Recently by Deborah Thomas

Deborah and Doris ThomasThe doctors at MD Anderson not only diagnosed my mother's stage III breast cancer. They also diagnosed a heart condition that may have become quite serious had it not been found early.

How swelling legs and feet helped identify a heart problem

In a previous Cancerwise post, I mentioned that my mom developed edema, a condition that caused her lower legs and feet to swell after her first Taxol chemotherapy treatment. This did subside, but we soon learned that once a side effect goes away, you shouldn't believe it's gone for good. The swelling came back a couple of weeks later with vengeance.

My mom's oncologist, Sharon Giordano, M.D., watched the edema closely. Taxol can cause swelling but Dr. Giordano said it's rarely this extreme. She and her pharmacist thought this might have to do with Mom's blood pressure medicine and referred Mom back to Edward Yeh, M.D., chair of Cardiology at MD Anderson.

The Department of Cardiology is uniquely equipped to handle patients with every kind of cardiovascular issue. Some patients without cancer even come here to get their heart problems treated.

Deborah Thomas and Doris ThomasIt was scary when my mom started Taxol chemotherapy treatment. We'd heard horror stories about the possible side effects of chemotherapy.

We weren't sure exactly what to expect, but we thought our lives would become very different.

Minimal side effects from early chemotherapy treatments
Mom and I were relieved when she made it through two chemotherapy treatments with almost no side effects.

Her legs swelled a bit after the first treatment, but the swelling soon subsided and hasn't been a problem since then.

Reliving our painful past with neutropenia
My heart sank when I got a call from my mom when she went in for her third treatment. She was in tears and said her white blood cell count was too low.

Deborah Thomas' mother.JPGI know it sounds really odd to say I'm glad my mom found out she has cancer, but in a strange kind of way I am. If my mother wasn't diagnosed and coming to MD Anderson, there is a good chance her other health issues would not have been discovered.

My mom went for her physicals every year and was told she was healthy. However, when she came to MD Anderson, doctors diagnosed another discernible issue besides her cancer - extreme hypertension.

Geriatrician fills in the gaps for seniors

So, Mom was sent to see Beatrice Edwards, M.D., a geriatrician here at MD Anderson. Mom thought she was just having her high blood pressure checked, but Dr. Edwards checked for every possible thing that could be a problem for a senior.

DT with dad at beach.JPGMarch 28 is my father's birthday. He would have been 84 today. We lost him 18 years ago to colon cancer.

Cancer is no stranger to my family. Almost all of my relatives have had cancer and usually died from it. So when my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer 19 years ago, she thought that was the end.

She was the first in our family to conquer this disease, and my father assumed he would be just as lucky.

He had stage IV colon cancer. When they attempted to operate, it had already spread and the doctors said there was nothing they could do.

Dad tried chemo, but he didn't take care of himself, so his white blood cell counts were usually too low and he continued to eat like a bird.

My dad was certain, though, that he would make it through cancer just like my mom. Without my mom knowing, he even ordered items for their next vacation. They were delivered after he died.

DT with her mom.JPG

Time flies.

I've worked for MD Anderson for over six years now. 

People ask me if I find it depressing to work here and, for the most part, my answer is no. 

I work in the Communications Office, so I usually communicate patient stories, news on cancer research and education on cancer prevention and treatment. 

I'm happy in my job since I'm helping others tell uplifting stories and find information not readily available. 

However, things are about to change. My mother, who's my best friend in the world, has been diagnosed with stage III breast cancer.

Cancer runs in my family
There's an abundance of cancer in my family; almost all my relatives have had at least one form of cancer. Even my mother is a 19-year breast cancer survivor, as well as a bladder cancer and basal cell survivor.

I thought her bout with cancer was over, but I should've known better. You always have to be on guard against the ugly beast, cancer.


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