Leukemia diagnosis gives basketball player Andrew Jones a new perspective

Andrew Jones was a rising star on The University of Texas men's basketball team in late 2017, when he started experiencing flu-like symptoms. Thinking it was just a virus, the sophomore guard pushed himself to keep playing until a broken wrist finally forced him onto the sidelines. But the symptoms persisted, even after Andrew’s wrist healed and he’d returned to the basketball court. “I just thought I had the flu,” Andrew — now preparing for his senior year — explains. “But when I tried to come back, I was still having trouble. I started having headaches, dizziness and trouble breathing. I was also coughing up blood and had a fast heartbeat.” A trip to the doctor in January 2018 revealed it was more than a virus. Andrew had acute lymphoblastic leukemia. “That was so shocking,” he says. “I’d just turned 20, and none of my relatives had ever had cancer.” Andrew’s acute lymphoblastic leukemia treatment Andrew came to MD Anderson, where he began receiving the drugs ponatinib and blinatumomab under the care of Elias Jabbour, M.D. That chemotherapy combination put Andrew in remission within a month, but he has continued to take those medications to ensure that the cancer is gone. Andrew will get his last IV infusion of blinatumomab in August 2019, but will continue taking one ponatinib pill a day for at least the next five years. In the meantime, he’s not letting his acute lymphoblastic leukemia treatment slow him down. “I only played a few more games last year before redshirting for the season so I could rest,” he says. “But I started playing again last...

Why I’m grateful for Texas’ Tobacco 21 legislation

I first became aware of MD Anderson when my dear friend, James Ragan, of blessed memory, was diagnosed with osteosarcoma at the age of 13. James and his family lived two doors down from us in Corpus Christi, and I watched them battle osteosarcoma with a bravery and optimism that is simply indescribable. Through James and his parents, I began to learn of the extraordinarily impactful research and clinical care provided at MD Anderson. I also became much more sensitive to the plight of young cancer patients. Then, my father-in-law, George Gilbert, fought melanoma for several years with the help of MD Anderson. We were very close, and I admired him a great deal. His cancer ultimately got the best of him, but I know that MD Anderson made every weapon available to him during his courageous battle, and they brought a level of patient-centered care and compassion for which I will forever be grateful. After joining the Board of Visitors, my business partner of 25 years, Chip Bonner, was diagnosed with glioblastoma and once again, MD Anderson provided incredible care throughout Chip’s journey, and my appreciation will be there for the rest of my life.  Learning about the dangers of tobacco After seeing cancer claim several of my loved ones, I’ve committed myself to helping MD Anderson advance its mission to end cancer as a member of its Board of Visitors.  This is how I learned of the incredible potential of cancer prevention to make a difference – particularly avoiding tobacco use. Through my conversations with MD Anderson’s leaders, I learned that there wasn’t a single action that...

My advice to other patients: Focus on today

I am a strong, athletic, never-been-sick type of person. I am also very career-driven. So when I was diagnosed with stage IV squamous cell carcinoma of the tongue, a type of oral cancer, in 2016, I thought it’d be no problem. I’d undergo treatment and keep working while I was doing it. Boy, was I wrong. That might be true for some people, but it sure wasn’t for me. I was hospitalized for a week after my very first chemotherapy treatment. I had to be flown back to Houston from Mississippi so my care team could see me personally. I was dehydrated and a total mess. At one point, I had a complete meltdown, and one of the nurses had to sedate me to keep me from yelling. (So embarrassing!) But then, she called in an MD Anderson social work counselor, Djuana Fomby, who helped me put it all in perspective. The day I met with Fomby changed my entire outlook. My biggest challenge: relinquishing control I was really mad when I was admitted to the hospital. I thought I’d failed because I wasn’t strong enough. I’d heard all these stories about people who were still working while on chemotherapy and felt totally fine. That was not my experience. I could barely move and was really weak. I also had to get a PEG tube inserted much sooner than I expected to, because the chemotherapy was attacking the tumor in my mouth, which was affecting the way my tongue and throat functioned. Suddenly, I couldn’t swallow anything, so eating and drinking were not possible. That felt like another way...

Pregnant brain tumor patient finds answers, comfort at MD Anderson

Kylie Temple knew from a young age that she loved kids. As a NICU nurse in Mississippi, Kylie spends her days around infants, and in 2015, her first son, Riley, was born. “My husband and I knew we wanted him to have a sibling,” Kylie says. Unfortunately, she experienced back-to-back miscarriages, which she learned were caused by a rare blood-clotting disorder. When Kylie became pregnant again in 2018, she was prescribed blood thinners to protect the pregnancy, and was determined to carry her second son, Reid, to term. But a brain tumor diagnosis nearly derailed her plans. Scared, but determined after brain tumor diagnosis At 18 weeks pregnant, midway through her second trimester, Kylie woke up in the hospital, where her family told her she’d had multiple seizures the night before. “Thankfully, I don’t remember anything from that night,” Kylie says. In the ER, scans revealed Kylie had a brain tumor. The local hospital quickly transferred her to a nearby medical center, where doctors gave her steroids to control the seizures and referred her case to the tumor board. When their recommendation came back, Kylie knew she had to get a second opinion. “They didn’t want to do anything until after I delivered,” Kylie says. “I knew the tumor caused the seizures, which were not good for me or Reid. I was scared to death, but I was determined to fight and live to see my boys grow up.” Why Kylie chose MD Anderson for brain tumor surgery Kylie called MD Anderson and was scheduled to see neurosurgeon Sherise Ferguson, M.D., in the Brain and Spine Center within a...

5 things I learned from my non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma treatment

In late 2014, I was diagnosed with peripheral T-cell lymphoma, a type of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. At the time, I had no idea what that would entail or how it would affect my life. Here are five things I learned after going through treatment. 1. Surrender to the healing process. Once you’ve accepted your diagnosis and decided where you want to be treated, it’s important to have faith in your care team. Ask questions whenever you need to, of course, but trust their expertise. This way, you can focus on the process of healing. To get where I am today, I had to go through two stem cell transplants, a clinical trial, and even a brief, medically induced coma. I also had to try several different drugs in preparation for my second stem cell transplant under Dr. Amin Alousi, before finding a targeted therapy drug called alemtuzumab that worked. But I’m glad we persisted, because after a few rounds of it, I was able to have my allogeneic stem cell transplant on July 12, 2017. And, so far, I remain cancer-free. 2. Stay positive. At some point in your cancer treatment, it might feel like you’re going through hell. And, in many ways, you are! But in order to stay upbeat from one day to the next, it’s crucial to believe you can beat this and come out on the other side of it. Cancer treatment can be grueling, but I always had the attitude that MD Anderson was going to get me through it. Today, I’m still dealing with some side effects of my treatment, like nausea and fatigue....