6 ways caregivers can improve their health at MD Anderson

As a cancer caregiver, you’ve probably been told it’s important to take care of your own physical and mental health, too. But sometimes that’s easier said than done, especially when you’re here at MD Anderson focusing on your loved one. That’s why we’ve made a list of ways that you can look after your own health while you’re here at MD Anderson, whether you’re waiting on appointments or visiting a loved one. Walk the sky bridge It can be hard to find time to exercise when you’re caring for others. But exercise is an important part of a healthy lifestyle and lowering your cancer risk. In fact, the American Institute for Cancer Research recommends getting 150 minutes of moderate physical activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity each week to lower your cancer risk. Fortunately, you can get plenty of exercise by walking outside MD Anderson, weather permitting, or across our nearly quarter-mile-long skybridge. Walking can also improve your mental outlook, help alleviate depression and improve your self-esteem. Relax in our gardens Interacting with nature can help raise people’s spirits and put them at ease.  That’s why MD Anderson has six different parks, gardens or green spaces that are specially designed to promote healing. Try taking time to admire the beauty of the Tom Jean Moore Rose Garden or listen to the peaceful sounds of the Dorothy Hudson Garden and LeRoy Melcher Jr. Memorial Fountain. Outside of Mays Clinic, you can also walk through The Prairie and see grasses native to Texas or stop to smell the herbs growing in our Healthy Living Garden. Take a class We know...

Breast cancer survivor, volunteer: How I support other patients

During one of breast cancer survivor Margaret Looper’s early visits to MD Anderson some 15 years ago, a volunteer who escorted her to her appointments left a remarkable impression. “She was just so cheerful. She was young, she had her volunteer jacket on and she had this long bouncing hair. I thought to myself, ‘How could this person be cheerful? Well, she’s never had cancer. That’s why she could be so cheerful,’” Margaret recalls. “Then she said something about her cancer, and I said, ‘Wait, you had cancer!?’ And she said, ‘Yeah, I’m a survivor.” And I thought, wow! And she got well!” After that interaction, Margaret told her daughter, “When I get over this cancer, I’m going to try doing that.” Shifting from breast cancer survivor to volunteer Two years later, when Margaret was cancer-free, her daughter came across a newspaper article announcing the opening of MD Anderson in The Woodlands. Margaret, who lives in Montgomery County, thought it was the perfect volunteer opportunity. She contacted MD Anderson, and in the fall of 2004, she became the first volunteer to serve at The Woodlands location. “I was the only volunteer for many years, and I was constantly changing what I did because we started off very small,” she says. “Whatever they asked me to do, I would do. I also just sort of looked for things to do.” Like all MD Anderson volunteers, Margaret was trained on how to help patients who appear lost, cold, lonely or upset. And because of her experience as a patient, she makes a point of mentioning that she’s a survivor to patients...

Uterine cancer survivor finds miracles in her rare experience

Jan de Chambrier had always envisioned herself as a mother to several children. In 1990, she and her husband were on their way to fulfilling that desire when they found out they were expecting twins. Then she suffered a miscarriage. And the news got worse from there. “They discovered a tumor behind the uterus,” says Jan, who was 37 at the time. “It was unusual because at that age, women are not diagnosed with uterine cancer. I was told that it was a miracle that I conceived given that I had this type of cancer in my body.” Losing the ability to bear children after uterine cancer treatment As part of her uterine cancer treatment, Jan had to undergo a complete hysterectomy. “I went overnight from being pregnant to being menopausal,” she says. “It kind of rocked our world.” Jan struggled with the emotional impact of her treatment for a year and a half. Then her husband helped her gain a new perspective: Her story wasn’t a tragedy; it was a miracle because if it wasn’t for her pregnancy, no one would’ve discovered the tumor until it was too late. “That’s really what turned the corner for me,” Jan says. Eventually, she and her husband adopted a son, Paul, and in 1994, the family moved to The Woodlands, Texas from Denver, Colorado. A rare uterine cancer recurrence After more than two decades in remission, Jan noticed a lump in her lower abdomen in January 2016. “I thought it was a hernia because it had been 26 years since my diagnosis,” she says. Jan’s family doctor examined the lump during...

Ovarian cancer diagnosis and treatment: What’s new

Because its symptoms are often vague, ovarian cancer can be hard to diagnose. And a definitive diagnosis requires a biopsy, which is best done at the time of surgery. But MD Anderson’s Ovarian Cancer Moon Shot™ is focused on finding new ways to detect the disease earlier, when it’s easier to treat. We spoke with Anil Sood, M.D., co-leader of the Ovarian Cancer Moon Shot, to learn about the latest advances in ovarian cancer diagnosis and treatment. Here’s what he shared. Who’s at risk for ovarian cancer?                                                  Trends suggest that women around age 59, who’ve never been pregnant and who have an inflammatory disorder like endometriosis are more likely to develop ovarian cancer. It was once thought that using talc-based products, like baby powder, increased the risk, but studies haven’t shown a direct cause-and-effect relationship. Also, women with a mutation in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes are at higher risk. For these women, ovarian cancer is hereditary, so it’s important to undergo genetic testing if your mom, grandmother or aunts have been diagnosed with ovarian or breast cancer before age 40. Women of Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry (Jewish people who originated from Central or Eastern Europe) are more likely to have a BRCA gene mutation, too. Is there anything that lowers a woman’s risk for ovarian cancer? We’re studying ovarian cancer prevention more, but we’ve seen that having a pregnancy, taking the birth control pill and undergoing a tubal ligation (commonly referred to as having your tubes tied) all lower the risk. Patients should talk with their doctor if they’re concerned about their risk. What are common symptoms of ovarian...

A cancer survivor’s guide to exercise and heart rate

As a cancer survivor, you know that exercise is one of the key factors in lowering your risk of cancer recurrence. But how do you know if you’re exercising enough — or hard enough? That part is trickier. And that’s where your heart rate comes in. Your heart rate indicates how quickly your heart is pumping blood – in other words, how hard it’s working. Knowing your heart rate can help you determine if you need to back off to make sure you’re staying safe or if you need to increase the intensity to truly gain the benefits of exercise. It’s possible your doctor may want you to limit certain exercises, so be sure to discuss any workout routine before you start. The American Institute for Cancer Research and the American College of Sports Medicine recommend 150 minutes of moderate physical activity or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise each week. Your heart rate is one way to determine if the exercise you’re doing is vigorous or not. We talked with Whittney Thoman, exercise physiologist at MD Anderson’s Cancer Prevention Center, to learn more about what cancer survivors need to know about heart rate and exercise. Here’s what she had to say. Learn how to determine your heart rate One way to measure this is to use a heart rate monitor. This device is typically a watch or a strap that goes around your arm or chest. If the heart rate monitor says you’re working at 50 to 70% of your maximum heart rate, then the exercise is considered moderate. If the heart rate monitor shows that you’re working at...