After my acute myeloid leukemia treatment, check-ups feel like a reunion

I first came to MD Anderson in January 2013, after being diagnosed in Florida with acute myeloid leukemia. I didn’t know it at the time, but I would remain in Houston for eight months.

I arrived at MD Anderson on a Tuesday morning, and met with my doctors and underwent tests all week. By late Friday night, I was being admitted to the hospital. My first round of chemotherapy began just a few hours later. I continued to receive treatment at MD Anderson for the next four months, in preparation for a stem cell transplant on April 19, 2013. I stayed in Houston for another 135 days after that, recovering.

My MD Anderson doctors and staff provided me with such outstanding care and guidance over that 8-month period. Many of them became like family to me. When I return for a check-up now, it feels like I’m attending a reunion.

Finding inspiration in other patients

As an MD Anderson patient, you get to know other patients around you — if not by name, then at least by sight. Schedules overlap and faces become familiar. Stories are traded. You observe each other on good days and bad days, through hair loss, weight loss, being tired and praying it will all soon be done.

I vividly recall one friendly couple, who were chatting with the people around them. The husband was leaning against an escalator rail while a friend and I were waiting for my lab appointment one morning. His wife was with him.

The two of them made quite an impression in their Western attire; but what struck me the most were his words. At one point, I heard him say, “I’m a survivor, here for my annual check-up.” I hung on to those words. He gave me hope that one day I would utter that same sentiment. I’ve never forgotten him.

Words to live by

Today, I am proud that I can say that, too. I only return to MD Anderson for my check-ups once a year now. But it took me more frequent visits over the course of several years to get to this point.

Even today, my visits with my doctor are one-on-one and personal. Dr. Richard Champlin, Dr. Sharon Hymes and Dr. Jean Tayar spend whatever time is needed to answer all my questions, which I find very reassuring. And I’m always eager to share what’s new and good in my life.

So, how do I feel about continuing to travel to Texas six years after completing my leukemia treatment? The truth is, I’m thrilled! Although my doctors care for thousands of patients, I always feel like I’m the only patient they have.

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