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New patient advice from veteran MD Anderson patients and caregivers

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girl with questions CW.JPGFor 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

"The one thing I wish everyone understood is that you're not just a number at MD Anderson. Patients are assigned numbers for ease in multi-disciplinary care, anonymity in such a large institution, and so that everyone is treated equally regardless of race, nationality, religious preference, etc."
-- Marcy Kurtz, breast cancer and uterine cancer survivor

We want to help you
"I wish I'd known how helpful and friendly all of the volunteers and staff are. If you're lost, just ask anyone you can find with an MD Anderson badge, and they will be happy to help you find where you are going."
-- Sandra Bishnoi, breast cancer patient

"I wish I had known about the numerous support services for families and patients."
-- Mike Snyder, chondrosarcoma survivor 

Research treatment options beforehand

"I wish we would have done more research on treatment options. While the doctors at MD Anderson are the best, it would have been nice to be able to participate more in the conversation regarding treatment options."
-- Jennifer Martin, cancer caregiver

Get your blood drawn early
"The Rotary House has a lab where you can get your blood drawn the evening before your clinic appointments. This can help you avoid a wait, and the lab results will be ready when you see your doctor."
-- Holly Easley, myelodysplastic syndrome survivor

Cheaper parking options exist
"Parking can get expensive. But you can save money by parking at the South Extension Lot at 1522 Braeswood Blvd. A free shuttle that will take you back and forth to MD Anderson throughout the day."
-- Terry Arnold, inflammatory breast cancer survivor

Come prepared
"It's cold, so bring a sweatshirt. Also, you may wait a long time. But if you're physically and mentally prepared to wait, then it's not a big deal."
-- Megan Silianoff, ovarian cancer survivor

It's okay to laugh
"No one is going to arrest you for laughing in the waiting room. Your first visit (and subsequent ones) can be very overwhelming and emotionally draining. It's important to make the most of it anyways. During my fiancé's drug trial at MD Anderson, we made an effort to enjoy our uninterrupted time together and find moments of joy within the dark ones.  Although it was the hardest time of our life -- most days filled with bad news and tears -- we also remember it fondly because that time allowed us to connect in a much deeper way."
-- Katie Narvarte, cancer caregiver

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