How volunteers brighten Christmas Day for our hospitalized patients

Fran Epstein arrives before sunrise to organize gifts and review the inpatient hospital floors to visit. Soon after, others join her to prepare for the day. Wearing festive hats, this brigade of committed volunteers visits each floor, pushing carts loaded with teddy bears and blankets. One group, divided into teams of three or four, goes door to door to each patient room, while the other volunteers serve a special free catered lunch – all bringing holiday cheer to ensure patients and their families have a special Christmas Day despite being in the hospital. The makings of an MD Anderson tradition Epstein’s mother, Honey, began volunteering at MD Anderson in 1967 by organizing a weekly party for pediatric patients. When she found out there were no special plans for patients who were in the hospital for Christmas, she decided her family of four would come to visit. Her husband, Stan, and two teenage daughters, Fran and Susan, went from room to room to wish each patient a Merry Christmas. “The patients were surprised,” says Fran Epstein, recalling that first holiday. “They didn’t expect visitors.” The next year, more families wanted to help. They brought each patient a nutcracker, candy and newspaper. In later years, teddy bears were substituted for nutcrackers. She still remembers a patient who couldn’t talk following surgery. “He cried tears of joy after receiving that teddy bear,” she says. At first, Epstein’s dad nicknamed the group the Jewish brigade. As the years went on, people from all faiths joined in, so he renamed them the ecumenical brigade. “The patients in the hospital over the holiday often have...

Best of MD Anderson 2019: Top cancer insights from our experts

Whether you’re facing a cancer diagnosis, want to better understand your risk or celebrating life after cancer, you likely have questions about your health. Sometimes, turning to the internet can lead to bad information or confusion. To help you find accurate answers to your questions, we spoke with our experts on many topics this past year. They shared insights on trending topics in cancer, the latest in cancer treatment and how we’re making advances through our Moon Shots Program. Here are some of our experts’ most helpful insights from 2019. 3 nutrients cancer survivors should know Nutrients help cancer survivors stay healthy and reduce their risk of the long-term side effects of cancer and its treatment. Our clinical dietitian Haley Gale shares advice on how to easily incorporate omega-3 fatty acids, flaxseed and iron into your diet. Treating cancer with targeted therapy All cancers are caused by a mutation, which is a genetic change in the DNA of a cell. Targeted therapy works by focusing on the specific mutation of a cancer cell to stop or slow its growth. Vivek Subbiah, M.D., explains how we’re able to personalize cancer treatment to some patients’ specific tumors and how Phase I clinical trials are helping us discover more of these new therapies. Debunking glioblastoma myths Although many cancers spread to the brain, few actually start there. Glioblastoma is the most comment primary brain tumor in adults – and the most aggressive. But with only 12,000 new diagnoses each year, it’s still considered rare and there’s a lot of mystery surrounding it. Here, Shiao-Pei Weathers, M.D., clears up common misconceptions about glioblastoma....

Best of MD Anderson 2019: Top cancer insights from our experts

Whether you’re facing a cancer diagnosis, want to better understand your risk or celebrating life after cancer, you likely have questions about your health. Sometimes, turning to the internet can lead to bad information or confusion. To help you find accurate answers to your questions, we spoke with our experts on many topics this past year. They shared insights on trending topics in cancer, the latest in cancer treatment and how we’re making advances through our Moon Shots Program. Here are some of our experts’ most helpful insights from 2019. 3 nutrients cancer survivors should know Nutrients help cancer survivors stay healthy and reduce their risk of the long-term side effects of cancer and its treatment. Our clinical dietitian Haley Gale shares advice on how to easily incorporate omega-3 fatty acids, flaxseed and iron into your diet. Treating cancer with targeted therapy All cancers are caused by a mutation, which is a genetic change in the DNA of a cell. Targeted therapy works by focusing on the specific mutation of a cancer cell to stop or slow its growth. Vivek Subbiah, M.D., explains how we’re able to personalize cancer treatment to some patients’ specific tumors and how Phase I clinical trials are helping us discover more of these new therapies. Debunking glioblastoma myths Although many cancers spread to the brain, few actually start there. Glioblastoma is the most comment primary brain tumor in adults – and the most aggressive. But with only 12,000 new diagnoses each year, it’s still considered rare and there’s a lot of mystery surrounding it. Here, Shiao-Pei Weathers, M.D., clears up common misconceptions about glioblastoma....

Best of MD Anderson 2019: Why patients came here for treatment

Cancer patients come to MD Anderson for many reasons. Some want the expertise of the nation’s top hospital for cancer care for cancer care. Many want access to our cutting-edge treatments and our clinical trials. And some seek care here after hearing from friends or relatives about the compassionate care they received. Here are 11 reasons our patients and caregivers shared with us in 2019 about why they chose MD Anderson.  Skull base tumor survivor: “They gave me hope when all seemed hopeless.” Initially, Mark Bailey chalked up the double vision he’d been experiencing to the stress of being a homicide detective. But it turned out to be caused by a skull base tumor called chordoma of the clivus. None of his local doctors knew how to treat it, so he came to MD Anderson. Thymoma survivor: “I needed a higher level of expertise.” Cynthia Sanchez had known something was wrong for years, but no one in Laredo ever connected any of the symptoms she had with the tumor growing on her thymus gland. When a routine X-ray revealed it behind her breastbone, she called MD Anderson. Breast cancer survivor: “My doctors developed a plan that fit me perfectly.” After Lisa Tecklenburg was diagnosed with breast cancer, she worried she might not compete in endurance sports ever again. But after receiving personalized treatment at MD Anderson, the triathlete finished a competition with her best time yet — and qualified for the IRONMAN world championship. Throat cancer survivor: “It was like being cared for by my own family.” News photographer Damion Smith had covered stories about MD Anderson for years,...

Best of MD Anderson 2019: Words of wisdom from our cancer survivors

Cancer patients find hope in different ways. Some do it by reminding themselves that nothing lasts forever, and that this, too, shall pass. Others seek solace in faith, supportive relationships or celebrating small victories. In many cases, the insights they’ve gained from their experiences can help others facing cancer. Here are some words of wisdom our patients have shared with us over the past year that helped them stay upbeat as they navigated cancer treatment and recovery. We hope at least some of them will resonate with you and help you through cancer. “My life is different now, but it’s still good.” — Max Nickless, anaplastic thyroid cancer survivor “Don’t give up. This is only temporary.” — Ilyasha Hosea, breast cancer survivor “Some of life’s sourest lemons make the best lemonade.” — Ciara Toth, acute lymphoblastic leukemia survivor “Each of us has greater strength because of the other.” — Ben Sanders, melanoma and prostate cancer survivor “Life can still be beautiful after cancer.” — Alexa Jett, papillary thyroid cancer survivor “I still have some dark days. But now, I also have hope and optimism.” — Elpida Argenziano, breast cancer survivor “Side effects are a small price to pay for my life.” — Peggy Port, ovarian cancer survivor “All I want to do is live well and love deeply.” — Nicole Body, sarcoma survivor “I choose to get busy living.” — Constance Blanchard, glioblastoma survivor “Every single bad day is better than no day at all.” — Deanna Wehrung, cervical cancer survivor “I have a lot to be happy about, just because I’m a survivor.” — Vanessa Sanders, breast cancer...