News and articles


 

There are many publications and sites that write about cancer. We want you to know we don’t produce the news items you can read in this section, they belong to the MD Anderson Cancer Center. This section only intents to inform you about what is out there.

However, we are working on the first edition of the Pink Ribbon Magazine as well as in the production of featured articles that will be published here.

 

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Virtual art lessons help our pediatric cancer patients

Kasey Marsh has always been a creative person. She ran her own professional photography business for over a decade, and has drawn and painted as a hobby throughout her life.

Now, she facilitates art activities with our pediatric and young adult cancer patients in her role as merchandising program supervisor for MD Anderson Children’s Art Project. Some of their art is used to create Children’s Art Project retail products. The net proceeds from the product sales benefit patient programs for children with cancer. She also photographs patients participating in art activities for use in marketing materials and social media.

“Their resilience gives me such perspective and gets me out of bed in the mornings because being a part of their lives is a privilege, and I can’t wait to see what they create,” she says. “They give me purpose beyond measure and are truly a gift to me.”

A sign that she was meant to work at MD Anderson

MD Anderson treated several of Marsh’s family members, including her mother.

In 2012, her mother died in the Palliative Care unit after living for 15 years with stage IV colorectal cancer. Marsh credits her mother’s care team, which included Ara Vaporciyan, M.D., for the extra years she had with her mother.

“Because of them, she was able to see me get married, meet her grandchildren, and live many full, happy years longer than at initial diagnosis by a different provider who gave her 18 months to live,” Marsh says.

When Marsh decided it was time to leave her photography business, she knew she wanted to work somewhere that served others and where she could make a difference for those who need it most. MD Anderson was a natural choice.

“I wanted very much to have the opportunity to give back to the place that had given such gifts of life to me and my family,” she says.

In 2016, Marsh drove to her pre-employment drug screen and badge photo appointment from her home near Galveston. Along the way, she began to have second thoughts.

“I was wondering if I was strong enough to be physically in the same place where I saw my mother die,” she says.

While stopped at a light on our Texas Medical Center Campus, she saw one of the MD Anderson shuttle buses, which at the time was wrapped with Children’s Art Project artwork, including an image of a sock monkey, and little envelopes with wings and hearts falling from a sky. At the bottom of the artwork was the artist’s signed name: Monica.

“That was my mom’s name and my photography business had been called Monkey Tree, and monkeys had become my trademark,” she says. “That was the sign from heaven, the universe or my mom that this was absolutely where I needed to be, and everything was going to be fine!”

Connecting virtually with pediatric cancer patients during the COVID-19 pandemic

Marsh’s role is similar to that of an artist-in-residence role, providing our patients opportunities for leisurely engagements, positive distractions, self-expression and socialization.

“We all know that cancer treatment is tough,” she says. “Giving them creative outlets and the chance to make art enhances their sense of well-being, gives them some normalcy, and makes it a little easier to cope with each new day.”

Typically, Marsh interacts with patients and families on a daily basis, working alongside the Pediatrics team in the Children’s Cancer Hospital’s outpatient clinic, inpatient floor and Kim’s Place. She’s also worked with Cancer180 to provide virtual art activities for our young adult cancer patients.

Like many people, Marsh has had to adjust her approach to work due to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Since mid-March, she’s been working remotely from home.

She hosts weekly WebEx art classes for our pediatric inpatients, as well as one-on-one virtual classes with patients who have expressed interest. She’s created tutorial videos so that when she has a virtual art session, she’s able to screen-share a guided drawing video, and coach the artist along.

Parents of the participating artists mail the completed art to Marsh so she can scan it into a digital archive, and then submit it to our product development committee.

“The arts are powerful in healing, providing a positive distraction and sense of accomplishment at a time when people can feel that their lives are spinning out of control,” she says.

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

Multiple myeloma survivor: Staying positive is a way to give back to others

When Marie Chaplinksy went in for a checkup with her cardiologist in March 2017, she was surprised when she was called back to have her bloodwork done for a second time. Her test results showed that she was very anemic, and her doctor noticed other concerning markers.

After the second round of tests, her cardiologist suspected that she had cancer and referred her to MD Anderson.

Marie, now 71, set up an appointment at MD Anderson West Houston, which was much closer to her home in Katy than the Texas Medical Center location. After additional testing, she learned that she had stage I multiple myeloma, a blood cancer that affects bone marrow. She was also considered high-risk due to the results of her bone marrow aspiration, which was done during her diagnostic testing. Approximately 15% of patients with multiple myeloma are considered to have high-risk disease, which is associated with a shorter remission and an earlier risk of relapse.

The diagnosis came as a shock to Marie, who didn’t show any symptoms. Multiple myeloma patients may experience bone lesions or kidney issues as the disease progresses.

“I was encouraged by my team’s knowledge and expertise. They shared with me that while there was no cure for multiple myeloma, they had instances of patients still living after 17 years,” says Marie. “I wanted to be one of those people.”

Multiple myeloma treatment closer to home

In May 2017, Marie’s doctors prescribed chemotherapy, which would be followed by a stem cell transplant. The chemotherapy treatments lasted for four months and included a combination of kyprolis, revlimid and dexamethasone. While Marie did not lose any hair during this phase of her multiple myeloma treatment, she did experience a loss of taste and fatigue.

Marie appreciated that she was able to receive chemotherapy so close to home.

“Thank goodness it was only eight minutes from my house,” says Marie of MD Anderson’s West Houston location. She continued to work as a meeting and event planner during treatment. Not losing time to a commute was essential for keeping her business running.

Recovering from an autologous stem cell transplant

In October, she underwent an autologous stem cell transplant, which uses the patient’s own cells for treatment. Blood cells are extracted and a high-dose chemotherapy is used to treat the cancer. Then, the stem cells are placed back into the patient. The patient has low blood counts until the replaced cells replenish the body with healthy cells.

Marie stayed in the hospital on MD Anderson’s Texas Medical Center Campus for three weeks. The chemotherapy drug she was given, melphalan, caused her to lose her hair and her appetite. But around the third week, she started feeling better.

“It was during the holidays, so I watched Christmas movies in my room. When my appetite came back, I really wanted canned chicken noodle soup like my mother used to make,” recalls Marie.

Muzaffar Qazilbash, M.D., and research nurse specialist Vivian Al Jahdhami, oversaw Marie’s stem cell transplant. She is still in communication with them and speaks highly of them to other patients.

“‘Dr. Q’, as I call him, and Vivian have been incredible. They answer all of my questions in a timely manner, and I feel so lucky to have them on my team,” says Marie.

Staying positive through a multiple myeloma diagnosis and beyond

Following her treatment, Marie took part in a clinical trial that lasted for two years and received revlimid to keep her cancer from returning. She completed the clinical trial, but still takes the medication, since it is the current standard of care. She reached remission in November 2019. While multiple myeloma can be aggressive if it returns, Marie is enjoying her life and leaning on her faith.

“I have always been active and I still am, even though I am a little slower these days,” she says. “I never let myself become negative, and prayer has always been important to me. I had hope and determination, and it worked.”

Marie was given the option of reducing her revlimid dosage when the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic started. That’s because the drug lowers the immune system’s ability to fight infections, such as COVID-19.

But Marie decided to keep taking her maintenance medication. “I decided that I would rather fight COVID-19 than stop taking my medication that fights myeloma,” says Marie. To protect against COVID-19, she and her husband are practicing social distancing and taking other preventive measures, such as frequent hand-washing and disinfecting things that come into their home.

Encouraging others through MyCancerConnection

After her multiple myeloma treatment, Marie wanted to be a source of positivity and hope for other patients. So, she signed up to volunteer with myCancerConnection, MD Anderson’s one-on-one cancer support community. Marie loves being able to answer other’s questions thoughtfully and honestly via phone, email or text.

“My goal is always build their confidence back up if they’re feeling down,” says Marie, who continues to support patients by phone during the COVID-19 pandemic.

She is often asked by other patients if she’s fearful of the future.

“I don’t even think about if my cancer comes back. I have battled this and I came through,” says Marie. “If it comes back, I’ll do the same thing. I’ll fight it and be in prayer. I’m not going to let it take control of me.”

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

Multiple myeloma survivor: Staying positive is a way to give back to others

When Marie Chaplinksy went in for a checkup with her cardiologist in March 2017, she was surprised when she was called back to have her bloodwork done for a second time. Her test results showed that she was very anemic, and her doctor noticed other concerning markers.

After the second round of tests, her cardiologist suspected that she had cancer and referred her to MD Anderson.

Marie, now 71, set up an appointment at MD Anderson West Houston, which was much closer to her home in Katy than the Texas Medical Center location. After additional testing, she learned that she had stage I multiple myeloma, a blood cancer that affects bone marrow. She was also considered high-risk due to the results of her bone marrow aspiration, which was done during her diagnostic testing. Approximately 15% of patients with multiple myeloma are considered to have high-risk disease, which is associated with a shorter remission and an earlier risk of relapse.

The diagnosis came as a shock to Marie, who didn’t show any symptoms. Multiple myeloma patients may experience bone lesions or kidney issues as the disease progresses.

“I was encouraged by my team’s knowledge and expertise. They shared with me that while there was no cure for multiple myeloma, they had instances of patients still living after 17 years,” says Marie. “I wanted to be one of those people.”

Multiple myeloma treatment closer to home

In May 2017, Marie’s doctors prescribed chemotherapy, which would be followed by a stem cell transplant. The chemotherapy treatments lasted for four months and included a combination of kyprolis, revlimid and dexamethasone. While Marie did not lose any hair during this phase of her multiple myeloma treatment, she did experience a loss of taste and fatigue.

Marie appreciated that she was able to receive chemotherapy so close to home.

“Thank goodness it was only eight minutes from my house,” says Marie of MD Anderson’s West Houston location. She continued to work as a meeting and event planner during treatment. Not losing time to a commute was essential for keeping her business running.

Recovering from an autologous stem cell transplant

In October, she underwent an autologous stem cell transplant, which uses the patient’s own cells for treatment. Blood cells are extracted and a high-dose chemotherapy is used to treat the cancer. Then, the stem cells are placed back into the patient. The patient has low blood counts until the replaced cells replenish the body with healthy cells.

Marie stayed in the hospital on MD Anderson’s Texas Medical Center Campus for three weeks. The chemotherapy drug she was given, melphalan, caused her to lose her hair and her appetite. But around the third week, she started feeling better.

“It was during the holidays, so I watched Christmas movies in my room. When my appetite came back, I really wanted canned chicken noodle soup like my mother used to make,” recalls Marie.

Muzaffar Qazilbash, M.D., and research nurse specialist Vivian Al Jahdhami, oversaw Marie’s stem cell transplant. She is still in communication with them and speaks highly of them to other patients.

“‘Dr. Q’, as I call him, and Vivian have been incredible. They answer all of my questions in a timely manner, and I feel so lucky to have them on my team,” says Marie.

Staying positive through a multiple myeloma diagnosis and beyond

Following her treatment, Marie took part in a clinical trial that lasted for two years and received revlimid to keep her cancer from returning. She completed the clinical trial, but still takes the medication, since it is the current standard of care. She reached remission in November 2019. While multiple myeloma can be aggressive if it returns, Marie is enjoying her life and leaning on her faith.

“I have always been active and I still am, even though I am a little slower these days,” she says. “I never let myself become negative, and prayer has always been important to me. I had hope and determination, and it worked.”

Marie was given the option of reducing her revlimid dosage when the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic started. That’s because the drug lowers the immune system’s ability to fight infections, such as COVID-19.

But Marie decided to keep taking her maintenance medication. “I decided that I would rather fight COVID-19 than stop taking my medication that fights myeloma,” says Marie. To protect against COVID-19, she and her husband are practicing social distancing and taking other preventive measures, such as frequent hand-washing and disinfecting things that come into their home.

Encouraging others through MyCancerConnection

After her multiple myeloma treatment, Marie wanted to be a source of positivity and hope for other patients. So, she signed up to volunteer with myCancerConnection, MD Anderson’s one-on-one cancer support community. Marie loves being able to answer other’s questions thoughtfully and honestly via phone, email or text.

“My goal is always build their confidence back up if they’re feeling down,” says Marie, who continues to support patients by phone during the COVID-19 pandemic.

She is often asked by other patients if she’s fearful of the future.

“I don’t even think about if my cancer comes back. I have battled this and I came through,” says Marie. “If it comes back, I’ll do the same thing. I’ll fight it and be in prayer. I’m not going to let it take control of me.”

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

Why I’m committed to social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic

Before the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, my personal life involved a lot of socializing. I’d travel at least twice a month — sometimes for work, but usually for pleasure. I’d visit with family members who live around the country, and go out to eat with friends at least a couple of nights a week here in Houston.

I’m also a huge fan of the theater, and I spent a lot of time in our parks and other public spaces. Like many other people, I also enjoyed many “nonessential” services, such as haircuts and pedicures.

But since the coronavirus pandemic started, I’ve taken social distancing to heart.

How I’m putting social distancing into practice

Social distancing means, whenever possible, maintaining a six-foot distance from people who are not part of our household. When that’s not possible, it means wearing a mask. And in places where crowding is unavoidable, that means removing ourselves from those situations, or choosing not to engage in certain activities to begin with.

For me, social distancing has meant I have not traveled outside of Houston since before the pandemic. I have not entered a restaurant. Visits with friends have taken place on the front porch only, while maintaining more than 6 feet of distance. I have not engaged in any non-essential activities, either, including salon visits and retail shopping.

I have used remote methods as much as possible for all essential activities, like curbside pickup for groceries and drive-through pickup for prescriptions. I have worked mostly from home, so I can help limit the traffic on MD Anderson’s campuses and keep our staff and patients safe.

And I have worn a mask any time I can’t maintain a six-foot distance from other people.

Social distancing is an act of compassion

Practicing social distancing is a profound way to show our care and concern for the most vulnerable among us. That matters to me as a physician because I took an oath to do no harm. It matters to me as a radiation oncologist because our cancer patients rely on us to keep them safe.

But social distancing also matters to me as a human being because wrapped up in that is my desire to make the world a better place for everyone, not just for our cancer patients. It’s an act of compassion toward all of Houston for our MD Anderson staff to practice safe behaviors at home and when we’re outside in our neighborhoods.

Social distancing is a necessary protection against COVID-19

Human beings have never encountered this particular coronavirus before. That means there is no herd immunity yet. And while we certainly hope that a vaccine will become widely available, we anticipate it will take a minimum of 12 months for that to happen.

We also don’t have any widely effective treatments for this viral infection yet. So, for now, our only protection against COVID-19 is social distancing. This is the only way we can flatten the peak of cases, prevent our hospitals from being overwhelmed, and reduce the number of people who will die from the coronavirus.

The hardest part of social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic

For me, the hardest aspect of social distancing has been not visiting with my family and friends in Washington, D.C. My mother, sister and many other family members live there. I haven’t seen them in person for months. But that’s OK, because it has to be OK. We’ve all learned how to make video calls and stay connected by phone. And I know that once it’s safe, I’ll see them all again.

It’s also been hard not to connect with my friends and loved ones here in Houston. We love to host parties, game nights, and sporting event group watches, and we do miss those. But as the pandemic has evolved, we’ve gotten creative. Now, I visit with people on my front porch. We all sit six feet apart and nobody enters my home, but we still get a chance to socialize.

Four months ago, I never would’ve thought of that as a valid way to connect with someone. But it turns out, I don’t actually need an event to organize the way I share time with others. Slowing down has allowed me to connect more deeply with the people I love.

What gives me hope for the future

What gives me the most hope during this time of uncertainty is knowing that we’ve saved thousands of lives through our social distancing practices. We’ve saved people we’ll never even meet: people who will live long enough to enjoy their grandchildren, people who will make art and music, and people who will go on to become scientists and pioneers in medicine — maybe even develop vaccines or treatments that can protect us from future pandemics. That thought fills me with a great sense of optimism.

I also think the planet has benefited from all of us slowing down. Many people have rediscovered the great outdoors in the past few months, by taking time to go outside and really experience and enjoy nature. Our carbon footprint has decreased significantly as a result. And in cities like Beijing and New Delhi, which often suffer from significant air pollution, people are getting to enjoy clear skies and cleaner air again, for the first time in years. What an incredible gift that is!

I hope that once there’s herd immunity and widespread vaccinations, we can take the best of what we’ve learned during this pandemic to slow down, care for one another, enjoy each other’s company, and limit the harm that we do to the Earth. That would be a beautiful thing.

Welela Tereffe, M.D., is MD Anderson’s Chief Medical Officer and a radiation oncologist.

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

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