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Second time around: Metastatic breast cancer is no match for skilled surgeons, positive approach

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120724_Janice_.JPGSeven years after successful treatment at MD Anderson, Janice thought she had closed the book on breast cancer. Her life was back to normal and she was busy helping others, volunteering for the American Cancer Society, the Komen Foundation and MD Anderson.

Then, on a fun weekend in New Orleans, she noticed some subtle changes.

"I love Mardi Gras," says Janice, a native of Louisiana who lives in Houston. "In 2007, I was checking out a few parades with my sisters when I noticed my balance was off and my attention span was short."

An unwelcome diagnosis
When her husband noticed the changes, too, Janice decided she should investigate. Not too concerned, she visited her primary care physician, who ordered an immediate MRI.

The test showed a lesion in Janice's brain, and she was admitted to MD Anderson.

Doctors told her that her breast cancer cells had spread, or metastasized, to her brain.

"When I heard the diagnosis, it was hard," she remembers. "The first thing I thought was, 'I'm not going to be here much longer.' But I've proved myself wrong. The second thing was that I needed to talk to someone. I didn't know anything about metastatic breast cancer, and suddenly I was in the learning process again."

Surgery and rigorous chemotherapy
The first part of Janice's treatment was surgery to remove the tumor.

"Because of our multidisciplinary team's surgical expertise, we were able to successfully remove Janice's brain tumor," says Ganesh Rao, M.D., assistant professor in the Department of Neurosurgery.

Next came chemotherapy. Since Taxol® had worked well previously, Janice took it for a year, then Avastin® for several months.

Taking a positive approach
It takes a mighty positive person to say having cancer -- twice -- changed her life for the better.

"Having cancer made me see things more clearly," Janice says. "I've had opportunities to help other people that I wouldn't have had otherwise. I believe in taking a bad situation and turning it to good."

Janice is now cancer free. She visits MD Anderson several times a year for MRIs, CT scans and other tests.

"I call the doctors at MD Anderson my watchers," she says. "They are keeping an eye on me, and that makes me feel much better."

Happy to be back home with her husband -- and getting to visit frequently with her three grown sons and daughter-in-law -- Janice is grateful for the care she received at MD Anderson.

"People at MD Anderson remember your face and that means a lot. You're not just a number," Janice says. "And they don't give up easily. If one thing doesn't work, they try something else. I know they're the best. I've seen it!"

Learn more about MD Anderson's brain and spine experts.

Resources
Brain tumor caregiver story (video)

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