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".
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 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.
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 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.
By Ronnie Pace
There are approximately 2,200 men in the United States who are diagnosed with breast cancer each year, and I am one of them.
Until my diagnosis, I did not know men were susceptible to breast cancer. Because the number of women with breast cancer is far higher than the number of men, there is little mention of male breast cancer in the media.
My male breast cancer diagnosis
My tumor was discovered by accident. I got a CT scan for a cough, but the CT scan indicated a tumor located in my right breast.
With a 99% probability that the tumor was benign, I did not see cause for alarm. In fact, I did not tell my wife for several weeks because I didn't want to cause her unnecessary worry. It was not until I was scheduled for a core biopsy that I told her. In retrospect, I made a bad choice.
The biopsy results were conclusive: I had a small, malignant tumor in my right breast.
Continue reading My male breast cancer story.
By Jennifer Davis
If my doctors at MD Anderson had told me that I would be standing on top of Camelback Mountain in Arizona just 10 months after my stem cell transplant, I would have called them crazy.
But on March 29, 2015, exactly 321 days after my transplant, I did exactly that, reaching the summit of Camelback with my husband and a childhood friend.
The full meaning of this didn't hit me until I saw the tears in my husband's eyes. During my multiple myeloma journey, I couldn't have even imagined something of this magnitude.
My multiple myeloma diagnosis
My battle with multiple myeloma began before I even realized it.
My back started to hurt in March 2013, but I didn't know why. I saw several doctors, each of whom prescribed muscle relaxers and painkillers.
Continue reading Broken back to Camelback: Survival from a different point of view.
The minutes, days and weeks after you're diagnosed with cancer can be overwhelming, scary and lonely.
But, as cancer patients and survivors recently shared in our Facebook community, you can get through this time.
Here's their advice for newly diagnosed cancer patients.
- Don't dwell on statistics. This is your experience, and no two people, cancer diagnoses or experiences are exactly alike.
- Knowledge is power. Research your disease and treatment options. Ask questions. Take notes when you meet with your doctor. This will help you feel more at peace with your decisions.
- Be your own advocate. You know your body and your wishes for treatment better than anyone else, so speak up if something doesn't seem right.
- Don't rush into treatment. Where you go first for treatment matters. The decisions you make now can affect your treatment options and prognosis down the road. So, take time to choose a cancer center, and evaluate your treatment options. Get a second opinion if you're not happy with the options you're given.
Continue reading 16 things cancer patients and survivors want newly diagnosed patients to know.
By Karen Fore
As a volunteer with CanCare and myCancerConnection, MD Anderson's one-on-one program that connects cancer patients and caregivers with others who have been there, I talk to a lot of other multiple myeloma patients. Most ask about the stem cell transplant process and my experience.
Here's what I tell them.
What to know about autologous stem cell transplants
A transplant infuses health cells -- also known as stem cells -- into a cancer patient's body to replace damaged cells.
Stem cells for transplants can come from three sources. I had an autologous stem cell transplant, which means cells from my own bone marrow were used. Some people undergo an allogeneic transplant, which means they receive stem cells from a donor. Some patients receive umbilical cord blood instead. Not all patients are eligible for a stem cell transplant.
To help kill some of the cancerous cells and get the body ready to accept the new stem cells, most patients need very strong chemotherapy. For me, this was the strongest chemo I had, and the idea was daunting.
Continue reading Autologous stem cell transplant survivor: What to expect.