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Recently by John Chattaway

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At 37 years old, a stage 3 triple-negative breast cancer diagnosis is tough to swallow. If you're a working mother of twin boys, one of them with special needs, a triple-negative breast cancer diagnosis can be even more daunting.


So, for Bree Sandlin, coming to MD Anderson for her triple-negative breast cancer treatment was the only choice there ever was.


Bree's triple-negative breast cancer treatment

"When I first arrived at MD Anderson to meet with my oncologist, I had pages of notes and questions," Bree recalls. "My doctor took the time to go through each one and laid out the plan for me. She did an amazing job leaving me with a feeling of hope, optimism and encouragement for the future."


Bree's plan consisted of six months of chemotherapy, followed by a bilateral mastectomy, and ended with six weeks of radiation therapy. When doctors removed the tumor during surgery, they found no trace of cancer.


A new outlook on life

Now 38, Bree calls herself a survivor, having been in remission with no sign of triple-negative breast cancer since April 2013.

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Options. That's all Richard Ware wanted when he was diagnosed with myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS), a form of leukemia, in July 2013.

Unfortunately, the doctors he saw in his hometown gave him only one.

"In my first consultation, I felt very rushed into a certain type of treatment program," Richard says. "As I asked questions about how the treatment would affect me, I felt very pressured into this one form of treatment."

When Richard asked about alternative forms of MDS treatment, he was told there weren't any.

He refused to believe that, so he began researching on his own and learned about MD Anderson.

Choosing MD Anderson for MDS treatment
"I reached out to MD Anderson and was very surprised at how quickly the doctors in the leukemia department got back to me," Richard says.

He recalls how important he felt when the doctors really took an interest into what he wanted. He flew down to Houston for a consultation and instantly felt at home.

"The most important thing in my life is my family, and MD Anderson takes a family approach to the healing process," he says. "They helped me understand what I was going through and gave me the tools to overcome it, which allowed me to get my life back as soon as possible."

Cheri with daughters.JPG"I still do my spray tans. I still use my creams. I still go in the sun. Only I now wear sunscreen, hats, glasses -- everything I'm supposed to do," says Cheri Huber. "I didn't quit living after melanoma."

Like many women, Huber enjoys being tan. During the summer she was always lying out by the pool or on the beach. In the winter, she used a tanning bed.

Huber was 15 years old when she first used a tanning bed. "I probably went to the tanning salon three times a week," she says.  

As she got older, she and her mother bought their own tanning bed after realizing they could save money this way.

Huber's melanoma diagnosis

In 2008, when Huber turned 35, she was due for a baseline mammogram. She decided to get a full-body checkup and went to the dermatologist as well.

"My dermatologist was not very happy when I told her how much I tanned, and that I even owned my own tanning bed," Huber recalls. 

During the exam, the dermatologist noticed a scab on Huber's shin. "I don't really remember when it first showed up," she told her dermatologist. "I just assumed I cut myself shaving and kept irritating it."

Lizee with guitar.JPG"Hold on. I can feel it getting better. Hold on. Be strong. Can you feel it getting better?"

These words of hope and encouragement are found in the chorus of the song "Hold On," written by Greg Lizee, Ph.D., associate professor in MD Anderson's Department of Melanoma Medical Oncology.

In 2002, a close friend of Lizee's was going through a tough time. Lizee wanted to cheer his friend up, so he decided to write an inspiring song.

"I was playing this very optimistic-sounding chord progression and thought about putting uplifting lyrics to it," says Lizee. "In just a few days I'd written 'Hold On.'"

The birth of Lizee's songwriting hobby
Lizee first became interested in music at age eight when he began piano lessons. Four years later, he picked up his first guitar.

"I've been in many bands over the years, but just as a hobby," says Lizee. He's been writing songs for about 15 years.

Lizee isn't shy to admit that his first songs weren't that great. "'Hold On' was the first song I wrote that I could actually listen to again and again," he says.

March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. That means it's a great time to think about scheduling a colonoscopy if needed.

Colorectal cancer, cancer of the colon and rectum, is the third most common type of cancer in the United States, not counting skin cancers. But many early stage colon cancers can be prevented through a colonoscopy.

According to Gottumukkala S. Raju, M.D., professor in the Department of Gastroenterology, cancer begins as benign polyps within the colon and develops into cancer over years when left untreated, mainly because they are undetected without a colonoscopy.


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