By Lindsey Garner
No matter how you like to get your heart rate up and work up a sweat, exercising for at least 30 minutes every day can help lower your chances for many common cancers. If you're looking for ways to get your 1/2 hour in, check out how some of our busy employees stay active.
"I like to exercise with a triathlon coach to prepare for my long distance races. It helped me prepare to swim 1.2 miles, bike 56 miles and run 13.1 miles for IRONMAN Texas 70.3 and IRONMAN Florida 70.3. Now I'm training for my second IRONMAN Texas 140.6, which includes a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike course and a 26.2-mile run. Having a coach helps provide me with the discipline I need to improve my swimming, cycling and running. I get better results and my workouts are challenging." -- Corinna Perez, fitness center liaison
Continue reading How our busy employees get exercise.
By Jacqueline Mason
When he's not in scrubs, Thomas Rahlfs, M.D., is apt to be wearing a Japanese hakama with a traditional katana at his side, reminiscent of a samurai warrior. For Rahlfs, department chair for Anesthesiology and Perioperative Medicine, martial arts is more than a hobby. It's a way of life.
Born in Midland, Texas, Thomas Rahlfs, M.D., knew from an early age he wanted to be a doctor after reading Doctor Dolittle stories in the third grade.
But he also was drawn to martial arts following a trip to Japan with the Boy Scouts in 1971 for the 13th World Scout Jamboree.
"I was fortunate to watch martial art master Mas Oyama give a demonstration with his karate students," Rahlfs says. "That's what lit the fire in me. It looked really cool."
Rahlfs found a way to combine his interests when he joined Duke University's karate club while earning his bachelor's degree, magna cum laude, in biomedical engineering.
He moved to Houston for medical school, anesthesia training and clinical residency with Baylor College of Medicine and accepted his first faculty appointment with Baylor in 1986. He went on to earn Baylor's Golden Apple Award for Excellence in Teaching based on the consensus of residents he supervised at Ben Taub Hospital.
From Golden Apple to global winner
Karate became such an influence in Rahlfs' life that at one point he explored the relationship between Western medicine and the traditional Chinese practice of acupuncture for pain control.
Continue reading How martial arts became a way of life for Thomas Rahlfs, M.D. .
By Lindsey Garner
A self-proclaimed acute care junkie, Margaret Row, M.D., can be found in our Emergency Center most Thursdays taking care of patients. In her other role as vice president of operations for the MD Anderson Cancer Network, she helps expand our standard of care throughout the world through clinical partnerships.
What was your first job?
I started delivering newspapers when I was 7 for my father's weekly newspaper, The Lemmon Leader, in my hometown of Lemmon, South Dakota. Over the years, I did everything from managing subscriptions and bookkeeping to writing features and editing.
Do you visit South Dakota much?
We try to go as much as possible in the spring and summer. My husband, Jim, and I own 200 acres in Deadwood. It's our family getaway. We like to be outdoors hiking and riding all-terrain vehicles, and I like riding with Jim on his motorcycle.
Tell us something others would be surprised to know about you.
After learning how to sew in home economics, I sewed all my own clothes until I went to graduate school.
What words best describe you?
Determined and dedicated.
Were you always interested in being a physician?
I always had an interest in health care but not necessarily in medicine. During graduate school at Arizona State University, I became interested in practicing medicine while working with a cardiologist on my exercise physiology thesis.
Continue reading Getting to know Margaret Row, M.D. .
By Eric Tidline, Social Work Counselor
Cancer-related fatigue is one of the most common issues patients face. Even among patients who have completed cancer treatment, fatigue is one of their foremost concerns.
Fatigue describes a physical and/or mental state of being tired and weak. Physical fatigue and mental fatigue are different, but they often exist together, which can make the experience even more frustrating.
However, it is often possible to curb cancer-related fatigue. Although it may sound counterintuitive, moderated exercise is the number one treatment for cancer-related fatigue.
For some, walking, weight lifting and cycling are great ways to exercise. But if you aren't ready or aren't able to participate in such activities, you might find progressive relaxation exercises helpful. Progressive relaxation is one type of exercise that is often gentle enough to meet most people's needs.
What is progressive muscle relaxation?
Progressive muscle relaxation is based on the idea that the body responds to anxious thoughts by tensing muscles, and the tense muscles add to the anxiety, creating a cycle of stress.
Continue reading Beating cancer-related fatigue with progressive muscle relaxation .
At MD Anderson, we consider our cancer caregivers to be cancer survivors, too. After all, our caregivers walk every step of the way with our patients.
We asked the cancer patients, survivors and, of course, caregivers in our Facebook community to share their advice for cancer caregivers. Here's what they said.
Continue reading 11 tips for cancer caregivers from our Facebook community .
From the gardens to the skybridge to our leading doctors and kind volunteers, there are many things that set MD Anderson apart and help our patients feel at home.
Whether it's your first appointment or you've become an old pro, you're likely to appreciate these 17 unique features.
1. Our 69 aquariums. The 66 freshwater and three saltwater live coral reef aquariums in our clinics are home to 3,000 fish -- mostly cichlids, angelfish and rainbow fish. The largest freshwater aquarium, by the Pharmacy in the Main Building, holds 850 gallons.
2. The Observation Deck. Located on the 24th Floor of the Main Building, the Observation Deck offers peace and quiet, as well as a scenic view of Houston. You're also welcome to play the piano up there.
3. Our volunteers. MD Anderson is fortunate to have more than 1,200 volunteers who contributed 193,921 hours of service last year. Stop by our Hospitality Centers for a cup of coffee and to visit with these caring individuals, many of whom are survivors or caregivers themselves.
4. Our pianos. Twenty-five of our volunteers play the piano in The Park and the Mays Clinic between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays. They also play at the Rotary House each day. If you're lucky, you may hear our harpist or one of our two flautists as well.
5. Room service. Inpatients -- as well as their families, caregivers and friends -- can order whatever they want from room service each day from 6:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Our classically trained senior executive chef comes up with the menu of fresh, cooked-to-order meals.
Continue reading 17 things that make MD Anderson unique.
By Jacqueline Mason
History buff is just one way to describe Stephen Swisher, M.D. He's also a husband and father of two, head of our Surgery division, an honored professor in Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery, and co-leader of MD Anderson's Lung Cancer Moon Shot -- our own history-making endeavor in the world of medicine.
How do you view your current role here?
I see myself as a surgeon but also as a division leader and an advocate for surgeons. I try to help communicate other surgeons' points-of-view at MD Anderson.
What influenced you to become a cardiothoracic surgeon?
No one in my family had a career in medicine. I became interested in medicine after I took a course in biology. The anatomy of the chest is particularly interesting and exciting to me. During my general surgery residency at the University of California at Los Angeles, a cardiothoracic surgeon and researcher I worked with influenced my decision to complete my fellowship in surgical oncology. Also, the chief of surgical oncology at that time, demonstrated to me the process of taking research findings and using them to improve surgery for cancer patients. That's something I've come to especially appreciate in my co-leadership of the Lung Cancer Moon Shot.
Continue reading First person: Getting to know cardiothoracic surgeon Stephen Swisher, M.D..
By David Raffetto
Thousands of people enter our Main Building every day -- some through the front door, some through a skybridge, some through a tunnel.
What many don't realize is that the Main Building isn't just one building. Currently, we're working on the 21st addition to the building, which has been around for nearly 70 years.
As you travel through the building, you probably pass from new to old to even older without noticing. But if you know where to look, MD Anderson's history still is visible. You just have to do some crouching and craning.
A long look back
Our initial location on Holcombe Boulevard opened in 1954 after MD Anderson operated in temporary quarters near downtown Houston for 10 years.
The original Main Building was actually three interconnected buildings: Anderson Central, Anderson East and Anderson West. Each stood six stories.
Continue reading Hidden history in MD Anderson's Main Building .
What do you pack when you head to MD Anderson for cancer treatment? If it's your first trip, you might be a little overwhelmed.
So we asked the experts --the patients, caregivers and survivors that make up MD Anderson's Facebook community. Here's what they recommend packing for a trip to MD Anderson:
Something to keep you busy while you're here. Whether it's your laptop or tablet, a book, games or letters of encouragement, it can be helpful to have something to pass the time and keep your mind occupied while you wait.
A notebook and pen or a digital voice recorder. Your first visit can be overwhelming, and it may be difficult to take in all the information you receive. Not only is it a good idea to bring a list of questions for your doctor, but many of our patients also find it helpful to take notes or record their appointments so they can remember the information later.
Continue reading What should you pack for cancer treatment? .
Want to help a friend or loved one dealing with cancer? It can be hard to know exactly what you can or should do.
That's why we asked the cancer patients, survivors and caregivers in our Facebook community to tell us the most helpful thing you can do for a friend or loved one dealing with cancer. Here's their advice.
1. Visit. Cancer patients and caregivers are still people, and they want to see you, talk to you and laugh with you.
2. Listen. Ask questions to show you care, but let your friend or loved one lead the conversation.
4. Find a way to help and just do it. Don't ask if there's anything you can do. Chances are your friend will just say thank you and won't ask you to help. Many of our Facebook fans suggested just doing something for friends with cancer instead of asking what they need.
Continue reading 19 ways to help someone with cancer .
By Mary Brolley
They've been called essential, a driving force and, in a nod to their adaptability, "the stem cells of MD Anderson."
They're physician assistants (PAs), and few institutions employ more of them than MD Anderson.
PAs are medical professionals who can conduct physical exams, diagnose and treat illnesses, order and interpret tests, counsel patients on preventive care, assist in surgery, and write prescriptions. Supervised by physicians, they're sometimes called mid-level providers -- a category that also includes nurse practitioners and certified nurse anesthetists.
Of our 245 PAs, nearly half work in Surgery and Anesthesia. The others are divided among Cancer Medicine, Internal Medicine, Radiation Oncology and Pediatrics.
Our PAs also counsel patients, obtain informed consents and perform numerous medical procedures. In partnership with doctors, often they lead the evaluation and management of treatment for patients in special clinics.
Freeing up physicians
PAs are crucial to the operation of MD Anderson's 11 survivorship clinics, according to Todd Pickard, program director and mid-level provider in Medical Affairs. Transitioning cancer survivors to the care of PAs and internists frees our doctors to take care of newer and more complex cases.
Continue reading What does a physician assistant do?.
By Gaylene Meeson
In July 2012, my husband and I heard the words "your daughter has a brain tumor," and our lives changed forever. You hear about adults being diagnosed all the time, but we didn't even know that children could have cancer.
At the time, Hannah was only 4 years old and getting ready to start school in the Cayman Islands, where we live. But when the doctors said she had anaplastic medulloblastoma, an aggressive type of brain tumor, we found ourselves embarking on our epic battle to help her stay alive.
Our childhood cancer journey: Starting medulloblastoma treatment
After a surgery in Miami, we moved from the Cayman Islands to Houston so that Hannah could undergo proton therapy at MD Anderson, followed by six months of chemotherapy. Our family was split up, and the treatment was brutal. Hannah was wasting away before our eyes, and we could do nothing but pump more drugs into her to try and stop the cancer.
We kept focused on the end date of May 2013, when we thought we could finally go home and life would return to normal. But in April 2013, we received further devastating news: the cancer had progressed.
Continue reading How my daughter's childhood cancer diagnosis changed our lives.