Bill Baun gratitude beads

By Bill Baun

Several years ago when my cancer advanced to stage IV, the journey got a little tougher and I realized I needed something to keep my attitude positive and in a state of gratitude. One evening in a waiting room, I found my answer. 

As I watched a woman gently run her fingers through the beautiful bead bracelet she wore, I commented on the beauty of the bracelet. She smiled and explained that it was her "gratitude bracelet." The different patterns of beads served as reminders of the things she should be grateful for.  

I loved the idea and immediately made a bracelet representing the ordinary things in my life that had made my life extraordinarily special -- my wife, kids, grandkids, friends and the loving care I receive at MD Anderson. 

Since then, my family has added gratitude bracelet making to our Thanksgiving traditions. It ensures thankfulness and gratitude are at the center of our holiday celebration.  

Nancy's-Photo_Cancerwise.jpgBy Nancy Lombard

In October 2014, I went to see a doctor for my annual breast screening. That year, for the very first time, I opted for a 3-D mammogram. The doctors found a tumor -- one a standard mammogram would have missed. 

A couple of days later, after a biopsy and ultrasound, I got a definitive diagnosis. I had stage I ductal carcinoma. My husband Frank and I were shocked and scared. No one in my family had ever had breast cancer.

When we got home, Frank called his friend, Greg Chronowski, M.D., who's an oncologist at MD Anderson in Katy, close to where we live. We got an appointment the next day.

My lumpectomy at MD Anderson in Katy
After reviewing my scans, Dr. Chronowski said my cancer was "boring" compared to others. But cancer is cancer when it happens to you. I was overwhelmed by the appointments to discuss my medical history and my surgical options. This is why I encourage patients to bring someone with them to each of their appointments.  It's helpful to have a loved one there who can take notes as you soak everything in.

MarivicSo_006_Cancerwise.jpgBy Marivic So

I have a high tolerance for pain, so I knew something was wrong when my abdominal discomfort became unbearable in Sept. 2012. The first time I saw a doctor about it, I was told the pain was related to constipation and sent home with medication. It took six months and two more appointments before the doctor realized it was something more serious and ordered a CT scan. That's when they found a basketball-sized tumor attached to my pelvic bone and appendix.

The tumor was cancerous. I was diagnosed with stage I ovarian and endometrial cancer

I didn't know what to think or feel, but I was calmer than you might expect. Earlier that week, while waiting on my scan results, I had asked for prayers at my church. I knew those prayers would make everything OK. They helped me stay composed.

So when I got my diagnosis, I remember saying, "When can we get the tumor out? I want it out next week."

RachelCruz_heroPortrait_20151027_0087_master.jpgBy Rachel Cruz

There are plenty of things that I'm supposed to do for my health that I skip (like that overdue vision exam), but a skin exam isn't one of them. As a melanoma survivor, these screenings are a routine part of my life.

So when friends ask about skin exams, I try to demystify what should be an important, annual appointment for everyone, especially those at increased risk for skin cancer. Here's what I tell them.

lung x ray_Cancerwise.jpgSpiral CT lung cancer screening can help save lives. Current smokers (or former smokers who quit in the past 15 years) and those who smoke about 30 packs of cigarettes a year can participate in lung cancer screening.

But cancer screening can be scary. If your loved ones qualify for lung cancer screening, they may be hesitant to undergo screening because they believe they don't have time or they're afraid of the results. But participating in lung cancer screening could save their lives.

We spoke with Myrna Godoy, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of Diagnostic Radiology, and Jeremy Erasmus, M.D., professor of Diagnostic Radiology, to learn how to convince your loved ones to undergo lung cancer screening.

Here's their advice for encouraging your loved ones to seek spiral CT lung cancer screening.

Eric_Kleiman_Cancerwise.jpgBy Eric Kleiman

From the moment my wife and I were told I had liver cancer, our lives were turned upside down.

I had no pain, discomfort or symptoms that suggested I had liver cancer. In fact, the tumor was discovered during a CT scan for my kidney stones. All I could really say was, "Thank goodness."

This might seem like a strange response, but I'm a very optimistic person. Had it not been for the kidney stones, I have no idea when the cancer would have been found. I knew a lot of things would change because of my diagnosis, but I decided my positive attitude wouldn't be one of them.

HB-Picture_CorrectedCancerwise.jpgBy Leticia Rousseve

When my 40-year-old husband, James, was diagnosed with soft tissue sarcoma in November 2014, we were completely shocked. Although there had been cancer in his immediate family, we never thought James would have cancer. The most shocking part was that James's specific type of sarcoma, desmoplastic small round cell tumor (DSRCT), is a rare and aggressive form of sarcoma that's usually only seen in kids. Naturally, James was upset, confused and nervous. I didn't know what to think, but I immediately felt like everything would be OK. James has an assertive and determined attitude, and I knew I could feed off of it as we faced his sarcoma together.

By Karl Hennessee 

Karl_Cancerwise.jpg"It's almost certainly nothing, but we might as well check." 

That's how it started.  I felt my hope slide as "nothing" led to surgery. The lab results revealed that the lump on my side was diffuse large b-cell lymphoma -- specifically, a rare and aggressive form caused by the MYC and BCL2 genetic mutations.

My wife and I held each other when we got the news. But she immediately set the tone for what was ahead: we would allow ourselves to feel sorrow, anger and pain for one day. Then, we would fight.

CookingMeat&Cancer_Nov_2015_1200x1200.pngRed meat and processed meat have long been linked to increased cancer risk. But did you know the way you cook meat also can affect your cancer risk?

Eating meat cooked at high temperatures through methods like barbecuing and pan-frying can increase a person's chances of developing kidney cancer, according to a new study from our researchers.

"This study encourages us to look not only at what foods we're eating, but also how we're preparing those foods," says Stephanie Melkonian, Ph.D., Epidemiology postdoctoral fellow and lead author of the study.

Chris-Smith_Cancerwise.jpgBy Chris Smith

In August 2013, I completed my first Ironman triathlon -- a 2.4-mile swim followed by a 112-mile bike ride and a 26-mile run. 

Only 16 months earlier, I'd been diagnosed with stage III kidney cancer. I'd traveled 1,141 miles from my home in the Cayman Islands to MD Anderson, where I underwent a partial nephrectomy. 

My cancer was found by chance. After visiting my local doctor for two hernias, an ultrasound revealed a mass on my right kidney. At the time, I knew absolutely nothing about kidney cancer or whether it could be treated. I worried about my wife and two young daughters, but I tried to focus on the positives: we found the cancer at an early stage and before I had any symptoms.

20150821_CheckPresentation_Herron_0095_master_Cancerwise.jpgBy Rosemary Herron

I was first diagnosed with invasive breast cancer in my left breast in 2001, and battled through six months of chemotherapy, a lumpectomy and six weeks of radiation. After that, I went through five years of hormone therapy.  I was cancer-free for almost 12 years.

But in 2012, I was again diagnosed with breast cancer in the same breast. This time, I had a bilateral mastectomy and radiation after treatment. I wanted to look like myself and have my clothes fit following my mastectomy, so I had partial breast reconstruction at the time of my surgery. This greatly helped my emotional health.

GabeGelb_newCancerwise.jpgBy Gabe Gelb

In 2009, a urologist told me I needed to have my bladder removed to treat my stage four bladder cancer. When I asked him how many similar operations he'd done, he told me he averaged at least one a month. I knew then that I needed to go somewhere with more resources and experience. I'm lucky to live in Houston, so I chose MD Anderson.

Upon arriving, I learned that my surgeon, Ashish Kamat, M.D.,  removed more than twice as many bladders and prostates each week. That was a number I felt much more comfortable with. 

My bladder cancer surgery
I'm optimistic by nature, so I wasn't worried about the surgery. After the procedure, I was in pain for a few days, but my philosophy was "This too will pass." And it did.


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