Uterine cancer caregiver: ‘We should’ve come to MD Anderson first’

I am a very skeptical person, so when I hear things described as “the best,” I don’t really believe it. But MD Anderson has been called the best cancer hospital in the world for years. And now, I know it’s true.

My wife, Tralisa, was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in late 2017, at a hospital near our home in Dallas. We came to MD Anderson for a second opinion.

It was there that we learned she’d been misdiagnosed. My wife actually had uterine cancer, and if she’d gone much longer without the correct diagnosis, she probably wouldn’t be here today.

My wife’s initial misdiagnosis

We found out something serious was wrong in early December. While I was taking our son to diving lessons, Tralisa called and said she had a pain in her chest. I thought it was just something she ate or maybe a little gas. But she was hurting pretty bad, so her mother took her to the emergency room.

A little later, I got another call. Tralisa needed me at the hospital. When I got there, the doctors said my wife had a huge mass in her chest and abdomen. They didn’t know what it was, but it had to be removed.

We agreed to the surgery. The surgeons took out the mass and one of her ovaries. Tralisa was still recovering in the hospital when the pathology report came back.

The oncologist told us that Tralisa had ovarian cancer. And while the diseased ovary had been removed, he wasn’t sure if the cancer had spread to any nearby lymph nodes. He recommended chemotherapy and a complete hysterectomy

A bond I wasn’t going to break

Something about that just didn’t sit right with me. So, I got Tralisa home and started doing research on the internet about ovarian cancer. I kept running across MD Anderson’s name, so I talked to my wife about getting a second opinion there. She wasn’t sure she wanted to, both because it was five hours away and because she was eager to get on with her cancer treatment and be done with it.

But I felt this was very important, so I kept pushing. She finally agreed on the way home from our first follow-up appointment with the oncologist, a couple of weeks after Tralisa was released from the hospital. We drove down to Houston just a few days later. And my first thought when we got to MD Anderson was, “We should’ve come here first.”

My wife and Dr. Michaela Onstad had an instant bond. Tralisa’s face glowed when they interacted. I was not going to break that up. If she felt more comfortable at MD Anderson, then that’s where she needed to be.

Why we travel 500 miles round trip for uterine cancer care

After additional testing showed that Tralisa actually had uterine cancer, she had a hysterectomy at MD Anderson on Feb. 6, 2018, followed by radiation therapy and chemotherapy. Today, she is cancer-free and doing great.

That’s why we still travel 500 miles round trip for Tralisa’s follow-up appointments. The level of care at MD Anderson is simply amazing. And I put a lot of faith in Dr. Onstad. Not just because she cured my wife’s cancer, but because she identified the real problem and gave Tralisa a second chance at life.

We were all so shocked when MD Anderson changed Tralisa’s diagnosis to uterine cancer. At the time, a part of me thought, “OK. Maybe the first hospital just missed it. They just slipped.” But you can’t slip with someone’s life. Dr. Onstad and MD Anderson went that extra step. And that gave my son his mom back and me my wife back.

Request an appointment at MD Anderson online or by calling 1-877-632-6789.