My journey to overcome three cancer diagnoses

Everyone’s cancer journey is unique, and mine has certainly been more
unusual than most.

It began in August 2005, when I was diagnosed with two different breast cancers — one in each breast. Then, just
four months later, I was diagnosed with stage II colorectal cancer after noticing intermittent
bleeding in my stool.

Having lived in the Houston area my entire life, I felt that there
was only one place to go — MD Anderson. I
had my first appointment with my breast surgeon,
Rosa Hwang, M.D.
, in August 2005.

Coordinating my breast and colorectal cancer treatment

Dr. Hwang performed a double segmental mastectomy to begin my breast cancer treatment. In October, I started
chemotherapy, but that was put on hold once my colorectal cancer was diagnosed.

My care team did an amazing job coordinating treatments for each
cancer. My radiation oncologist, Thomas Buchholz, M.D., recommended we first
shrink the colorectal tumor with radiation, so I had daily colorectal
and breast radiation for seven weeks. I also had concurrent
chemotherapy during this time, under the care of Cathy Eng, M.D., for my colorectal cancer.

In April 2006, Miguel Rodriguez-Bigas, M.D., performed surgery
to remove the colorectal tumor, at which point I was declared
cancer-free! However, I still had six months of chemotherapy after surgery.

The treatments were exhausting, especially as I continued to work as
a third grade teacher and as a mom to my three kids, then ranging from
middle school to college. However, all of their activities gave me a
sense of purpose, and I wouldn’t have made it through without the
support of my family and friends.

Cancer is a terrifying thing for me, but the doctors, nurses and
technicians made it an almost pleasant experience. They were always
there with smiles on their faces, cheering me on. They give their
patients so much of themselves, and I know I am here today because of
the wonderful staff at MD Anderson.

The importance of knowing your body

I was 46 years old when I was diagnosed with colorectal cancer,
which is younger than the recommended age to start colonoscopies. I’m
glad that I gathered the courage to talk to my oncologist when I
noticed blood in my stool.

Because of that, a colonoscopy found my colorectal cancer at just
stage II. I believe catching it at an early stage helped save my life.

That’s why I now tell everyone to get their routine cancer
screenings. And, if something doesn’t seem right, have it checked. If
cancer runs in your family, talk to your doctor so he or she can
advise you on screening and prevention. Find a doctor you can talk to
and share your concerns with. I’m living proof that early detection is key. 

My commitment to early detection and cancer awareness is the reason
I’m so supportive of MD Anderson’s annual
SCOPE 5K. The event helps raise funds for
colorectal cancer awareness. I’ve participated almost every year since
2006, and I encourage everyone to spread the word, participate and
help raise money for cancer research. I would love to see this
horrible disease eradicated.

My cancer journey continues

My cancer journey hasn’t been an easy one, but I’ve met some amazing
people along the way. I am truly blessed to be part of the MD Anderson family for 11 years now. I say
that my cancer journey continues because, once you’re diagnosed with
cancer, it never totally goes away.

My family and I have been forever changed by cancer, but I believe
we have become better people. We’ve learned to accept what can’t be
changed and how to show more compassion towards others.

A cancer diagnosis begins a scary journey. But as MD Anderson has showed me, the journey doesn’t
have to be as scary as it used to be.

Nancy Herrod will be honored at the 12th annual SCOPE
5K run, which will be held at MD
on Saturday, March 25, 2017. The race promotes
colorectal cancer screening and honors those diagnosed with the disease. 

Learn more

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