By Janice Rightmer
In early February 2011, my husband Ken was living his life normally.
Just a few weeks later, things took a turn for the worst when he had to go to the ER with jaundice.
Blood work, x-rays and an ultrasound revealed a tumor in his pancreas. His cells were biopsied and tested positive for pancreatic cancer.
Our local doctor said he had three to six months to live.
Getting a second opinion at MD Anderson
Having grown up in Houston, we'd heard about MD Anderson. Unable to accept the first doctor's prognosis, we gave them a call.
When I lived in Houston 50 years ago, it seemed like there wasn't much hope when people went to MD Anderson.
But as we discovered during our first visit, it's now a place where hope abounds.
Recently in Cancer Patient Stories Category
By Janice Rightmer
By Linda Ryan
Because I had recurring cervical cancer after seven years, my two experiences with cervical cancer were very different.
When I was originally diagnosed with cervical cancer, I was 36 years old and the mom of two boys. We weren't sure our family was complete and were hoping for another baby when I was told that I would need a hysterectomy.
I was devastated by the news. I mourned the loss of another baby, but as the years passed I couldn't imagine our family any different than it was.
The importance of screenings and early detection
My initial cervical cancer was found during a routine pap test. It was stage 0, and the treatment was a hysterectomy. No radiation or chemotherapy.
Recovering from the surgery wasn't easy, but I was able to drive again after two weeks and back on my feet fairly quickly.
When people asked what they could do for me, my answer was often, "Go to the doctor for your annual exam."
By LeAnne Gibbs
Aside from the birth of our daughter, our life has been a flood of awful since my husband Francis was diagnosed with colon cancer.
Yet, under all this runs a strong current of beautiful moments, lessons and experiences.
On April 11, we met with an admissions specialist for hospice care. This was a big step because it felt like giving up.
This was an equally difficult and simple decision to make.
By Yackjaira Ruiz
Every year, I rack my brain with what I will get my mom for Mother's Day. This year I was thinking of a pair of earrings. If I ask her what she wants for Mother's Day, she would say "for you to be good."
That has been the answer she has given for Mother's Day, her birthday and Christmas for as long as I can remember. And yes, even at 26 years old, that's still her answer.
Three years ago, almost to the day, my mother, Yackdale (Jackie) Ruiz, was diagnosed with breast cancer. From that moment on, the meaning of Mother's Day changed for me.
The new meaning of Mother's Day
Before my mom's cancer diagnosis, I had always thought Mother's Day was all about her and showing her how much I loved her. In reality, Mother's Day is about me.
By Staci Waites
It's no secret that cancer treatment can cause changes in your appearance. Experiencing those changes in front of middle school students, however, can be a challenge.
In addition to being a mother, wife, sister and daughter with cancer, I am also a middle school teacher.
That means I had 400 students with ring-side seats to my journey through treatment. The teacher in me had to portray strength and stability, but the patient in me was vulnerable and scared.
Middle school students are at an age where they're aware of what cancer is. Some may have a family member who has been through cancer treatment. Some of their parents work in the medical field. Regardless of their own experience, "cancer" is a very scary word to kids at that age.
By Allyson Hendrickson
On our fourth wedding anniversary, I gave my husband the happy news that we were going to be parents. Our son, Cole, was born in January 2002, followed by two more boys, Cade in 2004 and Austin in 2005. I began to refer to the boys as my "little cowboys," and the name stuck.
The days when they were babies went by in a blur. I was exhausted, my house was a wreck, everything I touched was dirty or sticky or grubby -- and I loved my life. Each of my little cowboys could melt my heart with just one word: "Mommy."
In June 2007, when my sons were 5, 3, and 1½ years old, some unusual pain landed me in the ER. Several tests were inconclusive, but they raised enough suspicion that my ob/gyn thought it a good idea to do an exploratory surgery to check for ovarian cancer.
The morning after the operation, the doctor said six words that changed my life: "I have bad news. It's cancer."
By Anne Balson
"Nurses are angels in comfortable shoes."
-- Author Unknown
My appendix ruptured the summer after my freshman year in college. This was a big deal back in the fifties; I was in the hospital for over a week.
The nurses made a tremendous impression on me - all starched and serious with little caps, white stockings and squishy, spotless white oxfords.
Beginning in October 2011, I spent 15 months in outpatient cancer treatment at MD Anderson. The nurses, again, were extraordinary. But what a difference the decades have made.
Now there were smiles and colorful scrubs, and almost everyone was wearing Crocs and socks.
By Linda Ryan
I'm working hard to get back to my pre-cancer fitness level. I've struggled to find motivation to run the way I did before and during chemotherapy treatment when my cervical cancer recurred.
Oddly, I found my running rhythm during a weekend that was so tragic for our country and a city I love.
It has been 17 days since I walked down Boylston Street past the finish line of the 117th Boston Marathon. I was on Boylston Street 10 minutes before the explosions that killed and left many people injured.
I'm blessed and was blessed on April 15 to not have been injured that day.
I can say with certainty I walked by the two men who committed the horrible crimes in Boston.
Hamza Iskandar has only been fighting gastroesophageal cancer for the past six months, but he was born a fighter.
As a result of his congenital heart disease, the 21-year-old from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, learned to have incredible strength in times of adversity long before his cancer diagnosis.
He had open heart surgery at age six, a second at age seven and a third at twelve. He now has a mechanical valve in his heart. "God was preparing me," Hamza says. "My fighting spirit was there."
Hamza thought he was done with hospitals. He was wrong.
Gastroesophageal cancer diagnosis: Testing his strength
In January 2012, while finishing up a finance degree at the university, Hamza started vomiting blood. "I couldn't feel my legs," he recalls. "My body started to go numb."
After a visit to the emergency room, Hamza was diagnosed with an ulcer. He was admitted to the hospital for 14 days, unable to eat or drink.
After multiple endoscopies and a misdiagnosis, Hamza was told he had a tumor and nothing could be done to help him. "My family and I wouldn't accept giving up, so we started searching for the best possible place for treatment."
My husband, Francis, has stage IV colon cancer. Since his diagnosis, many people have asked how they can help.
Last week I shared advice on what to say and how to support a cancer patient and his or her family.
By Joey Tran, MD Anderson Staff Writer
Eddy Davis would have enjoyed teaching golf no matter what. But he has an appreciation for life, and health, that few pros can understand.
Since becoming a golf professional in 1994, Eddy Davis has excelled as a published golf illustrator and tournament calligrapher, an avid golfer who considers himself the "resident artist" at the Jimmy Clay-Roy Kizer Golf Complex in Austin, Texas.
Fear and questions
When he faced a diagnosis of non-Hodgkin B-cell lymphoma in 2003, he feared the unknown and had thousands of questions for his doctors. His golfing buddies. His wife. And himself.
But no one ever questioned the courage and determination that continues to prove the experts wrong.
By Megan Silianoff
As a blogger and cancer survivor, I'm knowledgeable about various topics. My favorite television shows, for example, are an area of my expertise. I'm also very good at shopping and can navigate my favorite mall with poise and purpose.
And, when I got my latest mammogram earlier this month, I was reminded that I'm also an expert at getting this important screening exam.
So, first, I'll tell you this: While mammograms can be life-saving, they aren't fun. But learning about them "David Letterman" style could be. (Which is telling of my expertise in watching talk shows.)
10. Plan to wait in a separate waiting room.
I've had mammograms in a number of different hospitals, and they all have separate waiting rooms for people getting mammograms.
Immediately upon checking in for your appointment, they'll call you back, and you'll think, "I'm going to be in and out of here," but that's not necessarily the case. You're actually just getting called to sit in a different waiting room. This is important to know if someone plans to go with you because you won't see them throughout the entire process.
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- My husband's pancreatic cancer treatment: A cancer caregiver's story
- Cervical cancer patient: My journey from diagnosis to recurrence
- How a colon cancer caregiver learned to live in the moment
- Celebrating my mom after her cancer diagnosis
- Teacher copes with cancer with student's support
- My ovarian cancer diagnosis: My journey to heal
- MD Anderson nurses: The heart of the hospital
- Cancer survivor: What I learned about myself at the Boston Marathon
- International gastroesophageal cancer patient fights cancer with a smile
- A caregiver's advice: How to help a dying patient's family
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