Husband of breast cancer survivor: ‘The fight is worth it’

Seeing all the color leave my wife’s face when she was diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer in 2011 is a hard memory to think about. Aly was only 24 at the time. I was 27. And we had just decided to start trying to have children. We had no clue what to expect after a breast cancer diagnosis, but our minds automatically leapt to the worst-case scenario. Once we learned what Aly actually had (stage II invasive ductal carcinoma of the left breast) and how her doctors at MD Anderson wanted to treat it, it didn’t really leave us a whole lot of time to think. But we got educated very fast. And one of the things we learned is that the fight is worth it. Even if you don’t know how it’s all going to turn out, you have to believe it’s going to be good. My first priority: loving my wife As a man, two of the first things I think about in any family health crisis are money and time. So when Aly was diagnosed with breast cancer, I knew that life as I knew it needed to stop. My primary job would be to love Aly and let her know that she was my No. 1 priority. One of the ways I did that was by leaning heavily on my support system, which included Aly’s doctors. The fact that they all made themselves so accessible to me helped a lot. They would answer any question I had — and I asked a lot of questions. Sometimes, while Aly was receiving treatment at the hospital, she’d...

Husband of breast cancer survivor: ‘The fight is worth it’

Seeing all the color leave my wife’s face when she was diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer in 2011 is a hard memory to think about. Aly was only 24 at the time. I was 27. And we had just decided to start trying to have children. We had no clue what to expect after a breast cancer diagnosis, but our minds automatically leapt to the worst-case scenario. Once we learned what Aly actually had (stage II invasive ductal carcinoma of the left breast) and how her doctors at MD Anderson wanted to treat it, it didn’t really leave us a whole lot of time to think. But we got educated very fast. And one of the things we learned is that the fight is worth it. Even if you don’t know how it’s all going to turn out, you have to believe it’s going to be good. My first priority: loving my wife As a man, two of the first things I think about in any family health crisis are money and time. So when Aly was diagnosed with breast cancer, I knew that life as I knew it needed to stop. My primary job would be to love Aly and let her know that she was my No. 1 priority. One of the ways I did that was by leaning heavily on my support system, which included Aly’s doctors. The fact that they all made themselves so accessible to me helped a lot. They would answer any question I had — and I asked a lot of questions. Sometimes, while Aly was receiving treatment at the hospital, she’d...

Explaining cancer to young children: one family’s approach

Seeking additional treatment for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma presented a challenge for Emily Dumler in 2013. At the time, she and her husband, Scott, had three young children, and they all lived in Kansas City. But the chemotherapy and stem cell transplant she’d already received locally hadn’t worked, and the CAR T-cell therapy clinical trial Emily wanted to try was only available at MD Anderson in Houston, about 650 miles away by air. “Our children were 4, 6 and 8,” explains Scott. “So we just tried to make sure their lives stayed as normal as possible.” ‘Different levels of being sick’ The Dumlers maintained that normalcy by juggling the many offers of help they received from friends and family members. But the couple also managed their children’s anxiety by offering frequent, age-appropriate explanations. “I told them there are different levels of being sick,” Emily recalls. “Sometimes, it just means I don’t feel that well. But it’s a continuum. So on other days, I’d say, ‘Look, I’m really sick right now, but I’m going to get better.’” ‘What does cancer look like?’ While Emily was receiving treatment, Scott soothed the children’s fears by answering questions daily, whether he was at home with them in Kansas or with his wife in Houston. “I spoke to the kids every night, and was like, ‘OK, what questions do you have today?’” Scott says. “They already knew two people who had died of cancer, so they had a lot of concerns. At one point, my 6-year-old asked me, ‘What does cancer look like?’ Which might seem pretty irrelevant to an adult. But it helped her understand...

Coping with a lung cancer diagnosis at age 18

As an 18-year-old, Lauren Rodriguez never suspected her lingering cough would turn out to be a lung cancer symptom. “I was in shock,” Lauren says of her lung cancer diagnosis. “I never suspected something like that.” Today, Lauren’s cancer-free, thanks to her MD Anderson care team. But cancer has changed how the now-19-year-old views life. “I’ve been given a second chance,” she says. The first lung cancer symptoms    In February 2017, Lauren developed a cough that wouldn’t go away. The then-high school senior knew it wasn’t asthma — like the doctors in her hometown of Mansfield, Texas, had said. She wasn’t sure what it was, but it kept getting worse. At times, she coughed up blood, or coughed so much she became sick to her stomach. Appointment after appointment left her with few answers. In June 2017, she saw a pulmonologist in nearby Dallas, who ran a CT scan. The scan revealed a very small carcinoid tumor on one of her lungs. Lauren had never smoked, and, aside from the cough, she’d never had trouble breathing. She had planned on starting classes the following month at Tarrant County College, but decided to delay her studies to focus on her lung cancer treatment.   Coming to MD Anderson for a second opinion Lauren’s fears continued to grow after she saw a lung cancer surgeon in Dallas. There, the care team outlined a complicated surgery, which would require multiple incisions and chest tubes to help her breathe after surgery. While the chest tubes would only be temporary, she would still have to leave the hospital with them. She was nervous...

Lymphedema-relieving surgery keeps triathlete in the race

On Oct. 28, Mary Lindimore crossed the finish line of the IRONMAN Waco 70.3 triathlon. Alongside her was Cheryl Pfennig, the MD Anderson advanced practice registered nurse who helped her get there. Both participants biked 56 miles and ran 13.1 miles during the race. The swim portion was cancelled due to bad weather. “I was nervous about the race, but excited to cheer Mary on,” Pfennig says. “She’s been a big inspiration to me. We’ve inspired each other.” Mary has overcome three different types of breast cancer and debilitating lymphedema, a common cancer treatment side effect that causes blockages in the lymphatic system and leads to swelling and pain. But a surgery called a lymph node transfer helped alleviate the swelling lymphedema had caused in her left arm. “I couldn’t have done this race without the surgery,” Mary says. “It’s a real gift, and MD Anderson gave that to me.”  Second opinion brings new hope for lymphedema relief Mary developed lymphedema in 2007, during her first round of treatment for HER-2+ breast cancer. Her arm was so swollen she had to buy specially made clothing. Nothing fit, and nothing made it better, not even traditional treatments like wraps and massages. “No one could do anything about it,” Mary says. That is, until she came to MD Anderson. In 2016, when Mary was diagnosed with breast cancer for the second time, she and her husband decided to seek a second opinion at MD Anderson. They’d heard it was the best. On MD Anderson’s website, Mary found information on lymphedema treatment. She called and asked to see a specialist about that, too....