What to expect when you meet with an oncofertility specialist

For people who hope to have children of their own, a cancer diagnosis can derail those plans. However, thanks to oncofertility experts, who serve as a bridge between oncology and reproductive medicine, patients have several reproductive options to explore. “While there are many paths to parenthood — such as foster care, adoption and embryo donation — my goal is to try to expand those options as much as possible to include having children with your own eggs or your own sperm,” says Laurie McKenzie, M.D., associate professor in Gynecologic Oncology and Reproductive Medicine. McKenzie’s mission to empower patients to make the best decisions for their future family is both professional and personal. She and her husband, a leukemia survivor, underwent fertility preservation when he was diagnosed with cancer more than 20 years ago. “If it weren’t for fertility preservation, we wouldn't have the family that we have,” she says. “I certainly understand how important this is for patients.” Here, McKenzie discusses why it’s important to discuss your fertility early and what to expect during your first meeting with an oncofertility specialist. Why is it important to talk about fertility preservation before treatment? Patients typically have more future family building options in the future if I meet with them before they start cancer treatment. For example, if chemotherapy is part of their cancer treatment plan, egg freezing and sperm banking is contraindicated during most chemotherapy regimens. This means that for the vast majority of patients, it’s too late to cryopreserve eggs, sperm or embryos once they've already started chemotherapy. What questions will patients be asked when they first meet with...

6 things to know about chlorophyll

We all know that eating your greens is good for you, but what if you could extract the green and take it as a supplement? A recent trend has seen more people doing exactly that. Chlorophyll is the substance that give plants their green color, and chlorophyll supplements in liquid or tablet form are becoming popular. Chlorophyll is an antioxidant that can boost your health. But does it have the same benefits when it’s taken as a supplement? We asked Lindsey Wohlford, our wellness dietitian, to weigh in. Here are six things she wants you to know about chlorophyll. Chlorophyll is not the name you see on the label. Chlorophyll is the name of the green pigment that plants use to make food during a process called photosynthesis. But if you try to buy it as a supplement, you will likely see it called chlorophyllin, which is a water-soluble form of chlorophyll that contains copper and sodium. These extra minerals are there to make it easier for your body to absorb. The effects of chlorophyll are unclear. Supplement makers claim that chlorophyll can do many things, like boost red blood cells, help with weight loss, heal damaged skin, neutralize toxins, cut inflammation and prevent cancer. It’s an impressive list, but few of the claims are backed by scientific evidence. “There is some research that shows chlorophyll skin products could potentially fight acne, and there’s been very, very limited evidence about weight loss,” says Wohlford. “Aside from that, we know it comes from plants and contains antioxidants, that's about the extent what we can safely confirm.” Liquid might be better...

Proton therapy spared me from side effects after a head and neck cancer diagnosis

When I first noticed what I thought was a swollen lymph node on the right side of my neck, I thought it was just an infection coming on. It didn’t hurt, but it was swollen. The swelling went down a few days later and then would swell back up again. It did that for the next few months. By March 2020, it had not gone away, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I put off going to the doctor. In June, I requested an ultrasound from my primary care doctor, followed by a biopsy and PET scan. They all came back negative. My ENT did notice a mass on the CT scan, and suggested that we watch and wait. Instead, I contacted MD Anderson for a second opinion. Getting answers from MD Anderson’s Suspicion of Cancer Clinic I chose MD Anderson because it’s ranked No. 1 in the nation in cancer care. We’ve lived all over the country, and every story that I’ve heard about MD Anderson always reiterated this reputation. I love my life and want to keep living it. I knew MD Anderson was the place I needed to be to do that. I called to make my first appointment. The health information specialists helped me start the appointment process. I flew to Houston from El Paso, Texas,  and moved into a furnished apartment. I had my first appointment on Sept. 17 with Dr. Gloria Iliescu at MD Anderson’s Mary Ann Weiser Suspicion of Cancer Clinic. Dr. Iliescu was calming and wonderful – exactly what’s needed in a doctor. She went above and beyond to set up my...

Reclaiming my life after a rare stage IV neuroendocrine tumor diagnosis

I’ve known six people who have died of pancreatic cancer, including my own dad in 2015. So, when I was diagnosed with that disease in June 2018, my first thought was: “I’ve got to get to MD Anderson.” I live about an hour north of Dallas, close to the Oklahoma border. But I knew the six-hour drive to Houston would be worth it, because all MD Anderson does is cancer. It offers specialized treatment from doctors who are experts. So, that was the only place for me. Today, I’m convinced that if hadn’t been for God and MD Anderson, I wouldn’t still be here. Because it was there that I discovered I actually had a stage IV neuroendocrine tumor of the pancreas — and that it was treatable. Pancreatic cancer experts at MD Anderson offered encouragement The first doctor I met with at MD Anderson was surgical oncologist Dr. Matthew H.G. Katz, who specializes in pancreatic cancer. My wife and I had a million questions. The most important one was, “How long do I have to live?” Because my father only lasted about 10 months after his pancreatic cancer diagnosis, and a friend of mine only lasted about 60 days. Dr. Katz didn’t feel comfortable speculating about that, but he did tell me not to worry. He said, “Look: we’re going to do some more scans and run some additional tests to figure it out. We’ll take care of this.” And, as it turns out, he was right. Corrected diagnosis took me from terminal to treatable The first thing Dr. Katz did was send me to a colleague, gastroenterology...

Young adult caregiver: What my wife’s cancer experience taught me

When you’re a young adult dealing with a cancer diagnosis, you realize that planning for the future is a luxury. However, as my wife Suzie taught me throughout her time living with cancer, joy can be found in the most unlikely of places. Suzie was only 26 when she was diagnosed with a rare head and neck cancer in 2017. Even though she was living with metastatic disease, she cherished every day that was hers to live. Whether that meant jumping in an RV to spend a week at a festival in the desert, or building her own greeting card business during hospice care, she never let her pain or discomfort get in the way of doing what she loved. Despite the challenges we faced during Suzie’s treatment, she taught me to be grateful for even the smallest things and savor every moment we had together. Headaches lead to cancer diagnosis Suzie and I first met at a college bar in Gainesville, Florida, where, during college, she worked as a waitress and I as the DJ. She was the type of person you just wanted to be around — wise beyond her years, compassionate, and sassy when she wanted to be. After moving to New Zealand together and getting engaged, we got married and settled in Boulder, Colorado, where Suzie began her nursing career in an OB/GYN clinic. While she was studying to become a nurse practitioner in October 2017, Suzie started experiencing painful headaches. We thought they were caused by the stress of the program or uncomfortable office furniture. But after two weeks with no relief, she talked...