I don’t get sick very often. And no one in my family has ever had cancer, so when I was diagnosed with leukemia in January 2012, I didn’t even really know what it was.
But I believe we go through certain things so we can be there for other people. That’s why I’m sharing my story here now. Because I went through some pretty dark times during my leukemia treatment, and I wasn’t always sure I was going to make it. But with the help of my doctors at MD Anderson, I did — and you can, too.
Why I chose MD Anderson
It was around Christmas in 2011 that I started feeling really bad. I thought I was getting the flu, so I picked up some over-the-counter medicines and treated myself at home. When I still didn’t feel any better after a couple of weeks, I went to see my general practitioner. She did some blood tests and discovered I had leukemia.
Once I understood what that was, I knew I wanted to go to MD Anderson. It had a track record I respected, and its doctors care for people from around the world — from the simple man to the CEO.
My leukemia treatment
The first time I met Dr. William Wierda, I knew I’d come to the right place. He sounded and acted so confident. His confidence proved well-founded, too, because here I am six years later, cancer-free.
To treat my leukemia, Dr. Wierda recommended eight initial rounds of chemotherapy, which I received through an IV over 8 months. I also took chemotherapy in pill form for another 30 months, as well as two additional rounds of intravenous chemotherapy.
I lost all my hair three times as a result of the chemo, gained 40 pounds from the steroids, and had to endure a spinal tap and bone marrow aspirations every month. But the treatment worked. My leukemia went into remission after the first round of chemotherapy and has not returned.
My surprise kidney cancer diagnosis
Then, I got another surprise. In April 2015, I went to the doctor because I kept getting “stuck” when I bent over to pick up my grandkids. He ordered a CT scan to see why I kept locking up. It turned out that I had stage I kidney cancer, which was completely unrelated to my previous diagnosis.
Dr. Wierda referred me to urological surgeon Dr. Christopher Wood. He said because we’d caught the cancer so early, all I needed was surgery to remove the top 5% of my right kidney. I wouldn’t have to endure additional chemo or receive radiation treatments.
The MD Anderson difference: lifelong relationships
Dr. Wood performed the surgery to remove my kidney tumor on April 28, 2015. So, I expected to see him checking up on me after the procedure. But when Dr. Wierda came to visit me in the ICU afterwards, too, I was kind of surprised. I have since come to realize that it’s the compassion that sets MD Anderson apart.
Morning, noon and night, I could feel that my doctors and nurses genuinely cared about me. They held back my hair when I was throwing up, encouraged me to persevere even when things seemed very dark and did whatever they could to make me as comfortable as possible.
I’ve built lifelong relationships with many of them. And when my husband threw a surprise party recently to celebrate my one-year anniversary of being cancer-free, all of my doctors and nurses came. I don’t think you can find that kind of care and compassion just anywhere. That’s why I don’t look at MD Anderson as the place I went to when I got sick anymore. Now, I look at it as the place I went to get well.
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