iStock_000007172534Small.jpgBy John Chattaway

As a part of MD Anderson's mission to end cancer, we're aspiring to raise the first tobacco-free generation. It's this goal that led to the creation of the ASPIRE program.

ASPIRE, which stands for A Smoking Prevention Interactive Experience, aims to educate teens about the dangers of tobacco use, so they never start smoking. For teens who already use tobacco, it provides information and strategies to quit smoking.

This free, web-based school curriculum has enrolled participants from 28 states and one international city. The program is available in both English and Spanish.

"Young people are very picky about what and how they are taught," says Alexander Prokhorov, M.D., Ph.D., professor of Behavioral Science and director of the Tobacco Outreach Education Program. "That's why we created this online course that is fun, interactive and entertaining while still being educational."

Online tobacco and smoking prevention
ASPIRE can be accessed by anyone through the MD Anderson website. It offers information tailored specifically for one person or for groups. Those who have never smoked can use ASPIRE to learn why it's important to avoid tobacco and how to talk to others about the harms of tobacco.

harley1.7.jpgBy Harley Hudson

Perhaps the hardest thing a spouse can do is become a caregiver for their other half. This may sound absurd since we all agreed to "for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health 'til death do us part."

Still, the task is not easy. I've been a caregiver, and I've been a patient. I believe being a caregiver is the more difficult task.

Throughout our marriage, my wife Melanie and I have taken care of each other. But until my chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) diagnosis in 2006, all our caregiver roles were short-term.    

Whenever Melanie played caregiver before my CLL diagnosis, healing was always just around the corner. This time it's different.

How our roles changed during my CLL treatment
Melanie's responsibilities have changed as my CLL treatment has progressed. During my first round of chemotherapy, I remained strong. In four months, I only missed 20 minutes of work. Melanie's role was relatively easy.

mikegivens422.jpgOligodendroglioma survivor Mike Givens has been a dedicated fundraiser and philanthropist for many years. But it wasn't until after his second brain tumor diagnosis that he became dedicated to helping other brain tumor patients.

After undergoing brain tumor treatment at MD Anderson, Mike was so impressed with the level of care he received that he decided to get involved and give back.

"I believe it is our responsibility to give back in life. It's the greatest privilege I have," Mike says. "I love to give back because I feel so blessed."  

Traveling to MD Anderson for oligodendroglioma surgery and proton therapy treatment
Mike's second brain tumor was found during a routine check-up. The tumor was small, but Mike knew from experience that he had to act quickly. Eight years ago, Mike underwent treatment for a brain tumor on the left side of his head. 

This time, Mike's brain tumor treatment began with chemotherapy. After five months, Mike's tumor still hadn't shrunk. His doctors suggested radiation therapy.

"I just wasn't satisfied with this option," Mike says.

He began looking for someone willing to perform brain surgery. 

rani422.jpgBy Logan Carver

Myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS) survivor Rani Kabra and her husband, Tej, cried as they crossed the finish line together at the 2014 BP MS 150 bike ride on April 13.

When Rani received her MDS diagnosis in 1998, the couple thought their days together were numbered. They never dreamed they'd one day pedal a tandem bicycle 150 miles from Houston to Austin. 

But the same positive attitude that empowered Rani to beat cancer 16 years ago pushed her over the hilly highways to the Texas state capital.

"It was like a dream come true," Rani says. "I felt like I was on the top of the world. I want to thank all my doctors, family, friends and the whole staff at MD Anderson. I felt an unbelievable sense of accomplishment."

Rani's MDS diagnosis
Rani first started experiencing MDS symptoms in September 1997, but she didn't think they were indicative of cancer.

Heavy periods lasting 10 to 12 days prompted her gynecologist to treat her for early menopause. She started a regimen of hormone pills, which stabilized her, but she became cripplingly ill a few months later. Multiple courses of antibiotics did nothing to allay the symptoms, and she began bruising excessively at the slightest bump. By March, it had become too much.

mehran417.jpgBy Madylan Eskridge

When Reza Mehran, M.D., isn't in the operating room, he's flying a twin engine plane or helicopter. When he's not taking to the skies, he may be scuba diving or hunting for dinosaur fossils.

His colleagues liken him to a Renaissance man, but he humbly attributes his extraordinary resume to his affinity for new things and new places.

For example, Mehran studied what appeared to be a tumor on the left scapula of a gorgosaurus dinosaur in Houston's Museum of Natural History. Turns out, the growth was a callus, which implied this dinosaur had suffered a bone-breaking injury. Mehran's discovery gave scientists a unique perspective on this creature's ability to heal and survive. He'll continue pursuing paleontology this summer when he participates in a fossil dig in South Dakota.

"I'm an old-fashioned adventurer," Mehran says. "If I had lived in the 16th century, I probably would've sailed the world searching for unexplored lands."

JenniferPonce415.jpgBy Jennifer Ponce

Nearly eight years ago, I rang the bell at MD Anderson, signifying the end of my stage 2, large b-cell, Non-Hodgkin lymphoma treatment.

This day was far more emotional than I ever could have anticipated. I had thought it would really be no big deal. In fact, I didn't even know the bell existed until a couple of days before my last radiation treatment.

I took a hold of that string and rang that bell with every ounce of my being while warm tears streamed down my face and onto the floor. I knew then that I had come so far since my non-Hodgkin lymphoma diagnosis.

My non-Hodgkin lymphoma symptoms and diagnosis

It all started in January 2006. I had been suffering from an earache and cough and went to see my primary care physician. She ordered a few X-rays to see if I had phenomena.  
I didn't have phenomena, but the X-ray results show a large mass on my left lung that appeared to be a tumor. My doctor scheduled a CT scan for that afternoon.

MarshallLauen414.jpgShortly after Marshall and Ashley Lauen celebrated their wedding, Marshall started feeling fatigue, losing weight and was experiencing trouble breathing. He figured it was an allergy to something blowing in the Oklahoma wind. 

But when Ashley awoke in the middle of the night to see Marshall choking and drenched in sweat, they knew it was something more serious.

Marshall's Hodgkin lymphoma diagnosis and treatment
After multiple biopsies and no diagnosis, Marshall came to MD Anderson in May 2013 looking for answers. Within the first two days, Marshall received his stage 2 Hodgkin lymphoma diagnosis and began treatment.

Marshall and Ashley made frequent trips to MD Anderson during Marshall's six months of chemotherapy, but continued living in Oklahoma so he could continue his work as a pastor and teacher. 

But when scans showed that the cancer was active and growing again, the couple moved to Houston to fight. Marshall underwent three rounds of an intense type of chemo commonly referred to as ICE (ICE is named for the initials of the drugs used: ifosfamide, carboplatin and etoposide) and a stem cell transplant

Last week, Marshall discovered he is cancer-free and will begin radiation therapy to ensure that the cancer is eliminated.

PamelaBowman.jpgThe scan that showed Pamela Bowman's broken pelvis -- the painful result of an afternoon of ice skating with her grandchildren -- also revealed the tumor inside her lung.

Years earlier, Pamela had undergone adrenal surgery at MD Anderson. So when she received her lung cancer diagnosis, there was no doubt in her mind where she would go for lung cancer treatment.

"There's no place like MD Anderson," she says. "When you've got cancer, you need to go to the best."

Pamela's lung cancer treatment: Finding a home away from home

Pamela's local doctors in Jackson, Miss., had warned her that her surgery would be difficult and that her lung cancer prognosis wasn't good. At MD Anderson, though, she got a different message.

dianachow410jpg.jpgBy Sarah Watson

Diana Chow calls herself a woman with options even though she has stage 4 high-grade serous ovarian cancer. She gives credit for this positive outlook to her MD Anderson care team, led by Kathleen Schmeler, M.D., associate professor in Gynecologic Oncology and Reproductive Medicine.

"Thank God for MD Anderson," Diana says. "Otherwise, I'm certain that right now I wouldn't be here."

An unexpected ovarian cancer diagnosis
Diana's cancer journey began on Dec. 16, 2010. She'd been helping her sister move furniture when she pulled an abdominal muscle. That led to a trip to the emergency room and a CAT scan that resulted in a much more serious diagnosis: ovarian cancer.

Ironically, Diana received her ovarian cancer diagnosis a year to the day after she'd lost her husband to complications from diabetes.

Donald%20Lowd049.jpgBy Sarah Watson

"You can't let a problem contain you. You have to contain the problem." That's Donald Lowd's motto.

So the Air Force veteran was ready to fight when he received his prostate cancer diagnosis in 2009.

"Most people will say my life changed in 2009," Donald says. "I say that's when my fight began."

Seeking prostate cancer treatment 
From the beginning of his prostate cancer battle, Donald knew he needed the best team to help him win the fight for his life. One oncologist told him he'd probably die in five years, but he refused to accept those odds.

iStock_000011519043Small.jpgBy Brian M. Bruel, M.D.

Some cancer patients believe that pain is simply a part of cancer treatment, but pain is usually very treatable.

About one-third of cancer patients experience pain as a cancer treatment side effect. The severity and duration of pain differs widely from one patient to the next, depending on disease type, course of treatment and many other factors.

The best way to treat pain is to find the combination of treatments appropriate for each person's condition. It may even be possible to treat your cancer-related pain without medications.

How to alleviate pain during cancer treatment
Below are several ways to alleviate cancer-related pain alongside the medical treatment your doctor may prescribe. As with any symptom or side effect, it's important to discuss your pain with your physician so he or she can identify the best treatments for you.

AshleyandAustin47.jpgBy Ashley Smith

We hadn't even been engaged for two months when I got the call from Austin. He had just been diagnosed with testicular cancer.

Austin was finishing up college at Louisiana Tech, and I was teaching in Houston. We were looking forward to starting our lives together. But we went from planning a big celebration to planning his testicular cancer treatment. I was scared and even a little angry.  

The next few weeks were a blur of finishing college, packing up Austin's life, planning for the next few months and figuring out how Austin's testicular cancer treatment would work.

Planning a wedding during testicular cancer treatment

Austin and I didn't want to postpone the wedding. I believe that once you postpone something, it makes it easier to keep postponing or backing out. When I said I'd marry him, there were no "buts" involved. I was in, and so was he.


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