coming to MD Anderson for Paget disease treatment Right away, Karrie decided to seek treatment at MD Anderson. It was 90 minutes away from her home outside of Beaumont, Texas, and she knew of the cancer center’s prestigious reputation. She, her husband, mother and sister traveled for two days of appointments on May 8 and 9 — just a few weeks after her diagnosis. The first day was dedicated to scans and tests. Karrie was impressed with how quickly she was able to complete all of them. The next day she met with her medical oncologist, David Ramirez, M.D., and her surgeon, Sarah M. DeSynder, M.D. DeSnyder went over the test results with Karrie: she did, in fact, have Paget’s disease, and the cancer had spread to her lymph nodes....

13 ways to help someone with cancer during the holidays

The holiday season can be stressful. That’s often even more true for cancer patients and their loved ones, who may be struggling to get in the holiday spirit between cancer treatment and side effects. So, if you have a friend or family member facing cancer, you may be wondering how you can make the season a little brighter for them. We asked cancer patients, caregivers and survivors in our Facebook community to weigh in. Here’s what they recommend. 1. Give the gift of time and a listening ear. A friend facing cancer needs you to be there, whether that’s by phone, text, mail, in person or even on social media. Let them talk, cry and be angry if necessary. 2. Hug them. Often. 3. Have a pajama party. Some days, cancer patients may not feel like getting dressed – or may not be comfortable in their usual clothes. But having everyone wear pajamas can make the patient feel more comfortable – and make the day feel more festive. If you can’t have a pajama party in person, send comfy pajamas, slippers and/or a soft, warm throw. 4. Take charge of the decorating. This can be daunting for anyone, but even more so when you’re fatigued from cancer treatment – or from caring for a cancer patient. Make decorating more fun by rounding up friends and family to help, and let the cancer patient relax. 5. Don’t be afraid to say the “c” word. You might feel like you shouldn’t mention cancer, especially if you’re trying to keep someone’s spirits bright during the holidays. But chances are, your friend or...