Recently by Patient Education Bloggers

CarePages cancer patients

By Daphne Bottos

I come from a huge extended family. My mother is the second youngest of 10 and beyond that, I have 30 first cousins, 20 second cousins and 30 third cousins -- all family members just on my mother's side.
When one of the top 10 gets sick, it's like playing the telephone game with a bunch of children. Interesting twists to stories, odd facts and the 'he said/she said' make it hard to nail down pertinent information.

Back in 1993, my mom was diagnosed with stage 3 melanoma. I can't imagine the stress it put on my dad when he had to call each of my mother's siblings.

Having to tell multiple people the same news over and over again is tiring and stressful. Having to tell multiple family members that you have cancer is just depressing.
CarePages: an easier way to share cancer updates
Recently, my mom was diagnosed with skin cancer again, but this time, my family is having a much easier time sharing updates. That's because my parents are able to share information with friends and family through a site called CarePages.

Jackie Parker.jpgBy Jackie Parker

I can relate to people who are dealing with cancer because I'm a survivor myself.

My children were 4 and 6 years old when I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1993. Now some 20 years later, I help patients, caregivers and librarians as a weekly volunteer in The Learning Center.

Becoming an MD Anderson volunteer
While seeking volunteer opportunities in the community 11 years ago, a friend and fellow breast cancer survivor had just finished her treatment at MD Anderson. We attended volunteer orientation together. I love to read, and when my kids were young, I volunteered in their school's library. So, The Learning Center seemed to be a good fit for me.

My friend still volunteers at MD Anderson, too. She works with Pink Ribbon volunteers in the Breast Center. 

man with his doctor.jpg

By Rosemary Catallo

Patients and their families often come into The Learning Center, where I work as a librarian, to seek information. After interacting with people for many years -- and from reviewing the large amount of information we have access to here -- I've come to understand what information newly diagnosed patients and their families need.

Some patients are anxious if they don't have enough information. Other people get stressed or feel overwhelmed by too much information.

No matter which type of cancer patient you are, asking your health care team the right questions about your disease and cancer treatment can play an important part in managing your care. 

I recommend the following basic questions for newly diagnosed cancer patients. Answers to these questions may allow you to feel less overwhelmed and better able to manage your cancer journey.

buttefly in hands-CW.jpgThis is a continuation of yesterday's post on how pre-surgery visualization helped me.

Telling my surgical team about visualization
I didn't tell my surgical team about my new visualization practice right away.

I decided to bring it up during a surgery planning appointment. At the end of our visit, after we had discussed all of the medical aspects of the procedure, I mentioned the details of my request. "I'm very fond of integrative therapies because I believe in them, and I know they will help me heal better and faster," I said to my surgeon and nurse.

"But my surgical team has to be involved. Can you please help me?" I was relieved when they respectfully agreed to participate and put notes about my request in my chart.

guided imagery.JPGBy Jila Tanha

In July 2010, I was diagnosed with a serious disease that required three major surgeries over the course of a year-and-a-half.

Because I work in The Learning Center, you would think I would approach my own health with an "I know all that" attitude. Well, that didn't happen.

The reality of my diagnosis hit me, and anxiety took over.

I was facing three surgeries and wanted to do the right things to help my body prepare.

I wanted to heal quickly with fewer post-surgery complications.

patient ed learning center pic- final.JPGThe internet can make life easier, but the answers it gives you can be overwhelming when you're dealing with cancer.

So what's the best way to find the most reliable, accurate information? Through The Learning Center at MD Anderson. We'll help you find the latest information about general health, cancer and issues related to cancer and cancer prevention. All services are free.

A credible resource

The Learning Center staff provides information that's current and accurate from trustworthy sources, including scientific and medical databases.

How to quit smoking mary dewberry_final.JPGBy Mary Dewberry

In January 1989, MD Anderson went smoke-free. It happened the same month and year that I started working here.

Now when people see me, they think of the American Cancer Society's Great American Smokeout (GASO) and saying no to tobacco. That's because for 23 years, I've helped coordinate GASO's logistics and direct people to resources here at MD Anderson during the event, which is held every November.

But for me, GASO isn't about trying to quit for one day or one week. It's about providing resources to help year-round.

Here are a few of the resources I recommend to those trying to quit.

tips to improve your body image_Desiree.JPGBy Desirée Gonzales Phillips

Desirée Gonzales Phillips is a senior health education specialist in the Patient Education Office and has worked at MD Anderson 10 years.

Bathing suit season is over, thank goodness! Time to put the suit and cover-up back in the drawer until next season's magazine cover says "10 Tips to Get Bathing Suit Ready." When summer rolls around again -- no pun intended -- I will need 25 tips.

Like most people, I often complain or criticize my body or want to change something about it. But for many of our patients, body image can go much deeper. It can be a lifetime concern.

Whether due to hair loss, scars, lymphedema or other treatment side effects, some people have a hard time dealing with appearance and body image changes.

Are you placing unrealistic demands on your body to look the way it did before cancer?

120927lindaspositivetwist.JPGBy Linda Yarger

Linda Yarger is a senior librarian in The Learning Center and has worked at MD Anderson 16 years.

At one time cancer was a dark cloud hanging over my future. Now, my past is what gives me motivation to fight cancer however I can.

From the time I was a teenager, cancer has been part of my life. My mom developed ovarian cancer then, and she died in 1961 at the end of my freshman year in college.

Back then, cancer was not talked about as freely as it is now. For a long time my sister and I did not know why my mom was sick. My Aunt Helen had breast cancer at the same time, in both breasts. When her cancer spread to the bone, we were told she had very bad arthritis. Eventually, we learned that both my mom and my aunt had cancer.

I always wondered if I would get cancer, too. Was there anything I could do to prevent cancer? Whenever possible, I tried to live a healthy lifestyle. When I gardened, I gardened organically. I also avoided using chemicals for housekeeping or insect control.

In spite of my precautions, I was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 46.

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.

Chesley.JPGBy Chesley Cheatham, Patient Education Office

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. I've worked in the Patient Education Office almost six years; I teach the New Patient/Family Orientation Class; I help develop patient education programs; and I even give tours of MD Anderson.

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.

By Lura Lumsden, health education specialist, Patient Education Office - The Learning Center

veggiesCancerwise.jpgGrowing up in a small town in Virginia, I always had a huge vegetable garden, so eating healthy was easy. When I went to college, my diet changed. With my main focus on studying, I rarely cooked and often opted for quick meals that weren't always the healthiest option.

Since I began working at MD Anderson in The Learning Center, I've tried to live a healthier lifestyle. Good nutrition has become a priority, and I pay close attention to what my family eats. To ensure that we eat more fruits and vegetables, I prep all of the produce when I get home from the grocery store. I wash, cut and store it in the fridge so that I can grab and go.

What we offer
The Learning Center offers free information at all levels -- from very basic materials all the way to physician-level resources.

Although many of the cookbooks in The Learning Center are cancer-specific, the recipes are for anyone who wants to eat healthier.

Our Nutrition Pathfinder is a condensed list of reliable resources including books, cookbooks, videos, brochures and periodicals. Patients and family members are encouraged to use our email reference service to send us their questions.
Contact us at

Nutrition for patients
Proper nutrition is important for people who have cancer. The disease and treatment can cause changes in appetite. If you are experiencing changes in appetite or difficulty eating you should speak with a dietitian. At MD Anderson, every patient has access to a dietitian, so ask your doctor for a referral.


Connect on social media

Sign In


© 2014 The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center