By Janice Rightmer
In early February 2011, my husband Ken was living his life normally.
Just a few weeks later, things took a turn for the worst when he had to go to the ER with jaundice.
Blood work, x-rays and an ultrasound revealed a tumor in his pancreas. His cells were biopsied and tested positive for pancreatic cancer.
Our local doctor said he had three to six months to live.
Getting a second opinion at MD Anderson
Having grown up in Houston, we'd heard about MD Anderson. Unable to accept the first doctor's prognosis, we gave them a call.
When I lived in Houston 50 years ago, it seemed like there wasn't much hope when people went to MD Anderson.
But as we discovered during our first visit, it's now a place where hope abounds.
By Janice Rightmer
For many patients and caregivers, the first visit to MD Anderson can be a little daunting. On top of wondering how you and your family will cope with your cancer diagnosis, you may be worried about everything from parking to what to expect on your first day to whether your doctor will listen to your concerns.
Below, several patients and caregivers share what they wish they'd known before coming to MD Anderson. We hope their insight helps make your first visit a little easier.
You're not just a number
"I wish I'd known that it's pretty easy to be a patient here. I was intimidated by stories of how going to MD Anderson is like being in a cattle call. I did not find that to be true at all. It's peaceful and, even though the size can be intimidating, there are so many forms of help and ways to ease the visit. MD Anderson is a place where I feel listened to and not like a number."
-- Brandie Sellers, two-time breast cancer survivor
By Brandie Sellers
The recent revelation that Angelina Jolie had a double mastectomy and reconstruction to minimize her chances of developing breast cancer is causing quite a buzz. It seems that the public is supportive of this measure.
As for me, I don't know what I would do in her shoes.
I don't have the BRCA gene for breast cancer. Yet I got diagnosed with breast cancer at age 37.
Ninety percent of women who receive a breast cancer diagnosis do not have the BRCA gene.
For me, because I had a huge tumor, it wasn't a question of whether I would have mastectomies or not. It was a foregone conclusion.
Some women who receive a breast cancer diagnosis are candidates for a lumpectomy, and that can have the same positive outcomes in many cases as having a mastectomy does.
I wasn't always able to give blood.
The first time I tried -- as a high school senior, many years ago -- I fainted after the finger stick to check my iron level.
I didn't even make it to the donor chair.
This was at a blood drive attended by many friends and classmates. I got teased about it and was embarrassed. For many years, I thought I wouldn't ever be able to give blood.
But one of my heroes, my Uncle Paul, was -- is -- a regular blood donor. He's quietly given nearly 28 gallons to his local blood bank.
It's a habit for him.
So, in 2000, nearly 25 years after my dismal high school experience, I noticed an MD Anderson blood drive being held at the University of Houston.
I decided to try again. And I succeeded.
Since then, giving blood has been a regular thing for me. I try to donate every quarter.
A stay in the hospital is not on most kids' top 10 list, but it's often a necessity for young cancer patients. Now, the redesigned and expanded MD Anderson Children's Cancer Hospital will make stays easier on children.
When the idea to expand the Children's Cancer Hospital and centralize its services became a reality, pediatric caregivers on the Family Advisory Council began to work hand-in-hand with the architects and hospital staff. They considered everything from pod names to colors to furniture to floor layout.
The result: mood lighting, plasma TV screens and a basketball goal down the hall ‒ which may sound like a child's idea of a dream vacation. The good news is that the innovative treatment that is synonymous with cancer care at MD Anderson is still part of the plan.
Each patient still receives care from a multidisciplinary team of specialists who partner with families to provide the best comprehensive care for their children. Patients will be able to receive infusion therapy and inpatient services, including intermediate and intensive care, all on the same floor - a first among area children's hospitals.
By Linda Ryan
Because I had recurring cervical cancer after seven years, my two experiences with cervical cancer were very different.
When I was originally diagnosed with cervical cancer, I was 36 years old and the mom of two boys. We weren't sure our family was complete and were hoping for another baby when I was told that I would need a hysterectomy.
I was devastated by the news. I mourned the loss of another baby, but as the years passed I couldn't imagine our family any different than it was.
The importance of screenings and early detection
My initial cervical cancer was found during a routine pap test. It was stage 0, and the treatment was a hysterectomy. No radiation or chemotherapy.
Recovering from the surgery wasn't easy, but I was able to drive again after two weeks and back on my feet fairly quickly.
When people asked what they could do for me, my answer was often, "Go to the doctor for your annual exam."
By LeAnne Gibbs
Aside from the birth of our daughter, our life has been a flood of awful since my husband Francis was diagnosed with colon cancer.
Yet, under all this runs a strong current of beautiful moments, lessons and experiences.
On April 11, we met with an admissions specialist for hospice care. This was a big step because it felt like giving up.
This was an equally difficult and simple decision to make.
By Yackjaira Ruiz
Every year, I rack my brain with what I will get my mom for Mother's Day. This year I was thinking of a pair of earrings. If I ask her what she wants for Mother's Day, she would say "for you to be good."
That has been the answer she has given for Mother's Day, her birthday and Christmas for as long as I can remember. And yes, even at 26 years old, that's still her answer.
Three years ago, almost to the day, my mother, Yackdale (Jackie) Ruiz, was diagnosed with breast cancer. From that moment on, the meaning of Mother's Day changed for me.
The new meaning of Mother's Day
Before my mom's cancer diagnosis, I had always thought Mother's Day was all about her and showing her how much I loved her. In reality, Mother's Day is about me.
By Staci Waites
It's no secret that cancer treatment can cause changes in your appearance. Experiencing those changes in front of middle school students, however, can be a challenge.
In addition to being a mother, wife, sister and daughter with cancer, I am also a middle school teacher.
That means I had 400 students with ring-side seats to my journey through treatment. The teacher in me had to portray strength and stability, but the patient in me was vulnerable and scared.
Middle school students are at an age where they're aware of what cancer is. Some may have a family member who has been through cancer treatment. Some of their parents work in the medical field. Regardless of their own experience, "cancer" is a very scary word to kids at that age.
By Allyson Hendrickson
On our fourth wedding anniversary, I gave my husband the happy news that we were going to be parents. Our son, Cole, was born in January 2002, followed by two more boys, Cade in 2004 and Austin in 2005. I began to refer to the boys as my "little cowboys," and the name stuck.
The days when they were babies went by in a blur. I was exhausted, my house was a wreck, everything I touched was dirty or sticky or grubby -- and I loved my life. Each of my little cowboys could melt my heart with just one word: "Mommy."
In June 2007, when my sons were 5, 3, and 1½ years old, some unusual pain landed me in the ER. Several tests were inconclusive, but they raised enough suspicion that my ob/gyn thought it a good idea to do an exploratory surgery to check for ovarian cancer.
The morning after the operation, the doctor said six words that changed my life: "I have bad news. It's cancer."
By Anne Balson
"Nurses are angels in comfortable shoes."
-- Author Unknown
My appendix ruptured the summer after my freshman year in college. This was a big deal back in the fifties; I was in the hospital for over a week.
The nurses made a tremendous impression on me - all starched and serious with little caps, white stockings and squishy, spotless white oxfords.
Beginning in October 2011, I spent 15 months in outpatient cancer treatment at MD Anderson. The nurses, again, were extraordinary. But what a difference the decades have made.
Now there were smiles and colorful scrubs, and almost everyone was wearing Crocs and socks.
I know it sounds really odd to say I'm glad my mom found out she has cancer, but in a strange kind of way I am. If my mother wasn't diagnosed and coming to MD Anderson, there is a good chance her other health issues would not have been discovered.
My mom went for her physicals every year and was told she was healthy. However, when she came to MD Anderson, doctors diagnosed another discernible issue besides her cancer - extreme hypertension.
Geriatrician fills in the gaps for seniors
So, Mom was sent to see Beatrice Edwards, M.D., a geriatrician here at MD Anderson. Mom thought she was just having her high blood pressure checked, but Dr. Edwards checked for every possible thing that could be a problem for a senior.
Connect on social media
- My husband's pancreatic cancer treatment: A cancer caregiver's story
- New patient advice from veteran MD Anderson patients and caregivers
- Preventive double mastectomy: A breast cancer survivor's take
- Donate blood and make yourself proud
- MD Anderson Children's Cancer Hospital comes of age
- Cervical cancer patient: My journey from diagnosis to recurrence
- How a colon cancer caregiver learned to live in the moment
- Celebrating my mom after her cancer diagnosis
- Teacher copes with cancer with student's support
- My ovarian cancer diagnosis: My journey to heal
- Cancer Prevention (108)
- Cancer Research (138)
- Education (71)
- Patient Care (301)
- Global Navigation
- About Us
- How You Can Help
- Children's Art Project
- Contact Us
- Patient and Cancer Information
- Cancer Information
- Patient Information
- Care Centers & Clinics
- Children’s Cancer Hospital
- Services & Amenities
- Clinical Trials
- News and Publications
- Education and Research
- Departments, Programs & Labs
- Research at MD Anderson
- Education & Training
- Resources for Professionals
- For Employees
- Employee Resources
- Doing Business
- Vendors & Suppliers
- Partners & Affiliates
- State of Texas
- State of Texas Home Page
- Statewide Search (TRAIL)
- State Comptroller - Where the Money Goes
- Texas Homeland Security
- The University of Texas System
- Institution Resume
- Legal and Policy
- Legal Statements & Site Policies
- Stay Connected
- Emergency Alerts
- Emergency Alert Information