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.

 

News feed


A Ewing’s sarcoma recurrence won’t stop me from living

I recently completed radiation therapy, but I’m still waiting to find out if it was successful in destroying a tumor that spread to my lung nearly five years after my initial Ewing’s sarcoma treatment.

As I wait for my follow-up appointment in August, I’m trying to ignore the what-ifs. I’m 37 years old and a mother of five. That alone helps keep me distracted. But I’m also approaching this summer with a plan.

My first Ewing’s sarcoma diagnosis

First, let me back up to my initial diagnosis in July 2011. After months of living with pain in my left leg, I went to my doctor’s office begging for an answer. Eventually, an MRI showed a type of cancer called Ewing’s sarcoma in my fibula, or calf bone.

At the time, my youngest child was just learning how to walk and my oldest was only 11. I was willing to do anything to get through it. When I asked my local oncologist in Amarillo, Texas what he recommended, he told me that if I were his loved one, he’d send me to MD Anderson for a second opinion. So I left my kids with their father (my husband at the time) and came to Houston. Leaving my family was the hardest decision I’ve ever made, but I knew that it would give me the best chance for survival.

Under Dr. Robert Benjamin’s care, I started a high-dose chemotherapy and remained on it for five months. Then, in January 2012, Dr. Valerae Lewis performed a radical resection, where she removed the top third of my left fibula during a six-hour surgery. To make sure all of the cancer was gone, I then underwent four months of chemotherapy at MD Anderson in Sugar Land, which was much closer to where I was staying.

Getting over my fear of a recurrence

By the time it was over, I’d spent nearly a year in Houston. I was away from my kids and family for most of it, but I knew I needed to heal — physically, spiritually and emotionally.

The emotional healing took the longest. I spent my first two years of remission afraid that I would relapse. I was so focused on my fear that I couldn’t be happy, and I started to become a different person.

Eventually, I gained enough confidence to live normally again. I enrolled in college and studied to become a nuclear medicine technologist.

I returned to MD Anderson annually to get my scans, and everything was great — until February 2017. During my yearly checkup, a PET scan showed a tumor the size of a lemon in my lung, right next to my heart. A biopsy confirmed it was the same cancer that had been in my leg.

My Ewing’s sarcoma relapse

I couldn’t believe that I had to go through it all again. I was only four months from graduating, and this time, I was a single mother, so driving 1,200 miles to Houston for chemotherapy every three weeks was my only option.

Still, I’ve refused to let cancer dictate my happiness. My first diagnosis had shown me that giving into the darkness offers no benefit, so there’s no reason to let my new diagnosis eat away at the time with which I’ve been blessed.

That’s why in the midst of my chemotherapy treatments, I re-enrolled in college, opting for online courses to make it more manageable. I also started seeing a counselor to help me manage my stress, and I receive acupuncture and massages at MD Anderson’s Integrative Medicine Center to cope with anxiety.

In April, I found out my cancer wasn’t responding to the newest chemotherapy cocktail, so I completed two weeks of radiation therapy in May.

As I wait for August, I continue to make every moment count. I’m planning a vacation with my children, and I’m focusing on being the best person and mom I can.

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

Oral cancer survivor finds her strength

As a registered nurse, Asha Bhandari was familiar with cancer – even less common cancer types, like oral cancer. But she never believed she’d receive her own diagnosis, even when she first noticed the sore on her lower gum – an oral cancer symptom. Even when that sore started to grow after a few weeks. And even when the oral surgeon took a biopsy and three days later gave her the news that it was cancerous.

“I was so devastated,” Asha says, remembering her diagnosis at age 54. “I ate right. I exercised. I didn’t smoke. I was healthy. I didn’t think I fit the profile of a cancer patient.”

Asha came to MD Anderson for a second opinion, and met with Randal Weber, M.D. He performed a series of tests, X-rays, blood tests and CT scans. He confirmed the news Asha had refused to believe: she had squamous cell carcinoma of the gum, a type of oral cancer. But he also gave her hope.

“I remember it exactly,” she says. “Dr. Weber called me and he said, ‘The good news is, we’re going to cure you.’ To me, that was big.”

Now under the care of MD Anderson’s Head and Neck team, Asha gained a growing feeling of ease. She was scared, but she knew her multidisciplinary team would take care of her.

Undergoing oral cancer surgery

Asha’s oral cancer surgery was scheduled for Sept. 25, 2015 – just a month after her diagnosis. Doctors planned to remove the tumor and see if the cancer had spread to any nearby lymph nodes, but to do this they would need to remove four teeth and part of Asha’s jaw. They planned to replace it with a part of her fibula, the large bone in her leg, and a skin graft taken from her left thigh.

It was a complicated procedure, but Asha knew that her care team, led by Dr. Weber and Matthew Hanasono, M.D., would succeed. 

“They put me at ease,” Asha says.

The surgery took hours. Meanwhile, Asha’s extended family gathered in the waiting room –- all 15 of them, anxious and worried. Every few hours, a member of the surgery team would deliver an update to Asha’s family. As the surgery went on, the news got better and better, and their reactions grew from relief to joy. Asha’s family let out loud cheers when they learned that the cancer hadn’t spread and the existing cancer cells had been removed. Asha was still unconscious from the anesthesia and had a long road to recovery ahead of her, but now she was cancer-free. 

Asha’s recovery from surgery

Today, the only sign of Asha’s surgery is a scar on her neck and two large scars on her left leg and left thigh. But it didn’t start that way. After the surgery, Asha spent one night in the intensive care unit, as planned, then moved to a hospital room. Her face was swollen, and she had to have a tracheotomy to help her breathe and a feeding tube to help her get the nutrients her body needed.

Physical therapists and speech pathologists visited Asha often. Immediately following the surgery, Asha couldn’t talk. The speech pathologists reminded Asha to roll her tongue and try to form words. By the end of the week, she had found her voice again. The physical therapists worked with her to improve her leg strength and help her walk again.

Asha stayed in the hospital a little longer than expected because she developed an infection, but was treated and released after 10 days.

“I was sad to say goodbye to all my nurses,” she says.

A reminder of what’s possible

Asha continued to see improvements once she returned home. After five weeks, her feeding tube was removed. After six weeks, she was back at work.

She attributes her success to a few factors: the support of her loving family, the exercises she did before and after surgery, her own determination and her faith in her care team.

“They did 200% more than I ever expected,” Asha says.

Now Asha returns to MD Anderson twice a year for scans. She hopes her story shows newly diagnosed patients what’s possible. Her advice? “Stay strong, stay together,” she says. “And stay positive.”

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

Oral cancer survivor finds her strength

As a registered nurse, Asha Bhandari was familiar with cancer – even less common cancer types, like oral cancer. But she never believed she’d receive her own diagnosis, even when she first noticed the sore on her lower gum – an oral cancer symptom. Even when that sore started to grow after a few weeks. And even when the oral surgeon took a biopsy and three days later gave her the news that it was cancerous.

“I was so devastated,” Asha says, remembering her diagnosis at age 54. “I ate right. I exercised. I didn’t smoke. I was healthy. I didn’t think I fit the profile of a cancer patient.”

Asha came to MD Anderson for a second opinion, and met with Randal Weber, M.D. He performed a series of tests, X-rays, blood tests and CT scans. He confirmed the news Asha had refused to believe: she had squamous cell carcinoma of the gum, a type of oral cancer. But he also gave her hope.

“I remember it exactly,” she says. “Dr. Weber called me and he said, ‘The good news is, we’re going to cure, you.’ To me, that was big.”

Now under the care of MD Anderson’s Head and Neck team, Asha gained a growing feeling of ease. She was scared, but she knew her multidisciplinary team would take care of her.

Undergoing oral cancer surgery

Asha’s oral cancer surgery was scheduled for Sept. 25, 2015 – just a month after her diagnosis. Doctors planned to remove the tumor and see if the cancer had spread to any nearby lymph nodes, but to do this they would need to remove four teeth and part of Asha’s jaw. They planned to replace it with a part of her fibula, the large bone in her leg, and a skin graft taken from her left thigh.

It was a complicated procedure, but Asha knew that her care team, led by Dr. Weber and Matthew Hanasono, M.D., would succeed. 

“They put me at ease,” Asha says.

The surgery took hours. Meanwhile, Asha’s extended family gathered in the waiting room –- all 15 of them, anxious and worried. Every few hours, a member of the surgery team would deliver an update to Asha’s family. As the surgery went on, the news got better and better, and their reactions grew from relief to joy. Asha’s family let out loud cheers when they learned that the cancer hadn’t spread and the existing cancer cells had been removed. Asha was still unconscious from the anesthesia and had a long road to recovery ahead of her, but now she was cancer-free. 

Asha’s recovery from surgery

Today, the only sign of Asha’s surgery is a scar on her neck and two large scars on her left leg and left thigh. But it didn’t start that way. After the surgery, Asha spent one night in the intensive care unit, as planned, then moved to a hospital room. Her face was swollen, and she had to have a tracheotomy to help her breath and a feeding tube to help her get the nutrients her body needed.

Physical therapists and speech pathologists visited Asha often. Immediately following the surgery, Asha couldn’t talk. The speech pathologists reminded Asha to roll her tongue and try to form words. By the end of the week, she had found her voice again. The physical therapists worked with her to improve her leg strength and help her walk again.

Asha stayed in the hospital a little longer than expected because she developed an infection, but was treated and released after 10 days.

“I was sad to say goodbye to all my nurses,” she says.

A reminder of what’s possible

Asha continued to see improvements once she returned home. After five weeks, her feeding tube was removed. After six weeks, she was back at work.

She attributes her success to a few factors: the support of her loving family, the exercises she did before and after surgery, her own determination and her faith in her care team.

“They did 200% more than I ever expected,” Asha says.

Now Asha returns to MD Anderson twice a year for scans. She hopes her story shows newly diagnosed patients what’s possible. Her advice? “Stay strong, stay together,” she says. “And stay positive.”

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

Lymphoma survivor: Why I recommend hepatitis C testing

I’ve never taken illegal drugs, and the only time I ever had a needle in my arm was when a doctor was on the other side of it. So my best guess is that I contracted hepatitis C from a blood transfusion I received after a car accident when I was 19.

Back in 1985, donated blood wasn’t tested for hepatitis C, as it hadn’t really been identified yet. Then, it was just known as “non-A/B hepatitis.” And for years, the only real treatment was a combination of interferon and ribavirin, which wasn’t very effective and caused unpleasant side effects.

So, when I found out I had hepatitis C in 2009 (from a blood test performed for a life insurance application), I figured I only had about 10 good years left. My son was 2 then, and I realized while changing his diaper one day that I probably wouldn’t live to see him graduate. I thought about getting my affairs in order.

Then, one day I overheard a doctor say that most people who have hepatitis C will die with the disease, but not from the disease. It took being diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in December 2015 to learn that MD Anderson could cure me of both.

A non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma diagnosis

I discovered I had cancer when I went to the doctor about a lump in my throat. I’d let it go for several months, but it grew and shrank several times before I’d finally had enough.

My doctor said the lump was probably a “thyroglossal duct cyst,” or a growth on my thyroid, and referred me to an ENT for confirmation. The second doctor agreed, so we scheduled surgery to remove it. But the lump turned out to be a swollen lymph node. A biopsy revealed it was non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. My family doctor referred me to MD Anderson, so I made an appointment at the location closest to my home, MD Anderson in Katy.

There, I met with Dr. Nikesh Jasani. He asked MD Anderson pathologists to re-examine the specimen from my throat and ordered additional scans. Those showed I had a mass in my stomach and nodules in my spleen, lungs and throat. That made my cancer stage IV. He also refined my non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma diagnosis to a subtype called Marginal Zone Lymphoma, or MZL.

The hepatitis C drug that helped shrink my cancer

Dr. Jasani referred me to Dr. Felipe Samaniego and Dr. Harrys Torres for additional treatment at MD Anderson’s Texas Medical Center location. When I met with them, I asked whether we were going to tackle the hepatitis C or the lymphoma first. To my surprise, they said “both,” because lymphoma has proven very responsive to a new drug for treating hepatitis C.

I took ledipasvir/sofosbuvir for 12 weeks, and by the end of the second one, the hepatitis was undetectable in my system. The only side effect I experienced was a slight headache sometimes. And though the drug shrank all the nodules away into nothing, it didn’t reduce the mass in my stomach. An additional biopsy found that my cancer had advanced. The mass was a different kind of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma: diffuse B-cell.

To treat the remaining cancer, I completed six months of “R-CHOP” chemotherapy (rituximab, cyclophosphamide, doxorubicin, vincristine and prednisone) in 2016. And I’ve shown no evidence of disease since December of that year. Now, I’m just on a “maintenance” chemo — a targeted therapy called rituximab — to extend my remission time, and maybe stop the cancer from coming back at all.

Why I urge other cancer patients to get tested for hepatitis C

I didn’t know that having hepatitis C put people at greater risk for developing marginal zone lymphoma and other cancers, but I do now. So, I tell everyone who’s been diagnosed with cancer to get tested for it.

Treatment options were so limited when I was first diagnosed with hepatitis C that my primary care doctor suggested I take a “wait and see” approach. At that time, the medicine I took to treat it was still being developed.

But the future is so bright now for people with hepatitis C. There’s a new drug at hand with a phenomenal cure rate, and a lot of people have been waiting a long time for it. My treatment was an unqualified success.

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

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