Heart of Hearts

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Duggan_Finished.jpgBy Linda Duggan, office manager, Department of Melanoma Medical Oncology

Cancer has broken my heart too many times.

Almost 26 years ago, a cancerous brain tumor killed my beautiful daughter, Sarah, before her second birthday. She was so little and precious. She spoke in three-word sentences, loved life and laughed a lot. 

Cancer took her speech, sight, ability to walk and her life way too soon.

Two weeks after Sarah passed, I was hired at MD Anderson. 

Over the years, while working here, far too many of my family members have faced the battle with cancer.

My mother fought breast cancer, but is now classified a long-term survivor.

My father passed away from melanoma shortly after he retired. He'd worked hard as a successful design engineer, saved well and was looking forward to his golden years, but cancer ripped that away from him.

My husband is a frequent patient at MD Anderson's Mohs clinic

My brother-in-law is currently fighting a valiant battle with lung cancer, with my sister by his side. 

These experiences have broken and continue to break my heart. However, they've also served to forge my resolve that "we must win this battle."

Cancer rock stars
For the past 25 1/2 years, I've been given the tremendous honor to work with some of the most extraordinary physicians, scientists, nurses, physician assistants and administrative staff in the world.

They are my "rock stars," and I'm an incredibly devoted fan of their heroic work.

Their families have sacrificed tremendously. Their wives, husbands, significant others and children may never quite know how much their sacrifices have meant to so many frightened patients, family members and loved ones. But I do.

I know what it means all too well. I've been on both sides of the street when it comes to cancer, literally.

When my dad was in his final month of a fierce two-year battle with melanoma, I worked in MD Anderson's Faculty Center during the day, and often slept in his hospital room on the 10th floor in the evenings, just holding his hand.

Allies in battle
I can state with true conviction that we at MD Anderson have "one common and vital goal" -- to get to that point where we can say we have truly and finally made cancer history. 

Let's get rid of this terrible scourge that is ravaging so many precious fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, wives, daughters, sons, other loved ones and dear friends. 

I applaud every single person who is engaged in this battle.

I am so touched to have received MD Anderson's Heart of MD Anderson award in December. I find it ironic that when I began this journey I was a broken hearted 25-year-old woman ready to get to work fighting cancer with a sickening passion.

Cancer is my enemy and I will fight it with all intentions of Making Cancer History.

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