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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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4 things I learned from my daughter’s Ewing’s sarcoma treatment

When my daughter Aaliyah was diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma in November 2016 at age 9, I was shattered, vacillating hourly between two nearly unspeakable fears: the fear that she would not survive, and the fear that during the last weeks or months of her life, she would suffer relentlessly.

Suddenly, thrust into a life I barely recognized, I struggled to navigate what moms who had gone before me kept assuring me would eventually become “a new normal.” I resisted that idea. The last thing I wanted was for life in a cancer hospital to be our new normal.

But time marched on, as it tends to do, and our family did develop a new normal. Eventually, it didn’t feel so difficult to breathe, to eat, to smile, to laugh. Here’s what I recommend to other parents ushering a child through cancer treatment.

Take care of yourself

In the beginning, this feels next to impossible. For the first several weeks, I could barely sleep, eat or remember to take a shower. Friends brought my favorite foods to the hospital, but most of it went to waste due to my nonexistent appetite. I tolerated orange juice, so I drank it constantly, figuring that at least I was getting calories and vitamin C. I lost nearly fifteen pounds before my appetite returned.

While I couldn’t physically nurture myself at first, I did tap into ways to nurture myself emotionally and spiritually. I spent time journaling, praying and sharing my heart online. I also had friends on standby to take my emotionally fragile phone calls at any hour of the night, whenever I found myself sleepless or panicked or overwhelmed.

Some days, though, nothing helped. On those days, I found a place to let myself cry. Sometimes, it was in my closet, my face scrunched into a pillow to muffle the sound. Other times, it was in my car in the hospital parking garage, windows sealed tight as I sobbed with an anguish known only to other parents who have faced a life-threatening illness with their child. Yes, those tears hurt. But they also healed.

So, hydrate. Eat when you can. Nurture your emotional and spiritual health. Your wellbeing will promote your child’s wellbeing.

Find your people and hang on tight

You will identify your people almost immediately. They are the ones who keep texting and calling and showing up — even when you don’t answer your phone, and you don’t text back, and all you do is cry when they do show up.

Let these people know what you need. Friends and family stocked our fridge with groceries, braved Houston traffic to bring our other kids for hospital visits, arranged for weekly house cleanings, provided meals for months on end, organized prayer chains, and gathered donations, cards and gifts. The people who position themselves in your life during this time and stay there really want to help, so give them opportunities!

Use the internet wisely

One night, I couldn’t sleep, so I decided to search for an online support group for parents of kids with Ewing’s sarcoma. In the process, I read one too many stories that fed all of my deepest fears.

There is a time and a place for Google, but it can also cause a lot of anxiety, so use it judiciously. If you’re tempted to do a little online research, consider sending your questions to a trusted friend who can sort through the information and pass along only the information you actually need.

Be kind to yourself

Guilt will haunt you, if you let it. I struggled with all sorts of guilt: guilt that I didn’t notice the enormous tumor in my daughter’s stomach, and guilt that I wanted to escape the hospital room and go on a run even though she was stuck there, attached to an IV pole, with a bedpan in her lap. Guilt that I wasn’t home for our other kids, and guilt that when I was home, I didn’t have the energy to interact with them the way I wanted to. I felt guilty that I literally couldn’t bring myself to vacuum a single room, that I hadn’t cooked a meal for my family in weeks, that I wrote thank you notes and never mailed them, and then I stopped writing them altogether.

Over time, however, I realized that no one is born equipped to deal with a cancer diagnosis. One day, life is normal; the next, you are fighting for your child’s life. So try to let go of any misplaced guilt and be kind to yourself. You will pour every reserve into the fight, and that’s exactly what you’re supposed to do. But, remember this: a cancer diagnosis doesn’t mean you have to stop living or smiling or laughing. Your child needs you to do those three things now more than ever.

When our daughter was diagnosed, her tumor was massive, and her future looked grim. But Aaliyah rang the bell symbolizing the end of her treatment on Sept. 9, 2017, and by the grace and power of God, and through the expertise of her care team at MD Anderson, her cancer was eradicated.

Each new morning brings new hope. Cling to that, and find another reason to smile before the day is out.

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


The keto diet and cancer: What patients should know

There’s no one food that can cure cancer, but that doesn’t stop such myths from circulating. And while researchers are starting to find some links between nutrition and cancer, more research is needed.

The ketogenic diet – also called the keto diet — is among those diets rumored to cure cancer. We talked to Maria Petzel, a senior clinical dietitian at MD Anderson, to learn more. Here’s what she had to say.

What is the keto diet?

The keto diet is a low-carbohydrate diet. The diet’s strict guidelines recommend eating more fat and protein while cutting most carbohydrates and sugars out of your diet.

Cutting out carbs forces your body to burn the fat you’ve already stored. This process, called ketosis, usually begins three to four days after eliminating carbs from your diet.

What are the pros and cons of the keto diet?

For most people, the keto diet will result in weight loss, but this might not be the healthiest way to do it. When your body burns fat because it is starved of carbs, it makes ketones. Ketones are a type of acid made by your liver and then sent into your bloodstream. Too many ketones can led to dehydration and alter the chemical balance of your blood.

Cutting out entire food groups can also be hard to stick with long-term, and most people regain some or all of the weight lost when they quit the keto diet and resume a less extreme diet.

In addition, diets high in fat are associated with heart disease and obesity. Many keto diet-safe foods, like red meat, can increase your cancer risk.

Is there any evidence that the keto diet can cure cancer?

No single food can cure cancer, but some research has shown a link between the keto diet and slowed growth of some types of tumors in mice. A few studies in humans with certain types of brain tumors have also shown promise. On the contrary, a very low-fat diet has been found to reduce risk of recurrence for certain types of breast cancer. Some researchers are conducting more clinical trials with cancer patients, looking at how diet affects patients, along with chemotherapy and radiation. We hope that this research, as well as future research, will help us better understand the role that the keto plays in cancer.

What should cancer patients who are considering the keto diet know?

While there’s the potential that the keto diet could help some cancer patients, it can also harm others. Depending on your type of cancer or cancer treatment, your body may not be able to break down the proteins and fats. This could lead to other digestive problems.

That’s why it’s important to talk to your doctor or a dietitian before beginning the keto diet — or any other diet. Different diet plans work for different people, and your doctor or dietitian can help you determine if a new diet will help you reach your health goals.

If you’re an MD Anderson patient, your doctor can refer you to a clinical dietitian. Each clinic at MD Anderson has an assigned dietitian who is available to help patients at all stages of cancer treatment.

A dietitian can determine your nutrition goals and help adjust them during each stage and change of your cancer treatment. Your dietitian can help you manage your diet to minimize side effects, cope with any new food sensitivities and keep you feeling your best.

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

After my Lynch Syndrome diagnosis, I’m grateful to be a previvor

When I was 6 years old, my mother died from cancer. She was only 35, and at the time, her death came as a shock to everyone in our family.

About 24 years later, my maternal aunt was diagnosed with serous uterine cancer. Her oncologist noticed a pattern of cancer in our family. Genetic testing confirmed his suspicion: my aunt had Lynch Syndrome, a genetic mutation that increases a person’s for colorectal and uterine cancers. Her daughter had it, too. My sister and I started receiving calls, desperately urging us to get tested. 

My Lynch Syndrome diagnosis

My sister and I both saw a genetic counselor, and considering how Lynch Syndrome can be passed on to your children roughly 50% of the time, it shouldn’t have been a surprise when she tested negative and I positive for the mutation.

I listened as the genetic counselor told me that my likelihood of cancer would be extremely high if I didn’t stay vigilant. She said that I would need to have my ovaries and my uterus removed, and worst of all, that my 3-year-old son could have Lynch Syndrome as well. I felt as though the air had been taken from my lungs. 

The genetic counselor referred me to MD Anderson. On Aug. 23, 2016, I walked through the halls of MD Anderson for the first time since my mother’s death. I remembered visiting her there when I was a little girl. I was incredibly depressed and anxious, especially because according to the Lynch Syndrome standards, I should’ve begun my screenings 10 years earlier, when I was in my early 20s.

Focusing on prevention, screening and early detection

Thankfully, I didn’t have cancer yet, and Dr. Eduardo Vilar-Sanchez reassured me that we’d do everything possible to reduce my risk of cancer going forward. That means undergoing annual colonoscopies, skin exams, blood draws, bladder tumor marker and uterine biopsies. I also get an upper endoscopy every other year, as well as ovarian cancer screenings and ultrasounds every six months since my great-grandmother developed ovarian cancer at age 40. I’ll also begin annual mammograms when I turn 35 this year, and I plan to undergo a complete hysterectomy before I’m 40.

In addition to these regular screening exams, I’m always on the lookout for symptoms of ovarian, colorectal and uterine cancers. Dr. Vilar-Sanchez even quizzes me about them! He also tells me about new research studies and clinical trials, as well as promising new treatments for those who develop Lynch-related cancers.

Gratitude for exceptional care and support

The last year-and-half has been an emotional rollercoaster, but I’m adjusting to my new normal. My cousin and aunt who were also diagnosed are my support group, and we regularly check in on one other to make sure we are staying on top of our screenings. 

I am extremely grateful to be a “previvor” — a term I never knew before! — and equally grateful to be a patient at MD Anderson. Many people do not have access to such amazing preventive treatment – I mean, I get my annual scopes with Dr. Patrick Lynch, the son of Dr. Henry Lynch, who is the “father of hereditary cancer and prevention” and after whom my mutation is named. So, I truly feel there isn’t a better place to help me take charge of my health.

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

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