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August 2012 Archives

120831RB1.JPGBy Rob Bohning

Rob Bohning is a photographer in northern California and was diagnosed with stage IV medullary thyroid cancer in September 2011. Learn more about Rob on his blog http://robbohningphotography.wordpress.com/


In August 2011 I felt a small, pea-sized bump on my right collarbone. That afternoon, I went for an annual physical exam and mentioned it to my doctor. He immediately referred me to a head and neck surgeon.

That surgeon told me it was a lymph node, but not to worry or come back unless it got twice the size. A month later, it was no larger, but I called back and asked to see another head and neck surgeon for a second opinion. That doctor ordered a neck ultrasound.

Once I came back home, I remember walking in my front door to the phone ringing. It was the surgeon, and his first words to me were, "Don't panic yet." He expressed his concerns of the ultrasound, and explained that healthy lymph nodes are like pearls on a string; what they found in my neck looked like clusters of grapes.

I had fine-needle biopsies of my lymph nodes in the neck, and on Sept. 1, 2011, I got the phone call on the way home from work that it was cancer. At the time my surgeon was not sure what type of cancer it was, but suspected papillary thyroid cancer.

On Sept. 2, my dad passed away. I flew to the East Coast to attend his funeral, flew back home to California and drove straight to the hospital to get biopsies on my thyroid nodules. Days later, they came back positive for cancer, and I was diagnosed with papillary thyroid cancer.

jenniferwithherhusband.JPGBy Jennifer Manion

In February 2007, I began having headaches. My youngest daughter was about six weeks old and did not have a sleeping routine, so I blamed my headaches on lack of sleep.
 
In April, I went to see a family physician for a neurological exam; everything was normal. I felt relieved.

However, my headaches got worse. I blamed it on stress and anxiety. In September, I went to a neurologist and, again, everything came back normal.

On Nov. 15, I decided to have a CT scan of my brain.

My scary diagnosis and surgery   
My cell phone rang and it was the neurologist. There was something very large in my brain and I needed an MRI. 

Abigail & Rhonda.JPGRhonda Armstrong Trevino, program coordinator in the Division of Pediatrics, wears two hats. She's a mom and an MD Anderson employee on the Family Advisory Council (FAC) in the Children's Cancer Hospital at MD Anderson.

As part of the FAC, Rhonda has the opportunity to be the voice of the patient and parent, while serving as a link between the Children's Cancer Hospital and MD Anderson.  

Putting patients first is at the core of the FAC, and her role as a mother plays a big part in helping her stay focused on what matters.

How it all began

In 2005, Rhonda's daughter, Abigail, was diagnosed with osteosarcoma of the left distal femur (left thigh) at age 12. While many girls her age were excited about starting junior high school, Abigail was struggling with losing her independence.

AYAcaregiver.JPGBy Johanna Pule, Department of Social Work

The National Association of Caregivers describes the typical caregiver as a 49-year-old female caring for her widowed 69-year-old mother, who lives outside of the home.

For those of you caring for a young adult patient (any patient ages 15-40), you do not look like the "typical" caregiver described. The patient is not a widowed 69-year-old mother, but rather could be a 19-year-old leaving home for the first time, a 30-year-old with two small children or a 24-year-old just starting his career. And you could very well be the patient's mother, spouse, partner, cousin, aunt or grandparent.

Adolescent and young adult (AYA) patients have their own unique set of challenges and the same can be said for you as the caregiver. This post begins a series that will focus on the caregiving role of the parents of young adult patients and the caregiving role of the partners/spouses of young adult patients.

Changing roles: Being the parent of a cancer patient

When your son or daughter receives a cancer diagnosis, your role as the parent can change. You shift from encouraging independence to, at times, taking care of her or her every need as you did when they were younger.

Respect and communication. One of the most important things for parents to remember while caring for their AYA patient is to keep lines of communication open. Allow patients the freedom to talk about their feelings when they are ready.

PattyCorcoran1.jpgBy Patty Corcoran

Cancer is a journey that no one wants to experience, but, by blogging, I keep family and friends up to date on my battle with intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma (a rare liver cancer). Sometimes it's humorous, sometimes it's serious, but, most of all, I hope it shows how my faith is with me throughout this journey.
Learn more about Patty on her blog http://pattysjourneyoffaith.blogspot.com/.

After a great day at work, I decided to hit the gym to work off some extra energy. After the elliptical, running two miles on the treadmill and riding 13 miles on the bike, I started home and had a terrible pain in my upper right side. I thought I was having a gall bladder attack, as my mother had hers removed when she was 43, and I had just turned 46 two months prior.

After about two hours, during which the pain increased in intensity, I told my husband I needed to go to the emergency room. A doctor finally came in and prodded around, said it was probably a gall bladder problem, gave me pain pills and told me to call a gastroenterologist on Monday.

I called, and the gastroenterologist agreed; it was probably my gall bladder, but he wanted to do a sonogram to make sure. On Tuesday, I showed up for the sonogram.

Once the procedure began, it seemed to be taking a very long time. Too long.

120824eva.JPGBy Erica Quiroz, MD Anderson Staff Writer

A breast cancer survivor born in Mexico, Eva Vega has made it her mission to educate as many Spanish speakers as she can about cancer.

She's the chair of Anderson Network's 24th annual Cancer Survivorship Conference -- Sept. 14 and 15 at the Omni Houston Hotel Westside -- and her enthusiastic recruitment is responsible for an impressive surge in Hispanic attendees.

The two-day conference offers support to cancer patients and survivors through inspiring speakers, chances to network, and nearly two dozen educational breakout sessions. In addition, each cluster of sessions features one topic explored completely in Spanish.

"I tell people about the conference because I want them to have the same amount of support I've received," she says. "Patients at MD Anderson aren't always aware of the available programs."

Vega was diagnosed in 1999 and knows firsthand how overwhelming cancer can be.

"I was very depressed after I received my diagnosis," she says. "My doctor suggested that I go to a support group for Spanish speakers. I told him I would go, but kept putting it off."

Younes_hospitalrounds.JPGIn the opening line of his famous book "Anna Karenina," Tolstoy wrote, "All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." To paraphrase him, I have also observed that each family deals with cancer in its own way.

...

Doctors, especially oncologists, learn how to keep an emotional distance from their patients. By doing so, they can make critical decisions with objectivity and avoid early burnout. This approach is frequently, and incorrectly, viewed by patients and their families as a sign of lack of empathy.   

During hospital rounds, doctors need to carefully regulate empathy and continuously adjust their own emotions to properly respond to patients' fear, happiness, pain, anger, sadness and hope, without losing focus on resolving complicated medical problems.  

While doing so, doctors also have the opportunity to observe the lives of others during their most vulnerable moments. Some of these "snap shots"  can be  profound in reminding us of the basics of our humanity.

...

After six years of fighting cancer, the patient progressively developed multi-organ failure, generalized swelling, shortness of breath and pain. He had already received ten  treatment regimens, including stem cell transplant and experimental therapies. While his body was getting weaker, his tumor was getting stronger. He was admitted to my service, where I met him and his wife for the first time. He was in his mid-sixties. He was tired, breathing heavily and somewhat drowsy from the pain medicine that he was given. His wife also looked tired from the long days and hours she spent caring for him. Deep inside, she knew that they had lost the battle. She wanted him to die in the comfort of their home. She asked for help with arrangements for home hospice care.

Justin's family2.JPGBy Justin Ozuna

Justin Ozuna lives in Dallas and was diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukemia in January 2006. He is a Texas state representative and Dallas/Fort Worth facilitator for the National CML Society and a patient at MD Anderson. His mission is to capture the ups and downs of a young adult living with cancer and to serve people through humor, encouragement, hope and adversity at his blog, theozunaverse.com.


I've fought leukemia in one way or another for the past six years. For the first four, I pushed my diagnosis aside in an effort to be carefree, and enjoy the freedoms available to those who don't have cancer. I walked away.

I made a mistake.

Back then, my diagnosis represented a dark place. It symbolized heartache, frustration and futility, emotions that don't constitute a life worth embracing. The thought of filtering out so many negative emotions was overwhelming. I tried to fix the uncontrollable instead of focusing on what I could control in my life.

That approach made me second-guess a lot of what I thought I should be. Why couldn't I be "normal"? Why couldn't I have it easy? Why didn't I know someone else who went through the same experiences?

My life changed when I was refused as a patient at a hospital in Dallas. That rejection initiated feelings I had never experienced, emotions that exposed my displaced attitude and the error of my approach. It was the best thing that could have happened to me.

120821katie.JPGWhen Katie Meacham was diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma in early 2008, she was 25 years old and enjoying a tasty bite of the Big Apple.

She had a good job with a large marketing firm in New York and a promising future in front of her. Then, during a trip to Buenos Aires, she noticed her feet were itching.

"It went away in a few days, but I started to realize I had been itching for a while," she says. "My arm had broken out in hives, my head had been itching and I itched when I got out of the shower."

Then she noticed a lump in her throat. Her mother was visiting and insisted on taking her to the doctor, which led to a CT scan and diagnosis of Hodgkin lymphoma. She opted to be treated at a New York hospital, but two months into treatment, the cancer was found in another lymph node.

Big Apple to Lone Star
"The doctor said he had seen this happen only one other time," she says. "He said I would need a stem cell or bone marrow transplant."

edscanyon.JPGEd Steger is a head and neck cancer survivor. He was diagnosed in 2005 and after rough patches in 2006 and 2007 has been in remission. He writes a blog about his cancer experience at www.hncancer.blogspot.com.

I have a new normal. It's the result of my cancer and the life-saving treatments of radiation, surgery and chemotherapy.

In writing this, I'm hoping that readers will find it helpful to understand how I'm transitioning from "old" normal to "new" normal and may find some of my techniques useful.

What's important to recognize is that I have lost a part of myself and with loss comes grief.

There's a generally accepted model for grief that includes five stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. These stages are not necessarily chronological or complete. But, understanding this loss/grief model helps me cope and move forward in this transition.

The transition has been difficult. It's a work in progress, which has taken place during six years and is still evolving.

mural.JPGHorses, circus performers, musicians and a crowd of pediatric patients and their families -- it was a grand way to unveil a larger-than-life mural adorning the outside wall of MD Anderson Cancer Center.

Spanning 100 feet wide and 8 feet tall, the canvas of 25 galloping horses stands as a sign of hope created from the hands of more than 75 pediatric patients and their families at MD Anderson Children's Cancer Hospital.

Performers with Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus® kicked off the event with a special show for patients in Clark Clinic lobby, while Beads of Courage® staff members passed out beads to celebrate the patients' strength through cancer. When it was time to unveil the masterpiece, MD Anderson volunteer Mark Scheinbaum played his accordion as the clowns paraded the crowd out to see the mural.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony followed, recognizing the artists who worked on the mural. Bone cancer patient Julia Cobb and her siblings, Jenna and Jonathan, were selected and honored as winners of the mural naming contest with their submission of Light, Hope, Wonder. 

patientanddoctor.JPGAndrew Griffith has mantle cell lymphoma and has had auto (November 2009) and allo (August 2011) stem cell transplants. He lives in Canada and is married with two young adult children. He blogs at www.lymphomajourney.wordpress.com, is working on a book on his journey, and can be followed on Twitter @lymphomajourney.

Part of the challenge of having cancer is learning how to work with your medical team: doctors, nurses, pharmacists, dietitians, occupational and physiotherapists and social workers.

This is a continuation of the list I came up with of shared responsibilities between patients and their medical team.

4. Be informed and prepared: We surrender much of our life and control to our medical team. One of the few areas that we exercise control over is how informed and prepared we can be for our discussions with them.

Patients spend too much time on the web trying to become instant experts on their particular cancers and treatment options. We need to recognize our limitations, ask the medical team for sites they recommend (for more tips on this see here), read the material they give us, and focus on knowing enough to be able to ask good questions and better understand the information from your team. Generally, the team as a whole will provide the breadth of information required.

MD Anderson is all about new ideas.

For more than 70 years, we've been developing and researching new drugs, combinations, diagnostic tests, techniques and technologies for our patients and others around the world.

But where we draw the line is directly endorsing a company or a company's product or service.

For that reason, you might be a little confused about some buzz regarding a skin care product called Nerium, and a vague connection to MD Anderson.

It's suggested that the product, which is featured on multiple social media channels, the product's website and at in-home sales parties, was discovered by an MD Anderson researcher.

workingwithyourmedicalteam.JPGBy Andrew Griffith

Andrew Griffith has mantle cell lymphoma and has had auto (November 2009) and allo (August 2011) stem cell transplants. He lives in Canada and is married with two young adult children. He blogs at www.lymphomajourney.wordpress.com, is working on a book on his journey, and can be followed on Twitter @lymphomajourney.

Part of the challenge of having cancer is learning how to work with your medical team: doctors, nurses, pharmacists, dietitians, occupational and physiotherapists, and social workers.

A number of people and organizations have provided advice on how best to work with your doctor. One of the better ones is by Massachusetts Health Quality Partners and Consumer Reports (here), and a number of others worth noting include Pauline Chen's Afraid to Speak Up at the Doctor's Office, Tamara McClintock Greenberg's The New Rules of Modern Medicine, Mary Elizabeth Williams Listen up, Doctors: Here's how to talk to your patients,  Marie Meservy's How to Win Friends and Influence Doctors, and Martine Ehrenclou's Tips to Maximize the Relationship with your Doctor.

While there are common threads to all of these (courtesy, respect, preparation, honesty, teamwork), most advice has been written from the perspective of either the patient or the doctor, rather than from a shared perspective. With this in mind, I came up with the following list of shared responsibilities:


yogawomanpost.JPGRegular physical activity is known to reduce the risk of certain types of cancer and other serious diseases. Often overlooked, though, is the potential for exercise to boost one's sex life.

In men, regular physical activity offers protection against erectile dysfunction and may even be helpful in reversing it. A 1990 randomized trial found that men who participated in a vigorous exercise program had more frequent sex, improved erectile function and more satisfying orgasms than men in the control group, whose activity levels changed very little.

More recent clinical trials showed that similar benefits may extend not only to healthy men, but also to men with obesity and chronic heart failure. In a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2004, researchers found that nearly one-third of obese men who already had erectile dysfunction were able to substantially improve their sexual function through a program of diet and exercise.

Although comparable trials have not been carried out in women, surveys of premenopausal and postmenopausal women have found links between physical activity and better sexual function.

Increased blood flow

Laboratory studies also show that exercise just before sexual stimulation can improve blood flow to the genitals, which may enhance sexual arousal and orgasm.

120813Drchangandpool.JPGBy Claudia Gertz, MD Anderson Staff Writer

When Barbara Pool was diagnosed with stage 1 lung cancer, she came to MD Anderson expecting to undergo seven weeks of radiation treatment. She and her daughter were pleasantly surprised, however, when the process only took four days.

This speedy treatment program called stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT) delivers very high doses of radiation to small and well-defined tumors.

Pool is one of six lung cancer patients per day who go through stereotactic body radiation therapy and she is the 1000th patient to receive this type of radiation at MD Anderson.

Pool was diagnosed in May in her hometown of Odessa, Texas, and considered staying close to home for treatment. However, physicians referred her to MD Anderson, so she and her daughter, Debbie Staggs, followed their advice and traveled to Houston.

Upon examination, Pool was not found to be a good candidate for surgery due to several pre-existing health issues including emphysema, diabetes and a recent stroke. However, she was an excellent candidate for stereotactic body radiation treatment, due to the small size of the tumor in the upper portion of her right lung.

By Claudia Giertz, MD Anderson Staff Writer

120810CApvolunteer2.JPGOnce a week, Amy McWhorter stops at several local supermarkets to run errands. She's not just buying groceries, however.

Amy is one of almost 500 Adopt-A-Display volunteers who manage Children's Art Project (CAP) product displays in stores across five states. Each display contains cards and gift items featuring artwork designed by MD Anderson's pediatric patients. Volunteers play a critical role in managing CAP's retail inventory that, literally, couldn't be done without them.

Becoming an Adopt-A-Display volunteer entails counting the number of products on each display, recording the findings and sending them back to the CAP retail team. If displays are running low on products, new inventory is sent to each store directly, where volunteers then ensure products are restocked. Volunteers also ensure fixtures are arranged properly, in good condition and situated in a prominent location.

Currently, volunteers service retail locations in Texas, Oklahoma, Arizona, Florida and Louisiana. However, there is always a need for more Adopt-A-Display volunteers, especially during the holiday season.

120810leadexercisekids.JPGBy Adelina Espat and Laura Nathan-Garner

Raising children to become happy, healthy adults is important. But how can you ensure that their bodies remain strong enough to prevent diseases like cancer?

One way is by encouraging children to exercise every day. Staying active can help them maintain a healthy weight and lower their chances of developing diseases like cancer as adults.

As soon as your children can walk, they should be up and moving. Kids younger than 6 should enjoy natural, daily physical activity like running, jumping and skipping. Kids ages 6-17 should exercise at an intensity high enough to raise their heart rate for at least 60 minutes a day, five days a week.

Have a couch-potato kid? Try these tips to get your kid moving:

Chesley.JPGBy Chesley Cheatham

Just when you think you know something, life will teach you that you don't.

I thought I had a pretty good understanding of patients' experiences, having worked in patient education. However, when my aunt was diagnosed with a rare type of sarcoma in March 2011 and became a patient here, well ... that's when I really learned a thing or two.

Listening in

Being at MD Anderson is like visiting a busy airport because you meet people from all over the world. Some people keep to themselves or rest, while others are eager to help, share their stories or hear yours.

Conversations are natural and friendly.

Everyone can sing!

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By Michael M. Richardson, MT-BC Music Therapist, Integrative Medicine Center

120808michael3.JPGIt's true that very few people lack the needed physical requirements to sing. Aside from those with vocal disabilities or who have amusia, a rare disorder that causes a problem with singing or hearing pitches, everyone can sing.

My experience is that many acceptable singers don't sing in groups because of negative experiences with teachers or choir directors.  

I think if you like to sing and have ever thought about being in a choir you should do it. Just find one that works for you and go for it.

The Celebration Singers are a choir program at MD Anderson that is open to anyone who has cancer or has completed cancer treatment, or is a caregiver or family member of a patient.

By Michael Wang, M.D., associate professor, Department of Lymphoma/Myeloma

120807MCL.JPGFirst, don't panic
Due to recent progress in treatment, mantle cell lymphoma (MCL) patients live for many years with a good quality of life. While a diagnosis of cancer can be frightening, it's important to stay calm so that you can evaluate all of your options. Here are some of the first steps you should take after being diagnosed with MCL.

Find an expert in MCL

Because mantle cell lymphoma is a rare disease, the key is to find an expert oncologist who specializes in the treatment of MCL. In the Lymphoma and Myeloma Clinic at MD Anderson, we have a group of experts who have studied and treated MCL for many years. It's important to keep in mind that our oncologists will work in collaboration with your home team to care for you.

Have the right tests done
Once you have an initial diagnosis of MCL, these are the first three steps that should be taken by your oncologist.

  1. Have an expert pathologist confirm the diagnosis -- this is important because there are many types of lymphoma. Different diagnoses lead to different treatments and prognoses. 
  2. Once you have an accurate diagnosis, your oncologist should perform tests to accurately determine the stage of the disease. 
  3. Review all of your options with your oncologist and ask for a second opinion. It's important to be comfortable with your final treatment decision. A second opinion can help you feel you've thoroughly evaluated all of your options.

Truth or lies

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By Janet Ruffin

120807Janet2.JPGJanet Hull Ruffin is an artist, arts educator and poet. She is finishing a book of poems showing what it's like to work with critically ill children in a major cancer center. She focuses on hospital culture, the therapeutic nature of art and spirituality.

She retired from MD Anderson in January 2009 after serving as the art teacher in the Children's Cancer Hospital for more than 10 years. Her position was special because the time she spent with patients and their families was not about diagnoses, examinations or treatments. They made art together. Currently, she volunteers with the Children's Art Project working with pediatric patients.


"When we are most intensely alive -- startled into alertness by love or pain or fear -- we perceive with an added acuteness too often either forgotten or lost to distraction."

Jane Hirshfield, "Nine Gates: Entering the Mind of Poetry"
A poet sits with a moment and waits to feel what energy is there, waits to receive the images and metaphors and waits to be surprised by what comes. At the same time, the poet's task is to convey the authenticity of the experience.

During the time I worked at the hospital, a mother told me that her deceased mother appeared to her son many times in the last months of his life. When he finally died, she felt like she handed her son over to her mother. In a poem I wrote:

120806tracey2.JPGBy Tracey Schoettelkotte

When I received the initial call from MD Anderson asking me if I would be interested in writing about my cancer journey, I had to laugh because my brain does not operate the way it used to.  

As a former trial attorney, I could intelligently write 500 words in just a few minutes. This blog post took me more than a month to write and it has been difficult and frustrating. But in writing my story, I have found I'm happy to hold a pen in my hand again.

So, one more thank you to MD Anderson and those who have supported me along the way. Because of you, I am here to share my story.

 
2002 was the most amazing year of my life. 

In a short sweep of time I got engaged, turned 30, graduated from The University of Texas School of Law, passed the Texas Bar, got married, spent a month in Europe on my honeymoon, started my new legal career in a boutique trial law firm and became a mom-to-be.

My life had come full circle -- everything that I had worked so hard for, dreamed of and prayed for had all finally came true.

During this time, I paid no attention to the daily headaches I was experiencing -- Tylenol had become my everyday regimen -- until Christmas Day.

GarciaManero1.JPGMyelodysplastic syndrome (MDS) is a group of diseases where the bone marrow doesn't produce enough healthy blood cells. Instead, it makes too many underdeveloped cells, known as blasts. These blasts die in the bone marrow or soon after entering the bloodstream, causing too few healthy blood cells and low blood counts.

In its gentlest form, MDS may be anemia, low platelets or low white blood count, but about 10% to 20% of diagnosed cases progress to acute myeloid leukemia (AML).

In the early stages MDS often doesn't have any symptoms. If there are signs, they may be vague or like those for other medical conditions such as fatigue and fever.

Blood tests and bone marrow tests can be used to find out if you have myelodysplastic syndrome.

Who is at risk?

"Environmental factors can increase the risk of MDS," says Guillermo Garcia-Manero, M.D. professor in MD Anderson's Department of Leukemia

120803holly.jpgBy Holly Easley

Holly Easley began her cancer journey five years ago when she was diagnosed with myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS). After two types of chemotherapy and a stem cell transplant, she says she loves life, is improving daily and enjoys blogging about the cancer experience at http://hollyeasley.wordpress.com/.


My first experience at MD Anderson was mind-blowing.  

I was surprised at the vastness of the building and how so many patients were there from all over the world.  

I had a bone marrow biopsy and then had an enlightening meeting with Guillermo Garcia-Manero, M.D. 

When Dr. G-M, as I affectionately call him, came into the room he explained my disease and why my particular cytogenetics were difficult to treat. He was very thorough and took plenty of time to answer all my questions. 

He had the preliminary report of my bone marrow biopsy, but I would have to return for a consultation in two weeks after he had received the final report with the cytogenetic report. 

120802JenniferM.JPGBy Jennifer Martin

I'm a 33-year-old, stay-at-home mother of two and a caregiver to my husband, Steven, who is battling stage IV melanoma. Following his diagnosis, I've become dedicated to melanoma awareness. I help educate others through blogs, blood drives, participating in melanoma fundraisers and any other way to spread the word. Follow us at martinfamilyjourney.blogspot.com.

My first experience with donating platelets came shortly after my husband Steve, who is battling stage IV melanoma, needed a platelet transfusion. He had just completed round three of biochemotherapy

After a scheduled blood check, we received a call from his nurse letting us know that his platelets were very low. We needed to get to MD Anderson immediately so he could have a platelet transfusion. 

I looked online for information on low platelets. He was at risk for a nose bleed that would not clot, internal bleeding and even a small cut that could possibly kill him. Scary! His doctor ordered four units. 

When we were at the hospital, he was given the platelet transfusion but only three units. When we asked why, we were told that there was a shortage of platelets.

120801Gisela.JPGBy Gisela Sanchez-Williams, advanced practice nurse, Department of Neurosurgery

The Spine Tumor Support Group at MD Anderson is a unique entity. It strives to educate individuals in a compassionate, professional-led group setting, regarding their disease process and quality of life.

In a support group, members provide each other with various types of help, such as:

  • providing and evaluating relevant information,
  • relating personal experiences,
  • listening to and accepting others' experiences,
  • providing sympathetic understanding and
  • establishing social networks.
A support group may also work to inform the public or engage in advocacy.

The MD Anderson Spine Tumor Support Group is all of the above and more. Using a holistic approach to care, group discussion is facilitated by a nurse practitioner who has expertise in neurosurgery and provides care to spine tumor patients.

Knowledge is power
Individuals and caregivers share their cancer journey, fears, disappointments, frustrations and victories in the Spine Tumor Support Group.

120801Marshalls.JPGBy Val Marshall

Val Marshall's cancer journey began in May 2009, when her son Addison was diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia. A visit to the family doctor for what they thought was a simple high school football injury turned out to be much more.

Inspired by her son's strength and hope, Val strives to be a voice that connects other parents on this journey. Her series shares insight into her life as a mom of a typical teenager who just happens to be fighting leukemia.

Addison Marshall crush cancer


In the many sleepless nights in the hospital, I chased sleep like a toddler denies it. I always returned to my "happy place" to visualize Addie's success in completing this 1,108-day jog that felt like a marathon without refueling breaks.

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