In 2010, Jeff Hurdle started experiencing headaches every
few weeks. He'd never had frequent headaches before, so he ignored them. He had
no idea that they were brain
stem tumor symptoms and that soon he'd be undergoing brain surgery to
install a shunt.
One day while competing in a 5K run, Jeff began to feel
dizzy as he crossed the finish line. He knew it wasn't a post-race adrenaline
rush. Something was wrong.
He scheduled a doctor's appointment, where his doctor did a CT
scan of his brain. The scan showed a brain stem tumor and hydrocephalus (built
surgery to install a shunt
Jeff's doctor said he need to undergo brain surgery immediately. The
surgeons would insert a silicone tube called a shunt, also called a ventricular
access catheter, in his brain. Like a catheter, the shunt would drain the extra
fluid in his brain.
For more than a year, Jeff was monitored without brain tumor
treatment. But after a while, he began to experience problems with his vision,
speech, balance, swallowing and hearing. Eventually, he couldn't even walk
Continue reading Brain stem tumor survivor: "Take it one day at a time".
By Roslin Sweat
When I was first diagnosed with rhabdomyosarcoma in 1990, I was a 22-year-old college student.
I woke up one morning and noticed my face was swollen on the left side. The doctor said it was allergies and gave me a prescription. Several days later, my face was still swollen, I had severe headaches, and my left eye was protruding. I saw an optometrist, who scheduled an MRI.
That's how we figured out a tumor was causing these problems.
My rhabdomyosarcoma diagnosis
My doctor referred me to MD Anderson, where I was assigned to Robert Benjamin, M.D. I now call him My Dr. B. He's the best doctor this side of heaven.
Dr. Benjamin gave me a concrete diagnosis -- ethmoid sinus rhabdomyosarcoma. Though rhabdomyosarcoma is the most common childhood sarcoma, it's rare in adults. At that point, there was no statistic for a survival rate.
Continue reading Rhabdomyosarcoma and osteoblastic osteosarcoma survivor: "Don't let cancer shut you down".
By Clayton Boldt
Sexual intimacy problems are one of the most common
long-term side effects that cancer patients face. In a survey of MD Anderson cancer
patients, almost half of men and women said they had new sexual intimacy problems
after treatment. Common sexual intimacy problems include:
- Erection problems in men
- Vaginal dryness and pain in women
- Loss of sexual desire
Leslie Schover, Ph.D., professor in Behavioral Science and Gynecologic Oncology and Reproductive Medicine, answers common questions
about sexual problems affecting cancer patients and how to address them.
Why do cancer patients often experience sexual side effects?
A major cause of these issues is physical damage or
changes from cancer
treatment. Radiation or surgery in the pelvic area can make sex painful or difficult, and
may damage blood vessels or nerves critical for male performance.
In women, chemotherapy may cause premature menopause, and
hormone therapies can be linked to pain during sex.
Continue reading Q&A: Sexual intimacy problems in cancer patients.
treatment can be a momentous occasion -- one that calls for celebrating in
ways both big and small. But there's no right way to celebrate.
We recently asked some of our bloggers how they celebrated.
Below, they share what they did to ring in life after cancer treatment.
Ringing the bell
"Every week, as I was weighed before my chemo
treatments, I saw the bell, which patients
ring to signal the end of their treatment. As I got closer to finishing my
16 rounds of chemo, I knew I had to celebrate! And I knew I had to include the
bell and my awesome support system. When the day came, about 30 people joined
me to ring the bell. I showed cancer who won! It was a special moment, and I
was so happy and moved to be able to share it with my loved ones. After the
actual ringing, we stepped out into the lobby on the 8th floor of Mays Clinic
and had a toast (with sparkling juice, of course). It's a day I will never
-- Mariana Torrado, breast cancer survivor
Continue reading How six cancer patients celebrated the end of cancer treatment.
By Dan Rooker
In 2007, I noticed the lymph nodes under my jaw were swollen. But it took more than two years and a routine trip to the dermatologist to get my diagnosis in March 2010: chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). I was only 49 years old.
My CLL showed a 17p abnormality. This meant the cancer would probably spread more rapidly, be more resistant to treatment and have shorter periods of remission.
Two of my colleagues at home in Raleigh, North Carolina, were leukemia patients at MD Anderson, and I listened when they suggested I go there, too.
My CLL treatment at MD Anderson
I felt blessed that I got assigned to Michael Keating, M.D., whom I'd read about in my CLL research. Dr. Keating specializes in 17p cases. At that point, he'd been treating leukemia for nearly 40 years and had published groundbreaking research on CLL treatment.
As expected, my disease progressed rapidly. Dr. Keating ordered a course of fludarabine- cyclophosphamide-rituximab therapy, which took place in early 2011. Unfortunately, that only partly destroyed the cancer. I rested and recovered while Dr. Keating plotted our next move.
Continue reading How surviving CLL and b-cell lymphoma pushed me to new heights.
By Kai Dunbar
Seven years ago, I was diagnosed with stage III melanoma.
I didn't spend a lot of time in the sun before my malignant
melanoma diagnosis. And I wasn't someone you'd consider at high risk for
melanoma. I was only 9 years old.
I was actually born with a small penpoint-sized
mole on my right cheek. Over time, it grew, and when I was 8 years old, it became
raised and had irregular borders. When I
told my pediatrician that it was starting to bleed and itch, he sent us to a
dermatologist, who removed the mole and sent it to be biopsied.
Three days later, the dermatologist called. She said
I had pediatric melanoma and that we needed to go to MD
Anderson Children's Cancer Hospital.
My parents looked devastated. I was scared and
nervous. I worried about my little sister and brother. Did they understand?
Were they scared, too?
Continue reading My metastatic melanoma story.
By Jacqueline Mason
Our doctors are dreamers. They dream of conquering cancer
and adding meaningful years to our patients' lives. Our Investigational
Pharmacy Services team helps them turn those dreams into reality.
This highly specialized team of eight pharmacists and 11
pharmacy technicians enables MD Anderson to have the largest clinical
trials program in the world.
Every investigational drug that enters our institution
travels through the Investigational Pharmacy Services area on Floor 1 of the
Main Building. We have 1,100 clinical research protocols underway, involving
more than 8,000 patients. That translates to 35,000 investigational doses a
year, or one dose every 15 minutes.
By centralizing the way we administer investigational drug trials,
the team enables breakthroughs in cancer care for doctors and researchers like Hagop
Continue reading How our Investigational Pharmacy Services team gives cancer patients hope.
By Debra Ruzensky
As a registered dietitian at MD Anderson, I know that nausea
and other side effects of cancer and treatment make eating difficult, if not
impossible. Even though our doctors, nurses and mid-level providers do a great
job of educating our patients and caregivers about these possibilities, it is
hard to prepare for them.
I didn't realize just how hard it can be, though, until I became
my husband's caregiver during his B-cell
lymphoma treatment, which included chemotherapy
and a stem
Diet challenges after
My husband Bob is a fighter and a very compliant patient. But the chemo
leading up to his stem cell transplant caused nausea, vomiting, diarrhea
and throat sores. Together, they made it almost impossible for him to eat
and drink enough for over a month. He lost about 25 pounds -- mostly muscle.
Continue reading Caregiver/dietitian: Helping my husband gain weight after chemo.
By Trevor Mitchell
Picking up the phone to order a nutritious, freshly prepared
meal that's delivered by an attendant wearing a tuxedo might seem more common
at a four-or five-star hotel than a cancer center. But it's a luxury our
patients have enjoyed for more than 15 years.
The days of traditional hospital food on pre-prepared trays
brought to all patient rooms at the same time are long gone, says Mohammad
Tekrouri, associate director of Room Service. Room Service programs like ours
that provide efficient, high quality, cooked-to-order culinary options have
become essential to ensuring a better patient experience.
"Patients prefer to be in control of their dining experience
because there are times when they're resting, the medical staff is in the room,
or they simply don't feel like eating," Tekrouri says. "Our service offers them
the flexibility to order food when they feel like it at multiple times
throughout the day."
A personalized touch
When cancer patients are admitted, they receive a brief orientation from
our room service staff. They're given menus and told how to place their orders.
Room Service is included in each patient's stay and is available 365 days a
year, from 6:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Family members also can order meals for a
"Patients and family members eating together can encourage
the patient to eat and offers convenience for those who can't leave their loved
one even for a minute," Tekrouri says.
Continue reading Room Service offers our cancer patients culinary creations and care.
Rashe Bowie hadn't been working at her current company very
long when she and her colleagues played Two Truths and a Lie during an offsite
meeting. When it was her turn, she shared her son's name, that she'd been in
pageants growing up and that she was undergoing chemotherapy.
The lie, they guessed, was the chemo part. But the lie was her
"I'm undergoing chemo for breast cancer, and this is a wig
I'm wearing," she revealed.
"They were in total disbelief," recalls Rashe, who was 37 years
old at the time of her diagnosis.
The company's CEO told Rashe to take time off if she needed
But she has yet to accept that offer. A single mom to a high
school senior, Rashe never missed a day of work while undergoing 12 rounds of chemotherapy
and 30 rounds of radiation.
Continue reading Working and parenting through chemo and radiation.
By Lori Baker
Many melanoma patients know Patrick
Hwu, M.D., as the oncologist and immunology expert who saved their lives.
But Hwu, who has headed up our Melanoma and Sarcoma departments, now also leads
our largest academic division: Cancer
We recently spoke with Dr. Hwu to learn more about what
drives and inspires him both here at MD Anderson and at home. Here's what he
had to say.
Where were you
I grew up in St. Albans, West Virginia, which had only
13,000 residents at that time. I often think about MD Anderson having more
people than my hometown.
What words best
Passionate, committed and enthusiastic.
Continue reading First person: Getting to know Patrick Hwu, M.D..
By Stephanie Madsen
When I was diagnosed with large
cell neuroendocrine cervical cancer nearly four years ago, I felt utterly
And I felt overwhelmed when my doctor said I needed chemotherapy.
I didn't know what to expect or what to pack. So I decided to bring everything.
Since then, I've had nearly 55 chemo treatments using
several chemo drugs, 28 radiation sessions and four major surgeries (not
including port placement). In the process, I've become an expert on what to
bring to chemo and what to leave at home.
Here's what I recommend packing to make chemo more
comfortable. I've included a couple of items that won't fit in a bag but are
clothes: Chemo can last anywhere from one to eight hours and may involve
overnight hospital stays. So, it helps to wear comfortable clothes. You'll want
to keep your port accessible, so consider wearing a V-neck shirt.
2. Socks and/or
close-toed shoes: The hospital or clinic will be chilly. Wear comfortable,
close-toed shoes and or slippers with a hard sole. If you insist on open-toed
shoes, bring socks just in case. The softer and fuzzier, the better.
Continue reading What I pack for chemo.